Saturday, December 31, 2011

Announcing my new garden blog !!

I had been working on a new blog on my new orchard and kitchen garden in Temecula on and off for awhile now. It took me a very time to come up with a name I liked. The last few days I have been desperately trying to format it, work out some graphics and get it up and running already! Of course, Picasa Album would decide to go all wonky on me. I was noticing how I kept losing what I uploaded. When I was reading Autumn Belle's latest posting I was alerted to what Picasa Web Album was doing.

I have decided that I am just letting it go live and work from there. Trying for "perfection" is too tiring and result in nothing being achieved. I am determine that this blog will go live before 2012 Pacific Time. So do go and check out my new blog - I Eat With Scoops, Shovels and Spades.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas Season Meals

This Christmas season has been a lazy one. Daughter is home so that is nice but hubby was in Malaysia. It was just the three of us- mother, daughter and son. Just hanging out together, laughing, watching lots of tv and movies and eating what nots. We decided we would make one special dish a day for dinner to celebrate rather than one great feast.

Day after daughter L came home we headed up to Temecula. Her friend J joined up. I made Salmon en Croute up - a dish I just saw being made on that morning by Laura Calder on French Food at Home. It was good.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Rainy garden offerings

Human nature - never satisfied. With only an annual rainfall of 11 inches, San Diegan wish for more rainfall to fill up our reservoir and water our gardens naturally ( and for free). Then the rain comes down, and the frown appears on the foreheads and smiles turn down :(

I am no exception to this. I LOVE even miss the rain but not winter rain because it is cold! When one grows up in the tropics where you can play in the warm rain, winter rain is a big let down. Strolls through the garden lessen. Thankfully, I live in San Diego, when winter days can unexpectedly be sunny and 75F. When that happens, it is time to spend all day in the garden and the kitchen is close.

I was in my garden despite deary weather to harvest the last of my Persimmons. Took a quick look around and snap some pictures of the plants that keep going despite the weather. You can see the drops of rain on the fruits!!

Pomelo ripe for eating. It holds well on the tree
From the look of the leaves, my Pomelo plant is lacking in Iron. Actually, I think all my citrus plants are in need of iron and some trace minerals... more loving care that is for sure.

Satsuma Tangerine almost ready to be enjoyed
The ripening schedule for the Satsuma Tangerines and Pomelos are in line with Chinese New Year. My kumquats are also getting fairly big and getting some color on them.

Kaffir Lime (Limau Perut)

The Kaffir Lime plant is loaded with fruits.
The flavor and the fragrance of the my Kaffir Lime leaves depends on the weather; the hotter the weather the more intense the flavor and fragrance. I am told there are some variety of Kaffir Lime more fragrant and flavorful but the nurseries are pretty general in their labeling so I have not been able to spot different. Hence, I still have only one plant.

A young fig overwintering. 
I neglected to remove the net I had draped over the fig tree to prevent the birds from eating the ripe figs. As a result the fig grew through a hole in the net cutting itself in half, growing over the net. I am going to have to sacrifice the fig. 

Immature Blueberries already on the plant
This particular pot of Blueberry seems to have acclimatized to the climate in my garden. It has flowers, immature fruits and ripening fruits on the same plants a good part of the year. It is almost winter so it should really quite bare but as you can see my breakfast fruit is being formed on the plant. Definitely a candidate for making cuttings.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Autumn Belle - Beautiful Colorful Persimmon

The Persimmon is ripe when the fruit is the same color as the leaves
It has been getting colder and colder each week the past month of November. Even in San Deigo the leaves on deciduous tree had been changing color and finally fallen off. I managed to take some pictures of my favorite deciduous tree- the bearer of yummy persimmons to share. These pictures of the colorful tree were taken on November 15, 2011.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Marsh plants and creatures of the sea

Inlets from the ocean snaking through the marshes
This weekend, a mundane, obligatory trip to the Sweetwater Marsh Wildlife National Refuge and Chula Vista Nature Center, with my son and a couple of his friends, turn out a lot nicer than I imagined. I have to commend the boys for being better behaved, then I expected, in light of our docent who was highly `musical'. Beans was not his friend!

It had been years since I had been to the Nature Center. I was impressed with how much it had expanded and how well it was run. Perhaps, it was the time of year, fall -almost winter ( winter starts December 21st), we had a clear and beautiful sight of the whole marsh and the bay, and the city beyond. The pictures do not do it any justice.

I never realized how many endangered species of birds and plants call the Sweetwater Marsh Wildlife Refuge home. Gunpowder Point on the marsh is only known native US population of Palmer's Frankenia (Frankenia Palmeri Wats). Cuttings from the 2 surviving colony is being propagated.  It was interesting to learn about halophytes like the endangered Saltmarsh Bird's Beak (cordylanthus maritimus) also found on the marsh. I was impressed at how the Nature Center was breeding and returning back to the wild the light footed clapper bird, which was almost extinct. More than 300 birds have been released into the wild todate. Such great work done so close to home and I was unaware until duty called.
The Saltmarsh Bird's Beak - extra salt is excreted out making it look like the plant is sprinkled with sugar
You know what else I was unaware of? I knew that there had been a gunpowder factory on the site during WWI . What I did not know is they were processing kelp at the site to produce acetone and potash key components of gunpowder. Imagine that kelp!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Nabisco Best Recipe Cheesecake

My cheesecake with the raspberry sauce is probably the most requested dessert of me. I tell everyone, they can just make it. It is not any secret recipe. The recipe is on the back of the Nabisco Honey Maid Graham Cracker Crumb box. Really!! That is the recipe I use, nothing special. The trick to set out the 3 packages of Philadelphia cream cheese ( must be Philadelphia brand of cream cheese), eggs and sour cream out on the counter to come to room temperature. It makes blending easier and the mixture will not have pockets of cold ingredients. If there is anything I could caution, do not overbeat. A springform pan is essential. Most times, I follow the recipe on the Nabisco Honey Maid Graham Cracker Crumbs box to the letter. This Thanksgiving, I baked it in a water bath. If I would observe, the cheesecake was creamier. However, you can easily dispense with the cumbersome water bath process and produce a really good cheesecake. I normally do :)

The Sour Cream Raspberry sauce is my own concoction. I am not a fan of pie fillings, preferring fresh fruit. I decided all this simple but delicious cheesecake needed was a luscious sauce. Using the remaining sour cream and frozen raspberry from the freezer, my famous sour cream raspberry sauce was born. It is also very good on vanilla ice cream. It has been known as liquid crack!!

For the Love of Turkey

This Thanksgivings I had a reunion with my nemesis, the Turkey. Oh Turkey, how I! This bird is my nemesis not because I ever failed in cooking it, so maybe nemesis is not the correct word but the antagonistic feeling I have towards it, makes me declare it a nemesis.

My son requested the roasted turkey for Thanksgiving declaring it "the best lean protein around". In a weak attempt to get out of roasting a turkey, I said as long as we find a small turkey, I would do so. Normally, all we see are huge birds. However, we were at Barons in Temecula- they had not one but 2 small turkey of about 10 lbs each!! Admittedly, a small part of me, deep down, was happy to find the small bird. One's perspective changes when a child leaves for college.You try to make occasions like Thanksgiving they way they want. Dear daughter is home for Thanksgiving. It is the little things... When I look at my son, I see that he will be leaving us for college soon, albiet 2 years time. The departure seems more imminent and real because of `losing' my daughter to college. We were joined in our celebration by A, a dear friend/honoree son of the family, 1st year college returnee, pre-gaming Thanksgiving with us! Nice!

Front Succulent Garden

On any one day, I do not visit my whole garden... in fact in any one week, I do not visit my whole garden. With a busy work schedule, most days, I enter and exit the house through the garage. This means the  part of the garden I view the most, is my back yard which is visible through the sliding glass door of the family room and through the windows of the kitchen. I go out through those glass doors to feed and play with my dog, Frasier. I putter around the backyard the most, gathering blueberries and strawberries for my cereal. Depending what is fruiting or ready for harvest, that is the section of the garden I would visit. Otherwise, I almost never go to my front yard, unless the door bell rings! This more often then not, means the UPS man is here with a package. Or the tutor is here for my son.

The good thing is I kept the the front yard mainly as a succulent yard, which needs minimal work. It looks good- or at least, not terrible, even with the neglect I have subjected it to. Today, the UPS man brought me into the front yard. Looks like it is time I give this part of my garden some tender loving care.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Mango, Mango

This year the strange spring we had that had turned cold again after the mango flowers set, meant that most of the fruit never set. I thought there was only one mango on the tree this year that I saw. I had been meaning to pluck it for a week or so now but never got around to it. Today, after discovering the fallen banana tree, it was time. When I bent down to cut off the fruit, I notice another mango, actually 2 other mangoes were on the ground. I will be making cuttings of this Manila Mango for my new garden

The Roar of Stormy November

It has been cold, stormy and rainy this November so far. Today, I was playing my new IPhone 4s camera and decided to take a picture of the banana bunch that was developing. I stopped in my track...and was stunned! A banana plant had snap and was lying across the path.

The Pandan Experiment

I have not been in synch with Mother Nature of late......She blessed me with 3 Torch Ginger ( Bunga Kantan) seedlings and I forgot to bring in the  seedlings one night when the temperature drop. I spent weeks trying to nurse the seedlings back to no avail, losing them one by one.....I took it hard. For years I had been looking for this beautiful, fragrant and delicious flower plant to complete my Malaysian herb garden. This year I found a source for the seeds and rhizome and a wonderful blog friend, Autumn Belle of My Nice Garden who cheered me on as each seedling came up and commensurate with me through the pain of losing my little ones :(

Lesson learnt.

November has been cold, stormy and rainy. I was not taking any more chances. 2 days ago I brought in my precious screwpine pandanus plant, another tropical plant that is sensitive to the cold. The nursery that I bought it from, had to, at one point of time, go back to its customer to buy back some pandanus seedlings, when it lost it mother plant to frost! I have tried over the years to grow this fragrant but never succeeded until this plant. My current pandan plant is 3 years old. Barely growing the first 2 years. I grow it in a pot inside the house during winter and spring. As the weather warms up during summer, I  take it outside, hook it up to the irrigation system and let it enjoy the sunshine and heat. This summer it took off, grown in size and had many baby plants.  I separated some of the baby plants from the mother, potting them up for my new garden in Temecula. 
Mother Pandanus Plant by a bright window indoors

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Mexican Bush Sage Salvia Leucantha

My friend C and her husband stopped by the other day and her husband G, asked me what I would recommend him to grow behind a low garden wall he has. He wanted a plant that grew no higher than 3-4 ft. I smiled, and immediately recommended Salvia Leucantha, Mexican Bush Sage. I usher them out the back door into my garden and showed them my beautiful Mexican Bush Sage. My friend C and husband G, loved the plant, especially C who is partial to anything purple!! 

Banana, banana is a growing......

Bananas, are to me, the prefect snack. You will almost always find a comb of banana sitting on my kitchen counter. I find that they are filling without being too filling, and they provide the just a right amount of sweetness. I have a 12 year old grove of 'Ice Cream' banana in my garden. The label said "Texture and flavor similar to vanilla ice cream." Now, how could you resist that!! 

After growing up in Malaysia with so many varieties of bananas, the Ice Cream banana pales in comparison. I find that its flavor depends on when the comb of banana develops. If it has a long hot stretch to develop it can be nice. I suspect that it would taste much better grown in a more tropical climate like Florida versus San Diego. Yet, I keep hoping one day, I will get the perfect bunch from my grove. That one plant I bought is a grove of ever regenerating banana plants. I try to keep it to 6 or so plants at any one time. I keep it also for the beautiful banana leaves. It serves as my natural window dressing. I love looking out my tall windows and seeing the banana leaves swaying in the breeze. It reminds me of home. More importantly, I use the banana leaves for cooking- for making otak-otak, lining steamer basket for nasi kunyit, for kuihs and also table decorations at times.
My natural window covering

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Oven Roasted Turkey-Beef Meatball

I am always, AND I mean ALWAYS experimenting and creating different meatball recipes. My family loves pasta and meatball. So very often, I would make a batch of meatball without thought that it would be the ONE and not note what I in put in it - this was one of those times! So, here I am quickly trying to remember what I put in them to get this delicious meatball I made today. I think I got it. For me, oven roasting is the way to go, easy, fast and clean.

1 lb ground turkey
1 lb ground beef
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs beaten
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 teaspoon granulated garlic powder
1/4 cup bacon bits( if not using bacon, salt the meat with 1 teaspoon salt)
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon italian herb mix
1 cup breadcrumbs Progresso Italian Herb
1/4 parmesan reggiano

Preheat the oven to 425F.

Put the ground turkey and ground beef in a big bowl. Sprinkle over all the other ingredients, with the exception of the 2 eggs and milk. With a light hand, mix the meats with ingredients so that the turkey and beef is evenly distributed. Beat the eggs and milk together in a separate bowl. Add to the meat mixture, quickly and lightly mix in to bind all ingredients.

Put 2 tablespoon of olive oil in a small bowl.

I use a 1/4 cup cookie or ice cream scoop for portioning the meatball mixture.  First, I dip the fingertips of my  right hand in the olive oil and dab the palm of my left hand with the olive fingers. Scoop one portion of meatball mixture with the cookie scoop to my left palm. I roll the meatball mixture between my palms to form the meatball and place shaped meatball on a baking sheet. There is no need to grease the whole sheet as the meatball is oiled when I rolled it between my oiled palm. Bake formed meatball in 425F oven for 20 minutes.

Slow- Roasted Tomatoes

I was not about to let the fact that my tomato plants failed miserably  to produce any significant quantity of fruits this summer, stop me from making Slow Roasted Tomatoes. I hit the Farmer Market for my supply of lovely tomatoes. I roasted and bottled the tomatoes. Now, I can look forward to delicious Slow Roasted Tomatoes in the fall and winter when only yucky tasteless tomatoes are in the market.

Besides I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE hearing the pop coming from the jars when the vacuum effect takes place which causes the seal pop down and seals. You know it is coming but you don't know exactly when. It is almost musical and magical :)

SAT and stocking the pantry and freezer

Last weekend when my son told me he was going to put in a full length SAT test practice the next morning, I decided to go ahead and hit the kitchen to make some items to stock my pantry and freezer. That way I could proctor the test and keep busy at the same time. My plan did not quite work out! My canning process was making too much noise for him to concentrate!! Those canning jars were rattling in the pot! Live and learn............

Here's a glimpse of what I made ( recipes will follow in another post)

Bolognese Meat Sauce 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

It is Paper Bag Tree time again

Mr.Chow, the gardener was here today. With a big smile on his face, he told me about two birds who ate my very delicious persimmons, which were very soft and ripe. He could not help himself exalting the flavor of the persimmons. We chatted fully aware what had happened. Lol! He reminded me to net the tree before the birds ate all the fruits. I have been meaning to wrap the fruit ala Asian practice for awhile now. A quick peruse of the tree showed a number of fruits partially eaten by the birds. I got to work wrapping up the fruits.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Weekend in Flight

This weekend literally FLEW BY!!

During our first stay this week in our Temecula house, a hummingbird flew into the house and could not find its way out of the house. It finally landed on the curtain rails. I climb up on a ladder armed with a colander and a board. That is how I have always captured errant birds that fly into our various home. Lol! I put the colander over the bird, slide the board under the bird, capture and then release the bird in the open. This time the little hummingbird was so still I was afraid it was dead. Looking closely, its little heart was beating so fast but it was perfectly still- it was playing possum. I do not know if that it how it normally behaves.... In any case, it allowed me to pick it up in my hand even. I was a little afraid of it little sharp beak that was so long! Afraid it would poke my eyes out! As soon as I took it outside the house and lay it on the ground, it rolled over from its side and flew away. Both of us were happy :)

Also on that stay, we were visited by an Egret. My husband had seen it drinking form our pool. I only saw it in flight.

Fruits in hiding.....

It is that time of year when I start trimming down summer growth, clearing out dead leaves, and taking cuttings for the next season. This year the Dragon fruit plant had been flowering profusely all season long without setting any fruit. The plant had steadily spread and was growing into the neighbor's yard. I decided to cut that part off - as I pull it off the wall and cut it at joint, I was pleasantly surprised by a Dragon Fruit! The first ever Dragon Fruit in my garden. It was facing the inside of the leaf, right against the wall. Only when I pull the stem away from the wall, was it visible. My Mom who was here for a 6 month's visit had been checking the plant all season for fruits and now that she left- it fruited!!

We had taken some pictures of Mom in my garden before she left. In one picture, I notice a banana flower, which lead me to find it in the garden. Unfortunately for Mom, before I could show it to her, the gardener had cut off the whole stalk, flower and all, as it was leaning over the path. When I found the Dragon Fruit, I immediate turned to the banana grove. Wouldn't you know it - lo and behold, there was a huge flower high up, on one of the banana plant.

The only thing is the weather is already cooling down, I do not know successful this bunch of bananas will be. I am excited nevertheless.

Monday, September 19, 2011

How is my garden growing in my absence?

While the lush greenery of Malaysia is a feast for my eyes and senses, not to mention my tummy, I am missing my garden. I am worried about the pandan and curry leaf seedings I started and wondering if those little green things that sprouted are actually Bunga Kantan seedlings or weeds. Like so many things I have neglected this year - the number of blog posting has been dismal. So I am going with the flow and taking advantage of jetlag to post a little something. In the past few weeks, I have been sporadically getting my hands into the dirt, trimming trees, making cuttings and seeding plants.

Recycled apple packaging containers 
Rose Torch Ginger 
Succulent pups being rooted

Two tiny seedlings after a month....
hoping they are Bunga Kantan seedlings
and not weeds !!
Just realised I did not upload some pictures to my laptop or I uploaded them to the laptop which I did not bring with me .... so that will be the subject of another post.

But I can share with you some pictures of plants which were fruiting just before I left on this trip

Strawberry Guava Psidium Cattleianum
This a very prolific and reliable producer of sweet, delicious, strawberry colored and strawberry like flavor fruit. Its flower is a  favorite of the hummingbirds that inhabit our garden. We enjoy them a lot eaten out of hand, in fruit salads and in Agua Fresca. I have a seedling growing in a 5 gallon container for our Temecula garden. Recently, I have been reading that the strawberry guava is now considered an invasive and destructive plant in places like Hawaii. It forms dense thickets crowding out native plants and destroying habitat of native birds and insects. I will be keeping an eye on this plant and keeping its spread in check. So far, possibly because of the low rainfall in San Diego, it has not spread in the almost 11 years we have had it. It should not be a problem in Temecula.

Passiflora 'Frederick' flower

Ripe passionfruit
Daily collection of  `eggs'
Passionfruit Lemonade - a summer time favorite
Fuyu Persimmon just getting some color. Good eating in November
2nd crop of Blueberries forming as weather cools again
Strawberries in the background

Blueberries in green, pink and blue stages of ripeness

Juicy ripe Blueberries
Blueberry Gems!
Ciku Flower

Tiny Ciku has formed - hope it will not drop but this
year we get to harvest some Ciku

Kunyit/ Turmeric flower

Fragrant leaves - calling for some Rendang or Nasi Ulam

Daun Kaduk - Nasi Ulam or Otak-otak