It's officially gardening season

5.20.2018


I've been pretty busy with house renovations so I just haven't been doing any writing here - but that will change. We are on week 33 of renovations... and that has to end at some point right? I hope so.

The upside and downside has been that I haven't been able to over obsess about my garden plans this year. I picked the tomato varieties super fast during a Burpee sale in January and haven't looked back. And while the weather hasn't been super warm yet, I pulled the trigger and started planting this past weekend. But before I put any babes in the ground, I used my handy dandy soil tester that my friend Meaghan sent me. I was VERY excited to try this out.
What's getting planted this year:
  • touchon carrots
  • spinach
  • kale
  • romaine
  • Japanese cucumbers
  • yellow egg squash
  • snap peas
  • kentucky beans
  • a whole bunch of tomatoes
  • herbs (mint, basil, chives, parsley, oregano, cilantro)
So what's different? A few things:
  • no onions. They are absolutely zero work but I don't do a good job using them
  • less Kale. I actually get the most value out of kale but I felt like I needed variety last year... so let's see how I feel about spinach. 
  • less carrots. same story as the onions - but they do freeze well so I should be better at them.
  • no radishes. 
I did make a few slight changes to the configuration as well. I had so many tomato plants last year but did the best job taking care of the ones actually planted in the garden. So this year? No extra containers. It's either planted in the garden or it's not happening.
Regarding the "whole bunch" of tomato varieties? I haven't completely determined which plants are getting duplicates but here are the 9 varieties this year. Obscene but true:
  1. black cherry (2017 graduate)
  2. Shimmer
  3. 4th of July
  4. midnight snack
  5. black krim
  6. black truffle (2016 and 2017 graduate)
  7. sweet tangerine
  8. big rainbow
  9. sunrise bumble bee

fennel and pistachio lasagna

3.27.2018


I am by no means striving to be a vegetarian. But, i guess this qualifies as a vegetarian meal - and i didn't hate it. i actually liked it.

On Sunday morning I was getting ready to make my grocery store list for the week. I popped over to Food52 to see if there was a good option for some Sunday / weeknight meals. This lasagna popped up right away. Plus, I only needed three ingredients to make it happen.

I have never cooked with fennel before. So the recipe instructions led me to googling "fennel fronds" to see what those actually were. I'm not quite sure that I actually did this 100% correctly - but I'm alive and this tasted good.

Some notes:




  • It is a very cheesy lasagna. I'm not a super big fan of ricotta in general, but this was okay. The next time I make this I'll probably try to add something else into the layers to break up all the ricotta. 
  • The pesto is awesome. It's obviously not a traditional pesto because there is no cheese in the mixture. I only made half the original lasagna but made the full pesto mixture. Always love having extra pesto on hand - and used some it last night with orichette and roasted peppers.
  • This lasagna doesn't exactly stand on its own. It could but I have eaten it (3x now) with some lightly dressed greens. Great balance.
  • The original recipe calls for 4 cups of grated parmesan. That is a whole lot. I probably only used like 1.5 cups and feel pretty great about it. Do what you want - but 4 seems like a lot.
Here's how it goes.

  1. MAKE PESTO // Combine the fennel, pistachios, basil, tarragon, salt, and pepper and blend until smooth in a food processor. With the motor running, slowly add the oil in a thin stream through the feed tube. Blend for 10 seconds more, or until thick and smooth. Cover and set aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
  3. In a medium bowl, mix the pesto, ricotta, and cream together until combined.
  4. Place 3 or 4 of the noodles in the bottom of a 9 by 13-inch rectangular casserole dish, keeping them in a flat, even layer. Spread one-third of the ricotta mixture over the noodles, then sprinkle with some of the Parmesan. Place 3 or 4 noodles in an even layer on top of the Parmesan and repeat two more times, so you have three layers of the ricotta mixture and are left with the noodles on top.
  5. Sprinkle the cheddar and additional Parmesan evenly over the top. Feeling fancy? I added in some whole basil leaves. 
  6. Place the casserole dish on a baking sheet and place it in the oven. Bake until the cheese is bubbling around the edges, about 35 minutes. Allow to cool for 15 minutes before slicing and serving.
Shopping List
Fennel-Pistachio Pesto:
3 cups coarsely chopped fennel stems and fronds
1 cup pistachios
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh tarragon
3/4 teaspoons flake kosher sea salt
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon (135 ml) extra-virgin olive oil

Lasagna:
1/2 pound lasagna noodles
2 cups fresh full-fat ricotta
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 cups grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup grated white cheddar cheese

That's a wrap on Utah

3.16.2018

And that's the wrap on our Utah Siblings Trip 2018!

We've always been a close trifecta but these trips are such a great opportunity to reconnect. I remember the magic of last year and wondered if it was a fluke. This trip was different than the last one but the magic was still there. I love the instant inside jokes. The hours spent driving in the car. The constant need for snacks.

We really covered a lot. Here is the rundown of some numbers:
5 National Parks
2 hotels
2 cabins
1061 miles driven
3 gas station trips
2 lunches skipped
2 bags of beef jerky
1 flight delay
3 cats found
1 winery
3 states (Nevada, Arizona, Utah)
3 airports (Boston, Vegas, SLC)
1 Arby's trip

Rankings:
National Parks (Zion, Bryce, Capitol Reef, Arches, Canyonlands)
Hotels (Red Cliffs Lodge, Capitol Reef Resort, Bryce Valley Cabins, Majestic View Lodge)
Towns (Moab, Springdale, Tropic)
Breakfast (Oscar's, Jailhouse, Red Cliff's Lodge, Ruby's)
Dinner (Rim Rock Patio, Bit & Spur, Olive Garden, Red Canyon Lodge)

I'm not sure what our next trip will be but I think we know the secret sauce of what makes it all work. I hope that we can do this every year but I know that might not always be feasible. Just imagine (hopefully) that in future we are all leaving behind spouses and kids for this annual 4 day jaunt. A really special, magical tradition.

We made it to Arches // Day 5

3.15.2018

So this is the last day of the trip. It was a real long one. I can never resist a sunrise and when you combine that with lots of driving and a red eye... well that's a long day.

Morning in Moab
When we first got to Red Cliff Lodge the day before, we knew we liked it but were also wistful for something slightly closer to society. Any of that remaining sentiment was erased when I drank coffee and watched the sunrise over the Colorado River. As we were just standing there peacefully taking in sunrise... a beaver swam by. I've never seen a beaver before! Plus, there was some bird/duck watching for Jake to partake in.

After sunrise, we headed into downtown Moab for breakfast. We got several recommendations but ended up at the Jailhouse Cafe. Spoiler alert? It legit used to be a jailhouse. It was also tasty.
Bird Sanctuary
Kerrianne did a lot of the planning for this trip. We made a lot of the decisions together but she did 90% of the research. One of the gems? She found a wildlife preserve perfect for birding in Moab. It took us a bit to actually find the entrance but it was worth it. I think Jake saw 4 new birds.
Arches
We didn't get to Arches until nearly noon - which is a lifetime from when we normally show up to parks. The line to get in was probably 30 cars deep - and there were 2 lines. Once we got into the park, we charted a course that would hopefully be a good balance of walking... and just driving. We pretty much stopped at everything but here are some specific callouts
+ Delicate Arch Overlook
+ Salt Valley Overlook
+ Devil's Garden
+ Sand Dune Arch
+ The Windows
+ Balanced Rock

The primary hike we did was the Devil's Garden. It was just the right amount of distance and effort. It would have been amazing to see Delicate Arch but on the last day of our trip, we were a bit worn out. I'd recommend maybe not doing Arches last - or just being more emotionally ready to walk up a bunch of rock :-). Also, Arches is crowded! So, you are never alone on trails. We spent probably about 4 hours bouncing around this park before packing up and heading out.
Bye to Utah
Throughout the entire trip, we have been really lucky with traffic and weather. It rained one morning, but other than that - home run. The streak ended on our 4 hour drive to Salt Lake City. About two hours into the drive, it started to rain ... and did not let up. Certainly made driving four hours in the dark to a red eye flight... less amazing.

Upside of the drive? We can say for certain that there are like no gas stations or rest stops between Moab and Salt Lake City. The original plan was to stop just around 2 hours... but we ended up going more than 3 hours ... because there was nothing. We did see a lot of trains - which Dad certainly appreciated. So we stopped at Olive Garden for dinner and then killed even more time at Petco since our flight got delayed. And I'm not sure if this is a low point or a high point, but we ate the leftover breadsticks on the floor of the airport while waiting for our flight. Either way, we made it the entire trip without any major issues. And I'll absolutely forget how miserable red eyes are when I'm booking my next trip.

We made it to Moab // Day 4

3.13.2018

We have now hit 4 National Parks on this trip! Some of them are more highly rated on our list than others, but feeling pretty good about how much we are covering and seeing and enjoying.

Morning Time
I'm always up first in this group - and so I was confident that I would catch sunrise but I was amazed at how pretty it was. The sunrise lights up the red cliffs so intensely it's pretty amazing. We grabbed breakfast at the hotel since they had comp-d it from the mixups the day before. Breakfast was a million times better than dinner would have been. Bacon was a home run - and let's be honest, that's what I really care about.

Capitol Reef
Capitol Reef is gorgeous - but really more of a driving National Park than a hiking one, at least in what we saw. There are a lot of signs warning you about flash floods and where is safe to park - so that was special. Thankfully there weren't any concerns for us. We drove down 50% of the 10 mile scenic road and turned around. The view driving back was so much better. You could see all the difference rock formations in more unique perspective.
Driving through Utah
So this was a slog - a beautiful slog, but seriously a slog. After we left Capitol Reef, we began this longer drive to the Moab area. I would never have been able to do this by myself, the anxiety of being alone in a rental car in the middle of the desert would have been too much. There was zero cell reception. We barely saw any cars for a couple hours. It was only when we got to Rt 70 that we began to see other people. My hypothesis is that they were all doing the reverse of us, leaving Moab for another park.

Canyonlands
I've never seen the Grand Canyon but I can imagine how impressive it is. After seeing Canyonlands, it must be wild. Canyonlands absolutely seems like a place for people who love adventure sports. Every car seems to have mountain bikes on the back of it - thankfully, we are walking people.
+ Island in the Sky // perfect stop to stretch your legs before driving.... a lot more...
+ Upheaval Dome // we only walked to the first viewpoint - but absolutely worth it. Maybe even walk to the second one.
+ Green River Overlook // Quick stop unless you want to hike for 45 hours
+ Mesa Arch // Really cool. It's not quite Arches of course but you get really close and it offers so interesting photography options. Also, a million people.
Hotel & Dinner
Tonight we are staying at the Red Cliffs Lodge in Moab. Saying "in Moab" feels like a lie considering this hotel is about 13 miles inside a canyon along a river bed. I nearly died when the GPS told us - but it is beautiful. Another oasis after a long day of driving. When you pull up you just see these huge red cliffs (duh), big moving river, and tons of horses. Kerrianne nearly leapt out of her seat over the combination of horses and a winery. Plus at check-in they give you a double chocolate cookie.

We decompressed from the day by settling into our room, saying hi to the horses, and gazing at the river. Jake wasn't allowed in the winery (dumb), so we just hung out along the river before dinner. The view from dinner was amazing. We closed out the day by playing Uno on our back patio next to a creek and watching The Office in bed.
Tomorrow? Arches! ... and a very late red-eye flight home
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