Terrific Broth

The life of two scientists, creating a small home, in big mountains

Category: Eat Green (Page 1 of 8)

Braised Bamboo Shoots

Hi friends! I am here to share with you an easy, authentic Chinese recipe – braised bamboo shoots. It only contains three ingredients and four spices, and takes ~15 minutes to cook. A quick weekday night dinner indeed.

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There are two types of bamboo shoots – Spring bamboo shoots, and winter bamboo shoots. Both work with this recipe. While fresh bamboo shoots are hard to come by, Asian stores almost always have frozen ones. We came across fresh bamboo shoots randomly and I just have to get it. And braised bamboo shoots is my favorite way to cook them.

So here are the three ingredients I used: a bag of pre-skinned bamboo shoots (a little over a pound), a few cloves of garlic, and a thick slice of Chinese bacon. Some people use ginger instead of garlic, and I would have used a couple slices of ginger if I had any. Not everyone cook this dish with garlic either. I personally love the taste of cooked garlic so I always try to include some whenever possible.

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Chinese bacon usually taste sweet and salty, which is how you want braised dish to taste like. The fat also cooks out, which is absorbed by the bamboo shoots and makes them extra tasty. You can totally skip the meat to make this dish vegan though. The bamboo shoot will still taste great!

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The three main spices to make braised anything are sugar, Shaoxing wine, and soy sauce. Traditional Chinese dishes always use rock sugar, and it is usually melted in hot oil in order to coat whatever ingredient you wish to braise. I do not have rock sugar, so I used raw sugar. You can use any sweetener, including maple syrup or honey.

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The first step is to cut the bamboo shoots into bite size and the meat into small bits. Someone once asked me how Chinese people eat meat without knife and fork. The truth is, almost everything in transitional Chinese dishes has been cut to bite size before cooking, so one can use chopsticks to pick a piece up, put it into one’s mouth, and chew it with one’s mouth closed. Except noodles, which you are supposed to slurp in order to effectively cool the noodle down to prevent mouth burn.

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I cut a few slit into each garlic cloves but kept them whole. You can cut the garlic however way you want. I generally keep my herbs – such as ginger, pepper, green onion, and garlic whole, so I can pick them out before serving. In terms of green onion, I usually tie a bundle of them into a knot, so they release their flavor but do not disintegrate. This is particularly important when cooking soups, so the soup remains clear and debris-free.

Second, heat up some oil and brown the garlic. I used only one table spoon of oil because I knew the Chinese bacon will release some.

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As soon as you can smell the garlic (30 seconds to a minute), add meat. In my case, the Chinese bacon has been cured so it only takes minutes to cook though. Whatever meat you are using, just make sure that it is seared before adding the bamboo shoots.

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Once the bamboo shoots is added, stir everything so all the bamboo shoot pieces are coated with oil. Cook the whole mixture for another 3 minutes or so, until the bamboo shoots become brown on their edges.

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Now it is time to add Shaoxing wine (1 tablespoon), soy sauce (2 tablespoon), and a bit sugar/sweetener (1 teaspoon). I also added 1 tablespoons of water.

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I did not use much sugar because the Chinese bacon was already sweet. If you are cooking this dish with non-flavored meat, make sure you double the amount of the sugar/sweetener. Now give everything a quick mix and cover for another 5 minutes.

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When the bamboo shoots turns brown, it is time to open the lid and give the whole thing another stir. There should not be much liquid left at this point. If there is, do not panic. Just turn up the heat to reduce the liquid. Salt to taste (I did not add any salt because the Chinese bacon was already salty).

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And here it is! It is great with steamed rice.

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Enjoy!

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The Birds and the Bees

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Happy summer everyone! And for those of you who live in the States, happy the 4th of July!

Being in the middle of the week, this July 4th was moderately celebrated. It was breezy and overcast, so I spent most of the day in the garden tidying up. Our salad greens have bolted and were all harvested. Bindweed has found its way into our potato patch – bad! But do not worry, I am on top of it.

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Look! we’ve got beans! It is so satisfying to watch everything grow, and trust me, they grow fast. All the hard work of planting and setting up drip irrigation in Spring really paid off – we have been enjoying a steady stream of fresh greens and cut flowers with virtually no maintenance. 🙂 Just today, I noticed that our potato plants started flowering! It is a good sign that the plants are strong and healthy. It also means that Slav is finally getting his young potatoes.

Potato flowers:

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Our tomato, cucumber, and beans have been flowering for a few weeks and start bearing fruit. It is a lot later comparing to the harvests we had in North Carolina, but given that we had freezing nights in May, these plants are doing their best.

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Our most anticipated harvest is the strawberries. They are doing so well despite of the intense heat and they spread like weeds. I am happy to find that strawberries are perennials in my area – so next year we will plant a whole bed and just let them spread. I am watching these babies like a hawk and try to pick them before birds get them.

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Speaking of birds, Slav and I recently set up several birdhouses and feeders around our yard. Slav is big on bird watching and had feeders outside his bedroom window growing up. So we were very excited to see birds showing up in Spring, including this beautiful American Robin.

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Robins love earthworms and caterpillars, which we have plenty of. To encourage it to stay, Slav installed a birdhouse that Robins known to love on our Southern gable.

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We are not 100% certain about the location, but this is the southeast corner of our house and it is well protected from the harsh northwest wind and winter snow. There is a big Ash tree over this portion of the roof, so it does not get too hot either. I would like it if I were a bird.

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As you can see, the birdhouse is fairly open. Apparently Robins likes to nest on shelves, opposed to in closed spaces.

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In addition to the American Robin, we also see some black-capped Chickadee flying around the pine tree just outside of our living room window. These handsome little ones sing long and complex songs and we just love how perky and agile they are.

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To keep them happy, we put a bird feeder on our living room window, just under the pine tree:

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We were initially worried that they would not visit because the feeder is too close to the house. But guess what? This morning we spotted a chickadee eating out of it, while Roxie and I were in the living room!

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This brave bird quickly got used to the movement inside and just keeps coming. I see it every morning now.

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We also spotted a pair of Mourning Doves in this pine tree. They came a lot in late April, but have since disappeared. Some research tells us that April to early May is the time that male doves show females potential nesting sites, and females will pick one and build the nest. Isn’t that interesting? Just like real estate shopping! I guess our pine tree did not make the cut.

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To make our tree more attractive for next Spring (or procrastinating Doves this year), Slav made a big platform/shallow basket with chicken wires and secured it between the branches in the pine tree. That is apparently all these Doves need for starting nests.

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Chickadees, Robin, and Doves are what we have seen. But what I really want to attract to my garden is Wren. We have zillions of earwigs, which nibble the tender leaves on my plants. They love our wood chip mulch and are proliferating like crazy underneath. Wrens are the biggest earwig eaters and I want them as bad as Denver wants Amazon. We picked the prettiest wren house and Slav mounted it on the crab apple tree, again, shield from the northwest wind and strong afternoon sun:

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I stuffed some cotton balls to the side for birds to nest with. Hopefully we get some Wrens here soon!

To make the backyard more attractive to birds in general, we decided to set up a big bird feeder and a birdbath in our perennial garden.

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This location gets good sun all day and is far from all buildings and other trees in our yard. I’ve learned that being in the middle of an open field helps to reduce predators. Roxie and Charlie are good at chasing squirrels away so we do not need to worry about squirrels getting to bird houses or feeders. Finally! These dogs are useful for something besides cleaning mixing bowls.

Don’t you love the blue bird bath? It was a freebie from a neighbor last winter, and all we did to make it functional was to plug a small leak. It holds decent amount of water which we refresh every evening. Slav put a big rock in the middle for little birds to drink safely. Isn’t he the best?

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We have a good gathering every morning and this one particular visits often:

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The last thing we added to our garden is a bee hotel for leaf-cutter bees. Leaf-cutter bee is one of the native pollinators in Colorado.

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If you have not heard leaf-cutter bees, check them out. They are incredible pollinators and work much more effectively than honey bees. Unlike honey bees, they are solitary bees and do not make honey. They are also very gentle and hardly sting. These bees lay eggs in Autumn, which hatch in early summer. They mostly pollinate summer flowers, whereas Mason bees are the native Spring pollinators in our area (which we will be setting up nests for next Spring).

I first heard about the benefit of native bees from Garden Answer, a channel I follow on Youtube. The host of this channel also gardens in Zone 5b and in a dry climate, so I’ve learned a lot about plants suitable for my garden from her videos. Last year she did a great video on setting up native bee hotels. The process of setting up native bee hotel is 100 times easier than setting up honey bee hives, and virtually maintenance-free. Since we are not interested in making our own honey, native bee hotel sounds like a perfect idea to attract pollinators.

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As you can see, our first bee hotel is really simple. We just got a handful of reed tubes whose diameters are suitable for leaf cutter bees, and dropped them into a light color PVC tube.

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Slav pushed some tree bark in there to make sure that the reed tubing are secure, then hung the whole thing under the shed roof. This spot is sunny but has afternoon shade, and the roof keeps it protected.

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I found this clip of leaf-cutter bee cutting an Ash leaf. How amazing! It happens that the two trees next to the shed are both Ash. I am so looking forward to having these bees nesting in our yard.

Just like this, we are thoroughly enjoying the summer of Colorado. We are blessed with blue sky, beautiful sunsets, and cool evening breeze. Hopefully the feeders, houses, and the birdbath make the birds and the bees happy too. We have seen many birds visiting our feeder, but none of them have nested here yet. I will keep you posted!

Vegetable Garden, 2018

Update (5/13/2018) : It has been one week after the veggie beds and perennial garden were planted. Here is an update of all the veggies as well as the fruit trees we planted early April. This weekend, we added a few more heirloom tomatoes and seeded gourd and morning glories along the back fence. The garden is looking better every day!

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Weekend had come and gone faaaast. We worked both days long and hard in the garden and I could not believe how much we’ve accomplished. We are both sore from hair to toe, so I will keep my words brief today and let the picture do the talking.

We decided on a small garden this year to get our hands warm with the dry and short growing season and heavy clay soil. To maximize the chance of success, I ordered two Garden-in-a-Box kits from Resource Central, a non-profit for water conservation in Boulder.

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We got their salad garden kit and a honeybee friendly perennial kit. Both include a few dozens of plants and come with a plant map for companionship.

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We also picked up some herbs from a local nursery with some fresh compost.

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We chose the southern side of our yard for the veggie garden. I mapped out a few 4’x16′ beds and put down old carpet weeks prior to suppress grass growth.

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The perennial garden were planted near the shed to cover an unsightly tree stump.

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We started digging early Saturday morning. Slav tackled the veggie beds as I worked on the perennial bed. Removing established turf was not easy, and we had to dig another 10″ down for better root growth.

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By late afternoon, after 8 hours of digging, we had this:

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Slav dug up two 4’x16′ beds and two narrow trenches for planting potatoes.

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Roxie loves fresh soil. She felt asleep on the cool soil and looked super cute.

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Look at her. Isn’t she the cutest?

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As of me, I dug out this 6′ x 14′ oval shape garden. We have heavy clay so I amended it by mixing in equal part of peat moss and another equal part of manure.

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Sunday morning, we started bright and early with the perennial garden.

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The plants perked up after a good drink and a couple hours of sun.

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Next, we put all 20 seeding potatoes in the trenches and covered them with loose black tea compost.

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We amended the veggie beds by further breaking the clumps and removing grass roots, followed by adding equal amount of the black tea compost.

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We were pretty beat after all the soil work. But we pushed through and planted all the veggies and herbs.

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This year We have more herbs then ever and rare varieties. I am pretty stoked.

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Also planted were five tomatoes and two peppers.

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And a bunch of lettuce, cabbage, chard, and kale.

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Soaking hoses were placed along the potato patches and in the veggie beds. Aside from growing our own food, saving water is big reason for replacing the turf.

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We are happy with all the progress. It is also exciting to watch our fruit trees grew.

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The two cherry trees put out lots of leaves and the nectarine tree really branched out:

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The peach tree did not grow many leaves, but it is about to flower:

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We planted the honey crisp apple weeks later, so it had a slow start. But it is catching up nicely.

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People says perennials “first year sleep, second year creep, and the third year leap”. We are anxious but hopeful. Trees and flowers, grow!

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