Thursday, July 15, 2010

Party in the Garden.

My husband's parents live in a turn-of-the-century home north of Seattle.  His mom grew up in the house during the '50s and '60s with her two brothers and a sister. At one point, her folks rented rooms to local college students for additional income. My mother-in-law returned to her childhood home with her husband and three kids and moved in to help her parents. The house has many rooms and all the charm you would find in a home that old. Needless to say, there is a lot of history in the house and a lot of good memories.

One thing about living in a house for so long is you end up keeping things you normally would get rid of when you move. This house is immaculate, yet many of the rooms hold memorabilia from when my husband and his siblings grew up there. My husband is always trying to bring home many of his findings when reminiscing through drawers and closets. He can't seem to help himself and has picked up old T-shirts, soccer jackets and all his old matchbox cars, including an original 1970's Evil Knievel motorcycle with the base that shoots it off into the air. (It still works perfectly and our son loves it.)

So, after a recent visit with my in-laws and to my shock and horror, I saw him cart out two full-size beer kegs he's saved since his college days at Washington  State University and put them into our car. I quickly jetted over to him and told him we were definitely not taking those home. He informed me he was going to have my Dad cut them in half with his metal cutter and recycle them into garden planters. I hated the idea - garden kegs in the garden - how aesthetically pleasing could this be?

But, as I've mentioned before, I need to back off and let some of his creative juices flow. So, I hauled these old, stinky kegs to my parent's house and asked my Dad to cut them. Well, when I saw the finished product, I kinda warmed up to the idea. My Dad left the cool Pabst Blue Ribbon wooden coin sign on the side and I started seeing the potential of these little hot beds in my garden.

I brought them home to my husband's delight and we filled them up with compost and added some banana peppers and cucumbers. It's been a slow start to the garden this year due to all the Pacific Northwest rain, but I'm happy to say, those plants in the 'garden kegs' are thriving and they look pretty cool in the garden.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The original Deadiest Catch.

I'm what you call a clam snob. Actually, I'm a seafood snob and my entire family is, too. When you grow up surrounded by fresh seafood it's hard to be anything but. However, we are a down-to-Earth crew, but snobs none-the-less.

Growing up we ate at tables spread with newspapers and empty beer bottles were placed in our tiny hands to crack an endless stream of dungeness and king crab legs spread across the table. My dad was the original Deadliest Catch...just kidding, but we did live on Kodiak Island in Alaska and my dad commercial fished for dungeness, king and Bairdi Tanner crab until his boat sank in the Gulf of Alaska. (Everyone made it off the boat safe!) To say the least, we had an abundance of seafood and ate it daily - and I mean daily. My mom would have to come up with new ways to fix all the seafood and some of it, well, was less than desirable. (Crab casserole, anyone?) Oh, how I miss those days. I'd give anything to sit at a table with an empty beer bottle and crack away.

When we moved to Washington state, we lived on the coast and razor clam digging was a past time. During clam season we'd head out to the beach and dig our 15 clam limit, well, I'd sit in the warm car and watch, but everyone else got their limit. We'd take them home and fry them up for a fresh-from-the-beach, local meal. It's a delicacy our family, and entire town, rather, enjoy each season. This spring, I brought my 2-year-old out to the beach with my parent's for his first razor clam experience. We dug our limits (even me!) and brought 45 clams home to clean and eat up. (Next clam season, I'll provide a step-by-step guide on how to dig and clean clams!) My son enjoyed "digging" the clams and eating them, too.

When my folks moved to a lake house by Hood Canal, an abundance of steamer clam beaches opened its doors to us. Luckily, my dad's friend lives on a private steamer clam beach and, surprisingly enough, nobody in their family eats them so they encourage our family to pile in and head over. Maybe they regret it when they see us coming, but we make sure those clams don't go to waste. Once we bring them home, we flush them for 24-hours in fresh saltwater we harvested with the clams and it allows them to pump the sand out so there's no grit when you devour them!

If you have the chance, get out there and dig. Nothing is like it and you get to eat the fruits of all your labor. Check out these websites for public beaches in the Pacific Northwest:

I've also got to take this opportunity to share a couple favorite shellfish recipes:

(Helps keep your kitchen free of odor and grease.)

2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 sleeves of Ritz crackers
1 limit (15) razor clams
Salt and Pepper

Beat eggs until frothy and add milk place in separate bowl for dipping. Place crackers in ziploc bag and crush with rolling pin and place on separate plate. Clean and  dry clams. Dip clams in eggwash and roll in cracker crumbs. Spray large cookie sheet with cooking spray and lay out clams on baking sheet. Bake 450 degrees 15 minutes or until crunchy. Salt and pepper and serve.


4 cups fresh saltwater
2 cups dry white wine
2 limits (72) steamer clams
1 cup butter
2-3 minced garlic cloves
Salt and pepper

Clean clams in saltwater for 24-hours to pump the sand out of the clams. Fill steamer with saltwater and wine and fill steamer basket with clams. Cover and bring to boil. Steam until clams pop open about 20 minutes. Melt butter, minced garlic, salt, pepper and various herbs in saucepan. Serve clams with butter for dipping.