The First Pass At Crispy Breadsticks

by A.J. Coltrane

Crispy Breadsticks:

Ingredient Measure Baker’s %
Bread Flour 300g
Water 180g 60
Salt 7g 2.3
Instant Yeast ¼ tsp
Olive Oil 12g 4

1.  Mix all ingredients at low speed for 10 minutes.

2.  Let rise overnight.  (This was intended for an overnight rise on the kitchen counter. It rose too quickly for that, so after 6 hours it got a light workout and went into the refrigerator to hang out until after work the next day.)

3.  Roll out the dough into a loose square about 1/4″ thick.

4.  Cut long thin strips with a pizza cutter or dough scraper. Twist the strips and place on a Silpat lined sheet tray.

5.  Bake 1 hour at 300F, turning halfway through.

6.  I sprinkled these with parmesan after they came out of the oven. It wasn’t sticking well, so I put the sheet tray back into the oven for 3-5 minutes, which sort of helped.

7.  Cool on a wire rack.


This recipe is an aggregate of a few online recipes, combined with the overnight rise idea for better flavor. (This one was one of the big jumping off points, pictured below.)

141120 breadstick

The result wasn’t as brown as the picture, but the taste and texture were good. I’d guess the fact that I baked two sheet trays at the same time contributed to the light color. Also, they could have been 20% crunchier to be closer to what I’d visualized — both issues possibly sharing the same root cause.

All in all though, a good start, a tasty result, and a very easy recipe.

Two Microclimates

by A.J. Coltrane

The nighttime temperatures dropped down to around 20F this week. There was no gradual decrease from warm, either. The evening temperatures went 40, 40, 40, 40, 20, 20, 20. There’s a marked difference in how the front yard plants have been handling the cold as compared to the back yard plants-

The front yard gets morning sun when it’s clear outside. It may also help that the sun reflects off of the house and onto the containers:

141116 romaine

The containers in the backyard get comparatively little sun. This romaine is still frosty around noon:

141116 romaine3

Front yard again:

141116 romaine2

Back yard (Pak Choi):

141116 pak choi


The back yard stuff is looking vaguely perkier today than it did at the time of these pictures, but still.. Next year (or even later this week) the back yard containers may need to be moved to a sunnier spot. If that means they get rained on, then that’s the way it’s going to need to go. “Zero” sun isn’t cutting it.

I came across this blog recently. OurHappyAcres. Written by a retired IT guy doing four-season organic gardening in southwestern Indiana – Zone 6b. The blog features lots of pictures, and he documents many different “tests”. In addition to the usual suspects he grows a lot of asian greens that I’m not super familiar with. I like his relatively methodical approach to gardening. That, and if something works for him then it should work in the maritime northwest.

Final EarthBox 2014 Recap — The Tomatoes And Tomatillos

by A.J. Coltrane

Previous post here. 2013 recap here.

Tomatillos — 21.2 pounds. Both of the tomatillos survived 2014. In 2013 one of the two plants died off midsummer. This year it may have helped that one variety had a vertical habit, and the other was sort of “droopy”. We also gave them “their own space” well away from the tomato plants. The total yield increased almost 50%, up from the 14.6 pounds in 2013. For reference, the two types were “De Mipa” and “Mexican Strain”.

140628 tomatillo

As far as support – the Ultomato stakes weren’t really up to the task, especially for the vertical tomatillo plant. We’ll need to consider something else for next year.

We expanded from 6 tomato plants up to 8 in 2014. For comparison, the 2013 yield was 91.5 pounds, the 2014 yield was 138.0 pounds. On a per plant basis the yield improved from 15.5 pounds up to 17.25 pounds. (Note the “terracing” of the tomato plants on the left. The tomatillos are in the back center.)

140724 overview

Black Krim — 24.5 pounds. [75 day, Indeterminate. Heirloom] Won every taste test. The richest “tomato” flavor. Terrific yield. Winner.

Glacier — 10.8 pounds. [56 day, Determinate. 13.9 pounds in 2013.] Didn’t win any taste tests, or even finish very highly. Somewhat “watery” when compared to the other varieties. The lowest yield of 2014′s tomatoes. I’m inclined to try something else next year.

Mountain Princess — 11.6 pounds. [68 day, Determinate. Heirloom.] Relatively poor yield despite a prime location. Unexceptional taste. I don’t think they’re a keeper.

Oregon Spring — 13.4 pounds. [60 day, Determinate.] Ripened early. Did well in the taste tests. Good “tomato” flavor. Keeper.

Roma — 17.2 pounds. [75 day, Determinate. 26.0 pounds in 2013.] Lower yield than 2013 but the fruit was larger and more of it ripened.

Sungold — 18.4 pounds. [65 day, Indeterminate. 19.2 pounds in 2013.] Another taster favorite. Super performer and distinctly different and sweeter from anything else we grew in 2014. “Candy.” Keeper.

Taxi — 25.9 pounds. [65 day, Determinate.] Great yield. Attractive and it did well in the taste tests. Keeper.

Tigerella — 16.2 [65 day, Indeterminate. Heirloom.] Average yield, average taste, but they are interesting to look at. Late to ripen. I’d be fine with trying another variety instead.

A few pounds of tomatoes got crushed when the cages blew over. Overall though, 2014 saw improved yields and riper fruit. Cherokee Purple might be something to try in 2015, given how well the Black Krims were received.

Jordan Morris

by A.J. Coltrane

On Monday night the Sounders advanced to the Western Conference Finals with a tense 0-0 tie at CenturyLink. (No, really. It was *tense*.) The Sounders will play the Galaxy on the 23rd and 30th. The winner goes to the actual Finals.

Which makes this next bit interesting to me:  The U.S. squad has a couple of friendlies coming up,

The U.S. takes on No. 3-ranked Colombia on Friday at 2:45 p.m. ET in London at Craven Cottage with more than 20,000 tickets already sold. On Nov. 18, the U.S. team will play Ireland for the first time since 2002 at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium, beginning at 2:45 p.m. ET.

Dempsey was left off the squad. DeAndre Yedlin is making the trip, though it looks like he’ll have time for adequate rest before the games with the Galaxy.

The U.S. roster:

Goalkeepers: Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Bill Hamid (D.C. United), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

Defenders: DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Timmy Chandler (Eintracht Frankfurt), Greg Garza (Club Tijuana), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Monchengladbach), Jermaine Jones (New England Revolution), DeAndre Yedlin (Seattle Sounders FC)

Midfielders: Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg), Julian Green (Hamburg), Alfredo Morales (Ingolstadt), Lee Nguyen (New England Revolution)

Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Sunderland), Miguel Ibarra (Minnesota United FC), Jordan Morris (Stanford), Rubio Rubin (Utrecht), Bobby Wood (1860 Munich), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

One name on the list sticks out – Stanford student Jordan Morris. I figured I’d look into whatever his story is a little bit.

As it turns out he’s a 20 year-old member of the Seattle Sounders Academy. He was born in Seattle and graduated from Mercer Island High. He’s a sophomore at Stanford — bio is here.

I think it’s pretty cool that the Sounders Academy has produced two potential National Team members in a short period of time. Here’s hoping that the Northwest will continue to represent a rich pipeline of talent, and that it will funnel through the Sounders.

Jordan Morris

Handicapping the MLB Awards

By Blaidd Drwg

We are in MLB awards season. Yesterday we had the announcement of the AL and NL ROY, won by Jose Abreu and Jacob DeGrom. Abreu was a no-brainer and DeGrom, despite only pitching 144 innings, got 26 of the 30 first place votes over Billy Hamilton (remember him from this) and Kolten Wong, both of whom posted sub-300 OPB and sub-700 OPS. It was a weak year in the NL for rookies.

We have the Manager of the Year, MVP and Cy Young coming up this week and it should be interesting. Keep in mind that the voting is completed for all 3 of the awards on the last day of the regular season, so the playoffs have no impact. Here are my thoughts:


Manager of the Year

Predicted Winners: Mike Scioscia (AL), Bruce Bochy (NL)

I took a quick look at the ESPN 2014 predictions and virtually no one had either the Angels or the Giants winning their divisions or the wild card, so they both get the nod from me. It will be interesting to see who wins because you can make the argument than any of the 6 finalists deserve to win the award.


Cy Young

Predicted Winners: Felix Hernandez (AL), Clayton Kershaw (NL)

Let me just put this out there – Kershaw was far and away the best pitcher in baseball this year and he will be a unanimous winner. The AL is different. I actually would not have voted for Felix if I had the vote simply because he imploded in his next to last start and essentially cost the Mariners a legitimate shot at the playoffs. Neither Sale nor Kluber pitched for a contender, but here are the stats for all 3 of them:

Felix 15-6 2.14 248 0.915 236 170 6.8 9.5 5.39
Kluber 18-9 2.44 269 1.095 235.2 152 7.4 10.3 5.27
Sale 12-4 2.17 208 0.966 174 178 6.6 10.8 5.33


There is a small piece of information that I wanted to share. A day after Felix had his disastrous start in Toronto, the official scorer changed a play that was (correctly) ruled a hit to (incorrectly) be an error. That resulted in 4 ER being removed from Felix’s stats and gave him the ERA and WHIP titles. Without the scoring change, Felix essentially has the same ERA as Kluber. It is really a toss-up between Kluber and Felix though – they had virtually identical stat lines with Kluber striking out a few more hitters and Felix giving up a few less hits, but I think this will be a pretty close vote, with Felix coming out just ahead. Sale, while probably better than either Kluber of Felix this year, missed a month of the season and that will lead to him finishing third.



Predicted Winners: Mike Trout (AL), Clayton Kershaw (NL)

The NL is interesting since you have to compare 2 hitters to a pitcher. McCutchen and Stanton both had good, not great, seasons, pulling in a 6.4 and 6.5 WAR respectively. Kershaw, despite an early season injury and just under 200 IP, pulled in a 7.5 WAR. The selling point for me – the Pirates may or may not make the playoffs without McCutchen, the Marlins just suck worse without Stanton but the Dodgers don’t win their division without Kershaw.

All 3 of the AL finalists had fine seasons, but the reality is Mike Trout was just a ton better than either Michael Brantley or Victor Martinez, neither of whom are very likely to be that good next year. Besides, I had to actually look up Brantley’s stats to see how good he actually was, although I was tempted to give him points for being Mickey Brantley’s kid. The scary thing about Trout is that he is just 22 and this was a “down year” for him, posting a career low 7.9 WAR, which was still good enough to lead all of baseball.

EarthBox 2014 Recap — The Oddballs

by A.J. Coltrane

Previous post here.

2013 Oddball Recap post here.

We’re getting closer to a four-season harvest from the EarthBoxes. As we’ve moved along we’ve learned that many of the Oddballs actually do best as cool-weather or winter plants. The overall yield should continue to improve as we figure out how to more tightly schedule the various plantings — in the last two years there have been long “fallow” periods. As it is, September/October planting for winter harvest is really too late.

The Oddballs Sorted By Temperature Preference –

Cool Weather:  Arugula, Bok Choi, Carrot, Cilantro, Dill, Garlic, Mache, Parsley, Radish, Romaine Lettuce, Spinach.

Warm Weather:  Basil.

Warm or Cool Weather:  Brussels Sprouts, Scallion, Shallot.

Comments –

Note that up through spring 2014 we were using the EarthBox covers and cutting holes in them for the cool-weather plants. This fall we removed the covers, allowing for the boxes to be planted at much, much higher densities. Hopefully that will help increase the yield.

Arugula — 0.1 pounds. It would have been 1-2 pounds, but a late spring planting combined with unseasonably warm weather caused it to bolt just as it was maturing. Arugula is interplanted with Spinach and Romaine in a few of the half-barrels and ready for harvest between now and the spring.

Basil — 2.9 pounds. Basically 50% of last year’s 6.3 pounds, but we used one box this year instead of two, so there it is. At 2013 retail prices 2.9 pounds is $195 worth of basil.

Bok Choi/Pak Choi — 3.3 pounds. The harvest was overwintered Bok Choi. There is now an EarthBox full of Pak Choi, and the veg is ready for eating. We’ll thin it through the spring.

Brussels Sprouts — 0.0 pounds so far. Planted in the early summer, I’d guess there are around three pounds on the plants, ready whenever.

Carrot — 0.0 pounds. Planted this fall for winter/spring harvest. Two types, though the better winter type is underdeveloped due to Territorial Seed’s failure to ship. At all. In effect, they lost my order. Hopefully that will be the first and last time they screw up.

Cilantro — 0.9 pounds. “Santo” (regular) Cilantro was planted in September along the backs of  a couple of the half-barrels. One EarthBox has “Confetti” Cilantro. None of these are ready yet. I’ll be interested to see if they get big enough to be usable this winter. Interplanted in various containers with Mache, Dill, Romaine, and Spinach.

Dill — about 0.5 pounds. Bolted in the spring. Planted too late in the fall. Right now there are two big plants and a one-pound log of dill butter in the freezer.

141004 dill spinach

Garlic — 0.0 pounds.  Three heads were received as a gift from a neighbor and planted a few weeks ago. They’re growing like crazy and should represent a good spring harvest.

Mache — 0.3 pounds. We planted a little bit in January and it did fine. There just wasn’t much of it, least partly because we used the EarthBox covers. Mache is now interplanted in many boxes and barrels with “vertical” stuff. It seems like the germination rate hasn’t been very good, either because the seeds are over a year old, or the temperature wasn’t right, or… I won’t be surprised if it continues to germinate as it gets colder.

Parsley — 0.3 pounds. A big bunch of these that were planted in the spring made it all summer before finally bolting in August. The location was somewhat protected and only got morning sun. That’s what I was hoping was going to happen with the half-barrels in the front yard. It’s something to build on.

Radish – 0.8 pounds. We tried a few of two different varieties in the early spring – “French Breakfast” and “Cherry Belle”. Both did fine, though the French Breakfast may be better suited for being “cramped”. This fall we planted “Dragon”. The Dragon are supposed to be better at holding in the ground. The spring types are intended to be pulled as soon as they’re mature, otherwise they get hot/ pithy/ woody.

Romaine — 3.4 pounds. A good yield before it bolted. Had we trimmed these more aggressively the we probably could have gotten about twice as much. Currently ready to harvest – interplanted in a few half-barrels with Arugula, Cilantro, and Mache.

Scallions — 0.5 pounds. a.k.a. “Bunch Onion”. A spring harvest of a few overwintered plants. It went well enough that there’s now an EarthBox jammed full of seedlings.

Shallot — about 0.5 pounds. Many of these rotted in a half-barrel. It seems alliums don’t like wet feet. I figured this fall we’d try growing them in an EarthBox, and use seeds rather than bulbs, since seeds are so much cheaper. We’ll see what we get. The worst case scenario is an inexpensive failure.

Spinach — 1.7 pounds. Spring harvest of overwintered plants, mostly. Lots and lots of spinach is interplanted throughout the boxes and half-barrels. I read somewhere that the crinkly (savoyed) types do better in cold, though I have yet to read that twice, so it needs verifying.

More Posts About Buildings And Food

by A.J. Coltrane

I’ve always liked the title of that album more than the actual contents. (Though this is a good cover.)

A collection of pictures of food from the garden, starting with a caprese send-up:




Cucumbers with feta and dill:


Zucchini bread. (A recipe from an ex-coworker. Recipe post coming at some point. It’s seriously awesome.):

zucchini bread

Baked panko-crusted zucchini sticks:

zucchini fritters

A non-food photo. Remember when it looked like this outdoors?:

140921 flower

EarthBox 2014 Recap — The Cucumbers And Zucchini

by A.J. Coltrane

2013 Cucumber and Zucchini recap here.

This summer, the cucumbers and zucchini boxes both blew/fell over. Nothing was damaged, but that’s the end of “it won’t happen to me” around here.

140810 zucchini

We went with the vining Tromboncino zucchini this year. We were rewarded with 20.5 pounds of fruit, up from 12 pounds of “regular zucchini” in 2013. Ultimately I’m not sure that we like zucchini enough to try to eat 20 pounds per year..

140724 cucumber

Forty-four pounds of Marketmore cucumbers in 2014. That’s down from 56 pounds in 2013, but still well more than we could ever eat. In both years the fruit quality really began to fall after about middle/late August. August 31 might represent a good date to just bag it, pull the plants, and start winter veg. (We got 10 pounds of mostly misshapen produce from September onward in 2014.)

When they’re going good though, they’re very good:

140803 cucumber

It’s my understanding the some commercial growers will do an early and late crop of cucumbers to help keep the fruit quality high. I don’t know how realistic that is with our setup, but it may be worth considering. My suspicion is that for us the net amount of “good” fruit would be very comparable, and that it might not be worth the effort.

Right now I’m leaning towards taking a year off of the zucchini in 2015, though that’s going to be dependent upon finding something we’d rather use the space for that isn’t totally redundant. The Marketmore 64 cucumbers have been very successful both years, though I’d dig it if we could find something with a longer “tail” — a variety that would continue to produce good fruit into September.

In any event, we’re not going to use Ultomato cages for the cucumbers next year. We may wind up using the big trellis for cucumbers in 2015 — that sort of makes sense.

Tomato Focaccia

by A.J. Coltrane

I’ve read about a Roman bread that has tomato “painted” into the surface. (Thanks for the perfect word to describe it, Kurt.) I spent a little time looking for a picture of what I’m visualizing… I don’t know that I’ve found a “right” picture. Most of the recipes seem to include a tomato puree and/or paste within the dough. Some rub a finished bread with a cut tomato after it comes out of the oven, which I’m thinking is what I had in mind when starting this bread:

tomato focaccia 141101

The bloody end result was based around what’s become my default focaccia recipe:  300g AP Flour, 300g Bread Flour, 420g water, 36g olive oil, 14g kosher salt.  (That’s 70% hydration, 6% oil, and 2.33% salt by weight.) This time I omitted the honey, reduced the instant yeast to 3/8 teaspoon, and allowed for a 18 hour rise.

Note that it’s the same rise time, and ratio of yeast as goes into the No Knead Bread — the No Knead Bread uses 400g flour and 1/4 teaspoon of yeast.

The Tigerella tomato sauce was simmered with three smashed cloves of garlic and two thai bird chilis until fairly thick but still “drizzleable”. (We’d recently been to a cooking class where the chef used a little bit of heat to “focus” things. I think that it worked — there was just a faint hint of heat at the finish.)

The Rest Of The Recipe:

1.  Combine dough ingredients, mix on low speed for 10 minutes, and let rise 18 hours.

2.  Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled baking sheet let rise one hour. (I went with a one hour rise instead of two or three because I was looking for a denser finished product, and so that the dough would support the weight of the sauce.)

3.  Preheat oven to 425F.

4.  Drizzle on the cooled sauce. Note that a focaccia typically has olive oil on the surface. I didn’t use any oil this time.

5.  Bake for 15 minutes, turn the tray, and bake for another 12-15 minutes.


I think the Reinhart book American Pie has the application I’m looking for. Maybe I’ll dig through it for the recipe. Maybe.

Are You Just Glad To See Me?

by A. J. Coltrane

Tonight is LeBron’s “homecoming” game in Cleveland.

Other NBA matchups (ESPN/StubHub prices):

Washington at Orlando 501 available from $12
Detroit at Minnesota 215 available from $19
New York at Cleveland 56 available from $701
Utah at Dallas 1,064 available from $13
Oklahoma City at LA Clippers 2,159 available from $27

Looks like Cleveland is glad alright.


When is that last time you heard someone say that they were “glad”?


I’m watching the 2nd quarter right now. LeBron lost weight in the offseason and looks like a bigger and younger version of Paul Pierce. He’s positively light on his feet. The rest of the NBA should be terrified.