28 June 2017

New Recipe: Banh Mi Rice Bowls

Awhile back, Spouse and I went to a popular local restaurant and I ordered a banh mi sandwich for the first time. It was seriously one of the two best sandwiches I've ever had (the other being a Cuban sandwich at a place which is sadly now closed). The freshness and crunch of the vegetables against the richness of the pork (protein options vary) really appealed to me. And of course, THE BREAD. You just can't beat crusty French bread, in my opinion!

If this is a new sandwich to you, here's a quick description and picture.

What is in a banh mi sandwich?
The Vietnamese sandwich, sometimes called a "bánhsandwich", is a product of French colonialism in Indochina, combining ingredients from the French (baguettes, jalapeño, and mayonnaise) with native Vietnamese ingredients, such as coriander, cucumber, and pickled carrots and daikon.

I recently ran across a recipe for a Banh Mi Rice Bowl on Skinnytaste, an attempt to make this sandwich a little less carb-intensive. Now it's debatable how many carbs you actually save with the bowls (which include brown rice) versus the sandwich, but OH, MY GOODNESS...this recipe is fabulous in its own right! Even if you only make the pork and use it in another way, it would be great. 

I've hesitated to try making traditional banh mi sandwiches because the recipes all seemed a bit time-consuming, but this one calls for putting the pork in the crock pot which makes it super-simple. Other than grating the carrots (which somehow turned my kitchen into a war-zone!!!), it was a very simple process. AND SO GOOD! This recipe is definitely a keeper.

Banh Mi Rice Bowls - Skinnytaste


For the pork:
  • 1 pound pork tenderloin
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 3 cloves crushed garlic
  • 1 jalapeno, sliced
  • 1/4 cup reduced sodium soy sauce*
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
For the pickled carrot:
  • 6 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 2 radishes, cut into matchsticks
For the bowls:
  • 3 cups cooked brown rice
  • 1 cup shredded red cabbage
  • 1 cup thinly sliced English cucumbers (about ½ small)
  • 1 small jalapeno, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves


  1. Season the pork with salt and pepper and place into the slow cooker. Combine the garlic, jalapeno, soy sauce and brown sugar and stir to dissolve, pour over the pork.(NOTE: If your slow cooker runs hot, add 1/4 cup water). Cover and cook on low for 6 hours until the pork is very tender, turning once half way through if desired. When the pork is ready, shred the meat. Reserve the sauce.
  2. Meanwhile, while the pork is cooking, make the pickled carrots and radish: In a medium glass bowl, combine the vinegar, sugar and salt and stir until dissolved. Add the carrots and radish and let it sit for about 30 minutes. Drain well and refrigerate until ready to use.
  3. To assemble the bowls, place 3/4 cup rice in each bowl, top each with about 2 1/2 oz pork, drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the reserved sauce then top with the 1/4 cup shredded cabbage, 1/4 cup pickled carrots, 1/4 cup cucumber, sliced jalapenos and cilantro.

27 June 2017

Garden Project: Finished Spaces

I'm back for the second part of my "finished" garden posts. I say "finished" because anyone who enjoys gardening knows that it's always a work in progress! But I'm very happy with how things look so far.

 We've had gloriously beautiful June weather since last week, which is a huge blessing because late June is not the best time to be splitting and moving perennials! The cooler weather (and evening rain!) has given the plants a bit of a cushion to get settled in to their new spots.

Here's a tour of the newly planted garden spaces, starting with this small area which doesn't look so great! There is a row of tropically colored Asiatic lilies along the fence. As you can see, they're very floppy because they were in bags past their normal planting date. The bulbs are in good shape but the plants may not do much this year. In the front are transplanted cranesbill geraniums which were seriously pruned back. They don't look great right now but I don't think you can kill them! On the left end of this bed is a small hydrangea bush. On the right is a Bowl of Cream peony, a first for me.

This second bed was expanded last summer, so much of the area in the photo below is new. This space includes a variety of new and transplanted perennials.

Stepping back from the area, you can see that the taller plants are toward the top of the slightly mounded bed. We split my massive clumps of liatris and spread them across this portion of the bed, along with a few other taller plants including a false indigo.

We split and moved sedum and iris along the back side of this bed.


I also have some butterfly bushes (small orange blooms below) and a new rose bush in this space. There are a few clumps of Lady's Mantle in shady areas toward the front of this bed.

This third bed was completely re-worked and I'm anxious to see how it does. The bright green plants at the bottom of the photo are lime coral bells which I hope do well in this spot.

 Near the center of this bed are Siberian iris, another new plant for me. We also added several clumps of cone flower to this area, including a new orange color for me -- Tiki Torch!

  This bed was also expanded last summer, so there was quite a bit more space to fill. Again, the larger plants were split and/or moved from their existing spots. On the corner is my largest pasque flower, which has now been split and moved to three different locations. It's a really interesting and beautiful flower so I hope it does well!

For now, I'm watering every day and keeping a watchful eye on all the transplants. I'm using deer repellent spray around the perimeters of the beds and so far, nothing has been eaten! 

I already have a few blooms and am looking forward to many more, as these are meant to be cutting gardens! :)

 The "new" garden space is so much fun and I'm enjoying all the birds and butterflies I've seen so far. I'm anxious to see how the plants progress over the summer!

Happy gardening!

24 June 2017

Garden Project: Done!

It's been a busy week around here and I'm super-excited to share that the big garden project I've been planning for a very long time is DONE!

Back in 2014, I had a landscape architect who specializes in perennials draw up some plans to re-do the garden spaces to create a cottage-type garden feel. Long story short, it took awhile to move from paper to action. Because the scope of the project ended up larger than I anticipated, I hired a landscape company to tweak the designs, help select the plants, and do the installation. It was way too much for me to do with my little shovel on my own!

Here's a photo of one end of the large bed now that it has been re-done. I'm very happy with how it all turned out!

In today's post I will share the photos I took before we started and during the process, then in the next post I'll share details of how the beds look now. I took a LOT of pictures (as usual)!

Because I this project was in the works, I haven't been tending to my flower beds. The perennials had gotten way too large and overgrown, but I knew they were going to be split and moved so I wanted to keep them until I knew how much I'd need in the new beds.

 You can see gaps throughout the garden. Some of the gaps are from plants we removed last fall. Other gaps are due to spacing issues I've struggled with for years.

 The beds were expanded last summer so the empty space at the edges is all new. The bed shapes were changed slightly so they would have a better flow.

As you round the corner to the side of the house, things get pretty spotty. 

Here's the World's Thorniest Rose Bush, which the guys moved to this spot last fall. It's doing well but I sure hope it blooms!

  My poor tiger lilies (which came from my grandma's house) are looking pretty thin. Obviously I lost some over the winter. :(

The garden along the back of the garage had become a huge overgrown mess. This project was originally planned for the first part of May, so I didn't worry about how it looked. As the weeks wore on and I got pushed back on the schedule, it started looking worse and worse! But I knew we were going to reuse some of this plant material so I just tried to ignore it. :(

 Here's a "before" view of the two main areas looking down from an upstairs window.

From this same window, you can see into the garden at the back of the yard (which wasn't slated for any work) and the new Japanese lilac tree they planted for us last fall. Those tracks in the yard are from the root system of the large locust tree we had removed from that space. I hated to see it go but it was too close to the house.

 After an early morning rainstorm, the sun broke through just in time for the work to begin! We moved the bird baths and all the patio pots close to the house to allow room for the guys to work.

 When my new plants arrived on the back of the truck, I was excited to see all the different bloom colors and leaf textures! The plan was coming to life!

The guys started by removing all of my existing perennials. It was quite a job because they were so large! But they were extremely efficient and much better diggers than I am. Still, it was a bit of a shock to see my plants lying in the yard!

There were a LOT of plants to be removed. YIKES!

With all of the plants out in the yard, it was easy to see which ones needed to be split and re-used in the new plan. Since they were so overgrown, I had plenty of extras to share with friends!

Once the beds were clear, the landscape designer started laying out the plants according to the plan, beginning with the transplants. We re-used all of my existing perennials but nearly all were moved to new spots. We kept the lead plant in place because, as a prairie plant, its roots can go 15 feet deep!

 Here you can see one of the beds with the transplants and new plant material placed. The spacing is a bit closer than some people might want, but that was done intentionally to more quickly achieve a cottage garden feel. The close spacing will definitely force me to keep up with maintenance!

After dividing my perennials, we had a LOT of extras. They were moved to a shady location so I could sort them out for friends and neighbors. Eventually this whole area was filled with divided plants!

This is just a fraction of the plants I was able to give to friends and neighbors. If you love perennials, you know that it is very fun to share! I'm happy that I was able to find homes for every single one of my babies!

 I'll share the rest of my "after" photos in another post, but here is one example of how we were able to re-use and move my perennials. The shade garden in front of the house (which was not part of this project) had quite a few gaps, so we moved hostas from the back yard to fill in those areas. These poor hostas used to get shade when the locust tree was in place, but once we removed it they suffered with too much sun. They'll be much happier in front where it is shady for a good portion of the day.

While it needs some tidying up, I love the mix of colors and textures in this garden. I re-worked this bed several years ago and am so pleased with how it has done. Check out what it looked like before in this post! YIKES!

Other hostas were moved to the front of the "no man's land" bed at the back of the yard. This is actually a very pretty bed when the lilacs and bridal wreath are in bloom, but otherwise there's not a lot going on out here. The original plans had some new plantings suggested for this area but I didn't pursue it due to cost. I do love the look of hostas there so will probably just continue to add them to the bed.

I'm so happy to see this project completed and I already love the new spaces! I'll share the rest of my "after" photos in the next post.

Happy gardening!

23 June 2017

Feline Friday

 Start your Feline Friday with a sweet video from Lily! 
I spoke to Lily quietly while she was taking a nap. 
Watch what she does when she hears her mama's voice! 💖

Sorry the video ends so abruptly but be assured, Lily's nap continued without interruption!

16 June 2017

Feline Friday

Reach for your goals!**

** or a German chocolate cake donut

09 June 2017

Feline Friday: Hummingbird Obsession!

When Tinsel was sick, I started putting YouTube videos of birds on the TV (and my phone) to provide some distraction and comfort when I couldn't be with her. Of course, Lily had to get in on the action, and now she is addicted to YouTube!

Lily has no interest in squirrels or rabbits but she loves all the bird videos, and now that we've discovered hummingbirds, she is OBSESSED!

Lily waits in front of the TV for her "show" to come on. Then she watches until she falls asleep!
😊For your kitty's viewing pleasure, here are Lily's recommendations:

Paul Dinning wildlife videos for cats -- click HERE

Lily's favorite hummingbird video -- click HERE

Here's hoping you can enjoy a little nature with your kitty this weekend!

Happy Feline Friday!

05 June 2017

Garden Project Update

Last fall, I shared an update on the garden project I've been planning for some time. Long story short: The big re-do of my flower beds didn't happen last summer but we did complete some important "pre-work". With that out of the way, I had expected the crew to arrive by mid-May but unfortunately, we were pushed back on the schedule. I'm disappointed in the scheduling but am trying to keep a positive attitude!

This is a corner of one of the two large beds we'll be re-configuring. My plan is to re-use as much of the existing plant material as possible, dividing and moving some to better locations as needed. Then I'll be adding lots of new perennials to create a cottage garden type look. As you can see, the existing bed has not been weeded or tended to because it's soon to be completely re-done.

This narrow bed is a big mess but I haven't dealt with it because it's on the list to re-do. Some of the plants will stay but we'll also be adding in some Asiatic lilies.

 In the meantime, I've been focusing on my patio plants. The old grill cart we rehabbed last summer is filled with herbs and flowers. It's a good place for smaller pots and too high for the bunnies to reach!

 I planted quite a few patio pots of flowers, and this year I bought an actual patio tomato. It's doing great, and I'm hoping for more success than last summer. (Last year I bought a tomato plant that was supposed to be planted in the ground. It grew quite tall and became a little unwieldy!  Unfortunately, the tomatoes developed deep crevices and most had to be discarded.) 

The catnip plant is doing quite well. Lily and the neighbor kitty have both been enjoying it. 

My favorite planter this year is the bowl I have on the table. The old planter blew off the table in a storm last year and broke, so I replaced it with a similar one. The sun coleus is doing great!

Stay tuned for updates on the big garden project. If all goes as planned, the crews should be here next week.