The Battle Continues

Powdery Mildew

August is a very foggy month here in Daly City. In fact, I don't think I have seen the sun here in weeks. While the rest of the country is suffering under a heat wave, it's a chilly 55 degrees.  Now, I am not complaining. I will take a cold, foggy day to heat any day. My garden, however, is another story. Plants need sun and my plants have been suffering.  What's worse is that these are ideal conditions for that demon powdery mildew.

More powdery mildew

I first encountered powdery milder on my rose bushes in the front yard and I cured them with some diligence and milky water. It really did the trick.  A 3 to 1 ration of water to milk sprayed on the rose bushes weekly not only killed the mildew and prevented it's spread. This time, though, the mildew was on my apple tree and my climbing rose bush.  How the heck was I going to get up there? I tried to ignore it, but it spread quickly.  Really quickly. As August progressed the fog got thicker, it got wetter and the mildew was thriving.

August 2012 Mid-Day Daly City
As you know, I do not want to use pesticides in my garden. This is especially true in the backyard where sparrows play in the trees all day. But, how was I going to tackle this problem when I couldn't even reach it? With a bit if determination, that's how!

First, I got an extended clipper and pruner and clipped off all the mildew I could find on the apple tree.  Luckily, there wasn't a lot and I could get most of it clipped off. Next I tackled the rose bush. It was horrible. I did this on a ladder and ended up clipping about half of the bush off. Still, there are places I couldn't reach.

Now that I had clipped off the nasty mildew, I needed to spray the tree and bush with milk. For that I bought the Gilmour Pre-Mix Sprayer. I love this thing! I fill the bottle with milk, connect it to my hose and it does the mixing for me while it sprays.  A spray it does. I would say I can spray about 30 feet. Perfect for both the apple tree and the rose bush.

So, how's it working? I am happy to say there are no more signs of powdery mildew on the apple tree and I am getting the rose bush under control. There is light at the end of the tunnel. Or should I say sunshine? Today I woke up to a clear sunny day. It looks like our Indian Summer has come a little early. What more could I ask for?

August 28, 2012 - Daly City Sunshine!

Tomato Pie

One of my favorite websites is Kevin Lee Jacobs' A Garden for the House. I discovered this site only a few months ago when searching for gardening sites. It is indeed a great site for gardening tips, but so much more. It has amazing recipes! In the past couple of months, I have made three of Kevin's recipes with great success: Lettuce Soup, Blue Cheese Dressing and, most recently, Tomato Pie.

I had never heard of tomato pie before. I had heard of The Tomato Tart, but I just thought that was my friend Sabrina and her site. About a week ago a recipe for tomato pie appeared on Kevin's site and I just had to try it! All I could think of for a week was how much I wanted to try this tomato pie! Well, I did last Saturday and I wasn't disappointed. It was delicious! Not only that, it was beautiful. Look at that picture! It has to be one of the most beautiful things I have ever made.

I made a few modifications to my version of the recipe based on a few others I researched online, but this recipe is all Kevin. My changes are minimal. I used two cheeses, added a shallot and drained the tomatoes a bit. Most recipes call for a pie shell rather than biscuits, but I loved the biscuits. I think they make the dish. Try to get the freshest tomatoes you can find, but I will be honest and say I only had time to go to the supermarket and this pie still was delicious.

  • 10 refrigerated biscuits from package (I used Pillsbury Grands Jr.) 
  • 2 large tomatoes, thinly sliced 
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1/3 cup Fresh basil, sliced thinly (about 10 leaves) 
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 cup extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated 
  • 1 cup gruyere cheese, grated 
  • Salt and pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 375. 
  2. Slice the tomatoes into 1/4 inch thick slices and place in a colander. Sprinkle with salt and allow to drain for 10 minutes. 
  3. Spray a 9-inch pie plate with non-stick spray. 
  4. Press the biscuits against the sides and bottom of the plate and form a crust. 
  5. Layer the tomato slices on the dough and give them a couple grinds of pepper. 
  6. Sprinkle the shallot on top of the tomatoes evenly. 
  7. Sprinkle on the basil. 
  8. Combine the grated cheese and mayonnaise together. 
  9. Spread the mixture on top of the tomatoes. 
  10. Bake for 30 minutes until lightly browned. 
  11. Let stand for 30 minutes before serving.

Makes 6 servings

Homemade Pasta

Last weekend I decided to make a special dinner - homemade pasta! I have made it a couple of times before and we always enjoy it. There is nothing quite like the texture and flavor of homemade pasta.

I always think it's going to be hard to make fresh pasta, but it's really not. It's just flour and eggs and a little water. You can do most of your kneading in a food processor or a stand up mixer. I make a basic pasta with the following ingredients.
  • 4 large eggs 
  • 1/2 cup water 
  • 3 1/2 cup sifted all-purpose flour 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

All you do is place all the ingredients in the mixer bowl and mix at Speed 2 for 30 seconds using the flat beater.

Swap out the flat beater for the dough hook. Knead at Speed 2 for 2 minutes.

Remove dough from bowl and hand knead for 1 to 2 minutes, folding the past over each time.

Let dough rest for 20 minutes to 2 hours.

Divide dough into 6 pieces and processing using your pasta machine or attachment.

I personally have the KitchenAid KPRA Pasta Roller Attachment. It might be a bit pricey, but I love it. It comes with one pasta roller and two pasta cutters - one for angel hair pasta and one for fettuccine. It's a great addition to my appliances. But I do admit it's a pricey commitment. If that is too expensive for you all you need to do is go to Amazon and they have a large collection of hand crank pasta rollers starting from about $30 to about $70. I would go for the best one you can afford at the time. If you aren't quite sure you are going to make pasta often, you might go with a lower priced model and if you become a pasta wizard you can always upgrade. I will say that since I only make pasta two or three times a year, I would probably go with a mid-priced machine. I have used them in cooking class and they work wonderfully.

Once you have your machine you flatten dough and roll the pasta through the maching at the 1 setting, fold it then run it through again at the next setting. Starting at 1 you move up to the thickness you want. I was making fettuccine so I went to 6. You only fold it the first time. When you have reached the desired thickness hang your pasta on a pasta rack while you work on the next piece. You really do need one of these and they are not that expensive. Mine was $13.50.
Now it's time to cut the pasta. I used my fettuccine pasta attachment, but you can also use a pasta cutter, which costs about $20.00. Cut your pasta and you are ready to go!
The next thing you need to think about is sauce. This is always a hard part for me. I want something very simple, but tasty. I choose two sauces from my favorite pasta book, The Complete Book of Pasta and Noodles by Cooks Illustrated. This is an amazing book. I will write more about this next time.

I made a salmon cream sauce and a simple olive oil, fresh tomato and summer squash sauce. Delicious! I will say, though, that the olive oil sauce was my favorite since it let the pasta be the star in the dish.

So, that's my little pasta making adventure. All together it took me about an hour to make pasta, but it's really worth it. There is a huge difference between store bought and fresh so I really recommend it. It's a bit pricey to start out, but once you have the equipment, you will love making pasta.

One Year Ago This Week

My time goes by quickly. It was only one year ago this week that we moved Aurora to San Bruno Skill Nursing. Just a month earlier Aurora had a stroke and was in a facility in Pacifica.  The day of the move I went to get help her get ready and followed the van as we moved her to her new home. She was so jolly about everything even though I am sure it must have been scary. What touched me was how much she trusted me to be there for her and that everything would be alright.

Aurora and I weren't buddies prior to all this happening. In fact, I had only seen her three times in eight years. It's not that we didn't like each other, there was just indifference on both our parts. Well, I will say mine. I don't think she knew much about me. Everyone has their own way of living life and we decided on ours. We weren't keeping it a secret, we just weren't throwing it in her face. Our life our choice. It worked.

When Aurora had her stroke Joey asked me for help and I was more than happy to. We decided to move in together and share the task of taking care of his mom. She would live downstairs and we would live upstairs. Boy, did we have a lot to do!  When it became evident that Aurora was better off where she was we just kept plugging along with the house. It was a good distraction and a tribute to the hard work she originally put into it.

One thing we thought would be helpful for Aurora was to have visitors every day. Joey in the afternoon and me in the evening. We have stuck to that plan for the past year. Joey has been amazing, never missing a day. He's there every single afternoon no matter what. I go almost every day after work, but there are some days I need to go straight to the city. I enjoy my visits with Aurora. We talk, watch TV, play games or sometimes we just sit with each other.  It reminds me of riding to my great grandmother's house after school when I was little. We did about the same things.

So, one year has past and I must say that we are blessed. All of us. We have new life now and are a little family. The folks in the nursing home think that Aurora and I have been close forever.  In a way she has.  As she says, "We have always been friends, we just didn't know it."

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About Sean & Joey

Joey and I are just a couple of guys living in San Francisco. I love cooking and we both like trying new things. Planning our meals is one of our "together" things. I hope you enjoy our blog! - Sean


This blog is dedicated to the two most important people in my life - my mom, Ernee Jean O'Brien, and my partner Joey Concepcion. They both have showered me with unconditional support and love and have always encouraged me to be myself. I will always miss my mom and I don't know what I would do without Joey.

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