EarthTainer Update #5

I apologize if these EarthTainer updates are getting boring! When we grew our last tomato plants three years ago, they looked nothing like these, so we’re really excited with how well things are going, and I want to document the process so we know what we want to change next year.

As you can see, the plants are gigantic. I know the height is a bit deceiving because they’re already up off the ground a bit due to the container, but they’re about as tall as Mike and I are. You can’t even see the cages anymore!

Speaking of which, you can barely see it, but this weekend we had to anchor both cages to my poor Meyer lemon tree to the left there. The plants had both started leaning to the right a bit and taking the cages with them, so we gave it a bit more stability. We also gently secured some of the larger branches to the cage.

Next year we will definitely be attaching the recommended cage to the container!

It’s a good thing tomatoes turn red when they’re ripe because these little guys are getting harder to spot now that the yellow blossoms are dropping off.

Mike also ran a line from our drip system into the watering pipe. We’ll still be manually filling it up with the hose, but this just insures that it’s not going to get completely dry between fill-ups.

I also just realized that I’ve never shown how we put up our solar shade. We did this last August with solar sheets we bought at Lowe’s. I don’t remember what the package said, but I want to say it blocks up to 60% of the sun’s rays or UV damage (it blocks something!). We did this mainly because, while we love our little courtyard area, it turns into a virtual oven in the summer months.

It’s surrounded by windows (two sets of sliding doors, our front doors — which are all glass — and two windows next to the front doors. There is also a smaller set of windows that go into the laundry room) and when it gets full sun during the day it raises the temperature of the surrounding rooms quite a bit, too (regardless of curtains and shades!).

So we designed the set-up ourselves, and spent a long, hot afternoon putting it up. It made a noticeable difference in temperature, and you can see from the band of sun across the sliding door how much it blocks. It’s slackened a bit in the last eight months so we’re going to tighten it up again soon, but hopefully it’ll keep the plants from frying.

We also decided we’re going to hold off on planting anything else for this season. I really want to grow some zucchini and peppers and jalapenos, but we need to make sure the tomatoes make it through the summer heat okay before we invest in any more container equipment and grow media.


Katsudon – Pork Cutlet Rice Bowl

Katsudon – Pork Cutlet Rice Bowl

Katsudon means pork cutlet rice bowl (I don’t know for sure, don’t quote me) and is a popular Japanese dish. Mike gets them at a little shop close to his work, and asked me last week if I’d find a recipe for it.

All the ingredients were easy to find (in fact, the only thing I had to pick up was a new bottle of rice wine vinegar), but it was the combination that threw me a bit: fried panko-crusted pork chops that are cooked in a sweet sauce with eggs over rice. My first thought? Weird. But I’ll try anything once.

Katsudon – Pork Cutlet Rice Bowl

Of course, they were delicious. How could anything that looks like that not be? My pork cutlets actually started out as one-inch thick chops. Instead of spending ten minutes trying to pound them each out, I butterflied them and then gave them each a quick once-over with the mallet.

Katsudon – Pork Cutlet Rice Bowl

Once it’s done cooking you cut the pork into thin strips and put it in yet another pan with the warmed sauce. After letting the pork absorb the sauce for a minute you add a beaten egg and stir the whole thing around for a bit, and then serve over rice.

This was quite a production for five people but once I got the routine down I had dinner ready in about 45 minutes.

I used this recipe, but next time I’m going to add some sliced onion to the sauce since Mike says that’s how they serve it at the shop. I also didn’t use an inch of oil for frying (more like a few tablespoons), and we didn’t add peas (though that would be really good).

Katsudon – Pork Cutlet Rice Bowl
I’m awesome with rice.


TWD: Dressy Chocolate Loafcake

[Don’t bother trying to clean your glasses or rub your contacts – the above picture has the lovely “halo” effect after letting my kids “use” the camera and they tried to, I don’t know, clean the lens with a finger or something.]

This week’s Tuesdays with Dorie, which I’m happy to be picking up again after nearly two months away, was a delicious chocolate loafcake chosen by Amy of Amy Ruth Bakes.

You know how sometimes you get a craving for something, so you get the food that you think you’re craving but it’s just not quite right? I do that with chocolate cake. I’ll see a picture or read a recipe and think “ooh, chocolate cake sounds really good,” and it’s all I can think about until I make it (don’t worry, my family has no problem with this particular issue).

It never quite hits the spot, though. The chocolate’s there (and I’m always good with chocolate) but there always seems to be something missing.

This, however, is exactly what I crave when I think of chocolate cake. The cake itself is made with sour cream, which I love in sweet foods, and the frosting is simply melted chocolate with sour cream, too. The cake is also cut into layers with raspberry jam in between, which just adds to the perfect-ness of it all. This is a craving-worthy chocolate cake.