Monthly Archives: August 2011

A Day of Deliciousness

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  I love Sunday workdays; kitchen all to myself, no time constraints, freedom to  be creative, love love love. Today, after I finished my pastry dough/dub step time, I made tofu manicotti and “farmers’ market” tarts. The tofu manicotti is so easy and delicious it is ridiculous:

Manicotti Filling: tofu, cottage cheese (or ricotta), mozzarella, and whatever herbs and spices you like. Today I used fresh basil, oregano, salt, and pepper, but occasionally I will pack it full of spinach or add some mushrooms and olives.

Pasta Sauce: Grated zucchini, grated carrots, tomato sauce, herbs and spices.

To complete manicotti: stuff shells while still dry and hard. Pour a thin layer of tomato sauce on bottom of pan. Place manicotti in pan, cover with remaining sauce. Bake for about an hour at 350 degrees. Done!

The “Farmers’ Market” Tarts, as I so artfully named them (haha), were a lot of fun to create, and absolutely gorgeous when they came out. This is the first thing I have been proud to show at work. The crust was a basic tart crust: butter, flour, salt, sugar, and water. The filling was basically whatever I brought back from the market that week (with a little added extras). I did a thin layer of tomato sauce on the bottom, half I sprinkled with Parmesan, the other half I put thin slices of Swiss, and then I arranged a variety of cherry tomatoes (halved), basil, spinach, mushrooms, kalamata olives (non-farmers market), and garlic.

After work, I biked to Pisgah to pick blackberries and enjoy the few hours of sunshine I had left. According to the Google Gods, it was about a 17 mile bike ride. It was pretty much flat the whole way, and overall a pretty wonderful ride. I picked about 12lbs of berries (Free berries!) and am planning on making jam like my mother used to every year when we were kids. How I love blackberry jam…

When I came back into town, I decided to head straight for my favorite $5 meal at Eugene Fisherman’s Market: Salmon burger, waffle fries, and blackberrry bbq sauce, and what’s a great after bike ride dinner without a Hop Valley Double D Blonde Ale (ok so it’s a little more with the beer but hey…). The Fisherman’s Market always serves great food, has a great selection of Oregon beers, and an even better selection of wild caught oregon fish. Today I picked up a half pound of Columbia River Chinook Salmon, last week a pound of Rockfish, and they have other choices of Oregon shrimp, cod, snapper, etc. There are seasons of fish, just like vegetables, so I like to just go in and find the tastiest looking Oregon fish.

When I got home, I unloaded my loot from the day, figs and blackberries, and peered into my fridge and cabinets. My cupboards seem to be quickly filling as of late, and my freezer has been full for quite some time now. It is both exciting and nerve-racking, wondering if I have enough, if I will have room, what I will run out of, what I will get sick of. Only time will tell I suppose. For now, I shall preserve like there is noooo tomorrrow! Recent preservings: dill pickle spears, dill pickle chips, big and spicy curry pickle chips, blackberry applesauce, more roasted red peppers, dried mushrooms, and purple pole beans. Near future preservings: garlic braid, dried apple slices, more applesauce, blackberry jam, more dried mushrooms, and figs preserved in honey syrup. Happy Summer!

preservation list

A Beautiful Day Through the Eyes of a Locavore…

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My “weekend” (Wednesday and Thursday) are highly savored and warmly welcomed days in my week. These are my days to fully immerse myself in good health, food preservation, or just overall mental relaxation. Some times, though, I am lucky enough to combine them all into one beautiful soul-fulfilling day. Yesterday was one of those days…

I awoke in the morning, after a solid ten hours of sleep, to the sunshine peering in through my curtains, warming my body just enough to remind me that the hours of wake can be just as satisfying and mystical as those spent in REM. I made a filling breakfast of potatoes I pulled from the ground the day earlier pan friend with farmers market onions and garlic, scrambled Sweet Briar eggs that were almost orange because of the richness of the yolk, and a ripe juicy nectarine from my friends at the Farm in the Clouds. I knew I needed a big breakfast to get me through my adventures that day. I ate my breakfast in the warmth of the sun, lounging in my hammock…I love my mornings.

When I finished, it was down to “business” (I can hardly call it that without feeling the guilt of the possibility of my manipulating you into thinking that this “work” is difficult or even not pleasurable). I called my coworkers mother who lives on a farm in Junction City that gladly gives out raw milk and eggs. I accidentally ended up taking a back road out to her farm, the Northwest Expressway, which is less an “expressway” and more a “way of expressing” the beauty of Eugene and Junction City. I drove along fields of wheat and farms with horses and cattle. It took me about 20-30 minutes to reach her farm, passing a few tree “farms” and wineries. Upon arriving at the farm, I.Was.Speechless. This place is absolutely gorgeous, and my coworkers mother radiated a kind of warmth that immediately made me feel like I needed to be out here much much more. She led me to the barn and obtained 3 large gallons of milk (one for me, one for some friends at work, and one for a lucky other). She told me she milks twice a day, and “oh,  you didn’t bring a cooler, well I can’t give you the milk from this morning it needs to be colder, is the stuff from yesterday ok?” “Uh…. Yeah! I think so.” I also asked about eggs, and she told me she wasn’t sure if she had enough in the house but, “well, lets go check the coop. oh, here we go, you want two dozen? yeah i think we should have that,” as she gently shifts a hen and tells her politely that we need her eggs and she is gonna have to move for a second and, “I am sorry, you gotta move honey.” I love this farm and I love this woman. She takes me inside of her absolutely gorgeous home where I pass a wall of canning jars, and end up in the most beautiful kitchen I have ever seen. She washes off my eggs and hands me two dozen. I ask her about her canning and she says she always makes her own broth, and I question the safety of it, and she tells me sternly, “90 minutes at 15lbs pressure or 110 minutes at 10lbs pressure, thats all you gotta remember, don’t let them freak you out, I have been doing it for years.” I am now so in love with this farm and this woman that I am immediately compelled to ask if she needs help ever, and she tells me anytime I want to come help in the garden I am more than welcome to, and I can take as many vegetables as I want. (Uh oh, lady, wrong answer…) So, I think I will be out during my next “weekend” to help out and learn more about farming. I am so excited to have this new experience in my life and know that I will learn a lot from this wonderful place and woman.

After saying goodbye, I headed home on a different road. This one more beautiful than the first. Forests and farms and lakes. Gorgeous. How can I live somewhere for four years and not know the beauty of somewhere 30 miles from me….

I dropped off the milk, and started on the next part of my journey: picking 50lbs of peaches. I got to Detering Orchards and found out that the farm does in fact spray. I was disappointed, but they said they only “pretreat” and never spray once the trees flower and begin bearing fruit. I had to make one of those tough locavore decisions, and decided that I could not get peaches anywhere else in Eugene without being sprayed or costing up to 4 dollars a pound, so I decided to pick. I figured I would not be ingesting the spray, the farm does not typically use sprays, and for the price I could eat peaches for much of the winter (not to mention I already promised my boss 20lbs of peaches…). So, I picked and picked and picked, it took me a long time because I was looking for the most perfectly ripe peaches, later to learn that I should have picked them more green, because “honey, you can just leave them on your counter if you want them to get riper…” Oh, well live and learn! So with a grand total of about 50lbs of peaches and 10lbs of blueberries I only owed 66 dollars. Darn good deal if you ask me.

I went home and was invited over to can with some friends. They did purple and green dilly beans and then, the real fun began. Peaches are no easy feat: blanching, halving,  removing the most stubborn pits I have ever experienced, skinning, soaking in lemon water to retain color, coring out the hard inner flesh, trying to keep them pretty, realizing they won’t be pretty, deciding to chop them, packing in jar, covering with light syrup of honey and water (1:4), and finally hot water bathing. Wow… So glad my girls were there to help (thanks…!).

To top off a perfect day, the rain began to fall lightly with a warm breeze, yet the night sky was almost completely void of clouds, making the distant lightening shine across the entirety of the sky, and also the knowledge that today will be another perfect day. Sipping my perfectly made hazelnut milk latte at Wandering goat today, I am already planning to can some purple pole beans, hike Spencers Butte, go to Urban Farm, and top off my day by the river picking those perfect late summer berry, Blackberries. Happy Summer!

Canning Mania!

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These past few weeks have been absolutely exhausting; 12 days of work in a row equaling 88 hours, getting a 24 hour stomach flu, and going to Bend. I am finally getting all settled back in, doing laundry, dishes, all of those neglected things. But number one on my neglected things to do list was preservation! I had a few pounds of onions, red bell peppers, cucumbers, and apples to tend to. So I sat down, had a quiet, nice dinner, then was off to beat this beast down.

On the menu for tonight: roasted red peppers, pickled onions, spicy applesauce, and good ol’fashioned sliced dill pickles. Trying to figure out how to manage time the best, I began by roasting the red peppers and boiling the onions. The peppers can either be roasted on top of a gas stove or, if like me you sadly do not have a gas stove, then you can throw them on a cookie sheet and broil them. I learned the hard way that peeling the skins from the peppers is not as easy at is sounds, so I advise you to cut the peppers in half and seed, lay them insides down, and broil them until almost completely black. Yeah yeah, I know I sound crazy, but you wont regret it. Take the peppers out and immediately put them into a plastic bag, they will sweat inside and the skins will just fall off.So back to the onions, i sliced them into rings, boiled them until a little soft in salted water, then packed them mediumly tight (yeah, sure that’s a word). I filled the rest of the jars with a 1:1 water: vinegar ratio, 1 tbsp honey, and 1tsp sugar, I also threw in a little hot pepper for some color and flavor. Oh, and for the onions, I used white. I would have preferred red, but I could not find any at market.

So because these onions were pickled, I put them in the pressure cooker for about 10 minutes. In the mean time, I was painstakingly peeling my bell peppers and preparing more jobs. By the time the onions were done, the peppers were ready to go in. The roasted red peppers were mixed with boiling water, 1 tsp salt, and a few peppercorns. Because there is no acid in this jar, the canning time was about 40 minutes. This gave me time to boil down my apples and puree. I keep the skins on my apples, use honey for sweetness, some lemon juice for acid, and added nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves. After I pulled my roasted red peppers out, I put my spicy green applesauce in, about a 10-15 minute boiling time. I always use my pressure canner, but a hot water bath is fine for the applesauce and basically anything pickled.

The cucumbers were cut into slices, packed raw with a basic brine of vinegar, water, salt, and dill. I have pickled basically everything, but realized I didn’t have dill pickles. So I felt like sticking to what was good and simple.

I am headed out to get a ton of peaches this week from Detering Orchards. I only picked a few for their first crop, but I am hoping to pick around 20lbs or so for peach applesauce, peach butter, canned peaches, and frozen peaches. Also, I think I may make a hotsprings/McKenzie River Farm trip this week, just to see what they are all about. I know about 4 of the farmers from the “Organic Redneck” and would love to get to know the farm better. I may try to get a bit of U-Pick corn and maybe some raspberries if there are any still around.

Ooo ooo I almost forgot… Its… BLACKBERRY SEASON! Which means jars and jars of delicious jam coming soon! Happy Summer!

Eating local is just so darn hard…

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I have truly been suffering through my last few meals…

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Also, I am quickly filling up my cupboards and freezer with goodies for the winter, I am nervous about running out of room already! I have been keeping a tally of the items I am preserving, how I am preserving them, quantity, etc. I am hoping by doing so I will be able to see (at the end of winter) what I needed more of, what I didnt need as much of, and what I could have done differently. I am also devising a plan for a make-shift “root cellar” box for my back patio. Ideas to come soon!

This is kind of a rough idea so far, I will probably need to tweak later, and I definitely need to keep preserving! So excited for all the tasty treats of autumn…

preservation list

Another project I have been working on is inventorying all the food products I currently have/use that are nonlocal, and trying to decide whether I can (a) give it up, (b) create an alternative, or (c) continue buying non-locally… here is what I have so far, hopefully I will find more alternatives and be able to leave the non local foods behind…

  1. Olive Oil: this is a hard one, the benefits of olive oil are great, and yet it must travel so far. I have decided I will continue to use it, but I will use it sparingly. I will make large quantities of dressing at a time to keep in my refrigerator and use it in some cooking. I will try to start supplementing butter for many of its uses though.
  2. Salt: I believe I can get salt from the Oregon Coast.
  3. Spices: This is a tricky one, I will definitely start drying my own key spices like Thyme, Rosemary, Oregano, Sage, Dill, etc. Many are easily grown and easily dried. The only ones I think I will continue to buy nonlocal are pepper and cinnamon. I can live without many of the rest.
  4. Vinegar: I have been going through vinegar like crazy with all the pickling and canning I have done lately. I would like to make my own vinegar for next years canning and found a great site that explains all the different types of vinegar. It seems simple, but I am a little late in the game for this seasons canning because it takes roughly 2 months.
  5. Oatmeal: This was one I was worried about for awhile but I just discovered that my beloved Camas Country Mill also has oats now! Thank goodness.
  6. Chocolate: I have been debating with this one forever… I still dont know…
  7. Sugar: This product I have completely eliminated from home use, I use only honey now. BUT… I still eat it at work, and I still eat way too much of it. It is bad for my health and for my environment. I hope to have it eliminated from my diet within the next 6 months.
  8. Corn Grits/Polenta: Just discovered today that all you gotta do is dry your corn, and then run it through a grinder or mill. Simple as that. Seems I have to buy a grinder now…

I will continue adding to my list (or hopefully decreasing it…). We will learn how to become local and sustainable together in time!

A mystery of beetastic purportions

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It was July 31st, a day I thought would be like any other day. The sun shone bright, the air was clean, the veggies sat in their baskets at the market or comfortably in their soil-y haven, that is… except for one veggie…. those beets never had a chance…

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Those beets were boiled, sliced, peeled until nearly unrecognizable… bleeding all over the counter and the sink uncontrollably… ok enough enough, you caught me red handed (literally my hands were stained for hours). I am the beet murder… and I don’t regret it one bit. I made the most delicious C3 pickled beets I altered from a recipe in the Put’em Up!  book on preserving. For 4 pints I used about 4 bundles of beets from market, the recipe says the beets can either be roasted or boiled before and then peeled. I boiled my beets and did not remove the skin (I cant even tell there is skin still on in the jar I taste tested). For the brine I boiled 2 cups white wine vinegar, 2 cups water, 2 tablespoons sea salt (the original recipe called for lots of sugar, but I am trying to avoid using sugar at all in my recipes, and personally, do not really like sweet pickled things). For 4 pints, I used about 1 tablespoon each of the C3 (cloves, coriander, and cumin) and divided it among the jars. I also added a few peppercorns and just a pinch of cayenne, just a pinch!

Also, I saved the water I had boiled the beets in pre-jarring and used it to dye a white shirt of mine. I first boiled the shirt in some vinegar and water (supposedly it helps the dye hold), then boiled the shirt in the beet juice, removed it from the heat, and let it soak over night. Beets create the most beautiful vibrant magenta color. My next dyes will be tumeric (yellow/orange) and possibly some teas. This is a little off track but here is a list of other veggies and spices you can use for dying: VegetableGardener !

I did some more pickling this past week too including Spicy Dilled Carrots and Curried Cauliflower. The Spicy Dilled Carrots recipe is:

  • 2lbs carrots (you can peel and chop, but I bought tiny ones and left them whole with just a bit of the greens, looks real cute)
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 onion sliced (these can be chopped as well)
  • 1 Tbsp peppercorns
  • 2 Tbsp dill weed (can use fresh dill as well)
  • 2 c white wine vinegar
  • 2 c water
  • 2 Tbsp salt
  • Pinch of cayenne

And the Curried Cauliflower:

  • 2 c white wine vinegar
  • 2 c water
  • 1/2 c honey
  • 1 Tbsp curry powder
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 2 heads cauliflower
  • 1/2 onion diced
  • 1 red bell pepper

Both of these recipes are also variation from Put’em Up! Many of the recipes in this book call for sugar, so I tend to eliminate it all together or I add about 1/2-1/4 as much the amount in honey. I also have decreased the vinegar amounts significantly and usually do a 1:1 vinegar:water ratio because I feel that all vinegar is much to acidic for my taste.

Happy summer!