Saturday, December 31, 2011

Auld Lang Syne

I have a fascination with time. I find myself feeling incredibly bound by it, yet also being fully aware of just how arbitrary it is. But it helps us to mark significant events in our lives and to occasionally pause to remember them. So, in true form to New Year's Eve tradition, we'd both like to present you with our year in review.

Accomplishments (in no particular order)
  • We made our own cheese for the first time. And it's pretty good!
  • Our furry friend Colton is no longer obese. (We didn't talk about that here, but he was. Quite.)
  • Aaron tried his hand at charcuterie and makes the best burger patties ever. Seriously.
  • Our repertoire of Italian food expanded: homemade pizza and pasta wreaked havoc on our waistlines.
  • Gardening in our victory garden.
  • Chrissie started taking graduate non-matriculated classes.
  • We started this blog!
  • The dogs lamented that we saved all our chicken bones to make stock for the first time.
  • Green tomatoes became our friends.
  • Chrissie was able to introduce Aaron to her Parisian grandmother before she passed away.
  • Aaron returned to his childhood love of gaming.
  • We ran a 5k together.
  • 1.5 pounds of carrots were harvested from our garden. (To really understand why this is a major accomplishment, see this and this).
  • We learned a little about being locavores.
  • Our niece and nephews are completely indoctrinated into Harry Potter fandom.
  • Our poor, fireblighted Charlie Brown tree
  • We faced the realities of life and death. We'll miss you grandmama.
  • Brine. Enough said.
  • We discovered that locavorianism is hard.
  • Helo's attempts at yard work. (More on that to come.)
  • We tried to grow shallots. We probably should have just stuck with garlic.
  • Helo taught us some of the joys of homeownership with his beautiful carvings on the windowsills.
  • We never had enough time.

Goals for 2012
  • Attempt homemade vinegar.
  • Post more frequently.
  • Make sauerkraut from scratch.
  • Learn French.
  • Thin the carrots!
  • Discover more new recipes to fold into our regular repertoire.
  • Stay involved in music.
There's probably a lot more that we could put in any of those given categories, but those are the highlights. We wish all of you out there the best possible year in 2012, and please feel free to share your thoughts with us anytime!

    Wednesday, December 28, 2011

    Roast Beef Sandwiches

    Happy Holidays, all! I hope everyone has been enjoying the season's festivities. Goodness knows we have. I think that this may finally be the year I fully come to understand the toxicology of sugar. The dose makes the poison! And I'm happy to admit that I'm ready to settle back into our more well rounded non-holiday diet. Starting with Roast Beef Sandwiches!

    Aaron already mentioned that he loves making hearty stews and roasts during the Winter, but we're only two people and we don't consume a whole lot of meat in any one sitting so it's important for us to find a variety of ways to consume his creations. Recently, he made a pot roast. In our sugar-induced stupor yesterday, we decided to cut it up for some sandwiches.

    We used our George Foreman grill to make them as paninis and in addition to the deglazed sauce Aaron made with the meat itself (he's amazing at deglazing things. Wonderful for the tastebuds, horrible for the waistline.) we added some of our homemade sharp cheddar (a post will come on that one day.) and some dijon mustard to Aaron's. The result was simple but incredibly tasty. So tasty that we made them again today:

    I know my system was greatly appreciative of the protein and other nutrients that it's been largely lacking as of late. Though that didn't stave of the comfy-food coma.

    What are your favorite things to do with holiday and roast type leftovers?

    Saturday, December 17, 2011


    Winter kind of has me down a little bit. It's dark when I go to work in the morning; it's dark when I get back home. It's really cold, so I don't want to do anything outside. That means I have to get creative and come up with things to do inside. It also means my favorite cuisine is in season - slow cookin'. I love slow cooked foods. They make me feel cozy. Braised something, something. Blah, blah stew. Miscellaneous roast. For the next few posts, I'll put up some recipes that have been really successful for me. They come from a cookbook and I augment them a little bit.

    In other news, I finally found a cheap glass jar with a spigot. It was at Cost Plus World Market. Figures. We find everything at that place. Furniture, food, knick-knacks, etc. The way it always happens is that Chrissie and/or I will scour the greater Seattle area looking for just the right _________. Then we stumble on into Cost Plus for some totally different reason and happen upon the _________ that we were looking for all this time.

    You'd think that after all this time, we would have learned that we should just start our shopping there, but that hasn't quite sunk in yet.

    Now all I have to do is find a "mother" for my vinegar and I can get going on making it!

    Wednesday, December 7, 2011

    Operation Stair Climb

    We've all heard it. "Just take the stairs" is a typical comment from people when us couch potatoes whine about trying to find free and easy ways to get in shape. On the other hand, my Jillian Michael's workout video tells me that's a false message of lethargy. Well, no offense to Jillian since I truly believe that she's incredible at what she does, but in the right context "just" taking the stairs can be a decently intense workout.

    A couple of weeks ago my co-workers approached me with the idea that we should use one of our breaks to go climb the stairs in the tallest wing of our building. The concept appealed to me on multiple fronts. 1) It would get me away from my computer. I'm one of those people who, unless given a compelling reason, spends most of my breaks continuing to stare at my screen. 2) It's a free and convenient way to involve fitness in my day. 3) There are other people involved to keep me accountable.

    I should mention, the tallest wing of our building happens to be 19 stories. We've calculated it to be somewhere in the range of 390 steps.

    So we began. We're all at different fitness levels, so within a few flights we had started to separate with our speedy rabbit at a near jog and our couch potatoes (yours truly) huffing and puffing at the rear. I'll admit, that first day I was already hating myself for agreeing to such a massochistic activity by the time we reached the fourth floor. (Actually, that would be the fifth flight. Our building likes to call the basement "-1"). By the 19th flight I thought my lungs were going to burst out of my chest. I was clutching the handrail the entire way down for fear that my legs would give out from under me and I would roll in an uncontrollable heap to the bottom. When I got back to my office (just 15 minutes later) my legs were trembling in a major way. I felt pretty pathetic.

    But it's getting better. I don't start cursing the jerk who created stairwells until the 10th floor or so now. And it only feels like someone is stabbing my lungs with a pitchfork for a minute or so. As horrible as it sounds still, it's nice to see progress.

    Maybe one day I'll be as crazy as these guys and compete in the Empire State Building Run-Up. But I doubt it.

    Monday, December 5, 2011


    Hey gang, back again with a short update. Life has been busy, so that has made it hard for us to plan fun things to post about. We promise though, as soon as things calm down again, we'll have fun things to post!

    First, we can talk about Thanksgiving. Chrissie and I always do Thanksgiving at our place. It's the holiday that we consider "ours." Some perks to this: we don't have to go anywhere and we can make whatever we want. When was the last time we had turkey for Thanksgiving? Three years ago. I'll confess, I don't miss it. Turkey is fine, but it's not my favorite.  Our main meat this year was prime rib. We try and mix it up year to year, and this year we splurged a bit. If you were wondering, prime rib is good.

    Thanksgiving went well. We made a plan of attack and didn't run into any hitches. That's probably the biggest recommendation I can give anyone who's preparing a large meal - make a plan. That way, you make the most of your resources. For us this year, it was managing four burners, one oven, and time.

    Other things I've been working on, I'm still looking for glass jars to start making vinegar, but nothing in my price range has been popping up. Funny fact, thrift/second-hand stores don't sell everything at a super discount. Some things, like glass jars, are about the same price used as new. It makes sense, glass doesn't go old, but disappointing.

    Anyway, that's it for now. Will try to post again soon!

    Sunday, November 20, 2011

    Snickerdoodle Muffins

    Many months ago I spotted a recipe on the web for snickerdoodle muffins and I got very excited. They looked positively delicious. Snickerdoodles rank high in my love of all things cookie, so transforming them into something that is socially acceptable to eat for breakfast sounded positively ingenious. I was so excited that I forgot to bookmark the page.

    My only memory of the recipe was that it used cinnamon chips so I figured I would track those down before scouring google to find the recipe again. It took a fairly good while to find the chips, I guess they're a relatively seasonal offering. (note to self: stock up!) When I finally tracked them down, I came home happily with visions of sugary goodness in my head.

    But I couldn't find the recipe. I found many similar recipes for similar muffins, but the version that had piqued my excitement months ago was apparently lost in the depths of the interwebs. My love of snickerdoodle prevailed, however, and I decided to come up with a recipe of my own. They turned out wonderfully, a cinnamony-sugary concoction that grazed the line between snickerdoodle and coffee cake. The cinnamon chips surprised me by melting into the muffin batter when they were baked, adding dots of sweetness rather than crunch. While originally I'd been hoping for the texture of the chip, I loved the way it turned out. My breakfast for the week was saved and yours can be too:

    Snickerdoodle Muffins

    1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
    1/2 cup sugar
    2 teaspoons baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1 egg, beaten
    1 cup milk*
    1/4 cup vegetable oil
    1 pckg cinnamon chips
    Cinnamon topping

    *I ran low on milk and ended up using about half milk, half heavy cream. Cream can do no harm, right? That's what I thought.

    Cinnamon Topping
    1 cup sugar
    2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

    Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease your muffin pan. In a good sized bowl, combine your dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt). In another bowl, combine your egg, milk, and vegetable oil. Add the wet ingredients into the dry and mix until just moistened. Stir in the cinnamon chips.

    Fill the muffin cups about 2/3 full then dust lightly with cinnamon topping. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until the muffins look golden brown.

    Makes 12 muffins

    Sunday, November 6, 2011


    Another week has gone by and Chrissie and I still aren't totally back on the blogging horse. The culprit this time was that both of us were sick. A lot was left undone around the house, but we're on the mend now and hope to be more productive soon. This did get me thinking about an interesting blog post though: Home Remedies. I know a couple that I'll share here and if any of you readers know of any, please let us know about them in the comments section!

    Aaron's Asian Family Remedy for Sore Throats: The Salt Water Gargle. Fill up half of mug of warm water. Put about 3/4 of a teaspoon of salt in it. You can totally guestimate on the amount of salt. Stir. Drink a little, gargle, and spit out. Do this a few times. It's not pleasant, but I guarantee your throat will feel better!

    Aaron's Dad's Remedy for Colds: Garlic Soup. Take 3 cloves of garlic and 6 sprigs of green onion. Throw them in a small pot with 1 cup of water. Boil liquid and reduce to half a cup. Drink the liquid. I've tried this and it tastes nasty. Unfortunately, I can't really say much to its effectiveness. My dad swears by it though.

    Aaron's Asian Family Remedy for Heat Stroke: No clever name. Get some cool water. Get a porcelain spoon or bowl. Dip the spoon/bowl in the water and gently drag the edge of the spoon/bowl along the patient's shoulders. Aim for right behind the tops of the shoulders. Redip the spoon/bowl in the water when it gets hard to drag. Another good location to drag is along the muscles that go up & down with the spine, both sides. Then, have your patient go an lay down for a while. I've done it, I've had it done to me before and swear by it!

    Chinese culture is awash with herbal remedies for things. It's something that I have interest in learning, but don't have the time to put into learning it right now. One thing that I think is really positive about Eastern medicine is that it strengthens your own body's ability to heal & fight disease, whereas Western Medicine is more geared towards finding and exterminating the offending organism. If you're interested in giving them a try - pop into your local Chinese apothecary/herbalist and they can whip up a concoction for you. My disclaimer - it will taste nasty, but it will work. I still remember how nasty my Grandma's Bloody-Nose-Soup-Remedy tasted, but hell, it worked.

    Thursday, October 27, 2011

    Back Home

    Hello again, everyone. Sorry for the long hiatus. Chrissie and I were out of town last week visiting family. Oh yeah, we went to Paris - yes, that Paris.

    Short story on the food - it was good. We had a lovely time eating out over there. Our favorite haunts were cafes (French for cafe), restaurants (French for restaurant), and brasseries (French for Bar & Pub). The food was varied and filling. Not the architectural, 5-course, 6-bite plates of haute cuisine. More like topped over plates of meat and potatoes. The wine was cheaper than the beer.

    The thing that struck me the most about eating there was how often I got really full. "Really full" is one past "normal full." I got to normal full after I finished the entree, but somehow, after sitting for a minute to let it all sink in, I always managed to find room for desert. If not that, then ice cream from a street vendor, or chocolate from a sweet shop, or something. The really nice thing about it was that I didn't ever feel sick from it.

    That's something I've come to realize in my wanderings - good food will leave you full and never leave you sick. You always find a way to finish off the last bit with good food. With bad food, you look at the pile still sitting there and you just can't bring yourself to eat any more. Now, don't get me wrong, I've had good food other places than Paris. It's just there, it happened to me every day, and I felt very confident in picking a place on a whim and knowing my stomach would be very happy.

    Having said all this, it seems only fitting that I conclude with a toast - here's to Paris, here's to good food, and here's to good friends!

    Monday, October 17, 2011

    Tomato Sauce

    Remember all of our green tomatoes? Remember how a few of them were actually red?

    Actually, close to 4 pounds of them were red (or close enough). We took that chunk and decided to make some fresh tomato sauce that we could jar and save for some fun pasta dishes in the future. This time we used a recipe out of a James Beard cookbook that we picked up when Borders was going out of business. Such a sad, sad day. Borders was the only place I could consistently find Seattle's Best Coffee. Which happened to be the home of my absolute favorite cup of hot chocolate. I think they still exist in airports sometimes, but I'm not totally sure anymore.

    But I digress. Tomato sauce. We'll post the recipe later, but the portion we used on pasta that weekend with our friend was absolutely delicious. So good in fact, that when we forgot to make salsa out of one of our other bowls of green tomatoes and they magically turned red, we made MORE sauce!

    I wish I could say that we're set for the winter or something, but three jars just won't last very long. So, sorry fellow food-growers of the area. I'm not sharing this time. Unless you have something dang good to barter with. Be warned: I'm a picky girl.

    Tuesday, October 11, 2011

    Chasing the Carrot

    I grew up with plenty of cartoons depicting rabbits desperately chasing carrots that were kept strategically out of reach in front of them. Never did I imagine that one day I'd become that rabbit, almost literally.

    I didn't really think that I'd ever grow a more pathetic carrot than the one pictured early in this blog's existence, here. Seriously. As cute as that little guy was, it wasn't exactly a gardener's dream. So imagine my chagrin when I decided to pull up a carrot from this year's garden and found this:

    Let's do a side by side comparison. That's the same housekey after all.

    I realize now that when the seed packet mentions that thinning the plants when they start to sprout is a good idea, they probably mean it. For the time being, I'm hoping that leaving my carrots in the ground for a little while won't subject them to the same rot that it did my tomatoes last year. Maybe then I can at least grow a crop of baby carrots. The chase continues.

    Wednesday, October 5, 2011

    Brine Fail

    Remember a bowl of those green tomatoes from our last post? I brined them. The short story - not that good.

    I decided to spice the brine up with some ginger, dried chilis, clove, peppercorn, and fennel. Then I put tomatoes in at various stages of cutting. Some I chopped in half, some I cut incisions, and some I left totally alone.

    Just about everything went wrong. The brine had too much going on. When the taste did come out in the tomatoes, it was reminiscent of cough syrup. Weak cough syrup mind you, but cough syrup all the same. On the plus side, the tomatoes didn't get mushy.

    You really have to put some cuts into the veggies. I could not taste any of the brine on the tomatoes I left alone, which in retrospect doesn't displease me at all, but that still meant I was chewing boring green tomatoes. I'll put it out there right now, not my favorite. Something to remember for the future - cut up your stuff.

    Last thing to boot - the jar that I was brining things in developed a crack (no idea how), so brining the green tomatoes was it's last adventure before being recycled. We had some good times with that jar. We originally got it and others to store cookies for our wedding. We made homemade cookies as wedding favors. Well, actually I should say that Chrissie made the cookies. The jar survived three moves, but I guess it couldn't survive this.

    Chrissie was reading about green tomatoes last week and she told me an interesting tid-bit: all tomatoes have the same nutritional value regardless of ripeness. That's something for a silver lining at least.

    If there ever is a next time on the brining, I'm going to have to use more salt. I also really want to add some sort of savory in there too, but I don't trust putting anything fatty or oily in there. I think it'll go rancid. Lately, my solution for this predicament is to add MSG, but I'd rather not resort to that because I don't want to be known as "that MSG guy." I will admit though, it's pretty tasty.

    PS - there probably will be a next time on brining because that's how you make sauerkraut and that's something I really want to do. Point of interest, most commercially, mass produced sauerkraut is made by altering the cabbage with a mix of chemicals. I'm always disappointed when I open up a bag of kraut that I get from the grocery store shelf and I think that's the reason why. It just doesn't have the same something-something that traditionally made kraut does.

    Saturday, October 1, 2011

    A Peck of Tomatoes (or so)

    One of the joys of living in the Pacific Northwest - it's October and the long cold and wet season is beginning right on cue. Seriously.

    So, it's a good thing I suppose that we decided to harvest our tomatoes, green or not, last weekend. We tried hanging on through part of October last year and just lost a lot of them to a wet rot. This year, we have the joy of figuring out what to do with this:

    Don't let the red bowl fool you. Most of the tomatoes you can't see are still green.
    That's not even all of them. We have approximately 10.5 pounds of mostly green tomatoes that we'll be experimenting with today. Our plan so far is as follows:

    L to R: Chutney, Sauce, Salsa, Fried Green Tomatoes, Brine

    With any luck, we'll find lots of great things to do with green tomatoes since it looks like our climate will give us lots of them for years to come.

    Wish us luck!

    Wednesday, September 28, 2011

    Experimentation with Brine

    I started reading this book last week called, "Salt - A World History" by Mark Kurlansky. I'm having a good time reading it. I enjoy reading food history books. This is pretty normal for me though – I enjoy reading any kind of history book. There is a passage in it on brining vegetables to give them more flavor. It says:

    Fill the jar two-thirds with brine. Add whatever vegetables you like and whatever spice you like, cover, and the vegetables are ready in two days.

    Oh really…? My curiosity was immediately piqued. I've always been interested in pickling things and I was interested to see if this simple brine would open up a wonderful new world of food for me. I knew that I had to do a small scale experiment first to be safe. Many things can go wrong with something like this, the least of which is you don't like how the results taste. I decided to use a little bit of brine and one romaine lettuce plant from our garden (still going strong!).
    I had a tough time finding a brine recipe for vegetables – most of the recipes that you find are for meat brines. After a bit of searching and cross-referencing, I concluded that you basically salt to taste. A common ratio of salt to water that I found was three tablespoons per gallon of water, so I used that as my recipe. No spices or anything this first time though. I just wanted the basic recipe.

    I stuck the brine and lettuce in a large jar, then placed a bowl over the lettuce to keep it completely submerged. You can’t let your food become exposed to air, otherwise it rots. That’s the general rule for pickling/brining, but given the short timeline for this process, it probably wouldn’t have been a huge deal.

    After two fun days of waiting, I ate the lettuce. The results were decidedly, "Meh, nothing special." Oh well.

    Here are some of my thoughts on this experiment. Brining the vegetables counteracts the bitterness in them, which I figure makes it a substitute for salad dressing. If you are poor on salad dressing, you can do this. The lettuce was still crispy, which was very nice. For a more flavorful brine, the book suggests adding peppers, like hot chili ones, or ginger into the mix. I would definitely recommend this. If you don't have those ingredients, then a different spice will do. I thought that mace, cloves, or fennel might be nice.

    I still have the brine saved and I plan on trying this with other veggies soon. I definitely think that I can make it work, but it wasn’t the groundbreaking recipe I was hoping for.

    Sunday, September 18, 2011

    Easy Blueberry Jam

    Aaron grew up on a blueberry farm and consequently, loves them. Me, not so much. But, strangely enough, I love picking them. Maybe it's something about growing up in a situation where berry picking of any kind is an adventure that you only get to do a couple times a year and it's so exciting that it's worth inviting friends along. At any rate, I'm more than happy to help him harvest them and make fun concoctions, but I don't really do much of the eating myself.

    So this year, we went up to his dad's farm in mid-August to have our fun berry picking. Problem was, there were no berries to pick. They were all green. Green is not blue. We were definitely there for BLUEberries. So, we had a nice visit, but came home empty handed.

    Happily, Aaron's dad drops by the city once in a while and a couple weeks later brought us a couple pounds of berries that he'd picked himself. So, while I didn't get to have my fun wandering about the fields running like a headless chicken from passing honeybees, we did get some blueberries. Since we had more than Aaron could eat on his own raw, we decided to make some blueberry jam from a recipe we'd spotted several weeks earlier.

    Yes, it's Mark Bittman again. I didn't mean to find his blueberry jam recipe. I just stumbled across this one and liked it. I didn't even know it was him until after I'd already decided to put it on our "to make" list. Honest!

    I'm told it turned out quite well. The primary downside to this recipe is that it doesn't actually preserve the berries - you still have to eat the jam within a week or so. We ended up giving some to a colleague of mine who regularly shares his veggies and jams with us. The plus side is it's quite quick and easy to make and it's much more spreadable on toast and sandwiches than raw blueberries.

    Fast Blueberry Jam

    Yield About 1 to 1 1/4 cups of jam
    Time 20 to 30 minutes
    Mark Bittman

    • 1 pound blueberries, picked over
    • 1 3-inch cinnamon stick
    • 1/2 cup sugar, or to taste.
    • 1. Put blueberries in a small-to-medium saucepan, to a depth of a couple of inches, over medium heat. After a minute of so, add cinnamon and sugar, and bring to a boil.
    • 2. Adjust heat so mixture bubbles steadily. If it looks too soupy, use a higher heat to reduce it; if there is not much liquid, use lower heat to avoid burning. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture is liquid but thick, about 15 to 20 minutes.
    • 3. Cool and refrigerate mixture; it will thicken as it cools. Store, refrigerated, for up to a week. Remove cinnamon stick before serving.

    Thursday, September 15, 2011

    Modest Update

    You probably noticed a slow-down in our blog for the last few weeks. That’s partially my fault. I hit a burn-out on cooking and stuff, which I am now coming out of. In the meantime, Chrissie and I have been eating out more and now we find ourselves suffering for it. I miss good food. My stomach misses good food. My entire body misses good food. And caffeine, but that’s another story.

    The one huge downside to living in the suburbs is the piss-poor dining out options. If you know what I’m talking about, then we have kindred stomachs. Food in the suburbs exemplifies one of our society’s great ironies: we have a great abundance of stuff, but the majority of it is not worth consuming.

    Anyway, I have some big plans for the near future, so you’ll see more material show up soon. First, my plan is to play around with brining vegetables. Anyone who likes pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi, whatever will want to stay tuned. Also, I am motivated to make hamburger patties. Other people’s hamburgers just don’t do it for me anymore. It’s happened – I’ve become a narcissistic hamburger elitist.

    So don't give up on us. It'll be worth the wait.

    Tuesday, September 13, 2011

    The Challenge: Recap

    So the eat local challenge we were participating in was for the month of August. Now that we're peering into mid-September, it's probably appropriate to give an update on how we did.

    Even if that's a little embarrassing.

    It wasn't horrible. We did make an effort to source our food regularly throughout the month and we set aside at least one day each week on which we made a point to eat ONLY things that were truly local. We even posted a couple of those. But on a lot of other days of the week, the challenge got away from us. Convenience can be a tempting mistress, especially when you've quadruple booked your life at every interval. I'm ashamed to say, we even ate fast food once.

    But, on the plus side, we learned a lot. Especially on those days that we sourced every ingredient we touched, we were able to see just how many great things are available just beyond our backyard (where there are also a few wonderful things). And while the flour we bought to make pasta that first Sunday isn't necessarily one I would use again for that specific dish, I'm already starting to contemplate what else it may be good for. Additionally, the quality of the flour made a clear difference in working with the pasta dough, which is something we've decided to keep in mind for the next time that we buy any all purpose flour at all.

    When all is said and done, we do believe in the broad ideas of living locally. We have no intention of becoming fanatical about it because, to us, that seems almost as unnatural as the global food chain that we exist in now. But over the month of August we reiterated to ourselves what it means to be thoughtful about our food choices.

    A little thought and a dose of intention can go a long way.

    Sunday, September 11, 2011


    Our buttercrunch lettuce has gone to seed. Part of me is very happy because this is exactly what I want all of our plants to do. 100% total self sufficiency. Part of me is sad though too because I’ve discovered that buttercrunch is not my favorite type of lettuce.

    Nonetheless, I’ve gathered the seeds into a jar and will store them for planting next year. Collecting the seeds is easy. You wait until the seed pod is wilting and then you grab the seeds. They'll have little floaters on them, like dandelion seeds do. I kept them on - too lazy to remove them.

    I’m really curious to see if they’ll produce viable plants. Plants that have been developed on the genetic level will sometimes have that issue with them, they are unable to produce viable offspring (think of mules). What that basically means is you have to keep buying seeds forever. That’s what I would call a sustainable business practice.

    Our parsley is doing something weird too. I can’t tell what yet, but I think it is trying to flower & seed also. I’m just sitting and watching right now, even though I know that we’re reducing our yield on it, but I’m willing to trade a lot in the name of science. If it does go to seed, I’ll be really excited.

    By the way, our chives and green onions have been doing the same thing for weeks now, but collecting the seeds didn't really cross my mind until now. I grabbed some of them and now we have two jars of seeds we can sow. With green onions and chives, you cut the the entire flower head off when the petals are wilted and dried. Then you put it is a container and shake it to separate the seeds from everything else.

    I'm not really sure what to do with the seeds right now, but you can be sure that there will be a masked bandit sowing them in a random place in the dead of night soon...

    Wednesday, August 31, 2011


    Things are pretty slow in the garden right now, so I thought we'd talk about some conversations Chrissie and I have been batting around lately.

    For those of you that are curious though, here's a quick update on what's actually going on in the garden:
     - Potatoes are still going strong. We're waiting for the vines to wilt, which is the signal that they are close to ready to harvest. Instead, we have Audrey 2 (from a "Little Shop of Horrors").
     - Lettuce, also going strong. There's so much, we're giving it away. Anyone need any?
     - Tomatoes are starting to get red. Shut up. =)
     - Planted a wild strawberry plant out front. We hope that it grows prolifically.
     - Making plans to plant garlic and more grass seed come Autumn.

    So, lots of waiting as you can see. Kitchen table conversation has been interesting though. A friend of ours recently went vegan, which jump started discussions about what that means beyond just food preference. Humans don't have to do all that many things every day. Man needs to eat, drink, defecate, and sleep. That's it. Crazy when you think about it, huh? But people don't get into arguments over whether they sleep on their side or their stomach. People don't start name calling when it comes to whether its better to drink Coke or Pepsi, and when it comes to the other thing, we don't talk about it in polite company. But boy, when it comes to food, we gang up like we're going to fight a turf war.

    Normally, I don't like talking about the "why" when I talk to people about their food preferences. I figure that people have their reasons. That's cool. The perk is that it avoids a bunch of future land mines. That being said, I know that I'm walking into it now in this post. If I say something dumb, feel free to call me out.

    I don't buy into the vegan thing. I like fruits, veggies, and non-meat things, but I don't feel like the arguments for it are compelling enough for me to change my eating habits. The only thing I do buy into is buying local. That's because it gives me the most ability to source where my food is coming from. What really matters to me is knowing that the person who grew/raised/made my food cared. It's funny, but if I know that one thing, a lot of others things can go unsaid and I can be pretty confident that food was done right.

    Show me a diet that meets my criteria and I'll sign up for it too.

    Monday, August 29, 2011

    Pasta with Grilled Tomato and Sage Sauce

    A couple of weeks ago I saw this recipe on Foodista. I was super excited and had planned to try it that same weekend. We even bought tomatoes. But time got away from us and we ended up using the tomatoes for something else. So, while we were on staycation last week and were wandering around Pike Place Market, we found a vendor from Yakima selling some decent looking fare and picked up some new tomatoes. We coupled those with sage from our garden, and an incredible blackberry infused balsamic vinegar from Leavenworth. The result was excellent.

    Grilling the tomatoes adds a nice touch of slight smokey or charred flavor to an overall very simple dish. The blackberry vinegar we chose to use didn't seem to do much to the flavor (though I can't say for sure since we don't have a basis for comparison) but it did lend a nice aroma to the plate.

    In the future, we may add more sage. We ended up having 2 pounds of tomatoes instead of the 1.5 that's called for and we adjusted the sage accordingly, but the flavor still seemed a little lost. I forgot to change the ratios of the oil and vinegar, but neither of those seemed lacking.

    We also agreed that the sauce (while very good in its own right) could be interestingly enhanced by adding some sauteed garlic or onion, or by toying with other herbs. In it's basic state, it may also make a good pizza sauce. Hopefully we'll get enough nice days during the rest of the summer that we can test some of our theories out!

    Tuesday, August 23, 2011

    On Strength

    There are people in the world with a kind of understated strength that is amazing to behold. These people remind us of our own humanity simply by living the way that they believe is right. There's no pretense, no games. Just love.

    I strive to be even a fraction that strong.

    One story. One family. One Life.

    Happy Birthday, Delia. You are so very, very loved.

    Sunday, August 21, 2011

    Charlie Brown Tree Update

    I thought that I would update everyone on the Charlie Brown pear tree today. It's doing really well! Several weeks after we traumatized it new leaves and branches sprouted out, which we diligently watched for any signs of fire blight. Fire blight likes to infect new growth, so this was a critical stage for the tree. So far though, the tree has been totally healthy.

    As you can see, we planted some friends around the tree. We put it them there to try and help manage the amount of water the tree was getting. We have an automatic sprinkler system that turns on every day and sprays then entire front area with water. Too much water I think for the Charlie Brown tree, so I stuck large rocks right in front of the sprinklers so they wouldn't deluge the poor thing and we planted little plants there so that the water would get absorbed faster.

    The challenge for us now will be to make sure that it has a healthy enough root system to make it through the winter. It's my understanding that a tree (or any plant for that matter) needs to have well established root system in order to come back every spring, so it'll be important that we manage the amount of water it gets well and apply a good layer of mulch in the autumn so that the roots don't freeze over the winter.
    It's a good feeling when something you've done actually worked! I'll be honest, I think that I kind of have a brown thumb when it comes to plants. One year when I was younger, my brother and I pruned the blueberry bushes on my dad's farm. The emphasis on the last statement should be on the "one year" part because after he saw the job we did, he never had us do it again. We went after them like we were making banzai blueberry trees. Productive bushes they were not; minimalist statements of austere beauty they were. Maybe though, that's what made me so good at cutting up the Charlie Brown tree in the first place...

    Anyway, back to the good feeling, moments like this make me feel like Chrissie and I can handle the entire gardening thing and that maybe we aren't totally in over our heads. Of course, it's not all us. It's a good thing plants know how to take care of themselves on some level too.

    Wednesday, August 17, 2011

    Two in a Row

    Last Sunday was a big cooking day! So big, we couldn't post it Sunday or Monday - it had to wait until Wednesday. Not really, I just didn't get around to doing it.

    Here's the breakdown. Lunch consisted of homemade pasta with butter sage sauce. All of it was made from local ingredients. For any of those who want to use rougher flour for your pasta (flour that has undergone less milling), I would recommend creating skinnier noodles. In my opinion, it's tastier that way.

    Between lunch and dinner Chrissie made chocolate chip, butterscotch cookies, bread, and I made chicken stock. We did not use all local ingredients for these items. These were meant to be eaten during the week. We were very conscious not to eat any of them on Sunday so that we didn't violate totally Locavore Sunday. It was hard. COOKIES!

    The chicken stock went well. For those of you that are wondering how much chicken it takes to make stock, it takes 2 picked over carcasses to make a gallon of chicken stock. I'm expecting big things from this stuff. Homemade chicken stock is much, much better than commercially made stock supposedly because the commercial stuff is basically just flavored water. I'll have to put it to the test the next time I make chicken noodle soup.

    I think that making the stock is pretty justified because the amount of money spent making the stock is comparable to buying it at the store and the time investment in making it is minimal. Also, your dogs will love you much more for it too. I gave all of the scraps to the doggies, except for the bones, and I was the favorite parent for the rest of the night. On a side note, I don't know if this is a universal thing, but whenever my dogs get nice treats, they get really soft fur after. Does that happen to anyone else?

    Dinner consisted of roast lamb, green beans, and mashed potatoes. All the ingredients were procured at the farmer's market. I prepared the roast lamb the way Julia Child says how to do it in "Mastering the Art of French Cooking." It is remarkably similar to the roast chicken recipe she has. The deglazing sauce is practically the same. I get this suspicion that all of the basic roast recipes follow a similar pattern, and that I might even be able to extrapolate this to other cooking methods too, so maybe the entire book is a set of variations on a few themes.

    Dinner was delicious. Chrissie was in charge of the mashed potatoes and they were the best that I can remember. She decided to leave the skins on this time; my dad would be so proud - most of the nutritional value in potatoes is in the skin, but I think we managed to negate that pretty effectively by boiling the potatoes (boiling things leaches out said nutrients and they end up in the water or destroyed because they cannot handle the heat), and they gave some nice chunk to the dish. We like a mix of creamy smooth with some chunks in our mashed potatoes. Also, let me add that my editor, Chrissie, will be very proud of my long sentence in the paragraph.

    The green beans went alright, I probably should have blanched them before stir frying because they were a little chewy, but still tasty. The lamb was superb. I managed to give myself a nice, rare chunk and still provide Chrissie with her much beloved medium piece. Lamb has a nice "earthy" taste to it which makes it a nice change of pace from more traditional bovine fare. Prices are comparable, so it you want something a little different, try lamb.

    I'm anticipating next Sunday both positively and negatively. Once we got started, the day went really well, but it took a long time before we managed to pull something together that fit the locavore bill. In the course of trying to figure out what to eat that would be entirely local for our first meal, breakfast was skipped and I was a sad panda. Thankfully, lunch was good and quick to make. We'll see what happens next Sunday.

    Sunday, August 14, 2011

    Grilled Peaches

    It's definitely the time of year for grilling (though it's been awfully hard to tell around here). While typical barbeque staples like burgers, chicken, corn, and peppers are all well and good, it's fun to mix it up a little with things like strawberry shortcake kebabs and of course, some grilled peaches.

    These are incredibly straight forward to make, so I'll let you all just bask in their simplicity. Simple food = good food.

    Grilled Peaches

    Cut your peaches into approximately 8 slices and remove the pit.
    Coat the outside of your peach slices with a neutral oil such as grapeseed or canola oil.
    Lay each slice on the grill and cook until it begins to get grill marks.
    Remove from heat and serve. They're great plain, or with a little fresh whipped cream.


    Thursday, August 11, 2011

    A little perspective on the whole Locavore thing

    Our recent locavore challenge got me thinking about the topic in much more depth than I have in the past. I'll put this out there right now, I'm not a hard core locavore, and will never be one. Like all good diets, locavorism has some tenets that make a lot of sense and I try to model my life around them. Like all good diets, it can easily become fanatical, turning kind-hearted, well-meaning people into judgmental, dogmatic guilt-mongers.

    The reason I can't be a hard core locavore - I like too many kinds of food. There's a long list of them that cannot be produced locally. Some of my favorites include citrus fruits, bananas, olives, coffee, tea, cocoa, cashews, just about every kind of spice, maple syrup, sugar. It's a lot, and if I were hard core, I wouldn't be able to eat any of it. Really, there's no sin in eating and enjoying these things. The literal consumption of the food is the same here or anywhere. As they say though, the devil is in the details, and the circumstances in which we consume them are not so good. Mostly, it has to do with transportation.

    Thinking back on what I know about food and history, it's not a new thing that food gets transported hundreds and sometimes thousands of miles before being consumed. Some great examples are the movement of spices and tea from India and East Asia westward, the comparatively local salt trades which still managed to span hundreds of miles, the transport of wine and olive oil from the Roman empire to neighboring barbarian states, American frontiers-people turning grains into whiskey and pig feed - jugs and pigs being much easier to transport than bushels of wheat or corn, which subsequently were sold or traded.

    The difference between then and now is how everything is transported. People used wind and animal power to move around back then. Those were renewable resources. They did not contribute to global warming (if you subscribe to that idea). Fossils fuels are cheap and easy to harness, but they also come with some baggage.

    Maybe, it wouldn't be so bad if we didn't use so much oil and coal. If we (as in all of human-kind) only used a moderate amount of fossil fuels, maybe we wouldn't be worrying so much about it's impact on our world. Unfortunately, usage of them in our society is almost universal, and you won't get people to stop using them without some sort of good alternative.

    If I catalog all of the food I can get from a far away place, it isn't just limited to specialty foods, I can get literally everything. I think that's the big difference between the past and the present. Back then, people were probably mostly locavores, but today, people are probably mostly the opposite. What is the opposite of a locavore, by the way? A foravore? I am happy being a mostly locavore. I probably get more foreign foods than my ancient predecessors, but it's something I'm working on. The goal being to source as much food as possible locally. Slowly, but steadily, we're getting there.

    Monday, August 8, 2011


    Courtesy of Amber Roberts Photography
    3 years ago, Aaron and I started a new phase of our journey. It feels like it could have been yesterday and yet I hardly remember a time in my life that we weren't traveling through it together.

    We've changed and grown. We've learned to cook, bought a house, and added a puppy to our family of furry friends. We've taken risks, learned from our mistakes, and we continue to look forward to whatever may come next.

    Our next goal: to make it past the second round of cuts in somebody's anniversary dance.

    Happy Anniversary, Aaron! I love you!

    Sunday, August 7, 2011

    Locavore Sunday

    In honor of our own slightly watered down version of the Locavore Challenge, we spent the day today making sure that everything we ate contained locally sourced ingredients.  We made it slightly easier on ourselves by waking up too late for breakfast, and going to Farmer's Market to pick up our ingredients for dinner. While at the Farmer's market, we had some lunch:

    We've eaten at this particular stand many times before and have had discussions with them about the fact that all of their ingredients each day come from the market itself. Good stuff.

    For dinner, we wandered around the market for a while to get inspiration. When we noticed that tomatoes have finally started showing up, we decided we should make a variation of a pasta caprese type dish that my grandmother used to make. We didn't quite stick to the recipe that my dad gave us, but it still came out quite well:

    Literally everything in this dish was locally sourced:

    Flour for pasta: Emmer flour from Winthrop, WA
    Eggs for pasta: Aaron's Grandpa's chicken farm in Mt. Vernon, WA
    Tomatoes & basil: from a local farm in Yakima, WA
    Mozzarella: a dairy in Bow, WA
    Olive oil: Leavenworth, WA
    Garlic: our yard

    The pasta was a little more gritty than it would be with more refined flour, but it still tasted good and the flavor blended with the rest of the ingredients well. The olive oil we had on hand from Leavenworth is infused with basil, which was slightly overkill and I prefer using regular olive oil. On the whole, I think our take on the family tradition is a good one. The recipe is as follows:

    Pasta Caprese

    4 tomatoes, peeled and cut into chunks, saving the seeds
    1/2 lbs basil counting everything, or 2 cups of leaves torn into medium sized pieces
    4 peeled cloves of garlic
    1/4 lbs fresh mozzarella, shredded
    approx. 1/2 cup olive oil
    1 recipe of your favorite pasta

    Mix the tomatoes, basil, garlic, olive oil, and mozzarella and let chill for approximately 1 hour in the fridge. Serve over the pasta.

    Try not to eat it all, because it's even better on day 2!

    Thursday, August 4, 2011

    Gardening to Save Money

    Aaron and I are guest bloggers today over on my friend Erin's blog, Coupon Newbie. Erin is a crazy-impressive bargain shopper, especially when it comes to local stores like Rite-Aid. She also posts tips on finding good deals on organic produce from local farm stands as well as Daily Deals for CSA baskets and the like.

    To stick with her theme, Aaron and I posted about some of the money-saving tips we've discovered so far in our victory garden. It wasn't hard, since growing our food has definitely proven to be an economic advantage, albiet a small one sometimes.

    For those intrepid followers though who want to know more, here are a few additional tips to compliment our guest blog:
    • Lettuce doesn't need to be harvested all at once. You can harvest only the leaves you need and leave the rest of the plant in the ground and it will continue regrowing all season long. I'm given to understand that if you harvest off the same plant more than three times or so that it will start to get bitter, but we haven't had that issue yet.
    • While space is advantageous, not much is necessary to yield a decent crop of summer produce and herbs if you plan wisely.
    • Don't forget the scapes of your garlic! Fun edible treats can be made with those too.
    Down the road when our composting is more established and some of our perennial plants are more mature, I forsee that we will garner even bigger savings from our home-grown goodies. For now we're happy to be eating at least a few meals here and there that are healthier, tastier, and cheaper all on one plate.

    Tuesday, August 2, 2011

    Eat Local Challenge

    Today, I stumbled across this blog which is sponsoring an eat-local challenge for the month of August. Even though our growing season seems to be happening awfully late around here, August seems like as good a time as any to give this a go.

    Eating local around the NW doesn't seem like it should be too hard, but I'm betting we'll have some struggles. I try to pay attention to where things come from, but haven't honestly ever put a whole lot of effort into sourcing my food. I'm sure I'll be relying heavily on the Locavore's Manifesto for situations where I'm not sure if I can pull it off.

    We're starting a little late and I know we weren't perfect for the first couple of days, but I think my goal will be slightly lower key than the challenge suggests. Since so much could be accomplished if everyone ate completely local for just one meal a week, I will attempt to be absolutely 100% local for one day each week of this month. And I'll come as close as I can the rest of the time.

    So what about you? Will anyone out there join us in some permutation of this challenge this month?

    Monday, August 1, 2011

    Roast Chicken

    We made roast chicken for dinner on Sunday night. Making it isn't anything new, but I have never been totally satisfied with the results. It has been a while since I last made roast chicken. I made a point to do it tonight because I wanted to try some new things out. I've sort of been on a chicken quest lately. It's a search to find really yummy tasting chicken. I think I took a step in the right direction today.

    The recipe is a combination of what I do with chicken normally and the Roast Chicken recipe from Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking."

    3 lb. chicken
    6 tablespoons of softened butter divided up equally into 3 parts
    1 small carrot & 1 small onion - sliced
    1 Tb good cooking oil
    3/4 tsp salt
    1/2 Tb green onion - minced
    1 cup chicken stock
    1 clove of garlic
    1 sprig of rosemary

    First off, picking a good chicken was very important. Ideally, you want a relatively young chicken (8 months old or less) who has lived a happy, fulfilling chicken life. This would lead me to getting my chicken from the farmer's market, but we didn't have time to do that today, so we got it from the PCC market. It was 3.75 pounds and claimed to be free range. After having eaten it, I could attest to it being superior to a normal supermarket chicken. I'm kind of done with supermarket chicken now. I've had life changing meals made from beef, pork, crab, fish, and a bunch of other things, but never with chicken. It's something that I've only noticed in the last couple of years, but chicken is really bland. There's something wrong with that.

    Aside, if everyone eats bland chicken, can one actually say that it tastes like chicken? Maybe that's why everything tastes like chicken, it's the non-descript meat that can conform into any flavor profile. Maybe, it's the other way around. Maybe, chicken tastes like everything else.

    Julia tells you to season the chicken before putting it in the oven by sticking 1/3 of the salt and 1/6 of the butter into the cavity of the chicken and another 1/6 of the butter smeared over the outside of the chicken. I did that and also added in a sprig of rosemary to the cavity and rubbing the clove of garlic (which I cut in half) over the entire outside. The garlic and rosemary I owe to Laila Storch and Marcel Tabuteau. you won't find Storch or Tabuteau in any food magazines or shows - they are/were professional musicians. You don't have to be a professional chef to have something meaningful to add. That's what I think anyway.

    Julia also tells you to truss the chicken, but I didn't. In fact I've never done that, but I'm sure that I will one day as my quest for the perfect chicken will one day dictate.

    Next, you put the chicken in your roasting pan surrounded by the carrots and onions and brown the left, right, and breast side of it under 425 degree heat. After the sides are browned (about 25 minutes total), the oven goes down to 350 degrees for the rest of the time (another hour).

    While that's happening, mix 1/3 of the butter together with your cooking oil to make a basting solution and baste it onto the top of the bird every 10 minutes.

    When the chicken is done cooking, it gets set aside to a warm platter to rest (makes the meat more juicy). While it's resting you make the sauce (the super yummy part). Spoon out all buy 2 Tsp of the chicken juice from the pan. I removed the burned vegetables from the pan. Add green onions and cook slowly for a minute, then add the chicken stock and reduce at hight heat until theres about 1/2 cup left of stuff. I mashed the leftover veggies as much as I could. Put sauce into a bowl and put the last 1/3 of the butter into it.

    And then... eat!

    I'm always pleasantly surprised by the sauces I make from the MtAoFC cookbook. Whenever I make them I am super skeptical all the way until the first bite. The process is full of second-guessing and overthinking. The last thought I have before Chrissie and I spoon some onto our plates is always, "God, I hope this turned out alright." Then, you put it in your mouth and bliss. If there's anything I can add to the cookbook, it would be a comment saying, "Don't skimp on the sauce, seriously!" If you say, make a meat dish and decide to skip the deglazing step at the end, you're missing out on a truly delightful experience.

    Anyway, chicken! The quest continues.

    Thursday, July 28, 2011

    Dear Vampires,

    Please stay a healthy distance away from our house. Otherwise, I'll garlickify you.

    Chrissie and I harvested our garlic this week. All in all, I think that it turned out to be a good crop. When we first planted the garlic, I was a little worried because my dad told us that garlic didn't grow well up here because they didn't get enough sun. Sure, we didn't get huge heads of garlic like you see at the super market, but we got something. I like to think they look like the stuff we would find at farmer's market. They will sit in our pantry for a few weeks to dry and then we will use them.

    We are already talking about how we can do better next year. First, we are going to try spacing the cloves farther apart. Second, we are going to look specifically for "hard neck" variety garlic to plant. Hard neck garlics grow better in more northerly lattitudes. I don't know what kind we got this year. I picked the ones we got because they were a German variety and figured that our climates would be similar enough for the garlic to do well.

    A couple of other things to note this week for me. I went on a vegetarian trip on Tuesday and Wednesday. Totally unintentionally, but that only makes me prouder of myself. However, I think I can only handle a couple days there, tops. Today, I ate fried chicken for lunch and more chicken for dinner. I'm trying to get Chrissie on board for roasting a chicken for dinner over the weekend. Does being a vegetarian count for a couple days if I just make up for it the day I go back?

    Also, thanks a bunch to the guys at Morgan's on Crown Hill. We had a leaky outdoor faucet and the normal hardware stores didn't have the washer I needed (Lowe's and Home Depot). Granted, I have one of those complicated frost-proof faucets, but it shouldn't be hard to find a bloody washer. Anyway, the guys at Morgan's were really nice and spent half-an-hour with me figuring it out (sometimes it's hard to find a bloody washer). That's the kind of thing I really appreciate, so I think I'll be going there in the future for stuff.

    Monday, July 25, 2011

    Ricotta for our Ravioli

    I got it in my head last week that I wanted to make ravioli from the ground up. If I could have grown and ground the wheat for the pasta, I probably would have. But that's not in the cards at this point, and I'm not nearly that patient anyway.

    Most of the steps for this process were things we'd done before. We make fresh pasta regularly ('cause it's just so dang tasty!) and we've made our own tomato sauce before as well. So it came down to the filling. We were just aiming for a basic cheese ravioli, so there's not much to it, which meant we needed to make our own ricotta. This recipe from Serious Eats caught my attention right from the google search. Fresh ricotta in 5 minutes or less? Sign me up!

    Conveniently, this cook advocates the use of a microwave to heat the milk to the desired temperature. When we made cheddar cheese a few months ago (post to come someday in the future) heating the milk felt a tad bit painstaking. But then, I may have been taking it a tad too seriously as well. Maybe.

    In process, we discovered that making 1/2 cup of ricotta in 5 minutes or less is probably possible, but making the 2 cups that we wanted for our recipe of ravioli wasn't going to be quite so streamlined. We made our ricotta in 2 batches (due to the size of our bowl and microwave) and still the milk took approximately 12-14 minutes to reach 165 degrees, even with our microwave set to high. Apparently twice the milk = triple the time. It's still a much more immediately gratifying process however than it's cheddar cheese cousin, which is aging for 6 months in our pantry (4 months down!). So, it took about half an hour in the end to reach our quota of 2 cups of fresh ricotta. But it was well worth it.

    Fresh Cheese!
    We make pasta often enough that we have the process pretty speedy at this point. Rolling out the dough only took about 20 minutes so while I did that, Aaron went ahead and mixed our fresh ricotta with the rest of the ingredients for our ravioli filling: parsley, parmesan, salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

    For my taste, this recipe uses a little too much parsley. Next time, we may omit it all together and use oregano instead. But we're not entirely decided yet. And we had plenty of parsley growing in our garden, so for this round, it made perfect sense.

    Once the pasta was rolled (note, it should be quite thin - almost translucent) and the filling mixed, it was time to construct our food:

    Once they were complete, we boiled them for just a couple of minutes and topped them with our freshly made tomato sauce.

    The finished product:

    Verdict: the fresh ricotta really did make a difference. The raviolis were creamier and less rubbery than the ones we've made with ricotta from the store. The other pro is that we can make exactly as much as we need and not worry about needing to find additional uses for sub-par ricotta. I'm sure we'll do it again sometime.  You should, too!

    Serious Eats Recipe for Ricotta

    Cheese Ravioli
    Originally from Mark Bittman

    2 cups fresh ricotta
    1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
    1 cup minced parsley
    1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
    Salt and Pepper to taste

    Combine ingredients and fill freshly made pasta dough. Boil for 2-3 minutes until tender. Serve with your favorite sauce.

    Tuesday, July 19, 2011


    Worms are one of the few things I look forward to when it rains anymore. Now, it's not that I don't like the rain, but weather patterns over the last couple years have taken every shred of novelty and enjoyment from this particular one. Except for worms. Whenever it rains, I make a point to look at the ground when I'm walking. I'm on the prowl. My eyes are honed-in, looking for any sign of squirming or writhing. If I find any worms crawling on the payment, I grab it and stick in a bag. When I get home, I deposit the worms into our compost bins. It's like bringing in sheep to the fold.

    I like to think that when I find a worm and stick them in my bag, I am giving a displaced worm a new home. Left on the road, they'd be run over or eaten; in my compost bin, they'll be able to make a new life for themselves. Aaron & Chrissie's compost bin - land of opportunity. The place where every worm gets a second chance.

    What we get out of it is good compost. Worm poop is some of the greatest stuff you can give to your plants. People have caught on and you can purchase worms from nursuries or even online. A box of worms delivered to your doorstep, ready to use straight out of the box! I figure though, why buy them when I can get them for free?

    In my opinion (which is definitely opinion because I have no knowledge to back it up), the more critters that get into your compost, the better. All of them do their part to process organic material. I've seen slugs, flies, and spiders on our compost bin too. If I found any of those in the garden, I'd get rid of them, but in the compost bin, they have sanctuary.

    Monday, July 18, 2011

    Our Perfect Pizza

    There have been a few evenings over the last couple of months that I've gotten completely insatiable cravings for pizza, but we haven't had any of the typical ingredients, nor the desire to order a greasy heap of pepperoni from any of the 375289 chains in the area. No, I'm not actually a complete pizza snob... yet. Sometimes I still eat that giant pool of grease with reckless abandon and enjoy every second of it. But on the nights in question, I distinctly wanted something homemade.

    Several years ago I went to this pizzaria in Wisconsin. I've also been to Japan. Somewhere in the amalgamation of those 2 places in my brain, I've grown pretty convinced that you can put anything on a pizza.

    So, we rifled through our pantry and fridge and found the following:

    olive oil
    fresh rosemary
    goat cheese
    pink lady apples

    Pretty good for a kitchen devoid of tomato sauce. We also had enough staples to make a basic pizza dough, so we went for it.

    I should stop here and admit that I have a bit of a crush on pancetta. Seriously. It's not quite as salty as proscuitto, but not as heavy as bacon. It has a big flavor for a small quantity. And it has a very high-class-culinary sounding name. Pancetta is all win, all the time.

    But I digress. Here's the pizza pre-oven:

    Just looking at it makes me want to make it all over again. Good thing I live in a state with lots of Apples.

    Here's the finished product (which is a bit messier looking due to some user error involving the pizza peel):

    And of course, the concise recipe since I know you're all going to want to make this yourselves tonight.

    Seriously. Do it.

    Apple - Pancetta Pizza


    1 recipe of your favorite pizza crust
    1 tbsp olive oil
    1 tbsp fresh, chopped rosemary or to taste
    1 cup goat cheese (feta also works well)
    1/2 apple (pink lady is our preferred, but anything somewhat tart will do)
    3-4 slices pancetta


    Preheat your oven as high as it will go. Ours only gets to 525 degrees, which is pretty standard, but if you can get hotter, go for it. If you have a pizza stone, make sure that it's in the oven while it preheats.

    Prep the pizza dough. Layer the ingredients beginning with the olive oil.

    Once your oven is preheated, place the pizza directly on the pizza stone if you have one, or you may use a baking sheet.  Cook until the crust is just beginning to be golden brown and/or until the pancetta starts to brown at the edges.

    Cut and serve!

    Friday, July 15, 2011


    "Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for a while and leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never the same." - Author Unknown

    Not all friends are flesh and blood. If the blossoming of a generation full of electronic communication has made anything clear to me, it's that. But friends of the spirit were around long before technology. And they've always come in many forms.

    For as long as I've been reading, which is nearly as long as I can remember, many of my best friends were those I found on the written page. They've laughed with me, cried with me, comforted me, and understood me. They gave me the words that I couldn't find to express myself. They made me think and see the world through different eyes. They were as real to me as my classmate in geometry. More real than the math itself. (and goodness knows I remember them better).

    These friends have helped remind me of my values, they've led the way through difficult times and they've shown incredible perseverance in times of adversity. Many of them are so popular that they've had movies made about their lives.

    Today one of those movies ended. It's been a long road and an incredible journey that we've shared with them. They've shown the world what true friendship is and we are all the better for it. So for today, all I can say is thank you. Thank you Harry, Ron, Hermione, Neville, Luna, Ginny, Tonks, Lupin, Sirius, Snape, Dumbledore, Seamus, Wood, Mr. & Mrs. Weasley, Fred, George, Fleur, Hedwig, Buckbeak, Hagrid, Professor McGonagall, Dobby, Fawkes, and even Draco. Thanks to all of you for existing, even if it's only in my mind. I'm sure we'll see eachother again soon.

    "Harry: Is this real? Or has this been happening inside my head?
    Dumbledore: Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean it is not real?" -Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

    Tuesday, July 12, 2011

    Decisions, decisions

    When you don't have a lot of space to work with, you have to do some serious editing to your planting list. Although, having said that, you'd be surprised how much you can grow in small spaces. I'm a pretty no-nonsense, utilitarian type of guy so I went straight for the jugular. For me, planting was decided strictly on usage, cost, viability, savings potential, you get the picture. No froo-froo things, like appearance or food fads (example: swiss chard). It was all by the numbers.

    Summing them all up in my head, I found that I could break down the plants into a three main categories: Consumption, Cost Savings, and for lack a better term, "It Just Tastes Better." Here's the roll call.


    This is a big deal because what's the point of planting something if you're not going to use it. Kind of a "duh" moment. On the herb front, we use parsley, sage, rosemary, basil, and thyme a lot, so they were the first to go down. We also use a lot of things from the onion family (also called, "allumiums") so we put down green onion, chives, garlic, and shallots. We didn't have room for regular onions, but I think they'll be one of the first things to go down when we reclaim some more space. Last would be potatoes, carrots, green beans, and sugar snap peas. Those guys are staples on our dinner plates so we planted some of those also.

    Cost Savings

    Cost savings is how much money we'd save harvesting our own produce rather than purchasing it at the grocery store. First, let me say that we are talking about fresh herbs, because well, fresh is just better. When we go to the grocery store, if we get a little plastic container of fresh herbs, it costs us $2.50. That's for about 2 ounces of herbs. Sure, $2.50 isn't that much, and you don't need to use a lot of it for your cooking, but it is probably one of the most disproportionately costed items in the grocery store. $2.50 for 2 ounces means that per pound, the cost is $15.00! That's more than most cuts of meat. After a while, it adds up.

    On a different level, cost savings is also minimizing the amount of unused, and thus wasted, produce. Herbs fall into this category again. Since you don't need a lot, half of your package can go off before you ever get to use it and waste like this just kind of gets to me. The same thing applies to green onions actually. Green onions only cost $1-1.50 for a bundle, but they wilt after about 4 days in the fridge. That's much, much faster than the herbs, and that kind of perishibility led me to planting our own.

    The nice thing about having your own herb plants is that you can take what you need and leave the rest in a living condition. Perishibility isn't really an option, unless you're getting close to winter, but the nice thing about many plants is that they come back in the spring.

    It Just Tastes Better

    When harvested at the proper time from your own garden! The last four words can be omitted from that sentence in all honestly, but the only way you'll achieve the sentiment in today's world is by buying your produce at a farmer's market. All of our fruit; strawberries, peaches, pears, and the tomatoes (have we reached a consensus on whether they're fruits or vegetables yet?) fall into this category. The key for all of these things is allowing the produce to ripen on the plant until they reach their maximum flavor content. If that's the case, what could be better than picking it straight off the tree/vine?

    Those plants that were going to be long-term fixtures to our garden really had to have everything working for them - we really wanted to maximize their success and minimize regrets in the future. I'm talking about our fruit trees. We toyed with several different types of fruit trees that would grow well up here: cherries, apples, pears, peaches. Our final decisions met all our criteria not only on the big three categories, but the smaller ones too.

    Pears and peaches are both things Chrissie and I love so we won't get sick of them (if you haven't guessed, consumption is predicated on not getting sick of what you're eating). They are also quite costly, $3.00-6.00 a pound at farmer's market, so we're doing well on the cost savings front. I already talked about maximizing flavor. We also took care to pick breeds that grew well up here and would fruit at the right time. Get something that bears fruit too early and it won't have enough sunlight to produce really good tasting fruit. Too late, and you risk the weather getting too cold and again, fruit that isn't totally ripe. Also, it can cause stress on the tree because instead of working on becoming dormant as the weather is getting colder, it's still trying to squeak out fruit. The fruit tree decision definitely took the longest of all our plants.

    Of course there are caveats to all of this. Chrissie is a wonderful moderating force in our garden and I am really grateful to her for it. She instigated the lettuce and spinach plants in the garden. She really wanted to make fresh salads, but I was like, "We never eat salad." To which she responded, "Maybe we would if we had fresh lettuce." So now, we eat a lot of fresh salad. It's pretty great too. If Chrissie wasn't around to think-outside-the-box as it were, we'd be missing out on that.

    Anyway, that's how things came to be in our garden. Like I said before, as we reclaim more land to use, other things will start going down. Those new things, being farther down on our list, won't need to fit as nicely into my growing criteria. I really want to grow a blueberry bush. I love them, but Chrissie's fairly ambivalent towards them. Asparagus is something we both enjoy, but don't eat as much. Same with Oregano. You know, the more I sit here and think about it, the longer the list gets, so I think I'll just stop here. If we ever plant these things, you'll be the first to know!

    Sunday, July 10, 2011

    Bringing the Stadium Home

    We haven't had a chance to do much shopping for groceries lately, but that didn't stop us today from creating a little piece of the stadium atmosphere at home while we watched the Seattle Sounders take on the Portland Timbers in soccer.  (GO SOUNDERS!)

    I'm a sucker for giant soft pretzels and it had been a really long time since I'd attempted making any, so we decided to make that our stadium food of choice.  I found a nice looking recipe for Soft-Garlic Rosemary Prezels with White Cheddar Cheese Sauce from yumology on Tasty Kitchen to use as our foundation. In the end, we struck pretty true to it for the pretzels themselves and branched away primarily for the cheese sauce.

    As it turns out, if you're on a timeline, I'd suggest having a pair of people working and to start the cheese sauce as soon as the first person starts rolling out the pretzels. It takes a fairly good while to get the rue bubbling and ready for the addition of the cheese.

    Nonetheless, the results were excellent. The main modifications we made in the cheese sauce were to use medium yellow cheddar in place of the sharp white, 2% milk, and we omitted the cayenne. Most of these changes were simply made based on what was available to us. We chose to leave out the cayenne pepper because we wanted to stick with something pretty mild for today, since the game was destined to be spicy enough. ;)

    Recipe - Garlic and Rosemary Soft Pretzels with Cheese Sauce
    Adapted from yumology's adaptation from Cooking Light

    • 2-¼ teaspoons Dry Yeast
    • 1-½ teaspoon Brown Sugar
    • 1 cup Warm Water
    • 3-¼ cups All Purpose Flour, divided use
    • 1 teaspoon Salt
    • 1 clove Garlic (large), Minced
    • 2 teaspoons Fresh Rosemary, Finely Chopped
    • ½ teaspoons Pepper
    • 6 cups Water
    • 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
    • 1 teaspoon Olive Oil
    • 1 whole Egg
    • Kosher Salt Or Sea Salt (for Topping)
    • Cooking Spray
    • 1 Tablespoon Butter
    • 1 Tablespoon Flour
    • 1 cup 2% Milk
    • ¾ teaspoons Salt
    • ½ teaspoons Pepper
    • 1 cup grated Medium Cheddar Cheese

    Preparation Instructions 

    1. Dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water in a large bowl, and let stand for 5 minutes.
    2. Add 3 cups flour and 1 teaspoon salt to yeast mixture; stir until a soft dough forms. Mix in garlic, pepper and rosemary.
    3. Turn dough out on to a lightly floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic (about 8 minutes). Add enough of remaining flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands (dough will feel slightly sticky). Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 40 minutes or until doubled in size. (Gently press two fingers into dough. If indentation remains, the dough has risen enough.) Punch dough down; cover and let rest 5 minutes.
    4. Preheat oven to 425°.
    5. Divide dough into 8 equal portions. Working with one portion at a time (cover remaining dough to prevent drying), roll each part into an 18-inch-long rope with tapered ends. Cross one end of rope over the other to form a circle, leaving about 4 inches at end of each rope. Twist the rope at the base of the circle. Fold the ends over the circle and into a traditional pretzel shape, pinching gently to seal. Place pretzels on a board or baking sheet. Cover and let rise 10 minutes (pretzels will rise only slightly).
    6. Combine 6 cups water and baking soda in a pot. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer. Gently lower 1 pretzel into simmering water mixture; cook 15 seconds. Turn pretzel with a slotted spatula; cook an additional 15 seconds. Transfer pretzel to a prepared baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Repeat procedure with remaining pretzels. Combine olive oil and egg in a small bowl, stirring with a fork until smooth. Brush a thin layer of egg mixture over pretzels; sprinkle with kosher or sea salt.
    7. Bake at 425° for 17 minutes or until pretzels are deep golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
    For White Cheddar Cheese Sauce
    1. In a small sauce pot, heat the butter on medium-low. When melted, whisk in the flour until combined. Add the milk and stir constantly until mixture thickens and begins to bubble slightly. Next, mix in salt and pepper.
    2. Add the cheese and stir/whisk on medium heat until melted into the sauce. Cook for about 1 minute or until sauce begins to simmer gently. Remove from heat and serve.