Sunday, November 30, 2008

Dark Days Eat Local Challenge Recap - Week 2: Delicata Squash

This is going to be a very short report today. For my Dark Days Challenge report I just want to describe one really good thing we had as part of our dinner last night. I'll do a separate write up about Thanksgiving with pictures for the family. But, I don't want to make Laura (moderator of the Eat Local Challenge) wade through all of that.

Kris got to choose the dinner choice for last night since he will not be here this evening and he chose fish. In the short amount of time I had available to shop, I didn't find much that was caught in Oregon, so we ended up with an Alaskan salmon fillet - wild caught, but not exactly local. However, to go with it, I cooked one of the delicata squash I had gotten at the farmer's market on Tuesday. Based on a recipe from Epicurious, I cut the delicata into slices after cutting it in half lengthwise (skin left on). Then, I cut up some Oregon mushrooms - morells and shitakes - into good size chunks. Coated them all with a little bit of olive oil that had been mixed with fresh thyme, salt and pepper. They roasted at 375 for about half an hour. It was delicious and made a very nice accompaniment to the salmon.

After we've taken Kris to the airport, I'll start rounding up the Thanksgiving pictures to share.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Dark Days Eat Local Challenge Recap - Week 1

We're off to a mixed start in the 2008 Eat Local Challenge that runs through the winter months. We have had some really terrific meals of local foods this week, but also had a couple of "survival" nights due to other things that got in the way of my planning.

Monday this week, we had my birthday meal prepared by Grady. Last night, we had a simple not-quiche - I guess it would be a frittata. I decided we didn't need a pie crust now since we will be eating pie in a few days. So, I just put the mixture straight in the pie plate, into the oven and baked it. In addition to the eggs, it had poblanos from our yard, diced fingerling potatoes, onions and mushrooms from the farmer's market, plus a local cheese.

With Mom newly arrived in town, I thought I would fix a nice dinner this evening. Because, after that, we'll probably be clearing out the refrigerator the next couple nights in order to accommodate all the Thanksgiving food.

So, the dinner I'm working on for this evening is:

roast pork shoulder Pacific Village pork (Banks, Oregon)
wilted rainbow chard our garden and some left from our last CSA share
Beans with pancetta and sage cranberry beans (Hood River)
recipe courtesy of Anita at Married with Dinner

This report will have to part one, or a draft, because our weekly recap for the Dark Days Challenge was supposed to be ready an hour ago. But, I got a late start on dinner tonight. Mom and I took a cooking class this afternoon and it ran quite a bit longer than I had expected. So, dinner is still cooking. I could add some picture later, or maybe it doesn't really matter.

Meanwhile, I do have this photo of the quiche-turned frittata from last night.

Update following dinner:
Since we were late, I didn't bother taking any pictures of tonight's dinner. But, it turned out well. The beans were delicious and were a particularly nice combination with the chard. The pork, roasted with just salt and pepper, was very nice. We haven't had a pork roast in quite a while and I'd forgotten good it can be.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Dark Days Eat Local Challenge 2008-09

It's time for the start of the Second Dark Days Eat Local Challenge. It was this activity that got me started with both local eating efforts and with blogging a year ago. Thank you, Laura at Not-so Urban Hennery, for this opportunity.

This year the challenge will run from November 15 to March 15.

The “Rules”:

  1. Cook one meal a week featuring at least 90% local ingredients
  2. You define local - the standard definitions range from 100, to 150 to 200 miles
  3. Ingredients can be things you grew and preserved yourself, sourced from local farms and markets, or purchased at the store
  4. Write about the meals you cook, your challenges finding ingredients, why you’re eating local or whatever else strikes your fancy for each recap. Photos are optional.
  5. Include friends and family in your sourcing and eating as possible
In general, we have several meals a week that are mainly local - especially with leftovers! I am going to keep better track of the distance to see what we can maintain. It seemed to me last year, in the winter, that most things were either within the 100 mile radius or they came from northern Washington or California. I don't remember much coming from in between. But, that will be something worth tracking a little more.

We will have a small advantage over last year in that I was able to preserve some things this summer - mostly in the freezer: tomato sauce, green beans, jams, peppers. Plus, we have most of the 1/8 share of local, grass fed beef from Kookoolan farms. We're lucky to have two farmer's markets that operate year-round to give us some locally grown fruits and vegetables. It will still be quite a challenge - especially about February and March. But, I learned a lot last year, so I won't be quite the deer in the headlights this year.

I am particularly fond of rule #5 this year - including family and friends in our sourcing and eating. Dinner with friends is one of our main social activities. And many of our friends share our interest in local eating.

Here's a short recap of our local eating so far:
Nov. 15 spent most of the day flying from Detroit to Portland, we stopped at Roots Brewing near our house for a quick bite on the way home (no food on the planes, of course) and enjoyed a very locally made beer - i.e. brewed six blocks from our house

Nov. 16 a bad day all around (see previous post) so we skipped lunch and had quick and easy from New Seasons for dinner, paid no attention to its origins

Nov. 17 My Birthday!!! implemented rule #5, had 10 friends for dinner, wild caught salmon grilled on a cedar plank, a DELICIOUS ratatouille with peppers and tomatoes from our garden, other peppers and egglant from Oregon and Washington, cherry pie with filling from the Apple Valley Country Store, champagne from California (see photos below)

Grady's beautiful cherry pie for my birthday "cake"

Lively discussions - politics, families, politics, photography, politics....

Grady serving the salmon

Just a little bit of handwashing - 12 champagne, 12 wine, 12 water
And a good time had by all, especially the birthday "girl".

Sunday, November 16, 2008

"Molly and Me" - a Year Later

Molly Malone (1997-2008)

I started this blog on November 10, 2007 with a post about my dog Molly and about my own first steps of moving forward to a life after full time work. And, now I'm noting the first anniversary of my blog and, sadly, Molly is no longer here to celebrate with me. Both of the veterinarians we've seen recently remarked on how unusual it is to see an 11 1/2 year old Newfoundland. And, if it weren't for her loss of mobility, she'd still be with us. She was a real sweetie - gentle, very enamored with people (and with people food). She always followed one or the other of us around the house and would plop herself down to be within 6 or 8 feet once we settled down somewhere. It's going to be tough to get used to being around here without our constant companion.

I wish I had some digital pictures of Molly as a puppy. She was SO darned cute. But, we only have pictures on paper from that period. Here are a few of our memories of her.

Found a cool spot in the garden at our Manzanita house

Camping with our friend Susan

Her standard sprawl in her favorite spot at the beach house

Getting some attention from Aileen one Christmas

and always a beggar

Under the "Labels" section to the right (below the archives), there is a category for Molly. If you're a dog lover, you can click on her name in that list, and see other pictures of her from some of my previous posts during the past year. I guess I'll have to retire that label now.

Meanwhile, the Dark Days Eat Local Challenge has begun, as of yesterdat. So, I'll be back to blogging about our local eating efforts once we get over this hump. It's been kind of a rough week.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I'm Not Ready

I am REALLY not ready to lose any more of my parents' generation from the family. But, we did. Monday evening. Uncle Gerry's cancer got the better of him. Just a week before his and Aunt Phyl's anniversary. And now one more of those people who've been a part of my life for all 58 years is gone.

Gerry married my dad's younger sister, Phyllis, in Lansing, Michigan almost exactly 52 years ago. I don't keep track of the anniversary dates of most of my relatives. But, this one I know - November 17. I remember it because (a) I was the flower girl in their wedding and (b)they got married on my birthday. I think I was seven. I was so thrilled - the beautiful flower girl dress and all that attention. And, at the reception I got a birthday present of a piggy bank, which was passed around so that all the adults at the party could make a contribution to the bank. Oh, wow! pretty big stuff for a seven year old.

Aunt Phyl and Uncle Gerry were a lifesaver for me the summer I got a job in Lansing and lived with my grandparents. Our family was living in Escanaba and I can't really remember why I got this job in Lansing (at Sears) instead of working at home that summer. I'm sure we had a Sears store in Escanaba. In any case, as lovely as Grandpa and Grandma Rinehart were, life at 210 Regent St. with two elderly grandparents was not the most exciting for someone in her late teens. I didn't have any friends in Lansing. Phyl and Gerry were young enough that spending time with them on many occasions provided a great relief and were a high point of my summer. They were so great to me.

It was that summer, on the verge of adulthood, that I first began to interact with my aunt and uncle less as a child and more as another (almost) adult. That was when I learned to appreciate Gerry's low-key sense of humor. And, subsequently, in various big family gatherings, it is a quality of his that has stood out. We are a large extended family of noisy, talkative, opinionated people. (Well, quite a few of us are- and you know that's true, siblings and cousins, so don't get all huffy with me.) Jerry seemed to just enjoy all the carrying on.

Michigan State University has lost one of its biggest fans this week and we've lost a favorite uncle. Phyl, Teri, Lisa, Tim, Eric, Steve, Mary Ellen - you are in our thoughts and prayers.

Gerry with Teri and Kim at our 2007 family reunion in Michigan:

and with Aunt Phyllis and their grandson, Aaron:

More memories and photos of Uncle Gerry on Ann's blog today.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

It Was a Beef Stew Kind of Day

And lucky for us, we had most of what we need on hand from local sources. In the main, I followed Alice Waters' recipe in The Art of Simple Food chapter on slow cooking. Her version calls for bacon, which I did not have on hand, so I skipped it. On the other hand, I had a few fingerling potatoes in the garden window and I decided to add them. Some of the ingredients I have not used in beef stew previously were 2 cloves, strip of orange zest and brandy. That all sounded pretty interesting to me and turned out to make a wonderful rich-tasting broth.

Her recipe specifies "grass-fed beef chuck" and, thanks to our beef share purchase this fall from Kookolan Farms, I actually had it (grass-fed, pasture-raised, no hormones no medications beef, pasture-killed and hand-processed) in our freezer. The vegetables (carrots, onions, tomatoes, potatoes) came from our CSA, Jennifer's garden and ours. I had some dried porcini mushrooms that came from "Fungus Amongus" in Snohomish, Washington - not in a 100 mile radius, but pretty darn close.

So, instead of singing the Rainy Day Blues, we're stayed inside and enjoyed a hearty, delicious beef stew. Not particularly photogenic, but very tasty.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Leave it to the Irish

to find a family connection to anyone we want to call our own. Thank goodness some folks found the heritage of Barack's family in Ireland - the Kearneys from Moneygall in County Offaly. The Corrigan Brothers have even written a song, a modified version performed here by Shay Black.

I haven't written a post about the results of the election because I have really felt too overwhelmed - with the true significance (as opposed to the Irish linkage). And my own words don't feel adequate to the task. But, suffice to say, I am enormously grateful that, for the first time since I started voting in 1968, I am genuinely exited about the person for whom I voted in the presidential election. I believe Barack Obama is the right person for this difficult time. It's wonderful that he is our first African American in the office and it's great that he has an Irish connection. But, most important, he is an intelligent, ethical man with a clear vision of where we need to go and the calm, steady temperament to lead us there.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Knitting Rookie

Learning to knit was on my list of things to begin once I'd retired. And, after some other projects last year, I started moving on this goal last summer. I've taken two short beginner classes and then recently took a class on how to make a hat.

I started with a couple of cotton dishcloths. That seemed like a good way to learn how to follow a pattern and complete a project from start to finish with the limited skills I had.

This is the beginning of the hat. The new skill was knitting in the round - really easy until you get to the part where the circles need to get smaller and smaller and then you have to switch to a bunch of double pointed needles and everything feels VERY awkward and you feel like you have 40 fingers.
The completed hat

Unfortunately, the hat looks really bad on me. But, most hats do. I don't really have a hat kind of head- particularly for close-fitting knitted hats. So, I need to find someone to take it off my hands. These two below offered and seemed to enjoy it. But, it's a little big for them. I'll have to try making one their size sometime.

I had started on a Christmas stocking in preparation for a class where I would learn how to make it and then found out this week they are having to cancel the class due to low enrollment. So, now I have to decide whether to try to do it anyway or take up something else. It really doesn't matter. I don't have great ambitions, but it is kind of relaxing and I love the colors and feel of the yarns.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Halloween on Ladd Avenue

Doing our best to recreate the Miller-Creswell family Halloween parties of a few years ago, we invited Jennifer, Ian, Liam and Graham, and Jeff. Grace got a better offer, if you can imagine that. The basic ingredients of those parties when our kids and theirs were young were bobbing for apples and then making those into caramel apples, costumes, chili for dinner, and anything else we decided to get creative about.

So, we had those basic required elements of "the Halloween party". But, something new that was probably the best part of the whole evening were our trick-or-treat helpers! Liam and Graham are probably the only kids I've known who got great joy out of giving candy away and didn't really seem all that interested in getting some themselves. They positively squealed with delight each time there was a knock on the door. They ran to the door and got so excited when they saw the different kids in costumes. I've never had that much fun giving out the treats myself. Those two were a real kick. So, here are a few pictures from the evening:

Molly - not overly enthused about her "costume

Jennifer bobbing for an apple with tips from Graham

Ian did it the right way - going all the way down to the bottom of the "cauldron"

Liam and Graham were both successful bobbers

the same version of chili I wrote about a couple weeks ago

2 witches and a ghost

close up of the pin on one of the witches

Jennifer in one of the famous bug hats *

even the chicken gets into the party spirit

*Previous appearances of the famous bug hats at our house:

If the World Could Vote

In all honesty, politics is more on my mind these days than eating local foods. That's not to say we've given up on our efforts. In fact, it's become pretty much a part of our regular routines - and easier these days than some others with farmer's markets still open and even a few things still coming out of our garden.

But, meanwhile, there is this pit in my stomach. For those of you who don't know me, I am world class worrier. Until I met my friend Sarah, I thought I was pretty much top of the line in worrying skills. While I was a school principal, I had plenty on my plate to keep me up nights. Since I've retired, that load has gone down tremendously. Currently taking its place, though, is my concern about the outcome of the election. The polls look favorable for my candidate, Barack Obama. But, I think it's too soon to relax.

So, I am trying to keep busy. Sometimes it's doing other things that are fun to keep my mind off politics - Halloween party (pictures in the next post), church auction, a play reading on Tuesday.... And, other times, I'm throwing myself into the mix to make a few small efforts to help out - being an election observer for the Democratic party of Oregon and making phone calls for the Obama campaign.

All of which is a long-winded way to explain yet another post on the subject of the upcoming election. This exercise below is an interesting diversion. News reports about interest in our election among folks abroad has been pretty much leaning in one direction. But, just for the fun of it, and for my sister who is an expat in France, here's a link to see how people in other countries would vote in our election if they could.

What would happen if the world could vote in the upcoming US Election?

This was started by 3 guys in Iceland. Americans may vote as well.

You may vote on your computer only once.

Check out the tabs on the left at the website // look at the world
map -

See the link below to vote --

Once you've voted take a look at how each country is voting!