Monday, January 26, 2009

Inauguration Party Photos

This past fall, we had established a pattern of watching the debates with Jeff and his extended family. And the same group gathered on election night to watch the returns. So, it seemed only logical to gather this same group of friends on the night of the Inauguration this past week.

Got the dining room all decked out with party regalia - basically everything we owned in red, white and blue.

Grace was the master decorator of the Obama cookies - with some able assistance from Jennifer.

Unlike the ladies who get upset when someone else shows up to the party in the same outfit, we were quite pleased to have matching shirts at this celebration. (Ian, Jennifer and I)

In addition to the beautiful cookies, dinner was a great combined effort. Jeff brought some lovely cheeses for a starter. I made red beans and rice, as well as some nice local sauteed kale. Jennifer and Ian brought roasted vegetables and cornbread. The beans and rice recipe came from Ivy Manning's new blog, Ivysfeast. She is the author of one of my regular cookbooks - The Farm to Table Cookbook.

Dark Days Challenge - Week 10 Report

Wow, here we are on week 10 already! This was a tough week for me as far as local eating goes. I'm trying to remember if I felt this way last winter about this time. As I recall, it actually seemed to get even more difficult about March. In any case, last week was an unusually busy one for me at work. But, it still is not full time and I think many or most of the other challenge participants work regular full time jobs, so I don't think that flies as an excuse.

I was contemplating our evening meals and not coming up with a single one that ended up with 90% local ingredients - or even 75 or 80%. But, then I remembered our breakfast on the morning of the inauguration! Because the inauguration was important to us, Grady and I both chose to stay home from work (nice to have that option) that morning so we could watch it together on TV. So, I decided that it was an opportunity to have something other than our standard cold or hot cereal weekday breakfast. I made scrambled eggs with mushrooms and cheese. And we even had a couple slices of bacon and hashbrown potatoes just in case our arteries needed a little clogging up. For good measure, we also had banana slices.

Eggs - from Yelm, Washington(a little over 100 miles from here), cage free, vegetarian fed, etc.
Cheese - Willamette Valley Cheese Co. pepper jack
Mushrooms - Oregon grown shitakes
Potatoes - locally grown yellow fin, but I can't remember exactly where exactly
bacon- made at New Seasons with Pacific Village pork
bananas - not at all local

So, I guess it wasn't a complete flop of a week with regard to the challenge. Our other meals certainly used many local products, but I'd guess they were closer to half and half. (Like red beans and rice - local beans, California rice.) Plenty of room for improvement in the coming week!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Totally off task

I'm avoiding the fact that I haven't done so well with keeping my focus on local foods this week. So, stalling while I try to think about what we've eaten and gather up some kind of report, I'm passing along this scary thing that came in my email recently:

"Take our quick survey and get a FREE $50 McDonald's Gift Card. Participation required. See below for details."

$50 at McDonald's?!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Dark Days Challenge - Week 9 Report

Our Dark Days meals got a boost from our freezer this week. I was not overly ambitious last summer, but I did make a small start at saving things coming out of the garden or our CSA. One round of canning sent me quickly back to the freezer as means of preserving. If I ever get more ambitious and decide to save up quite a bit more, I'll probably have to do more canning. But, so far, the freezer has not been particularly close to full. And the only canner we have left from our early days of canning is extremely inconvenient to use. I don't want to buy a new one unless Im really co

So, one dinner was steak from our beef share (Kookoolan Farms) and a chard gratin. I didn't think that our garden chard would freeze all that well, but it seemed like making it into a gratin and then freezing that would be a way of having it to use later. And, it was - succesful, that is. A nice easy meal with a small salad on the side.

Last night I brought up a pint container of a tomato sauce that I had put together last summer with our garden tomatoes and basil. I added Oregon mushrooms and kale, plus some non-local red peppers and zucchini and we ate it on Nonna's Noodles (tre colori linguine).

Earlier in the week we had a second round of a soup I had made for friends last weekend. We had quite a bit of stock from a recently roasted turkey that included lots of the little bits of meat from the bones. We also had on hand a local delicata squash, carrots, potatoes and onions and also some pink beans. I got another squash, a beautiful one called gold nugget and found a minestrone recipe that used these items with a little adaptation. It turned out to be a beautiful soup - the bright oranges and golds of the squashes contrasting with the dark green kale.

Autumn Minestrone/Turkey Soup (adapted from an Epicurious recipe)
  • 2 tablespoons canola or other vegetable oil
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
  • 2 1/2 cups peeled and cubed winter squash (1 delicata + 1 gold nugget)*
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 1/2 cup peeled and diced carrots
  • 2 1/2 cups cubed potatoes
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 4 cups turkey broth (with lots of the little bits from the carcass) + 2 cups water
  • 4 cups chopped kale (Mustard Seed Farm in St. Paul, Oregon)
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked pink beans (Draper Girls Farm, Parkdale)
* recipe recommends acorn, delicata, or buttercup

Cook the dried beans in advance. Warm the oil in a large soup pot on medium heat. Add the onions and garlic, and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the squash, celery, carrots, potatoes, oregano, salt, pepper, and water and cook for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are almost done. Add the kale and beans and simmer for another 20 minutes, until the kale is tender and the beans are hot.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

One Week To Go - Do You Have Your Inauguration Plans?

I guess it's time to retire the Bush Countdown Clock. Cue large sigh of relief.

We have a small crowd with whom we watched the debates and then gathered again on election night. So, it only seemed right to follow through and invite them for dinner on Inauguration evening. I'm thinking theme food (?). At the least maybe some sugar cookies that we can decorate with red, white and blue frosting ala the cake that Ian made with the Obama symbol in the frosting. We're also contemplating some kind of simple activity in the spirit of service that the President-elect has inspired in so many people. Maybe writing letters to our representatives? cooking extra food to take to someone? Maybe just making a plan to do something else later on.

I ay have said this earlier. But, this election and inauguration together make probably the only time I wish I was back at the school where I was principal at the end of my career. Since at least 65% of my students looked like Sash and Malia, I really don't think it is possible to overestimate the significance of our choice to them and to their families. And, listening to the current principal describe what it was like at school on November 5, I know my hunch is correct.

So, today's post is dedicated to once again seeing a young family in the White House. I actually remember a lot of that kind of talk from 1960 - my first memories of a presidential election. I was 11 - old enough to watch election night and the inauguration on TV.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Thank you, Cucumber and Scallion

Thanks to Cucumber and Scallion and the family who care for them, I got to have two very local, very fresh eggs for breakfast this morning. (The picture is of the four remaining eggs that we received.) With such a gift, the dilemma was - how to use them? Clearly the best thing was to cook them fairly straight up to enjoy the uniqueness of eggs from chickens I have actually met. I almost poached them, but I have not poached eggs very often and was worried about making a mess of these special eggs. So, I went conservative and fell back on one of my favorites - scrambled. And, to go with them, I had a piece of toast from Grand Central como bread with strawberry jam made by my friend Kelli. So many gifts this morning!

So, many thanks to the girls and to Jennifer, Ian, Liam and Graham. Your gift was a treat. I think this is the first time (at least in a very long time) that I've eaten eggs that came directly from a source I know.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Dark Days Challenge - Week 8 Report

Well, we've had a pretty good week for sticking with mostly local foods. For a meal to report on, I decided to describe a dinner we had earlier in the week when our niece joined us. We had a squash tart and a simple fruit salad (Oregon pears, Washington apples, California oranges).

The tart was made with a butternut squash and onions that came from an earlier trip to the farmer's market. (It's been getting more difficult to get to those since the choices are pretty limited during the winter months.) The cream, eggs and cheeses all were bought at the grocery store but did come from various places in Oregon.

The cheeses in the tart - Fern's Edge Goat Dairy in Lowell (southeast of Eugene) and Willamette Valley Cheese Co. in Salem.

The onions get carmelized.

The filling after the squash has been roasted and everything else has been mixed in.

Forgot to take a picture of the tart after it was cooked, but before we ate dinner. So, this is what was left and kind of a hurried, blurry photo. The quality of the picture is not at all indicative of the taste of the tart. I don't have a tart pan, so the pie crust doesn't quite fit. But, it sure tasted great and the leftovers made for a terrific breakfast.

The recipe is from Epicurious.

Roasted butternut squash and caramelized onion tart
pastry dough
pie weights or raw rice for weighting shell
1 small butternut squash (about 1 pound)
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil plus about 2 teaspoons for brushing squash
1 small onion
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 whole large egg
1/2 large egg yolk (1/2 tablespoon)
1/3 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup grated Italian Fontina cheese (about 2 1/2 ounces)
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan (about 1 ounce)
1/4 cup crumbled mild soft goat cheese (about 1 ounce)
1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh herbs such as rosemary, thyme, and marjoram leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup fine fresh bread crumbs
On a lightly floured surface roll out dough into a 12-inch round (about 1/8 inch thick). Fit dough into an 11-inch tart pan with a removable fluted rim. Freeze shell 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Line shell with foil and fill with pie weights or raw rice.
Bake shell in middle of oven until edge is pale golden, about 20 minutes. Carefully remove foil and weights or rice and bake shell 10 minutes more, or until bottom is golden. Leave oven on. Cool shell in pan on a rack.

Halve squash and scoop out seeds.
Lightly brush each cut side with about 1 teaspoon oil and on a baking sheet roast squash, cut sides down, in middle of oven 40 minutes, or until soft.

While squash is roasting, thinly slice onion and in a heavy skillet cook in 1/2 tablespoon butter and remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons oil over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Cool squash and scoop out flesh.
In a food processor purée squash. Add whole egg, egg yolk, and cream and blend well.
Transfer mixture to a large bowl and stir in cheeses, herbs, onion, salt, and pepper to taste. Pour filling into shell, smoothing top.

In a small skillet melt remaining tablespoon butter and stir in bread crumbs until combined well.
Sprinkle bread crumb mixture evenly over filling. Bake tart in middle of oven 40 minutes, or until filling is set. Cool tart in pan on rack 10 minutes and carefully remove rim.

Transfer mixture to a large bowl and stir in cheeses, herbs, onion, salt, and pepper to taste. Pour filling into shell, smoothing top.

In a small skillet melt remaining tablespoon butter and stir in bread crumbs until combined well.
Sprinkle bread crumb mixture evenly over filling. Bake tart in middle of oven 40 minutes, or until filling is set. Cool tart in pan on rack 10 minutes and carefully remove rim. Serves 6 to 8.

Celebrity Guest Photographer

Family members - you've already seen these. But, I got Aileen's permission to share them for anyone else reading the blog.
For those who don't know her, our daughter, Aileen, is a biologist. She is just about at the end of what I think is at least her 5th trip to the Antarctic peninsula. She does research involving penguins, primarily, but also other sea birds, and various mammals that cohabit with the penguins - like fur seals. On her previous trips, she has lived on one of the islands off the peninsula for roughly 2-4 months or so. This year she is on a different sort of project involving working on a cruise ship (National Geographic), helping with naturalist kinds of duties and then doing census work at the various islands where the ship stops.

She has been sending emails with reports of what they are doing and seeing and, in her last one, she included these three photographs as a sample. They are all on South Georgia Island. The top one is an elephant seal, the next one shows some of the island when she and a friend were on a hike (she's in the red jacket), and the last one is a king penguin with its egg. One of the things we always look forward to the next time we see her after her Antarctic trips is seeing her photographs.

If you're interested in a whole lot more detail, read the text below - her last email. But, otherwise, I just thought it would be fun to show something completely different on my blog, by way of showing something about one of our kids. I actually asked the other one (of our kids) to share some of his photographs on the blog when he was home for Christmas, but he has to format them and it's hard to say how long that will take!

Here is her email report from the last part of her trip:
January 6, 2009

Hello all,

We've just spent the past four days at South Georgia, a sub-Antarctic
island located northeast of the Antarctic Peninsula, and more or less
due west of Cape Horn. The waters just north of the Southern Ocean
are extremely productive biologically and support lots of birds and
mammals. Since there is little land mass available, millions of these
birds and seals crowd onto South Georgia to nest and to have their

One of the most famous residents is the king penguin. These are one
of the biggest of the penguin species, and they have lovely shades of
orange and yellow outlining their black and white pattern. They
aren't particularly afraid of people, since they have no land
predators, and they nest out in the open by the tens of thousands. We
spent several long mornings and afternoons at king penguin colonies
where we'd just park on the outskirts and watch the penguins
displaying and wait for birds to rotate their eggs (which they carry
on their feet). Meanwhile, other penguins would come and go right
next to us, occasionally stopping to try to figure out what we new
critters on the beach were.

At the same sites with the king penguins, we also saw tons of
non-breeding elephant seals and fur seals. The elephant seals have
already finished breeding for the season, and the newly weaned pups
are lying like fat sausages on the beach along with some of the
molting sub-adults. Their main activities at this point are sleeping,
burping, and farting; but, occasionally a pair of younger males will
start fighting – biting at each others necks and bumping chests. The
fur seals are right in the midst of breeding, but owing to the mass
density of fur seals at South Georgia, and their propensity to bite
anyone coming into their territories, we only visited those colonies
via zodiac. Still, these were great views of the swarms of seals.
The fur seal population was nearly exterminated during the sealing
days, and fifty years ago there were only a handful around. The
population has apparently made a strong recovery; people who have
visited here over the years say they saw more seals by far this year
than they ever have before.

South Georgia was also a major site of whaling during the first half
of the twentieth century, and we visited several of the old whaling
stations. While we were in the area, we saw few whales, but in those
days they were able to kill hundreds of whales a day without going far
from shore.

We did some legitimate hiking while we were on the island, including
one beautiful day when the ship dropped us at one point and picked us
up later in the day at another. Another big highlight was getting to
see the nests of light-mantled sooty albatross, one of the most
beautiful birds around. And our trip to South Georgia ended with a
close-up sighting of some southern right whales, a species that is
only just beginning to recover from the whaling days.


Sunday, January 4, 2009

Dark Days Challenge - Week 7 Report

This has been a week of borrowing ideas from locavore writers - Barbara Kingsolver and two local eating bloggers. Because I have very little shame, I decided to spotlight our homemade pizza for this week's report Dark Days check in. The only reason for any shame is that the crust of the pizza shared some of the less fine qualities of cardboard. On the other hand, some of the toppings came to the pizza from our garden via the freezer and I am very proud of making that small first step of saving some of the food we'd grown to be able to use it this time of year. Please see the last post for a description of the mostly local pizza dinner. Many thanks to the kind folks who are offering suggestions via comments. Any advice or tips are welcome to advance the cause of my next attempt.

In addition to that meal, I found some other ideas to borrow while reading the Dark Days reports and other blogs. These were actually much more successful and got favorable reviews from friends and family.

One of the Mixed Greens bloggers shared a recipe for cranberry upside down cake which I made with Oregon cranberries for our New Year's Eve supper.

"Late Bloomer" at Soccer Moms and Single Chicks wrote about their Christmas morning breakfast casserole in her Dark Days report last week. It looked and sounded so good that I made it for our New Years brunch. I made a couple of modifications - using the suggestion of cooking the potatoes first, adding green peppers and onions to them and also used less sausage than suggested.

My thanks for the inspiration and the wonderful ideas and recipes.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Pizza SOS!

OK, I know that just yesterday I asked for some advice in my blog and now here I am again asking for more. This time it's about food, yesterday it was knitting. I guess I should be happy that those are two things vexing me because it indicates what I can spend time on these days. Even though I'm now a year and a half out from being a principal, I still have this almost daily appreciation for the gift of time. Much as I loved that school and that job, it really did take over my life when I was there.

All that aside, I decided to try the Kingsolver family's Friday Night Pizza last night (concidentally, Friday night). In the past I've not had a huge success with homemade pizza. But, so many people I know make it and this has to be a well-vetted recipe. After all, they wrote about making it every week in their book. But, this one I made last night had a pretty cardboard-y crust. So, I'm looking for pizza crust tips.

First off, I do not have a pizza stone. Yes, I know that's the big thing you're supposed to have for making pizza. But, I hate to invest $ in a special thing - especially when I'm not very confident I will make it very often. I don't know if a partial contributor was not using tomato sauce. I had some leftover pesto which I used instead of tomato sauce and it was a little skimpy because there wasn't a whole lot left.

I think the toppings were pretty good, but maybe too much? (this actually went on two pizzas)

Pesto made with our garden basil last summer, Oregon shitake mushrooms, roasted cherry tomatoes also out of the garden (roasted and frozen in the early fall). And Japanese eggplant. I got it out of a big box of them at church a week or two ago - not sure where they came from prior to that.

The finished product. I would say the roasted cherry tomatoes were definitely the highlight of the whole thing. But, the crust was very dry. Help!!!

Friday, January 2, 2009

The Good, The Bad and the Practical - Knitting Update

On my "things to do when I retire" list was learning to knit. I got started on that one this past summer. A couple of earlier posts gave the early reports on this "new trick". So, I thought it was time for an update.

After taking the hat class and making one hat, I started working on a couple of scarves. This is the GOOD SCARF:
very nice, easy to work on, very cooperative. In fact, I just finished it last night. The yarn is a tweed lambswool, made in England, purchased on sale at the yarn store in Manzanita (T-Spot). I found a very simple pattern on the internet - Aran Print, 8 rows of seed stitch and 2 rows of garter stitch. So, any experienced knitter will immediately see why this scarf was a successful project for a beginner.

This, on the other hand, is the BAD SCARF ( or what little has been completed on it after much time spent):

I also got this yarn and a pattern at the T-Spot. It looked like a good next step in terms of learning something new. I signed up for "Knitting Studio" - a class at Twisted where you bring a project and can get some help while you work. Very nice instructor, much patience and STILL - I knitted and ripped out, knitted and ripped out...... Then, I decided to get different needles - these are called "TURBO" needles. You'd think that would really make for some significant forward momentum. But, no. Not on the EVIL scarf. This photo represents fairly major progress and yet I've now made another mistake that I don't know how to figure out. This will be a real test of my patience as to whether or not this ever becomes a scarf.

And, the "practical" refers to what became my Christmas gift project. Some of these patterns were called dishcloths, some washcloths, but my favorite was the "spa cloth". Basically, they're all the same kind of thing, made with cotton yarn, using various free-on-the-internet patterns. The first one was my very first start-to-finish project. It has some noticable flaws, but actually works quite well. Then, off and on over the past few months, I made seven more that I gave to various friends and family as parts of Christmas gifts. Most were variations of these two:

So now I feel ready to try something new. Based on advice from a friend who is a knitter, I think my next project will be a felted bag. Probably something I can use - like a bag to carry around a knitting project I am working on. But, there are TONS of patterns for them and the trick is to find something that is just enough challenging so that I learn something new, but not so much that it is way over my head. If any of you are knitters, send suggestions!