Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Great Spring Freezer Clean-Out: Dark Days report

I had decided that part of my Lenten discipline would be to work on using up food in the freezer and tackle some of the overfull closet/storage areas. So, Friday I headed to the basement freezer and wasted a bit of energy with the door open examining what was available. Recently our smaller freezer that is part of the fridge got itself into trouble and had to be evacuated. I was out of town and Grady's solution was to haul everything down to the basement. Consequently, that one downstairs really got full and was not at all organized. He was in a bit of a hurry since first priority was to deal with the water leaking upstairs.

Well, long story short, I moved things around and got an idea of what all we have. Here is how my reasoning started - I knew that I had unintentionally ended up with two bunches of cilantro, so I wanted to make something that could use some of that. I pulled out beef stew meat, a small leftover package of chorizo, some of the frozen jalapenos out of our garden, and decided to make chili.

Given that this is the last week of the 2009 Dark Days Challenge, if I'd planned ahead better, I would have tried to come up with something more interesting and with a higher % of local items. But I didn't. So, I kind of feel like I'm closing out with sort of a fizzle. But, hey, the chili was very good and the beef share in the freezer has shrunk, cans of beans and tomatoes were used out of the cupboard, and half the cilantro is gone! The only thing I got at the grocery store were non-local bell peppers.

I did find that I was in good company when I read Anita's post (40 Days with my freezer) on Married with Dinner. They have gone into freezer clean-out mode, as have several of the folks who wrote comments to her. I felt lucky, though, not to have had any heavy packages of meet fall out and nearly hit my toe, although I can easily see how that can happen.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

New Kitchen Tools

Well, not real new. But, I'm catching up on some blog ideas hanging in the back of my brain closet. Recently I used two new additions to my kitchen tool collection for one evening's dinner.

I made a pinenut-crusted fish using a recipe from Moosewood's "Simple Suppers". This was the product of a trip to Powell's for Norway books and maps. While Grady and Ardie were browsing in the travel section, I hung out in the cookbook department. And managed to find something that is new to me and which looked really useful.

A while back when a few of us were taking a cooking class, the chef showed us a Messermeister peeler - with a very sharp serrated blade. He used it to peel an apricot for a dessert. I have found it to be extraordinarily useful. In this case, I used it to peel some delicata squash for a risotto.

This is the squash and chard risotto with fried sage leaves - a variation on a recipe in The Farm to Table Cookbook.

Later, I'll show you my terrific new kitchen shears, but I think this is enough excitement for one evening.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Snoopy Bloggers

Ok, so I'm a little behind on blogging. Really, it's not Facebook. Current best excuse is work - quite a bit more than half time recently and likely to continue until school staffing season is over.

Meanwhile, Pam issued a challenge to show the inside of our fridges after posting a photo of hers and admitting to being a bit of a voyeur. Laura took her up on it. And I just have to join in to represent those of us who are a little less organized in the refrigerator department. Theirs were way too clean and tidy looking.

By way of local foods, there is the steak we grilled recently from our beef share, the leftover risotto with delicata squash, some chard in the vegetable drawer. And then there is the salsa - an item of such importance to warrant having two on hand at a time. One is an organic salsa from Muir Glen in Sedro Woolley, Washington. But, the one that I think is best is Zuniga's Handcrafted Salsa. Zuniga Foods in in Tigard, but the salsa is processed just a short distance from where we live in Portland - hand diced in small batches, very fresh and tasty.

So much for snooping in our refrigerators, maybe next we can reveal medicine cabinets!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Dark Days Challenge - Week 16 Report

For our Dark Days Eat Local Challenge meal this week, our closest effort is today's dinner - a rather traditional meat and potatoes kind of meal. I went down to survey the freezer and we still have a fair amount from our Kookoolan Farms beef share. So, I pulled a sirloin tip steak.

Our dinner was the sirloin tip steak grilled on the back porch, a potatoe casserole, and some sauteed chard with garlic.

the steak - Kookoolan Farms in Yamhill
potatoes - Washington was the closest I could find for the russets
cream - Tillamook
Chicken broth - made from the last whole chicken we cooked
cheddar - Provvista Organic sharp cheddar. Unfortunately, this probably is not made locally, just imported or distributed by a local company. Not enough information on the label. But, the cheese tastes very good.
Red chard - part of it came from somewhere in Washington, but, believe it or not, we also had some growing in our pot in the backyard - same one we planted last spring. Woo-hoo!

Creamy Potato Casserole
8-10 servings
2.5 lb russet potatoes, scrubbed, skins left on (about 5 medium)
1 C whipping cream
1 C chicken broth
4 medium garlic cloves, minced
1/4 C unsalted butter
3/4 C grated parmesan
3/4 t salt
1/2 t pepper
1.5 C shredded sharp cheddar cheese

boil potatoes until just barely tender, 15-17 minutes. Drain. when cool enough to handle, peel and shred. Place shredded potatoe sin large bowl and set aside.

Bring cream and broth to simmer in saucepan. remove from heat and stire in garlic, butter and parmesan. Pour cream mixture intow bowl with potatoes and stir. Stir in salt and pepper. Scrape into 2 qt. oval baking dish and sprinkle with cheddar. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and continue cooking until top is nicely browned, 20-25 min.
from Cook's Country magazine, published in The Oregonian

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Poblano Bread Pudding

I've kind of lost my rhythm with local foods eating lately. The out of town travel threw me off and I haven't gotten organized since returning. But, we have still been eating in the meantime. And I have been on a different campaign, which is to use up things we have on hand. So, here is what we had tonight - Poblano Bread Pudding.

For many years, our favorite restaurant in Manzanita was the Blue Sky Cafe. It was a wonderful restaurant - good food, good cocktails, very friendly staff. We loved it. But, alas, the owners decided to close a couple years ago. I held out hope for a while that they might change their mind or a similar restaurant might move in. But now the space has been taken over by the bakery. And the bakery is very good as well - lovely baguettes, rolls, and other bread things. But, I am getting sidetracked. While the Blue Sky was still open, one of their regular items was this Poblano Bread Pudding. Since I really loved it, I finally asked one day if they would share the recipe. So, here it is - with their original amounts and my modifications. As you will see, it is designed for a very large batch. Being a former math teacher, it was obvious that many of the ingredients were in amounts that would be easily divisible by 5, so that is what I did - or best approximations thereof. I think I had hastily copied the recipe from something, so the amount of the poblano chiles is, I think, actually incorrect. But, estimation is another good math skill and it has always turned out well.

Poblano Bread Pudding (courtesy of Bue Sky Cafe in Mazanita, Oregon)
15 eggs (1)
1 onion, chopped (a small handful)
5 C. half and half (1 C)
2 handfuls cilantro (about half a small handful)
1 t. salt and pepper (a few quick shakes)
2 T cumin (about 2 t.)
1 handful parmesan (I actually forgot this tonight)
1T chile powder (1 t.)
5 C. jack cheese (1 C)
20-30 C bread, torn (4-5 C)
6 t roasted chiles (recipe says this would be 8-9 poblanos, but obviously this would be more than 6 t - so I used 1 poblano and it chopped up into about 2 large T.)

Whisk eggs, milk and spices. Add bread. Let soak 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add onion, chile, both cheeses and cilantro. Mix and put in baking dish.
Bake at 350 for about 40 minutes.

My approximate one-fifth recipe filled a 7 " x 11" pan (which is about the same volume as a 9 inch square pan).

I decided to make this because we had three different partial loaves of Italian or French bread - all made by local bakeries. And we also had two packages of Tillamook pepper jack (due to Grady and I not realizing what the other had gotten while shopping). The eggs and half-and-half were also from local area dairies. So, I guess it was mainly the chiles that weren't a local item in this dinner. Not as bad as I was thinking. In any case, very useful for using up that bread. I served it with glorified pinto beans and a small salad.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Rochester Trip Photos, March 09

These next two posts are just going to be a series of family pictures from my recent trip to Rochester to visit Mom. More on food - local and not - coming up.

The McHughs are in the hunt for a family dog. Since I am still in Molly withdrawal, I went along to check out some golden-doodle puppies. VERY VERY CUTE!

This little one really liked the spot Kyle made for him.

Krissy gettting geared up for St. Patrick's day while waiting for dinner at Flaherty's. Not only do they let kids in the bar area, but they give them beer trinkets. I didn't manage to score one myself, but Kyle very kindly gave his to me, so I will be set for the 17th also.

I gave my camera to Krissy while I was sitting out in another waiting area. She captured this very sweet picture of her Mom.

Finally, we got called to a table for dinner. Mom, along with the rest of us, was ready.

To be continued.....

Rochester Trip Photos, part 2

Then, there was the infamous Boggle game. Kyle is busy totaling up his score. Krissy was the official timer, keeping us from cheating. She also added up my scores for me.

Beat by my 7th grade niece. Ugh.
Tara - displaying a surprising lack of humility after beating her aunt.

The not-so-gracious LOSER.

But, hey, we were first and second, after all. And there were other people playing the game as well. (not mentioning any names)

And, no trip to Rochester would be complete without Sunday breakfast after church with the gang. Pretty good looking group. Don played hooky from church that morning. tsk, tsk.

And, lastly, have to have one more shot from the mutual admiration society of Krissy and the camera.