Monday, September 14, 2009


I don't like eating leftovers, so sometimes I try to fool myself by putting things I've made away in reused deli containers. Then I can pretend I've bought myself something nice to eat. Like this really tasty bean salad I made yesterday...freshly cooked mixed dry beans from Sun Gold Farm, with onion, carrot, celery, radishes, and vinaigrette. I made the salad to take to a swifts-watching potluck and a lady from a neighboring potluck crashed our picnic blanket and sampled our vegetarian delights. The beans got a positive review.

Also, I got three surprise gifts of jam left on my porch today while I was at work! Awesome. Strawberry, raspberry, and crabapple-basil. And equally exciting, a friend let me pick a lot of seedless grapes and I'm going to make raisins tonight!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

That's not good. But THAT is.

Theresa and I were outside by Ophelia's enclosure at 6:45 this morning, three minute after sunrise, to see how she was receiving her new chicks. Not well, it turned out--the poor baby Brahma was making her high, loud alarm call and trying to get away from vicious pecking. We freaked out and kicked Ophelia out of her spot and brought the chicks back inside again. They are still doing fine, but I'm disappointed that we won't get to see Ophelia raising chicks.

When I looked in the fridge this morning, I noticed that the last cup of our milk from last week was looking a little borderline, so I made waffles. Whole wheat flour, white flour, baking powder, a little oil, pinch of salt, a spoonful of ground flaxseed and enough milk to make a batter. I let it sit for a minute to let the flaxseed do its sticky thing, and then waffled away in my "five of hearts" waffle maker. My mom got it for me because a childhood friend's mom had one and I LOVED to go to her house for waffles. I made enough waffles to use up the milk, so there are some leftover to be Theresa's toaster waffles tomorrow!

Monday, September 7, 2009

...uh oh.

Things aren't going well with the chicks. Ophelia did not believe that they were here own babies...this morning the poor little chicks were shivering in a corner while Ophelia continued brooding the the opposite corner. Then she bolted out of her little enclosure and left the chicks alone while she ate and ran around. We brought the chicks back inside to their heat lamp, and them Ophelia went back to brooding! We tried the whole slipping chicks under her thing again tonight, but I'm not too optimistic.

Today I went to the Oregon State Fair! We got to see rabbits and cavies, goats, pigs, quilts, and the prize-winning baked goods, jams, and jellies. We noticed that these two sisters, Katy and Lena, had won first and second prize in almost every category for junior division canning and preserving...and then we SAW THEM get their prizes! They both won a lot, but the younger sister, age 11, had the most points of anyone in the junior division and she was extremely excited to stand on stage and receive her fistfuls of ribbons and $200.

Next year I promise myself that I will enter something in the State Fair. I can totally win a ribbon for something! Especially if I choose a category without many entries, like dehydrated foods...right?

Although I always look forward to finding the best candy apple at the state fair, I packed a local-foods lunch and brought it with me. Roasted vegetables, pluots, pear, cheese. And I never did find a caramel apple that seemed worth eating. Also, after my ice cream cone from the Oregon Dairywomen, I couldn't really handle more sweets...

Tomorrow is the first day of school for Theresa, so I get to pack a lot of lunches this week! I hope some of them might be photo-worthy.

Sunday, September 6, 2009


My chicken, Ophelia, is supposed to be a good layer...a chicken who has been highly bred for egg production and therefore has little maternal instinct and rarely becomes broody. Yeah, right...she has become broody TWICE in one year! The first time was this spring, and Theresa and I decided that the next time it happened, we would get her a chick and let her raise it. we got two new chicks at the Urban Farm Store! We tried to get just one, but she started making such pathetic lonely sounds that we had to get a second one. We chose a Delaware and a buff Brahma. The Brahma is going to be enormous, I'm a little scared. Well, if she lives long enough. It is possible that tomorrow morning our little babies will be pecked to death or suffocated, although I am hoping for a better outcome!

We slipped the chicks under Ophelia tonight while she was half asleep, and a little while later they seemed to be alive and happily peeping under there, and we are hoping that tomorrow morning when Ophelia wakes up she will believe that these chicks are her very own little darlings. If this works, she will do all the work of raising them, including keeping them warm and making sure they are safe and well fed.

And by the way, the food at Biwa was very good last night. Really nice presentation and most of the dishes were great. Surprise fantastic item: kimchi kara-age...battered and deep fried pieces of radish and napa cabbage kimchi! They were highly reminiscent of spicy fried calamari, which is one of my favorite forbidden foods. The udon though...not so good. Noodles were obviously handmade, but tough and not supple, without much flavor, and the broth was flavorless too! The bowl of noodles was pretty, with grated radish on top and hot pepper flakes on the side, just like you'd want it, but it just didn't taste like anything. The ramen was much better. And the tsukemono plate was beautiful. Lots of kinds of pickled vegetables--carrot, paper-thin radish slices, tiny radish cubes with red shiso, eggplant, lotus root, takuwan, and one big juicy umeboshi.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Good Day for Rain Barrels

Not that I have rain barrels to get working on that. Also on gutter cleaning. Did anyone else forget what rain sounded like? I was so surprised to hear the sound of heavy, steady rain this morning! Summers in Portland spoil me--months at a time without more than a sprinkle of rain.
I'm happy that all my plants are finally getting a DEEP drink of water. Especially the potatoes. Their roots are so deep, I don't think I ever give them quite as much water as they'd like.

A friend from high school is coming to town tonight and we're going to eat at Biwa! I'm excited...I haven't been there in at least a year! As I recall from the last time I was there, they make the best ramen I've had in Portland (and no, it isn't vegetarian) but their veggie options left something to be desired. Mainly I was grumpy about how they slapped what tasted like just plain miso on slabs of tofu and called it dengaku. Dengaku has a couple more ingredients in it which balance its flavors between salty and sweet, and give it a silky texture...plain miso is not a good substitute! (However, I did appreciate that Biwa uses my favorite locally made miso.)

Dengaku recipes vary in their proportions, but they always include miso (red or white), sake, and sugar. Some include an egg yolk for a smooth and glossy texture. You might start with three tablespoons of miso, 2 of sake, and 1 of sugar (with or without an egg yolk)--place all of these in your smallest pot, and cook over low heat, stirring, until smooth and uniformly thick. (You can also use the microwave, especially if you're not using egg yolk.) Taste and adjust sugar and sake amounts if it is too salty or too thick. Then brush onto sliced sweet potatoes and cook on the grill until sauce bubbles and caramelizes. That's my personal favorite way to use this sauce, but it's also great as a topping for grilled tofu or pan-fried eggplant.

Although I'm getting all judgmental about how to make tofu dengaku, please don't get judgmental about the local-ness of the food I'm about to devour--it's in my personal set of rules that I can eat at any restaurant as long as I'm not doing it excessively or purposely to avoid the effort of preparing something local.

Speaking of Japanese food, did you know that spinach crowns are "the most delicious part of spinach", according to a favorite cookbook of mine, Good Food from a Japanese Temple? I always try and save them from the compost bin when another person at my house cooks spinach greens. The whole crown, including lower stems, tiny inner leaves, the rosy connection between stem and root, and the little bit of attached root are all not only edible, but delicious. I wash them, soak them in clean water overnight to loosen even more dirt, and then boil them in salted water for about three minutes. They are good with just a little soy sauce or with a miso, sesame, or nut dressing.

And now for a picture of my CSA garden, which is a place I love so much that I want to take out-of-town guests there to this picture you can see castor bean (no, we're not going to eat it), quinoa, and sunflowers.

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Reuben Pizza

I have a day off work today, so I'm sort of puttering around doing things on my to-do list and making good food. I finally pulled out the giant tomatillo plant that hasn't made a single tomatillo yet, and transplated a few little tatsoi starts in its spot in the garden. We have a big vase full of tomatillo flowers now.

My loaf of honey-wheat bread turned out pretty well, but with a little of that homemade-bread heaviness. I had some for breakfast with homemade Hood strawberry freezer jam and with Ann & Kelly's tomatoes. I'm not going to run out and use that recipe again, but hopefully I won't be foolish enough to ever have 2 cups of leftover porridge again!

Yesterday I picked up an entire flat of imperfect peaches for free, as well as a big bag of free pears that Theresa spotted on a walk around the neighborhood.

I made a huge vat of peach sauce, and cut up the peaches that were firm enough to cut and froze them. I'm thinking that the peach sauce might be a good base for peach ice cream? Or just on top of vanilla ice cream! Or we can eat it like applesauce. Or put it on pancakes or shortcakes! Or put some in the freezer for later...oh wait, the freezer is completely full. I really want a deep freeze so I can keep all my stores in it! Since I can't stop myself from collecting piles of whatever is in season and trying to preserve it, I think I deserve a place to keep my goodies. Any tips on what kind I should get?

For lunch I invented a new recipe that may sound strange. Reuben pizza! I made pizza crust with the caraway rye bread dough I had in the fridge (you have to get Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes A Day out of the library if you don't own it!) and put leftover tomato sauce from yesterday's breakfast, homemade sauerkraut, and cheddar on top. I sweetened the tomato sauce with a little honey to make it taste more like Russian dressing. Then baked for 15 minutes at 475, and the pie was beautiful and really tasty. The crust might have been the best part--light, with little crispy air pockets, and those caraway seeds to remind you that it was no ordinary pizza. Call me Eastern European, but I love the flavor of warm cooked sauerkraut, and I would definitely make this pizza again!

The last thing I want to talk about today is the creepy mystery tomatoes growing my backyard. It looks like we've had a visit from Bunnicula! Two of the three unidentified tomato plants that my housemates brought home turned out to make eerily WHITE tomatoes. One of them is a white Roma, which I've never seen or heard of before! Even Google returns no results for "white roma tomato" perhaps we have the only ones in the world? Doubtful. Further investigation turns up "Ivory Egg" plum tomatoes, so that's probably what we've got. But compared to the pictures I found, ours are much whiter!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

To Do

I must bake bread today! But first I have to clean out the fridge and make room for the bowl of bread dough. Do you know about the book Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day? Well, I got it for Christmas last year after using one of the recipes from it obsessively for months beforehand. Guess what? It really works! Well, actually, I always found that I had to turn the oven heat down and cook the loaves for about 30 extra minutes at the end of baking, but once I did that, the bread turned out great, and it was very convenient to be able to make four loaves over a period of two weeks with all the prep done on the first day.

Also on the to-do list for today is to print burning bridge cards...another job involving the fridge. The cards are made with Print Gocco and I keep the screens with ink on them in the freezer between uses. That keeps the ink from drying out and makes the screens last longer--cleaning them makes them wear out pretty quickly. I have to get some more cards to Elsa & Sam!

For breakfast today I made an egg (from my chickens) poached in fresh tomato sauce with basil. It was good, but would have been better with a piece of fresh-baked bread!

I went a little overboard with the bread-making. In my fridge there is dough for two loaves of honey-wheat bread with (you're gonna love this) COOKED GRAINS, aka leftover porridge, and also dough for three loaves of caraway rye. I couldn't wait for the second rising, so I made myself a single roll for lunch. It was the honey wheat, and thankfully, the whole grain bits taste great in it. I hope that the final product has a lighter texture, but even with the rising rushed, the roll was pretty good. Slowly rising in the fridge is a sandwich loaf of honey wheat that I plan to bake tonight, and I have two weeks to make the rye bread.

The lump of mashed potatoes-looking-stuff on my plate is actually a special treat: soft and delicious Black Sheep Creamery rosemary-garlic cheese. Also impressively good: Reliant grapes. You can get them at New Seasons right now, and you probably should.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

There's a reason why gruel went out of style!

Yesterday my friend Serena came over to pick tomatoes with her two little girls. The girls brought their Easter baskets and filled them up with pretty, multicolored cherry tomatoes--it was so cute! Theresa gave them some eggs from our chickens to take home in their baskets too.

The porridge never did get to a point that I would call appetizing, but then, I really dislike oatmeal and all hot cereals, so I don't know what gave me the idea that I would start liking it now. However, I am determined, so I made pan-fried porridge-cakes with kinpira-style vegetables for breakfast. I won't give the recipe for the cakes, because they were not so good that they should be repeated. But Kinpira vegetables are delicious. When I lived in Japan, Kinpira Gobo was one of my favorite foods...and I was in love with the Kinpira Gobo Burger from Mos Burger. It had two toasted cakes of rice for a bun, and a pile of warm Kinpira Gobo in the middle.

Here is my simple formula for making Kinpira vegetables at home. The usual vegetables are gobo (burdock root) and carrots, but I like to add shiitake mushrooms too. And today I also included small batons of turnip and a handful of cauliflower florets. (And left out the can find it here, but it's not exactly readily available. I got some last spring from Winter Green Farm at the farmer's market.)

Stir-fry about three cups of mixed vegetables, preferably including burdock, carrot, and shiitake mushrooms, all cut into slivers or strips, over high heat, in 2 tablespoons of toasted sesame oil, with a light sprinkle of salt. (The traditional way of cutting vegetables for kinpira is to cut the roots as if you are sharpening a pencil, so you get sort of diamond-shaped slivers.) Add a few shakes of hot red pepper flakes. When vegetables are nearly done, add a generous tablespoon each of sake and soy sauce, and cook until there is almost no liquid left. Serve with toasted sesame seeds on top. (If you don't have sake, that's ok, just leave it out; sometimes I also add a teaspoon of sugar; and sometimes I leave out the sugar and add a clove of garlic.)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Day 1: Local Food Challenge

So far so good: multi-grain biscuits, cheese, and applesauce for breakfast. Yum. My porridge turned out kind of awful though--not thick enough and the rye berries give it a strange sourness. I'm cooking it down to get it thicker, and then I'll see if I can make it taste better.

So It Begins...

September 1st, the first day of my second annual Local Foods Challenge. I'm up late working on food for tomorrow...went to the Alberta Street Co-op tonight to look for a few more local things--I was hoping to find walnuts and black beans, but no such luck. It's pinto beans and hazelnuts for us until the Saturday Farmer's Market where I hope to find another source of vegetarian protein. (There's always the Tillamook Medium Cheddar Baby Loaf, but I'm trying not to count on cheese for ALL of my protein.)

These are the local grains I've found:

Rye, whole grain and flour
Wheat, whole grain and both white and whole wheat flours
Farro, whole grain (a favorite for soups and grain salads)
Wild rice

Local beans:

Only pinto so far, but I've found cranberry beans, white beans, "sulfur beans", black beans, and a few other varieties in the past so I'm hopeful that I'll track down some other legumes.

Local nuts and seeds:

Pumpkin seeds (shelled)
I hope to find walnuts too. They're all over the street, but I'd like for someone else to get the green shells off for me if possible.

Local dairy products:

This one's easy. I have a milkman from Noris Dairy who brings me milk and yogurt every week, and there are so many good local cheeses at the Farmer's Market and in stores. I'm a fan of Fraga Farms' creamy chevre and goat feta. Plus Tillamook and Bandon are both only about three hours' drive from here, so their cheap 2-pound blocks of cheddar are always a good option. There's also my favorite butter, Rose Valley Organic.

Local vegetables:

In season now we have just about everything, including good staples like potatoes, turnips, beets, cauliflower, and carrots. Winter and summer squash, all kinds of salad and cooking greens, mountains of tomatoes, onions, garlic, you name it, it's available.

Local fruits:

Prune plums are coming in and a couple of other late plum varieties, Bartlett pears are dropping off the trees, a lot of apples are getting ripe, local grapes are just showing up in the markets, some fig varieties are getting ripe now, and Asian pears are also ready to eat. I've also got some dried and frozen peaches and frozen blackberries that I'm excited to eat.

Prepared foods:

I'll be baking bread, biscuits, and so on starting tomorrow. We have some apple-pear sauce that I made tonight. And in honor of National Trail Mix Day, some cherry-hazelnut-pumpkin seed trail mix. Also a little bit of hazelnut butter that would be good on apple slices. And I've got the crock pot going with some very coarsely ground grains which I hope will turn into porridge by morning!

Wish us luck, and if anyone else is up for joining the September Local Food Challenge please comment with tips and your experiences!

Happy Trail Mix!