Tuesday, March 30, 2010

It Lives!

Oops, just kidding!  Apparently my kombucha SCOBY is healthy and happy- Amanda from Portlife gave me a little guidance via Twitter- "It should smell vinegary, not moldy or "gross" in general. A contaminated one usually has visible black/green mold, also." - and as it turns out mine smells just fine and is just bubbly- not moldy.  I'm really glad I didn't throw it out, and the funny thing is that in the past few days it has really started to look like it's supposed to.  I guess I need to go back and re-write my last entry!

I'm trying to get my schedule in order to be able to attend this class on edible and medicinal weeds through Seattle Tilth.  It falls on Easter Sunday which isn't really a problem aside from the fact that Naked Girls Reading, making rabbit stew, and a possible family engagement are all falling on the same day.  The horror!  I will find a way to work it all out.

Also!  I added a little Facebook fan box over there on the right.  Go check it out!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Two Successes and a Failure!

Oh yuck.

Can you tell what this is?  Any ideas?  Here, try looking closer.

That nasty blob of chunky, hideous, mushroomy grossness is my first attempt at growing a SCOBY.  And it is absolutely lovely!  I thought it was contaminated for a short while- but it turns out it was just bubbly.  It is now lovely and thick and ready to be used in my first real batch.  YUM!


I thought I was being so smart and crafty when I made markers for the seeds that I planted a few weeks ago.  I somehow failed to take into consideration the fact that I was using wooden skewers and an ink pen on paper.  Huge surprise- all of my tags ran.  So now I have no idea how much of what I planted and in what containers.  The alternate good news is that most of my seeds have already come up- if only I knew what they are!

I made a tiny little makeshift greenhouse out of a plastic storage container and plastic wrap.  I've only watered twice and the humidity level has been great.  I mentioned before that I'm using my SAD light as a grow light, and it seems to be doing the trick.  I had seeds coming up after 3 days.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Thumbprint Cookies with Hazelnuts and Italian Plum Lavender Jam

I have never cared too much for thumbprint cookies.  They're always too dry, or too bland, or too sweet, or too something else that doesn't sit well with me.  They remind me of mediocre holiday cookie platters and bake sales.  Lately though- I've had this weird craving for them.  I hadn't bothered to look up a recipe or really put much more thought into it, thinking that it would end up just being a waste of my time. 

I don't personally participate or follow Tuesdays with Dorie based around the book Baking: From My Home to Yours, although I read a lot of blogs by people that do.  I saw this post on The Way the Cookie Crumbles and I knew right then and there that this recipe was meant to be.

I made mine using a jar of Italian plum and lavender jam that I made last summer, and aside from adding a touch of salt, as well as only using vanilla extract (instead of almond)- I didn't change anything else.  They turned out so wonderfully that I haven't been able to stop thinking about them- despite the fact that I've eaten about 300 in the past two days.  The recipe is here if you're interested.  They are full of hazelnuts and butter, and are so simple and so delicious.

I do love you thumbprint cookies.  I'm sorry about all of those bad things I said before.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Bay View State Park on Padilla Bay

Yuck.  Today was not a happy day back at work.  Three day weekends tend to make me never want to go back.  It's painful!

We ended up picking this camp site based entirely on availability.  Apparently everyone wants to go camping during spring break.  Who knew?  Honestly, if given the choice I wouldn't go back- but we did have a really great time.  The location is a bit strange, and the view isn't much to look at.  The park is only six miles off of I-5, with miles of farm country between.  The road just sort of spits you out onto the shoreline and overlooks a huge mudflat and refinery in Anacortes.  I am usually a sucker for anything to do with salt water- but this trip I was much more enthralled with being in the woods.

My boots snuck their way into a lot of pictures.  I never get to wear them in the city, so I got a bit excited.  Forgive me.

The beach was completely covered in these tiny little shells.  We found out later that they're an invasive Japanese species that found their way in with oyster farming.  Kind of insane.  Matao said the beaches in Australia were the same way.

I am damn near positive that I had just told them to act classy.  Figures.

On Saturday we did a little mini hike up around the interpretive center.  I suckered Shana into picking nettles with me and I don't feel at all bad about it- especially since I'm the only one who got stung.  Of course.

Shana randomly spotted a letterbox, which happened to be in the same location as a geocache.  Of course we never would have found either of them if we were actually searching.

These little caterpillars were everywhere.  They're probably really bad for the plants that they live on (they were eating nettles- smart little guys!) but man oh man are they cute little suckers.

These last two pictures are extra special, even if they aren't much to look at.  The first is two of my very very favorite people in the world.  The second is our dinner on Saturday night.  Wild Alaskan coho, asparagus, herbed potatoes and carrots with Becca's amazing drunken onions, and salted rosemary bread with local goat cheese.  All prepared (minus the cheese) over our campfire. 

Sunday, March 21, 2010

We're Back!

We got back to the city early today- it was really, really nice to be out tromping around in the woods and beach mud for the weekend.  I'm counting on my new MacBook (!) to be here tomorrow, so I'll do a full picture post then.  Right now I am afraid that little miss granny iBook might completely crap out if I try to upload all of my pictures.  So for now- here is a shot of blanched nettles and a mug of super delicious nettle and clover honey tea that I made this morning.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Link Love!

I feel like I have been MIA lately.  Busy busy busy!  I'm leaving tomorrow to go camping for the weekend, so while I won't be posting for the next few days- I should have some good photos to share when I get back!  Here are a few bits and pieces for the time being. Short and sweet!

- Seabreeze Farm on Vashon has just started doing dinner and movie events which I am now dying to attend.

- Fat of the Land on miners lettuce, which is my latest love.

- Not Martha does a write up titled Super Natural Cooking at the Cookbook Club where she gets together with a group of friends who have all made dishes from the same cookbook.  I love both this idea, as well as the recipes that they used.

- Sustainable Diet admits to being imperfect in the kitchen.  Something that I always struggle with.  Check out Inedible.

- As someone who hasn't been much of a pork eater since somewhere around the age of 15- I was surprised at how badly I want to make this: Honey Ginger Pork Tenderloin.  Seriously yum.

- And on a sunny closing note- Kristatomic has a wonderful post up- Spring is Coming.

Now go outside!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Seeds, Dessert After Brunch, and Things You Should Buy Me

I am loving my weekends more and more lately.

I finally got my seeds started on Saturday.  I am using my SAD light therapy "device" as a grow light right now, which is a little ironic and silly- but as long as it works I'm happy (ha ha).

This morning we were up early, picked up groceries from the farmers market, and then I lounged around a bit drinking tea and finishing In Defense of Food.  We headed out around noon, and finally got to experience Nettletown in all of its completed glory.  Christina has done such a wonderful job with the old Sitka & Spruce space, and her menu is fantastic.  I spent a couple of days helping her out with painting/cleaning/grimy stuff before she opened and it was kind of a trip to see it all put together.  Definitely go check it out if you're in the Seattle area.  She's doing weekday lunch, and weekend brunch, with special dinner events.  If you don't remember- Christina is the author of the Wild Foods Illustrated Recipe Calendar that we gave away a few months ago.  She is using a lot of wild, foraged, and local foods in her menu as well.

After brunch Matao suggested ice cream.  I am never, ever one to say no to ice cream.  Even better if it's in the middle of the day.  Molly Moon's is apparently serving their version of breakfast until the end of March.  Washington grown steel- cut oatmeal with a scoop of ice cream.  Seriously.  Serious.  They have candied bacon.  Stop that.  Since we had just had brunch we were good and just stuck with ice cream.  Honey lavender for me.  Always.

And on the note of things you should buy me- it's really only one thing.  And I can't get over it.  It's a wooden mushroom puzzle, and you can buy it for me right here.  Hah!

How was your weekend? 

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Seed Giveaway Winners!

Seed winners are: Becca, Beeswax aka Idil, and KibitzKnitz!  I know how to hunt down Becca and Idil, but if the lovely KibitzKnitz would send me her address at renai.marie@areyoumyghost.com I will get your seeds to you!

And just so this post has a little more content- here is my current favorite picture.  It makes me laugh every time I look at it.  This is basically Ollie's dream come true.  Luna locked out on the porch, with Ollie holding her paper bag hostage.  Both of their expressions are priceless.  Mean, mean little kitty.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Campfire Gourmet

There is a very distinct part of me that loves nothing more than feasting on processed hot dogs, cheap beer, and gas station donuts for days on end.  "Days on end" being somewhere along the lines of 4-7 hours.  As a child my tolerance was never ending- the more the better!  Unfortunately that part of me seemed to fizzle out around the same time I stopped styling my hair with Elmer's glue (yes really).  Although I guess I was more of a grumpy teenager than a child at that point.  Either way.

Some of my lovelies and myself are planning a long weekend camping at Bay View State Park on Padilla Bay in just over a week.  Aside from the hot dogs that we'll consume for nostalgia's sake (and also because they're totally delicious- don't deny it), I'm hoping to do as much creative campfire cooking as patience will allow.  And don't worry- Amy dubbed me "Two Match Mielke" a few years back- so I have minimal worries about a troop of halfway-city-girls trying to cook over hot coals.  We'll be just fine.  I'm going into this knowing that sturdy aluminum foil and a good pair of long-handled tongs are going to be our best friends- I have a ridiculous amount of faith in our ability to pull this off.  Ridiculous!

Pizza: I have been anxiously awaiting my chance to grill pizzas.  I know that this was trendy ohhhhh two years ago- but since when am I that cool?  I live in an apartment in the city- we had never had a patio until this year, so really I don't feel so bad about it.  Plus- there is something so much more magical about every type of food when you are lacking walls and running water.  Serious Eats has a good guide to the basics- although they are using a less temperamental charcoal or gas grill- we'll be using wood.  I think with a few packages of Trader Joe's dough, a lot of patience, and some basic toppings we'll be eating something that at least resembles pizza.  Maybe.

Potatoes: You can go the easy route- just throw them in the fire and let them do their thing (poke a few holes first), or you can go the "fancy" route:  Slice the potatoes almost all the way through- leaving the skin on the bottom half intact.  Put a thin slice of onion between each section of potato.  Top with butter and herbs, then wrap in foil and place in the coals.  Cooking time depends on the size of your potatoes- test with a fork, and pull them out once tender.

Eggs:  I have been struggling to figure out the best way to cook eggs in an aluminum foil packet without making a huge mess.  Then (no joke) I landed on an article put together by The Girl Scouts of Western Ohio.  Who are apparently all a bunch of little friggin' geniuses.  Hash browns!  You make a "nest" of hash browns, veggies, and sausage, then dump eggs into your little nest, so they don't go running all over the place.  Seal that sucker up and cook it for 5-10 minutes.  They are so smart. 

Seafood:  Yes, really.  First of all- prawns are the perfect candidate for kabobs- which are in turn perfect for grilling.  Salmon (skin on) cooks up quickly and easily wrapped in aluminum foil.  Mussels, clams, and scallops are easy to cook in foil as well- with a little red wine they'll be perfectly steamed and wonderful.  Unfortunately the area that we're going to doesn't permit clam digging, but we're lucky to have great access to fresh seafood regardless. 

Campfire cakes: How did I not know about this before?  You dump cake batter into a hollowed out orange, put the top back on, wrap it in aluminum foil, and stick it in the fire for 5-10 minutes- and you have fresh, hot, beautifully orange infused cake.  Bread and Honey blogs about her experience here.  I would personally lean more towards a vegan cake recipe- my favorite being this.  I'd suggest mixing all of your wet and all of your dry together beforehand- then combining them once you're ready to make these.

Cinnamon rolls:  These can actually be done in the exact same manner as your cake- or you can wrap them individually in foil.  Just use good ol' crappy store bought biscuit or croissant dough, and wrap them up with lots of butter and cinnamon sugar.  You can of course just use the straight-up cinnamon rolls out of a can- but it takes a little of the fun out of it.

The two most important aspects in all of this- are the ability to keep food chilled until cooked, and the patience to allow your food to cook thoroughly before eating.  Taking along an old pot from the thrift store isn't a bad idea either- especially if cooking in aluminum foil feels like too much of a hassle.  I'd also suggest practicing general fire safety guidelines as to avoid any unnecessary incidents (such lighting your pants on fire- as I learned at 4-H Camp).

What are your favorite campfire foods?


Also- please don't forget to go here and leave a comment to enter to win a selection of organic and heirloom variety vegetable seeds.  Tomorrow is the last day!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Goat Cheese, Kale, and Beef Bacon Quiche

I don't think that I've ever really been excited about a quiche before.  And I definitely didn't wake up this morning thinking that I was going to be making a quiche.  Somehow it all came about while skimming blogs over my first mug of tea- someone had made a lovely, but rather unexciting quiche, and elsewhere there was mention of Olsen Farms selling newly produced beef bacon at the farmers market.  The farmers market that happens to be a whole three blocks from our apartment.  Hmm.

This recipe has been adapted from Madame Quiches Quiche au Fromage Recipe , and it is absolutely phenomenal.  It is the same crust, although mine was pressed into a 9" pie plate, rather than a 10 1/2" - and I have to note that I really liked it a touch thicker.  I also didn't pre-bake my crust the same way that she did hers.  I used the same quantities for the basic quiche structure, but didn't use any of her additions.  I think I've mentioned before that I can't leave good-enough alone.  Truly something that I am almost always grateful for.

Basic Pie Crust:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Large pinch sea salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut in small pieces
5 to 6 tablespoons chilled water (I put an ice cube in a glass of a water)

Dump flour and salt into the bowl of a food processor with the blade attachment in place.  Process for a few seconds to mix.  Add chilled butter cut into small pieces, then pulse in small bursts, until the butter is incorporated into the flour, and it has the texture of cornmeal with a few larger lumps.  Add the first 5 tablespoons of ice water, and continue to pulse in small bursts until the mixture begins to form into larger clumps.  Add the additional tablespoon of water if necessary.

On a well floured work surface- dump your dough out, and form into a ball.  Using a floured rolling pin, roll out your dough until it is the desired size and thickness to fit your pie plate.  Transfer to plate, and form dough to fit.  Pinching off overhanging dough, and shaping edges.  Prick the dough a few times with a fork, then freeze for half an hour, to an hour.

Preheat oven to 425 F, and bake pie crust for 15 minutes.  Remove, and leave oven on.

Quiche Filling:
6 large eggs
2/3 cup heavy cream
1 cup milk (not nonfat or 1% please!)
3-5oz fresh kale leaves
4-6 pieces of Olsen Farms beef bacon (store bought pork bacon is fine if that's what you have available- but please use a high quality variety)
3-4 oz chevre style goat cheese

Cook bacon, and set aside to drain.  Using the same pan with bacon grease, add kale leaves over medium high heat.  Add a splash of red wine or water, and cover with pan lid.  Allow to sit for 2-3 minutes, until kale is wilted and reduced to about 1/3rd original size.  Set aside.  Dice cooked bacon into 1/4" pieces.

Whisk eggs, cream, and milk in a bowl with salt and pepper to taste.  Pour a little more than half of your mixture into your pre-baked crust.  Sprinkle bacon, kale, and small chunks of goat cheese over the top- evenly distributed.  Add remaining egg mixture.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the quiche no longer wiggles in the middle when you shake it (sexy!)  It should be puffed and beautifully golden brown.

Allow to cool 10 minutes, then slice into wedges and serve.


This is the type of recipe that is only as good as the ingredients that you put into it.  For recipes that are high in eggs I always prefer to use organic and locally raised eggs that I buy from the farmers market.  The same goes with almost all of my vegetables, meat and dairy.  I know that it isn't a priority or a possibility for everyone- but the more you pay attention to the source and quality of your ingredients- the more you will be rewarded with superior taste and quality.  Even if it just means buying organic eggs from the grocery store- you will notice a difference. 

Also- please don't forget to comment on this entry- to enter to win a selection of organic and heirloom vegetable seeds.  I will be choosing three winners this coming Thursday!

  • 6 large eggs

  • 2/3 cup heavy cream or crème fraîche

  • 1 cup milk (preferably whole)

  • 6 large eggs

  • 2/3 cup heavy cream or crème fraîche

  • 1 cup milk (preferably whole)

  • 6 large eggs

  • 2/3 cup heavy cream or crème fraîche

  • 1 cup milk (preferably whole)

  • 6 large eggs

  • 2/3 cup heavy cream or crème fraîche

  • 1 cup milk (preferably whole)

  • 6 large eggs

  • 2/3 cup heavy cream or crème fraîche

  • 1 cup milk (preferably whole)

  • 6 large eggs

  • 2/3 cup heavy cream or crème fraîche

  • 1 cup milk (preferably whole)

  • 6 large eggs

  • 2/3 cup heavy cream or crème fraîche

  • 1 cup milk (preferably whole)

  • Thursday, March 4, 2010

    Giveaway! Organic and Heirloom Seeds for Spring!

    So, yeah.  I did this thing where I overbought seeds.  Already.  Can you imagine!?  There is a wonderful little organic fertilizer company just down the street from our apartment, that finally just switched over to their spring hours- which means that they're open when I'm walking home.  They just so happen to sell heaps of wonderful seeds.  Who am I to resist?


    This giveaway is going to be set up a bit differently than the others.  I will be randomly selecting three winners, each of who will get to pick out four types of seeds of their choosing.  I will divide the seeds into individual baggies with detailed planting instructions, to be delivered to each of the winners.  Easy peasy! All of the seed varieties are listed below.  I have chosen varieties that lend well to container gardening, as well as the temperamental summers of the Pacific Northwest.  Most should thrive in other growing conditions as well.

    If you're interested in winning yourself or someone else a sweet little mix of organic and heirloom seeds, just in time for spring- all you need to do is comment on this entry- letting me know which four types of seeds you'd prefer.  I will randomly pick three winners next Thursday, March 11th around 5PM Seattle (Pacific Standard) time, and announce them here.  You should be able to comment via your Google account- unregistered users please be sure to include your real name and a means to contact you.  United States and Canada only, please!


    Seed List:

    Organic Heirloom Genovese Basil from Irish Eyes- easy to grow indoors or out, and most commonly used for pesto.

    Heirloom Prairie Coneflower Echinacea from Botanical Interests- potent, and prized for its healing properties.  Yes, this is a flower, rather than a vegetable!

    Mixed Combination of Hot Peppers from Irish Eyes- this guy is going to be a bit of a surprise.  The packet contains 5-7 different varieties, that the company changes every year.  We actually had great luck growing hot peppers in Seattle last summer.

    Heirloom Siberian Tomato from Seed Savers Exchange- these are a dwarf sprawling variety with early onsets of 2-3" fruits.

    Heirloom Combination of Tomatoes from Irish Eyes- this is the same idea as the combo of hot peppers.  A blend of 5 heirloom varieties that changes from year to year. Tomatoes were another winner for us last year.

    Heirloom Red Russian Kale from Seed Savers Exchange- beautiful purple-veined blue green leaves that overwinter easily.

    Organic Spicy Mesclun Mix from Irish Eyes- another mix!  This one contains: Verte Mar, Sierra and Rouge Grenobloise lettuces, Verte de Cambrai Mache, Arugalu, Red Giant and Kyona Mustard, Tres Fine Endive, and Ruby Swiss Chard.  I can't guarantee which ones you'll end up with!

    Udumalapet Eggplant from Seed Savers Exchange- I think these might be my favorite.  Consistent heavy producer of teardrop shaped green and lavender fruits, 2-3" long.

    Wednesday, March 3, 2010

    Northwest Event Sources: Foraging, Gardening, Natural Medicine, Hiking, and Other Adventures


    Seattle has felt like spring for over a month now, so despite the fact that it's still snowing and freezing elsewhere- I'm all amped up for playing in the dirt and digging things out of the mud.

    I am a big fan of self and alternative forms of education.  I've never done well in a classic classroom setting, and I struggle with the idea of being restricted by finances, scheduling, or prerequisites.  I crave hands-on experiences, real-life situations, and the kind of timing and flexibility that fits with my already ongoing life. 

    I have been compiling a list of resources, more or less as I come across specific events- and I thought that it would be a good idea to put them all in one place, as well as share them with anyone else who might be interested.  Most of these are Washington and Oregon specific, although there are a few events listed in other areas.  The links below go straight to the relevant calendar of events.

    - Seattle Tilth is a local non-profit that focuses on teaching organic farming and sustainability methods.  They have both adult and children's classes that range from container gardening, raising chickens in the city, backyard beekeeping, composting, growing mushrooms, and raising goats.  They have both individual and ongoing courses, and are usually in the range of $25 (for Tilth members) to $35 per individual course.

    - Bastyr University is the largest university in the United States that focuses on natural health arts and sciences.  Their main campus is located in Kenmore, just north of Seattle, with some courses taking place at their Stone Way location in Seattle proper.  They offer both formal education programs, as well as many individual events that are open to the public.  Public courses range in subjects from EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique aka tapping), gluten free living, yoga, reflexology, massage, and exploring the healing powers of balsam poplar.

    - Fresh Picked Seattle focuses on wild food, mushrooms, fishing, foraging, and ethnobotany.  Their calendar features events from numerous different organizations, and is a good place to find a range of events, focusing both on finding food, as well as eating it.

    - Dandelion Botanical Company is located just a few blocks from my apartment in Ballard.  They're a small herbal apothecary that focuses on organic and ethically crafted sources.  They offer both an intensive Professional Herbalist Certificate Course, as well as individual classes focusing on local pro-biotic foods and herbs, wild edible plants, and homemade herbal medicine.  Individual classes range from $15 to $37. 

    - Earthwalk Northwest focuses on earth awareness and primitive living skills, with a hands-on approach.  They offer apprenticeships in primitive living and plant & ethnobotanical studies, as well as individual events- such as harvesting wild edibles while hiking trails in the Cascades.

    - Wild Food Adventures is probably the organization that I'm the most excited about.  They host intensive retreats and events such as the Native Shores Rendezvous, and the GingerRoot Rendezvous, as well as day-trip style events that include clam digging, harvesting sea vegetables, and neighborhood foraging, to name very few.  They have events all over Washington and Oregon, as well as specific events in Minnesota, North Carolina, and Idaho. 

    Let me know if there's anything I missed!
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