Saturday, June 13, 2015

Blueberries are ready!


This must be the earliest season ever for blueberries. So early that I missed opening day at Haven Farm in Tyee. I made a note to check their website on Friday (6/12) as they opened on 6/18 last year, but I didn't get around to looking until today. They opened yesterday!!! I couldn't have gone even if I had known, but they say there are still plenty of berries to pick and more varieties coming on soon. 

I dug the newspaper out of the recycling bin to see if Big Bend Berries is open and, yes, they are. The nice thing about Big Bend, aside from the fact that they are much closer and the owners are so nice, is that you can pick in the evening on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It's a great family activity. The price, $1.20/lb. is the same at both places. Brosi's in Winston grows blueberries, too, but I have never picked there.

Big Bend Berries
458 Big Bend Rd., Roseburg (Garden Valley)
U-pick only (bring buckets and containers)
M W F Sat 8:00 am to noon
T TH 5:00 pm to 8:30 pm

10246 Tyee Rd., Umpqua (15 miles west of Sutherlin)
Bring containers; they supply picking buckets
Open M - Sat. 8:00 am to 2:00 pm

Additional information for first-time pickers: 

If you've never picked your own fruit before, blueberries are a great place to start. No bending, no thorns, no ladders! I use the bucket-on-a-belt method for the fastest picking. Just thread an old belt through the handle of a small, sturdy bucket and fasten around your waist or over one shoulder. That way you have both hands free to pick. I like the 10 lb. detergent buckets with the metal handle. (Note: Haven Farm supplies their own picking buckets, but you should still bring a belt.) The small, plastic ice cream tubs are fine for children (who rarely get them full), but I have had the plastic handle break and then had to re-pick all of my berries out of the grass! I take along plastic dishpans to empty the berries into when the bucket gets full.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Going Green

(Originally published in The News Review on June 2, 2015.)

Asian greens from Norm Lehne Garden and Orchard

U-pick season got off to an early start this year with local strawberries ripe and ready in mid-May, the earliest ever according to Kruse Farms. I'm busy cleaning out my freezer to make room for this year's crops. I bought myself a new copy of the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving and stashed my ratty sneakers, buckets and bins in the car so I'm ready to pick at a moment's notice. Do I sound excited?

Picking perfectly ripe, sweet, juicy berries, cherries, peaches, nectarines, pears and apples is my all-time, number one favorite summer activity. Whether I'm alone in the orchard or chatting with friends or family the next row over, I feel right at home at any of our local u-pick farms.

Along with fresh berries, which are so abundant right now, I'm trying to work more leafy greens into our diet. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal summarized the results of a new study that looked at nutrition and the brain. The MIND Diet (which stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) was developed by researchers at Rush University. In the study, strict adherence to the MIND diet, which emphasizes green leafy vegetables, other vegetables, nuts, berries, beans, whole grains, fish, poultry, olive oil and wine, lowered the risk of Alzheimer's disease by as much as 53 percent. Quoting from the article, “Participants who ate one to two servings of green vegetables a day had a 'dramatic decrease in the rate of cognitive decline' compared with people who ate fewer greens, said Dr. Morris. 'It was about the equivalent of being 11 years younger in age,' she said. (Wall Street Journal April 20, 2015) That's music to my baby boomer ears!

So, how to get more leafy greens into our diet? Here are some suggestions for every meal of the day. Green smoothies for breakfast or post-workout are easy and delicious. Blend up a handful of kale or spinach with frozen fruit, pineapple juice and a banana and I promise you won't even taste the veggies.

A green salad, with a mix of spinach,arugula, a variety of lettuces, maybe some baby kale or cabbage thrown in, drizzled with an olive oil vinaigrette, makes a nutrition-packed side dish. Top with berries, nuts and grilled chicken or fish and you have a one-dish wonder for lunch or dinner that includes five of the ten recommended foods to nourish your brain. I never would have believed how much I'd enjoy a Massaged Kale and Mango Salad until I tried it, but I honestly could have eaten the whole batch myself. It's that good!

Kale chips are a delicately crunchy and very portable snack. You'll find three varieties made locally by NewLeaf Delivery at the Umpqua Valley Farmers Market or at Umpqua Local Goods in Roseburg.

Cooked greens are going to be a harder sell at my house, but I'm determined to put my culinary creativity to the test. Big Lick Farm and Norm Lehne's Garden and Orchard both sell a dizzying array of leafy greens to experiment with. I've been adding beet greens to stir fries and chopped kale to soups. I've been sautéing Asian greens like Tat Soi in olive oil and garlic. My daughter, Christine, insists that greens cooked in bacon grease are the way to go, but,eaten too often, that might negate the health benefits.

Do you have a tasty way to serve cooked greens? Send me your recipe ( and I'll give it a try.

Massaged Kale and Mango Salad

You won't believe how good this is!

Massaged Kale and Mango Salad

My friend, Janet Catalano, has been making this salad for years. It's adapted from a recipe Nigella Lawson shared on The Food Network. Janet doubles the fruit and adds a touch more honey. Toasting the pumpkin seeds is optional, but I like the extra crunch it gives them.

1 bunch kale, any type will do but try dark, curly kale if you can find it
2 tablespoons olive oil
juice from ½ a large lemon
2 pinches of sea salt
1 tablespoon honey (or to taste)
a few grinds of pepper
1 whole mango, diced*
2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds, raw or toasted

If desired, toast the pumpkin seeds in a dry pan over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

Rinse the kale and shake off extra water. Tear the leaves from the tough stems. (Discard the stems.) Stack the leaves on top of each other and slice into half-inch ribbons. Place the kale ribbons in a large bowl and drizzle with the olive oil. With your hands, massage the oil into the kale for at least 2 minutes. The kale will shrink down considerably and become tender, dark and glossy. In a small bowl or glass measuring cup, whisk together the lemon juice, honey, salt and pepper. Pour over the kale and stir well to combine, then add the diced mango. Transfer to a serving bowl or individual salad plates and top with pumpkin seeds.

Serves 3-4

*The easiest way to dice a mango is to slice the “cheeks” off each side of the pit before peeling. The pit is about ¾ inch wide. Score the flesh of the cheeks in parallel lines both lengthwise and then crosswise, being careful not to cut through the skin. Turn the scored mango cheeks inside out by pressing in the center of the skin side. Using a sharp knife, slice the squares of mango off the skin. Peel the skin from the portion containing the pit, score around the pit and slice off as much flesh as possible.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Mixed Greens with Strawberries, Goat Cheese and Roasted Hazelnuts


Mixed Greens with Strawberries, Goat Cheese and Roasted Hazelnuts

I had a salad with strawberries and feta at a local restaurant and decided to create my own version at home. I didn't have any candied nuts on hand, so I added a little maple syrup to my vinaigrette to mimic that sweet flavor. This salad can easily be turned into a main dish by topping it with grilled chicken or salmon.

6 cups mixed greens, including spinach and arugula
1 cup strawberries, hulled and sliced in half
1 (3.5 ounce) container goat cheese or feta crumbles
¼ cup hazelnuts, roasted and coarsely chopped*
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons white balsamic or white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons pure maple syrup
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Wash and dry the greens, tear into bite-size pieces and place in a large salad bowl. Whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, syrup, salt and pepper. Pour dressing over the greens and toss gently to combine. Add the sliced strawberries and cheese; toss again briefly. Sprinkle chopped nuts over the top.

Serves 4.

*Roast hazelnuts in a shallow, rimmed baking sheet at 250 degrees for 20-25 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. When cut in half, the center of the nuts should be a toasty brown.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Coming Home to an Old Favorite

(Originally published in The News Review on May 5, 2015)

I've just returned from a week visiting my daughter in New York City. For six days, with Laura as my guide, we ate our way through the borough of Manhattan. From Indian take out on the Upper West Side, to Dim Sum deep in the back alleys of Chinatown, heavenly mac & cheese in Chelsea, and perfect pizza arrabiata in the West Village, I found myself in a food-lovers paradise. And that was just dinner. We ate authentic New York bagels for breakfast and falafel for lunch. Across the East River we visited “Smorgasburg,” a hipster food festival in the Williamsburg area of Brooklyn. We sampled Moroccan meatballs with harissa, crispy scallion pancakes, hibiscus-glazed donuts and Columbian arepas. Farmers markets and random street fairs provided yet more temptation in the form fresh-pressed cider, babka and a peanut butter-banana-chocolate chip cookie.

Thankfully, these gastronomic adventures were balanced with miles and miles of walking, climbing up and down hundreds of stairs and riding bikes in Central Park. Still, after my week of indulgence, I crave simple, healthier fare. I'm hungry for beans. 

Dried beans are an excellent item to have in your pantry or food storage. Cooking dried beans is less expensive than buying canned beans and allows you to control the sodium content, eliminate additives and avoid the BPA (Bisphenol A) that is still used in the lining of most commercially canned foods. When I do opt for canned beans, I buy the Simple Truth brand at Fred Meyer. They're organic and contain much less salt than other brands.

I'm happy to eat just about any type of bean dish. I adore black beans and rice. Topped with salsa, sour cream, avocado and tortilla chips, black beans are my number one choice for a vegetarian dinner. Navy bean soup is simple to make in the slow cooker and delicious with biscuits or cornbread. I often cook up a big pot of pinto beans to use in chili and then make refried beans out of the leftovers for tostadas or burritos. I always add cooked beans (pintos or black beans) to taco filling; they add fiber and make my local, grass-fed ground beef go further.

A bean tutorial

The first step in cooking beans is to sort them. Slowly pour the dried beans into a large pot, keeping your eye out for dirt clods, stones or moldy beans. I don't find them often, but I've seen enough over the years to be careful. Once they're in the pot, run cold water over the beans and swish them around with your hand. Discard any beans that float; they could be infested with insects. Rinse and drain the beans in a colander.

Soaking the beans before cooking hydrates them and shortens the cooking time. It also helps the beans cook more evenly, so they all get tender about the same time. For two cups of beans you need 6-8 cups of cold water, enough to cover the beans by at least two inches. If you've planned ahead, let the beans soak overnight at room temperature. You can also speed soak by covering the beans with a couple inches of water in a pot and bringing to a boil. Boil two minutes, then turn off heat and let stand, covered, for one hour before proceeding to cook on stove top or in the slow cooker. You can soak beans and freeze them (before cooking) so you have them ready to go if you forget to soak in the future.

After soaking, drain the beans and use fresh water for cooking. This makes them easier to digest. Truth be told, if beans become a regular part of your diet, your body develops the enzymes it needs to digest them without difficulty.

Once the beans have been soaked, you're ready to cook them. Almost all recipes say not to salt beans until the end of cooking because it will make them tough. I always add the salt at the beginning and it's never caused a problem. If I wait to add salt after the beans have cooked, they don't absorb it and never taste salty enough for me. Mark Bittman, New York Times columnist and author of How To Cook Everything, agrees with me on this point. Bittman suggests adding one teaspoon salt per half pound of dried beans, but because I almost always add broth base or bouillon too, my rule of thumb is one teaspoon salt per pound of beans.

Small beans, like black beans or navy beans, will cook on the stove top, gently simmering, in 1 ½ to 2 hours. Larger beans, like pintos, kidney beans or garbanzo beans, will take a bit longer. If you use a slow cooker, plan to let the beans cook all day on low or at least eight hours. You can vary the flavor by adding herbs, spices, and vegetables while the beans are cooking. Oregano, thyme, rosemary, chili powder, cumin, carrots, onion and celery all work well. One word of caution: add acidic ingredients, like tomatoes, toward the end of cooking, as they will prevent the beans from becoming tender.

Cooked beans can be frozen in their liquid to be used later in chili, tacos, soups, etc. I freeze two cups in a quart ziptop freezer bag or 4 cups in a gallon bag. Lay the bag flat on a cookie sheet until frozen solid, then add them to your “frozen food file.” When ready to use, thaw quickly in a sink of hot water.

Black beans and rice with salsa, sour cream and avocado.
Basic Black Beans

This basic recipe can be used for cooking most types of dried beans. Larger beans may require longer cooking. Feel free to jazz it up by adding garlic, cumin, chili powder or other herbs and spices. Anything acidic, like tomatoes, should be added toward the end of cooking, after the beans are tender.

1 pound (2 ¼ cups) dried black beans
6 to 8 cups water for soaking

6 cups fresh water
1 bay leaf, broken in half
1 medium onion, diced or 2 teaspoons onion powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon beef bouillon (I like Better Than Bouillon brand)

Carefully pick over beans then rinse thoroughly under cold water. Drain and place in a large pot. Cover with at least two inches of cold water and allow to soak overnight or at least six hours at room temperature.

Drain and rinse the beans; return to pot. Add six cups of fresh water and the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer approximately 1 ½ to 2 hours, until beans are tender, but not mushy. Remove bay leaf pieces.

Serve over cooked rice with salsa, avocado, tortilla chips and/or sour cream.

Yield: about 6 cups of cooked beans

Slow cooker method: Follow the recipe as directed, but cook beans in slow cooker on low for 8 to 10 hours.

Aprons and Asparagus

(Originally published in The News Review on April 7, 2015.)

I grew up believing that “how you dress affects how you act and how you act affects everything.” For church, I put on my “Sunday best” because it helps me feel reverent. In the gym, I wear workout clothes; they make me feel strong. On date night I slip into high heels; they make me feel glamorous. And when I step into the kitchen, I tie on an apron; it says to my mind “Let's get cooking” and I feel like a chef.

From flirty to functional, aprons come in all shapes and patterns for both men and women. The purpose, of course, is to shield one's clothes from the splashes and splatters and spills all cooks contend with. Marcy Goldman of says cooking without an apron is akin to driving without a seat belt and I agree. Why risk it? Besides the protection it offers, an apron comes in handy when two hands aren't enough. How many times have I run out to the garden to snip a few herbs and returned with an apron full of tomatoes or beans or cucumbers!

My stash of aprons is fairly small. I have a few souvenirs: a milk chocolate-colored Ghirardelli apron, a bright red Pike Place Market apron, a black and orange OSU extension apron (though I'm officially a duck), a lacy half apron (aka hostess apron) my in-laws brought back from a trip to Europe. Yet, my ideal apron is plain white and practical, one I can bleach if necessary to keep it fresh-looking. I like a slender pocket to hold a thermometer and a big pocket to hold my smartphone/timer. (My favorite kitchen timer is a free phone app called Nag. It allows me to set and label eight different timers at once.) I need my apron strings long enough to crisscross behind my back and tie around my waist in front so I can loop a dishtowel through for drying my hands.

Dressing the part won't turn me into a chef without top-notch ingredients. Farmers markets are moving back outdoors and the produce stalls are a sea of green. The cabbage, kale, brassicas and root vegetables we've enjoyed all winter are making way for lettuce, chives, green onions, garlic scapes and asparagus. Snow peas, snap peas and shelling peas aren't far off.

I adore asparagus and eagerly anticipate its arrival each spring. It's usually sold in one pound bundles, often a mix of thick and thin spears. Pencil-thin spears are so tender they can be added raw to salads or tossed into a quick stir-fry. Larger spears are perfect for roasting with olive oil or steaming then sautéing in garlic butter. Any size works well for a creamy asparagus soup.

If your kitchen confidence needs a boost, maybe it's time to “dress for success” with a new apron. Pick a style that makes you smile, gather up some local ingredients and get cooking.

Creamy asparagus soup gets a little zing from white balsamic vinegar.
Cream of Asparagus Soup

Asparagus, garlic stalks and chives are some of the first spring greens to appear at farmers markets. All three go into this creamy soup that can be served warm or chilled. I use Trader Joe's White Balsamic Vinegar. If don't have any, try white wine vinegar or sherry vinegar or a splash of fresh lemon juice.

2 tablespoons butter
1 rounded cup sliced garlic stalks (I used it all the way up to the dark green part) or one large onion and 1 clove of garlic, diced
2 cups chicken stock
1 pound (as purchased) asparagus, woody ends trimmed, sliced into 1-inch pieces
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
fresh chives for garnish

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add the sliced garlic (and/or onion) and cook until softened. Add the broth, asparagus and seasonings, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 8 to 10 minutes, until asparagus is tender. Add the milk. I like to puree it right in the pot using a hand blender, but you can also do it in batches in a regular blender. Stir in the cream. Add additional salt, if needed. Just before serving stir in the vinegar. Garnish each bowlful with freshly snipped chives.

Makes 5 to 6 cups of soup.

Roasted asparagus with coarse sea salt.
Roasted Asparagus

Simple and so very good.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Rinse the asparagus and snap off the woody ends. I do this by holding each spear by the cut end and a few inches up the stalk. Bend gently and the spear will break where the woody part starts.
Arrange the asparagus in a single layer in a very shallow baking pan (a half-sheet pan or a cookie sheet with sides). Drizzle with olive oil then toss with your fingers to coat the spears evenly. Sprinkle with a bit of coarse sea salt.
Place in the oven and bake for 5 to 8 minutes, depending on how thick the asparagus is. Check with a cake tester or fork. You want it tender-crisp. Do not overbake or it will turn mushy.

Serve immediately. Any leftovers make a great addition to an omelet or frittata.

Steamed Asparagus Sautéed in Garlic Butter
If your steamer basket is not large enough to lay the asparagus in, try improvising with a round cooling rack or trivet set in a skillet you can cover.

Rinse the asparagus and trim the woody ends. Place the spears in a steamer set over (not in) hot water. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and steam just until tender-crisp. This will only take a few minutes, depending on how thick the spears are.

Meanwhile, begin melting some butter in a frying pan over low heat. When the asparagus is ready, transfer it to the frying pan and add a finely minced or pressed clove of garlic. Increase heat to medium and sauté two or three minutes, just until spears are tender. Do not over cook. Sprinkle with sea salt and serve immediately.

Do ahead tip: After steaming just until tender-crisp, plunge the asparagus into a large bowl of ice water to stop the cooking, drain well and store in the refrigerator for several days. When you want to serve it, proceed with sautéing instructions. You can have fresh vegetables on the table in minutes with this method.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Steamed Eggs

I love being able to buy ultra-fresh eggs at my local farmers market. The bright yellow-orange yolks, loaded with vitamin A and omega 3 fatty acids, give a lovely golden color to yeast breads, pancakes, and even homemade ice cream. The sturdy whites whip up light and fluffy in meringues. And scrambled eggs never looked so pretty or tasted so good.

My only frustration with fresh eggs is that I've always found them difficult to peel when boiled. I like to snack on hard-boiled eggs or add them to a chef salad. And I love a great egg salad sandwich. I gave up grocery store eggs years ago, but they sure were easy to peel. I've tried all the tricks when boiling my farm fresh eggs, but still ended up with a lot of the white stuck in the shell when I tried to peel them. If I wanted boiled eggs, I resorted to holding back a dozen in the refrigerator for a couple weeks so they wouldn't be quite so fresh and would peel more easily, but that takes advance planning.

I was sharing my frustration with my daughter one day and she said she steams her eggs instead of boiling them and the peel slips right off. How had I not heard about this???

I decided to give it a try last weekend when I boiled my Easter eggs. I wanted to cook a dozen and I don't have a large steamer so I improvised by placing a cake rack in a large pan. I added water so it came just under the rack, set my eggs on the rack, covered to pan and brought the water to a boil, then lowered it to a simmer. Christine said 12 minutes was the timing for hard-cooked yolks so that's what I did.

After steaming, I ran the eggs under cold water out of habit, though she said that's not even necessary. Now for the test....

...Hallelujah! The peel came off in big pieces with no white clinging to it. No pockmarked eggs! And the yolks?

Perfectly cooked with no gray ring around the edge.

I'm sold on this method. Can't imagine why I would ever go back to boiling. Thanks for the tip, Christine:)

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Scalloped Potato Masterpiece

My latest Tasty Tuesday column (originally published in The News Review on March 3, 2015) Recipes in this post: Scalloped Potatoes & Ham (updated) and a vegetarian option.

Food lovers are often mocked for taking pictures of what we’re about to eat. It’s difficult for a non-foodie type to see any purpose in visually documenting a meal. For me, it’s about storing a memory — an exquisite lunch with a dear friend, a romantic dinner, a family celebration, an unusual ingredient, a beautiful setting or presentation — and since no one has developed a way to capture taste or smell, a photograph and written notes are the best we’ve got to preserve the details of an experience.

If only I’d had a smartphone back in 1977!

I was in a fine restaurant with my date, seated at a table overlooking San Diego Bay. We’d soon be heading to our senior prom at the lovely Hotel Del Coronado, affectionately referred to as “The Hotel Del” by locals. I don’t remember the name of the restaurant, anything about the salad, the entrée, whether or not we even had dessert, but the baked potato on the side? I wish I had a photo of that.

The waiter rolled our orders in on a cart and prepared my potato tableside. Deftly slashing a large X in the top, he squeezed the ends together, exposing the steaming, fluffy interior. Would I like butter on my potato? Yes. Sour cream? Of course. Crispy bits of real bacon? Certainly! Freshly snipped chives? Sure. Adding a dash of salt and pepper, he wrapped a clean white towel around the potato and then, holding the ends securely with one hand, took a fork and expertly whisked the flesh and condiments together inside the peel before placing it on my plate. The result? Each bite was bursting with creamy, savory goodness. The best baked potato I’ve ever eaten!

Potatoes are a staple of our winter diet. They’re inexpensive, always available and give a cook plenty of options for preparing a wholesome meal. White potatoes get a bad rap nutritionally when compared to sweet potatoes, but they’re actually rich in vitamin B6, vitamin C, potassium and, if you eat the peel, fiber. I usually buy a 50-pound box of russets at Kruse Farms in late fall and store them in the garage, covered with a thick blanket to keep out the light and cold. We eat them baked, roasted and mashed or made into hearty soups and chowders. A baked potato bar with a selection of toppings like steamed broccoli, tangy cheese sauce, chili, cooked sausage, cottage cheese, avocado and salsa lets everyone create their own “Irish Sundae.” Leftover baked potatoes get diced, browned in a bit of oil or butter and scrambled with eggs. 

If we’re not making our way through the box of potatoes fast enough and they start to shrivel, I make a huge batch of mashed potatoes and freeze portions just right for three of my favorite bread recipes: Sour Cream and Chive Potato Bread, Whole Wheat Potato Braids and my “famous” Whole Grain Pecan Sticky Buns. Finally, if we haven’t eaten all of the potatoes before the weather warms up and they begin to sprout, I bury them in my compost heap and I’ll have fresh potatoes to dig in a few months. No waste.

Potato casseroles are an excellent way to stretch a modest amount of meat to feed a family. A scalloped potatoes and ham dinner is a March tradition at our house. I won’t claim this recipe has magical properties, but I will tell you it’s the dish I served my husband just hours before he proposed. Give it a try and who knows what could happen!

Scalloped Potatoes and Ham

This is a family favorite and a fine way to stretch a bit of leftover ham into another meal. If you bake a ham for Easter, save some to give it a try. Peeling the potatoes is optional.
4 to 5 medium russet potatoes (about 2 lbs.)
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
a few grinds of fresh pepper
1 teaspoon onion powder or ¼ cup finely minced onion
2 1/2 cups milk
1 to 1 1/2 cups diced ham (6 to 8 ounces)
1 tablespoon additional butter for dotting the top

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter. If using fresh onion, cook it in the melted butter for a few minutes to soften. Stir in the flour, salt, pepper (and onion powder, if using) and blend well into a smooth paste. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly about 1 minute. Whisk in the milk and bring slowly to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil and stir for one minute. Remove from heat.

Scrub the potatoes well, peel if desired and slice about 1/8-inch thick. Butter a casserole dish and place half the potato slices over the bottom. Scatter the diced ham evenly over the potatoes and then cover with half the white sauce. Layer the remaining potatoes over the ham and pour the rest of the sauce over the top, smoothing with a rubber scraper to make sure all the potatoes are covered. Dot the top with 1 tablespoon butter.

Cover tightly with a lid or aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes on the center rack of the oven. (I like to put a sheet of foil on the rack below to catch any drips.) Remove the lid or foil, turn the oven down to 375 degrees and bake another 30 to 40 minutes until potatoes are tender and the top is golden brown.
Yield: 4-5 servings

Variation: For a vegetarian version, skip the ham and reduce the milk to 2 cups. Add 1 to 1 ½ cups of grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese to the hot white sauce, stirring until melted. Optional: top with ¼ cup dry bread crumbs after you remove the lid or foil. Bake as directed above until potatoes are tender and top is golden.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Falling Sky Brewing House and Gastropub

I had some fine food on a weekend trip to the coast. My husband and I headed out for Florence on Friday with a stop for lunch at Falling Sky Brewing House and Gastropub in Eugene. It's a bit tricky to find as it's located in Oak Alley downtown, between 13th and 14th Avenues, but it's worth circling around a few times if need be.

One glance at the menu and you know this will be no ordinary meal. The fine print says it all,
"We bake all our breads across town at the Pour House & Delicatessen! We make our ketchup, mustard & mayo. We use local, seasonal & organic ingredients whenever feasible. Our meats are local & humanely raised. We proudly support the following local farms & purveyors: Groundwork Organics, Creative Growers, Knee Deep Cattle, Fern's Edge, Carlton Farms, Turnip the Beet, Longs Meat Market, Lochmead, Hummingbird, Draper Valley, McKenzie River Organics, Hey Bayles Farm, Anderson Ranches."
Definitely my kind of place!

I choose the flatbread special, a thin crust smeared with a butternut squash puree topped with roasted broccoli and carrots. It was superb. I also had the Hearty Fall Salad of roasted beets and carrots, kale, golden couscous and feta in a lemon-tahini vinaigrette. It, too, was excellent. I will definitely be trying to recreate both of these at home.

As a non-drinker, I can't speak to the quality of the beer, but my gut tells me one wouldn't be disappointed.