Thursday, February 28, 2008

Umpqua Valley Cookies

These are the cookies I took to our first Think Local meeting at Umpqua CDC. I tried to use as many local ingredients as possible!

1 cup unsalted Umpqua Dairy Butter, softened
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
2 farm-fresh local eggs
2 teaspoons real vanilla
2 cups freshly-ground Oregon-grown soft white wheat flour (you can substitute all-purpose flour)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder (I like Rumford)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 cups quick-cooking rolled oats
1 cup local walnuts, coarsely chopped
1 cup local pitted, dried cherries (a combination of tart and sweet cherries works well or you can use dried cranberries)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cream the butter and sugars together. Add the vanilla and eggs and blend well. Stir together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and sea salt. Mix dry ingredients into the egg mixture. Stir in the oats, walnuts and cherries.

Drop by spoonfuls (or use a small metal cookie scoop) onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool 1 minute on cookie sheet then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Do-ahead tip. You can freeze the scooped cookie dough balls on a waxed paper-lined cookie sheet, then place in plastic bags. Bake straight from the freezer, but allow an extra 2 or 3 minutes baking time.

Makes 4 to 6 dozen depending on size and how much cookie dough you eat!

Broccoli-Potato-Cheese Soup

I was assigned to bring steamed broccoli to my son's cub scout Blue & Gold banquet Tuesday evening. Gee, how much broccoli are 9-year old boys going to eat? I knew I was being overly optimistic with the amount I prepared, but I also knew I could turn any leftovers into a delicious, filling soup!

3 tablespoons butter
5 medium russet potatoes, pared and cut into small cubes
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon flour (I like to use Wondra Gold Medal flour for sauces and gravies)
1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated sharp cheddar cheese
2 cups chopped, cooked broccoli
1/4 cup sour cream
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a large, heavy-bottomed soup pot. Add the potato cubes, tossing to coat them well. Stir in the chicken stock and sea salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, about 10 minutes or until potatoes are just tender.

Stir the flour into the milk making sure there are no lumps. Add to the potatoes and return to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil and stir for 1-2 minutes. Add the cheese and stir until melted. Add the broccoli and sour cream and cook over low heat just until heated through. You don't want it to boil at this point. Season with additional sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Thin with a bit more milk if desired.

Serve with an dollop of sour cream or a sprinkling of grated cheese.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sunday Dinner at Mom and Dad's

My mom is a great cook! My parents live 10 minutes away, so Mom and I take turns cooking Sunday Dinner. Today was her turn and she really outdid herself. Everything was incredibly delicious!

Roast Pork Loin
Mashed Potatoes w/Rich Brown Gravy
Homemade Applesauce (made by Dad)
Green Beans
Buttered Rolls
Caramel Cake w/Vanilla Ice Cream
Thanks Mom!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Cream of Cauliflower Soup

Before Kruse Farms fruit stand closed for the winter, I stocked up on their cauliflower, carrots, onions, beets and cabbage. They store quite well in the extra refrigerator in the garage. Last night, as part of a light supper for a group of 20 women, I made a quadruple-batch of this soup. These amounts will make enough for 4 to 6 servings.

2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, sliced
4 cups chicken broth
1 medium-sized head of cauliflower, washed and broken into florets
1 large carrot, scrubbed and sliced
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup half-n-half
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
a couple dashes of Tabasco or cayenne pepper
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a large, heavy-bottomed pan or stockpot over medium heat. Add the onion slices. Cook and stir until onion is soft and nearly transparent.

Add the broth, carrot and cauliflower. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer until all the vegetables are soft, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Using a hand blender, puree the broth and vegetables right in the pot until smooth. (You can use a regular blender if necessary.)

Stir in the half-n-half, nutmeg and cayenne. Sesaon with additional sea salt and pepper to taste. Heat gently and serve in warmed bowls garnished with snipped chives or a dash of paprika.

Serves 4 to 6.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Marionberry-Walnut Brownies

I made these brownies to take to our Think Local Umpqua meeting and they were a big hit. The combination of berries and chocolate is divine!
Note:  These are best made a day ahead and refrigerated before cutting.

1 pound unsalted butter
8 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate
4 cups (1# 12 ounces) sugar
8 large farm-fresh local eggs
2 teaspoons real vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (12 ounces)
1 (11.5 oz.) package Ghirardelli 60% Dark Chocolate Chips
1 cup (4 ounces) coarsely chopped local walnuts
1 jar (8 to 12 ounces) Marionberry Jam

Line a 12 x 17-inch jelly roll pan with unbleached parchment or grease and flour well. Preheat the oven to 350 degreees.

In a large, heavy saucepan melt the butter and unsweetened chocolate over very low heat just until melted. Stir in the sugar, turn off the heat and let stand for 5 or 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until sugar is melted.

Whisk the eggs, salt and vanilla together in a very large bowl. Slowly pour in the chocolate mixture, stirring constantly until well-combined.

Gently fold in the flour until no dry particles are visible. Pour into the prepared pan.

Scatter the chocolate chips evenly over the surface of the batter. Using a rubber scraper or the back of a spoon, gently smooth the top so the chips are covered with batter.

Sprinkle the chopped walnuts over the top. Heat the open jar of jam in the microwave for about 1 minute, until slightly softened. Stir well and then drop by teaspoonfuls randomly all over the batter.

Place on the center rack of the oven and turn the heat down to 325 degrees. Bake for exactly 30 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely on a wire rack. Brownies will be easier to cut if covered tightly and then refrigerated overnight.

Makes 35 regular or 24 large brownies. These freeze very well!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

A Healthy Way to Start the Day

Back in Oregon this weekend and after a week of breakfasting on sausage & grits or biscuits & gravy, I am ready for lighter fare. This morning we're having Whole Wheat Pancakes with Marionberry Topping and ice-cold milk!

Marionberry Topping

I'm using grape juice and frozen Marionberries this morning, but you can really use any juice/fruit combination you like.

Measure out 3/4 cups purple grape juice into a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan and stir in 1 Tablespoon cornstarch until it's all dissolved and there are no lumps. Add 1/4 cup local honey. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.

Add 2 cups fresh or frozen Marionberries. Return to a boil and simmer 5 to 10 minutes until fruit is soft.

Serve over warm whole wheat pancakes, waffles or french toast.

Whole Wheat Pancakes

The secret to light and fluffy pancakes is beating the egg whites separately. I use freshly ground Oregon-grown organic soft white wheat berries for the flour in this recipe, but whole wheat pastry flour from the bulk bins at New Day Grocery works well too.

Begin preheating a griddle or large skillet over medium heat.

Stir together in a large bowl:
1 3/4 cups freshly ground soft white wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon baking powder

In a glass measuring cup whisk together:
1 3/4 cups milk (skim, whole, 1%...whatever)
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 farm fresh egg yolks

Whisk milk mixture into dry ingredients until all the flour is moistened and there are no lumps. Set aside.

Beat 2 eggs whites until soft peaks form. Fold into batter until well-distributed.

Pour by 1/4-cupsful onto hot griddle or pan. Cook until bubbles form all over the surface and don't fill in when popped. Flip pancakes and cook until they spring back when pressed lightly with your finger.

Serve warm with real maple syrup or Marionberry Topping.

Makes 16 to 20 (4-inch diameter) pancakes.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Sausage Gravy

I used the pan drippings after cooking our bratwurst for dinner, but you could certainly cook sausage just for breakfast! Pour off all but two tablespoons of the fat after cooking sausage. Heat remaining drippings and then sprinkle with two tablespoons flour. Stir well with a wooden spoon or heat-proof rubber scraper, loosening all the brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan and making a smooth flour paste. Cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat for one or two minutes to brown the flour. Gradually whisk in 2 cups milk and bring to a boil. Simmer and stir for another minute or two. Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Add in leftover sausage if desired, but the drippings alone give the gravy plenty of flavor. Serve hot over split, toasted biscuits and enjoy!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Buying Local in North Carolina

A gorgeous warm and sunny Saturday in North Carolina, perfect for scoping out the State Farmer's Market in Raleigh. I wasn't quite sure what local crops would be available in February, but Christine and I were delighted to see "new crop" pecans, several varieties of homegrown "cured" sweet potatoes, "frost-bitten" cabbage, collards, turnip greens, spinach, parsnips, rutabagas, turnips, crowder peas, greenhouse-grown strawberries, and winter squash.

In addition to produce, we found watermelon rind pickles, peach salsa, chow chow, pumpkin butter, stone ground grits, and local honey. Local bakers tempted us with Caramel Cake (pronounced CARE-a-mel), fruit pastries, pecan pie, red velvet cupcakes, and soft pretzels. We bought local bratwurst, sampled goat cheese and quenched our thirst with freshly-squeezed limeade.

A great day at the market made for a fine dinner!

Dinner Menu
Pan-grilled Bratwurst
Candied Sweet Potatoes
Southern Biscuits
Romaine Salad with Pecans
Fresh Strawberries
Scuppernong Cider

Friday, February 8, 2008

Eating Local on the Go

I'm in Henderson, North Carolina this week visiting my daughter. Our first stop upon leaving the airport was for a wonderful Indian dinner at the Taj Majal in Raleigh. A little hole in the wall in a strip mall, it wasn't much to look at from the outside, but through the doors we went and our noses immediately told us we were in for a delicious dinner. We started with a mixed appetizer plate of chicken and vegetable fritters, then ordered Garlic Naan, Chicken Biryani, Chicken Tikka Masala and a Mango Lassi.