Thursday, February 26, 2009

Baking up a storm....

Ummmm! Butter, sugar, dark chocolate, farm fresh eggs--I'm in the kitchen most of the day today; not an unusual place for me to be! I have the honor of baking for a dear friend's retirement celebration at the courthouse tomorrow. In the works at the moment are brownies; one pan of "plain" double chocolate brownies and one pan of Marionberry-Walnut Brownies. Soon to follow will be a double recipe of Lemon-Ginger Zucchini Bread and then two varieties of Charleston Poundcake; vanilla and chocolate marble.

Later today I will mix the dough for a yeasted Pumpkin Pecan Bread with Dried Cranberries, but the hearth loaves won't be baked until tomorrow morning.

Sure smells good around here...

Monday, February 23, 2009

Think Local Benefit Dinner

(Photos courtesy of Anthony Szlachciuk of Oh My Gato Farm/CSA)

We were definitely "eating our colors" at the Think Local Benefit Dinner Friday night. Debbi DeNino of Dino's Ristorante Italiano was our guest chef. A few Think Local kitchen crew members met at the restaurant to help prepare the feast. We used local pumpkins from Debbi's garden. Big Lick Farm/CSA donated organic arugula, herbs, swiss chard, and both red and golden beets. Lighthouse Center Bakery baked fresh bread and our local teahouse, Teapots and Teacups, made dessert.

It's great fun to work together with friends preparing an amazing meal. My fingers are still a bit purple from slipping the skins off the roasted beets! Here's the final menu:

Menu di Stasera

Insalata di Inverno con Rocket y Nocciole
Winter Salad with Arugula and Hazelnuts

Farrato de Battimenti Arrostiti
Roasted Beets and Barley

Bietola Brasata
Braised Greens with Red Onion Rings

Lasagne di Inverno con Zucca
Winter Pumpkin Lasagne

Pani del Forno del Mattone
Assorted Brick Oven Breads
(donated by Lighthouse Bakery)

Cream Puffs
Slices of Chocolate Truffle Roll
(donated by Beth and Rebekah Lang of Teapots and Teacups)

Wines by Sienna Ridge Estate

Everything was incredibly delicious. The Pumpkin Lasagne was superb. Cubed, seasoned pumpkin layered with sheets of egg pasta, bechamel sauce and parmesan and mozzarella cheeses. I was one of the servers and I noticed that even some of the skeptics came back for seconds. Debbi says it's not a regular menu item at Dino's, but she serves it as a special on occasion.

The Hotqua String Band (gypsy swing music) provided excellent entertainment and even improvised a Think Local theme song! It was a great evening.

The next benefit dinner and concert is set for Friday, March 20. Details coming soon....

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Puree of Carrot Soup

Today's lunch: Puree of Carrot Soup with a dollop of Homemade Creme Fraiche and a sprinkling of chopped pistachios. I needed to use up the last few local carrots I had stashed in my crisper! The Creme Fraiche adds just a slight velvety tang; you could always substitute sour cream. I shelled a bunch of pistachios yesterday because one day soon I am going to bake some Chocolate Biscotti with Dried Bing Cherries and Pistachios!

2 Tablespoons butter
1 small or 1/2 a large onion, coarsely chopped
2 large stalks celery, sliced
4 cups sliced carrots
2 cups good quality chicken or vegetable broth, preferably without MSG! (I rarely have homemade on hand)
1/4 teaspoon pepper (I used white pepper)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt or to taste (will depend on how much sodium is in the broth)
1 cup milk (1% is fine, but you can use whole or 2% if that's what you have)

Melt the butter in a large kettle. Toss in the onion and celery and let them begin to cook while you pare and slice the carrots. Add the sliced carrots to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, for about five minutes, until the onion becomes transparent. Pour in the broth, add the pepper, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover and simmer about twenty minutes, until the vegetables are tender.

Add the milk and puree right in the pot with a hand blender or puree in batches in a regular blender. Season to taste with the sea salt. Serve in warm bowls with a dollop of creme fraiche or sour cream and a sprinkling of chopped nuts or snipped chives. Makes about four servings.

Homemade Creme Fraiche

This is simple to make and unlike sour cream, creme fraiche won't separate when you heat it and can be boiled without curdling. Just add 1 tablespoon cultured buttermilk to 2 cups of heavy cream and let it sit at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours, until it thickens. It will be about the consistency of yogurt, but will solidify even more when chilled. Stir well and then store in the refrigerator. It will keep for a week to ten days. You will love having it on hand as a condiment, using it in soups, or sweetening it a bit and using it as a fruit dip.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

And the winner is....

Congratulations to
Dave H.
of Roseburg,
winner of the brownie giveaway!
He has chosen the
and I will be delivering them for Valentine's Day.

To all of you who sent in your name, many thanks for your enthusiasm!

Last Chance to Enter the Giveaway!

Happy Anniversary to me! One year ago today I published my first Flavors of the Umpqua blog post. To celebrate, at 8:00 pm tonight I will draw the name of one lucky reader who will receive a gift box of my decadent brownies. You still have a few hours to enter. Just send me an e-mail at

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Time for Another Giveaway!

Sunday, February 8, 2009 will mark the one year anniversary of my blog! To celebrate, I am giving away a batch of my decadent brownies. You choose the variety--Caramel-Pecan, Peanut Butter, or Marionberry-Walnut--and I will bake them, box them up and send them to you in time for Valentine's Day!

To enter the giveaway, just send me an e-mail at If your name is chosen, I will contact you for a shipping address.

Monday, February 2, 2009

What's for Dinner? Hot & Spicy Asian Cooking!

Our next OSU Extension/Master Food Preserver What's for Dinner? class will be held Wednesday, February 25 from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm at the Sutherlin Community Building, 150 S. Willamette St. (off Central Avenue), Sutherlin, Oregon.

Pat Vaughn will teach a Hot & Spicy Asian menu of:
Basil Chicken in Coconut-Curry Sauce
Lion's Head Meatballs in Spicy Coconut Sauce
Pot stickers with dipping sauce
Orange Chicken
Jasmine rice
A full lunch is included with the $15 registration fee.

To register stop by the Extension office at 1134 SE Douglas in Roseburg or print off a form at and mail it with your check to:

Douglas Co/OSU Extension
Attn: MFP-CL
PO Box 1165
Roseburg, OR 97470
Pre-registration is required. Class is limited to 24 participants. Registration deadline is Monday, February 23 by noon.. Questions? Call the OSU Extension office at 672-4461.