Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Garden Begins...

I'm spoiled-I admit it. Within five miles of my home I can buy or pick all the locally-grown fruits and vegetables I want, so I've never spent a great deal of time and effort growing my own food. And I like picking. Give me a bucket-on-a-belt and a water bottle and I could spend all-day picking cherries, blueberries, raspberries or marionberries.

I've always put in a few tomato plants and I have a small herb garden with oregano, thyme, rosemary, mint, basil, chives and tarragon. Some years I have actually managed to get some trellises rigged up for pole beans and last year I tried growing some potatoes in a half-barrel, without much success.

This year I am going to do better. My handy husband gave up a couple Saturdays to make these raised beds for me on the sunny, south side of the house and, with my son's help, we shoveled and wheel-barrowed in enough organo-rich "dirt" from the farmer's co-op to fill them. So far I only have some strawberry starts in, but this weekend I'm going to buy some transplants from Suzi Porter of
Big Lick Farm at the farmers market. The Master Gardeners are also having their annual plant sale from 9 to 4 at the fairgrounds this Saturday, so I'll try to make it out there too.

Wish me luck and feel free to offer advice. I'll post my progress throughout the growing season.

Smokin' Friday BBQ at the farmers market

A new food vendor at the Umpqua Valley Farmers Market this year--Smokin' Friday BBQ. They do tri-tip or pulled pork sandwiches with coleslaw and baked beans on the side. Or you can buy a whole grilled tri-tip to take home for dinner; not a bad deal at $19.95 for a 2 1/2 to 3 lb roast, ready to serve. Call ahead (530-7652) and let them know how well-done you'd like it and what time you want to pick it up and they will have it ready.

They also take special orders for beef ribs, pork spare ribs and baby back ribs.

Sliced tri-tip ready for sandwiches.

Housemade baked beans

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Fresh from the farmers market....

It was a gorgeous sunny day for the opening of our local farmers market. I didn't expect to find much produce this early in the season, but here's what I came home with:

a dozen farm fresh eggs
one bunch of red onions
one bunch of garlic (stalks?) which I will slice and caramelize in butter
a huge bag of just-picked arugula
a pound of asparagus from Jim Leet at Linnea Marie Farms
a bag of Mint Chocolate Chip cookies from B & J Bakery (they also sell pies)
a chocolate-pecan cluster from Arrow's Delight Chocolates

I sampled
Donna Holm's toffee (divine!) and had two of The Baklava Lady's mini spanakopita while I was browsing. It's such fun to see all of my favorite vendors again.

It's my turn to cook Sunday dinner (my mom and I trade off), so here's what I'm planning for tomorrow:
(using up the last of the Easter Ham)
Red Leaf Lettuce & Arugula Salad
with Candied Tomatoes, sliced Red Onion & Goat Cheese Crumbles
Pecan-Wheatberry Bread

Hmmmmm...still deciding on dessert, but the Perigord Walnut Tart in my new issue of Gourmet looks enticing. I have everything I need on hand; just don't know if I'll have time to get the crust made tonight.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Farmers Market Opens Tomorrow

Hooray! The Umpqua Valley Farmers Market opens tomorrow at its new location just past the library on Diamond Lake Blvd. Here's the scoop from market president Jim Leet......

The Umpqua Valley Farmers’ Market 2009 season is opening this Saturday, April 18th. Same hours as before – 9 to 1. The big news is that the market has moved. We’re now located on Diamond Lake Blvd., right next to Dutch Brothers Coffee, about a half mile past the library. There is lots of customer parking on the East side of the lot, and more space for vendors. Many of you have probably seen our large permanent signs – we’re hard to miss now. Dutch Brothers has been super to deal with, and we hope the new site benefits both of us.

The weather is supposed to be fabulous, and it will be a good social opportunity after a colder than usual winter. Come on out and see us.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Chicken Enchiladas

My daughter, Laura, who is away at college, made Chicken Enchiladas for her Easter Dinner and just posted the recipe on her blog.

The navy bean version is really quite good. Check it out.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Beans, Peas and Lentils

I'll be one of the instructors for our next OSU Extension/Master Food Preserver In the Kitchen event. The class will be held Thursday, April 23 from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm at the Sutherlin Community Building, 150 S. Willamette St. (off Central Avenue), Sutherlin, Oregon.

Beans, Peas and Lentils: Eating Well in Spite of the Economy
will be our theme. We'll teach you everything you need to know about cooking, serving and enjoying beans as a main dish or side dish. You'll learn to cook dried beans in a slow cooker, a pressure cooker or on the stovetop and you'll get to sample a variety of bean dishes, including pizza beans, black bean soup, hummus and homemade refried beans. Eloise Aguirre will demo a lentil-pasta casserole and making your own lentil veggieburgers. We'll also discuss and sample a variety of dishes using dried peas, including split pea soup.

Cost for the class is $15.00. To register stop by the Extension office at 1134 SE Douglas in Roseburg or print off a form by clicking here and mail it with your check to:

Douglas Co/OSU Extension
Attn: MFP-CL
PO Box 1165
Roseburg, OR 97470

Pre-registration is required. Registration deadline is Monday, April 20 by 5:00 pm. Questions? Call the OSU Extension office at 672-4461.

Hope to see you there.

A Lesson on Leavening

I taught a science lesson to my son's fourth grade class yesterday on different types of leavening agents, using pancakes as my visual (and edible) aid. I used pancakes made with a sourdough starter to illustrate a biological leavener (wild yeast) and the reaction of baking soda, a chemical leavener, when combined with the acids produced by the yeast in the starter.
We compared that to whole wheat pancakes made with another chemical leavener, baking powder. You can see the difference in the bubbles between the baking powder reaction in the whole wheat pancake above and the sourdough/baking soda pancake below.
We also talked about the physical leavening power of the beaten egg whites and steam created by the liquid in the batter and the heat of the griddle.

While I finished cooking the pancakes, another mom showed them how to blow out an egg, which they'll be using later this week for an art project. They each got to scramble their own egg to go along with their pancakes for a nutritious and delicious morning snack.

Something Fishy

Does anyone really eat this stuff? Farm-raised, color-added, previously frozen steelhead fillet imported from Chile.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Baking workshop at Deux Chats

A friend and I drove down to Ashland for an all-day hands-on baking workshop at Deux Chats Bakery. The guest instructor was Solveig Tofte, captain of the Bread Bakers Guild of America's Team USA at the 2008 Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie, the World Cup of Baking, held in Paris.

Sol, as she is called, is an absolutely delightful teacher. Head Baker at the Turtle Bread Company in Minneapolis, MN, she is very down-to-earth and practical and able to put her extensive knowledge into easily understood layman's terms.

Our group of 12 students was a mix of professional bakers from San Francisco, Seattle, and Connecticut, some fairly new bakers in the Ashland area and several "serious home bakers" like me, who just want to learn all they can. The theme was "Beyond the Grain: Using Fruits, Nuts and Seeds".

We made six different breads in about seven and a half hours: Semolina Ciabatta (with a green olive variation), Fig Rye, Potato Flax, Apricot Multigrain, Buckwheat Walnut and Pecan Wheat Berry. Each bread was suberb. We used a variety of pre-ferments: a whole wheat poolish, rye levain, semolina sponge, flax meal soaker, buckwheat sponge, corn flour sponge and a cornmeal soaker.

It took all morning to get the doughs mixed, then we spent the afternoon shaping and baking. We got to take a full loaf of each bread home with us.

Michelle and Garrett Furuichi, owners/bakers at Deux Chats set out an incredible spread of pastries in the morning and provided a great lunch: four savory galettes, roasted pepper gazpacho, mixed greens salad, lemon-anise cookies and apple cake for dessert.

Too many pictures for one post. I'm going to try to put together a slideshow and add it to the sidebar.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Power Bread fresh from the oven

I decided to stay home and bake a batch of Power Bread today. This is a white flour bread, full of ground raisins, flax seeds, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds with a touch of honey and no added fats. (The recipe only calls for flax and sunflower seeds, but I like to substitute pumpkin seeds for half of the sunflower seeds.) It was a big seller when I baked for the Umpqua Valley Farmers Market and is one of my husband's favorites.

I scaled the recipe up to make five loaves (it freezes well); four standard pan loaves and one oval loaf baked in a Pampered Chef stoneware baker, using the Dutch oven method. Because it contains honey, the crust browned more quickly than a country french or sourdough loaf would, so I reduced the heat to 325 degrees when I removed the cover and only baked it for an additional 10 minutes.

I just had a slice with butter and it's incredibly good, if I do say so myself. It will be great with our simple dinner of black beans and brown rice, topped with salsa and sour cream, and a nice green salad.

Baking Bread in a Dutch Oven

Instructions for baking bread in a Dutch oven:

Proof your loaf in a parchment-lined basket or bowl.

At least 30 to 45 minutes before the dough will be ready to bake, place the Dutch oven with the lid on it in the oven to preheat.

When ready to bake, carefully remove the Dutch oven from the oven, remove the lid, transfer the loaf along with the parchment to the Dutch oven, (optional: sift a light layer of flour over the top of the loaf), slash the top of the loaf, place the lid on and return to the oven.

Reduce the oven temperature to 425 degrees and bake for 25 minutes (30 if the loaf has been refrigerated.) Remove the lid and continue baking another 10 to 15 minutes, until the loaf is golden brown and sounds hollow when thumped on the bottom. It should reach at least 200 degrees in the center of the loaf and up to 210 degrees if you want the crust to stay crisp.

Cool on a wire rack before slicing or eating.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Freezing Avocado

The avocados I bought in California are ripening beautifully. We've been enjoying them on venison & bean soft tacos, as guacamole and in smoked turkey wraps. The other night I pounded a couple organic chicken breasts very thin, sauteed them in a bit of butter, olive oil and garlic, squeezed some lime juice over the top, then covered them with salsa and let them cook through. Before serving, I topped them with sliced avocado. Delicious!

I am planning to freeze the last few avocados. Here are the directions, straight from the
California Avocado Commission:
When you have an abundance of fresh avocados, consider
freezing them. Pureed avocados freeze very well and can be
used in salads, sandwiches and dips.

Wash, seed and peel the fruit... Puree the flesh,
adding one tablespoon of lemon juice for each two pureed avocados.
Pack the puree into an air-tight container, leaving 1 inch
of headspace. Seal and label the containers.

Freeze and use within four to five months.