Friday, May 29, 2009

Field Trip, part one

No Joke! And it's actually quite good.

I'm in charge of organizing a field trip for our Master Food Preservers group so a friend and I went on a little scouting expedition the other day, checking possible food-related destinations. Our first stop was at The Rogue Creamery in Central Point, Oregon. Famous for their blue cheeses and cheddars, visitors can sample the many varieties: Oregonzola, Crater Lake Blue, Oregon Blue, Lavender Cheddar, Chipotle Cheddar, Chocolate Stout Cheddar, to name a few. A viewing window lets you see the cheesemakers in action, but nothing was in the vats when we were there.

Next we headed on foot to the Lilliebelle Farms factory and retail store. This is only separated from the creamery by a parking lot and a vineyard tasting room. If you park in the middle, you can walk to all three, though, being non-drinkers, we skipped the wine tasting. Central Point is billing this as the Exit 33 Artisan Corridor, but if you weren't looking for it, you'd just see it as an industrial area. Great idea and in five years time it will probably be all trendy and touristy (and crowded).

Jeff Shepard, Master Chocolatier at Lilliebelle Farms, makes exquisite artisan chocolates. Many are filled with organic berries from his own farm. The lavender caramel with fleur de sel is a favorite, but I think I liked the raspberry cordial I bought even better. Here too, there is a viewing window where one can get a glimpse of process.

A chocolate painting, entirely edible.

Chocolate being melted and/or tempered for dipping.

Back in the car, we headed toward the town of Eagle Point, home to Butte Creek Mill. This is the only water-powered grist mill west of the Mississippi. Bob Russell and his wife, Debbie, bought the mill four years ago and now grind whole grains into flour, which they sell in the mill's general store. Bob gives a great tour of the mill; his passion and enthusiasm for this historic treasure are infectious. Definitely worth the ten-mile side trip if you are ever in the Medford/Central Point area.

I'll post more after the field trip. I'm still working on the itinerary. My goal is to time it just right, so we are able to see cheese being made, chocolates being dipped and flour being ground all in one day.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Smokin' Chicken Strips

I am delighted to report that Smokin' Friday's BBQ Spice Rub (available at their farmer's market booth on Saturday mornings) makes delectable chicken strips. These were a huge hit for our Memorial Day celebration. We had our barbecue Sunday afternoon because I wanted to go on a hike Monday.

I cut chicken breasts into strips, tossed them with the rub so each piece was fully coated and refrigerated them for about 6 hours. Then I threaded them on (soaked) wooden skewers and my husband cooked them on the grill with some alder chips for smoke. I lost track of how many my 10-year old ate, but he was raving about them the whole time.

I used a family pack of chicken breasts and the whole bag of spice rub. We took the leftovers on our hike as part of our picnic lunch, with some house dressing from Anthony's Italian Cafe to dip them in. They are just as good cold as they were hot off the grill.

Today I chopped a few strips up and added them to a bowl of romaine and red oak leaf lettuce, tossed in some dried cranberries, toasted a piece of Laura's garlic bread for makeshift croutons and topped the whole thing with some more of the house dressing. Sort of a delicious smoky Caesar salad for an al fresco lunch on this gorgeous, sunny day. I know, I know, three days in a row, but these are really, really good.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Jam Session

It's time to be cleaning out the big freezer (and defrosting it soon. Ugh!) and using up the frozen berries from last summer. I tend to get a little carried away at the u-pick farms and we still have lots of berries. So, after our trip to the farmers market this morning, Laura and I spent several hours making jam.

Laura has a list of things she wants me to teach her to do while she's home from college for a few months (on her days off from work) and "How to make jam" is on the list. We made three batches: Raspberry, Raspberry-Strawberry, and Strawberry-Rhubarb, for a total of 22 jars. We sampled all three and I think the Strawberry-Rhubarb is my favorite.

Stay tuned...I think breadbaking is next.

Farmers Market Round-up

Flowers at the farmers market are such a bargain. Today I bought one bouquet from Hom and one from Dang, two different vendors, and combined them. Total cost? $7.00. Pleasure I get every time I look at them? Priceless.

I also picked up a quart of pure plum juice (canned with no added sugar) from the Sterken Farm booth. It will be the base for several berry smoothies during the week--juice, frozen berries, a handful of pumpkin seeds, some homemade yogurt or protein powder added to the mix--I can just feel all those antioxidants going straight into my bloodstream.

Both Sterken Farm and Linnea Marie Farm had the first local strawberries of the season and I bought 2 pints. If there are any left by tomorrow, they'll go into a fruit salad.

At the Big Lick Farm booth I chose one more pepper transplant (ancho) for my garden and watched Suzi while she bagged up some beautiful spinach leaves for a whole line of customers.

And my daughter, Laura, couldn't resist buying a loaf of Garlic Romano bread from the folks at Lighthouse Center Bakery.

Shopping local is so much fun!

Friday, May 22, 2009

McKenzie Cranberries

I love dried cranberries. I sprinkle them on my morning cereal, toss them into oatmeal, use them in cookies, bread, salads and granola. I was searching the web for a place to buy Oregon-grown dried cranberries and came across McKenzie Cranberries, Inc. in Port Orford. They sell sweetened (with sucrose) dried cranberries, blueberries and cherries. They will UPS the berries in quantities of 10 lbs. or 25 lbs.

I ordered 10 pounds of dried cranberries at $3/pound. Even with the additional $10 shipping, the total cost of $4/pound was still less than buying them from the bulk bins at the supermarket. The regular price at Sherm's is $5.29/pound and right now they are on sale for $4.39/pound.

OceanSpray Craisins work out to $5.12/pound. The bag says "processed in the USA from North American cranberries" or something like that, which means they could be from Maine or Oregon or Canada. There's no way to tell.

These are incredibly good dried cranberries. I tried drying my own last fall for a Think Local dinner and even steeping them in a sugar syrup before drying didn't keep them as plump and soft as these are. Worth every penny to buy them, in my opinion.

FYI...the blueberries are $5.88/pound and the cherries are $4.00/pound plus shipping. Both are sweetened. I have never tasted dried blueberries, but I did dry 40 pounds of pitted bing cherries last summer. They are easy to dry and don't need any sweetening, though it can take a 24 to 30 hours in the dehydrator if you don't cut them in half.

You can e-mail Gloria at to place an order. I mailed them a check on Friday, they shipped the cranberries on Monday and I received them on Tuesday.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

A Rambling Catch-Up Post (not necessarily in chronological order)

Last Saturday was a bright, sunny day here. My daughter, Laura, and I went to the farmers market but arrived later than usual and missed out on the chance to buy some gorgeous peonies. I got a glimpse of the last bunch, but they were already sold and just hadn't been picked up yet. Gotta get there early this week.

I was given a sample of Smokin' Friday's BBQ spice rub, which I haven't had a chance to use yet, and I learned that they will be moving into the empty Fast Lane drive-thru coffee stand on Garden Valley.

After we came back from the market, I spent a couple hours working outside. I planted pole beans, bush beans, lettuce (maybe a bit late for that; we'll see), beets (red and golden), and a cucumber transplant I bought at the market.

I trimmed the rosemary I have growing in a pot. Note to self: make sure your sourdough starter is refreshed and ready-to-use next year when you trim the rosemary so you can make Olive-Rosemary Pain au Levain at the same time.

I cut the chive blossoms and started a bottle of Chive Blossom Vinegar. This year I left the stems on and used a tall olive oil bottle I had saved.

I baked eight loaves of Cranberry-Pecan Sourdough and 6 loaves of Sour Cream & Chive Potato Bread for the Staff Appreciation luncheon at my son's elementary school.

I baked a batch of Oatmeal-Raisin cookies for a Friends of the Library event.

Helped out with our May What's for Dinner? class. Pat Vaughn was the guest chef; great write-up in Tuesday's paper. The Lamb Tagine was delicious and I wasn't sure I would care for the stuffed grape leaves, but I really enjoyed them.

Orange segments steeped in syrup with chopped pistachios.

Falafel with a tahini sauce.

Dolmahs (grapes leaves with wild rice filling)

Well, I think that's all the bits and pieces that have been floating around in my mind. A few other things are deserving of their own post, so I will try to get to those sometime today.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Spaghetti Sauce from a Jar (my jar!)

Having a pantry stocked with home-preserved local foods makes it easy to get dinner on the table, even on busy nights. I whipped up some great spaghetti sauce for dinner last week using a quart jar of Mildred's Basil-Tomato Juice I had canned, tomatoes I dehydrated last fall, and a pound of ground beef I bought from Kathey Linn at the farmers market. I pulverized the dried tomatoes in a mini food processor to thicken the juice and add body to the sauce. They didn't get entirely turned to powder and the little pieces that remained plumped up nicely when cooked.

Here's the recipe:

1 quart tomato juice (you could also use v-8 juice)
2 ounces dried tomatoes (not the kind packed in oil-just dehydrated)
1 pound ground beef or venison
2 to 3 cloves fresh garlic, pressed or very finely minced
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 teaspoon salt or to taste (careful--there is quite a bit of salt in canned tomato juice!)

Process the dried tomatoes in a small food processor into very fine pieces. Brown the beef in a large frying pan. Add the garlic and cook for a minute or two. Pour in the tomato juice and add the processed dried tomatoes, basil and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover partially (to minimize splattering) and simmer to desired thickness, about 30 to 45 minutes. Serve over hot pasta with a bit of freshly grated parmesan on top.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Sunday Dinner

It was my mom's turn to cook Sunday dinner and she made one of my favorite meals. "Stringy meat" I always called it as a kid, but her melt-in-your-mouth, cooked-till-it's-falling-apart pot roast is incredibly delicious. And the way she does the potatoes makes them the perfect side dish. She peels them and cuts them into chunks, then parboils them for just a few minutes, to make them a bit porous, she says. Then, when the roast is tender (it goes in the oven before church), she uncovers it, arranges the drained potatoes on top and spoons the juices and drippings from the roast all over them. She adds salt and pepper and puts the whole thing back in the oven, uncovered, until the potatoes are tender. They absorb the flavor of the meat and get just a bit crispy around the edges. Yummmmm!! They don't really even need the gravy she makes just before serving, but that didn't stop us from ladling it on. French cut green beans, coleslaw with dried cranberries in it, and garlic toast rounded out the meal.

Thanks, Mom!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Farmers Market Update

There are some new things going on at the Umpqua Valley Farmers Market. Sterken Farm is back at the market. Besides growing fruits and vegetables, they have a certified kitchen and make their own salsa, jams, juices, frozen fruit and raw foods bars. They make goat milk soap, apple juice toner, and various other health and beauty products. The farm is located on Lower Garden Valley Road and they are already open for u-pick--lots of lettuce they tell me. 9 am to 7 pm daily, call 541-260-7755 for more information.

Other discoveries at the market last Saturday...

Smokin' Friday's BBQ makes great breakfast burritos with your choice of pulled pork or tri-tip with eggs, cheese, onions and peppers. A bit messy to eat out-of-hand, but well worth the drips.

Kathey Linn's Chocolate-Caramel-dipped Pretzel Rods at Umpqua Valley Chocolates are incredibly good; sweet, salty, chewy and gooey in every bite.

John Riggs from Riggs Family Farm was there for his first week of the season with bags and bags of beautiful, local lettuce. Salad is finally back on the menu.

Can't wait to see what's new at the market tomorrow.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Local Gift Ideas for Mother's Day

A sampling of Arrow's chocolates on display.

How about some local chocolate for Mother's Day? Arrow Brause of
Arrow's Delight starts with the cacao beans and makes her own chocolate before turning it into decadent truffles and other dipped and molded sweets. Kathey Linn of Umpqua Valley Chocolates also makes divine truffles: huckleberry, raspberry, chili pepper, and my personal favorite, strawberry-balsamic. You can find both vendors at the Umpqua Valley Farmers Market on Saturday mornings.

If chocolate is not your thing (or your mother's) you could always splurge on one of Jan's (from J & J Farms) exquisitely hand-crafted cutting boards. These are really much too beautiful to cut on, but I fully intend to have one on display in my kitchen before the market season ends.

There are many other hand made gift items to choose from: woven rugs, metal garden art, wood furniture, beaded jewelry. Check it out this weekend.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Rhubarb-Strawberry Crisp

Yes, it is usually called Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp, but mine has 3 cups of rhubarb to one cup of strawberries, so it seemed fitting to switch the names around. I put this together for dessert on Sunday and it was so delicious, I think it made rhubarb converts out of my parents.

I started with 8 stalks of rhubarb I bought from Jim Leet at the farmers market. It's just coming on, so the stalks are still pretty slender. You need about 3/4 pound. I combined the rhubarb with organic strawberries and used whole wheat pastry flour and oats in the topping.

It's so good for you, I didn't feel one bit guilty when I polished off the leftovers for breakfast.

Rhubarb-Strawberry Crisp

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

For the filling:
12 ounces rhubarb, sliced into 1/2-inch pieces (3 cups after slicing)
8 ounces strawberries, hulled and sliced (1 cup after slicing)
3/4 cup white sugar
3 tablespoons flour (I used white flour here)

Stir the flour and sugar together in a medium bowl. Add the rhubarb and strawberries, tossing until well-coated. Transfer to a deep-dish pie pan or baking dish about the same size.

For the topping:
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour (I grind mine from soft white wheat)
2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (freshly grated if possible)
a dash of sea salt
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1/2 cup rolled oats (I use quick oats)
1/4 cup butter, softened or melted

Combine all of the dry ingredients in a medium bowl (same one the fruit was in, no need to wash it), stirring well to distribute the spices evenly. Stir in the softened or melted butter until a crumbly mixture forms. Sprinkle over the fruit mixture. This seems like a lot of topping, but just keep sprinkling it on until all the fruit is covered well.

Bake at 375 degrees for about 40 minutes, until topping is browned and rhubarb is tender when pierced. Serve warm or at room temperature with a dollop of real whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Serves 6.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Vanilla Crepes for Breakfast

What a treat! My daughter, Laura, is home from college for the summer. She got up early and surprised us this morning with vanilla crepes for breakfast. The table was all set and a variety of fillings laid out for us to choose from: Marionberry sauce, powdered sugar, peanut butter, local honey, brown sugar and apple butter. She used the vanilla crepes recipe from

It's wonderful having her home.