Saturday, June 30, 2012

Sunday Dinner Italian-Style

I'm going with an Italian theme for dinner tomorrow.  I'll be helping with food for a wedding reception in August and we've settled on a casual Italian menu for that, so I'm going to play with some ideas rolling around in my head.

We'll start with an antipasto platter.  I stopped by the Rogue Creamery in Central Point the other day on the way home from a camping and hiking trip in northern California.  I bought a cheese called "Beecher's No Woman".  Not sure why it has that name, but it's marbled with Jamaican jerk spices and it's delicious; a little bit smokey and a little bit sweet.  I'm going to serve it on thin crackers along with slices of Salametti Secchi (dry salami) that I bought at the same time.  I'll add some olives and perhaps artichoke hearts to round things out.

Next up we'll have a salad with the fresh greens I bought at the farmers market this morning and an oil & vinegar or creamy Italian dressing.

For the main course, I'm going to try to duplicate the margherita pizza I had at Ken's Artisan Pizza a couple months ago with my daughter, Laura.  Super thin crust, a light smearing of a garlicky tomato sauce, whole fresh basil leaves, all topped with fresh mozzarella slices and a grating of Parmigiano-Reggiano.  (I bought the mozzarella and parmesan at Rogue Creamery too.)

I usually cook pizzas directly on my baking stone in a 550 degree oven, as hot as it will go.  With a thin crust, it only takes a few minutes.  I'm toying with the idea of trying something new, if the weather cooperates.  I have lined our gas grill with half-size firebricks before to bake Whole Wheat Pita Bread.  I'd like to try baking the pizzas out there and perhaps even add some smoke chips to give them more of a wood-fired flavor.

I bought some lovely long thin green beans (the lady said they were from Medford, but who knows?  I think it'll be awhile before local beans are ready).  I might steam them as a side dish.

Haven't figured out dessert yet.  I need to practice pavlovas, but I'd like to do a lemon curd and blueberry combination and I haven't gotten any blueberries yet.   Hmmm....I could try my hand at gelato.....

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Check out my new Flavors of the Umpqua facebook fan page.  That's the place to look for quick updates on what's in season or what I'm cooking.  If anything tickles your fancy you can click a link that will lead you back here for details or the recipe.  Feel free to "like" or comment!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Quick Cherry Report

Here's what I know about the local cherry crop this season:

Brosi's Sugartree Farms currently has Chelan cherries for u-picking.  These are a dark, sweet cherry similar to bings.  Bings will be coming on shortly.  The trees at Brosi's are nice dwarf-type trees that make for easy picking from the ground.  Prices are $1.00/lb. u-pick or $1.99/lb. picked.

Kruse Farms and Shady Lane (342 Shady Drive, Roseburg  541-672-3430) both say their cherries will not be ready until closer to the end of the month.  You can check back here or check the News Review nightly to see their opening dates.

Gordon Hentze of Hentze Family Farm in Junction City tells me his cherries will not be ready until mid-July.  That's where I go to buy already picked and pitted cherries for drying.  I bought 80 pounds last year.  I dehydrated 60 pounds and froze the remaining 20 pounds to use in smoothies and protein shakes--frozen cherries, chocolate whey protein powder, skim milk, and some freshly ground flaxseed--perfect for my post-workout recovery shake.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Dutch Oven Lasagne

A friend of mine (also named Jennifer) was in charge of feeding about 65 twelve and thirteen year old girls and their leaders for a three-day church camp.  Tonight's main dish was Dutch Oven Lasagne.  I volunteered to drive out to Camp Mooney and help so that I could learn how it's done.

Jennifer did an amazing job coordinating it all.  She had the ground beef already cooked and the cheese shredded.  Any lasagne recipe will work but here's what we did:  We started off by lining seven 14-inch Dutch ovens with aluminum foil so clean-up would be a snap.

The layers go in this order:  Sauce, UNCOOKED noodles (break them up to fill in the gaps), half of the cottage cheese (or ricotta) mixed with shredded mozzarella, eggs and Italian seasonings, more sauce, ground beef browned with onions, another layer of noodles, the rest of the cottage cheese mixture, more sauce, more meat, a final layer of noodles, and then sauce to completely cover them.  At this point you pour a cup of water over everything.  This adds enough extra moisture for the dry noodles to absorb.  Then, top the whole thing off with a layer of mozzarella cheese and then sprinkle with grated Parmesan.

Cover with the lid and get ready for the fun part.

To determine how many charcoal briquets you need to prepare to simulate baking in a 350 degree oven use this formula:  take the diameter of the Dutch oven and subtract two.  That is how many briquets you put underneath the pot.  Add two to the diameter and that is how many you put on top.  (Note:  I was told this is not the same formula if you are baking bread in a Dutch oven because you need additional heat on top, but I will try to cover that in another post.)

We were using seven 14-inch ovens, so we needed twelve on the bottom and sixteen on the top of each oven.  One of the guys at camp used a blowtorch attached to a propane tank to quickly fire up all the briquets in "chimneys" and they were ready in about ten minutes.
Jennifer used tongs and leather gloves to distribute all the hot coals onto metal stands.

But wait, there's more!  Hungry girls need dessert, so we also prepared Peach Cobbler in six more Dutch ovens and stacked them on top of the Dutch ovens the lasagne was in.  We added more briquets to the top and dinner and dessert cooked together.  How ingenious is that?

It took about an hour and fifteen minutes to cook the lasagne and then we removed the those ovens from the stands and let the it sit for ten to fifteen minutes before we served it.  We put the cobblers back on the coals and let them continue to cook another half hour or so.

The cobbler was simple to put together.  We covered the bottom of the smaller foil-lined ovens with a layer of undrained canned peaches, sprinkled on some cinnamon and then a whole dry white cake mix and drizzled the top with 3/4 cup melted butter.

Both the lasagne and the cobbler were delicious and got rave reviews from the girls and the adults.  I can't wait to try this at home for my family.  Great job, Jennifer! Thanks for letting me help.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Organic Strawberries at The Berry Patch!

I just saw in tonight's News Review that The Berry Patch in Roseburg has organic u-pick strawberries.  I'm not sure if this is new this year or if I have just been out-of-the-loop.  I think they only used to offer them already picked.  I always pick raspberries, boysenberries, Marionberries, and blackberries there, but I don't ever remember strawberries being available.  The organic u-pick strawberries are $1.25/pound or you can call to order picked berries.  The answering machine message didn't say how much the picked berries are but their number is 541-440-8484.  They are open Monday through Saturday from 8:00 am to noon.

We only eat organic strawberries now and my own plants are not producing much this year.  It was probably time to pull them out and start with new plants, but it was such a rainy spring that I never got around to it.  My dad has been sharing his berries with me for fresh eating and I've made two batches of freezer jam, but I'd love to have a supply of frozen strawberries to go in my winter smoothies.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Poison Paper Collection

Another great find at the Lookingglass Farmers Market.  I picked up these "Poison Oak" notecards from Kathy Stutzman, of Kathy's Kreations, part of her "Poison Paper Collection."

Kathy scanned a poison oak leaf (let's hope she used gloves!) and created these unique cards.  They come in a variety of paper and envelope colors that you can mix and match.  The ivory paper (above) has a lovely smooth but not glossy finish--just right for using a fountain pen.  How fun for sending a note to one of my hiking friends! 

Kathy (of the Harrison's Hardware family in Winston) also has jewelry for sale that she's created out of nuts, bolts, and the like.  Some people are just so creative!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Beeswax Tea Lights

Beeswax Tea Lights

I bought a dozen of these beeswax tea lights for $4.00 from fourteen-year old Caitlyn Rose at the Lookingglass Farmers Market last Friday.  They fit easily into the bottom of any size mason jar for an inexpensive way to add a bit of ambience to the patio or backyard.  A perfect way to dress up the picnic table for an al fresco dinner on these warm summer evenings.

Check them out at the Amazing Love booth on Fridays from 3:00 to 6:00 pm or call 541-679-5065 to find out where else you can buy them.  Hooray for young entrepreneurs!

Saturday, June 9, 2012


Strawberry season is in full swing here in the Umpqua Valley.  Kruse Farms opened their fields for u-picking over a week ago and they have their fresh rhubarb for sale for those who enjoy the combination in dishes like Rhubarb-Strawberry Crisp. U-pick berries are $1.00 per pound.

Brosi Sugartree Farms had a booth at the Umpqua Valley Farmers Market this morning with their strawberries for sale, but they also do u-pick at their farm near Winston.  U-pick berries are $1.00 per pound.

And, for those of you who have been searching for "no-spray" strawberries to pick, I've found the spot.  I checked out the Lookingglass Farmers Market yesterday and met Anna from 3 Sparrows Farm.  She is growing, picking and selling Benton and Tri-star berries at the site in Canyonville that was formerly Mary's Garden.  She says they are not certified organic but the fields have not been sprayed in years.  They are open seven days a week from 8:00am to 10:00 pm, but call first to check on conditions at 541-784-5705.  Anna also sells her berries at the Canyonville Farmers Market (new this year!)  and it's held on Wednesdays from 4-7pm.  She said it's a great market with about 24 vendors so far.  I'm going to have to plan a Wednesday to go pick berries and check out the market afterward.  U-pick berries are $1.15 per pound.

Of course, if you just want to buy a few pints of berries for fresh eating, you can't beat the organic strawberries from Big Lick Farm I buy at the Umpqua Valley Farmers Market.  Suzi and Asinete grow the most delicious Seascape berries and they are worth every penny of the $3/pint basket I pay for them.

Enjoy the strawberries while they last.  Cherries will be coming on soon.