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Monday, November 30, 2015

Whole Grain Floriani Cornbread

When it came time to make the cornbread for our traditional Thanksgiving dressing last week, I remembered I had a bag of stone-ground, Willamette Valley-grown, organic Floriani Red Flint cornmeal from Camas Country Mill in my freezer. It’s a lovely, coarse cornmeal with red and brown flecks and I just knew it would bake up into a flavorful pan of cornbread.




I started with the corn cake instructions from our McDaniel Family Cornbread Dressing recipe, but I made a few adaptations. I replaced the white flour with freshly ground whole wheat pastry flour and I soaked the cornmeal in the egg and milk for a few minutes to let the bran and germ soften. I also substituted unsalted butter for the oil.

I used an 11-inch well-seasoned cast iron skillet to give the cornbread a nice, crusty edge, but a 9 x 13 pan will work, too. Either way, this cornmeal makes superb cornbread. I served it with a hearty soup and saved the rest for the cornbread dressing.


Whole Grain Floriani Cornbread

This recipe will fill an 11-inch cast iron skillet or a 9 x 13-inch glass or metal pan.


2 eggs
2 ½ cups whole milk
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (I used freshly ground soft white wheat)
2 cups Camas Country Mill Floriani Red Flint cornmeal
2 tablespoons Sucanat sweetener (or brown sugar)
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons sea salt
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted


Preheat oven to 450 degrees. If using a cast iron pan, place it in the oven and allow to  preheat for at least 10 minutes. Otherwise, butter a 9 x 13 inch pan and set aside.


Beat the eggs well in a large mixing bowl. Add the milk and cornmeal and let stand for 5 minutes. Stir together the whole wheat flour, Sucanat or sugar, baking powder and salt in a small bowl.


Whisk the dry ingredients into the cornmeal mixture just until combined and no dry spots remain. If using cast iron, carefully remove the hot pan from the oven and brush with 1 tablespoon of the melted butter. Gently whisk the rest of the butter into the batter and pour into the prepared pan.


Bake 20 - 25 minutes, just until set and golden brown on top. A toothpick or wooden skewer poked in the center should come out clean. Cool in the pan for 5 - 10 minutes before cutting and serving.




Sunday, November 22, 2015

Perfect Pie Crust Video Tutorial



My first video tutorial, just in time for your holiday pies. If you're nervous about rolling about the perfect crust, this demo will build your confidence. Here's a link to the pastry recipe and some of my favorite pies.

I use the recipe on the pumpkin can for Pumpkin Pie or I make Butternut Squash Pie instead.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Food and Love: Willie's Soup and Cornbread

(Originally published in The News Review on October 6, 2015) Recipes in this post: Willie's Soup, Cast Iron Cornbread



“Food is symbolic of love when words are inadequate.” Alan D. Wolfelt, Center for Loss & Life Transition

As I put finishing touches on this column last Thursday, I was interrupted by news of the shootings at Umpqua Community College. Not again! Not here! I sat transfixed, switching nervously between online reports and Facebook posts, my heart sinking with each update. What could I write about food that would not sound out-of-touch and inconsequential in light of the tragedy?


This much I know, food is an integral part of most life transitions. A newborn instinctively roots for her mother's breast to find nourishment and comfort. We celebrate birthdays and weddings with festive cakes. We mark holidays by preparing traditional recipes. And for funerals and memorials, food is brought in by friends, neighbors and church members to sustain the grieving family.


While I considered how I might help, others sprang into action. Two women I know spent Friday afternoon baking apple pies and sharing them randomly in a simple act of community good will. Another friend took dozens of Costco smoothies out to law enforcement officials, still working tirelessly at the crime scene. Brava, ladies, for your random acts of kindness!


In the coming weeks, may we be willing to mourn with those who mourn and comfort those who stand in need of comfort through heartfelt gestures, large and small, as we pray for peace and healing in our community.


I spent the latter part of the summer in La Grande, Oregon waiting for the arrival of my first grandchild. What should have been a seven to ten day trip became a lesson in patience. Baby Ada was twelve days past due when she finally made her grand entrance.

My daughter, Christine, and I busied ourselves cooking and baking. We filled the freezer with shepherd's pie, scalloped potatoes and ham, lasagne, pelmeni (Russian meat-filled dumplings), black beans, whole wheat bread, cookie dough balls and even a few pans of sticky buns. My son-in-law, Blake, is an avid gardener, so we had a bountiful harvest of potatoes, onions, parsnips, carrots, tomatoes and herbs to work with.
A week into my stay, Blake's mother and grandmother (whose flights had been booked months ahead) arrived to join the waiting game. We tried hard to be a help and not a hindrance, falling naturally into work patterns that suited our abilities. As I baked bread, Traci and Donna weed whacked the yard. I cooked dinner each night and they washed the dishes. While they tended the garden, I kept up on the laundry.

Two glorious days of rain and cool weather cleared the smoke from the Grande Ronde Valley and inspired me to put soup on the menu, with cornbread on the side. Willie's Soup is a family favorite that comes together quickly. I always have the ingredients on hand. This cornbread recipe is known as “the good cornbread” among my children, to distinguish it from the whole wheat, less sweet version I make to please my husband and to use in cornbread dressing at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

With a bit of coaxing, our granddaughter eventually arrived, healthy and beautiful. I stayed another week and a half then drove home, my heart full of gratitude for this tiny new addition to our family. In light of recent events, I am reminded of the poet Carl Sandburg's famous declaration, “A baby is God's opinion that life should go on.”
 
Willie's Soup

Years ago my mom copied a soup she used to order at her favorite deli. We've been eating “Willie's Soup” ever since. A few times each winter, mom will make a huge batch and give me several quart jars for the freezer. Paired with a salad and cornbread, this soup makes a quick, tummy-warming supper the whole family enjoys. Feel free to double or triple the recipe if you want to share or stock up.

1 pound extra-lean, grass-fed ground beef
1 large onion, diced
3 stalks of celery, sliced
6 cups water
6 teaspoons “Better Than Beef” soup base (I like the organic variety)
1 bay leaf, broken in half
2 cups peeled and diced fresh tomatoes or 1 can petite-diced tomatoes w/juice
3-5 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
2-3 parsnips, peeled and cut into chunks (or more carrots)
3 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1 cup frozen peas
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In a large soup pot or Dutch oven, cook the ground beef until no longer pink. Drain any fat (if there is any), add the diced onion and cook until translucent. Add the remaining ingredients, except the peas. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, reduce heat to low and simmer until vegetables are almost tender, 10-20 minutes, depending on the size of your “chunks.” Remove the bay leaf halves. Add the frozen peas and simmer for another 4-5 minutes. Ladle into bowls and serve with cornbread.
Note: I freeze soup in gallon freezer bags, rather than glass jars, because it's easier to defrost quickly.



Cast Iron Cornbread
This is adapted from Bernard Clayton's recipe for “Rebecca's Cornbread” in The Complete Book of Breads. It's a sweet, rich “restaurant-style” cornbread with a fluffy interior and crusty edges when baked in cast iron. A 10-inch skillet is the perfect size, but you can also use a 9-inch square metal or glass pan, if you don't own cast iron.
¾ cup yellow cornmeal (I use Bob's Red Mill brand if I don't grind my own.)
2 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 cup milk, whole or lowfat (not nonfat)
¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) butter, melted and cooled
3 large eggs, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. If using a cast iron skillet, place it in the oven and allow it to preheat for at least 10 minutes. Otherwise, butter a 9 x 9 x 2-inch square pan and set aside.

Stir the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in the milk and beaten eggs. Whisk gently just until combined. If using cast iron, carefully remove the hot pan from the oven. Brush the inside of the pan with some of the melted butter (a silicone brush will not melt) and fold the remaining butter into the batter. Do not overmix. Pour into the pan and level the top with a rubber scraper or the back of a spoon. Bake for 20 -25 minutes. Test the center with a wooden skewer, toothpick or metal cake tester. No batter should cling to it. Remove from oven to a cooling rack. Cut into wedges or squares and serve warm with butter, jam or honey.



  


Thursday, September 3, 2015

Fresh From the Oven

(Originally published in The News Review on September 1, 2015)

Recipes links: My Best Chocolate Chip Cookies, Cranberry-Walnut Oatmeal Cookies, and Whole Wheat Peanut Butter Cookies


Think what a better world it would be if we all – the whole world – had cookies and milk about three o'clock every afternoon...” Robert Fulghum, All I Really Need to Know I learned in Kindergarten.

I've baked thousands of cookies in my lifetime. You could call me a cookie-baking fanatic. I haven't yet reached Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 hour threshold to master the craft, but I practice passionately. When cookies are requested, I'm the first to volunteer. For scouting events, class parties, school lunches, church activities, board meetings, potlucks, picnics, funerals, weddings or daylong hikes, if cookies are called for, I'm your gal.

I bake cookies when I'm happy. I bake cookies when I'm sad. I bake cookies when I'm stressed (and then stress about how many cookies I ate). I bake cookies when I'm procrastinating and when I'm nervous. As I type this, I'm anxiously awaiting the birth of my first grandchild, who is past her due date...and I'm baking cookies.

Cookies are always best while they're still warm. With a well-stocked pantry, I can have a dozen cookies in the oven in five minutes flat. I rarely bake the whole batch at once. I scoop the dough onto wax paper-lined cookie sheets, freeze until firm and then store in plastic bags. 

A fresh plate of cookies is always a welcome gift, but that's not the only gift-giving option. For Father's Day and his birthday, I keep my dad supplied with a variety of frozen cookie dough balls so he can bake them himself whenever the craving strikes.

My daughters are old enough to remember my brief foray into “healthy” cookies, made with prune purée and applesauce to replace the fat. It was the early nineties and butter was the enemy. I quickly decided that “real” homemade cookies are one of life's simple pleasures, an indulgence I'm not willing to give up.

Tips for baking the very best cookies

I use unsalted butter in my cookies. Many butter manufacturers add flavoring to unsalted butter to mimic that of cultured cream. If that bothers you, two brands made without added flavoring and available in local stores are Kerrygold and Rumiano. Kerrygold is imported from Ireland and rather expensive. Rumiano butter is made in Crescent City, California and costs about the same as other national brands.

Use good quality chocolate chips. I'm a compulsive label-reader. If vanillin (synthetic vanilla), or “natural flavors” is listed in the ingredients, I put them back on the shelf. I like Ghirardelli and Guittard chocolate chips.

I always bake cookies on unbleached parchment paper. Each sheet can be used many times; just wipe it off with a paper towel, if needed, and store it on the cookie sheet between uses.

Frozen cookie dough balls take a bit longer to bake but there is no need to defrost them first. I bake dough balls at 350 degrees for 12 to 14 minutes in a standard oven or 10 minutes using the convection setting.



Cranberry-Walnut Oatmeal Cookies
This is my favorite cookie to take along on hikes. The combination of dried fruit, nuts, oats and sugar(!) gets me up those hills. I always bring plenty to share.

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 cup granulated white sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour*
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 cups quick-cooking rolled oats
1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
1 cup dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.** Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

With an electric mixer, cream together the butter, sugars and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and blend well. 
 
In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and sea salt. Add to the creamed butter and mix just until the dry ingredients are fully incorporated. Stir in the oats, walnuts and cranberries.

Drop by tablespoons or a small cookie scoop onto 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.
 
*You can make a whole grain cookie by using whole wheat pastry flour in place of the all-purpose flour.

**If you have a convection oven, preheat it to 325 degrees and bake cookies for 9 minutes.
Makes about 5 dozen cookies.


Whole Wheat Peanut Butter Cookies
(with or without chocolate chips)

This is adapted from my mother-in-law's recipe. Rosemary was the first person I met who used whole wheat flour in her baking and peanut butter that had to be stirred.

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups lightly packed brown sugar
1 cup natural peanut butter, creamy or chunky
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 cups (1 pkg.) semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips, optional

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.*  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Cream together the butter, sugar and vanilla. Add the eggs and peanut butter and mix until well-combined.  In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Add to peanut butter mixture just until all the dry ingredients are fully incorporated.  Stir in chocolate chips, if using.

Drop by tablespoons or a small cookie scoop onto parchment-lined cookie sheet. (No need to criss cross with a fork.) Bake at 375 for 9 to 11 minutes, just until center is puffed and beginning to set**. Remove from oven and let cool on the pan for one minute before transferring to a wire rack. 

*If you have a convection oven, preheat it to 350 degrees and bake for 8 minutes.

**This makes chewy cookies.  If you want them crispy, increase baking time by one to two minutes.

My Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

A cookie-loving friend once shared a recipe that was said to be for Mrs. Fields® famous chocolate chip cookies. I was never able to find it in any Mrs. Fields® cookbook, but I've adapted the recipe over the years to make what I consider perfect chocolate chip cookies, soft and chewy with crispy edges. This makes a huge batch of dough and the recipe is not easily halved, as it calls for three eggs. Bake a dozen or two cookies and freeze the remaining balls of dough for the weeks to come.

3 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
½ cup granulated white sugar
1 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
3 large eggs
6 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons sea salt
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 pkg. (10 oz.) Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Chocolate Chips
1 pkg. (11.5 oz.) Ghirardelli Milk Chocolate Chips
2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.* Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a heavy-duty stand mixer, cream together the sugars, softened butter and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and mix well to combine.

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, salt and baking powder. Add to the creamed butter and mix just until all of the flour is incorporated and there are no dry spots. Add the chocolate chips and nuts (if using) and mix briefly to distribute.

Drop by tablespoons or a small cookie scoop two inches apart onto the parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes, just until the edges begin to brown. Remove pan from oven and allow cookies to cool for one minute, then transfer to a wire rack.

Makes 10 to 12 dozen cookies, depending on size and whether or not you add nuts.

*If you have a convection oven, preheat it to 350 degrees and bake cookies for 8 minutes. For frozen dough balls, increase baking time to 10 minutes.



Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Whole Wheat Peanut Butter Cookies

Whole Wheat Peanut Butter Cookies
(with or without chocolate chips)

This is adapted from my mother-in-law's recipe. Rosemary was the first person I met who used whole wheat flour in her baking and peanut butter that had to be stirred.

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups lightly packed brown sugar
1 cup natural peanut butter, creamy or chunky
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 cups (1 pkg.) semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips, optional

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.*  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Cream together the butter, sugar and vanilla. Add the eggs and peanut butter and mix until well-combined.  In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Add to peanut butter mixture just until all the dry ingredients are fully incorporated.  Stir in chocolate chips, if using.

Drop by tablespoons or a small cookie scoop onto parchment-lined cookie sheet. (No need to criss cross with a fork.) Bake at 375 for 9 to 11 minutes, just until center is puffed and beginning to set**. Remove from oven and let cool on the pan for one minute before transferring to a wire rack. 

*If you have a convection oven, preheat it to 350 degrees and bake for 8 minutes.

**This makes chewy cookies.  If you want them crispy, increase baking time by one to two minutes.


Cranberry-Walnut Oatmeal Cookies


Cranberry-Walnut Oatmeal Cookies
This is my favorite cookie to take along on hikes. The combination of dried fruit, nuts, oats and sugar(!) gets me up those hills. I always bring plenty to share.

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 cup granulated white sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour*
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 cups quick-cooking rolled oats
1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
1 cup dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.** Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

With an electric mixer, cream together the butter, sugars and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and blend well. 
 
In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and sea salt. Add to the creamed butter and mix just until the dry ingredients are fully incorporated. Stir in the oats, walnuts and cranberries.

Drop by tablespoons or a small cookie scoop onto 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.
 
*You can make a whole grain cookie by using whole wheat pastry flour in place of the all-purpose flour.

**If you have a convection oven, preheat it to 325 degrees and bake cookies for 9 minutes.
Makes about 5 dozen cookies.


My Best Chocolate Chip Cookies


My Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

A cookie-loving friend once shared a recipe that was said to be for Mrs. Fields® famous chocolate chip cookies. I was never able to find it in any Mrs. Fields® cookbook, but I've adapted the recipe over the years to make what I consider perfect chocolate chip cookies, soft and chewy with crispy edges. This makes a huge batch of dough and the recipe is not easily halved, as it calls for three eggs. Bake a dozen or two cookies and freeze the remaining balls of dough for the weeks to come.

3 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
½ cup granulated white sugar
1 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
3 large eggs
6 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons sea salt
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 pkg. (10 oz.) Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Chocolate Chips
1 pkg. (11.5 oz.) Ghirardelli Milk Chocolate Chips
2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.* Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a heavy-duty stand mixer, cream together the sugars, softened butter and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and mix well to combine.

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, salt and baking powder. Add to the creamed butter and mix just until all of the flour is incorporated and there are no dry spots. Add the chocolate chips and nuts (if using) and mix briefly to distribute.

Drop by tablespoons or a small cookie scoop two inches apart onto the parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes, just until the edges begin to brown. Remove pan from oven and allow cookies to cool for one minute, then transfer to a wire rack.

Makes 10 to 12 dozen cookies, depending on size and whether or not you add nuts.

*If you have a convection oven, preheat it to 350 degrees and bake cookies for 8 minutes. For frozen dough balls, increase baking time to 10 minutes.


Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Got Zucchini?

(Originally published in The News Review on August 4, 2015)

Recipe Links:  Lemon-Ginger Zucchini Bread, Blueberry-Walnut Zucchini Bread, Zucchini "Noodles", and Summer Squash Salad

Lemon-Ginger Zucchini Bread
I was sixteen when my parents decided to move from our suburban San Diego home to a 27-acre “hobby farm” in southern Oregon. My dad, retired from the Navy, was excited to finally have room for two cows, two pigs, a dog and a big garden. My mom, always glamorous and sophisticated, traded a successful career in real estate for the country life. We joked that it was a bit like the television show Green Acres, though my mother is much more competent than Eva Gabor's character. Mom set to work learning to make featherlight dinner rolls and canning strawberry jam. Dad got busy building a house and rototilling.

As I recall it, Dad put in two rows of zucchini. (You gardeners out there can see where this is heading.) Two rows produce a boatload of squash! A neighbor later suggested he take one zucchini seed, cut it in half before planting, and he'd still have a bountiful harvest. Needless to say, we ate a lot of zucchini bread and cheesy zucchini pie that year.

Zucchini is nutritious and inexpensive (or free from your friends who grew too much). It's adaptable to both sweet and savory preparations. Zucchini bread must be the original sneaky chef method for getting kids to eat their vegetables. It freezes well, so you can always have a loaf on hand for breakfast, tea or dessert. I've included two recipes I created for an OSU Extension/Master Food Preserver class a few years back. First, a lemon-ginger version, studded with pieces of candied ginger and flecked with lemon zest. If you like ginger, you'll love this. The second recipe incorporates two local superfoods: blueberries and walnuts. I have a freezer full of both and I'm always looking for new ways to use them.

Zucchini “noodles” may sound odd, but they're actually quite good. I have no problem with gluten or carbs and I love a good plate of pasta, but I'll happily eat my spaghetti sauce over these veggie noodles on occasion. They cook up in just a few minutes.

Whether grilling, stir-frying, or baking, about the only way to ruin zucchini is to overcook it. It can go from deliciously fork-tender to translucent and mushy in a matter of minutes. If family members turn up their noses at cooked zucchini, why not try it raw? Diced and tossed with a light, lemony dressing, a combination of zucchini and yellow summer squash makes a cool and refreshing salad.

I always thought, after a year in the country, I'd head back to California to go to college. But here I am, an Oregonian by choice, if not by birth. As I bake bread, pick berries, make jam and water my own small garden, I'm thankful for parents with a sense of adventure.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Lemon-Ginger Zucchini Bread


Lemon-Ginger Zucchini Bread
Makes two loaves

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup safflower or sunflower oil
3 eggs
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups grated zucchini (firmly packed)
the zest of 1 lemon
1 cup finely chopped candied ginger (available in the bulk bins)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 8 1/2 x 4-inch bread pans. (I prefer metal pans.) Stir together the flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder in a small bowl. In a large bowl, beat the eggs, oil, sugar and vanilla together with a mixer until creamy. Blend in the flour mixture just until well-combined and then fold in the zucchini and lemon zest by hand. Toss the candied ginger with a tablespoon of flour to coat well. (This keeps the pieces from sinking to the bottom of the loaves.) Fold ginger into the batter.

Divide the batter evenly between the two pans. Bake for 60 to 70 minutes until golden brown on top and a toothpick or cake tester comes out clean. Let cool in the pans on a wire rack for 10 to 15 minutes. Carefully remove from pans and let cool completely.

When cool, wrap tightly in plastic wrap or foil and let stand overnight. This allows the oil and moisture to distribute evenly throughout the loaves.

Blueberry-Walnut Zucchini Bread


I combined the best of 6 different recipes to create an Umpqua Valley version using our wonderful local blueberries, walnuts, eggs and, of course, zucchini.

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon cinnamon
3 eggs
1 cup safflower or canola oil
2 ¼ cups sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups grated zucchini (firmly packed)
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
1 ½ cups coarsely chopped walnuts, lightly toasted*

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour** two 8 x 4-inch bread pans. (I prefer metal pans.) Stir together the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon in a small bowl. In a large bowl, beat the eggs, oil, sugar and vanilla together with a mixer until creamy. Blend in the flour mixture just until well-combined and then fold in the zucchini by hand. Combine the berries and nuts in a colander and toss with a tablespoon of flour to coat them well. This keeps them from sinking to the bottom of the loaves. Fold the berries and nuts into the batter.

Divide the batter evenly between the two pans. Bake for 60 to 70 minutes until golden brown on top and a toothpick or cake tester comes out clean. Let cool in the pans on a wire rack for 10 to 15 minutes. Carefully remove from pans and let cool completely.

When cool, wrap tightly in plastic wrap or foil and let stand overnight. This allows the oil and moisture to distribute evenly throughout the loaves.

*toasting the nuts is optional, but does bring out more flavor. Place in a pie plate in a 350 degree oven for 5 to 10 minutes, just until their color deepens a bit and they begin to give off their fragrance. Let cool before adding to the batter.

**I like to use cinnamon sugar instead of flour to coat the greased pans. Mix 2 tablespoons sugar with 2 teaspoons cinnamon until thoroughly blended. Divide between the greased pans and rotate to coat the bottom and sides.

Summer Squash Salad


Summer Squash Salad

The deep green zucchini and bright yellow summer squash in this salad remind me of my alma mater. Go Ducks!

2 small (1-inch diameter) or 1 medium (2-inch diameter) zucchini
2 small or 1 medium yellow summer squash (I like the straight “Butterstick” variety, but yellow crookneck squash is fine, too.)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
(1 teaspoon lemon zest, if desired)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Pecorino-Romano or Parmesan cheese for garnishing, if desired.

Wash the squash well. Cut off the ends, cut lengthwise into quarters, then slice crosswise into half-inch pieces. Place in a serving bowl.

Whisk together the lemon juice, zest, mustard and olive oil. Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

Just before serving, pour the dressing (you may not need all of it) over the squash and toss well to combine. Using a sharp vegetable peeler, shave Pecorino-Romano or Parmesan cheese over the top, if desired. Serve immediately.

Zucchini Noodles


Zucchini “Noodles”

A good use for those extra-large summer squash.

Wash zucchini, dry thoroughly and cut off the blossom end. Hold by the stem end at an angle on a cutting board. Using a vegetable peeler, cut wide strips down the entire length, working your way all around the squash. Continuing cutting “noodles” until you reach the seeds.

Sauté the squash strips in a small amount of olive oil or butter for 2-3 minutes, just until barely tender. Top with spaghetti sauce, marinara, a creamy Alfredo or any other sauce you would normally serve over egg noodles or fettuccine. Serve immediately.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Estill Farms Blueberries

My friend Janet and I went to check out a new blueberry farm this morning and between the two of us, we picked almost a hundred pounds in about two hours!!!


Estill Farms (aka Uncle Paula's Blueberries) is located west of Drain on Hwy 38. It's about a 40 mile drive from my house (37 miles from the UCC exit on I-5) so we wanted to make it worth our while. We started off picking their Draper variety. The bushes are small (perfect for kids!) but, oh, were they loaded with big, beautiful berries! Our recent heat wave has taken its toll and some of the berries are beginning to shrivel a little, but there were plenty of dark, sweet, firm berries.

Estill Farms provides picking buckets, but we had our own small buckets on belts (so we could pick with both hands) and empty them into their larger buckets. We quickly tired of bending over, but then we figured out it was easier to just hold our small buckets right under the clusters of berries and lightly run our fingers over them and the ripe berries would fall straight into the bucket. Fastest picking ever!

After we filled six large buckets plus our small ones with Drapers, we drove back to the pay station and decided to pick a few Libertys, which they had just opened for picking today. The Liberty berries have incredible flavor, a bit tarter than the Drapers and perfect for fresh eating. (I freeze most of our berries and we use them in smoothies, so it doesn't really matter what type I pick for that.) The Liberty bushes are tall, not much bending over, so we went back to the bucket-on-a-belt method.

We chatted with the owners while they weighed our berries and learned that this is only their second year doing u-pick. Paula Estill has been at the Umpqua Valley Farmers Market the past two weeks and that's how I found out about their farm. It's great to have another blueberry farm in the area, especially since their harvest seems to be a bit later than the others, extending the season for all of us u-pickers.

If you go:

The address is 6680 Hwy. 38. (541)-836-7612. 

U-pick berries are $1.25/lb.

Bring shallow containers to transfer your berries to after they are weighed and paid for.

There's a very clean port-a-potty and a handwashing station right near the first rows of berries.

If you're new to picking and need tips on storing blueberries, read this.

Blueberry season won't last much longer, so get 'em while you can.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Easy Kalua Pig and Crusty French Rolls

I added traditional southern sides to my "Kalua" pig.
Have you got a crowd to feed? I've got the dish for you! We recently had a mini family reunion of sorts. My brother and his wife, just home from a two-year mission to Tonga, drove up from California with their youngest daughter at the same time both of our girls were home for a visit. Add my parents, husband and son, and that made ten of us for a Father's Day feast.

I wanted a simple dish I could prepare ahead of time. Since we were honoring three fathers, I didn't want the men out grilling fish, tri-tip or hamburgers in the sweltering sun. I flipped through one of my church cookbooks and landed on Easy Kalua Pig, contributed by my friend, Kay Tano. Melt-in-your-mouth pork done in the slow cooker? Sounded like just the ticket to a fuss-free dinner.

Kalua, according to my friend Andy, who was raised on The Big Island, is the Hawaiian word for the method of cooking using an imu or underground oven. (Not to be confused with Kahlúa, which is a Mexican coffee liquor.) Kalua Pig is the traditional meat served at a luau.

I don't remember much about the food at the luaus I went to as a child during the two years we lived in Hawaii. I was probably too picky to try the traditional side dishes like lomi lomi salmon, poi or poke. I do, however, have a fondness for southern barbecue. While the cooking differs slightly from Kalua Pig, the flavor is quite similar.

Family reunions in South Carolina included a trip to the famous Sweatman's Bar-b-que in Holly Hill, an hour's drive from my mother's hometown of Charleston. Like Scarlett O'Hara and her unbridled enthusiasm to “eat barbeque,” we piled our Styrofoam plates high with smoky pulled pork, baked beans, coleslaw, macaroni & cheese and cups of banana pudding for dessert. The family that eats together, stays together!

For this family dinner, I decided to go the southern route and served my “Kalua” Pig sandwich-style on crusty French rolls. Barbecue sauce was available for those who wanted it, but this meat had plenty of flavor without dressing it up. The pork cooks for 15 to 20 hours on low. I started it Saturday night before bed and it was falling-apart tender when I served it, to rave reviews, Sunday afternoon. The rolls, too, can be mixed and shaped the night before.

Food brings us together. If the promise of a sumptuous meal gets people to the table, I'm eager to do my part in the kitchen. Easy Kalua Pig is a dish that feeds many mouths with minimal prep and lets you focus on family fun. 

Easy “Kalua” Pig

You can find nearly identical recipes for Kalua Pig all over the Internet. With only three ingredients, there's not much variation. I used my friend Kay's recipe from our church cookbook and added many preparation details of my own.

1 (6 lb.) pork butt roast
1 ½ tablespoons sea salt
1 tablespoon liquid smoke

A word about ingredients:

The pork butt I bought was bone-in and labeled “Pork Shoulder/Boston Butt.” The bone adds flavor while cooking and is easily pulled out when the meat gets tender.

Some recipes call for special Red Hawaiian sea salt. I used the sea salt I use for just about all my cooking, which is Redmond's Real Salt.

Liquid Smoke comes in several varieties: Mesquite, hickory, applewood, etc. I used hickory, but some recipes suggest that mesquite is closest to the kiawe wood traditionally used when cooking Kalua Pig in the ground.

Method:

Pierce the meat all over with something sharp, like a carving fork. I used a metal shish kebab skewer. An ice pick would work, also. Rub the salt all over the meat. Drizzle with liquid smoke and rub that in too. Place the roast in a slow cooker, cover and cook on low for 15 to 20 hours, turning once during the cooking period. Do not add any liquid! The roast will cook in its own juices and become falling-apart tender. I started my roast at 10:00 P.M. and served it at 5:00 P.M. the next day. It was perfect!

When ready to serve, remove the bone and transfer the meat to a cutting board using tongs or a slotted spoon. Shred the meat using two forks or chop it with a large knife. (I removed some of the fat from the meat before shredding, because I couldn't bear to mix it all in, but this is in no way a low-fat dish.) Add some of the juices from the slow cooker to moisten the shredded meat, if needed. Serve immediately.

Yield: I fed ten people and had enough meat leftover for another five or six servings. If you want to try a smaller amount, the butcher said you could use a few boneless pork ribs instead of a pork butt. Of course, you'll need to decrease the salt and liquid smoke proportionately.


Crusty French Rolls

I've adapted these rolls from Peter Reinhart's recipe for Classic French Bread in his book Artisan Breads Every Day. Kneading takes only a few minutes and is easily done by hand. Best of all, the rolls can be mixed, shaped and refrigerated overnight. The next day, just pop them into the oven for about 20 minutes and serve them warm. This recipe yields 40 oz of dough, which will make 13 (3 oz) rolls or 20 (2 oz) rolls. I used the larger rolls for sandwiches.

5 1/3 cups (24 oz) unbleached bread flour
2 teaspoons (0.5 oz) sea salt
2 ¼ teaspoons (0.25 oz or 1 pkg. instant yeast (Red Star Quick-Rise or bread machine yeast)
2 cups (16 oz) lukewarm water

Measure the flour, salt and yeast into a large mixing bowl. Stir to combine and then add the water. Stir well with a large spoon for about 1 minute, until it forms a shaggy dough. Let it rest, uncovered, for 5 minutes.

Turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead gently by hand for about 3 minutes, adding as little flour as possible, until the dough becomes smooth and elastic, but is still just a bit tacky. If you touch it with a dry finger, it should cling ever so slightly, but not stick.

Place the dough in a lightly oiled container, cover and let rise at room temperature until doubled in size, about 90 minutes. Turn out onto a floured board and divide into 2 or 3 oz pieces. Shape each piece of dough into a ball by placing it in the palm of one hand and using the fingers of your other hand to bring the edges to the center and pinch them together tightly, creating a smooth top. Place the rolls a few inches apart on a parchment-lined baking pan. Spray lightly with oil, cover the pan well with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. (The oven bags made for roasting a turkey in fit well over a standard 18 x 13 half sheet pan. You won't be able to use a twist-tie, but you can tape the end to the underside of the pan.)

The next day, remove the pan from the refrigerator 1 hour before you plan to bake. If you have a baking stone, place it on the center rack of the oven. Place a steam pan (see note below) on the bottom rack. Preheat the oven to it's highest setting for at least 45 minutes.

About 10 minutes before baking, uncover the rolls to let the surface of the dough dry slightly. Just before putting the pan in the oven, slash the tops of the rolls about 1/2-inch deep with a serrated knife or snip the tops with kitchen shears. Have a cup of hot water ready and waiting. Place the pan on the baking stone or center rack. Cover the oven window with a dry dish towel (to prevent splashes that could crack it), carefully (use oven mitts) pour the hot water into the steam pan on the bottom rack, quickly remove the towel and shut the door. Reduce the heat to 450 degrees.

Bake the rolls for 12 minutes. Carefully remove the hot steam pan and rotate the pan of rolls for even baking. Bake an additional 8 to 10 minutes, until a deep, golden color. (If you remove the rolls too soon, the crust will soften as they cool. If you have a thermometer, you want an internal temperature of at least 200 degrees.) Cool slightly on a wire rack and serve warm with butter or sliced in half for sandwiches.

A word about baking stones and steam:

A baking stone is not necessary for baking these rolls, but it does conduct heat more quickly through the dough, helping the rolls rise higher in the oven. If you bake much at all, a stone is a good investment. My stone “lives” in one of my ovens. I bake hearth loaves, baguettes and pizzas directly on the hot stone, but I also bake pies, tarts and rectangular sandwich loaves in their pans, on top of the stone. You must preheat a baking stone on the oven rack for 45 minutes before using to give it time to absorb heat.

Steaming the oven during the first half of baking is essential to produce a great crust on these rolls. The method I use is to place a heavy-duty pan on the bottom rack of the oven, below and to the side of the baking stone (or where you will place the pan of rolls). A cast iron pan or small, shallow baking pan will work (though it may warp). The pan will be preheated to the oven's highest temperature along with the stone. Hot water added at the beginning of the bake will produce the blast of steam needed for hard, crusty rolls. Alternatively, you can spritz the oven with water from a clean spray bottle several times during the first 5 minutes of baking, but you lose oven heat each time you open the door.


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