Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Very Local Thanksgiving

This year, we hosted Thanksgiving for 12 people. I tend to go a bit overboard on Thanksgiving, and this year was no exception. Even though the local restriction made it more labor intensive, we managed a completely local dinner, followed by completely local dessert. And despite the extra work, my husband and I agree that this year was the best and most organized yet.

My big work day was on Wednesday, (with the help of many--Dan, Karen and my dad), but really the work began throughout the week before, when I roasted and pureed the pumpkins for the pie filling, baked 2 loaves of bread for stuffing crumbs, and shopped for all of the ingredients. Here was what we had:

Mashed Potatoes
Sweet Potatoes
Rutabaga Puree
Brussel Sprouts
Cannellini Beans with Kale
Local Cheeses
Homemade Crackers
Cranberry Sauce
Gravies - 1 vegetarian, 1 meat
Pies - 2 Apple, 2 Pumpkin

We managed to make everything from local ingredients. Our flour came from Fairhaven Organic Flour Mill, butter from Tillamook,  Apples from Eastern Washington, Cranberries from the UW Farmer's Market, milk from Golden Glen Creamery, cheese from Mt. Townsend Creamery, our pumpkins came from Rent's Due Ranch, Cannellini Beans from our stash of beans from Central Bean Company, our wine came from a variety of local wineries (thanks to our guests), and our Turkey came from Crown S Ranch in the Methow Valley. The veggies we served all came from the farmer's market the week before, from a variety of farms that are local.

In the end we had a great local feast, and a great celebration.

The bread crumbs for the stuffing  from the french bread I baked...

Pie crusts - 6 in total, all butter, all local

Homemade crackers with rosemary and kosher salt

Parker House rolls for dinner

Local cranberries, which I made with pears, honey, and lemon juice.

Pumpkin Pies

Preparing the crusts for the apple pies

Apple pies with Granny Smith apples from Eastern Washington

Potatoes on the upper left, Cannellini Beans and Kale lower left and Ruttabaga Puree on the lower right.

The table.

The turkey. Sage stuffed and buttered up.

The proud couple.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Day 64: Thankful on Thanksgiving.

Growing up, many of my favorite childhood memories revolved around my grandma's house in Tacoma. Grandma was quite the entertainer--china, tablecloths, silver, and on Thanksgiving, mini-cornucopias that held a small handful of candy corn for us to nibble on.

My cousins and I would play together until dinner was ready, and after we were called to the table, we would all go around and say one thing we were thankful for. As a kid, I'm sure my thanks revolved around something to do with horses, grades, and on occasion, family. My thanks have evolved with my life, but it's still a tradition I have held on to throughout the years, thanks to grandma.  
I've been thinking a lot about what I'm thankful for this year, as I have so much to be grateful for.

For instance, I'm married now, and I'm so thankful for my husband and our growing and evolving marriage. We bought a wonderful old home in Seattle, and for that I'm truly thankful.

And of course, I'm thankful for the many friends and family I have in my life (and truly thankful I have an amazing set of in-laws who constantly inspire me to do more and be better). My life would not be as rich, that is certain, without these folks in my life.

Finally, I'm grateful for you, those readers whom I do not know personally, who follow me on Twitter, keep up with me on Facebook, and engage me through comments and links that I might find useful. You keep me posting even when I'm feeling tapped out, and when I have doubts about continuing on this project, invariably, I will receive a comment or a Tweet that makes me smile and recommits me.

If you are preparing Thanksgiving this year, remember, take a moment to be thankful. Pour yourself a glass of wine, take a deep breath, and enjoy this amazing holiday of warmth and family.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Recipe : Cinnamon Blueberry Muffins

I found this recipe on Epicurious, and let me tell you--they are DELICIOUS! So easy and quick to make, too, which is such a great bonus. I whipped some up this morning as we have company coming for Thanksgiving and I thought having some snacks around (before Turkey Day arrives) is probably a good idea.

What You'll Need:
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup whole milk
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups blueberries (7 1/2 oz)

> Whisk together melted butter, brown sugar, milk and egg
> Add baking powder, flour, cinnamon, and salt - stir until just combined.

> Fold in blueberries. Luckily, I froze a flat from our farmer's market earlier this summer for exactly this purpose! 

> Portion into 12 cup lined muffin tin.
> Bake at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

> Result - very delicious muffins!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Would you like to know where your food is from?

So, this idea has been born out of necessity. I pick up a product that is advertised as "Local", only to find that the company is local but the product is not. Wouldn't it be great to pick up a product and notice a seal so you know the ingredients are from 250 miles of your nearest city?

I think this would encourage companies to become more locally focused, as well. That there is a standard on what is considered "Local". That we CARE. Because if no one knows we care, how will things ever change?

This project has opened my eyes to where everything comes from. I've been surprised to find that nearly everything can be sourced locally - but why isn't it with bakeries and restaurants around the state?

And so I wonder--would you, the consumer, be interested in knowing that the muffin you eat or the bread you buy is at least 85% local? I know I would.

I created this logo, and I'm going to try to encourage "Local" companies to use it. If they use at least 85% of their ingredients from local sources, this little gem will grace their packages.

For free. 

I'm not trying to make any money on this. I'm simply trying to create awareness about where our food comes from.

I would like Seattle to set the standard on local foodies nationwide. I would like to create change from the ground up, and show companies that eating locally is important for a healthier future.

But that's me.

What do YOU think?

Recipe: The BEST Tortillas EVER.

Last night I was feeling a bit uninspired. It's been a busy week with work and getting our house back into order from the flurry of travel recently, and I haven't been cooking or baking very much at all. I knew I wanted to make something vegetarian, something light and based on my mood, something quick. I began with what was in my fridge...beets, sweet potatoes, rainbow chard and some beans I had soaked/pre-cooked earlier in the week for a moment just like this. The colors inspired me to season this mixture with a Mexican-esque theme, which then inspired me to make tortillas.

It did a quick search on the internet, and found this recipe. The finished tortillas were amazing! I hope everyone tries them--they are worth the little extra time it takes.

What You'll Need:
Two cups of all-purpose flour (can make them whole wheat by substituting one cup of whole-wheat flour for white flour)
1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon of salt
2 teaspoons of vegetable oil
3/4 cups of warm milk

What You'll Do:

> Mix together the flour, baking powder,
salt and oil.
> Slowly add the warm milk.
> Stir until a loose, sticky ball is formed.
> Knead for two minutes on a floured surface.

Dough should be firm and soft.
Place dough in a bowl and cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap for 20 minutes.

After the dough has rested, break off eight sections, roll them into balls in your hands, place on a plate (make sure they aren’t touching) and then cover balls with damp cloth or plastic wrap for 10 minutes. (It’s very important to let the dough rest, otherwise it will be like elastic and won’t roll out to a proper thickness and shape.)

After dough has rested, one at a time place a dough ball on a floured surface, pat it out into a four-inch circle, and then roll with a rolling pin from the center until it’s thin and about eight inches in diameter. (If you roll out pie crusts you’ll have no problem with this.) Don’t over work the dough, or it’ll be stiff.

Keep rolled-out tortillas covered until ready to cook.

In a dry iron skillet or comal heated on high, cook the tortilla about thirty seconds on each side. It should start to puff a bit when it’s done.
Keep cooked tortillas covered wrapped in a napkin until ready to eat.

Makes eight tortillas.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Day 53: Thanksgiving Planning - or, OH CRAP, what day is it?

This last week we found ourselves in Manhattan, after booking a last-minute trip for the launch of the product Dan has been working on (The Boxee Box). It was a whirlwind of shopping, events and museums. While it was on my mind to try to eat locally, I knew the amount of planning and effort (and use of a good kitchen) that goes into eating within a 250 mile radius. And so the decision was quickly made: do what we can.

I'll be the first to admit, it wasn't very locally focused. We ate pizza at Lombardi's (the first pizzaria in the United States). We scarfed soup dumplings. We had Pastrami at Carnegie Deli.  While it was all very yummy, I left New York feeling bloated and unhealthy.

Even though we eat heartier foods at home, there is such an overwhelming "clean" feeling to everything we eat. Yes, I use an obscene amount of butter in everything that I bake and cook, but the little processing involved leaves the meal feeling light. And those stews are so filling, I generally eat less. I truly believe that the lack of preservatives in my food leads to feeling fuller longer, eating less in general, and lack in cravings for sweets and salty snacks.

So we were heading back to Seattle full of excitement to get back to eating locally, when I bolted awake from a middle-seat doze, panicked.

What day is it? Is Thanksgiving THIS week? Oh NO!

Thanksgiving normally takes a large amount of planning, but this year, it's even worse. There is no room for mistakes. If we plan on something and forget to pick it up, we run the risk of not having it at all. Not enough potatoes? Well, hopefully PCC still has some that are local.

And if they don't? No mashed potatoes.

I realize that there are 2 weeks before T-Day, but I know that planning begins NOW. With 12 people to feed and entertain, this is no small dinner party for me. And when I began sketching out our menu, I quickly realized there would be unique challenges.

For instance, the Turkey alone, which had to be ordered months ago. We just got an email from the farm we ordered it from, and after reading the fine print, we realized that we missed the pick-up day today. Ouch. One more delivery day next weekend, and if we miss that, we might be in bigger trouble than expected.

Or take the Stuffing.

Oh man, that's a lot of bread crumbs! Where do we get those crumbs from again? That's right. My bread. Which means baking at least two loaves of bread the week before Thanksgiving just for the bread crumb use.

Rolls for dinner?  More baking.

Let's not forget about the 2 Apple Pies - more baking, slicing and peeling... I guess do this the day before? And 2 Pumpkin Pies... pre-baking sugar pumpkins for the mixture...and baking the day before... the Rutabaga Puree...assuming the Farmer's Market will have some...sure hope so! Greens - depends on what's in season.

And what about the pre-dinner festivities? Football and snacks? I had originally planned on making a melted cheese dip in a pumpkin, but have since scaled even this back to "cheese and bread". Hope our guests won't be too disappointed.

At least there will be a lot of pie....

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Recipe: Pizza

Before we started eating locally, our grocery shopping was very routine, as was our weekly meal plans. Stir-fry on Monday. Quinoa and Chicken on Tuesday. Curry on Wednesday. Pizza on Thursday. The days would sometimes vary, and sometimes I would attempt a new recipe, but usually, this was our norm.

This project has taught me to think on my feet, be flexible, and experiment wildly in the kitchen. While our weekly routine has changed considerably, there is one thing we tend to miss: Pizza.

We used to buy the dough from Trader Joe's, spread it out on our pizza stone, and fill it up with cheese and veggies. I thought I might be able to emulate this process from our local flour with local toppings....and boy was I right! We ended up with a delicious pie, fantastic dough and a finished product that left us feeling full but not stuffed.

I found this recipe on

Step 1 > After adding yeast mixture to flour, salt, sugar and oil, mix until a stiff dough has been formed. I used our mixer, because it's fast and easy.

Step 2 > Sprinkle work surface with flour.

Step 3 >  Pat dough out, flip it so both sides are covered in flour.

Step 4 > Start rolling out the dough, rotating every so often for an even pie.

Step 5 > Once it's the size and thickness you want, slide it onto your stone or pan.

Step 6 > Once you realize you forgot to pre-heat your stone, slide it onto the pan and shape it into a square.

Here's where many pizza purists will disagree, but this is how we like it.

Spread with olive oil, including on the crust. I am liberal with the oil.

Step 7 > Sprinkle ingredients. Here is what we used (all local):

* 3 Cloves of garlic
* Basil
* Spinach
* Anaheim Pepper
* Yellow Bell Pepper
* Extra sharp cheese from Golden Glen Creamery

I like to layer it, finishing with spinach and cheese.

The best part... topping it with little clumps of "Fromage Blanc" - Truffle flavored, ricotta-textured cheese from Mt. Townsend Creamery 

Bake in a pre-heated oven (350 degrees) for 20-25 minutes.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Day 43: Rediscovering Pike Place Market

Today my cousin and I attempted to attend the Picasso exhibit in Seattle. There were a few motivating factors for going on a Thursday--more specifically, the First Thursday of the month--as admission dropped by half and we assumed a mid-week day would be less crowded than other days. 

When we arrived, the line was insane...snaking in and out of those guidance ropes about three lanes deep. Think airport security with a dash of DMV. As we both live in Seattle, we knew we could come back, so we decided to skip the exhibit all together and instead head to Pike Place Market. 

It was rumored by a tipster (thanks, Paula!) that there were local Hazelnuts to be had, and once I checked out the link, I discovered they have a year-round booth at Pike Place.

Now, I've logged my hours at Pike Place.  My grandmother, who is 91, used to shop there and my mom has memories of shopping there throughout her life. When I lived in Pioneer Square and SoDo Areas, I did a good bulk of my grocery shopping there. When my husband and I lived in Capitol Hill, we'd come down regularly for fresh produce, and there is nothing more convenient than buying freshly made pasta noodles from the Italian Market "DeLaurenti's".

Despite my knowledge of the in's and out's of this market, I still manage to tune out many vendors. Jams, nuts, honey...they all look nice, but knowing that I can find them cheaper somewhere else usually deterred me from really stopping at one of these booths.

Today I had a fresh perspective, though, suddenly aware that the all of those "expensive" products are actually locally grown and locally made. Our first stop yielded something that has been eluding Dan and I since the start: Oats.

I can probably count on one hand the number of times Dan and I have had oat bars, but since the start of this project, he has talked of nothing else. "I want to make Oat Bars!" "How will we live without Oat Bars!" "If only I can find oats to make Oat Bars!" When I find him researching local companies, usually in his Google search has something to do with "Oats - Seattle - Locally Grown" or something to that effect.

And so when I stumbled on a local booth that I've passed probably 100 times before and saw right there, right on the table, was a bag of rolled oats, I nearly fainted. Turns out, they are technically "Rolled Spelt Flakes", but I knew they would be a good substitute for Rolled Oats. Dan, you are welcome. 

Next stop, we thought, would be the nut place, until we passed a large table full of pickles. Local Pickles. Spicy Local Pickles. At this point, it didn't even matter the price, I bought them without a second thought.

Once we finally found Holmquist Hazelnuts, I'll admit, I went a little crazy. Local nuts are hard to find, and getting down to Pike Place is sometimes a challenge.  I bought a bag of roasted Hazelnuts, a bag of Lemon Honey, and of course, Hazelnut Butter. 

Hooray for Pike Place Market, an ancient local source I had completely forgotten about.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Recipe: Sugar Pumpkin Cookies

Thanksgiving is fast approaching (my favorite holiday), and this year I can no longer rely on quick-and-easy canned pumpkin filling for pie. I have known I would eventually have to tap into the local option: Sugar Pumpkins. 

While I have ignored these gems in the past, I decided to pick up a few before Thanksgiving to experiment with. I wasn't sure how much pumpkin pulp would be enough for a pie. I wasn't sure how long they took to bake. I wasn't sure how expensive this whole operation was going to be. So a trial run was definitely in order.

I found this recipe from Natural Papa's website, and thought I'd give it a whirl. I made a few adjustments, as I'm not Vegan and some of the products would prove difficult to find locally. I used real eggs instead of egg replacement, and since coconut's don't grow in Seattle, I opted for butter in lieu of coconut oil. 

The result? Very tasty cookies! I will say that the consistency reminds me more of a scone or a muffin. Still tasty! Just not a "cookie" by my estimation. 

I've included the link above, but here was my process:

1 > Procure your Pumpkins

While there are plenty of pumpkin patches around, I picked mine up at PCC. For 4 pumpkins, I spent just under $4, which I think is a pretty smokin' deal. One pumpkin equals about 2 cups of pulp, which is enough for 1 pie. This is definitely cheaper than buying the canned variety, no?

2 > Scoop and Save Seeds

Yes, we all know we can save and roast pumpkin seeds. Did you know you could also save and roast other squash seeds, like Acorn, Butternut and Spaghetti? In our crunch and salt deprived world, this has been a treat that has been getting us through the fall months. Very tasty, and very nutritious.

3 > Bake @ 350 for 30-40 minutes

After cutting the pumpkin in half (from stem to stern), place face down on a cookie sheet and bake until soft and a knife easily pierces through the skin.

4 > Scoop the Pulp

Once cool (very important! No burns, please!), scoop the flesh of the sugar pumpkin, and mash it in a bowl. Reserve 1 cup for the recipe.

5 > Add the other Ingredients

Including eggs, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg (I used nutmeg instead of cloves), sugar, butter and baking powder. Mix well.

I didn't let it rest for an hour as suggested, mostly because I was pinched on time. I just put spoonfuls on the greased baking sheet and baked at 350 degrees for 20 minutes (instead of 8-10...for some reason, mine took longer). I checked on them at 10 minutes, 15 minutes and finally at 20 I took them out.

6 > Enjoy!