Wednesday, September 30, 2009

These boots are made for walkin'

I have meant to blog 5 days now without actually doing it. Don’t you hate that, when your "To Do" list is glaring at you for days before you get around to accomplishing anything. I blame work. The last two weeks I have had so many late nights, early mornings, and working lunches there’s been so little time. Anyway, I’m carving out a morning break between reports to blog. This is also my breakfast break (it’s one of those early mornings) and I am eating peanut butter and apple at my desk. I mentioned a while ago my new found love of peanut butter. Well, it’s still alive and kicking. I thought it would be a phase a week or two and then I’d tire of it. But no, I still want peanut butter all the time! Mr. P thinks this is very weird. He is always telling me to tell my Dr. about it and that no one should want to eat peanut butter as much as I do. However, I think I have figured out what is behind my constant craving for peanut butter, and no, I’m not pregnant. Rather, I think it’s because I gave up sugar and without sugar to snack on and crave I have turned to peanut butter. Makes sense doesn’t it? Especially when you think of all the dessert/candies associated with peanut butter: chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter icing, peanut butter cookies, and the extensive Reese's products. The upside is that I almost never want sugar anymore. I did have a slight pang when I they served chocolate cream pie at my meeting last night but I was able to suppress it and move on. Coffee is a whole different matter. I still really want coffee, although not everyday. Most days I'm okay without coffee especially when I wake up but mid-morning, afternoon, lazy weekend mornings (not that I have had any of those lately) and coffee with friends those are the times I really want coffee. It's lucky I have so much will power or I'm pretty sure I would fail time and time again.

Fall weather has finally arrived here. Yesterday it rained and I was in heaven. I actually love rain, which is good considering that I live in one of the rainiest places in the country. Second only to Seattle, rain is forecasted here most days from October through May. It never snows which is good because while I love rain I hate snow. The first rain of the fall is always so nice because it transforms everything. After it rains it just starts to smell clean and fresh and like autumn. Plus rain means some of my favorite wardrobe pieces can come out of hiding. Fall is full of great go to outfits for me. An array of long sleeve cardigans, scarves, black leather boots with small heel, wool skirts, and jackets. What are your fall wardrobe favorites?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Fall Decorations

It’s finally starting to feel like fall here in the Pacific Northwest. The last couple of days we had ridiculous 90 degree weather but today it is a beautiful 75 and overcast. I woke up to a cool house and had to grab a sweatshirt and close the windows. The chill in the air made my piping hot morning tea so much more delightful!

With fall weather rolling in I’m finally feeling ready to get out some fall decorations. Last year I bought a Harvest wreath at TJ MAXX as well as a few table cloths in warm fall colors. So this weekend I’m going to put my wreath on the door and get out my warm table clothes. I’m also going to go to the garden store and buy a few mum’s, one as centerpiece for the table and a couple for outside the front door. I’ll also buy a random assortment of little pumpkins to scatter around the bookshelves and coffee table. Lastly, I saw this picture on Good Housekeeping website and I love the pumpkin trees.

We are having our annual pumpkin carving party in a few weeks and I think I’m going to make pumpkin trees for outside my front door.

What are your plans for fall decorations?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Homemade Cream Cheese and Lacto-fermented vegetables

I finally uploaded the pictures from my weekend cooking experiments. I am very happy to report all three projects were successful.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I read Nourishing Traditions, and loved it. One of the things this book talks about is the benefits of lacto-fermented vegetables. Basically they are preserves which have been preserved through the process of lacto-fermentation rather than by canning with heat or pressure. The way it works is by adding salt and/or whey to the vegetables you keep them from spoiling long enough for the natural acidic quality in the veggies to preserve them. You can read more about it in Nourishing Traditions or by googling lacto-fermented vegetables. I was really nervous to try this because it sounded difficult and scary. But I’m happy to report it was easy, albeit a little time consuming, and successful.

First you need to make whey. You can make lacto-fermented vegetables without whey but using whey ensures successful lacto-fermentation so I decided to use whey. You cannot use commercial dehydrated whey powder. You must make your own. Luckily this is really easy. Whey is a bi-product of making cheese. The easiest way to get there is to make cream cheese using yogurt. The cream cheese is delicious (says Mr. P, I have not tried it) and easy.

To Make Cream Cheese and whey you will need:

1 quart of high quality plain whole milk yogurt (you can not use low fat or no fat)
1 medium size bowl
1 large bowl or glass pitcher with a very wide brim
1 cheese cloth
1 wire mesh strainer
1 jar (to keep whey in)

The first time I did this I used plain Greek yogurt which seemed to work fine but my husband said it had more of a yogurt taste than a cream cheese taste because it wasn’t salty. So this time around I used Nancy’s whole milk plain yogurt and added a teaspoon of sea salt to the yogurt before I started.

Step 1: Place strainer over bowl. Line strainer with cheese cloth and dump whole quart of yogurt into cheese cloth. Make sure there is room between strainer and bottom of bowl for whey to drip out. Leave out on counter for 5-6 hours. You may need to empty whey into jar periodically depending on how deep your bowl is.
here is they whey
Step 2: After 5-6 hours tie the corners of your cheesecloth over a wooden spoon. Place the cheesecloth bundle that is hanging on wooden spoon over a larger bowl or a deep pitcher with a wide rim. Leave out until stops dripping. If it’s still dripping when you are ready to go to bed just stick it all in the fridge overnight and in the morning it will be ready.

Step 3: Pour all whey into jar and date the jar. The whey will keep for 6 months in the fridge. Place the cream cheese in a covered glass container in fridge. It will keep for one month.

To Make Lacto-Fermented Vegetables:

There are many different lacto-fermented vegetables you can make. In fact they aren’t even all vegetables. You can make sour kraut, pickles, kimchi, chutney, pickled beets, pickled garlic, preserved lemon, orange marmalade, relishes and salsa. I decided to start with salsa and corn relish. This is mostly because my grandmother deposited 20-some tomatoes, onions, 10 ears of corn, and a ton of other produce from her garden at my house last week.

For Salsa you need:

2 wide mouthed pint jars or 1 wide mouth quart jar
4 tomatoes
1 medium onion
6 cloves garlic
¾ cup chili peppers (bell or jalapeno whatever you want)
1 tsp oregano
Chili powder (optional)
Juice of two lemons
1 bunch of cilantro
¼ cup filtered water (I just used tap water)
4 Tb whey
1 Tb Sea salt

Step 1: sterilize your jars. I just brought a stock pot full of water to boil then took it off the heat, added my jars and lids and let them sit while I was preparing the salsa

Step 2: boil tomatoes 5-10 seconds each, peel, seed and chop. Place tomatoes in bowl

Step 3: add the remaining ingredients and mix well.

Step 4: dry off jars with clean towel and fill with salsa. As you fill pound the salsa down into jar. You can do this with a water glass or a meat mallet. The veggies should be smashed down under the liquid. If there isn’t enough liquid you can add a little water. There doesn’t have to be a lot of liquid over the veggies they should just barely be covered. Make sure you leave an inch from top of salsa to top of jar because it will expand as it is fermenting. Seal tightly and leave on counter at room temp for two days. After two days open them and smell. If it worked they will smell like salsa if it didn’t work they will smell so badly you will not want to eat them. If they smell okay then taste. Store on TOP shelf of fridge for up to two months. You can eat right away or let the flavors meld a little longer in fridge.

To make Corn relish:

Process is pretty much the same. Ingredients are different.

3 cups fresh corn slice off cob
1 med onion
½ red bell pepper
2 TB cilantro
1 tomato, peeled, seeded and diced
½ tsp of red pepper flakes
4 TB whey
¼ cup filtered water
1 TB sea salt

Again make sure you pound down mixture as your filling jar to release juices.
These you keep out for three days then open them up and smell them. They smell a little vinegary which is good. Then place on top shelf of fridge and they are good for three months.

One final note the jars may bubble up and fizz a little. In fact when I opened the corn relish it was bubbling and making noise. This is okay it’s just part of the process.

Next I’m going to try gingered carrots, peach chutney and pickled beets.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Do you use a crock pot?

The weekend was really nice. I made cream cheese and it was a huge success. I also made lacto-fermented vegetables. I still haven't uploaded the pictures I took of my cooking experiments but will soon.

This week is really crazy. I had a City Council Hearing last night and didn't get home until almost ten and tonight I have to testify at the Planning Commission then Wednesday is Youth Group. Because things are so busy and I don't really have time to cook dinner I am using the crock pot. I sort of have a love/hate relationship with the crock pot. In theory I love it. Put dinner in at 8 and come home from work to have it done. It's perfect for my crazy work schedule. But I have had bad luck with Crock Pot recipes. The first handful I tried were just bad. Now that I have been wrestling with it for a while I think I'm getting the hang of it. Last night I was put a Dave Lieberman chicken recipe that was supposed to roast in oven in the crock pot and it turned out great. Roasts, stew, chili, baked beans and pulled pork are all obviously great. But the best thing I've found is shredded beef tacos. But either a small roast or a bunch of round steak in the crock pot with canned tomatoes, chilies, spices, onion and garlic and let it cook. The meat shreds beautifully and makes delicious tacos. While this list is a start I feel there should be more delicious options for the crock pot.

So now my questions for you readers. Do you have a crock pot? What is your favorite thing to cook in it? Do you have recipes to share?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Thank Goodness It's Friday

I am so glad it's Friday. Right now I'm sitting on my neatly made bed, watching the Food network, eating peanut butter and blogging. Can you think of a better way to start the weekend. Even better the grocery shopping is complete and although the house might be rather messy I don't have to do anything except stay home and clean it. But first I'm taking a break. Peanut butter is my new favorite food. I'm not sure why this is. I suppose I have always liked peanut butter but now I LOVE peanut butter. I particularly like peanut butter on apples but I also like it just plain on a spoon. Perhaps it's because I am on a special diet* and cannot eat many of my former favorites.

We are eating some great food this week at Potter Place, besides the peanut butter.
Saturday: Marinated Lamb Kabobs, roasted tomato risotto and baked eggplant
Sunday: French roasted Chicken and lentils
Monday: Plum glazed baked chicken with rice and cucumber salad
Tuesday: Chili and baked potatoes
Wednesday: Spicy shredded beef tacos with homemade pinto beans
Thursday: Pork Chops with rhubarb cherry sauce, mashed potatoes and french green beans

The Lamb and eggplant I am making up. The chicken I have adapted from Dave Lieberman's book, Dave's Dinners. The Plum glazed chicken also comes from Dave's Dinner's. The Chili, beef tacos, and beans are all my own recipes. The pork chops, which are so good, are from Everyday Dinner's.

Also this weekend I am going to make cream cheese and pickled veg. I'll post on those later this weekend with lots of pictures. Well I suppose I shall start cleaning my house now. Happy weekend everyone.

*I mentioned I was seeing a natural-pathic doctor, she thinks I may have a wheat or dairy intolerance and to see I have to eat NO wheat or diary for 6 weeks. She also had me give up coffee, caffeine, alcohol, sugar, and vegetable oils until we figure out what is wrong with me and I am healed.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Butter is a health food!

I recently read this book.

There is a bit of a story behind it and a coincidence. I have two good friends from church Jessica and JoAnna. We all like to cook, eat and talk about food. Jessica got married in July and soon after her wedding we were running and she was telling me about this book JoAnna got her as a wedding present. She’s telling me how this book says that the low-fat diet is bad. It encourages us to eat butter and animal fat but says vegetable oil and canola oil are killing us. It encourages eating organ meats and fermented vegetables and drinking raw (un-pasteurized milk). For a few weeks every time we ran we’d end up talking about this book. Meanwhile, I had started going to a Naturopathic doctor who was telling me similar things. She wanted me to quick drinking coffee and alcohol (for the time being) and cut vegetable oil, shortening, canola oil, high fructose corn syrup and sugar out of my diet. She wanted me to get raw milk and cultured butter and consume as much whole milk, butter and cream as possible (hello sounds wonderful). Sounded a lot like Jessica’s crazy book! Finally, I asked her about Nourishing Traditions and she said that was exactly the diet goal she had for me and I should read the book. So I did. And…it is amazing. I couldn’t put it down.

The premise behind this book is that we need to return to a more natural way of eating. The authors reference Weston Price, who studied the diets of native populations around the world. He found that all native populations who shared similar diets and health. They all consumed diets high in animal fats and omega-3 oils, high in organ meat and other animal protein and high in fermented dairy and vegetables. These are the principals the book argues we should have in our diet. The result is a more natural and nourishing diet. Reading it will challenge what you previously thought about health food but I encourage you to read it and see what you think. For me it made a lot of intuitive sense. I always wondered about low-fat. It seemed to me that in a lot of ways people were a lot healthier in the days of Laura Ingalls Wilder then we are today.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Things to come

I haven’t been posting a lot lately. Honestly, life is just kicking my butt right now. Work has been extremely chaotic, I have a bunch of deadlines glaring me down and so much paper on my desk its surface hasn’t seen sunlight in weeks. Then at home I have been so tired. It seems like it’s all I can do to cook dinner and pick up. I just haven’t had a lot of energy to do much else. I have a lot of things I would like to post about like making cheese at home, Nourishing Traditions (my new favorite book) and how I want to visit the Channel Islands. However, every time I have moment to compose a post it just seems daunting.

Okay, enough whining…fun and interesting topics to come…stay tuned.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

It is starting to feel like fall

Now that labor day weekend is over it is actually starting to feel like fall and I am loving it! The kids go back to school this week and my youngest sister started middle school today.

We had a great time in Wallowa with Lauren and Nick and Nicks parents who are wonderful people. The country up there is gorgeous. I wish I had taken pictures to show you all just how gorgeous. Now I am enjoying the fact that it's only two days until the weekend.

I have big plans to do NOTHING this weekend. Seriously, no plans Friday night, no plans Saturday, except cleaning out my closed and making some pickled veg (more on this later). And Sunday just Church and lunch with some friends from church. It's going to be divine.

Youth group starts back up tonight. I am particularly excited because this year I'm teaching the high school kids small group. Last year I dabbled in teaching a lesson here and there but mostly I just volunteered for the events and helped out Wednesday nights. I am excited and nervous. I really enjoy high school kids and am excited for the opportunity to get to know the kids even more this year.

Friday, September 4, 2009

To the Mountains I Go

This is where I will be tomorrow morning. Mr. P and I will be spending the holiday weekend on a picturesque ranch in Wallowa, Oregon in the foothills of eagle cap wilderness and just miles from gorgeous Wallowa Lake.

We are going with my cousin Lauren and her husband Nick (It’s his family’s ranch). It will be paradise; there will be no phones, no email, no cooking or cleaning, no errands or bill paying or meetings to attend. There will just be comfy clothes, good books to read, delicious food, time with friends and enjoying the quite rugged mountain country. How will you be enjoying your holiday weekend?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Beautiful Sunflowers

This post is going to be a little bit random. This morning I was in my office going through my 60-some emails when I happened to glance across my office and notice a giant leggy black/brown creature. At first I thought it was a spider then I though, “no, that’s way too big to be a spider”. It was one and a half to two inches wide! I contemplated getting closer then decided to call my boss in. He confirmed it was indeed a spider, which he so charmingly christened Ralph. Thankfully he consented to remove “Ralph” from the premises. This was not a fun way to start out my work day. I do NOT like spiders.

Last night when I went to make dinner there was a skeleton in my fridge. I actually almost screamed. It’s the latest of Billy’s travels. He has also recently been on top of my laundry cupboard, under kitchen sink cuddling with the dishwasher soap and peering down at me from the tall bookshelf in the living room.

Is anyone else as delighted as I am with the new Barefoot Contessa show, Back to Basics, on the Food Network? I saw it for the first time last night after work. I adore Ina Garten, her books, her shows, her house, her recipes…Everything is so elegant and tasteful and yet so comfortable and relaxed. It is one of my goals in life to be able to entertain like her.

I have finally uploaded my photos from San Francisco. I may or may not have taken 30 photos at the farmers market. About 10 of them may be of sunflowers. I love sunflowers. I don’t usually go that crazy over farmers markets. We have one here and I go sometimes but usually it annoys me. It’s always so crowded and noisy and I feel people are judging me wearing jeans and Nikes instead of hemp pants and Birkenstocks. (I can’t believe my spell check had the correct spelling of Birkenstocks!) Anyway here are some of my favorites from the trip: