30 September 2010

Putting up

For the first time in six years, I didn't make plum jam this year.  When we sold our little yellow house, the plum tree went with it, unfortunately.

That said, I have found some wonderful fruit and a little time to put up a few things this summer and fall.  Here's what's new on my shelves.

Applesauce. I manage to make about 40 pounds of organic akane apples into applesauce.  It's the easiest kind of preserving ever.  You chop, cook, and run them through the kitchen aid food mill, then pop the containers of pink sauce into the deep freeze.  We ran out last winter.  Not going to happen this year!  I think I have close to 35 cups of sauce put away.  Plus, another 20 pound box of apples just for eating set aside in the cool of the garage.

Peach chutney.  I made this with peaches that friends brought us from Eastern Washington, inspired by a recipe that I found in a new book I acquired this summer, "Canning & Preserving with Ashley English." You can check out the book and her blog, which often has some great information about homemade living, here.  I have a feeling this chutney will taste great with baked brie.

Apricot Jam.  I made two batches.  One using super juicy Mt. Pleasant organic apricots from Tonnemaker Farms.  We are pretty much in love with this jam and have already begun depleting our supply.

Then we made a quick trip up to Merritt, B.C. earlier this month to help Byron's dad purge his house of furniture and other items he won't need once he moves to Seattle.  (The plan is to move him down sometime in the beginning two weeks of November.)  In any case, we managed to bring home some of the season's last Okanagan apricots, and I made more  jam, which gives us an ample supply, such that we can now share.

That's about it for the putting up.  If I'm lucky, I'll find time to make some more pickled green beans this fall.  They seem to get eaten up quickly whenever we open a jar.

In other news, we've also been doing a lot of eating up.


As nice as it is to have preserved foods, there are some foods you really must eat fresh from the garden to capture the flavor.  Lately, we have been harvesting and enjoying tomatoes. I bought several plants from a local woman who grows them from seed that her uncle cultivated many years ago -- she calls them Uncle Wilfred's tomatoes.  They are an heirloom, open pollinated variety.

I estimate we've gotten close to 12 pounds of small salad tomatoes from our plants already.  And the vines are still heavy with fruit.  The other day I roasted some with salt, pepper, and olive oil at 300 degrees for about two hours.  They turned into these amazing, caramelized tomato flavor bombs.  We tossed them with pasta and devoured.

Food like this really makes one grateful for taste buds.  Seriously.

29 September 2010

Unforgettable

Last Friday night we had the most wonderful meal. 

Local chef Tamara Murphy took over our kitchen and cooked an exquisite vegetarian dinner for us and a few of our friends.  In case you aren't familiar with Tamara, she is one of the Northwest's local food movement heroes.  Currently, she owns two Elliot Bay Cafes (and only recently closed her other restaurant, Brasa, downtown).  She has a new restaurant, Terra Plata, in the works in the capitol hill neighborhood of Seattle, and she is publishing a cookbook entitled, "Tender: farmers, cooks, eaters", due out this fall. 

How did we score such a wonderful treat, you ask?  Well, we were lucky enough to be chosen as the winners in Seattle's Farmers' Market Association Thanksgiving contest last fall. This wonderful meal cooked in our home by Tamara Murphy was our prize.  She based the meal on what she found fresh at the farmers' market on Friday, including locally harvested mushrooms, corn, greens, carrots, herbs, beets, peppers, and pears . . .  Thank you, Tamara!

Getting the tables set for dinner.

Tamara arrived a couple hours before dinner with a giant cooler filled with amazing food -- here are the makings of the cheese course spread out on our kitchen table.

    





Tamara invited anyone who wanted to cook with her to join the fun in the kitchen.  Kyle and Karen came early and pitched right in helping and learning from Tamara.
We made the appetizer and dessert courses.  We served appetizers on the deck -- caramelized onion-thyme tart, home pickled green beans, and toasted nuts with wines that guests generously contributed.
Tamara was busy in the kitchen making a wonderful risotto, among other amazing dishes.
For the first course, Tamara served sweet corn soup with roasted poblano and truffle oil.  Everyone is still talking about this soup a week later!  We're hoping for the recipe.
Our meal was leisurely paced, which made time for good conversation and lots of stories.  Before everyone knew it, three hours had passed and we hadn't even served dessert yet!
No surprise . . . we were delighted with the second course -- a salad of crimson pears, arugula, and Parmigiano Reggiano with a light dressing of lemon juice with a touch of truffle oil.  It melted in our mouths, which is why we neglected to take a picture!  The accompanying baguette and butter was good too.
For the third course, Tamara served a hearty chanterelle and porcini risotto of farro, arborio rice, and lentil.  We think the secret ingredient was smoked salt!  Accompaniments included braised carrots with tarragon, roasted beets, and sauteed chard and kale with caramelized shallots and garlic.  Oh my.
The fourth course, a cheese course, included Pt. Townsend Cirrus, Pt. Reyes Blue, Cypress Grove Humbolt Fog, and a Delice de Bourgogne with fresh figs, baguette, and Boat Street pickled raisins.  We all wished we had more room in our stomachs at that point in the meal.  The flavors and textures were perfect together. (Behind the dahlias, above, you can see the remnants of one of the cheese plates).
Linda and Tamara in the kitchen.
Dessert was a simple apple crisp topped with frozen honey cinnamon custard from Snoqualmie Gourmet.  And after everyone left, we filled the dishwasher . . . and went to bed.  A wonderful evening.
  


22 September 2010

The upstairs kitchen

I realize I haven't posted much about the progress we're making on remodeling parts of the new house.  All of this is prompted by the need to rework the downstairs so that it will be a more functional and nicer living space for Byron's dad, Herman, when he moves down from Canada to live with us this fall.

Needless to say, the scope of our work has snowballed as we've fallen into the "well if we're going to redo the plumbing there, we should just do it everywhere" trap.  Although a tad overwhelming, it's all necessary and doable.  We're up to our eyeballs in it at the moment.

We're putting in a simple kitchen downstairs (there wasn't one before).  We opted to move some of the cabinets and appliances that were upstairs down there, allowing us to upgrade and change the upstairs kitchen a bit.

Here's a look at the upstairs kitchen before we moved in.
Before.
Since Labor Day, we (and by we, I mean Byron) ripped out the old cabinets and appliances.
We had to empty all the cabinets so we could tear them out . . .
which meant filling up the kitchen eating nook with our pots and pans, etc.
Part-way through the tear out -- lower cabinets and oven taken out.
Fridge and cabinets all taken out. and a fresh coat of paint on the wall.

Once the old was gone, I had a new gas line installed to bring gas to the kitchen, and now we have a gas range.  New fridge is in place, too.  In the last couple weeks, we managed to install some open shelving, a pantry, and a new cabinet to create a baking station.  Byron manufactured some black laminate counter tops to fit the open shelving, so we're totally functional.  A new floor and back splashes will come later.  We like how it turned out.
New fridge, pantry, range, and shelving and counters.

Our new baking station.
The kitchen nook, now that all the "stuff" is put away.

20 September 2010

The shape of things to come

It's satisfying to see important things take shape.  It makes you pause and think about what's happening in life and how it makes you feel.  In this case, very happy and excited.

This weekend, we finally finished the painting and got on with actually setting up the baby's room.  Seeing the curtains at the window and a fuzzy rug on the floor makes me realize that someone is really going to live in this space very soon.


Our concept for the nursery is to keep it pretty simple, in shades of white and tangerine orange, with little bits of peacock blue thown in.

We are also incorporating some sentimental things.  The little blue book case belonged to my mom when she was a girl, passed down to my sister and me, and now to "Grover." Along with it, we have a blue toy box, which belonged to Becky and me.

The glider, while not sentimental, is one we found on craigslist for $40.  The more impressive part is that Byron rebuilt the glider mechanism with skateboard bearings for $15.  I have fabric for new cushions, which will spiff it up a bit and make it more comfortable.

The rug is sheepskin, and it's so soft you just want to lay on it.  I think a baby/toddler will love it -- and love to drool on it too!  A small luxury for a small person, I suppose.

That's as far as we've gotten so far.  

We haven't set up the crib yet, but it's in the works.  We're refurbishing a Goodwill dresser to be a changing table.  Oh, and I'm making a Roman shade for the window.  More pictures when those are put in place.

And speaking of taking shape . . . I am too.

My 25 week self portrait.

14 September 2010

I grew these

Check out my tomato harvest today -- I grew them on the deck, in the backyard garden, and at the p-patch.  We're having tomato salad for dinner.