Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Another day of snow

The weather outside is a bit less frightful today -- it stopped snowing last night, and now things are just frozen in place. It's only 25 degrees outside, so things are pretty solid. Precious has continued her winter power napping.

My dad and I stopped at Jamba Juice on Sunday, and he ordered an orange dark chocolate chip scone. It turned out to be fabulous, and I started wondering how to recreate it myself. This morning I finally had a light bulb moment -- look for a basic recipe and add what you want! A quick Google search revealed a recipe from King Arthur Flour that was just what I was looking for.

Here's my version of the basic scone:
2 3/4 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1/2 cup cold butter
1/3 cup chocolate chips
2 large eggs
4 teaspoons of juice from a mandarin orange
the rind of that orange
2/3 cup half and half

Mix together all dry ingredients, and cut in the butter. I cut the butter into 1/2 inch cubes before adding, but still had trouble cutting it in so that the butter bits were very fine. Then the chocolate chips can be added, along with any dried fruits or nuts.

In a separate bowl, the eggs, orange juice and rind, and half and half are mixed together. I used a mandarin, because that's what we had on hand, but next time I'll opt for more rind, and probably the stronger flavor of an orange.
Add wet to dry, and mix until the dough is completely moistened. Then turn out onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, and divide into two balls. Flatten each ball into a circle 5 to 6 inches in diameter, about 3/4 inch thick. Then cut the circles into 6 equal wedges, and try to separate them a bit. I had trouble with this step, and I think the next time I make scones I'll try to form them individually rather than slice the circle.

The recipe then calls for the scones to be put in the freezer for half an hour so that the gluten can relax, creating more tender scones. I turned on the oven to preheat at this point (bake at 425), which took about 15 minutes, so that's all the freezer time they got. I was getting hungry! They then bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown.

Best served with a glass of milk in the morning sun!

After my successful breakfast I did a bit of decorating for Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 22, 2010


Snow has come to the Puget Sound. I sped out of Pullman on Friday afternoon, trying to beat any bad weather -- and here it is at home! My drive home was about 60% clear and sunny, but starting just a little west of Ellensburg, it started snowing. The snow continued over the pass and most of the way down, before turning to rain near North Bend. As much as I disliked that weather, I think I made it over before things got worse.
The snow's been falling here all morning. My dad and I had plans to see a movie in Seattle, but those were quickly scrapped because the roads are an absolute mess. We've turned up the heat, and everyone's curled up in the living room for the day, dogs included.
This weather's given me some good chances to take pictures of our local hummingbirds, as they're sticking pretty close to the feeders. There's on that's taken up residence in the front yard, hanging out in the dogwood tree that is right outside of our livingroom window, and in a nearby rhodedendron. I also found one hiding out in the back yard when I went out to photograph the snowy rose. He was perched in another rhodie, guarding his feeder from anyone who might try to use it.

Monday, November 15, 2010


Port Townsend was spectactularly foggy the entire weekend, which really cut into any exploration I wanted to make of the Fort, and made for really crummy photos. But the weather didn't dampen our Tilth experience!

We arrived in Port Townsend on Friday afternoon, where we milled around at the opening reception before heading to dinner. The great thing about the whole weekend was the prevalence of locally-grown food. Friday evening was our first workshop session, and I attended a film showing about connecting farms with schools. 

The Commons, where all of our meals were served. More recent construction than the rest of the fort, but designed to match it on the exterior.
Saturday had three more workshop sessions. In the morning I went to one about apple cultivars for the Puget Sound. While it wasn't as informative as I was hoping it would be, the speaker did provide us with a list of cultivars that do well in the PNW. That will be handy to have, as I expect to be living somewhere cold and wet for a good long while. I absolutely love fruit trees, so it would be nice to grow some great ones! Apparently the easiest apples to grow on the west side of the mountains are Akane, Freedom, Liberty, Spartan, and William's Pride. Interestingly enough, none of those varieties appear on the lists for Best Eaters, Cook's Choice, or Best Keepers. So easy growing may not necessarily mean it's something you want to eat... 

Another session I attended was about how to make a CSA pay. Two of the women speaking run a 900-member CSA near Rochester, WA. The sheer size of their customer base is impressive to me. From what I was able to glean they have about 30 acres in production, which means they feed about 30 families per acre. That's about equal to what we do at WSU, with 100 families on 3-4 acres. 

I then attended a very strange session about nature-scaping and beneficial insect management. I say it was strange, because half of the session was from a presenter who titled her slides "Working With Weeds". She is literally overtaken by weeds every season because of the location of her farm in a floodplain, where weed seeds are introduced every time it floods. The photos she showed were astounding -- row crops barely visible among the weeds and grasses that were growing. And she often remarked about hedges established on the site as "something that got out of control, so I just let it go." We've always been taught that weed competition is terrible for good production, but this woman apparently grows beautiful produce. I think it must be the floods that bring in the weeds also bringing in important fertility, and the fact that her water table is very high, that limits the detrimental effects of such high weed populations.

Saturday night we had a fantastic closing banquet. I think something like 99% or more of the food was sourced from within 50 miles of Port Townsend.

All weekend I ate too quickly to remember to take photos, except for dessert on Saturday night.

On Sunday the first session I attended was about raising sheep and finding a market for their wool. What was made very clear is that there are not many options for places to send fleeces for processing, and that the few options available are very expensive. It got me to thinking that it could be a very cool area to join and improve the infrastructure. I wonder how much capital would be required to start a wool mill...

After the final workshop session (something about farm to retail & restaurant) we quickly loaded into our van and drove for the ferry. It was a bit stressful, trying to make sure we made it to the boat on time, but we did eventually get across the water to Seattle, and after many more hours of driving, back to Pullman. The fog was terribly thick for a lot of the drive after we got past Vantage, which made things slow, and very eerie.
A short bit about where we stayed... Fort Worden State Park and Conference Center. It was originally constructed as a guard station for the entrance to Puget Sound, closed in 1953, and purchased for park land in 1955. We stayed in a dorm building that was once used as barracks for the soldiers. It was creaky and old, and I expected there to be a ghost in my room every time I opened the door. The little that I did see of the park, as I didn't adventure much in the wet weather, was lovely. I would really like to visit it again in the future, hopefully when the sun is shining and the birds are singing. 
Dorm Building 225.

Also, I seem to have developed a taste for coffee. Always decaf to keep my circulation happy, but with a little added cream and sugar I can now stand the taste!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Travel Snacks

First off, I think I'm doing this too much... two entries in one day!?

In preparation for my long journey from Pullman to Port Townsend tomorrow for the Tilth Producers conference, I spent hours in the kitchen today. This involved: popcorn, two more batches of dried apples, cookies, breads, and crunchy chickpeas.

I made these Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies, which turned out quite yummy. My only flaw was baking them a bit too long, so the bottoms on the first batch are a bit dark. But still tasty.

Before I left for work this morning I mixed up a batch of dough from my Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day book, which I broke into two recipes.

The first was Onion Dinner Rolls (or something like that). I had a lot of trouble getting the carmelized onions on/in the top of the roll like the recipe said, so I ended up just folding the dough over them, creating a nice little onion pocket inside. Not sure if they'll be good cold on the road, but the one I tried sure was delicious warm!

The second bread from that batch was a Sundried Tomato and Parmesan loaf. I realized I'm not the biggest fan of sundried tomatoes (or really any tomatoes), so limited the amount that went in. After half an hour of baking it turned out quite lovely. Not sure when I'll actually slice it open and see how everything turned out.

My final effort for the afternoon was to make crunchy chickpeas. They kind of remind me of corn nuts, because the basic idea is to season some chickpeas, then bake them until they're nice and crunchy. I find them to be a satisfying snack, and the protein certianly doesn't hurt.

There's my whole stash for the weekend. Don't worry, I won't eat all the cookies.

Green Beans

Today's favorite easy dinner: Green beans with garlic, crushed red pepper, and mozzarella
It's super simple. I start by slicing up a clove or two of garlic, and simmering it in olive oil on the stove. A few minutes later add the crushed red pepper, and then frozen green beans. By the time the beans are thawed and warmed all the way through, the garlic is nice and tender and has sweetened up a bit. Both the garlic and the crushed red infuse the oil with their flavors, and it's all around good. To top things off I pile on the mozzarella cheese, which balances out any over-spiciness from the crushed red. And really, who doesn't love cheese?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Apples and Squash! Plus a chocolate cake!

On Saturday afternoon I made a journey up to Spokane to visit some friends. It was a very successful trip, but left me wanting to do absolutely none of the homework that was waiting for me when I returned to Pullman on Sunday. So instead I hit the kitchen again – hard. I borrowed a food dehydrator from some friends and set to making apple chips.
Then I decided to finally make use of the recipe for Apple Stuffed Acorn Squash picked up at the Moscow Farmers Market earlier this fall. I can’t do anything without onions, so I caramelized one and added it to the fuji apple stuffing that the recipe created. The stuffing was a mix of apples, onion, rehydrated apricot bits, cinnamon, and butter. I chopped my squash in half, which wasn’t the easiest job, and piled everything in. It took awhile to bake to the correct tenderness, but tasted oh so good!

I started by taking a small serving, but quickly demolished that and had to go back for more. The leftovers have provided me with lunch for the last two days, and they’re just as delicious! My only complaint is that I used fujis as the recipe called for, and really should have used golden delicious. The fujis didn’t get tender at all, even after over half an hour of baking, and I would’ve loved it if the apples had melted apart into the squash.
Then I got impatient and decided that I needed a dessert. I found this Cinnamon Chocolate Cupcake recipe last week and was hankering to make it, so started in on a batch. It filled the cupcake pan I had prepared, and made a five little loaves. I found the finished product to be pretty yummy, no frosting added. These too have been included in my lunches this week.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Pullman Cemetery

After the Friday afternoon of cooking that I enjoyed so much, it seemed unnecessary to return to homework on Saturday.
I ended up packing the car and driving over to the Pullman cemetery, located on the hill behind the new Walmart. Before last weekend I had not known it existed, but leaving the supercenter we had seen it illuminated on the hill; huge, old maples making the whole place glow with a yellow light.
I like cemeteries. Throughout high school I worked, with the help of my sister and a couple of friends, to keep things up at the Newcastle Cemetery. Most of what we did was scrubbing headstones and cutting back weeds. Every now and then someone dressed up in period clothing and we’d stage a ghost photo shoot, doing double exposures with my camera. 
Cemeteries are amazingly peaceful to me. The one in Pullman has a number of benches placed throughout, and I couldn’t help but think about just sitting down for awhile to read, crochet, or just watch the world go by. The deciduous trees are making everything a beautiful shade of yellow right now, and the sun was shining – it was just a beautiful day. I’d been prompted to go to the cemetery because the sun was out, and it allowed me to get some pretty good photos of the headstones I found most interesting.  
The stones that usually stand out to me are those of children. Sometimes it’s a child, “aged 4 years, 3 months, 2 days” other times an infant, with only one date carved into the stone.  I imagine it would be heartbreaking to lose a child; all those unrealized opportunities. And I think that a burial shows the commitment these people made to their children, because stones aren’t cheap! I suppose that having your child (anyone, really) in a cemetery somewhere gives you closure. It provides a place to visit and mourn, and I find it to be a very strong reminder of just how valuable life is.  
When seeing those stones that have life-lengths measured out to days I can’t help but wonder if these people really valued life so much that they thought about how long they’d been here, and how long they might have left.
The other thing that caught my eye was the inclusion of wedding anniversaries on the stone. There was one stone in particular, which I read from the back first. There was a quote there “A Lifetime with you is simply not enough, And that is why I’m so glad We have eternity.” And at first I thought it was merely a nice sentiment. Then, walking around to read the front of the stone, my heart swelled up a little bit and my breath caught in my throat as I realized that both of the people buried there had the same death date. December 23, 1996. And they had only been married the year before; relatively young people, too. Suddenly the quote held more weight, because these people really did not have life together, but would be forever united in death. And those instances just illustrate to me how quickly everything can change, how fast the future you planned for can be completely altered. It’s just another little reminder to live in the present as much as possible.  
Another thing that really stood out to me was the large plot of Youngs that I discovered. The name isn’t necessarily uncommon, but it definitely made me do a double take and have to catch my breath when I saw my own last name carved in large letters on a number of the stones. Walking around to examine them more closely, I gasped a little bit and then chuckled, as I found a stone bearing my dad’s name (same middle initial and all). Weird.  

This last photo is of a small stone that reads Father, and nothing else. The more I think about it, the more I absolutely love it. Because who is the burial for? The family, or at least people who actually know the individual. And really, it’s none of my business as to who is buried there, when he died, and how he lived his life. The stone is there for the people who knew and loved him to visit and reflect on the man they knew – the man who was such an integral part of his family that Father is the name they chose to represent him with.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Smashed Potatoes + Pear Cobbler

Today was a busy day — I began by working 3 hours in the lab, and then headed to the library for 3 hours there. In my rush to get out the door this morning I forgot to grab a single thing to eat, and did pretty well until about 2:00. Missed the 2:00 bus, and by the time it showed up again at 2:30, I was starved!
Once at home, I scarfed some chocolate pudding with a graham cracker, then began to think about what else I could make… my first idea (always the go to) was pizza. But no; no tomato sauce. Next thought… We have potatoes that need to get used. I read a recipe yesterday or the day before about smashed potatoes, and thought it sounded like an interesting try.
And so things began. Washed and boiled a bunch of cute little potatoes from the organic farm. At the same time, I cut up an onion (also from the farm), and put it on to cook. There may be nothing in this world that I enjoy as much as a slow-cooked onion.  When the potatoes were tender, I drained them, and let them cool a bit. After cooling, I laid them out on a cookie sheet, cut an X into the top of each, and smooshed them with the bottom of a drinking glass. Smashed potatoes! Into the smash I drizzled garlic-infused olive oil, and then wedged bits of my somewhat-caramelized onions.  Then I put the little guys under the broiler to crisp up. Except I got busy with the cobbler that I was working on, and the onions burnt. But, in the end, still tasty. In the end, I just set the oven to bake at 350 to crisp things a little and keep them warm while I worked on the cobbler.
So… cobbler? Somewhere along the way this afternoon I started thinking about all the ripe pears sitting in the kitchen. I know I’ve seen tons of recipes involving baked pears, so rummaged through my little binder of recipes.  Found only one that had pear in it – butterscotch pear pie from Gourmet, September 2009. And I was totally ready to make it, until I realized we have absolutely none of the butter required for pie crust. And then, light bulb! How about a cobbler? I made a great strawberry cobbler over the summer, so pulling out that recipe, I basically made the top crust and put it over the pie filling. Baked at 375 for 40 minutes, which seems like an incredibly long amount of time, but I was waiting for the crust to get nice and solid.
In the end, both halves of the meal tasted pretty dang good. I feel I should point out that the main ingredients for tonight’s meal were grown just a few miles from my apartment, at the WSU Organic Farm: potatoes, onion, the garlic in the oil, and the pears!
Top left: potatoes after baking (note the burnt onions)
below that... cobbler going into the oven, and pears with the sugar coating
top right: smashed potatoes before baking, and below that--the finished cobbler!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Entry 1

Well, here I am, attempting to stay up to date with something as my life changes. I am beginning this blog with the knowledge that after graduation my life will begin anew -- la vie nouvelle. Ma vie nouvelle. Hopefully, with the right motivation and time allotment, I will update this spot as things happen (or don't), and anyone who wants to know will be able to check out what's going on in my world. Submitted a job application tonight, with no idea if I will even get a response. But I want it so badly, and it seems so perfect, that I really do hope something comes through! 

And with that I will conclude, and head upstairs to work in the lab until my eyes dry out from staring at the computer screen for far longer than I should.