Friday, December 19, 2008

The Local Life Changes Location - Hello Seattle!

There was a long pause since my last entry due to my husband loosing his job, deciding to go into business for himself, and then our move back to Seattle after being away for nearly four years. We really couldn't be much happier to be back in Seattle. We love it here and missed it while we lived in Olympia. Olympia has a lot to offer the locavore really, but Seattle seems more like home to us and I am looking forward to exploring all its little nook and crannies in greater detail than I did the last time I lived here.
I have given this blog a bit of thought lately, because I am aware of other bloggers from the Seattle area, good ones, that cover much of the same topics I have in the past. I'm not ready to drop this blog though. I think there is still so much to write about and since Seattle and the Northwest is such a big place, hopefully I can find a few unique stories to share here.

Our living arrangement has changed drastically. We were ready to try something a bit different which has led us to living in the Belltown area in a 20th floor apartment. We are loving it. There is much we gave up by not having a house again, like a yard for instance. I wasn't to concerned about this because I know how much I loved having a p-patch when we lived in Seattle before. But now there are over 1800 people waiting for garden plots and I'm a couple years down the list. I'll have to be patient and maybe even see if there is anything I can do to help get more p-patches developed.

My closest Farmer's Market is Pike Place. That is going to be a challenge as well. When I lived here before I tended to avoid Pike Place for good chunks of the year due to the mass crowds of shuffling tourists. It's hard to get your grocery shopping done in crowds like that. I'll have to learn the tricks though, because I am still set on walking to get my food as much as possible. It's nice that it is open year round, but I haven't seen many local farms, or i haven't been able to spot them. I'll have to do some research as to when they are there and how often.

I am not lacking for local bakeries though. There is an organic french bakery, Boulangerie Nantaise, really close by and so far everything has been delicious. I am especially fond of their whole wheat loaf, the Chausson aux Pommes, an apple turnover, and the Pain au chocolat. Only a little farther there is the Macrina Bakery where we picked up a delicious cider bread not to long ago. Down at the Pike Place Market I have frequented The Three Girls Bakery many times for their amazing feta and spinach croissants; absolutely the best ones I have ever had. I am sure there are many more bakeries to discover. And I am looking forward to it and all the other little discoveries awaiting me in this new "Local Life".

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


This article from the New York Times brings up the idea of learning how to use things like small batch flours, which vary in textures and protein levels, by having a willingness to experiment instead of just following a recipe.

It brought to mind a story from The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder. During an unexpected season of blizzards that lasted 8 months, the Ingalls family were completely cut off from supplies. The small frontier town was just starting up and supplies went fast. Seed wheat ended up being the only source of grain to make bread. The only grinder available - an old hand cranked coffee mill - the kind with the little drawer that catches the grounds. This had to be turned all day to make enough "flour" for each person to have only a small amount of bread. If Laura's mother had not been able to adjust her way of making bread to work with something more liked cracked wheat, that family would most likely have starved.

I think one of the reasons I love old stories like this is because of the ingenuity of the people. They had the ability to work with whatever was on hand, to make do. It was a skill to be proud of. A skill that has in many ways been lost in our society.

We could start by learning how to bake with small batch flours, then by cooking a meal with whatever is available in the garden. If we are craving apple pie and there are no apples, maybe we might think to try green pumpkin with the same spices - another trick up Caroline Ingalls sleeve.

Ingenuity- I'll take a slice of that!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

In the mean time...

I'm still catching up from a vacation, family visit, and all those chores that seem to pile up when you go away - even for a week! Until I get to a new article here are a couple New York Times pieces to chew on.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Last Days of Summer

As the last days of summer slip by I am inspired to grab onto each moment, to relish them with all my might. I think it was the crickets singing in the yard recently, mixed with the beginning blushes of color on the sweet gum tree, that brought home to me the coming transition of summer to fall. Suddenly there was an urgency to make sure I didn't miss any opportunity for summertime pleasure. I had to make a point to get to a lake and enjoy a cool afternoon swim on a hot day. I've got plans to fit in at least one camping trip where it's not likely to rain. I must make sure that I plan as many outdoor evening meals as I can, complete with glasses of crisp cold Rose'.

Soon I'll be seeking out the best wild blackberry patches to fill as many containers as I can, including the one known as my tummy. Blackberry pies are in the near future and if I can keep from eating every last one of those juicy black morsels maybe, just maybe I'll put some in the freezer for some future cold rainy day when the scent of blackberry pie baking in the oven will be the only thing to truly warm me up.

In the mean time, a late summer rain is coming down outside providing the perfect opportunity to spend the day baking with the summer abundance of zucchini I seem to have recently acquired. My husband has the hardest time turning down homeless food, including zucchini - he's a friend to gardeners, if there ever was one!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Green Bean Season

The last couple weeks of CSA shares from Kirsop Farm has included big bags of beautiful beans. This is one of my favorite veggies and one of the first that I learned to only eat in season. Off season grocery store beans tend to be rubbery, pithy and tasteless. Compare that to the crisp flavorful local in season bean and there is just no competition.

Green beans were always a garden staple for my family. We would grow long rows of pole beans and I would be sent out to pick them. This was in part because my mother's favorite variety, the Blue Lake, tended to have a greater concentration of irritating hairs all over the leaves which would make her break out into a rash - more so than it did me. That and I think it was just her motherly prerogative. (I've now grown into the full blown rash, but wasn't smart enough to produce children to pick the beans for me!) People who have never grown beans or picked there own may not realize how much work it is when done by hand, the way it most often is on small local farms. I always stuck to pole beans because I at least could spend a little less time bending over. Bush beans for me equal one nasty back ache. They do have the benefit of tending to ripen all at once or at least closer together than most pole beans, however. Each person will have there own preference and many types of beans are available in both growth habits.

My mom often canned and froze excess beans to be used in the off-season. Again, home canned green beans are nothing like their commercial counterpart, for that matter neither are the frozen ones. The difference often comes from the freshness of the beans when they are processed. My all time favorite processing of beans is Dilly Beans. My mouth begins to water even thinking of this deliciously tangy and often spicy pantry staple. When I get around to making mine this year I'll share the recipe. For now I'll share a newer way that I've been preparing my steady supply of beans. It all started when I picked up a jar of Garden of Life organic extra virgin coconut oil. This is coconut oil that still has the light flavor of coconut to it, and for this recipe that is important so make sure you are using a similar coconut oil.

Green Beans with Coconut Oil and Garlic

1 pound green beans
1 Tablespoon coconut oil
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
sea salt to taste

Use a wok or large skillet to heat the oil over medium high heat. Add the minced garlic and stir for a minute or so. Add the beans and stir often till their color is extra bright green and they are cooked but still very crisp. Transfer to a serving dish and season with sea salt.

Serves 2-4. I could honestly eat them all myself, but I play nice and share.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Celebrate Washington Farmers Market Week

Governor Chris Gregoire along with Washington State Department of Agriculture and Washington State Farmers Market Association recently proclaimed August 3rd-9th as Washington Farmers Market Week. In celebration they have issued a set of "Shopper Challenges" where you can enter to win a bag of local goodies from your own Farmers Market. To find out more about the proclamation and how to participate in the challenges visit:
Olympia's Farmers Market is open Thursdays through Sundays from 10am-3pm.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Say Swiss Cheese

It was a beautiful August evening and my husband and I were out enjoying downtown Olympia's First Friday, where participating downtown businesses stay open later often having special events, speakers, and in this case local artisan cheese. We met Sharon and Kim McCool, the mother and daughter-in-law team of Rosecrest Farm at einmaleins where they had set up a table spread with two kinds of Swiss cheese, and samples. Samples always do the trick for me. I tried the 4 month old Regular Swiss first and my mouth exploded with the bright tang of a well aged cheese. I knew immediately this would be a cheese that could substitute the artisan Parmesans that travel so far to get to my table. I had been looking for a local alternative, and happily have found just that. The second cheese, a 3 month Mutschli Swiss, had classic Swiss cheese flavor, the kind you want when you crave a favorite comfort food. It said tuna melts and ham and cheese sandwiches. I bought a little of each, eager to take them home and start cooking. Rosecrest Farm has been a dairy for over 20 years and certified organic since January of 2007, when they started selling their milk as part of the Organic Valley Cooperative. It's a small family run business where the men work with around 130 Short Horn cows, milking twice a day, while also tending the dry cows and the calves being raised as the next generation of milk producers. The women are now making the cheese. This venture began in March of 2008, after they purchased the equipment and recipes from an 82 year old German man from Oregon who was ready to retire. They chose Swiss cheese for several reasons one being that as far as they knew, no one else locally was making it, and, well, they just like Swiss cheese. It's always good to produce something you yourself enyoy. Rosecrest Farm currently has 4 varieties available for sale. Starting in September they plan to have several flavored cheeses as well. You can order your cheese directly from them by calling the farm and they will ship it to you. If you wish to send it as a gift they'll even put in a hand-written card with your personal message. They ask you to remember that they are a small farm so they may not have all cheeses available at all times and if you are ordering for the holidays please get your order to them at least 3 months in advance - that's not to long from now. You can reach Rosecrest Farm at (360) 740-8988. A website is coming soon and will be found at:

Cesar Salad with Rosecrest 4 month Regular Swiss
1 large head of Romaine lettuce, torn 1 cup
croutons, home-made preferably
1/3 cup grated Rosecrest 4 month Regular Swiss cheese
2 teaspoons anchovy paste
3 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 T mayonnaise
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
freshly ground black pepper

Blend the anchovy paste, minced garlic, mayonnaise, lemon juice, and olive oil till smooth. Toss with the lettuce, croutons and cheese. Serve with fresh ground pepper at the table.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Treasure Hunt

I spotted the first one sitting slightly buried among the green beans. The next was almost completely covered by the same beans. That was all I saw at first. When I began to ask for them, the woman helping me at Rising River's stand pointed out a third over a ways sitting on some other vegetables. I don't recall what they were, my eyes were just for that third small spikey orb. Then she looked around and found two more, the last of them, we thought. But, surely three would be ok, I didn't want to be greedy, especially since I'm more fond of them than my husband. But when she weighed the first three, I couldn't hold back. I was going to take every last beautiful one. The first fruits of the season - all mine! I walked away so happy. My basket held five small wonders of the thistle family - yes, like Eeyore, tonight I will feast on thistles, otherwise known as artichokes!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Swaying in the breeze...

We finally got some clothes lines up to start drying laundry outside again. I'm not sure what it is about this, but as I pin the laundry to the lines and step back to see all the color swaying in the breeze I get the most content feeling. For me this goes well beyond the energy savings that we'll have or even the environmental benefit of line-drying. I have this warm homey feeling that comes over me and brings a surprising joy. I can't say that about all chores. Maybe it comes from connecting with the thousands of women before me over the centuries that have done the very same thing. I even recall using my aunts round laundry hanger as a fun swing before I got to heavy for it, that was a sad year. This is not only cross-generational, it's cross-cultural. Women the world over share in this long-lasting tradition of tapping into nature to help get a little work done. It simply feels good to go back to old-fashioned ways of living, in this case at least. I don't think I would feel quite so homey and joyful if I had to wash all that laundry with a tub and an old washboard!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The special tonight is...

A lot of people I have talked with are often intimidated with the idea of getting a weekly supply of whatever veggies might be ready to pick. I know that some of them have never learned to cook with what is on hand and many have not worked with such a wide variety of produce. I want to make it easier and even exciting for just those kind of people. For those that are old hands at this sort of thing, maybe you'll find some new ideas to try. I'll be posting what I do with my CSA share fairly often. Sometimes there will be recipes or at least an idea of what I did. Here's to eating all that great local produce!

Tonight's meal featured some of those yukon gold potatoes from this week's share and basil from my herb garden along with sauteed spinach with local garlic from Feral Fruits Farm. The protein for the night was a calamari purchased from my local fishmongers: The Olympia Seafood Company.

We had just a touch of Cascade Fresh Sour Cream (a Seattle company) left in the fridge as well as an abundance of basil from my herb garden and that is what inspired the mashed potatoes. The potatoes were boiled in their soft "new potato" skins and then mashed with a little of their cooking water, the sour cream (maybe 3 tablespoons), sea salt, and garlic powder. They were served with a pat of butter and a generous sprinkling of slivered basil. Yum!

The Spinach was cooked very simply: sauteed up in it's own juices, a little butter, sea salt and the fresh garlic.

The Calamari Salad is a staple for us when ever I have basil growing. It's a very simple recipe from The Trattoria Cookbook. We cut the recipe in half for the two of us, all except the garlic, we are rather fond of garlic! Here's what it looks like the way we prepare it:

1 pound calamari (cleaned, tubes and tentacles)
3 tablespoons olive oil
10 medium size basil leaves torn into bite size bits
juice from half a lemon (to get the most juice from your lemons, roll them on the counter before slicing and squeezing them)
2 good size cloves garlic
sea salt to taste
fresh ground pepper

Bring water to boil, add calamari, cook till al dente (about 1-2 minutes) don't over cook or it can get tough! Drain and cool with cold running water or ice cubes.
Mix the remaining ingredients together in a serving bowl, add the calamari, and mix well. This is best if the calamari gets to marinate for a little while (at least 10-15 minutes or while you prepare the rest of your meal)

All together this meal took maybe 30 minutes to prepare from start to finish.

Better Late Than Never

Today I signed up for a local Community Supported Agriculture Share (CSA) and walked away with a good selection of delicious looking veggies. Kirsop Farm is in the 9th week of their CSA but thankfully I was still able to get on board with receiving a weekly share of produce from this very local farm. I love the fact that our food is being grown only four miles away from where I will be preparing it in my kitchen. Each Thursday I will pick up a box of produce at Kirsop Farm's Stand at the Olympia Farmer's Market, a very convenient location for us - we live only 3/4 mile away.

This isn't our first CSA. We've done them off and on over the years, especially seasons when we had only a small home garden or (gasp) none at all. This year we had hoped to get another large garden in but our plans went out the window as life caught up with us. What a relief it was to still be able to sign up so late in the season! Thank you Kirsop Farm!

Here's what was in today's share:
  • 2 bunches of carrots
  • a medley of beets with delicious looking crisp greens
  • a huge head of lettuce
  • yukon gold potatoes
  • sugar snap peas
  • spinach
  • cilantro
  • an amusing news letter with a wonderful sounding recipe
  • a smiling face behind the stand and a lot of hard work by local farmers

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Cormorant

The smooth surface of the water
shattering the reflection of the
in it's place floated a
black and sleek throat thrown back to
the slippery silver fish.

Then down again it
and once more the water gradually
a mirror for the great blue
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