Saturday, March 27, 2010

Empanadas break my drought of food posts

I haven't been blogging about kitchen creative explorations as of late, have I? When I'm busy, which I have been crazy-like busy, it's the last thing I have time for. And when I do? I don't have time to include my camera.

But guess what? This is not about my busy schedule and life. This is about the elusive and delicious hand pie known as Empanadas. Oh how I love my little empanadas. And they are not difficult. Once you get the system down, you're golden.

Making empanadas

And you know what the key thing is to empanadas, right? It's the pie crust. I use my same, infallible recipe and technique (without any sugar in the dough), and I roll the dough as thin as I can get it without it breaking apart. I was using a glass at first, for cutting out the round dough shapes, but moved up to using a small tupperware container that provided a bigger circumference for a larger sized empanada.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Because the the goods inside of these empanadas come from my favorite Mexican chef, Rick Bayless. But I modify his recipe a bit. Instead, I use ground turkey, and I like a lot of green olives in mine. His recipe is great because it's sweet and savory, mingling the juicy raisins with the salty bite of the green olives... yum yum and more yum.

Empanada maker at work

As you can tell my Empanada co-hort here is fast, and it's hard to fully capture her technique. The key is to moisten the edges of the dough, place your filling, then fold in half, crimping the edges and getting them to really seal. A nice egg and milk wash before you pop them in the oven means they come out with a beautiful golden brown tan.

Empanadas and salad is what's for dinner

Here's a secret: if you run out of filling, try some homemade jam in there. Uh, yes.

And that, my friends, has broken the chain of my no-food blog posts.

P.S. Speaking of pie, head over to the Portland Tribune to read a sweet little article I was recently interviewed for, about pie!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The comment that gets a post of its own

I love the comments you leave me. *Love* them. But this one? Gets a post of its own. It's in response to my "preciousness of food preserving" post, and it's from my wonderful friend and fellow blogger Rodger...
We precious boys here who love canning as you do often take a moment when canning to praise our mothers and grandmothers. Not only did they preserve food, they also cooked, cleaned, raised the children and did the laundry. A couple generations back they did it all without running water.
Heh...not one of us would be who we are without them and canning gives us the opportunity to praise them for, not only life, but it's bounty.

Well said, well said.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Two things that have nothing to do with each other but still you don't want to miss

funny pictures of dogs with captions
Thank you Kami for sending me the gnome dog link: I love you thought of me. :)

Please note: I'm quoted in an article that also mentions Madonna, Demi Moore and Matthew McConaughey.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Observing in the garden: does bleeding heart hold the answer?

Bleeding hearts
The work in the garden on Saturday was a bit overwhelming. I say "a bit" because I countered the weeding, planting, and mulch delivering with long moments spent sitting. When tired, I sat down on a local bench or step, and I just took in the garden.

This isn't called lazy gardening. It's called observing. Studying the plant, its growth, examining buds, flowers and stems. Seeing how the wind blows through the plant, how its color plays with its neighbor's color and texture. How scenes from one angle look different from another. Views and vistas, and the checklists that go with everything I'm seeing. "Prune that rose, see right there that tiny new growth? Prune right above that." The list is long. Especially this time of year.

During one of my observation moments this Saturday (also known as one of those times I was sitting on my ass while AdRi hauled a load of mulch by herself), I had an epiphany. Bleeding hearts. Bleeding hearts are a classic mainstay in a cottage garden, a style that heavily influences our garden. We have a huge stand of them in a back door bed, and last year, we planted another underneath the lilac.

As I drank some water and rested my feet, I admired the beautiful bleeding heart. It requires no care, and comes back every year, more beautiful than ever. It blooms for months, and its growth structure is open and airy. The foliage is lovely, and overall, the plant plays well with others. It goes completely dormant in late summer, allowing for summer classics to shine. I give it a little water when it's hot, but cut it to the ground when it's looking ratty in August. It's easy.

And that was the epiphany. Plant. More. Easy.

I've been thinking more and more about steering our garden towards lower maintenance. I love it out there, but a little less maintenance wouldn't be a bad thing. And bleeding hearts are on my list of easy plants. For the lazy gardener? No. For the gardener who wants to balance enjoyment and work in the garden. So I'm on a mission to find more plants like the wonderous bleeding heart. Easy, breezy, beautiful: bleeding heart.

Friday, March 19, 2010

California' dreamin'

California dreamin'
There's this thing people do in Pacific coastal places. I grew up with it but I'd forgotten.

When the sun begins to set, you stop and watch it. You can't rush the setting of the sun. It happens on its own time. It's slow, and you know what's going to happen. But still you stop and make a moment of it. 10 minutes, 20 minutes, an hour: whatever you're able to give. The sky turns, the sun goes down, you breathe, watch and take it in.

I saw this on a trip last week to the San Diego area. People and cars lined up along the streets and beaches: all of the benches filled with sunset watchers. Businesses with back doors open as an employee steps outside to take the moment in. You stop, and it's a moment of beautiful reflection. It's a moment you make, to stop, to wonder in the beauty, to reflect.

I love this reminder to take in the moment, whether or not you have a view of the sun setting over the Pacific ocean or not. And just be. Be in that moment of beauty, perhaps with the one you love, and just be.

What a great reminder: thanks California.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

On the “preciousness” of food preserving

I recently have read rumblings about food preserving as fluff. I’m not going to link to the articles here, but they’re along the lines of calling it sweet, precious, and little hobbies that aren’t tied into producing real food or the local environment or economy, and to not fool yourselves.


I was thinking about those articles this morning as I ate my plain yogurt swirled with no sugar peach jam made last August. And I noted to myself I want to make all of my jam with this Pomona Pectin this year because it requires little to no sugar for preservation. It’s like swirling straight fruit into my yogurt, or cottage cheese in the afternoon, or spreading on my toast in the morning.

And I was thinking about the perceived preciousness of my food preserving hobby while I made dinner last week with a jar of my favorite tomato chili I canned in September. All of the green chilies in it came from our garden, and the tomatoes themselves came direct from a local farmer. It’s a sure-fire staple in our household, as I brown ground turkey and an onion, add the jar of home canned chili sauce, a can of black beans, and whatever vegetables I have in the fridge. This time I had a bunch of sweet mini bell peppers I needed to use up and in about a half hour, we had a big pan of chili, and when topped with cilantro and avocado became dinner, with enough left-over to stretch a few days mixed with green salads. Precious.

All of that precious chutney? It serves as roasted chicken sauce without buying expensive and sky-high sodium-filled sauces. And last night’s grilled cheese sandwiches become more of a dinner when filled with chutney and cheese.

I suppose our gifts of useful jams and canned peaches to friends and family at the holidays and as hostess gifts aren’t as sexy as something from the mall, at least to the writers of those articles poo-pooing we who preserve our own food. But then it’s really just like the diminution, the precious-ifying of “women’s work” that has been lobbed at us for decades. The people who “don’t get it” when those of us actually enjoy the creativity and time in our kitchens are the same ones who believe this traditional women’s role is something to not take seriously or is not valuable.

But the secret? We’re the ones who are able to glory in a moment of picking our own fruit, to remove ourselves just a wee bit from the insane push for more monetary fulfillment and to be thoughtful in our purchases, our money and where we spend it. To perhaps connect with the earth and our mothers and our grandmothers for nourishing ourselves and our families. It’s hard work, it’s creative work, and to me, it’s fulfilling work. If that’s what precious is, so be it.

I’m looking forward to the precious harvest this year when I’ll preciously be picking fruit, preciously harvesting vegetables, and canning and freezing for next winter. Preciously.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Spring inside and outside

springtime in the park
Camellias hanging so heavy with bloom they sag. Why don't we have a camellia in our garden? That shall soon be remedied. AdRi mentioned a bright red one, and now my gardening friends are providing all kinds of tips and leads for red camelias. So grateful for them!

springtime hyacinths and daffodil
If they ever invent smell-o-vision as a plug in for these blogs, this is one of the first I'll use. I wish you could smell this arrangement. Hyacinths and daffodils from the garden, but the scent fills our dining room and I smile everytime my nose catches it. Pure spring captured in a scent.

It's spring inside and out here right now. Treats for both the eyes and the nose. Lucky!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Where many parts of my life come together

My professional life, blog life, garden writing life, volunteer life...they all collided in a recent interview I did for Exceptional Women Northwest. It's a new show, on the new online radio station Thank you to Doug Zanger for the opportunity and chat!

Listen to the interview and show here.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Escapes and Study of a Rainbow

We've been doing a few escapes this winter, not too far, not too close. A little out-of-state, some just to the coast, others to that wonderful soaking pool at Edgefield.

I awoke at the coast recently, looked out the window, and this is what I saw.
rainbow at the Oregon coast
What a moment. I love going to the coast. I used to love going to the beach—that's what we called it in California.

The Oregon coast is different but still wonderful in its own way. I've never swum in its waters, nor bodysurfed its waves, nor had my breath taken away from the infux of heat from the sun while sunbathing.

But I have laughed so hard I've cried upon seeing my dog run with wild abandon down the huge swath of coastline. And I have put my head down to brave its horizontal rain. I've watched squalls roll in and the sky turn dark, and have picked agate from its sandy shores. And now I can say I've seen a rainbow out at sea.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

It's a fine line with garden ornaments

We've all seen them. Too many gnomes. The cutout of the lady in bloomers bending over tending her garden. Giant butterflies that magically land on garage doors.

You'll be relieved to know these won't be making it in our garden this year, though I did see these recently and couldn't help but take photos for you my dear readers. Just when you think you've seen it all...
Keep it classy with garden ornamentation

Monday, March 08, 2010

Gnomes gone wild and the multi-tasking pergola

My gnomes were abducted and have now shown up on the cover of Just Out. You may recognize the back gnome as Seymour of the Woods. The front gnome, posing ever-so-coyly with the bluebird on his butt was a birthday gift. Isn't he cute? He does not yet have a name.

Check out the feature/cover story I wrote for the current edition. It includes some great advice from Geof Beasley of Bella Madrona about outdoor entertaining, and there's even a little story and photos about our pergola/arbor we built on our back patio last year. It was designed for multi use, including hanging laundry out to dry...

my summer office and outdoor dining area...
Arbor-laundry line

and even to hang our outdoor movie projector screen.
Arbor-night use

The sun was out yesterday morning and I sat there on the back patio, soaking it all in. AdRi hung her laundry out in the afternoon, and it promptly began to rain. It's not summer yet, but I can feel spring in the air. And it feels so gooooood. The gnomes would agree.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Gratitude for some neighborhood favorites

I had an early morning meeting and breakfast with a colleague today. She trekked all the way to my part of town, something I'm doing with plenty of folks to share in my neighborhood wonder, Ladybug Organic Cafe. It is the perfect spot for a meeting, with enough room between the tables to have private conversations, the food is made from scratch (hello homemade biscuits and jam), and the commitment to sustainability is stellar. Having once lived just a block from the spot, we used to dream of having something like Ladybug in our neighborhood, and I just want to pinch myself every time I'm in there. And hello, I even heard a little Nick Drake there this morning. Ladybug is offering breakfast and lunch service, and can I just say thank you for the option of braised greens instead of potatoes? Thank you.

At least twice a month we find ourselves at Pizza Fino, a neighborhood restaurant but worthy of a larger city recognition due to their stellar quality, commitment to seasonal food, and love of a good cocktail. The servers recognize us now, and we have never had a bad experience. In fact, I've been known to say the words "the best ravioli I've ever had" about a dish there. I don't use those words lightly. The not so secret secret? They have a super happy hour.

We found ourselves at Pizza Fino recently and the main restaurant was full, so we pulled up a stool in the bar at the front window, and watched the streetscape at night. Kenton is a neighborhood in transition, with new businesses slowly appearing in formerly vacant spots, and an exciting new green streetscape going in to mitigate water run-off. Just down the street from us, we've kept our fingers crossed for this neighborhood for over ten years, and each little change or opening is a good thing.

But what we watched as we sipped our whiskey cocktail and locally made root beer, were people walking the sidewalks as the full moon came in and out from behind the clouds. Just to see people out and about was great, but then we realized we were sitting directly across the street from the soon-to-open Kenton Library. In this day and age of cutbacks and closings, we're used to saying goodbye to things instead of welcoming new. But we have a new library opening! It's not huge, but it's new, and in a neighborhood who wants it so badly. How badly? We watched person after person stop as they walked by the new site, peer into the windows, test out the book return, and read the opening information posted on the door. They chatted with their fellow pedestrians, and moved down to get more views. One after another after another on this Saturday night. I am so valuing this moment of gratitude of good change and hopefulness.

So kudos to Ladybug Organic Cafe, to Pizza Fino, and to our soon-to-open Kenton Library. North Portland is lucky to have you here. Take a tour of the new Kenton Library with Commissioner Cogen....