Hanging out at the Dairy

Hanging out at the Dairy
Darci(far left) & the Wrights at the Creamery

Monday, May 30, 2011

A nod to Penny

A few weeks ago, I took an online food photography class by the award winning photographer Penny De Los Santos. She is Senior contributing photographer Saveur and has done pieces for National Geographic Magazines to name a few (wow!!!)I'm a "point and shoot" gal still so much of the class was beyond my realm of knowledge and in some cases, interest. Having said that pointed comment, I was BLOWN AWAY with her openness, her willingness to share her knowledge and passion for food and photography. You can visit  her blog Appetite or website http://www.pennydelossantos.com/ to fully appreciate her mastery of her craft. For the sake of brevity...here are some take aways:

She likes to shoot food vertically and her pieces often include "ingredient shots". Ideally, there should be some "movement" in the shot.

She shoots in natural light, only natural light, whenever possible.

She likes to be a little messy, a little rustic, a lot of composition and texture.

She continues to inspire me in my "point and shoot" perspective:

*the background of the photo, if any, must ADD to the picture's story in some way
*to bring natural light and interest to the subject
*to have the photo be about the subject, not me
*to be patient, wait for the photographic moment to develop
*to take LOTS of photos, often

*Ask yourself "if you're not doing what you love, why not?!"

I was inspired to make Mexican Bean soup as Penny lives in Austin, TX and showed images of Latin American roadside stands and markets that haunt me. I used many Latin American spices found at my local Safeway and produce/dried beans/smoked ham hock at my local Sequim favorite, Sunny Farms Grocery. This wasn't a recipe, just an interpretation of a hearty meal that would be hearty and filling, something I would serve Penny after a shoot perhaps.

So here's to Penny; I WAS/am doing what I love, cooking for my family and friends and sharing it with all of you...

~Thanks Penny!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Who wants ice cream?

Silly question...but I asked it anyway. I picked up my son and his friend after school today and asked the rhetorical question "who wants ice cream?" Their faces lit up, they went crazy! This is another reason why I LOVE being a Mom.
We drove down the street from their school to The Old Post Office Sweets and Gifts in Carlsborg, just outside of Sequim.

"It's waffle cone Wednesday Mom!" my son announced from the backseat of my car...life just keeps getting better for this threesome! The boys pile out of the car and race into the store. Lisa, the new shop owner, greets us warmly. The whole store smells of waffle cones, sweet with a hint of vanilla.  The boys choose a colorful "Sour Splash" sorbet, in a waffle cone no less!
The boys DEVOURED their treats with such gusto, Lisa and I had to smile. Sometimes simple pleasures remind you of what's important in life...like MY Marion berry Swirl cone-LOL!
Several more friends wandered in after we ordered. Ileana had the Super Chocolate on a waffle cone. She was shaking with anticipation:)

Her friend had fresh Apple Crisp right out of the oven...probably another reason the shop smelled heavenly!

Lisa is just as thrilled as her customers seem to be about her goodies, "I get to bake all morning and visit with people! The baked goods practically fly out the door the day I make them!" She had us listening contently as we savoured our treats. "This is such a nice town! Practically every family in Carlsborg has stopped by to wish me 'Welcome'! We could tell she felt contented here in her new shop as more friends from school walked in...one of the boys' teachers and his daughters. "It's like a party in here!" said the youngest child as we all ate and chatted. As if Lisa couldn't have been paid a higher compliment!
As we were saying our goodbyes to our fellow "party goers", Lisa gave us each a white chocolate peanut cluster she made just a few minutes earlier...they were still soft.  Toasty, creamy and gone! We left The Old Post Office Sweets and Gifts, Lisa and our friends feeling blessed to have simple pleasures in our lives.

Be well and find your simple pleasures my friends!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

911 Chicken Soup

I played nurse earlier this week for my young friend/neighbor Chloe. She was home from school with an earache and aside from a strawberry frozen yogurt, chicken soup sounded pretty good to her for lunch! How can I resist a yummy 8yr old who's not feeling well?! This was going to be the BEST chicken soup ever...

How could chicken soup be elevated? Recalling a recdently read book, The Last Chinese Chef, by Nicole Moines, the Chinese Imperial chefs would use multiples of the main ingredient to intensify the flavor, roasted duck with reduced duck stock in it's sauce for instance. This was the direction to take with the broth of the nourishing soup for Chloe.

4 boxes of purchased organic chicken stock (even I don't always have time to make it:) were reduced for a half hour with 2 bay leaves, 1Tablespoon of ground Cumin, several cracks of fresh ground pepper and my SECRET INGREDIENT (a big pinch of saffron) were added to elevate the flavor! The Saffron also gives the stock a luscious, more amber hue -visual appeal is important as we "first, eat with our eyes".

To build the body of the soup, veggies and herbs sauteed together; first 1 large sweet onion,  chopped medium coarse in approximately 4 Tablespoons vegetable oil. Then 6 peeled carrots, chopped to preserve their round shape, 1 large Pisillo pepper, deseeded, cut in thin strips and chopped finely. The Pisillo has a mild green Chile flavor with a slight kick of heat at the finish and a gloriously dark forest green color. Also included was 1 small leek, rinsed and chopped in fine rounds and 5 stalks of celery chopped finely. Sprinkled on top were more freshly ground pepper, 1 tablespoon each granular dried garlic and dried thyme. This happy mix is stirred on high heat for about 5 minutes, to start the carmelization process to add depth of flavor to the soup while still not cooking through yet.

Into stockpot go the semi-cooked veggies and another trick, broken lasagna noodles! I broke up about 6 dried strips into about 2 inch shards but not even by any stretch. These noodles gave such tooth to the soup, reminded me of my Grandma's home made noodles and visually appealing as well! The pasta pieces and veggies were on a steady rolling boil for about 10 minutes until fork tender.

This is slightly more than a  half of a roasted chicken I had in the refrigerator. The meat pulled off the bone, checked for bones and gristle and chopped coarsely for texture. The chunked chicken was added last as it's already cooked and moist, not wanting to overcook.

All ingredients mingled about 5 minutes prior to my dishing up Chloe a bowl of comforting, amber goodness. This was a fast chicken soup to make, about 30-45 minutes, but with maximum results! It fed us and several friends that night, a bowl for my son's teacher at school and a leftover lunch the day following. My boys add Seracha hot sauce for a kickof heat.  I had purchased a crusty, whole wheat sourdough loaf from Pane d'Amore, served warmed and sliced in 3 inch rustic chunks to dunk with. YUM!!

Chloe and the rest of us felt loved and our full bellies content!
 Be well my friends!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Taco night at the Ulins

Tacos are rustic, casual, comfortable...perfect for the 3 of us Ulins at home or when we have friends over.  As with all my meals,  the aim is to use the best ingredients, then "elevate". 

Tonight, we'll do shredded beef for the main filling component. This requires a flavorful cut, infused with flavor, prepared properly and complimentary additions.

With most of my meat/fish selections, I consult my favorite, local butchery staff at Sunny Farms. His recommendation was a beef cross rib roast. The roast is slathered in Balsamic Vinegar,then freshly ground sea salt and pepper is applied and massaged into the surface.

A large yellow onion and 6 toes of garlic are sliced and added to a preheated heavy bottomed skillet with about 4 Tablespoons of olive oil.

Each side of the roast is heavily seared to seal in juices and to create the caramelized crust. YUM!

 The seared roast, onions and garlic are added to another preheated pot, a pressure cooker, with 1 large can of mild enchilada sauce and another large can of organic diced tomatoes. 6-10 stalks of fresh cilantro, 3 Tablespoons of dried, ground cumin and 2 Tablespoons of dried thyme are added for depth of flavor. The lid is placed securely to pressurize and the heat is reduced to low after the internal pressure reader shows a medium level of pressure. The efficiency of the pressure cooker allows a lower temp and protects the tomato sauce from burning. The meat/sauce combo infuses for about 40 minutes, depending on your sear level and size of the roast. Mine was about 1 1/2 lbs.

Depressurize and extract the roast from the sauce. Rest the roast on a cutting board for at least 15 minutes (to let the internal juices disperse throughout the roast). The roast should be "fork tender" at this point and TANTALIZING!

Toasting the fresh corn tortillas adds another layer/depth of flavor to your tacos. I enjoy the slightly crisp exterior, while the center remains moist.

Tonight, I kept it simple. I mixed some of the enriched enchilada sauce back into the shredded beef, topped with some fresh Ranch dressing and fresh avocado. The options and combinations are endless with tacos. We look forward to each Taco Night to try them all!

Que bueno!
Hasta luego mis amigos!
How great!
See you soon my friends!

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A fieldtrip to Pane d'Amore Bakery

"It's raining, it's pouring, the old man is snoring..." this weather is dismal and calls for an emergency mood lifter! A pot of tea and something yummy from a "new to me" bakery in town Pane d'Amore will be the ticket to happiness today! I try and find things to cheer me up when I feel myself getting sucked down into the doldrums, it's a trick I play on myself...shhhh!

Immediately, I was struck with the feeling of warmth, calmness and the heady aromas of toasty yeasty treasures. How could I have waited so long to have never darkened this doorstep before today?!
 I peruse around, taking in all in, checking out the wine, balsamic vinegars, the selection of dried pastas, some local chocolates and jams. You could make a fun little picnic or an amazing gift basket or hostess gift with their selection here!

The black and white photographs are of their central bakery in Port Townsend where co-owner Frank D'Amore and his crew produce these heavenly morsels. The photographer is a local Port Townsend resident as well. Some of the photographs had Frank in them and all of them showed a reverence for the art of baking fine bread.

"How cute is this?!" I said when focusing on their coffee condiment vessel. This imported metal breadbox was from Denmark (I think) the shop's cheerful clerk Erin politely answered to my "out loud" thought. It was another personal touch the store's ambiance offered up upon closer inspection, 

I was having fun taking it all in, glad to have the time to make the right choice. Cookies were lovely but not screaming to me to buy them today.

A sourdough baguette would do nicely for dinner or lunch tomorrow! Sold!

 I read in an article in The Fresh Loaf (http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/2551/bakery-profile-pane-damore) that they use all organic ingredients in their breads and pastries. Frank's 25 years of baking experience is reflected in the selection of offerings and the depth of flavors. Clerk Erin has been offering samples and I'm TOTALLY wowed!

Shortcake! That's the teatime treat I need today! Buttery, with a moist flake to it's interior. Sourdough baguette and shortcake in hand, I forge my way home through the seemingly ever present rain. But now, I have my yummies!!

So, I'll brew some tea in the musical teapot my Great Aunt Florence gave me years ago. The classical piano music plays when you wind the bottom lever and fill your tea cup. The music stops when you put it down. Jasmine tea with a spot of NW blackberry honey, shortcake slathered in farm fresh butter and local raspberry jam. What a lovely adventure...I'm already smiling again! 

Here's to meeting new people, exploring new places and creating your joys in life!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

SOOO ready for Spring

Soooo ready for some warmer, drier weather to arrive! So I'm using the power of positive thinking to create my desired balmy Sequim Spring to arrive! Young fresh veggies are my inspiration with sauteed ginger, leaks and sweet onions, in some olive oil and farm fresh butter.

Nash's is famous for their own sweet carrots but we are a few months away from their carrot crop, so we are using some California organics today. I finished the saute with a squeeze of fresh lemon to add that Spring time zing to the caramelized leeks and sweet onions.

Light and easy roasted (natural/hormone free) chicken hindquarters from Sunny Farm's butchery is simply oven roasted after coating with a mixture of1/2 cup Dijon mustard, juice of half a lemon, 2 Tablespoons Cumin powder, 1 teaspoon sea salt and 1 t. fresh ground pepper and 1 t. dried thyme. The chicken roasted at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes. The skin is crispy and full of flavor!

Because I'm on the "get here already" mind set for Spring, I'm doing another veggie dish and trying a new combo for fun. Fennel, red onion, fresh garlic, Pisillo peppers and more carrots

All we needed was a fine matchstick chop, a little farm butter and olive oil in the hot, not smoldering, saute pan for a few minutes of rapid fire heat and stirring. Kind of a stir fry minus the wok and the gas burner.
The balmy weather will come when Mother Nature is ready to share some heat but until then, I have my own little touch of Spring dinner tonight...the power of combining positive thoughts with amazing ingredients= a fantastically enjoyable meal! Chow for now!:)
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