Hanging out at the Dairy

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

Sunday, August 28, 2011

A berry good weekend on the farm!

cascade berries on our family farm

"Life has been berry berry good to me!" This sentiment is both a vintage Saturday Night Live reference and the the tone for this weekend on my family farm outside of Forks, WA. It's a late berry season here, well almost every seasonal crop is somewhat behind schedule here in Western Washington this year. At almost the end of August, we picked cascade berries this weekend!

this one didn't last long in my hand! YUMMM

on the vine
The thing is, berries are my FAVORITE things and cascades, marion and raspberries are my ultimate favorites!! They're sweet, tart, earthy, rich, slightly floral all at the same time. These jewels bring me back to my childhood with one bite. Picking berries with my Grandparents here on the farm, some even made it into my bucket for pies later!

The sun was out most of the weekend, even where we are near the Pacific coast. Saturday was pleasantly warm. My Mom and son picked berries for a cobbler to have for dessert that night.

fresh picked cascade berries in a baking dish
Mom sprinkled the fresh berries with about a half cup of all purpose flour and a cup of refined sugar for thickening the pie as the berries release their juices when cooking and additional sweetness. For the topping she tossed rolled oats with chopped walnuts, a pinch of cinnamon and some melted butter to bind the crunching topping together. The cobble baked in 350 degree oven for about 40-45 minutes, the topping was toasted and the berries cooked.

cascade berry cobbler hot out of the oven
a closeup of my dessert plate
We had left over cobble available for Sunday. YEA!! Life was full of simple pleasures this weekend, berry cobbler, swimming in the Bogichiel River for both human and canine, visiting with family and friendly goats and lots of reading.

son Alan and his new goat best friend "Dennis"(the goat on the right)

Cousin Justin, his dogs, my son Alan and my Dad
our Wiener dog Domino even started swimming!

Son Alan and my Dad after crossing the Bogichiel River
Domino drying out in the sun after his swim
My Mom and son Alan reading on the deck
Life on the family farm can be filled with lots of hard work but not for me this weekend! I picked berries today and froze them for pies or tarts in the days to come. I read my book and visited with family. I watched them swim and laughed at one of our Dachshunds get into the swimming craze. Now THAT's a buoyant little beast! Lot's a smiles and contentment being together.

Yes, life is berry, berry good my friends! 
Here's to finding your favorite things and relishing in their delectable, seasonal joy they bring us~

Chow for now my friends!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Summertime and the livin' is easy

Grilled steak & sweet onions, steamed jasmine rice and seared Bok choy
Grilled pork blade steaks & beef chuck steaks with Korean BBQ glaze
Summer to me means light foods, juicy, grilled, flavorful, uncomplicated and fast. Taking advantage of our sunny warmth means seasonal foods that optimize your time outside, taste great and don't weigh you down. This describes my favorite way to eat during the lazy days of summer!
Here are a few of this Ulin family's fav's;

Grilled Albacore Tuna w/sweet chili sauce & green beans w/Tzaziki sauce
One of our friends came over to dinner with a few pounds of fresh Albacore Tuna to share. I marinated it for 10 minutes prior to grilling with some Korean BBQ sauce. The sauce is a new favorite in our house as it's a less sweet version of Teriyaki but with the tang, the saltiness and a little smokiness. It's super versatile, available at our Sequim Safeway and many others, try it soon!

Steamed new potatoes, zucchini and green beans

Grilled Albore with Korean BBQ Sauce
So we tried the grilled tuna with more of the Korean BBQ sauce and the Sweet Chili Sauce from Trader Joes and our unanimous favorite was the Sweet Chili sauce! It paired nicely with the grilled, heavier oiled nature of the tuna. My son's friend was over for dinner that night and hadn't eaten fish in over 5 years, tried it and had 3 helpings...just sayin'!

son Alan & friends taking ice cream break in Carlsborg

Escaping the afternoon heat at our favorite ice cream hangout; The Old Post Office and Sweet Shop in Carlsborg, WA. It's just outside of Sequim, down from Alan's elementary school and serves Snoqualmie ice cream. Lisa, she and her husband are the new owners, is eager to give great service, fresh baked items, gift items along with coffee and ice cream. Did I mention they make their own waffle cones?! We try to limit our visits to once a week:)

sizzling peppered bacon bits
So any recipe that starts with bacon is off to a good start in my book! This one was a twist on the classic BLT sandwich by dicing the bacon and tomatoes, dressing them and putting them on the lettuce and fresh Pane D'Amore Sourdough bread.

BLT salad fixings
The dressing was a mix of buttermilk Ranch dressing, mayo, Dijon mustard, a dash of garlic powder mixed in with the diced tomatoes and cooled cooked bacon bits.

some assembly required

Now THAT's a BLT salad sandwich!
The contents were much easier to eat all diced up rather than sliding around inside the bread and having to chase them around to get all the ingredients in each bite. The results were DEVOURED in minutes by my son, his posse of friends and yours truly! YUM!

oven roasted chicken, Havarti, fresh tomato on Pane D'Amore Sourdough
Our Sunny Farms deli offers many great choices for lunches on the run. Our new favorite is their nitrate free, oven roasted chicken! Paired with fresh tomato and thinly cut onion slices, Havarti cheese and fabulous sourdough-that is something to crow about! My husband, 2 of his clients, my son and I all enjoyed these for lunch one hot summer day!

Oven roasted potatoes w/sea salt, pepper, olive oil and crushed garlic

Greek Salad
Light and easy side dishes like the steamed veggies earlier in the blog post, roasted veggies, grilled veggies or fresh salads are ALL options during the summer months! My main focus is to honor the ingredients by keeping them in their purest forms, not overworking them. This is when seasonal items shine and make our meals flavorful, nutrient rich and easy!

King Salmon fillets w/fresh ground pepper, ginger, sesame oil, garlic, red onion & butter

 The grillin' villain strikes often during the summer! We fillet our fish and leave the skin on the salmon. Grill on a medium high grill, skin side down for about 10-15 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish.  When done, the meat will begin to flake, the juices run clear and the meat will be opaque. I check to see if the most interior portions are still slightly translucent and remove carefully using a friend, this is a 2 person transferal process. One person takes a spatula to loosen the fillet off the grill, places 2 of the largest spatulas underneath the fillet and the friend hovers nearby with a large platter ready to catch the lifted fish. With any luck, the whole fillet comes off. Last night the fillet pictures below was too long and came off in two pieces. We just arranged them back on the platter like puzzle pieces fitting back together!

Salmon & organic chicken sausages right off the grill
 We enjoy eating light side dishes in the summer, especially with heavier fish like Tuna and Salmon. We're often more hungry at dinner, when the heat subsides and want to eat less caloric options but with tons of flavor and no guilt!

Salmon, sausage & butter lettuce, cucumber & tomato salad
This was our dinner last night. We had plenty of time to watch the golf tournament, play cards, have a glass of wine and visit. It was a perfect summer meal with family sharing a meal together!

the Puget Sound off of Vashon Island
Here's to summer and embracing the light, seasonal fare and easy livin' with friends and family!

Chow for now friends!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

You CAN have your cake & eat it too!

Aunt Diane's Birthday cake in my kitchen
I'm not an emotional eater, but I am an emotional cook!
Yesterday was one of my Aunt's birthday and I was baking her birthday cake for her. Did you ever read Like Water For Chocolate or see the movie? One of the main points of the story is that food that is being prepared, takes on the emotion of the cook(s).  Food prepared with love always tastes better to me, most people know this. If your having trouble with this idea, think of some of your favorite foods, who prepared them for you and how you feel about this person(s). Now, you understand.

little rays of sunshine
I love my Aunt (I'm a sap about my whole family really) and the chance to join them for her birthday and bake her birthday cake arose. This foodie was filled with love when she baked this cake. This Aunt is and has always been a person of enormous positive energy, love of her family, a tremendously hard worker and a tom-boy. She loves to kayak, to weave baskets, work in her garden, to can everything from jam to tuna, and homemade things. She's sentimental like me. We cry when we're happy. We understand each other.

So love of my Aunt was in me when I baked for her. The recipe I chose is an adaptation of the one on the back of the Trader Joe's unsweetened "Cocoa Powder" tin.

The Trader Joe's "The greatest & Easiest Chocolate Cake" recipe is as follows:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour (2) 9 inch cake pans.

3 1/3 c. flour           12 oz. butter or margarine
1 1/3 c. cocoa         3 c. buttermilk
3 c. sugar                1 T. baking soda  
1 t. vanilla               1 t. salt
5 eggs

Place all ingredients in electric mixer bowl and beat on high speed for 3 minutes, scraping down sides of bowl once during mixing. Pour into prepared pans of cupcake cups. Bake cakes for about 55 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean, or bake cupcakes for 20-25 minutes.

As might have guessed, I "elevated" the recipe to adapt to my tastes:
* use unbleached, unbromated flour like Red Mill or King Arthur
* used 4 c. flour vs. 3 1/3 c.
* use unsalted butter, it's a fresher product without the salt as preservative, you control your salt & water
* used 2 sticks or 16 oz. unsalted butter vs. 12 oz.
* Added 1/3 c. freshly brewed but cool French Roast Coffee (a dark roast or 3 shots espresso), cooled
* used 1 T. Trader Joe's Vanilla vs. 1 t.
* use ground sea salt. It's much less metallic tasting than Iodized. I use Trader Joe's, it's tasty and cheap.
* Added 2 t. ground cinnamon
* used 3 1/2 c. sugar, superfine baking sugar. I like the way it mixes & isn't grainy.
* use organic or natural whenever possible and affordable, the taste is most often purer and intense!

*I also went more traditional when combining the ingredients.
First, cream the butter and sugar on medium-then high speed. Then add the vanilla, coffee and the eggs, one by one on medium speed. Scrape down bowl. Then, the dry ingredients, alternating with the buttermilk on low speed. Scrape down bowl. Beat on medium-high for 2 minutes. Scrape down bowl. Mix on high for 30 seconds.  Fill cake pans or cupcake cups.

one of my 2 cake rounds
The cakes need to cool completely before frosting. I set mine on a cooling rack and started the frosting.

My Cream Cheese Chocolate Butter cream Frosting recipe:

Combine in mixer bowl: 2 c. room temp cream cheese, 1 c. packed brown sugar, 1 c. superfine sugar, 1T. vanilla, 1t. cinnamon, 3/4 c. unsweetened cocoa, 2 sticks semi-softened unsalted butter. Mix on low, then high to get any lumps out.

Using a serrated knife, cut the cooled cake rounds in half by placing your palm on top of round to secure and a gentle sawing action to slowly work your way around the cake and through the middle.

not quite perfect, but it will work

Using two spatulas, place the first layer on your plate, platter or cake stand. *TRICK* Place 3 or 4 teaspoon sized blobs of frosting on where the cake will be on the serving vessel first. These bits of frosting help prevent the cake from sliding!

Using offset spatula, smooth frosting on top of first layer, excess frosting can be coaxed out to the edges for use on the sides later. Repeat process with gently placing each layer on top of the next. *TRICK* It's easier not to get crumbs in frosting if you place the cut side down and frost the uncut surface.

3 layers down, 1 to go!
Use the offset spatula to add any extra frosting needed to have a thin coat of frosting on sides. This finishes the cake and allows enough frosting depth to hold the toasted and chopped walnuts to the sides. Using your scooped hand, gently pour & press the chopped walnuts onto the sides of cake. It's a slow and somewhat messy process but worth it! I used about 3 c. toasted walnuts (measured prior to chopping & toasting).

The top was simply decorated by gliding the offset spatula back and forth across to the edges.
The cake was chilled in the freezer for 30 minutes prior to transporting to party.

We ate a lovely dinner at the Sol Duc Hot Springs Lodge, telling jokes, laughing and catching on each other's lives. Then it was time for dessert or as my young cousin Anthony says, "the chocolate party"!

BD cake with candles and "tastes" of frosting smoothed out
Anthony helped my Aunt and Uncle blow out her candles
a rather ginormous bite of cake
My cousin Laura catching Anthony's excess cake, my son & hubby eating their slices
We all enjoyed our dinner and dessert. Our bellies were now stuffed and my Aunt felt celebrated! What a gift time with family and celebrating milestones can be. Cooking with love in your heart is good for you, good for your diners and tastes better! Try it today.

a cross section of the cake
Here's to celebrating our loved ones, having your cake and eating it too!

Chow for now my friends.

Friday, August 5, 2011

A garden wedding on Vashon Island, WA

I love most weddings, the joy, the energy, the gathering of family and friends, the new beginnings. But when weddings capture the true spirit of the couple, that's when magic really happens. That was my friend Dawn's recent wedding to her beloved Jeremy.

The wedding was on Vashon Island where Dawn's family has it's roots and many still live. Husband and I took the Pt. Defiance ferry to Talequah landing. It was a slow ride, the salt air smelled so refreshing and the sounds of lapping water and boats buzzing. The transition to Island life had begun.

Brad and I on deck
the Talequah landing on Vashon Island
The wedding was set at Triplebrook Farm, a working farm which has been recently renovated. The buildings are set amongst gardens and lawns. The event utilized all to their fullest.

A peek-a-boo view of Puget Sound
a rustic archway leading into another garden

a rooster weather vane atop the residential building
Upon arrival, guests were welcomed to refresh at the Beverage tent, surrounded by raspberry patch, fruit orchard and upper lawn. There was time to pause, play bocci, bad mitten, and soak in the much appreciated sunshine and visit before the ceremony began.

Offerings of strawberry lemonade, minted punch and iced tea

A view of the beverage tent through the raspberry patch

We gathered in the lower lawn area for the wedding ceremony. The setting was calm, casual and nestled amongst the vegetable garden and the residential house. The jazz ensemble played softly from beneath their black tent, announcing the beginning of the ceremony.

gathering in the lower lawn for the ceremony
the raised veggie garden

the residential home
 The vows were personal. Their friend officiated. He shared a message of the depth, significance and fabric of moments that over time, constitute a marriage.

the exchange of vows
The message reminded me of how blessed my family is and to take nothing for granted. Life is comprised of many small moments and to cherish each one.

Following the ceremony, the band played again. We followed the wedding party up near the barn where were a heartfelt toasts from friends and relatives, sharing more good wishes for the future and some stories from the bride and grooms past. The sparkling wine felt refreshing as we clinked glasses with those around us.

Appetizers arrived on trays. They were simple, fresh and delicious! The appetizers were passed by the professional, friendly and all-black clad caterers from Herban Feast Catering.
seared beef with pickled red onion and horseradish on grilled bruschetta

a collection of the incredibly savory appetizers
Again, the personal connection for Dawn and Jeremy was Herban Feast started in West Seattle, where Dawn used to live. I was both lucky enough to be Dawn's next door neighbor there and had worked occasionally for Herban Feast in their prep kitchen. Small world!  Not surprising, BJ Duft, the owner of Herban Feast Catering and now Fresh Bistro and SoDo Studio has done so well for himself. He is a hard-working, innovative, friendly person who continues to expand his vision of offering fantastic, fresh and local food in glorious environments.
The wine bar next to the antique truck used to stage extra glasses

A view of the barn through the wine bar

a shaded seating ring of covered hay bales outside the B & B
Dinner was both elegant and casual in and around the renovated barn. Dawn and Jeremy had strung globe lights throughout the barn, adding another layer of cheer.

The tables were set formally but used a mix of vintage vases and table numbers, crisp white tops, rustic linen runners and charming country bouquets.

We started with plated salads of fresh greens, bacon bits and roasted beets.

We were lucky enough to be seated with 3 toddlers, their parents and another couple. These two were happy to pose for pictures on my iPhone and be passed around the table in between salad and main course. Our third boy was wanting to run around outside in the gardens, so no slowing down for any pictures!

 The main course and sides were served family style and equally fresh, well prepared as the salad and appetizers!

herb and shallot compound butter on rustic bread

my dinner plate
I especially enjoyed the Parmesan and roasted veggie pasta that looked like Israeli cous cous, the perfectly grilled salmon with huckleberry sauce and the medium rare beef tenderloin with caramelized onions. Oh heck, the veggies were uber-fresh and perfectly roasted as well!

"It's all good" was the consensus at our table!

the much anticipated wedding cake
So, we missed the amazingly appetizing cake and the cutting ceremony to catch a ferry back to the main land. It was sad to leave a party in mid swing but it was gratifying to see my friend and her new husband celebrating their union with their family and friends. Good friends are a gift in life. I'm so happy to have spent this day with my husband, sharing in Dawn and Jeremy's celebration.

My best wishes to my dear friend Dawn, her betrothed Jeremy!
Wishing us all many enriching moments and cause for celebrations in life.

Chow for now.