Hanging out at the Dairy

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

Sunday, January 29, 2012

"These are a few of my favorite things..."

Our dachshunds soaking up the heat from our fireplace

So I'm sitting in my favorite armchair again on day 7 of our Sequim Snow Week and feeling rather nostalgic. The wind is howling and gusting, it's raining sideways, the snow is slowly melting and I'm sipping my morning coffee with husband, who's reading book #5 or 6? of the week. Life is cozy in front of our fire and I'm feeling grateful as the weather gusts outside and I'm flipping through tons of pics on my laptop. 

I don't really have a point with this post other than reflection of great moments and memories. The types of events that bring a smile to my face and maybe yours too. I'll try to group them to make more sense to you...and yes, there is food involved! HELLOOOO! This is a MAJOR food geek you're dealing with here who also loves to travel a bit, hang with family and friends.  Hopefully you will find these snippets entertaining and not too much of an "over-share" on my part. Funny how it starts off with warmer weather...hmmm?!!

Son Alan, friends Harrison and Drew on a jet ski on the Columbia River
Crescent Bar, WA Summer 2011 was a HUGE highlight of 2011 for son Alan and I. Unfortunately, husband was home working so we knuckled through the 85+ degree sunshine, lots of pool time, me reading book #2 of the Dragon Tattoo series, and copious amounts of local Mexican food! I rendevouzed with 3 Moms/good friends and their kids.  Crescent Bar is located in the more seasonal eastern (hence warmer in summer) part of Washington state, close to Wenatchee. Heat, gloriously warm sunshine, seems even sweeter now that the weather is polar opposite. Crescent Bar is now one of my favorite places on earth!

Our local coffee shop also served ice cream-YEA US!

Fresh tortillas and Mexican Creme from the Quincy store

This was me and son Alan on paddle boards. I was working off the Mexican food...

One of my ALL TIME fav pics! Alan and Harrison looking out at the Columbia River

Alan, Yana & Alicia's cannonball contest-COWABUNGA!

Me reading poolside while Alan & Alisha dive for objects in the pool at sunset
Beef Huarache lunch from a Taco truck in Ellensburg, WA

Dining alfresco on my condo patio w/shredded beef tamale, Mexican creme, fresh salsa & vino

We found a Mexican grocery in the small agricultural town of Quincy, WA, on our way to Crescent Bar. Let's just say that the owners and patrons must have found me and my friends "curious" at least...we bought pints of fresh salsa, Mexican creme, fresh tortillas and tortilla chips at LEAST 5 times in our 7 day stay.  We were embracing the "EAT LOCAL" mantra for sure!

Afternoon sun through the Russian Sage
Vashon Island, WA-Summer 2011 again. My friend Dawn's wedding to Jeremy. Sun, friends, family, FANTASTIC food by Herban Feast Catering, beautiful setting, a rare and lovely date with my husband.

Husband, me, bride/good friend/bride Dawn, Dawn's sister Caroline

Toasting the Bride and Groom

The band announces the wedding is beginning...

The array of delectable appetizers

pickled red onions on bruscetts with slice of beef tenderloin

Dinner; fresh, wonderful, seasonal

Leaving the tranquil island of Vashon

Fresh crab-ANYWHERE, ANYTIME! I didn't think I even liked crab until our family friend Ed, dropped some crab pots when we were staying at his Port Hadlock home for the weekend. TOTAL game changer experience! I do like crab, when it's fresh...frozen, not so much at all.

My Ulin family getting ready for dinner!

Son Alan and Mom-in-law Lin out dropping crab pots (Father-in-law is captain & photographer)

My fresh crab cakes with Panko crust

Simple fixings; spicy cocktail sauce, limes, lemons and melted butter
Something else I learned about fresh crab; it doesn't have to be daunting to serve your guests! Short story; we got several fresh cooked crab from a neighbor (LOVE it!) and husband invited some friends over to enjoy them. Wife is major foodie too. I FREAKED OUT! I'd never served fresh crab before and thought you needed individual crab crackers, picks and other specific tools. I cried and ranted to my husband for inviting them over for crab but upon arrival, foodie wife simply asked "if we had some hammers around the house?" We did. We got out cutting boards for each of us, bowls for meat and bowls for shells and the feast was on! It was kind of cathartic to pound away and extract the sweet meat together. 

Dungeness Crab meat

Silly me! Now I have extra crackers and hammers out when we have fresh crab and save the tears for other "crisis' ".

Rock Crab claw meat
Fresh Berries-ANYTIME, ANYWHERE! The Pacific Northwest is a mecca for all wonderful berries; wild blackberries, Marion berries, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, huckleberries, cranberries, Cascade berries, and many more.

Fresh local strawberries from Sequim

Dirty Vegas Cocktail; fresh strawberry juice, white balsamic vinegar, sugar, lemon & vodka

Strawberry turnover

Cascade berries from our family farm in Forks, WA

Cascade Berry Crisp

Jewels for the picking

These are a few of my many favorite things.  Right now, they're curiously all related more toward the warmer, summer months.  Don't get me wrong, I try my best to embrace all times of year and to eat seasonally. However, I feel the most vital, energetic and enthusiastic about summer months. Well, I like Spring and Fall too...just not winter so much. The claustrophobic nature of grey days having me lusting after sunnier, warmer days and the bounty of offerings they bring right now. 

Here's to naming your favorite things my friends. It's fun to know and acknowledge what makes you happy so you can repeat them more often! Sometimes fresh isn't always available but frozen can make do in a pinch, it's about creating creating memories and then bringing them to your present day lives. 

"It's all good!" as my family likes to say.
Chow for now my friends.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Snowing in Sequim

Crystalized landscape

Monday night's snow

YEA!!! Snow has finally come to our drier part of Washington state and the school kids and I couldn't be happier. The kids are thinking of school closures, sledding, snowmen and snowball fights right now.

My son and some of his sledding posse'

Our neighborhood sledding spot; Rock Hollow Farm
I'm thinking food of course-shocking news! Somehow, food made when it's cold and snowy tastes better to me. Not quite like grilling outdoors in the summer, my personal fav, but slower cooked foods which allow flavors to meld or steamy, crispy foods that envelope your house in a fragrance of flavors.

Sledding on Tuesday

Not a long run but it's close to our house

The weather forecast is for more snow this week so I went to the stores to stock up on items to cook and bake with during this winter wonderland!  I'm going to start with "Spicy Pop Pulled Pork" recipe I saw Saturday morning on "Pioneer Woman" on the Food Network. Ree Dupree is the hostess, blogger, Mom, wife, photographer, cook and comedian. Her blog http://pioneerwoman.com is FANTASTIC! Lot's of great photos of her life on her family's ranch, recipes and she's HILARIOUS both in her blog and on her show! 
Pork Butt or Shoulder Roast from Sunny Farms' Meat Dept.

The Pioneer Woman used this recipe to feed a bunch of hungry cowboys and girls lunch after working cattle all morning, so I thought this would work for OUR dinner after a day of sledding, ploughing driveways and shoveling sidewalks! Ree did hers in a Dutch oven but I don't have one right now and substituted my crockpot.  She also got up at 6am to start this roast, I started mine at noon and we ate at 7:30 after basketball practice finished.

Turn your crockpot on High and time for 7-8 hours

For the "bed" of my roast, we both roughly chopped 1 onion and turned the crockpot on High. My crockpot was a wedding gift, we use it often and it came with 3 settings and no timer. It works just fine for our family. In Ree's recipe, she pours a can of pop or soda on top of the pork roast along with a can of chipotle peppers, salt, pepper, sugar and I think a teaspoon of ground cumin. The pop is supposed to help break down the meat to tenderize it and the the sugars caramelize to help the flavor of the sauce.  I couldn't leave well enough alone and had to add a 1/2 cup of fresh cider from Lazy J Farm, a 1/4 c. of lime juice and only 1/2 can of chipotle in Adobo sauce. I wanted to less spice and more complexity by adding the tart lime juice. That's just me...I'm a "tweaker" of recipes.

The liquid ingredients

The dried cast of characters

 I also added about 4 Tablespoons of Garlic seasoning to enrich the braising liquid. 3 Tablespoons of dried Cumin powder were sprinkled over the roast, the chipotles and adobo sauce and generous amounts of sea salt and ground pepper, probably about 1 Tablespoon of each or slightly more.

Dried ingredients go first

The wet ingredients follow the dried and the lid was placed on. Set the kitchen timer for about 4 hours and then gently turn the roast over if your schedule allows. It helps moisten the entire roast but isn't pivotal if you can't get to it. After 7-8 hours total, check your roast. It should be "fork tender" which literally means it's so tender, you can pull it apart with a fork! Who wouldn't want that?!

7 hours later...the lid is lifted

Voila, it's so tender it didn't even stay in one piece to the cutting board!

 As this now succulent roast is "fork tender", it's somewhat difficult to handle on the cutting board after cutting the binding strings off. The remedy is to put in a large bowl and start in on it where it can't escape!

Start breaking down roast with your tongs

I started breaking down with the tongs, then moved to the fork when the chunks were smaller. The degree you shred the pork is up to you. I prefer not to break up all the juicy morsels too finely, I want you to be able to identify what you're eating.

Some of the braising liquid is added back to the pulled pork

Ree added some of the braising liquid back into her pulled pork. What a stroke of genius! I added back about a 1/2 cup but again, it's up to you and what you're using the pulled pork for. I wanted moist and yet not "wet" for my Pulled Pork Tacos dinner.

Pulled Pork Tacos

I loaded my Taco up with pulled pork, pepper jack, shaved sweet onion, fresh cilantro and avocado and a generous dollop of sour cream! Dinner is served to my hungry family!!!

More Snow that night!

 The next morning, we awoke to more snow and no school again! No problem, I thought...we'll enjoy our leftover taco makings and made Huevos Rancheros for breakfast. I spiced mine up with several squirts of Buffalo Style Tabasco Sauce on top. This breakfast took me about 15 minutes to make including poaching eggs, toasting fresh tortillas and heating up the pulled pork. That's a great start to my day... easy and yummy!

Pulled pork Huevos Rancheros

So I say "let it snow"! It's a rare treat here in Sequim, WA and I'm embracing it!  More cooking, sledding and ploughing as the forecast is for yet another front coming in tonight...more recipes to come soon!

My long haired Dachshund "snowballed" after a romp in the snow
Embrace what your day brings you my friends!

"The days slip by quicker the older you get" my Grandma Effie used to tell me as a kid. I didn't understand what she meant until I was a Mom and saw my son changing almost before my eyes. Now I now what she meant...so I try my best to go with things I can't change and be deliberate in things I can have influence over. For instance, what I am going to feed my cold, hungry crowd for dinner tonight?! I chose to relish those decisions!  Creating a meal and baking are simple pleasures of mine, something I have control over, that brings joy and shares my love of food, family and friends.

Hot chocolate with a scoop of ice cream after sledding

Another lesson my Grandma Effie taught me...cook with love in your heart and your food tastes better!

Chow for now my friends! Love you Grandma Effie!