Pickles & Social Meltdown

I made the refrigerator pickles this weekend. A lot of them. The only reason I stopped was because I ran out of jars, not cucumbers. It was insanely easy. I used the Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking’s “Fridge Pickles 101” as my guide.
Other than the pickles my weekend was filled with a lot of uninteresting things (laundry, cleaning, laundry, cooking, laundry, pickle making, laundry) and also dinner with friends on Sunday. I’m a total social wimp (i.e. natural introvert), so while the dinner was fun I now feel like I need three days to recover from the social interaction with a couple of people I had never met before. The “other people coming to dinner” was sprung on us after we had been at our friends’ house for about 20 minutes. I can’t help but think they know us well enough to not tell us ahead of time thinking we might cancel. Which we wouldn’t do. We might fantasize about it but we wouldn’t actually cancel. They were of course very nice people and nothing bad happened to us for socializing. Well, other than annoying each other on the ride home which I’m going to chalk up to being at the end of our social rope and using each other as a release valve. And that’s generous because it was, of course, all Mike. (Hi, Honey!)

Summer beet (and potato and cucumber) harvest!

We harvested some of our beets this weekend. I’m the worst photographer ever so I’m pretty proud of this shot. It doesn’t quite come across but the beet on the left is about the size of a softball. Huge and wonderful and the beauty of growing beets is that you get two vegetable out of it.

The first night I used the tops. I cut up the red stems into a fine dice and threw it in some olive oil with some diced red onion. I sauteed them until they were slightly brown then added in some freshly grated ginger, salt, and pepper and after sautéing tat for another minute or two threw in some white wine. I then sliced some red potatoes (also from our garden) very thinly and added that into the mixture. I simmered this all on low with the cover on until the beet stems were soft and the potatoes were cooked (adding water if needed along the way). I then threw in the chopped up greens and put the cover back on and cooked this until the greens had wilted. I then took the lid off, stirred everything so that the greens were evenly mixed in with the stems, potatoes, and onion and placed pieces of whitefish on top of them. I then covered the pan again and let it simmer once more until the fish was cooked through.  A one pan meal that was very tasty.

The next night I roasted the beets themselves in a 400 degree over for an hour and fifteen minutes. I like my beets straight up with nothing to distract from the sweetness. I also harvested some cucumbers from our garden (it’s produce-palooza over here) and decided to make a salad. I always make my owen dressing and this one was a combination of sesame oil, olive oil, tamari, rice wine vinegar, ground ginger, salt, pepper and a bit of honey. I used a bit of this dressing as seasoning for some salmon fillets. I brushed the fillets with some of the dressing, wrapped them in foil, and threw them on the grill outside for about six minutes. So delicious!

It’s amazing how creative you can get when you are inspired by the veggies you grew in your own garden. I wish I’d taken pictures of the actual meals, but I was still riding the high of the fabulous beets picture that it didn’t even occur to me.

Stay tuned because my tomatoes are on the cusp, my lettuce and carrots and rainbow chard made it through the horrendous dry heatwave, my red okra is starting to produce and the cucumbers have gone crazy.

Excavation!

We are having a bunch of work done in our yard by two – sometimes three – amazing women. Our yard is a pretty large size for Southeast Portland and it has really been a challenge for us. We were keeping on top of it for the past two years with help from a friend, but our friend couldn’t help us anymore and we were rather abruptly reminded of how much work it is. Work that we can’t keep up with, not only because we both have horrendous back problems (me with arthritis and weak spots from old injuries, and Mike with a misshapen disc), but also because we are busy people who like to spend our time on more fun things than back-breaking yard work followed up with ice-packs, pain, and ibuprofen. When we bought the house we were gifted with twelve planter beds in the yard. Since I don’t have six kids, and I don’t want to homestead and be canning all the time, this is simply too much for two people. We are pulling out three of them. One of the smaller ones will be turned into a closet shed for tools, and the other two we are giving away to friends. A lot of plants in the beds are actually landscape plants and so in the early fall (any day now!) we will be moving them out of the beds and using them in the landscape which will hopefully help suppress weeds. We are also planning to build an over-sized shed that will become Mike’s glass studio. From a practical standpoint the shed is a good addition to the house since a yard this size, where the house has no garage and no basement, desperately needs one.

In the open area of the yard we have decided to build a labyrinth for meditation, reflection, and just to look at since the curves are beautiful. A big bonus will be that the hard-scaping will keep weeds down (it’s a constant battle here in the urban rainforest). It will be on a smaller scale than what you see at places like St. Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, of course. We are going to go with a more medieval and simplistic design that should suit the house and soothe our hippie souls. The dirt excavation to make room for the gravel and stone has been quite interesting from an anthropological standpoint. Our house is an old farmhouse (circa 1895) and is the legendary hippie house, which is saying something in Southeast Portland. Before we bought the house it had been rented for 15 years or so by up to eight hippies who were, as one neighbor put it, “real laid back.” When they finally decided to all move out the owners moved in, renovated it, and then sold it to us. They were lovely people and we feel grateful to have such a cool house, in an awesome neighborhood, in an amazing city. You can see a little bit of the history of the house in what ends up getting unearthed as we excavate. I find it rather fascinating and a lot more interesting than the usual, and seemingly endless, bits of glass (i.e. broken beer bottles) that have been constantly pushing their way to the surface over the past three years.

This weekend we have nothing more exciting than lots of errands to run to prepare for house guests, who will then turn into house/dog sitters, and the big trip to Europe.

Oregon Country Fair – Food & Fun!

We are back! We had wonderful camp-mates and this year I worked some Registration Crew shifts with Mike, which I really enjoyed. I also got some sleep which is miraculous and not something I’ve come to expect when we are out there. And, of course, we got to hang out with some good people we don’t get to see often enough.

A lot of planning went into packing for a week of camping. No small amount of effort went into planning the food we would need until some of the vendors opened up. We opted for some salads. These are all gluten, dairy, and garlic free and pack well for picnics and in coolers. I’ve had friends ask for the recipes, but they were kind of made up on the fly by me. I’ll do my best to recreate them here. Nothing is exact in terms of measurements. It’s just a list of ingredients so you’ll have to get creative with the ratios although I’ve tried to estimate some things as a starting point.

Green Bean and Tempeh Salad

I used frozen tempeh for this one. I defrosted it and then broke it into chunks. I marinated it in olive oil, dried Greek oregano, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and finely diced onions. I then roasted it for about twenty minutes in a 400 degree oven, making sure to turn the pieces over halfway through; I like them to be slightly golden brown. I then washed, trimmed, and cut into bite sized pieces some fresh organic green beans and steamed them until cooked. Once the tempeh and green beans were both cooked I tossed them with a dressing made of Dijon mustard, olive oil, fresh squeezed lemon juice, freshly ground black pepper, some dried tarragon, some salt, and some fresh and finely minced parsley.  I have to confess that tempeh is not my favorite food, but truthfully this salad ended up being delicious. We will make it again.

Tuna and White Bean Salad

Every time I make this salad people devour it. Including us! Buy good canned tuna in olive oil. This will seem weird but I drain off the oil (I add it to my dogs’ food at mealtime as a treat for them). I like the fresher taste of good extra virgin olive oil in the salad. I throw the drained tuna in a bowl along with a half a can of rinsed cannellini  beans. Buy good beans so that they are creamy and not tough! I add some capers, some finely diced red onion, some fresh and finely minced parsley, some lemon juice, salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Mix everything together and add enough extra virgin olive oil in to it all so that is is moist without being too oily. This salad is even better if it has had a day to sit in the refrigerator, but it’s a challenge to not gobble it up before then.

Gluten Free Tabbouleh

I make this like a traditional tabbouleh only instead of using bulger I use quinoa. Dice two Italian plum tomatoes. I like to pull the seeds out so there is less tomato liquid first, and then dice them. I add that to about one-and-a-half cups of cooked quinoa. I add some finely diced red onion, a healthy amount of fresh and finely diced parsley and about a third as much fresh and finely diced mint as the parsley. I then make a dressing of olive oil, dried Greek oregano (spring for the Dean & DeLuca brand – it’s the best I have found), lemon juice, salt, and pepper. I then toss the dressing in with the quinoa/onion/parsley/mint mixture. Done! Yum!

And last but not least…

Veggie Potato Salad

Boil your potatoes of choice (red is nice because you don’t need to peel them, but whatever you have on hand is fine too) and, if necessary, peel them. Dice them into medium sized chunks. I used two very large russets that were on our counter in danger of sprouting eyes. I also like to make this salad quickly while the potatoes are still hot. You need to be careful not to burn yourself peeling and dicing them, but I find the warmth of the potatoes makes the vegetables – particularly the green onion – blend better into the overall flavor of the salad. They also seem to absorb the dressing better when you start out warm. Chop up a red pepper, three ribs of celery, a handful of fresh parsley, and about three scallions – white and green parts – and add them to the potatoes. Drain one can of artichoke hearts, chop them in half and add them as well. I make a dressing of olive oil, apple cider vinegar, a bit of sugar, some dried dill weed, some salt, and some freshly ground black pepper. This salad can take a lot of dressing so don’t skimp! Another delicious salad that is not mayonnaise based so it travels well and the dill flavor really comes out if you let it sit in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight.

So that’s it for my quick and tasty salads that travel in a cooler or picnic pack well. I hope you try one or two of them.

And for your viewing pleasure, a few pics from our time at the fair.

Mike with a weird expression on his face but this is pretty much what he looks like at fair (Superman Kilt!). Here he is eating a gluten free, vegan, chocolate and peanut butter cupcake. Yum!

Here are two pictures from one of the many parades.

My view from registration booth. The pregnant woman on the left, sprawled out and catching some shade, is the perfect visual representation of how freaking hot it was out there.

The coveted wrist bands and parking stickers (and my cute purple toes). Ooooh. Aaaaah.

Our friend John at the drum tower. This apparently wasn’t the day it came together there for him and the group, but it was the beginning. And it is always fun to see him out there. He is the guy in the cap, the orange shirt, and the tribal band tattoo on his bicep. Love him!

Our friend June Bug getting her wolf spirit on.

And a gratuitous picture of Mike in our camp (that’s our red tent behind him) looking cute 🙂

One of our friends is on the photography crew at fair and if you are on Facebook, and want to see more photos than I’ve posted above, you can see them here: http://www.facebook.com/OCF.Photos

Another Mostly Pictorial Update!

Man! I’ve been so busy and in the midst of it all I felt nothing was interesting enough to post on here; and isn’t that just a sad commentary on everything I have been doing. So I’m going to just update you quick and let the chips fall where they may.

We attended the Cider Summit here in Portland. It rained off and on for a good chunk of the day but that really didn’t stop the PDX-ers. After all if a little rain stopped all the fun there would never be any fun here. My favorite ciders of the day were Reverend Nat’s Hopricort (which I now can’t find anywhere – even at Bushwacker) and Sea Cider’s Prohibition (which sold out so fast I could not score a bottle). So, yay. Awesome.

I finally walked across the Hawthorne Bridge (instead of driving – it’s been on my mental want-to-do list).

We got a new duvet cover with shams. Hey, not exciting to you but I was pretty jazzed about it. Color! I’m still uncomfortable with color, but I’m trying to be all “blendy” with Mike’s tastes. The rug is the main issue. Eventually I think I will get over it. Eventually.

Still working on the giant painting (not a new pic – sorry).

We have been enjoying Oliver’s company and I now love him so much I don’t know how I’m going to let him go back to his home (stopthinkingaboutit, stopthinkingaboutit, stopthinkingaboutit, stopthinkingaboutit).

I got some adorable new shoes.

We had some cherries come in.

I stuffed some artichokes and they were amazing.

I bought a cactus to go in my Ponderosa mug (so awesome).

I baked my first ever strawberry rhubarb pie and it was delicious. It is gluten free and dairy free. One tip for handling gluten free pie crust – since it cracks and falls apart easily – is to take a cookie cutter and layer cutouts in a pretty way on top of the pie. In honour (check the spelling!) of Canada Day, on July 1, I went with the Maple Leaf design.

We are now getting ready to go the Oregon Country Fair. So much prep involved; the most taxing being the house cleaning for which I have taken an entire day off. I do this out of respect for our friend who will be house and dog sitting for us. Three dogs means a lot of cleaning. But I don’t care! If Oliver wants to stay he should just stay! STOPTHINKINGABOUTIT!

Here is my to get and to do list for the fair:

  • clean entire house
  • buy warm sleeping bag
  • Target Run!
  • figure out food for fair
  • return shoes (i.e. put that money back in your account so you can spend it at fair)
  • buy iron on letters and make a Masshole T-shirt
  • buy funky trim for jeans and then sew it on
  • buy extra freezer packs for the cooler
  • air out the tent
  • pick up allergy pills (remember to pack!)
  • do laundry
  • fix T-shirts that are too big
  • make a light up hat band (if time)

And because Serena and Oliver are in this montage I feel I have to also include a cute pic of my girl Emma (Serena photobombed!). This is what I wake up to every morning.

Ok! I’ll try to get some good pics at the fair to share with you when I get back!

 

Lazy Pictorial Post

I’ve been a slacker. Well, as far as posting is concerned. Life has been jam packed with activities. I hate to be lazy, but here is a mostly pictorial update of what has been going on lately.

We have been working in the garden. If you are new here, the yard is a bit large for us. We have been late to start this season and have spent a lot of time preparing beds and weeding the past few weeks (with help from friends thankfully!). While we have been working ourselves exhausted, this lovely artichoke decided to present itself in all of its purple, organic glory. I will be eating it tonight.

The yard is starting to really look good. Emma enjoys the late afternoon sun on the back deck and appreciates that she no longer has to poop in scratchy weeds. This picture is from last week. The yard looks even better now and there are tons of flowers.

We went to Stumptown Comic Fest 2012 where my fearless partner wore the Superman Kilt I made him for his birthday last year (also his Grover as Captain America Shirt). I think there might be more pictures of him from this event out there on the web. He was a bit of an attraction.

I bought a tiny comic for $ 1.00. The subject seemed appropriate considering we are in the PNW, but I really bought this because of the hand sewn binding. The staple method was rampant at this event and it hurt my soul.

We saw @CraigyFerg at the Aladdin Theater and he was funny. He is a lot less G-rated live (just a comment not a judgement – we like him either way).

That same night our little destroyer ate Mike’s phone (reason #997 for buying the Apple Care Plus Plan).

I visited the Oregon Coast (Depot Bay) with a friend on a sunny day.

I bought a blender so that I could continue to make chicken mole (No pic of the delicious mole I made. Sad face.), but secretly it was to make pina coladas all summer…

I made delicious Grilled Shrimp Chile Rellenos. It was a Rick Bayless recipe that I modified. I added artichoke hearts to the recipe, and for Mike’s instead of cheese I used nutritional yeast. Mine had full cheese. Delicious if a bit ambitious on a Friday night. They took two hours to make. WORTH IT!

Another labor of love is this Salad Nicoise that I made a couple of weekends ago. Between boiling eggs, boiling potatoes, making three dressings – one for tuna, one for potatoes, one for salad – I am always overwhelmed with using so many dishes, bowls, pots and pans. Again, WORTH IT!

My sister’s doggie, Abbey, got big.

Our doggies are still adorable (also, ‘Rina got fixed and is recovering very well indeed).

Sketch

So many projects so little time. I was like a whirling dervish for parts of the weekend. I know before 11:00 am on Saturday I had accomplished an insane amount of things. Then it all sort of dropped off and on Sunday I took a two hour nap with Mike and the dogs. That nap was awesome actually, so I make no apologies.

One big thing is I started a sketch for a painting:

This looks lame right now, but hopefully when I finally move to a 40X60 inch canvas and paint it will all work out. I did start the color work and the good news is that it looks like total crap so far which frees me up to just try the hell out of stuff and not worry about this sketch turning into anything I need to stress about. Occasionally the sketch starts out so good I end up feeling like I can’t ruin it and less experimentation occurs. It’s great when that happens, but it is almost a relief when it’s crap and I get to just experiment for a while. Mike accused me of not wanting to actually paint when I sort of wandered around the house after sketching but I think he figured out that a lot of painting – for me anyway – is thinking about painting. I had a conversation last year with a coworker; both she and her husband are artists. Her husband is all about getting into the studio and having at it. He’s been known to say, “less thinking and talking, more making,” but she is a little more like me in that when she finally sits down to work she kind of has it all mapped out in her head. Two different, but equally valid, ways of working. I might be a bit of both. A little work followed by a lot of thinking. Then a little more more work…and then more thinking. I end up distracted a lot, wandering around looking a little vacant.

Truthfully I don’t find painting to be a relaxing activity. It is the end result that is very satisfying. I think that was quite a surprise to Mike. Probably because he enjoys torch work so much. When I do torch work I’m tense, but I still like to do it and am really happy when I end up liking what I made.

Cilantro Pineapple Salsa

ImageThis is actually a recipe I created a few years a ago. I’ve been digging through old blogs, social media sites, and emails to gather twenty recipes I wrote for a small cookbook I am putting together (the intent is to make about 25 hand-bound books). I’m basically throwing it on here now as a way of saving it in a spot that is easier for me to get to. How self-serving. Super simple salsa and very tasty.

Cilantro Pineapple Salsa

A large bunch of fresh cilantro leaves (about 2 cups)
Olive oil (about a 1/4 cup)
Juice of one lime
Salt and pepper to taste
Healthy splash of pineapple juice (also to taste)

Throw the first three ingredients into a food processor and blend until the cilantro has been fully chopped and the consistency is liquid (i.e. not a paste but a liquid – if you need to add more olive oil go ahead.

Transfer the mixture to a bowl and add salt, pepper, and pineapple juice to taste.

Serve over warm or cold fish.*

*At this restaurant in town we discovered a cocktail of pineapple juice and champagne. It goes great with this salsa/fish dish. Fry up some plantains and you have a really great meal.

Shrimp Gumbo (GF/DF)

If you are new to the party here are some things to know before I write out this recipe. My partner Mike has a series of food allergies, sensitivities, and preferences. He has celiac disease, he has a very bad reaction to garlic, he is allergic to the protein in dairy products, and he chooses to eschew meat with the exception of chicken (and the chicken is a recent addition after 10 years of being a pescatarian – have mercy on him since his safe list of foods is a shorter one than most of us enjoy).

In addition to his food issues, I have very high standards for Cajun food. I lived in Texas for almost four years and enjoyed some of the best food I have ever eaten in my life (Houston very seriously rivals San Francisco for amazing food). I haven’t had really good barbeque or Cajun food since leaving Texas. I will also say that I have never in my life personally made a shrimp gumbo that came anywhere near what I enjoyed out there. That, my friends, has suddenly changed. Considering my limitations – no flour for a roux, no chorizo, and no garlic! – it is indeed a bit of a minor miracle.

From my kitchen to yours; I hope you will try this recipe!

Shrimp Gumbo (GF/DF) Recipe:

Olive oil for sautéing

½ lb. of frozen cut okra

2-3 tblsp. cornstarch

2-3 oz. GF Chicken breakfast sausage (the kind that is not in a casing)

1 tblsp. paprika

1 medium onion diced

3-4 stalks of celery diced

1 green pepper diced

1 jalapeño pepper with ribs and seeds removed, diced very finely

1 ½ cups of fish stock (you can buy this frozen in the market, clam juice can substitute, you can also use water)

1 14 oz can of organic chopped tomatoes in juice (unsalted would be best)

1 bay leaf

1-2 tsp. dried thyme

1 pound of raw, shelled and deveined shrimp

1 tblsp. file powder

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Thinly sliced scallions

Fresh, chopped cilantro

White rice

In a shallow bowl add the frozen okra and dust with the corn starch. Toss the okra and corn starch together until the okra is evenly coated. Heat a little bit of olive oil in a non-stick skillet over medium/high heat. Swirl the oli in the pan as it heats to fully coat the pan. Add the okra in an even layer and let sit until the okra begins to brown. Begin sautéing the okra until most of the “snotty” stickiness is gone. Transfer the okra to a dish and set aside.

In the same pan you cooked the okra, sauté the chicken breakfast sausage, breaking the ground meat up in the pan so that it is in small pieces. When the sausage is almost done add the paprika and continue stirring being careful not to burn the paprika. Add a little water (or chicken stock if you have some handy) to the chicken mixture and deglaze the pan. Let most of the liquid boil off and then transfer to a heavy stew pot (if you are lucky enough to have an enameled cast iron pot then this is the perfect time to use it).

Add a little bit of olive oil to the stew pot that contains the sausage mixture and turn the heat to medium/high. When the mixture and oil is hot add the onion, celery, green pepper, jalapeno pepper and sauté until the vegetables are wilted. Add the fish stock, tomatoes with their juice, okra, bay leaf, and thyme and simmer on medium to low heat for 10 minutes, or until the vegetables are at a soft – but not mushy – consistency. Add the shrimp and freshly ground pepper (Notice I did not add any salt; the chicken breakfast sausage is salty enough to season the entire thing). Simmer for two minutes more until the shrimp turns opaque. At the last minute add in the file powder and stir well.

Serve this piping hot over rice and sprinkle a bit of scallion and cilantro on top.

All The Pretty Tea Towels

A friend and I got together for a little craft time this weekend. I really wanted to do a potato stamping project. I decided to create some tea towels, and with one exception (a high school project carving a linoleum tile and printing on fabric using an oil based paint) I really had no experience with either stamping, printing, or using fabric paint. I did a lot of internet research and I invested in a book. In the end just diving in was the way to go. The idea was to make simple and beautiful things using a very easy and inexpensive process. The notion of taking what essentially is a child’s project – potato stamping – and turning it into something beautiful for my home (and maybe other people’s homes if I get my act together) is very appealing to me.

Determined not to use any store bought stamps or stencils I went the simple route (the potato) and a more complicated route (a hand designed and carved stamp made out of a rubber block). Here are the results, which I am pretty pleased with.

These:







Turned into these:







And this:








And then this:








Started out looking like this:








And with the help of some paint pens, turned into this: