Pfeffernusse

Anyone that's been through the Studer/Schultz household during the holidays knows what pfeffernusse are. These little round hard cookies are possibly the best holiday tradition we have going. Kind of like gingerbread with a hint of anise, Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without them.

Each family has their own recipe for pfeffernusse* so even if you had them somewhere else, you haven't had ours. Our family's recipe came from Germany with my great-grandmother and was translated into English by her daughter. While my mother doesn't exactly follow that traditional recipe*, there can't possibly be a better version on earth.

So if you are in Anacortes over the next couple weeks, stop by and grab a handful. But if this is your first taste, let me share a warning: just like Lay's potato chips, you can't just eat one. You'll be hooked and the other 11 months of the year will become a cruel cruel waiting game. Take it from me.
Sunday December 12 2010File under: holidays, food

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Quote For Monday - Yum


One of the great things about traveling is the access to (and an excuse to eat) great food. On this trip, I've been in some of the best cities for food. I've eaten sushi in San Francisco, Korean food in Toronto, poutine in Montreal, possibly the fanciest meal of my life at a Jean George* NYC hotspot, real Southern food in D.C., and, of course, ice cream all over.

Experiencing (and greatly enjoying) all this great food doesn't need to be only for vacations. So I post this quote as a reminder to myself to eat well whenever I can because food is one of life's greatest pleasures.
Sunday November 7 2010File under: quote, food

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Oysterfest 2010

Jule, Katy, Kat, and Alex pose as geoduck harvesters
Last weekend, I had the pleasure of attending Oysterfest* in Shelton, WA. What is Oysterfest? In short, it's a county fair-like atmosphere where everything is focused on oysters (and other food from the sea). In addition to the amazing food booths, there was live music, cooking demonstrations, requisite jugglers*, and the west coast oyster shucking championship.

The list of food we consumed is pretty epic, and I just have to share.
  • Grilled oysters (with garlic butter)
  • Bacon-wrapped oysters
  • Oyster curry on rice
  • Clam linguini
  • Clam steamers
  • Shrimp/crab cocktail
  • Oysters shooters (free, as they were the results of the oyster shucking contest)
  • Tempura fried coconut shrimp
  • Clam chowder
  • Five-alarm chili
  • Rootbeer float
  • Elephant ear
  • Raspberry pie ala mode
  • Some other dessert that is just escaping me

Yes we really ate all that. Yum! There was much more that we didn't get around to trying. There's always next year, though. If any (or all) of this sounds appetizing, you might want to make your way to Oysterfest next year.
Wednesday October 6 2010File under: food

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Apron Coffee

Have you ever made coffee for 60 people? What about coffee for 60 people at an outdoor, makeshift kitchen with not much in the way of coffee pots and no electricity? Well, let me tell you, it takes a little creativity and doesn't always satisfy everyone involved, but it can be done.

I'm down here at the Great Peninsula Future Festival in Kitsap County with Chautauqua for a fundraising event. It's like a mini-tour, with us all camping and cooking our meals over our propane burners. And the way we do coffee is, well...unique.

1) Get a giant colander.
2) Find a semi-clean linen(?) apron.
3) Situate giant colander over giant pot.
4) Pour a lot* of ground coffee in apron.
5) Pour a lot of hot water in apron.
6) Repeat.

Yep, brewing coffee in an apron lined giant colander isn't an experience I had before Chautauqua, but I guess I could say that for a lot of experiences. Good times. And now "apron coffee" is a new entry in my personal lexicon. You should add it to yours too.
Saturday July 31 2010File under: circus, food

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Phone Booth Score

You've heard of a ground score, right? When you find something neat on the ground (ex: money, a crossword puzzle, train ticket to Peru, etc.) Well, the "score" concept can be applied to other locations as well—pocket score (finding something in your pocket you had forgotten about or that maybe you didn't even put there), public transportation score, etc. Well, this weekend at the farmers' market in Port Townsend, I had myself quite the phone booth score.

Have you tried Baconnaise? I haven't yet either, but the slogan alone has me extra curious: "The ultimate bacon flavored spread". Sounds like a pretty freaking good idea to me. Anyway, I found this sealed container of Baconnaise in a phone booth in Port Townsend and was forbidden from trying it while under a friend's roof (because the use by date was 3 months ago and the ingredients contain egg yoke). So now I am just waiting for the right "sandwich, salad, dip, sauce, chicken, fish, or fries" to come along so I can give it an initial try. I'll keep you posted.

(P.S. Dear animal loving friends: it's "kosher and even safe for vegetarians"!)
Monday July 19 2010File under: food, misc

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Montreal Food Post

I've crossed paths with a number of Montrealers in the past couple years, or people who at least have spent time here, and one thing that always comes up is the food. "Montreal has the best _____!", people would say. Or "If you go, you have to try ______'s." Well, with one or two exceptions, I've tried it, and I have to say I'm not that impressed.

Other than the food, I'm totally enjoying my Montreal experience. And the food isn't bad. I've actually had some really good meals*. Nothing has warranted a "you gotta try this", but I'm not going to come home complaining.

Among the "you gotta try"s were bagels and poutine. The bagels don't really do it for me. Give me Bellingham's Bagelery anyday. As for poutine, the famous Canadian dish of fries served with gravy and cheese curd, I love the concept, but in practice, was disappointed. I'm thinking maybe I will have to try some homemade poutine sometime and see if I can do better.

Another "simply must" was Schwartz's, home of the smoked meat sandwich since 1928. While I can't say that there was any false advertising (their sandwich did consist only of smoked meat), I not only walked away disappointed, but also with a healthy jump on a triple bypass surgery.

Yep, so far Montreal's food scene hasn't come close to living up to the hype. The one possible redeemer will have to wait until next visit, as it isn't the season. Sugar shacks, literally shacks that serve everything coupled with maple syrup, definitely have a chance to win it all back. I mean, it's a jug of freaking maple syrup. I'll keep you posted.
Monday May 24 2010File under: food, travel

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Avocado Pie

It is becoming a trend that whenever I return from travels, I have a craving for cooking. Perhaps it is from eating too many gas station corndogs or whatever the equivalent is wherever I'm returning from. Or maybe it is a grasp for control over what I'm eating, which is not always so easy on the road. Whatever the case, I usually return home with a list of recipes I'm aching to try out.

This time around, the recipe in my head started out as key lime pie. Somehow, thought, it morphed into avocado pie. I first had avocado pie down in Mexico a couple of years ago and loved it (after a brief skeptical bout with idea of eating essentially guacamole for dessert.) Anyway, when the opportunity to make it came up, I jumped at it.

Using this recipe, I created a spectacular pie which I've added to my permanent recipe collection. Yummo!* Next time we get together for dinner (and avocados are in season), remind me and I'll bring with me this green bit of heaven.
Monday January 11 2010File under: food

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Processing Oats

I've always thought of oats, or any grains for that matter, to be one of the least processed food stuffs. Some form of grain is at the base of most diets around the world. You can imagine my surprise, then, when I found that getting oats from the stalk to my belly to be such an ordeal.

Step 1: Harvesting - I first attempted pulling up the whole stalk (or cutting it off low to the ground). To separate the grains from the stalk, I tried whacking the stalks around in a big bucket. A few grains were freed, but the majority stayed on. I ended up having to run my fingers down each stalk to free the grains, much like you get the thyme leaves from the stem. For my second field, I bypassed pulling up the whole stalk and instead just did the seed pinch thing with the stalks still in the ground.

Step 2: Separating Seed from Hull - (I know I am using the incorrect terms all over the place here, but hopefully you will still get the point) So when an oat comes off the stalk, it has a papery hull on it. You're not supposed to eat this part. To separate it, I first tried rubbing between my hands (as if you were warming your hands). This worked pretty well, but many seeds still had their hulls, apparently because they were dried out well enough. To remedy this, I put them in the oven for 20 minutes on low heat. This dried them out sufficiently to be able to disengage the seed from the hull, again via the hand warming method.

Step 3: Filtering Chaff from Seed - Now that the seeds and hull were not connected, I needed to actually separate them. This is possibly the most ingenious part of the process to me. Since the seeds are a good deal heavier than the papery hulls, a good cross-wind will aid in the separating. I used a fan to keep a constant airflow.

After all this processing, I ended up with maybe 2 quarts of oat seed. Thinking about how much effort went into preparing the soil, obtaining and planting the seed, harvesting, and processing, I have a much better appreciation of all grains. I realize, of course, that using a machine to do all the work makes it significantly easier (and arguably more efficient). That said, however, there was a time that combines didn't exist and people did it by hand. In those days, the work equal to a bowl of oatmeal was nothing to sneeze at.

Future Step 4: Maybe Another Separating Step? - So now I've got a bunch of seeds. I thought I was done. The seed that is remaining, however, is still in 2 parts, one kind of enveloping the other. I might need to separate those from each other, but I don't know.

Future Step 5: Making the Seeds Usable - Most of us are used to oats as rolled oats or steel cut oats for oatmeal. It turns out that rolling oats is really hard (needs a big old machine) and I have no idea what steel cutting is, except maybe just cutting somewhat regularly. I'm thinking that the most accessible way to prepare my oats for my belly is to grind it into oat flour. From there, I'm sure there is something I can come up with.
Wednesday October 21 2009File under: food

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Plants Grow

Back in May, I embarked on a little experiment. I planted oats (remember?). The skeptical among you might be saying to yourselves, "That doesn't sound like much of an experiment." To that I say, "Please save your questions until I'm finished."* The premise of my experiment was this: plants grow. That's what they are programmed to do. All this micro-managing that we impose on our growing of plants helps increase yield, allows us to grow plants not well-suited for our climate, etc. but my theory is that it isn't necessary. If you put some seeds in the ground and walk away, they will grow.

I'm pleased to report that my oats did just that. Despite having one of the longest rain-less periods in years, my oats, which I didn't weed, water, or fertilize, grew just fine. Had I done any of the above, I'm sure they would have grown better, but without doing anything, I still produced a yield. And while I'm sure this plant-and-walk-away method won't work for every crop, it works for oats here in the Northwest.

This concept, that plants grow, really makes me happy for some reason. It reminds me that many things in life are often much simpler than we are taught. It makes food production accessible to me, even though I may not be willing to devote 2 hours every other day to its pursuit. It reinforces that biology hasn't been completely reversed with all our fancy cross-breeding and specializations. Basically, I just think it is neat.

Now what to do with the oats? Stay tuned and you will see.
Thursday October 8 2009File under: food, misc

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Portland Food Carts

Image courtesy of* Food Carts Portland
I recently had occasion to spend a few days in Portland, land of happiness (remember?). While I missed out on some of the happiness inducing elements (unfortunately there was no time for the cheap cinemas or frisbee*), I got to delve deeper into that [almost]ultimate bringer of happiness: food.

I love street food. While it isn't something you see a lot in the states, occasionally you will find pockets of food carts which is about as close as it gets. Portland has a wealth of food carts, many of which are conveniently clustered downtown. After passing by them many times on the bus, I decided it was time to drop in. The verdict: good, inexpensive food that completely fits my definition of street food.

My meal was as follows: Vietnamese sandwich* for $2.95, Thai ice tea for $1.00, carne asada taco for $1.50, and pork/vegetable dumpings for $4.00. Needless to say, I was stuffed, sated, and happy. It would take days to try out all the good food there is on offer down there. I think I'm up to the challenge.

Yep, chalk another one up for Portland. Remind me why I don't live there again...*
Sunday September 27 2009File under: food

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