|When I tell people about the local foods party (now an annual tradition!), that which I get the most comments about is the homemade salt. Because I've had so much fun making my own salt, I thought I would share with you the process so you can make your own salt too (assuming you live near a salty body of water)*.
First step is to harvest the sea water. Needless to say*, the cleaner the water the better. I try to take my water from below the surface so as to avoid floating badness, such as oil and gas, but away from the bottom where lurks grunge such as fish poop and sand. In my experience, a liter of water will make about a half cup of salt.
Next, you need to find a shallow pan. I've tried both a metal cookie sheet with shallow sides and a pyrex 9x13 baking dish. The metal cookie sheet more quickly evaporated the water, but scraping the salt away was more difficult than in the pyrex, plus, I was a little unsure about what chemicals/sealers the salt might have bonded to on the metal. My solution is to contain the water in the pyrex and let the pyrex rest on the metal sheet like this.
When you've got your pan set up, find yourself a sunny spot. Decent wind helps too. As the water evaporates, add more, little bits at a time, so the bottom of the pan is continually covered. On average, I would pour about one cup of new water in per day, depending on the sun and the wind. After about a week, the salt build-up on the bottom of the pan starts to be significant. In my experience, the sun has a hard time completely evaporating all the water leaving you with damp, hard to spread salt. My solution is to throw the near finished pan of salt (just the pyrex, not the cookie sheet) in the oven after it's been used. The residual heat is more than enough to finish off the drying process.
Presto, now you've got some homemade sea salt.
|Thursday August 23 2007||File under: food|
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|I'm pleased to announce that this year's local foods party was a resounding success, although anyone who stopped by knows that already. Round about 30 people contributed to a menu of over a dozen dishes of all* local ingredients. Recipes and tips were exchanged as well as origin and often times history of the ingredients ("The currants were from the neighbor up the street and the apples from my own tree.", etc.). It was truly delicious food for the body and, for me, food for the soul.
For those of you unfamiliar, a bit of history: last year I conceived of the idea of having a collaborative meal where all ingredients were from the local area, as arbitrarily defined as a 100-mile radius (this is not a new idea and has been gaining lots of media attention recently). The idea is to understand where our food comes from, appreciate what northwest Washington has to offer, capitalize on the bountiful season, and do it all in an inspiring, educational, and fun way. The party went extremely well and drummed up much enthusiasm and discussion. (A write-up of last year's party including pictures and a menu can be found here).
This year's party wouldn't have been nearly as successful if it hadn't been for all who those who contributed and participated. Being able to share my enthusiasm for local foods and getting such a positive response is what makes it so much fun. Also, a big thanks to Andrew and Ma for the pictures (1, 2, 3, 4, 5).
Hey, I got an idea: let's do it again next year!
|Monday August 20 2007||File under: Anacortes, food|
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|I don't have anything against the Anacortes Farmers Market; the bounty of the Skagit Valley, and access to it, is important to me; it is neat to see people behind the counter that I recognize; and Samish Bay cheese will always hold a special place in my heart. But compared to the Portland Farmers Market at PSU, it leaves much to be desired.
Yesterday, I journeyed downtown via my favorite form of public transportation (non-bus) to bask in all the local foods that NW Oregon has to provide. What did I see? Berries, cherries, buffalo meat, goat cheese, mushrooms, honey, walnuts, veggies, oysters, flowers, bread, and so much more. And there wasn't just one stand for each, but lots to choose from. The fruit stands alone were easily larger than the whole of the Anacortes Farmers Market. Although I ended up only coming away with cherries, a focaccia bread, and some chipotle cheddar, I could have easily spend about $200 dollars and had myself quite the little feast.
Speak of feasts, not only was there fresh local produce etc., but there were food stands to beat the band: pizza by the slice, organic breakfast burritos, and plenty more that I would have loved to sampled. I decided on a spicy sausage with grilled onions and green peppers. I sat and enjoyed my lunch while listening to the [local, (I assume)] band rocking out on stage. Yep, the Portland Farmers Market is a good way to spend a day.
|Sunday July 15 2007||File under: food, travel|
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|(For all you uninitiated, "PDX" is what the cool kids call Portland, OR. Or at least that's what I am told. I sure hope another naming discussion stems from this one*. I'll just stick with it purely for convenience. PDX is easier to type than Portland*.)
Portland, Oregon is a city that is held in high regards by many Northwesterners. It isn't too large to be overwhelming. It is large enough to have all the culture you could hope for. And it is a well planned city with public transportation, city parks, and more. I've passed through here a couple of times before, but never really gotten a chance to really immerse myself in all that is PDX.
Well, in the continuing vein of the Year of Wren, things just seem to go my way. I've landed a 10 day housesitting gig in a gorgeous home in a lovely part of the city. Within being here only a couple of hours, I get treated to dinner with old friends at the 2007 Restaurant of the Year, Pok Pok*. Now, as a cool breeze flushes the house of the warmth built up through the day, thunder and lightening echo in the background really adding to the sense of adventure I'm anticipating for this lovely visit.
So any BdW readers in the area, let's get together! Let's do a movie in one of those famous McMenamin's pub/cinemas. Shall we check out the Farmers' Market? You must know a good swimming hole. Show me your favorite park*. Or if you were here but aren't now, drop a suggestion for what I simply mustn't miss.
Three cheers for a PDX adventure!
|Thursday July 12 2007||File under: travel, food|
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|Sunny days here in the Pacific Northwest aren't as frequent as some other places in the world. In fact, we probably rank pretty low on the number-of-sunny-days-per-year list. But for a brief time during the summer, the sunny days outnumber the grey ones reminding all us Washingtonians that NW Washington is a great place to live.
For this month's Environmental Project of the Month, I thought I would focus on the sun. Part one of the project is nothing new for me, but I want to share it in hopes of encouraging you to give it a try. Hang drying clothes is a wonderful way to harness the power of the sun and save electricity [and fossil fuels, if you have a gas powered dryer]. Not only is it great for the environment, hanging your clothes on the line is a great excuse to be outside on a beautiful day, if even for 10 minutes or so. Drying your clothes on the line isn't a summer only practice, even here in the northwest. For the past 5 years or so, I would say 90-95% of my drying needs have been met by the sun and wind.
Part two of this month's EPotM is what I am really excited about. From junk found around the house, I've built a solar oven. (Plans abound on the internet if you are interested in giving it a try yourself.) Basically an insulated cardboard box with aluminum foil covered collectors, a well made solar cooker can get to 250-275 degrees. In test runs, I've only got mine up to 214. Right now, I've got a couple of baking potatoes and some lentil beans cooking. We'll see how my first home solar-cooked meal turns out.
For those of us not ready or not in a place to make the leap to photovoltaic panels for supplementing our electricity needs (or even for those who are), harnessing the power of the sun through simple methods is a great way to reduce our impact. And speaking of how awesome the sun is, check out this audio ode to the sun. (For those of you at work (esp. in cubicles), be warned: The audio is embedded and hidden in the page so no volume controls or stop button is present. When will people learn that just because you can doesn't mean that you should?)
|Tuesday June 19 2007||File under: food, environment|
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|Once again, we (Amanda and I), accompanied by Marg, hit the town for the Taste of Anacortes. Like last time, it was a blast. Good food, a night on the town, and a little class (enough class that I felt out-classed, but we all know how much class that takes...). Sadly, this was the last Taste of the year. Here's hoping that they do it again next year! For all of you who didn't get to experience it all, here's what was served:
|Wednesday March 21 2007||File under: food, Anacortes|
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Does any body remember the good old days in high school when we used to go to Mt. Vernon/Burlington on eating excursions where we'd visit 3 or 4 different restaurants and just indulge ourselves? Okay, for a lot of you, you prolly don't. And anyway, it's not important.
Last night, however, I was reminded of just such good old times while I was hopping from restaurant to restaurant during the Taste of Anacortes. Granted, the food and establishments were much nicer than the Taco Bell, McDonald's, etc. of those old, uninformed days. I caught myself somewhat hyperbolicly[sic] commenting, "This is the best night ever."
The deal was we cruised to 5 different restaurants (out of a possible 15) and had a little nosh at each. Listed below are the ones we chose and what each served.
The verdict: what a great way to spend a mid-week evening. I can't wait until next month to sample what other restaurants in the area have to offer.
|Thursday February 22 2007||File under: food, Anacortes|
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|Chinese New Year was this past weekend, in case you missed it. From my sources still over in that part of the world, I hear it was a wicked good time. But just because I can't join in the authentic festivities over there doesn't mean I can't have a celebration of my own.
For my own little celebration of the Chinese New Year, I decided to make potsickers. Potstickers have been my favorite food ever since I was a wee lad, but it wasn't until lately that the family secret of how to make them was passed down to me. While over in China, I [extensively] studied how they were made and served (remember?). I didn't incorporate any of the eastern techniques this attempt, but I tried a few new approaches.
For the innards, I used a shrimp filling and a faux-sausage filling. (This year is the year of the pig, so I thought I might give those porkers a break.) Along with a somewhat non-traditional filling, I tried a varied of folding methods. The grocery bag, which the family recipe calls for, seemed to work best, although the triangle fold led to a crispier dumpling. Having the multiple fillings and multiple folds made for a great finished product. I was also able to freeze a bunch uncooked for next time. Yum!
|Tuesday February 20 2007||File under: food|
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|Ever since I ran across this recipe for sloppy lennies on the [amazing] Vegan Lunch Box blog, I've been dying to try it. When Andrew got me the Vegan Lunch Box cookbook for Christmas, it was all the more inspiration. Last night, I rolled up my sleeves, dragged tits over a hot stove, and prevailed.
Sloppy lennies are vegetarianized version of sloppy joes. Basically, you replace the meat with lentils, and tada!, you've got goodness. As it turns out, the VLB cookbook didn't have the recipe. I had to track back through the blog's archives to come up with this recipe. But in looking through the cookbook, I came across a great idea for a side dish: tater tots. Again, there was no recipe for those, just the suggestion to buy some from your grocer's organic frozen foods section. Since I am not one to contest authority, off I went.
Verdict (as Mrs. Shmoo would put it): The tater tots were a hit. The sloppy lennies were pretty good. I had to unveganize them with a slice of american cheese (and maybe some dried milk powder in the english muffins), but I still took down two of them (with plenty left for leftovers). 3.5 stars.
|Friday February 9 2007||File under: food, links|
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|I'm still allowed to post about food, even if it is plain old American food, right? Don't worry, this is more than just a post to fill space. (Plus, it follows the already established cheese theme!)
When doing some research for my local foods party (see 2nd BdW post ever), I came across the food-oriented I'm Mad and I Eat. At the time, it provided a good "recipe" for salt. Now, it has presented me with a challenge: the mac-n-cheese-off.
My entry is probably the most simple of the bunch. I opted for the stovetop variety. The cheese sauce is of [organic] half and half, [organic] cream cheese, and [local, handmade] jerk-seasoned cheese (whose title is so sadly appropriate to my life). To round out the meal, I added peas, corn, and [meatless] gimme lean sausage. Although it turned out a little on the dry side (as Ma so quickly pointed out), it satisfied my hunger. (Oh, all the [stuff] is thrown in as a nod to one of my New Year's resolution: to eat for a heathlier planet.)
My neighbor, to whom I was explaining my dinner plans, decided to surprise me and join the fun. Her entry, titled Fat-Mac (or is it phat-mac) was a more traditional baked variety complete with the cruton toppings. There were lots of spices in it too, that made for some good eating. (Ma voted for that one.)
See the rest of the entries to the mac-n-cheese-off here. And if anyone is looking for a good meal of leftover mac-n-cheese, please stop by.
|Friday January 5 2007||File under: food|
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