Thursday, December 17, 2009

Dreaming of Vegetables

More specifically, I should say that it was ever so nice to have fresh vegetables, straight off the farm, in my kitchen all summer. I highly recommend joining a CSA, especially if their late September deliveries are as spectacular as this one was, from Driftless Organics:

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Chipotle Bacon Shells and Cheese

A while ago, I got this awesome "Easy Homemade Macaroni and Cheese" recipe from one of my favorite cooking blogs, The Kitchn. It truly is easy, and the pasta, cheese, and add-ins can be altered any which way, so I totally love this recipe. Last night I made some pretty spectacular adjustments to it, which resulted in, yes, my very own Chipotle Bacon Shells and Cheese. I highly recommend this particular version that I created:

1 pound medium pasta shells
1 1/2 cups whole milk
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup shredded cheddar
1 cup shreded chipotle colby
1/2 tsp salt
one squirt of yellow mustard
6 pieces of bacon, cooked

Boil water, and cook the pasta. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, begin heating 1 cup of milk over medium heat. Whisk together the remaining 1/2 cup of milk and the flour until there are no lumps. Whisk this into the heating milk and continue whisking gently until the milk thickens to the consistency of heavy cream. Turn the heat to low and add the cheese, salt, and mustard. Stir until melted and creamy.

Once the bacon is cooked, let it cool off a bit, and then cut/crumble it so that it'll mix in well.

Mix the pasta, bacon, and cheese sauce all together and eat immediately.

Monday, December 14, 2009

And the pictures of my decorating efforts...

I absolutely LOVE Nutcrackers... they are standing guard over my TV this year.

Over my dining table.

My wreath, tree, amaryllis and tulips!

My winter wonderland desk and the lobby of my office (with a lovely sunset over Elliott Bay in the background).

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Happy Holidays from Seattle!

Well, the holidays are upon us! Hanukkah began Friday night and Christmas is just around the corner. While Sarah was visiting me for Thanksgiving, we went to two, yes, two(!) tree lighting
ceremonies, which was a great way to ring in the holiday season. The Westlake Center tree lighting was quite the ta-do, with 5th Avenue singers, three different choirs (mens, womens and children's) and a fireworks display at the end.The Pike Place Market tree lighting was a bit more modest, but much more charming. They both were fantastic in their own way!

The Space Needle is also festive, with lights on top as well as a display at the base, with bright spheres making up the shape of a tree, very pretty!
I've also been busy decorating the places I spend most of my time, so I thought I'd share some pictures of holiday spirit, courtesy of me, at my office and in my apartment. This is my first year having my own Christmas tree, and it's so nice to have! My friends were kind enough to go get me one, which made life a lot easier. Trees in the city are hard to find and fairly expensive! They got me a nice 4 1/2 foot tree for $20 at Lowes, which as a relief because I was planning to pay $25-$30 for a 3 foot tree right in the city. I'll post pictures from my office and home in a post to follow...too many pictures already!

Monday, November 23, 2009

A little bit of Maine for you. Ayuh!

I think I've mentioned before that once a month 3 friends of mine and I get together and make a big dinner. We rotate hosting and whoever hosts picks the theme and makes the entree, the others bring appetizers, sides and dessert. We've been going strong since last October, which is pretty impressive that we've kept up the tradition, and it shows no signs of stopping. Good thing, because I love it. Anywho. I pride myself on my dessert abilities, and I hadn't been in charge of dessert for a while, so when I was given dessert duty this month, I thought, CHEESECAKE, that'll impress 'em. I was so pumped. I read through the recipe, made my grocery list, and was all set to go, and then saw the final two directions. Cool for 2-3 hours, then chill for at least 4. Uh. That's minimum 6 hours between finishing cooking the thing, and eating. And dinner is at 6. So. Shoot. I decided that the cheesecake would have to wait for another time, when I plan ahead a bit better and prep the night before.

So here I was, it's 11 am, I have tons of time till dinner, but I had a friend in town that I wanted to see for an hour or two, and bear in mind I take the bus over to my friends house, so it had to be something portable. I came across Creme Caramel in my cookbook and had pretty good feelings about eating that for dessert, but realized that was not something you can make at home, then carry on a bus for 15 minutes, walk a few blocks with, eat dinner, then serve and have it look the way it should. So that was out. I found 3 or 4 different chocolate cake recipes, each with their own variation, that sounded fantastic, but I always make people chocolate cakes (they're my weakness, and most other people's too, so they're usually a good choice). So I gave up and went and hung out with my friend for a bit. Now it's nearly 1 pm and I still haven't picked a dessert. First I flipped through the dessert section of a bunch of my cookbooks (Joy of Cooking, Fannie Farmer, The Art of Mastering French Cooking, Craig Claiborne's NY Times Cookbook, and last but not least, Cook's Illustrated's 'Best Recipes' book). Nope. Nothing that yelled 'make this Elspeth!'. So then I went over to my stack of magazines. I subscribe to both Cook's Illustrated and Bon Appetit, and both offer, so nicely, and index, by category, of all of their recipes in the issue. So I frantically flipped to the last page of each magazine, making piles of yes or no. The yes pile is where all the delicious sounding chocolate cakes came into play...oh those will be made one day, and they will be so delicious! Anyway, back to my mission. I got to the end and last but not least, in the October 2005 Bon Appetit, which I bought at a used bookstore for 80 cents, had a recipe for Pumpkin Whoopie Pies. Ohhhhhhhhhh boy. Not only are whoopie pies a Maine thing (people say they're a New England thing sometimes, but Maine is the state that fully embraces them) but they are pumpkin (!) just in time for Thanksgiving, when pumpkin is on the mind. I baked 'em up, put them together and voila, in no time I had a dessert that was quickly (and happily) gobbled down a few hours later.

Whew. This post is a bit longer than I originally planned, and I haven't even talked about the fabulousness that is whoopie pies. In short, whoopie pies are two chocolaty cake cookies (excited yet?) with super sweet white sugar something in the middle. They're wrapped in plastic wrap and in every general store in Maine. I promise. Usually with a sticker on it saying that they were made by so and so, who is the owners sisters aunt or something. Pure delicious. Also pure 'bad for you' but, it's worth it.

This recipe, which is a bit more refined, seeing as it IS in Bon Appetit, not Uncle Henry's (the local weekly classifieds booklet, preferred over Craigslist by Mainers I'm sure, and also found in every store in Maine). You'll find it's cream cheese mixed with the powdered sugar rather than shortening, and you can make these a bit more manageable size wise, rather than the huge ones you'll find in Maine. These cake cookies are so moist, and the overall taste is quite delicious, and for not much work too, so this is a great party pleaser.

Here's the recipe, from Bon Appetit's October 2005 issue (and from the RSVP section, where it states that the recipe is actually from Amy's Bakery Arts Cafe in Brattleboro, VT...bah. Vermont. Whatever).

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

Makes about 24 (I halved the recipe this weekend and it worked just fine!)

2 3/4 cups flour
4 1/2 t ground cinnamon
2 t baking powder
1 1/2 t ground nutmeg
1 1/2 t ground ginger
1 t baking soda
1 t salt
1/2 t ground cloves
1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temp
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 T dark molasses
2 t vanilla extract
4 large eggs
1 1/4 cups canned pure pumpkin
1/2 cup buttermilk

2 8-oz packages cream cheese, room temp (that is two 8-ounce, not 28 ounces)
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temp
2 t vanilla extract

Directions: Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Begin with the cookies. Whisk first 8 ingredients in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter, sugar, molasses and vanilla in a large bowl until well blended. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition. Beat in pumpkin. Beat in dry ingredients in 3 additions alternately with buttermilk in 2 additions, beating until just combined. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment. Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto prepared sheets, spacing 2 inches apart. Bake cookies 1 sheet at a time until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, about 13 minutes. Cool cookies on sheet. Repeat with remaining dough. While cookies are baking, make the filling. Beat all ingredients for the filling together in a medium bowl until smooth. Adjust sugar amount to your liking. Once cookies have cooled, spread 2 tablespoons of filling on flat side of 1 cookie. Top with second cookie, forming a sandwich. Repeat with remaining cookies and filling, and of course, adjust filling to cookie ratio to your liking. Let stand at room temperature for up to a few hours, if it will be longer than that until you serve them, refrigerate until ready, but try to serve them at room temp.


Sunday, November 22, 2009


Mmm yum. One of my favorite things is homemade macaroni and cheese. It's so easy to make, and so tasty and certainly one of my top comfort foods. My friend and I had both had slightly rough weeks, so Friday I had her over for dinner and we happily devoured the warm deliciousness that is mac and cheese. I highly recommend it, whether it's a cold night, you need an easy entree, or you're looking for some comfort food to delight in. I'd like to say this is a family recipe, but I believe it's originally from the back of the Prince pasta box, though I've made a few edits to it. As I recall the original recipe called for all cheddar cheese. Once we had some leftover asiago in the fridge, so I tossed that in, and it gave it a great extra zing. Somewhere along the way I started doing about half monterey jack and half cheddar, with an eighth or a quarter of a lb of asiago. Play around with the cheese ratios and find one that fits your tastes best!

1 cup elbow macaroni
1/2 lb cheese
2 T butter
2 T flour
1/4 t dry mustard
1/2 t salt
1/8 t pepper
1 1/2 cups milk

Directions: Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Cook elbow macaroni, drain, and add to a buttered casserole or baking dish (approximately equivalent to an 8" x 8" size pan). Cut cheese into small cubes. Over medium low heat, melt butter in a medium saucepan. Add the flour, dry mustard, salt and pepper and blend with a whisk. Add milk slowly, whisking while you pour it in, and keep stirring until sauce thickens. Add cheese cubes to saucepan, stirring until melted. Pour over macaroni and casserole dish and stir just a bit to make sure everything is mixed together. Bake for 30 minutes, serve and enjoy!

Friday, November 13, 2009

It's official! I'm a Seattleite.

(Photo Credit: New York Times)
It's official, I'm fairly prepared for the wet winter weather! After enduring last winter with soggy feet (I was unemployed, so couldn't really go out and buy some snazzy new boots, could I?), I now own nice boots AND fun rain boots. All I need now is to switch over to a waterproof jacket (all I have is a water-resistant one) and I'll be good to go! Yeah yeah, it seems silly that I don't own a rain jacket yet, but they're really expensive, and it doesn't often POUR here, so often my water resistant jacket is fine, or my winter wool coat. Umbrellas work in the fall, but the wind really picks up in the winter and umbrellas don't stand a chance. Anyway, the Mainer in me couldn't resist these boots when I saw them, so check 'em out!


Thursday, November 12, 2009

My Farmers Market is Winding Down...

Well! You can tell fall has arrived and winter is just around the corner! The air is brisk, the rain comes often, the wind is strong, and the leaves can't handle any of it! After four years of living in Southern California, I love it! Any sign of a change in season, of brisk air, I relish.

Last year my farmers market only ran until the end of November, this year though, it's running all the way until December 20th! Sunday isn't quite as complete without a nice stroll through my farmers market, and though the pickings are getting smaller, there's still some great stuff. Here's what I got last weekend...

Since the flower selection is nearly non existent, I got some eucalpytus, which is some nice greenery around the apartment. The cabbage, well. When I bought it, I was all pumped to make stuffed cabbage. I haven't yet, the last few days have been quite sunny and I haven't felt the urge to cook a hearty cold weather meal (which is what I think of when I think of stuffed cabbage, not sure if that's accurate, but.). The carrots I couldn't resist, at only $2 for that big bunch of hearty carrots. Yom yom yom! Besides just munching on carrot sticks, which are so delicious, especially with local organic carrots like these, I love to cook carrots with honey, just like my Mom always did. Delicious!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Halloween is a time to be crafty!

So. Halloween was a week ago, in case you missed that somehow. I was a crafty little bugger this year and made my own dress, which was a blast! My friend and I both got short haircuts a few months ago, and realized that we would make great flappers, so we dressed as a pair. I used to sew a lot growing up, and my mom sewed a ton, she even made my sister's prom dress! Crafty lady, my mom is. Anywho. I've been itching to sew something for quite a bit, so I went all out this year. I used vintage fringe I found on and got the rest of my supplies at Stitches, a great little sewing shop on Pike Street in Capitol Hill. I'm quite pleased with how the dress turned out!

To round out the homemaker in me, I made sugar cookies and pumpkin cupcakes for the party, which were festive and tasty! The pumpkin cupcakes themselves were good, but the frosting was a disaster so I'm going to skip on those recipes. The sugar cookies, on the other hand, were taaasty, so I've included the recipe below, taken from 'The Christmas Cookie Book' by Lou Seibert Pappas. Ignore the name of the book title and think Halloween! So...Happy Halloween!

Ingredients: 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temp
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 t vanilla extract
1/2 t almond extract
3 1/2 cups flour
1 t baking powder
1/4 t salt

In a medium bowl, use an electric mixer to cream together the butter and sugar until light. Add the eggs, vanilla extract and almond extract and beat until smooth. In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat until smooth. Scrape out the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and flatten into a disk. Wrap and chill for about an hour, or until firm. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease baking sheets. Divide the dough into 4 equal portions. On a lightly floured surface, roll out a section to about 1/8th of an inch thick. Use a cookie cutter to cut into the desired shape and place on a baking sheet. Bake the cookies 6-8 minutes. Transfer to racks to cool. Repeat with the remaining sections of dough. Decorate as you wish!

Pot Roast

There's nothing tastier on a cold day than my Dad's pot roast, so as the weather turned cold in the last few weeks, I decided it was time for me to take a stab at making it myself. I love cooking things that fill your home with a delicious aroma, and since a pot roast has to cook for a considerable amount of time (~4-5 hours all in all), this is certainly one of those dishes. I wanted to use as many ingredients as I could, so I headed over to my Sunday farmers market (which runs a month later than usual this year, until Dec. 20th!) and got what I needed. Here's my haul...

Everything but the leeks and the butternut squash was for the pot roast. The lady at the stand I got the celery and leeks from laughed pretty hard when I presented the single stalk of celery to her. "Do you seriously expect me to charge you for that?" she asked me. "Yes!" I replied. She didn't. I hate celery, but it does fantastic things to stock, so I knew I couldn't skip that step. I happily hurried home with my haul, proud of myself for even getting the meat at the farmers market. For a few reasons, I barely eat beef these days. First of all, I've been trying to reduce my meat intake quite a bit, because nutritionally it's really not all the necessary to eat vast amounts of it, ethically, I don't want to support the beef business and on the tail end of that, out of wanting to be a healthy person, I've reduced my beef intake because of the dangers of eating beef due to horrible practices by the beef industry. More on that in another post.

It's really a shame I'm so against store bought beef too, because when I got home, it occurred to me that it was nearing 2 pm, my roast had to cook for 4 hours, and my friends were arriving for dinner in that same amount of time. The problem? I bought a nice, wholesome, grass fed chunk of beef....that was frozen solid. And I don't own a microwave. So. Kind of a silly move on my part. I had to run over to get a few more ingredients from the grocery store, and lo and behold, roasts were 'buy one get one free'. So I caved and bought the two smallest
I could find...each about 1.9 lbs. My recipe, which said served 6-8 people, called for a 3 lb roast. I now had just under 4 lbs of beef for 4 people. Oh well, I thought, I LOVE pot roast. I cooked the roast, and happily my apartment filled with the great smell of vegetable stock, followed by the even more delicious smell of beef, stock and herbs simmering. Each time I turned the roasts, the meat felt more and more tender. By the time the rest of the meal was ready, I had two deliciously tender pieces of meat as well as some tasty carrots and potatoes that had cooked with the meat for the last half hour or so. We only ended up eating one of the roasts, but I had delicious leftovers for the next week, so, whew, it wasn't a problem!

I used the Cook's Illustrated recipe for 'Simple Pot Roast', found below. Serves 6-8 people.

Ingredients: 1 boneless chuck-eye roast (~3 1/2 lbs), patted dry with paper towels
Salt and ground black pepper
2 T vegetable pil
1 medium onion, chopped medium
1 small carrot, chopped medium
1 small celery rib, chopped medium
2 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press
2 t sugar
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup beef broth
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 - 1 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup dry red wine

Directions: Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Sprinkle the roast generously with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large oven proof Dutch oven over medium high head, brown the roast thoroughly on all sides (8-10 minutes each), reducing the heat if the fat begins to smoke. Transfer the roast to a large plate; set aside. Reduce the heat to medium and add the onion, carrot and celery to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to brown (6-8 minutes). Add the garlic and sugar; cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the chicken and beef broths and thyme, scraping the pan bottom with a wooden spoon to loosen the browned bits. Return the roast and any accumulated juices on the plate to the pot; add enough water to come halfway up the sides of the roast. Cover with a lid, bring the liquid to a simmer over medium heat, and transfer the pot to the oven. Cook, turning the roast every 30 minutes, until the roast is nearly tender and a sharp knife slips in and out of the meat with little resistance, 3 to 3 1/2 hours. Remove the roast from the pot and tent with tinfoil. Pour the braising liquid through a mesh strainer and discard the solids. Return the liquid to the empty pot and let settle for 5 minutes; use a wide spoon to skim the fat off the surface. Return the roast to the liquid and add your desired amount of small red potatoes and carrots. For 6-8 people add about 1 1/2 lbs of each. Return the pot to the oven and cook for about 30 more minutes, until vegetables are almost tender. Remove the pot from the oven and transfer the roast to a carving board; tent with foil to keep warm. Add the wine, salt and pepper to taste. Boil over high heat until the vegetables are fully tender, 5-10 minutes. Serve the meat and vegetables with sauce poured over it. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Hangover

Well folks. Election day has come and gone. In Maine, the results are in, and they aren't good, so I'm having a bit of an election day hangover. Yesterday I was full of nerves, but super excited, and today I just feel 'ugh'. Since Seattle folks vote by mail, we don't get the final vote count until 4:30 PST, and the race for mayor is so close that we probably wont' have an official result on that for a few days (the current report is that McGinn is ahead by 910 votes, out of the 85,000 that have been counted), so let's get back to the news about Maine.

Maine voted to reject gay marriage. I'm appalled. I'm shocked. I'm sad. Honestly? As many have pointed out, the fact that we even put people's rights to equality to a VOTE is absurd. The fact that when give the chance to grant or deny rights to a minority group, rights that the majority group unquestionably has, and we deny those rights, just makes me sick. I don't understand how there could be so much hate, so much disillusionment that No on 1 did not prevail last night. I do firmly believe that the majority of people in Maine wished to grant same sex couples the right to marry, but that many were confused about the language on the ballot and/or confused by the Yes on 1 campaign who used lies and manipulations. The main tactic was to make people think that their whole life would be changed if they voted yes (but seriously, that's not an excuse, so what if your kids find out in school that it's totally okay to have to men or two women in a committed relationship) or...and this is what I think happened to the rural, and often older, folks in Maine, they made people think that voting 'yes' granted rights. I don't know if that all makes sense, but I want to believe that the people of Maine, overall, aren't that intolerant, but it's really hard to say with a vote like last nights.

In better news, Dow Constantine beat the pants of Susan Hutchison, thank god for that, Tim Eyman's initiative got rejected by a landslide (as far as Tim Eyman's initiatives go, at least), and Referendum 71 is trending towards 'Approved', which is fantastic. I got to go to Kay Smith-Blum's victory party last night, as she won resoundingly over the incumbent to become the new School Board member for District 5. She has great ideas, she's unbelievably well informed and I think she's going to do a great job! So. Washington election results are so far so good, but I'm really having trouble celebrating, due to the loss in Maine. Perhaps when we get the final results for the mayors race, McGinn will have won, and I can celebrate more then...

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Election Day!

It's election day folks. One of my most and least favorite days of the year. I love election day because I love politics, I love the possibility for change, I love finally finding out what the result of everyone's hard work campaigning for change is. What I hate? Waiting. Seeing how few people vote. Seeing anti-choice, intolerant values and candidates win. So. Today I am a ball of nerves. But, I'm a hopeful ball of nerves. Many people could care less about today's elections, but there are some really important things on the ballot...I'll highlight the ones that I'm worked up about...

In Maine. Proposition 1. Governer Baldacci signed into law the right for same sex partners to marry. Prop 1 is trying to veto that law and they are using the same people, same $$, and same lies they used in California to confuse and manipulate votes. Vote No on 1. Support equality in Maine.

In Seattle (some King County, some statewide):

Mayor: Democrats Mike McGinn and Joe Mallahan are neck and neck in the polls. Mike McGinn is an environmentalist, a lawyer and someone who is going to put Seattle on the right track. Joe Mallahan is a T Mobile executive who has little experience, a bad voting record and has used his own personal funds to get himself this far. Vote McGinn!

County Exec: Dow Constantine supports a woman's right to choose, has experience and will work hard for equality, the environment and a slew of other things. Susan Hutchison is a staunch conservative who is anti-choice, has no experience and is counting on her name recognition from years as a TV anchor to pull her through. She is wrong for King County and a win for her is a win for intolerance.

Referendum 71: Vote APPROVE on Ref 71 to retain the rights given to domestic partners. This isn't just a gay rights issues, it's a senior issue too. Voting APPROVE on Ref 71 gives long term domestic partners the legal rights and protections that they deserve.

Initiative 1033: This is a Tim Eyman initiative, must I say more? Vote NO on I-1033 to make sure Tim Eyman doesn't succeed in his efforts to cap our government growth and push our economy into an even worse position fiscally. Vote for the sake of our schools, healthcare, the environment, each and every person who lives in Washington, just vote NO!

So there you have it, the things that I'm so anxious about. Now go vote if you haven't already!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Razor Clams - From Beach to Plate!

Whew. I'm a bit behind on posting, so if all goes as planned, there will be a 3 or 4 catch up posts in the next few days. If my grade school art teacher, Mrs. Turcotte, were here, she would pull out the huge cardboard cut out of a ketchup bottle, and then we'd all get to work catching up. But anywho.

A few weeks ago a group of us went out to my friends family beach cabin on the Washington coast. For the record, it's my favorite spot to be on the West Coast. When we were there in April, it was the official 'Razor Clam' season and we woke up to dozens of personal planes, a scattering of helicopters and many a 4 wheel drive vehicle on the beach, accompanied by a bajillion people digging for razor clams. A few friendly clammers showed us their loot and we were certainly impressed - the clams were huge!

This time around, the personal planes weren't there, but as the tide went
down we noticed a bunch of locals headed out to the beach to dig for clams. We thought, hey, we should give it a go! So we headed out to
the beach with our snazzy clam digging piece of metal and tried our luck. The first few holes provided us with some funny looking shrimp things, or nothing at all...making us a bit nervous about our prospects, but we persevered and headed out closer to the edge of the water and sure enough, we started getting clams! To 'dig' for the clams, you take the metal cylinder (shown here) and wiggle it with all your might straight down into the sand over an air hole. You cover the two metal holes with your fingers and you pull with your whole body, till you've got the cylinder out of the sand. You release your fingers, releasing the suction, and dump the sand out. If all goes as planned, there's a nice big razor clam in the middle of it!
Once we got our fair share of clams (not many, as we didn't quite expect to actually be successful), we headed back to the house. Our friend with an iPhone managed to get reception for JUST long enough to read the first few paragraphs of 'How to Clean a Razor Clam', which proved very helpful. We soaked them in freshwater to purge the sand, dropped them in boiling water for 7-10 seconds to release them from their shells, cut the 'razor' off as well as the black tip of the foot and the guts, then sliced them in half. We then sauted them with butter, lemon and salt and pepper (I believe). The final product was a bit iffy. We let them overcook a bit, and in our nervousness to taste them, let them cool off a bit they weren't the most delicious thing I've ever eaten, but you could tell they COULD be good, if done correctly.

The point is. We dug those clams ourselves. Yeehaw!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Apples and Cheese

I am currently having some troubles getting my computer to acknowledge that my camera has photos on it, so that's holding up a few good blog posts (namely... I went to the arboretum... I got some awesome vegetables from my CSA... and I went to an orchard!). So, this is mostly just a quick hello.

As I say hello, I should tell you that I am eating a Cortland (if you aren't familiar with this type of apple, do yourself a huge favor and go find one to eat), alongside some Cabot Cheddar. Omigod. I have recently been able to obtain Vermont's delicious Cabot cheese here in the mighty midwest, and their funny ad campaign here is something along the lines of "lucky New Englanders have been eating this cheese for years and years - here's some for you to enjoy!" and I must say that they have a point. It's $9.99/lb at my chain grocery store and a bit cheaper than that at the one Trader Joe's that had it, last I checked. It makes midwestern cheddar look so silly. Like thickened milk. That someone dyed orange. If you can access Cabot Cheddar, I highly recommend that you do so. As soon as possible.

PS If you are a lucky New Englander, you know that Cabot cheese is simply the non-generic cheese option at the grocery store. And that it is significantly less than $9.99/lb.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Quick, Easy and Oh So Tasty!

My number one essential purchase at my weekly farmers market is a bouquet of fresh flowers. My farmers market has five stands that sell flowers, and I like to browse them all each week and see who is favoring what flower. Most bouquets are only $5, and they are huge, so I always get one of those, then at home disperse the bouquet into 4 vases of varying size. Anywho. Once I've spent my $5 I like to grab a few bunches of vegetables that are only $2 or $3 each, as most of the flower stands also sell a few vegetables. This week I was about to get beets (a favorite of mine) and to their immediate left I noticed the pile of leeks. I looked down at my feet that were happily inside socks and shoes. I looked down at my chest where my scarf hung. I thought. Hmmm. I think this cool weather merits some soup! So I grabbed up the leeks with images of potato leek soup in my mind and waited for the right day. Today was a cool fall day, so I grabbed a russet potato on the way home and voila, I had my ingredients! To add a little fancy to the meal, I got a loaf of french bread too, so I could make some crispy garlicky toast slices, I want to call it bruschetta, but I didn't put anything besides garlic and butter on the bread, so I'm going to stick with 'crispy garlicky toast slices'. I used Mastering the Art of French Cooking as a guide, but I'm putting my version below.

Potato Leek Soup with Crispy Garlicky Toast Slices (makes about 5 cups of soup)

1 lb (about 1 large) potato, peeled and diced.
3 leeks, sliced lenthwise in half, rinsed, and thinly sliced.
2 quarts water
1/2-1 T sea salt
3 T butter softened
1/4 cup milk

Directions: Combine potato, leeks, salt and water in a stock pot and simmer for 30-40 minutes until potato is tender. Drain about 1 quart of water and reserve. Use a hand immersion blender to puree the remaining ingredients in the stock pot. Add butter and milk and puree or stir to blend. Add salt (and pepper if you like) to taste, and use reserved broth to thin the soup to your liking. Sprinkle with parsley or chives to garnish.

For bread, slice french bread into thin slices and place on a tin foil lined baking pan. Melt butter in a small pan and press garlic into melting butter. Stir and pour onto bread slices. To make this healthier, pour olive oil over bread instead. Toast in toaster oven.


Monday, September 28, 2009

Julia pulled through!

Whew. It's been a while since I've posted. Eek. Life got a little crazy and my lack of posting has mostly been due to a lack of any type of creative cooking. Last week was the culmination of the craziness and I hosted a dinner party for a mini family reunion. Now. Seeing as though the guests were either family or close to it, I shouldn't have been nervous. But these are also people I don't cook for much (or ever), so this was my moment to show what I've got! I decided to go with someone who, rumor has it, I can trust. Julia. I pulled out my new 'Mastering the Art of French Cooking' and perused it for a recipe that sounded decadent taste wise but straight forward preparation wise. Success! I selected Supremes de Volaille a Blanc to start, and wound up making the variation Supremes de Volaille aux Champignons. In English, I made chicken breasts with mushroom and cream. Oh la la! It was delightful! The only problem I had was that it took a lot longer to cook the chicken breast than it said in the recipe...I foresaw this problem though, as the chicken breasts available are gigantic compared to the size they used to be, and the ones I had purchased seemed especially large. And I made a recipe and a half. But besides the added cooking time, the recipe was straightforward and so rewarding. I served the chicken with garlic mashed potatoes (prepared with the leftover cream from the chicken) and asparagus that I parboiled and then sauted with garlic and lemon. It all came together quite nicely!

As a side note, most of the ingredients used in the dish were purchased from Frank's at Pike Place Market. Fresh, local, high quality ingredients at a great that's hard to beat! You can't make great food without good ingredients.

The recipe for the chicken is as follows (and don't forget, it's from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck. I highly recommend you buy the book if you don't own it!)

Surpemes de Volaiile aux Champignons: Serves 4

4 chicken breasts
1/2 tsp lemon juice
5 T butter
1 T minced shallot
1/4 lb sliced fresh mushrooms
1/8 tsp salt

For the sauce:
1/4 cup brown stock or beef bouillon
1/4 cup port, Madeira or dry white vermouth
1 cup whipping cream
Salt and Pepper
2 Tb fresh lightly minced parsley

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Rub the chicken breasts with drops of lemon juice and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Over moderate heat, melt the butter in a
casserole (about 10 inches in diameter, both stove top and oven proof) until foaming. Stir in the minced shallots and saute a moment without browning. Stir in the mushrooms and saute lightly for a minute or two without browning. Sprinkle with salt. Roll the chicken breasts in the butter mixture and cover the casserole. Place in hot oven and cook until chicken breasts are springy to the touch and cooked through. Remove from casserole and cover while making the sauce.

To make the sauce: Pour the stock or bouillon and wine into the casserole with the cooking butter and mushrooms. Boil down quickly over high heat until liquid is syrupy. Stir in the cream and boil down again over high heat until cream has thickened slightly. Off heat, taste for seasoning and add salt, pepper and lemon juice as needed. Pour the sauce over the chicken breasts and sprinkle with parsley. Serve immediately.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


As I have mentioned before, I am participating in a CSA this summer. That stands for "Community Supported Agriculture" and essentially means that I paid a farm (Driftless Organics, to be specific) this spring so that every other week, from June well into fall, they would box up some veggies for me to enjoy. The vegetables are delicious, it is hard to keep up with them, and the whole effort is a great exercise in remembering that vegetables grow in the ground and depend on the weather. The carrots look arthritic, the tomatoes got blight and died after just one round of picking, and the arugula just keeps coming - every vegetable (and melon) that I've received, however, has tasted absolutely divine.... and then came the romanesco.
In the lovely newsletter that we (my friend Lara and I - we share the veggie boxes and it's STILL hard to keep up!) receive with each box, there is a nice note from the farmers, a helpful glossary of sorts to explain what's in the box, and a few relevant recipes. Here's an excerpt of what the romanesco description says this week: "Broccoli's good, but Romanesco is stunning. I've actually had people say they couldn't eat it because it's too beautiful. This Italian heirloom cooks up and tastes more like cauliflower than broccoli. I like to steam it whole in water with lemon juice or broth & then serve it quartered." Have a look for yourself - beautiful, right?!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Dad Saw a BEAR!

Dear lovely readers of our blog. I want you to be the first to know that our father saw a bear this evening, on his drive home from work. He is actually retired, but in his retirement, he is working as a state park ranger in Maine. (Where we are from, though we primarily blog about Minnesota and Washington). And on his drive home from being a park ranger, he saw a bear. It should be noted that he no longer finds any surprise or excitement at all in seeing a moose while driving home (except of course in the moments where he tries to avoid hitting them with his car).... but the bear? He notified me over gmail, and used capital letters to describe it. Quite like I have done here.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Minnesota State Fair

Having grown up in Maine, I moved to Minnesota with the general understanding that fairs were kind of small county events, with lots of farm animals and some cotton candy circulating. Thankfully, I have come to know better. In Minnesota, as with many midwestern states, the fair is a very very big deal. I generally go at least twice a year, and eat as much food as possible while I am there. This year, though I only went once, it was all I hoped it would be and more - as usual! I have some fair-going rules, and one of them is that I only go with people that will split every food order with me. In this way, I get to try tons of food, avoid feeling sick, and it all costs half as much.

On Tuesday evening, my friend Kate (who is a tried and true fair companion) joined me on a Minnesota State Fair adventure. We shared an order of each of the following:
- Fried Green Tomatoes
- Cheese Curds
- Swedish Egg Coffee
- Corn Dog
- Lemonade
- Hush Puppies
- Mini Donuts

Most years I also eat a Scotch Egg (a hard boiled egg wrapped in sausage, dipped in bread crumbs, deep fried, and presented on a stick), but
we ran out of steam before we made it to that vendor. We also were serious about finding the Funnel Cake Fries (new this year!), but the stand had closed by the time we located it. We skipped the chocolate covered bacon (it's apparently kind of gross), Martha's cookies (a bucket of 'em costs $14), and all the deep fried candy bars (melty and delicious, but we filled up before we got over to that corner). I usually make a stop at Custard's Last Stand, mostly out of appreciation for the vendor name, but a gi
rl can only eat so much food in one evening. The twittersphere was all abuzz regarding the smoked salmon on a stick, but I wasn't coordinated enough to seek out that vendor, either. So many things to eat, so little time! It's no wonder that some people make a habit of going 4 or 5 times a year!

Somewhere along the way we stumbled upon some live music: Rock It Science was to
tally rocking out, and we stuck around long enough to see them perform Total Eclipse of the Heart - followed closely by Sweet Child of Mine.

As you may have noticed, we didn't spend time in the animal barns... and the reason for that is simple: a few weeks ago I visited Kate in Milwaukee, and we went to the Wisconsin State Fair. In addition to enjoying such culinary delights as Cream Puffs
(made by the Wisconsin Bakers Association) and Loaded Baked Potatoes (made by the Wisconson Potato Association), we visited tons of animal barns AND we won a trivia game. I love fair season.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A Splendid Summer Day

Lest I mislead everyone into thinking that Minnesota is simply
a place where the winters are cold and the storms unpredictable, I want to share with you the tale of my splendid summer day.

Around noon, I decided that this was an ideal day to leave the metro area and explore a state park. A proud state park permit holder, I have not actually had many state park adventures yet, so I was overdue. I hopped in my car and headed northwest, to Lake Maria State Park.

The park was lovely. The hiking loop I followed was three miles long, doubled as a horseriding path, and took me through some old growth forest as well as some areas of prairie. I met a few other people on the path, so it wasn't the entirely isolated afternoon I had expected, but that was fine. Being surrounded by the lush green of the park was calming, and I left my cellphone in the car so that I wouldn't know the time, be tempted to contact anyone, or be startled by any incoming calls or messages. I ended up wandering around for nearly two hours, doubling back at one point to lengthen the hike.

On my drive home, I stopped at a public access beach, threw on the swimsuit I had brought along, and jumped in for a swim. It was perfectly refreshing and cool after my rather hot and buggy wanderings. As I sit here on Sunday evening, preparing to wrap up my weekend and begin a new week at work, I feel as though I experienced a truly splendid summer day.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Movie Review: Julie & Julia

My oh my oh my! 2 weekends ago I saw the movie Julie & Julia, which brings to life a true story about Julie Powell, a young woman living in New York, and Julia Child, her inspiration. Julie was in a rut career wise, which, trust me, can be a downer. To get her going, she decided to cook her way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking in one year, and blog about it. The book follows both Julie during her year of cooking and Julia, during her years of discovering cooking.

A lot of the reviews I read beforehand said that while Amy Adams, who plays Julie, was good, she was nothing like Meryl Streep as Julia Child. Now. Who IS like Meryl Streep? I mean really, she's amazing. During the movie, you forget it's her, 100%, it's like watching Julia Child in real life. Honestly though? I loved Amy Adams' part. Perhaps it was because I so identified with her feeling of hopelessness job wise, and have also found cooking as a great escape, but I thought she was fantastic. Anyway, the movie is charming, funny and thoughtful and I can't wait to watch it again on DVD.

My only regret? Not eating before the movie! The food in the movie looks sooo good, and all Julia talks about is butter, I mean my goodness, it's cruel! I left the theater not only hungry but just dying to cook some food from Mastering the Art of French Cooking. It's been on my list of cookbooks I always look for at used bookstores, but I've yet to find one...a testament to the quality cookbook it is! I caved and bought one on the next week and it arrived a few days ago. I can't WAIT to get started!

A little love for City Kitchens

This is just a little shout out to City Kitchens, I've mentioned them before I think, but they are great. There are a bunch of kitchen shops in Seattle, two of the bigger ones are in the market, one famously being Sur La Table. While I like Sur La Table for some things, it is always so crowded and almost always over priced. City Kitchens on the other hand, is much less crowded, bigger, has fantastic sales people and amazing sales. Even better, each year they have a sale from mid August through the end of September where almost everything is on sale, and things that aren't specifically on sale are 20% off...incredible! I plan on taking a gift card I got for my birthday and heading on down there this weekend and getting all the things I've been hoping would go on sale, because guess what? They're all on sale now! Woohoo. Regardless of the sales, it's my favorite shop, so if you live in Seattle, I encourage you to check it out...directions can be found on their website, here.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Minnesota Weather

I’ll never forget my first tornado warning. Growing up in Maine, we had the occasional thunderstorm or hurricane, but never a tornado. I had no idea what to expect, and didn’t even realize that tornado sirens existed.

One warm day in May of 2001, I was happily sitting in the grass with my friends, soaking up the sun and enjoying the blue sky. Dinnertime rolled around, and we went into the dining hall. Suddenly there was hail falling, and before I knew it, we were being told to leave our trays on our tables and get down to the basement. The tornado siren went off, and the sky had changed dramatically since we’d been outside, less than an hour before. We weren’t downstairs very long before they released us, and by the time I finished my meal and went back outside, the sky had cleared and the temperature was lovely again.

Now I know that tornadoes can – and often do – appear on an otherwise lovely day. I know that on the first Wednesday of each month, at 1:00pm, every tornado siren in the Twin Cities gets tested. Usually, this means that every once in a while I hear a tornado siren, look at the nearest clock, confirm that it’s 1:00, and realize that another month has passed.

Yesterday was cloudy, raining heavily, and quite cool. It was about 64 degrees around 2:00 when I saw someone on Twitter comment that winds were strong in Minneapolis. By 2:15, a tornado had touched down in downtown Minneapolis, and by 2:30 there was news that a few highways were underwater, an office building had the windows blown out, a music shop was missing a big chunk of roof and wall, and trees and power lines were down in various neighborhoods in Minneapolis and Saint Paul. By 3:00, tornado warnings were sounding in Saint Paul and western Wisconsin.

The tornados and winds materialized so abruptly that there were not any sirens, storm warnings, or tornado watches broadcast until the first tornado hit. Someone reported exiting a building into what they thought was a tranquil and rainy day, seeing a trash can fly past at eye level, and opting to stay inside. The energy company released a statement that at one point in the afternoon, more than 7,000 customers were experiencing power outages.

Driving east on highway 94 at 5:30, I took a few pictures. Even then, the clouds were moving fast and changing shape, size, and color right before my eyes. I’ve included those pictures here – I took all of them within ten minutes, along a stretch of highway about 1/4 mile long.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

An "Adult Birthday Party"

I have a group of friends that I hang out with on a fairly regular basis these days, but our relationship revolves around food. It all started when we were recent alums in the same city, who had all been friendly with each other, but not much more than that. We started having dinners once a month, rotating hosting duties, giving us each a chance to try out new recipes on willing guinea pigs. Our monthly dinners have been going on now for 9 months and since we started we have added dinners for special occasions, as well as outings to restaurants we've wanted to try and pretty much any food related excuse we can find to hang out and eat delicious food. It's all very fun (and delicious), and we've all expanded our cooking knowledge in the process.

We joke about how we act so grown up, making fancy appetizers, complex entrees and extravagent desserts. But then there are things like the halloween themed paper napkins we use at Michael's or the table I (used to, yay) have that barely fit 4 plates on it, or the joke that no one can start dating someone, niether Alicia & Matt nor I have more than place settings. And best of all, the following phrases are most likely heard at least once per dinner: "sorry if this is a disaster", "oh no, I think I missed a step", "oh shit!" and last but not least "I swear, it's almost ready!". Because honestly, we don't know what we're doing.

So this brings me to the title of the post. Last weekend was Michael's birthday so we, of course, had a dinner to celebrate. I was in charge of choosing the cake that Alicia, Matt and I would make. Now usually I go for the classic three layer chocolate cake with the most fantastic Fanny Farmer chocolate frosting. But I needed something more extravagent for Michael, since he never ceases to amaze us with the meals he come up with. I was flipping through my cookbook The Birthday Cake Book by Dede Wilson when I came upon "Chocolate Almond Apricot Cake with Chocolate Glaze". Mmmmm mmmm that sounded delicious! The description made it even more appealing with adjectives such as rich and luscious, but the last sentence is what really sealed the deal. "This is a fabulous cake to serve at an adult birthday party". Perfect!

The cake was delicious, surprisingly easy to make, and last but not looked so fancy and grown up! Here's the recipe, enjoy!

Chocolate Almond Apricot Cake with Chocolate Glaze

Cake Ingredients: 2 3/4 c toasted sliced almonds, 1/4 c plus 1 T flour, 14 T (1 3/4 sticks) butter, at room temp, cut into pieces, 1 c sugar, 1/2 t vanilla extract, 1/4 t almond extract, 8 large eggs, seperated and at room temperature, 7 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, melted and slightly cooled, 1/2 c apricot spread (100% fruit, no sugar added).

Chocolate Ganache Glaze Ingredients: 1 1/4 c heavy cream, 12 oz semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped. Whole dried apricots (for garnish).

Directions: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F, grease a 9 x 3 inch round springform pan (a pan whose bottom is not attached, and the sides expand for easy removal) and line the bottom with greased parchment paper.

Combine 1 3/4 c of the nuts and the flour in a food processor and pulse a few times, then grind until nuts are very finely ground. In a large bowl, beat butter until creamy. Add the sugar gradually and beat until very light and fluffy, scraping down the bowl once or twice. Beat in the vanilla and almond extracts. Beat in the egg yolks one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition. Beat in the chocolate, blend in the nut-flour mixture in 2 additions.

In a clean bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Fold about one-quarter of the whites into the batter to loighten it; fold in remaining whites. Scrape batter into the prepared pan. Bake the cake for 50-55 minutes.
Let pan cool for 10 minutes or so and then unmold the cake. Using a thin, long-bladed knife, slice the cake in half horizontally so there are two even halves. Spread 6 tablespoons of the apricot spread evenly over one of the cut sides, then put cake back together. Melt the remaining apricot spread and brush it all over the top and sides of the cake. Refrigerate briefly to set the apricot spread.

Place the cake on a wire rack set over a clean pan. In a large saucepan, bring cream to a boil over medium heat. Remove from heat and immediately sprinkle the chocolate into the cream. Cover and allow to sit for 5 minutes, the chocolate should melt in this time. Gently stir the ganache until smooth. Let cool a little and then pour on top of the cake, gently spreading it evenly toward and around the edges. Allow excess to drip onto pan beneath, using later if necessary. Take the remaining almonds and press into chocolate glaze. Place dried apricots in a flower pattern in the center of the cake if you wish. Refrigerate the cake for at least an hour, allowing the glaze to set. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 3 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Friday, August 7, 2009

A food filled trip to Maine!

Well, Sarah and I had a great vacation! She drove to Chicago, while I flew, and then together we drove to Maine, with stops in Ohio for a wedding, Pennsylvania to visit a friend and Connecticut for a family pig roast. What a crazy drive! We explored Columbus by car (fascinating city!), discovered a great pizza place in charming Cambridge, OH and learned of the beauty of northern West Virginia and western Pennsylvania. Did you know that you have to drive through West Virginia to get from Ohio to Pennsylvania? Neither did we! As you can see, we were welcomed by many a state!

Anyway. There are two things I love to eat in Maine.
Lobsters and blueberries. Stereotypical I know, but hey. There's a reason we're known for them, they're both delicious and bountiful! So. Lobster we ate. Lot's of it! We had lobster rolls (exactly what they sound like. It's essentially a toasted hot dog bun with the meat from an entire lobster, if not more, piled on top. If you want, they'll give you a side of mayo to do as you wish), lobster salad, plain old delicious steamed whole lobsters, and more lobster rolls. Delicious. delicious, delicious!

As for the blueberries. Ohhh did we eat blueberries. I was initially a bit worried about the blueberry prospects. Maine has had the rainiest, stormiest, wettest summer ever. There has been very little sun, and my dad warned me that it wasn't a great blueberry season. When I went out to my favorite spot in our blueberry field, I found maybe 10 blueberries. And it's not like there were a million little ones, just 10 that were ripe, there were maybe 15 more on their way. Oy! I was devestated. But then we hiked. We climbed to the top of Bald Mountain (a favorite local mountain) and boy oh boy oh boy! Blueberries galore! What little sun they'd had must have warmed up the rocks and warmed up the blueberries, or something. Or perhaps because the blueberries were growing on crevices in rock, the rain drained well. I don't know, but the blueberries were great, I was picking them by the handful, and they were so tasty! Later on, Sarah and I went to a field that always has blueberries, and the blueberries there were a lot better too. Not like on top of Bald Mt, but certainly good enough that Sarah and I managed to pick 4 or 5 cups...enough to make (drumroll please....) BLUEBERRY COBBLER!!!
Hooray! I was perusing the cookbooks in the kitchen and lo and behold a teathered and worn index card with a recipe for blueberry cobbler, in my sisters handwriting, fell out of one of the cookbooks. Excellent! The only problem? It was pretty vague. No mention of how many berries the recipe was for, or what size dish, not much at all. But. We tried it out, determined that perhaps half the amount of berries would have been better for the amount of topping, but who wants half the berries? Not I! So. Here follows the recipe for an 8" x 8", 4 cups of blueberries, blueberry cobbler!

Crust: 1 cup flour, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 1/2 t baking powder, 1 1/2 t salt, 1/2 cup milk, 1/2 cup butter. Filling: 3/4 cup sugar, 3 t corn starch, 1/2 t cinnamon, 1/4 t nutmeg. Directions: Stir filling mixture with approx 4 cups of blueberries, and pour into an ungreased 8" x 8" pan. Stir together crust ingredients and spoon over berry mixture. Try to spread evenly, but precision isn't a huge deal, it's going to be delicous no matter what! Cook at 375 degrees for 25-35 minutes, or until crust looks cooked through but still soft. Let cool. Honestly. The berries will be VERY hot, and the juices need time to firm up a bit. So. Be patient, let cool for a bit, and then....enjoy!!!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Weekend of Festivals

My oh my was this a fun weekend. Saturday - Bite of Seattle, Sunday - Sequim, WA Annual Lavender Festival. I certainly ate a lot of food and got a lot of sun! Summer in Washington State is fantastic. First up, Bite of Seattle. The Bite of Seattle is the cities annual foodie festival. Like any festival at the Seattle Center, there is a large variety of food vendors, but the two features that are special to Bite of Seattle that I most enjoyed were the local and/or organic companies giving out samples, coupons and information, and 'The Alley', the Tom Douglas sponsored $10 speed lane to a sampling of food from some of Seattle's finest restaurants. The menu of 'The Alley' was different each day, my favorites from Saturdays menu were..

Rub With Love
d Hill's Tri Tip Beef —served with Ancho Molasses BBQ Sauce and Corn Relish

Thai Seafood Salad—Calamari, Shrimp and Octopus with sweet white onion, Kaffir lime, mint, cilantro and peanuts in a spicy Thai sweet-n-sour dressing

Cellars Restaurant & Lounge
GNUDI—“naked ravioli” Gnocci like ricotta and spinach pasta served with mushrooms and sage in white truffle oil cream sauce

Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho with Dungeness crab—a chilled heirloom soup topped with herbed Dungeness Crab and avocado

Absolutely Delicious!

After consuming a free Brown Cow Yogurt (a favorite of mine ever since I got a free sample on the corner of 3rd and Pine last summer), gourmet popcorn, salsa, Ocean Spray Cran-Pomegranate Juice, Jones Soda, the food from 'The Alley' and who knows what else (can you
blame me for being unable to keep track?) I headed home full and exhausted. I was moving at a nice rate until I hit Whole Foods, upon entering to use the bathroom, I discovered they now sell Molly Moon's...Seattle's newest, most delicious and original ice cream. Realizing I hadn't had dessert, I got a 'mini' (one scoop) of Mojito Sorbet and closed out my trip to Bite of Seattle on a cool and sweet note.

Upon arriving home, some friends arrived at my apartment. Seeing as though they had gone to Bite of Seattle the day before, their bellies were much less stuffed than mine and were eager to
cook a fun and fancy dinner. After some snacks to hold them over while I mentally prepared myself for more food, we decided to prepare linguine with clam sauce, topped with fresh steamed clams. Sounds fancy, right? Turns out it's a fairly simple meal to make! Butter, cream (we used fat free milk plus a few teaspoons of corn starch instead), some fresh herbs (we used basil and parsley), salt & pepper plus a sprinkle of shredded parmesan and...ta da! A delicious and satisfying feast. Who knew?

With an eventful Saturday under my belt, I slept soundly and rose early the next morning. It was Lavender Festival Day! It turns out that the north east corner of the Olympic Peninsula has the climate and soil of France, and is perfect for lavender growing! After a quick drive to Edmunds, a lovely ferry ride across the sound and another quick drive ( this one was not so quick), we arrived in Sequim (pronounced 'squim', like 'squid' but with an 'm'), home to the13th Annual Lavender Festival.

The 13th Annual Sequim Lavender Festival is the premier celebration of the joys of lavender and the largest lavender festival in North America. Sequim is located on Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula, cradled in the “rain shadow” of the Olympic Mountains and Olympic National Park. The Sequim-Dungeness Valley has an ideal microclimate for growing lavender and with less than 20 inches of rain per year; the area is similar to the Provence region of France. Because of the unique conditions and dedicated farmers, Sequim lavender has received world-wide recognition for its superior quality and fragrance. Our farmers have over 200 years of combined experience cultivating lavender, developing the best planting and growing practices, and creating lavender products. (

According to newspaper reports, there were over 200 stands at the street fair and over 30,000 visitors to the festival. Wow! The amount of lavender infused food was impressive, and the lavender infused culinary items for sale were inspiring. I purchased a little container of culinary lavender and I can't wait to try it out! My favorite part by far though, were the farm tours. There was a free shuttle bus running from the street fair to each farm ($15 got you into all 8 farms, if you had the time!), and we managed to make it to three farms before we ran out of time (and
energy). At Port Williams Lavender Farm we got a taste for what was to come and learned about the organic soil they use. At Purple Haze Lavender Farm, my favorite for sure, we were entertained with jovial live music, relaxed with drinks from the Lavender Bar (I had a lavender cosmo, delicious!) and took in the beauty of the neverending fields of lavender. As seen in the picture at the beginning of this post, they had a field of lavender with alternating rows of deep and light purple varieties, with a huge hedge of sunflowers at the end. Gorgeous! We finished up at Jardin du Soleil Lavender Farm, where we cooled off with some White Chocolate Raspberry Lavender Ice Cream, and got our picture taken in the field.