01 December 2010

December? Already?

It's been quite awhile since either of us have posted anything.  So, I figure it's time for an update.

Willis has made some winter cloches for the beds, my little ginkgo tree has shed all of it's leaves, and we've still yet to build a fence.  We've decided, however, to move the current landscaping from the backyard to the front yard come spring time.  This way the dogs can roam all over and we don't have to worry about them trampling through the fava bean patch or peeing on the strawberries.  We'll keep the beds and plant another tree or two, but other than that the backyard will be all for the dogs.

This giant squash is from our fall garden.  Willis made some delicious muffins with it for our family Thanksgiving feast.  We also provided a green bean casserole (my favorite recipe listed below), some stuffing, and celebration roast.

In the past few months, we've had plenty of leeks and scallions from the garden as well as some greens to cook up.

And, we've welcomed a pizza stone into our lives, thanks to Taleia!  The dough is currently rising, and I'll be giving it a test run tonight.

Outdoor Adventures:
Willis has continued to go mushrooming and has had luck with a patch of chanterelles in Forest Park, not too far from our house.  Good to know for next year.  He and Taleia also spent a day at the cost hoping to try their luck at some clamming.

Fresh Green Bean Casserole

Yield: 10 to 12 servings
Prep Time: 40 minutes | Bake Time: 15 minutes
For the Topping:
4 slices white bread, each slices torn into quarters
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 cups canned fried onions (about 6 ounces)
For the Beans and Sauce:
2 tablespoons salt
2 pounds green beans, ends trimmed, and halved
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound white button mushrooms, stems removed, wiped clean and broken into ½-inch pieces
3 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
Salt and pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1½ cups broth
1½ cups heavy cream

1. For the Topping: Pulse bread, butter, salt and pepper in food processor until mixture resembles coarse crumbs, about ten 1-second pulses. Transfer to a large bowl and toss with onions; set aside.

2. For the Beans and Sauce: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees F. Fill a large bowl with ice water. Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add 2 tablespoons salt and beans. Cook beans until bright green and crisp-tender, about 6 minutes. Drain beans in colander and plunge immediately into ice water to stop cooking. Spread beans on paper towel-lined baking sheet to drain.

3. Add butter to now-empty pot and melt over medium-high heat until foaming subsides. Add mushrooms, garlic, ¾ teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper; cook until mushrooms release moisture and liquid evaporates, about 6 minutes. Add flour and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in broth and bring to simmer, stirring constantly. Add cream, reduce heat to medium, and simmer until sauce is thickened and reduced to 3½ cups, about 12 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

4. Add green beans to sauce and stir until evenly coated. Arrange in an even layer in 3-quart (or 9×13-inch) baking dish. Sprinkle with topping and bake until top is golden brown and sauce is bubbling around edges, about 15 minutes.

21 October 2010

Beet Hummus

We've been growing beets at our house since about May. They've been growing slowly, very slowly. Most of the year they've just been greens, but recently they've started to fatten up, at least some of them.
Ciara turned me onto Taste Spotting last year. It's basically a website that links to a bunch of food blogs. What I like most about the site is that you can search for dishes that have a certain ingredient in them, like beets, and it will give you a page or more of links to different blogs/recipes. It came in handy when we were getting a lot of produce from Organic to You and we didn't know what to do with it.

Taste Spotting is also a way to keep up on food trends. Yesterday I wanted to make some kale chips from some kale growing in our garden. I looked it up on Taste Spotting and found an obnoxious amount of blogs about kale chips. I guess kale chips are pretty trendy these days.

There is also a lot of blogs about beet hummus. I'm about to add to the list in a pretty lazy/easy way.

I made my beet hummus by wrapping two small beets in aluminum foil and baking them in the oven at 350 for an hour. I then peeled the beets and ran them through the food processor. Once the beets were cut up into mush, I added some store bought hummus to the food processor and blended it all together. The result is a sweet/savory hummus with a pretty rad color.I put my hummus on some Dave's Killer Bread and sprinkled some feta cheese on top. It was pretty good.

17 October 2010

More Mushrooms

Ciara, Taleia and I went musrhooming last Wednesday. We tried a new spot closer to the ocean and it was beautiful. We saw a herd of elk, a Douglas Squirrel (about 2 feet from us) and a ton of mushrooms. The weather was also great and made pushing through the thick brush to find chanterelles easier to take. We ended up with about three pounds of chanterelles and lobster mushrooms, enough to cook up some now and put some up for storage.

Here are some pictures of us cooking up the lobsters.

07 October 2010

Lobster Mushrooms

Yesterday, we dropped the dogs off at Club K-9, and drove out to the Salmon Huckleberry Wilderness, on the southern side of Mt. Hood.  On the hunt for more mushrooms.  We discovered and identified some chanterelles, bloody milkcaps, and lobster mushrooms.

Lobster mushrooms aren't exactly a mushroom.  It's a parasite, that attacks other mushrooms and completely takes over.  They smell and taste like lobster (or what i imagine lobster to  smell and taste like, i've never actually had lobster).  You can buy them in the supermarket for around $15/lb.  Or you can gather them for free in the woods.  They are really easy to identify and due to their bright colors, pretty easy to spot. 

Willis made a delicious tofu and lobster mushroom dinner.  He found the recipe here.  Below is his version (very similar with a few modifications).

Tofu and Lobster Mushrooms in Ginger Broth

1 ounce lobster mushrooms
1 1/2 cups water
1 tablespoon ginger root, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or to taste)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
8 ounces firm tofu, cut into cubes
1 tablespoon mellow red miso
1 cup wild rice, cooked

In a medium-sized saucepan, simmer the mushrooms in the water for 30 minutes. Remove the mushrooms to a cutting board and pour the mushroom broth through a fine-mesh strainer into a 2-cup measuring cup. Add enough water to reach the 2-cup mark, and return the broth to the pan. Chop the mushrooms and add them to the pan, along with all ingredients except the miso.
Simmer on very low for 15 minutes. Stir miso into 1/4 cup water until it forms a smooth paste and add it to the tofu. Stir gently and return to heat for about 1 minute, and then serve over rice.

04 October 2010

Guest Room: Phase One

When we first moved in to our new home, the spare room was our "office," merely because we were too lazy/cheap to buy a wireless router and it's the only room in the house with an internet jack.  We've been having a lot of visitors/temporary roommates lately, so we splurged and bought ourselves a fancy wireless router so we could move the "office" to the basement.  We also decided to spruce up our guest room a little bit.

Phase I: New Paint Color.  You can read all about my paint dilemma here.  I finally chose a color: Weathered Fossil.


bandit getting into the trash.


 Stay tuned for Phase II.

28 September 2010

Garden Update: Giant Squash

Today I harvested two giant winter squash and composted the spent plant. The squash had a pitiful start in June, but once the heat arrived in July it took off, climbed up the fence, onto the wisteria and hid the small tag identifying what it was. I didn't know for sure what the plant was until today when I was able to uncover the tag.

It's a "Marina de Chioggia" winter squash. Some internet research revealed that it's an heirloom variety that supposedly originated in the Chioggia region of Italy (Venice). It's also supposed to be well suited for coastal environments, which is probably why it did so well for us.

I have no clue how I'm going to use this squash.

27 September 2010

Canning: Tomatoes

I bought myself a canning kit for my birthday about two years ago.  My first attempt involved beets and you can read about that here: B-E-E-T-S.  This year, we've had an amazing amount of tomatoes from the garden, which is exactly what my kitchen has been waiting for. 

Canned Tomato recipe from Preserve It! my new favorite preserving book.
Ketchup recipe from The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving.

Cider: Part II

Part I

Part II:  The cider has been fermenting in the basement for a few weeks now and a couple of nights ago, Courtney and Nick came over to bottle it up!  We now test our patience and wait up to 6 months.

paintings on the walls

Ever since we moved into our new home, we've been talking about painting.  In the recent months I've been acting on those thoughts.  In my past life, I've painted my walls: purple and green, both were on the discount shelves at the local hardware store.  Needless to say, I've never had the trouble of trying to pick that perfect color just by taping up paint swatches or painting smaller sections with paint samples.  It's kind of a headache.  I want a dark and light brown for our kitchen, that matches the green cabinets, a mid-gray for our bedroom, and a brown/tan for our guest room.  I keep coming home with different samples and am disappointed most every time.  Since I have so many little jars of paint now, I've decided to start on some other house projects.

The Shoe Rack:  we rescued a shoe rack from an old housemate who was going to toss it about 2 years ago.  However, that shoe rack sucked - our shoes were never big enough and they always fell through.  I found an old kitchen cabinet in our garage, left by the previous owner.  After a little sanding and some fresh paint, it makes a perfect place to put our shoes.

The Bedside Table:  My bedside table is Bandit's dog crate, with a piece of wood placed on top of it.  Willis' side of the bed has a tiny cabinet with the alarm clock placed on top.  Besides the clock, there's not much room to put anything else, so books and things are placed on the floor.  It's also hard for me to see the time in the morning with out sitting up and leaning over Willis.  So I've decided to take this chair and turn it into the bedside table.  We got this chair from the same ex-roommate as the shoe rack.  It was left behind on the front porch after she moved out.  It has some water damage, but nothing a little sanding and paint won't fix.  I plan to paint it brown and gray.

The Gossip Chair:  This isn't a paint project, but still...I've been looking for an old fashioned telephone chair for awhile.  I was driving past Reviva! a few weeks ago and saw this one sitting outside.  It was perfect.  The seat cover was a worn and dirty white vinyl.  I searched thrift stores and reuse stores for the perfect fabric, but found nothing.  I ended up getting some fabric from Fabric Depot.  Although, I was looking for a mustard color, the only patterned canvas/furniture fabric they had was either orange, bright yellow, or green.  I went with the orange.

I've also painted the shelves in the bathroom and a little box that we keep all of our maps and zines in.  Painting other objects has really helped me narrow down my paint decisions.

18 September 2010

Marshmallow Coconut Ice-cream

I had some leftover coconut milk from a Squash Curry soup I made a few nights ago, and some marshmallows leftover from a recent backpacking trip.  I decided to put both delicious ingredients to good use in an ice-cream!  I got my ice-cream maker from a guy off craigslist.com a year or so ago for 5 bucks.  He also gave me a crepe maker and electric stirrer....both of which I've never used.  If you love ice-cream and making things and kitchen gadgets, I suggest getting an ice-cream maker, or a freezer bowl for your Kitchenaid (if you have the money).  If you get your machine secondhand from a thrift store, estate sale, or craigslist, pickyourown.org has tons of manuals online for ice-cream makers.

I combined a few different recipes to come up with:

Marshmallow Coconut Ice-cream
1 cup milk
1/2 cup coconut milk
A handful of big marshmallows
1 cup half&half

1. In a medium-sized saucepan, bring the milk, coconut milk, and marshmallows to a boil.
2. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for ten minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, and chill the mixture thoroughly.
3. Once chilled, mix in the half&half and freeze in your ice cream maker.

16 September 2010

Garden Update: squash and tomato

The tomato and squash plants are a bit overwhelming.  The tomatoes are finally starting to turn at a decent rate, and we're getting tons every day.  We've already made a batch of tomato sauce for the freezer and some tomato soup.  One squash plant has decided to attack the wisteria, which I thought was an impossible feat.  I am actually not a fan of summer squash, so we try to come with creative ways to cook it. 

Tonight for dinner, I made a quick salsa and Willis is making a Tex-Mex Squash Casserole.  It smells delicious and I can't wait to eat it!

Tex-Mex Squash Casserole 

2 lbs. summer squash
1 small block of tempeh
1 onion, chopped
2 jalapeno peppers, chopped
8 oz. cheese, shredded
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups tortilla chips, crushed

  1. Cut up squash and saute with onions and tempeh.
  2. Saute until the onion is glassy and the squash a bit softer, but still al dente.
  3. Add chili and jalapeno peppers, shredded cheese and sour cream; toss gently so squash will not be mashed.
  4. Spread half of crushed chips on bottom of a greased 2-quart rectangular dish.
  5. Pour the squash mixture in dish and sprinkle the remaining chips on top.
  6. Dust with paprika.
  7. Cook 10-15 minutes in a preheated oven at 390 F.

chanterelle pasta

Pasta w/ Chanterelle Mushrooms

1 pound linguine
1 pound Chanterelle mushrooms
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon Italian parsley, chopped
Salt & Pepper

In a large pot, bring salted water to a boil; add pasta and cook until tender. In a saucepan, sauté mushrooms and cook until soft. Pour in wine and simmer until the alcohol has cooked off. Add the butter, cheese, and cream and season to taste with salt.
Drain pasta. Toss pasta with mushroom sauce and chopped parsley.
Plate and serve with grated Parmesan on top.

13 September 2010

i'm a fungi!

Yesterday, we went with Courtney and Nick to hunt for wild chanterelles (currently sold in the market for $16-20/lb.).  We went in the late afternoon and had only a few hours to snatch them up before sundown.  None of us were expecting to find very much.  Courtney and Nick were amazing at spotting them from a distance.  We returned home after an hour and a half with 2.5 lbs!  We hope to return in the next few weeks to find some more.

Tonight, Willis made a delicious Chanterelle Mushroom Barley Risotto for dinner.

Barley Risotto with Chanterelles

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 shallots, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
2 cups "medium" barley
1 cup good quality dry white wine
6 cups chicken stock
Grated zest of 1 lemon
2 handfuls chanterelle mushrooms, roughly chopped
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup crème fraiche

Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat, then add the onions, shallots, garlic, and salt and saute, stirring constantly, for about 4 minutes, or until the onion begins to soften.

Add the barley to the pot and stir until coated with a nice sheen, then add the white wine and simmer for 3 or 4 minutes, until the barley has absorbed the liquid a bit. Adjust the heat to maintain a gentle, active simmer.

In increments, add about 6 cups of stock, 1 cup at a time, letting the barley absorb most of the liquid between additions; this should take around 40 minutes altogether. Stir regularly so the grains on the bottom of the pan don't scorch. Add the mushrooms with the 4th or 5th cup of stock, so that they will get cooked, but not get mushy. You will know when the barley is cooked because it won't offer up much resistance when chewing (it will, however, be chewier than Arborio rice).

When the barley is tender remove the pot from heat. Stir in the lemon zest, Parmesan, and crème fraiche. Add salt to taste.

07 September 2010

cider press blues.

willis has been talking about re-blogging for awhile now.  it's been over a year since our last posting at treestarmansion.  we're hoping to share stories about our experiences in home-ownership, experiments in the kitchen, and expeditions in the great outdoors.

i'm dedicating this first post to courtney and nick (our good friends who recently moved to portland from north carolina) and to making hard cider.

it all started a few weeks ago when nick and courtney invited us over for dinner.  while touring their new home and garden, we noticed some...ok a lot of apples in the alleyway behind their home.  we decided to gather some after dinner.  after dinner turned into after dinner plus hours of talking.  we ended up in the dark alley with flashlights picking whatever ones we could salvage off the ground and we brainstormed about making hard cider.

within a week, willis and i had gathered more apples from my oldest sister's backyard and courtney and nick gathered whatever they could find from trees they noticed around their neighborhood.  they purchased a few supplemental apples and we rented a cider press from let's brew

last saturday, we met at our house and got to work:

we started by washing, chopping and pureeing all the apples. this took forever.  we also realized we needed more than the 50 lbs. we had already gathered, so courtney went to gather more apples from around our neighborhood (and pick up some pizza and beer to keep us going through the evening). after several ours, we finally got through all the apples and began to press.

we ended up with 4.5 gallons of cider.

next, we moved inside to heat the juice, add in the yeast, and secure the airlock.  

the cider is patiently waiting in the basement for the next few weeks...