Thanks! Giving

I’m am so happy it’s November.

First for a narcissistic reason – it is the month I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl who to this day amazes me. I love you Laura!

Second, because it’s Thanksgiving. But this year I’m going to say Thanks! Giving. I want to thank my ability to give. I am very fortunate to be where I am in life. I am able to donate hours to an organization I’m proud to help with.

But this is the time of year we can probably all give a bit more. It doesn’t need to be in canned goods. You can help by visiting the elderly. I went to the home my father in law lives in. We go see him about twice a week. Today when we went to see him a group of young kids were just filing out. They had made cards for the residents. Some were simple drawings, others nice poems, but all home made.

I went around the dining room visiting some of the ladies I’ve help with gardening, saying hello, asking how they were. They all wanted to show me their cards, tell me about the visitors and how even the adults (the teachers) took the time to visit and (I quote), “Such a wonderful thing to have someone sit and talk me! They were oh so nice.”

Please, I ask each of you, be thankful and do not forget our elderly. It’s so easy to take a can of beans or corn and drop them in a bucket at the grocery store. But to take 30 minutes of one day, any time of the year, and stop by a senior center and just listen, it will change your life, and enrich theirs.

Old Friends

The other day I thought of someone. That thought stayed with me. How were they? How was their family? When was the last time I talked to them? Why did we lose touch?

I did not like any of these questions. They were questions I should not be asking. I should know, but I didn’t. It made me sad to think that this person was no longer in my life. So me and Google went to work! I rolled up my sleeves, cracked my knuckles and began my search.

Hours passed, I was frustrated. The “Yellow Pages” and “White Pages” on the net all charge you for information that is free in a phone book. Which is a huge pet peeve that these giant tree killers are still being manufactured. But we have to have them because the online version is not free. But that didn’t help me now as I no longer lived in the area where I believed him to be.

I’m sorry I digress.

And then my search displayed a web page. Checking the information yes yes….it was his page! I hit the “Contact Us” link and typed in a basic question, “Paul…you still around?” and waited.

My joy was when I checked my email, which unfortunately got filtered to my spam folder, and saw “Oh hell ya!”

I cannot explain my relationship to Paul. But he is someone I hold very dear in my heart. To look at him you’d just see his gruff exterior. You might frown at his tattoos (Of note he did take me to be my first one). He laughs loud and with such joy you simply must laugh with him or your life will feel empty if you do not. I once had someone comment “He’s a character.” I replied “Oh you have no idea. But before you say anything more let me say this. I would trust this man with my daughters life any day of the week!” He is a man of that kind of character.

He called me today and I swear it was like we hadn’t lost contact for a couple of years, but more like a few weeks.

My advice to you – Do not wait for tomorrow. You never what it will bring. Call your Paul.

Paul this is for you my friend -

Sourdough Bread

Sourdough Bread

Cranberry Ketchup

So the other day I was able to get my hands on 10 pounds of Oregon Coast cranberries. One of the greatest perks of living up here is the availability of some of the best produce I’ve ever encountered.

At first thought I wouldn’t have enough to do all the things I wanted to try. Well I’ve used maybe 5 pounds and today I canned 10 half pints of Cranberry Sauce and 9 half pints of Cranberry Ketchup. So stay tuned for another cranberry post on cranberry salsa.

One of the first recipes that intrigued me was Cranberry Ketchup. The uses of this condiment seems endless. Used to top a great turkey meatloaf sandwich, how about a juicy grilled turkey burger?

Let’s gather our ingredients. The only thing not in the picture is the brown sugar and Worcestershire sauce.

Cranberry Ketchup Ingredients

Garlic Germ

Garlic Germ

 

One of things I want to point out is the garlic. Always slice your cloves in half. If they sprouting or green in the center, take a small pairing knife and lift the germ out. (Some call it a pip) The reason for this is when it’s green it can impart a bitter flavor.

 

Minced Garlic

Minced Garlic

 

 

Now lets talk about mincing your garlic. We see this in so many recipes and yet when you watch a lot of cooking shows you will see the chef do a basic rough chop. This is not minced. Minced is what you see here. Very small, compact. This will yield a much better garlic flavor in your dishes because the oils of the garlic are released into the food.

 

When you add the cranberries they will be dense, but as they heat up they will swell. It will seem like there isn’t enough liquid to cook them down. Fear not there will be plenty. Once pureed they will be rich in color. As you add the sugar and spices the aroma is fantastic. You can smell the garlic, the tartness from the cranberries and the sweet brown sugar.

When it’s all cooked up you’ll be the hit of everyone on your Christmas list!

Final Product of Cranberry Ketchup

Final Product of Cranberry Ketchup

 

 

Cranberry Ketchup (Yields 8-9 half pint jars)

This is a Ball Canning Recipe that has been tweaked to add more flavor. I talked to 2 very experienced Master Food Preservers who gave the nod that this is a safe recipe.

11 cups cranberries (fresh or frozen)
2 TBS Olive Oil (no more)
2 cups chopped onions
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups water
3 cups lightly packed brown sugar
1 cup vinegar
2 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1-2 TBS Worcestershire sauce (optional)

In a large stock pot add olive oil and sauté onions until tender. Add garlic and sauté 2-3 minutes more. Do not brown. Add the cranberries and water. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and boil gently for 6 to 10 minutes, until cranberries pop and become soft. (I used a manual potato masher to help release the juices).

Transfer mixture to a blender or food processor fitted with a metal blade, working in batches, and purée until smooth. (I used my Ninja blender with the bowl attachment. It gets things a bit smoother than a food processor. You could also use a food mill)

Return mixture to saucepan. Add brown sugar, vinegar, mustard, cloves, salt, black pepper, allspice and cayenne. Bring to boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring frequently, until mixture is almost the consistency of commercial ketchup, about 30 minutes.

Prepare boiling water canner. Heat jars in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil.  Wash lids in warm soapy water and set bands aside.

Ladle hot ketchup into hot jars leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and re-measure headspace. If needed, add more ketchup to meet recommended headspace. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Apply band and adjust until fit is fingertip tight.

Process filled jars in a boiling water canner for 15 minutes, adjusting for altitude. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not flex up and down when center is pressed.

The Dangers of Rest Stops

I now have a fear of rest stops. Not for the reason you may think. Today I was traveling down the I-5 to visit my folks in California.

Here’s what happened. I arrive at the rest stop to stretch my legs and tinkle. I get into the restroom which has 3 stalls. I could see the first stall was clearly occupied, but I wasn’t sure about the other 2 stalls. I lean over to do the ‘foot check.’ Can’t tell…lean a bit further and see that the farthest stall is occupied but no feet in the middle stall. Awesome.

As I open the door, the slow motion kicked it. You know the way time stops when you A) realize you’ve done something you should not have and B) you cannot believe what your eyes are telling you? I experienced both simultaneously. As I opened the door, which was not latched, it FLEW open! But it was promptly stopped by a woman’s head. Who was standing on the toilet seat and squatted over the toilet doing her business. Yep she had both feet firmly planted on the seat of the toilet and skirt hiked up around her waist. The slow motion horror show continues, because as I whacked her in the head it threw her completely off balanced. She falls over to the side and hits the wall. Her her left foot hits the ground, which must have been taboo, thus the reason for standing on the toilet and her right foot is now firmly entrenched in the toilet itself. I am mortified! So I grabbed the door and pulled it shut saying “Oh I am SO sorry”…but this will do no good. What I had not realized was that, as she fell sideways she had grabbed the top of the door to stable herself. As I grabbed it from the side to close it and step away I then pulled her off balanced and she is now in the position of right foot in toilet, left foot on taboo floor and now both hands on the ground in front of her. A nightmare version of Downward Dog.

I quickly left, no one was behind me, I am so grateful. I get to my car and make a quick get away. I knew I could not wait and see her walk out. Making one sad wet squishy footprint. Of course I couldn’t stop at any other rest stops for the rest of way for fear they would be following me. I can only imagine the story she told to those she was traveling with. If you hear on Facebook about a crazy lady who opened the door on a woman doing her business…could you ask her why she was standing on the toilet please?

This is something that may traumatize me for life.

Ode to the Souffle’

So today I got new eggs
Their shells so clean and new
I knew for sure that I would make
A dish that was my debut.

I gathered my ingredients
And strengthen my resolve
Tonight I would make a dish
And hope I had the gaul.

The soufflé I exclaimed!
And whipped up my egg whites
I browned up some bacon
Much to my delight.

More cheese! Said my hubby
I told him do not worry.
The cheese you see me adding
Will make it nice a gooey.

We watched the timer ticking
And wondered how it would taste
The smells were fantastic
I dare not use pull with haste.

Alas it was done!
And ready to devour,
We scooped it up and love it,
It was gone within an hour.

Cheese Souffle'

Cheese Souffle’

Winter Gardens

Not sure what to grow this winter?

These cold-hardy vegetables may stick it out thru the winter.

Purple cold-hardy vegetables. (Photo by Jim Myers)
Purple vegetables contain a pigment called anthocyanin that helps them resist rot better. (Photo by Jim Myers)
From OSU Extension -

Not ready to hang up your gloves and spade just yet?

The fearless gardener still has a chance to plant some cold-hardy vegetables to harvest next spring, said Jim Myers, plant breeder and researcher at Oregon State University. But don’t dawdle.

“Winter gardening is a risky business,” Myers said. “It may work one year with a mild winter but not another when the weather is more severe. If you plant some cold-hardy vegetables from mid-August to early October – depending on the crop – there’s a good likelihood you will produce something on the other end in the spring. They say farming is a gamble…some years more than others.”

Cold weather doesn’t kill these hardy plants; it simply slows their growth rate. For every rise of 18 degrees, growth rate doubles, but that guideline is only applicable for an air temperature range of 40 to 98 degrees, Myers said. If you plant cold-hardy vegetables from mid-August to early October, there is a chance they can mature by next spring if they survive in a vegetative state through the winter without reproducing.

According to Myers, the hardiest vegetables that can withstand heavy frost of air temperatures below 28 include spinach, Walla Walla sweet onion, garlic, leeks, rhubarb, rutabaga, broccoli, kohlrabi, kale, cabbage, chicory, Brussels sprouts, corn salad, arugula, fava beans, radish, mustard, Austrian winter pea and turnip.

Semi-hardy vegetables that can withstand light frost of air temperatures in the range of 28 to 32 degrees include beets, spring market carrots, parsnip, lettuce, chard, pea, Chinese cabbage, endive, radicchio, cauliflower, parsley and celery. For beets, spring market carrots and parsnips, the tops will die but the roots will tolerate lower temperatures.

Vegetables that contain the pigment anthocyanin, which gives them a vibrant red or purple color, are more resistant to rots caused by winter rains, Myers said. They include purple-sprouting broccoli, Rosalind broccoli and purple kale.

If you live in an area of the state that gets prolonged snow cover, the fluffy white stuff acts as insulating mulch and warms the soil for these tough plants, Myers said.

No matter where you live in Oregon, “some of the worst problems we have in the winter are with rain rather than temperature, so protecting plants from the rain is quite helpful,” Myers said.

He recommends covering vegetables with high or low tunnels made from metal hoops and clear plastic, available from greenhouse supply companies. To protect plants, you can also use row covers or cloches. To warm the soil use mulch made from yard debris, cardboard or newspaper.

Cross your fingers and by next March you could be feasting on shelled, succulent fava beans seasoned with salt and lemon juice.

Wine Tasting

Tonight I had a wonderful time learning more about wines and what affects their flavors.

Out at the Pavilion at the Discovery garden 25+ of us gathered to be educated by our, very knowledgeable, leader Steve Renquist who plays a big role in Viticulture and marketing for wine grape growers of the Umpqua Valley.

He chose 3 whites and 3 reds. For white we had Gruner Veltliner, Muscat, and Gewürztraminer. For reds we had Grenache, Petite Syrah, and Zinfandel. And to break it down further we had 2-3 of each type. Sometimes it was the same brand but 3 different years, and others were a type from different regions.

For the Gruner we had 3 different years 2011, 2012 and 2013. The difference in flavors was very noticeable just because of how different our weather was. Where we had a mild summer in 2011 verses hotter temps for longer periods in 2012 and more extreme heat in 2013.

Everyone is listening and taking copious notes. Interestingly enough I was the only one who able to guess the alcohol level on 95% of the wines. And to clarify it was not due to the taste. 3 of the wines I could not drink. But it was due to the ‘legs’ on the glass. This is when you swirl the wine and the alcohol lingers on the sides.

This did confirm for me that I still prefer the red wines over the whites.

After about the third bottle was being sampled, folks over at another table that had been pretty quiet were now laughing on and off. Fourth bottle is complete and the fifth is being opened. Lots of talking now, no one is taking notes anymore. A lot more laughter and more are talking over Steve amongst themselves. Finally it gets back to the nuances of the wine. It was really a good thing we opted to eat at this point and boy there were some great appetizers.

From this point the last 2 wines we utterly forgotten and it was all about visiting and chatting.

Just a fun time to be had by all and a great way to visit with other MG’s other than the gardens.

 

 

Small Town Living

Oh the joys of living in a small town. Ok so I don’t have the big department stores like Target and Bed Bath and Beyond (cries a little), or even a variety of restaurants. But I have people. People that are not caught up in the hustle and bustle, and work to make a difference. Whether that is by helping others,  animals, or just providing entertainment.

We have, of course, our Master Gardeners and Master Food Preservers. These are volunteers who put in hours of their time to help folk with their gardening, orchard, insect, weed issues and how to safely preserve food either by dehydrating or canning.

Then there is the Duchess Sanctuary. They provide sanctuary for horses in need, using “best practices” for equine management while preserving and protecting the environment for the benefit of the native plant and animal species.

And for the smaller pets you must check out Saving Grace Pet Adoption.

The Oakland News Gazette is a great community page. They are constantly giving updates on animals that need help, sister community events and really support the town.

Did I mention that when you live in a small town and drive by someone you might remotely know they wave! They wave like they’re happy to see you and they use ALL their fingers.

There ya have it. A few links, some great folks and peek into the rural life.

People…

I am so very fortunate. I know that some out there do read my blog, for whatever reason. Perhaps a random search that pointed them my way, or a friend of friend who’s curious. Either way I’m grateful. Not because they read it, that’s GREAT, but because I’ve reached some more than others. I won’t mention names but I had one the most fun conversations with a woman who contacted me about my old stove. She had recently purchased one similar and had questions. Then there was the man who contacted me about becoming a Master Gardener, we’ve exchanged several emails. And yet another couple who wanted to get a greenhouse and we also ended up chatting for about 45 minutes. It made me feel happy to know that, maybe, in small way I helped them.

It became a day of reflection for me.  Then I saw a video of people doing acts of kindness towards others, like stopping their car in the middle of the street to help an elderly woman cross, or a lone man pushing his car thru the snow only to have 3 people stop, jump out of their cars in the cold to help, and a woman who just sat down with and elderly man in the park and took his hand, it made me sad. I cried…no I wept.

I was even more sad when I realized why the tears streamed down my face. It was not only because I watched something that touch the heart, but more importantly because I was watching some rare…wait rare? Yes rare! In our fast paced world today of tweets, blogs, Facebook and all the social media we have our faces buried in technology. We would rather not miss the all important text of WYA and BRT, than to look up and perhaps see someone who needs our aid. Whether to cross the street, or help load groceries into the car or just smile at them and tell them they look nice.

While I am all for bringing awareness to specific needs like cancer and ALS, it saddens me when I see people making more of themselves dumping ice water on their heads than the reason they are doing it. Now it’s more about them making their video’s getting all the ‘likes’ and attention on themselves rather than the reason. Narcissism at it’s finest.

I reflected more…then smiled. I, too, am guilty of ‘being in a hurry.’ But for the last few weeks I’ve made more of an effort to be there for my fellow humans. Be there for them, not for my FB page.

And with that I leave you with this challenge – what will you do now?

 

Preserving Blackberries – Sort Of…

I love blackberries. I even enjoy picking them. Of course when it’s hot and I’m competing with the bugs and the deer maybe not so much.

But there is quiet contemplation in searching for the hidden plump gems. Quiet in between “Ouch!” “Dang IT!” “Are you serious?! You have to wrap AROUND my leg?!” “Oh for the love of Pete! All that to cut a clump to have half of them fall off?!”

Today it was all worth it. Well, actually the ones I picked last week. Today’s harvest is in a pie, freezer and BBQ sauce tomorrow. But last weeks berries, picked while it was warm and sunny became this.

The essence of summer - Sweet Black Berry Liqueur.

The essence of summer – Sweet Black Berry Liqueur.

Note – I did not muddle my berries on this batch and was so happy with the clarity. I also add everything at once and let it sit in my fridge for week, giving a very slight swirl every other day. Enjoy!

Ingredients

2 cups blackberries
3/4 cup brandy
2 cups vodka
zest of one lime without pith – just use long strips, not a grater
1 cup simple syrup – 1 cup sugar/1 cup water heat till sugar dissolves and let cool completely.

Procedures

1 – Place the blackberries and lime zest in a seal-able glass jar, muddle lightly to release juice, and then add brandy and vodka. Seal and shake. Let mixture steep for 3 days at room temperature away from direct sunlight. Strain through a fine mesh strainer, pressing down to extract juice, then filter mixture through a coffee filter or through two layers of cheesecloth. Discard solids.

2 – Combine blackberry infusion and simple syrup in a seal-able bottle or jar, then shake to mix. Let rest for a minimum of one day. Store in the refrigerator for up to two months.

I hope this inspires you to find other ways of enjoying the fruits of summer. If you’d like to join the conversation come over to the Facebook page and chime in!