Dungeness Crab: Take this Crabby Quiz!

Dungeness Crab from the Puget Sound.

Dungeness Crab from the Puget Sound.

This post originally appeared on Amazon’s Al Dente blog on August 18, 2011. Dungeness Crab season is in full swing out here in the Puget Sound so I decided to pull this post from my archives and bring it back to life here on my new website. The links to the interactive WDFW quiz and the informative PDF brochure continue to work, so check them out. 

Here in Washington State, the Dungeness crabbing season is in full swing!

If you live in the Puget Sound region and want to try your hand at crabbing for Dungeness, then be sure to test the waters by taking this fun little quiz right at your desk at home. I discovered this interactive quiz this morning while doing some research on the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. I was poking around the crab section, which is quite comprehensive. I easily found information on licensing, harvesting, identification, and preparation. The quiz is fun because it asks basic questions and if you don’t get the answer correct, you are encouraged to review the material! (Aha! We’ve already gone back to school, haven’t we?)

The website also features a video and a useful informative downloadable PDF brochure. If you do go crabbing and manage to haul some home, be sure to have some crabby tools such as these on deck and at the ready!

Photo of Dungeness crab by Carolyn Trainer

Wild Blackberries are Ripe and Ready in Seattle!

Wild blackberries are ripe and ready in Seattle. Pick now and freeze for later. Think smoothies, cobblers, healthy breakfasts for those cold dark dreary days of winter!

Wild blackberries are ripe and ready in Seattle. Pick now and freeze for later. Think smoothies, cobblers, healthy breakfasts for those cold dark dreary days of winter!

Note: This post originally appeared on Amazon’s Al Dente blog in August 2012. Even though three years have gone by, this classic culinary story never goes out of style. Hot and sunny summer days bring a plethora of  fat and juicy wild blackberries growing on the thick and thorny brambles around town! 

The wild blackberries are ripe! At long last, the plethora of wild blackberries found out here in Seattle are plump and ready for picking. On trails and in parks it is common to see berry enthusiasts braving the thorns and picking berries!

I have loved wild blackberry season ever since I moved to Seattle in 1995. I was astonished that so many plump berries were easily found and free for the picking! Back then, everyone seemed to take my enthusiasm with a ho-hum sigh. No one seemed particularly impressed by the glossy fat berries or they simply took their existence for granted. Many of my gardening friends reminded me that they were an invasive nuisance! I was sort of baffled by the lackluster enthusiasm for such a sweet wild treasure. Having been born and raised on suburban Long Island, I can assure you that I didn’t grow up with berries growing so wild and free!

I braved the thorny hedges last week and gathered my first five pounds. The berries were just starting to ripen after a brief heat wave. A pound of those berries were turned into an unstrained berry syrup suitable for ice cream or yogurt. The rest of the berries were frozen on a tray and transferred to a heavy duty freezer bag. They will be turned into cobblers and crisps in the off season.

Are you a wild berry fan? Do you gather berries, such as huckleberries, salmonberries, cranberries, or blackberries in your region?

No Rise Pizza Dough

Note: Originally published on my old website on March 4, 2011 and being re posted here on my new site. This is a quick and easy pizza dough that has withstood the test of time in my busy family kitchen. 

My No Rise Pizza Dough is quickly made in the food processor, doesn't require lengthy rising time, and is very family friendly.

My No Rise Pizza Dough is quickly made in the food processor, doesn’t require lengthy rising time, and is very family friendly.

Okay, folks, here’s my slam dunk all-time favorite pizza dough. This dough can be made in under five minutes in the food processor and it needs no tedious rising time. This No Rise Pizza Dough is the one I use when making a simple thin crust pizza, chubby calzones, savory cheesy flat breads, individual grilled pizzas or massive rectangular pizzas.

My version is adapted from one I found in Abby Mandel’s Fast and Flavorful New Food Processor Recipes Volume 1 published in 1985 by the Cuisinart Cooking Club. Abby was a food processor maven who hailed from Chicago. Pizza was one of her favorite foods.

Although Abby is now deceased, I called her about two years ago and spoke to her directly about this particular pizza dough. I wanted to know why it didn’t need any rising time. Abby mentioned that it had something to do with the sugar and the yeast. Indeed, the quantity called for is higher than normal, which may explain why this dough can skip the rise and roll right into action. This dough is also very easy to roll or stretch into a thin disk.

My family loves this dough so much that I sometimes make quadruple batches in my 20-cup DLC-X Cuisinart food processor. If we don’t use all the dough in one round, I tuck the dough into a food storage bag, tie it loosely and store in the fridge for a day or two…having my No Rise Pizza Dough at the ready is speed cuisine at its best!

No Rise Pizza Dough
(Adapted from Abby Mandel’s Thin Crust recipe)

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast (1 package)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons bread flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

In the glass measuring cup in which the water was measured, add the yeast and sugar to the water. Stir well to combine and let stand for a couple minutes to activate the yeast.

In the food processor fitted with the metal blade, combine the bread flour, salt and olive oil. Pour the yeast mixture through the feed tube while the machine is running. Let the machine run until the dough starts to form a ball. Check the dough to make sure it isn’t too dry or too sticky. Add more flour or water accordingly to get a smooth dough.

Run the machine for another 30 seconds or so to knead completely. Gather your desired topping ingredients and get ready to roll! For best results, be sure to preheat the oven to 425 F or 450 F for at least 20 minutes!

Hydro Flask-My New Favorite Water Bottle

Hydro Flask vacuum insulated water bottle. Keeps water cold for hours.

Hydro Flask vacuum insulated water bottle. Keeps water cold for hours.

Well, with Seattle breaking all sorts of heat records this summer I must say that I’ve been hankering for a lot more cold water than usual. This morning, while refilling my large 3 gallon water jugs yet again at PCC, I noticed some sleek water bottles on the shelf  below the water dispensing machine. Hmmm.

Labeled Hydro Flask and available in a variety of sizes and colors, I was curious. The label touted that the unique vacuum technology could keep water cold for 24 hours. Priced at about $25 for a 21 ounce bottle, I waffled as to whether I needed it but I reasoned that I’d be saving money AND water AND ice, so I bought it. Wow. It was an excellent purchase and I am now hooked on my 21-ounce Everest blue bottle. Indeed it has kept my filtered water fresh and delightfully cold all day. I’ve already purchased another one for my husband via Amazon. Made from 18/8 stainless, the bottles keep liquids cold or hot, and they don’t sweat when filled with cold liquids or transmit heat to the exterior when filled with hot. Replacement caps are readily available. Lightweight yet extremely durable, they are easily transported to far flung exotic locales or even just to the office or school.

Check out the Hydro Flask website for more information and, if you are a beer lover, take note of their new beer pints!

How to Judge a Cookbook? Use It!!

Two cookbook classics...Home Cooking and More Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin.

Two cookbook classics…Home Cooking and More Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin.


Cookbook reviews can be a funny thing. Even if you aren’t a professional food writer, how do you judge a cookbook? By the cover? By the photos? Or, by the recipe?

I have lots of cookbooks in my collection. Many are new. Others are tried and true favorites that were published thirty years ago. Without a doubt, I think the best way to judge a cookbook is to COOK from it firsthand. This was my philosophy when I was charged with the task of writing a cookbook review for The Wall Street Journal many years ago. When I started the process, it was a no brainer that I would have to get the books and then cook from them in order to judge them. No one told me this, I just knew it intuitively.

This seemingly sensible approach has guided me ever since. Let’s be realistic, here. How can someone judge a cookbook simply by flipping the pages and spouting their opinions? I suppose they can, but does that review provide a real public service to trusting cooks? I don’t think so.

So, like I said, how do you judge a cookbook? By the photos? The writing? The fancy byline? Or by the success of the recipe??

Kitchen Garden Tips: Washing and Spinning Salad Greens

Seattle's mild maritime climate allows me to have a wonderful winter garden each year. This Arctic Butterhead always survives the winter and springs to life in the spring. The slugs love to hide in the crevices so it's important to wash it WELL!

Seattle’s mild maritime climate allows me to have a wonderful winter garden each year. This Arctic Butterhead always survives the winter and springs to life in the spring. The slugs love to hide in the crevices so it’s important to wash it WELL!

Without a doubt, a bountiful garden is indeed an awesome way to control the family food budget. But, I know from my own kitchen garden experience, that a garden glut can easily overwhelm the cook. It’s a pleasure to have lots of fresh homegrown vegetables to work with, but if you don’t know how to prepare them quickly and efficiently, all of your green thumb effort will be pitched right back into the compost heap when the items deteriorate in the fridge.

With that in mind, I am going to discuss how to wash and dry homegrown lettuces, greens, and spinach. Although organic mesclun mixes are widely available in produce departments, lettuces are some of the easiest and more rewarding things to grow. The supermarket lettuce mixes can’t compare to a diverse selection of homegrown greens destined for the salad bowl. And, of course, freshness is unsurpassed.

It’s well known that slugs and grit take refuge in the leaves’ crevices, so the greens need to be washed properly. Cleaning is generally done by plunging the greens into a bowl of cold water, swishing them gently, removing them and pouring off the dirty water. It can take a few rounds to completely remove the grit and slugs, and once the lettuce is clean it needs to be dried properly so you don’t have a soggy salad once dressed.

Kitchen towels can work, but the best tool for the task is a salad spinner. Both the rinsing and drying can be done in the spinner, so the task is simplified. I like the Oxo Good Grips Salad Spinner. The three piece dishwasher safe device has a bowl, a perforated basket, and a lid with a non slip knob. It’s easy create the drying centrifugal force by pumping the large knob on the lid. The patented pump mechanism features a brake button that quickly stops the spinning process.

The large spinner has a bowl capacity of 6.22 quarts. The mini spinner is suitable for small families and for drying fresh herbs.

So, getting to the root of things, it’s obvious that having the right tool can put a whole new spin on dinner!

This blog post originally appeared on Amazon’s Al Dente blog in May 2009.

Slimmer Smoked Salmon Dip

Slimmer Smoked Salmon Dip

Slimmer Smoked Salmon Dip

My husband and sons love to fish in the Puget Sound throughout the summer. As a result, we enjoy locally caught salmon-King, Coho, and Pink-year round.

We freeze lots of it using our Food Saver but we also cart quite a bit of it to Jensen’s Old-Fashioned Smokehouse here in Seattle where it is cold and hot smoked, vacuum packed and flash frozen to our specifications. We have a fair amount of that smoked salmon in the freezer, and I’ve decided it’s time to start cranking through it. Afterall, summer IS just around the corner!

Just before New Year’s Day, I decided to redesign my favorite smoked salmon recipe, one that I clipped from a magazine years ago. Basically, that one is a traditional cream cheese based rendition. Over the years,  I adapted the technique so I could make it in the food processor. I also tweaked the basic ingredients according to whim.

For 2014, I decided to do a complete overhaul by removing the cream cheese and replacing it with Fage Nonfat Greek yogurt. After numerous attempts and adjustments, I’ve finally landed on a slimmer smoked salmon dip that can be made quickly and easily in the food processor and weighs in with a minimum of belly busting fat. For my Slimmer Smoked Salmon Dip, I also added red onion, fresh dill, and capers…most of the basic components found in myBristol Bay Sockeye Platter recipe.

The recipe was “family tested,” which means it was served in the midst of kitchen chaos with spouse and kids at hand. Everyone gave it their seal of approval and said it was better than the original. Reviews included commentary on the freshness, the lightness, the flavor factor and the ease of use. It was served on crackers, dolloped onto sliced fresh tomatoes, and swiped into celery sticks. It could easily just be served with crudité or used with whole grain bread and lettuce to make a quick healthy sandwich rich in Omega Three fatty acids.

It’s worth noting that when I entered my new recipe into the Weight Watchers recipe tracker online, it revealed that a 1/4 cup serving totaled only 1 point in their Points Tracker. So, indeed, it’s a lighter leaner version.

Slimmer Smoked Salmon Dip

  • Servings: 8
  • Time: 5 mins
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Slimmer Smoked Salmon Dip

¼ small red onion, cut into chunks

1 Tablespoon capers, drained

2 Tablespoons fresh dill

8 ounces hot smoked salmon, skin removed

1 cup nonfat Greek yogurt

Juice of one lemon

1 teaspoon prepared horseradish

Put onion, capers, and dill in a food processor fitted with steel blade. Pulse 10 times to chop and combine. Crumble salmon and add to food processor. Add yogurt, lemon juice, and horseradish. Process for 30 seconds, scraping down bowl if necessary to combine.

Yield: About 2 cups or 8 servings.
Source: Melissa A. Trainer http://www.melissatrainer.com

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