January in the Garden: Organize and Order

It’s almost the end of January. Not sure how THAT happened so quickly, but I’ll take it! January can be a rough month out here in Seattle. Cold. Dark. Rainy. Yep, that’s what it’s been aside from the side order of snow we got early on in the month.

That said, this is always the the month when I start dreaming about tomatoes, zinnias, and petunias and ultimately start springing ahead to well….Spring ! My kitchen garden is pretty much dormant but I do have a crop of hardy kale that has been producing nicely so that’s a bonus. But this is the month when I really try to get organized. I take a seed inventory, gather my seed starting supplies, order some seeds, think about what I want to grow, and start planning as such.

So, for green thumbs itching to get started, I’m  sharing a few things to do during this month or in the early days of February. It will get you psyched and ready to launch for the season.

Organize!

Seed Briefcase

Pull out the seed box and ditch any packets that are more than a few years old. Determine what needs to be replenished this year and find a way to organize them so you can quickly and easily pull what you want at seed sowing time! For really nifty results, try a photo storage box like the one shown here and which I purchased at Hobby Lobby last week. It’s incredibly compact and well made and seed packets fit perfectly in each little 4 by 6 inch box. Label each box with the vegetable variety at hand and your seed system is streamlined. Plus, rely on the nifty handle to cart your “seed briefcase” to convenient locations when planting and planning!

Order!

Seeds Catalogs 2020

Once your seeds are organized, grab the seed catalogs and read up. My favorite purveyors are Territorial Seeds, Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Burpee, and Botanical Interests. Over the years, I’ve had the best results from these folks. I find that their selections really help me bring a lot of diversity into my little kitchen garden and ultimately to my dinner table.

Plan Ahead

Ed Hume Almanac 2020

Planning anything can sound ridiculously boring but planning when it comes to gardening can definitely create a make or break situation. One of my favorite tools? The Ed Hume Garden Almanac. In my opinion, this pocket side resource, which sells for $1.79, flies under the radar for sure. Ed Hume Seeds, located in Puyallup WA, has been updating and printing this little gem for over 55 years and it’s a true gold mine. The booklet gives tips and action advice for every day of the year and those tidbits are offered based on the  cycles and phases of the moon. I know it sounds crazy, but I definitely have better results when I plant certain seeds during certain phases of the month. Check it out and keep it handy. I am now keeping mine in my Seed Briefcase!

So, that’s a quick set of tips for now. Enjoy and count the days til Spring!

Build a Bowl: Alaska Cod with Sesame Cauliflower Rice and Kimchee Slaw

Sunday morning inspiration: Build a Bowl!

I had some gorgeous wild Alaska cod on deck and needed to clear out some vegetables in the fridge. Last week I had been developing Quickie Kimchee recipes, so this morning I spontaneously decided to craft a Kimchee Slaw. Why wouldn’t a kimchee slaw work, I thought? I envisioned the telltale tangy spicy flavors wrapped around a fresher crunchier concoction…

Then, the cauliflower rice? Well, THAT was inspired by my preholiday trip to New York when I saw my daughter, bought her a Cuisinart Food Processor at Macy’s in Herald Square, schlepped it home and up the stairs, and then demonstrated how to use the whole thing while we chatted in her wonderful NYC apartment.

First thing on her list? Cauliflower Rice! No problem! The food processor’s metal disk and pulse button did an amazing job transforming that bulging white head into fluffy white nubbins that store great, cook in a flash, and have no carbs!

So, after all that, my convoluted concoction of fresh cod, cauliflower rice and kimchee slaw came together in a flash and was simply perfect served in big cozy bowls!

Alaska Cod with Sesame Cauliflower Rice and Kimchee Slaw
Serves 2 to 3

12 ounces Alaska cod

For the Sesame Cauliflower Rice:
1 small head cauliflower, cut into small florets
1 Tablespoon sesame oil

For the Slaw:
½ small head broccoli, stem discarded, and floret cut into pieces
¼ small head red cabbage (about 1 cup shredded)
¼ small head green cabbage (1 cup finely shredded)
4 medium carrots

For the Kimchee Dressing:
½ teaspoon garlic ginger paste ( I use Shan, it’s convenient)
½ teaspoon sriracha
½ teaspoon brown sugar
1 Tablespoon sweet rice vinegar

For the Garnish:
1 Tablespoon black sesame seeds for garnish
1 to 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh coriander for garnish

Prepare the Cod
Rinse the cod and pat it dry. Cut into two or three pieces, depending on servings desired, season lightly with salt on both sides and set aside.

Prepare the Cauliflower Rice:
In a food processor fitted with the metal disk, put half the cauliflower florets and pulse four or five times to make “rice.” Transfer to a medium bowl and repeat the pulsing process with the other half of the cauliflower.

Prepare the Slaw:
Put the broccoli florets in the work bowl and pulse two or three times to finely chop. Add to a large bowl.

Remove the metal disk from the food processor bowl and insert the thinnest slicing disk. Working through the feed tube, slice the red and white cabbage, cut to fit into the feed tube, using gentle pressure. Transfer shredded cabbage to the bowl with the broccoli.

Remove slicing disk and insert shredding blade, shred carrots through the feed tube, and add to the cabbage and broccoli.

Sprinkle cabbage, carrot and broccoli mixture lightly with sea salt and toss well with tongs. Set aside to wilt slightly.

Make the Kimchee Dressing:
In a small jar combine the Kimchee dressing ingredients: garlic ginger paste, sriracha, brown sugar and sweet rice vinegar. Shake to combine well and dissolve the sugar. Pour over the shredded vegetables, tossing to combine well.

Cook the Cauliflower Rice:
Spray a medium frying pan with oil, add the cauliflower rice and cook over medium heat, stirring, for two to three minutes. Add a few splashes of water, cover and cook for another minute. Stir in the sesame oil, remove from heat and keep warm, covered.

Cook the Cod:
Spray a cast iron ridged grill pan with oil and heat over moderately high heat. Spray cod lightly with oil, and when the grill pan is preheated, place the cod gently on the pan and let cook for about three minutes on both sides, or until just cooked through.

To Serve
Divide the sesame cauliflower rice between two to three bowls, set the kimchee slaw by the rice and top the rice and slaw with a piece of cod. Garnish with black sesame seeds and fresh cilantro. Serves 2 to 3.

Preparation Tips:
Preparing the cauliflower and vegetables might seem laborious but it’s worth noting that shredding and ricing vegetables in the food processor all at once is a great way to meal prep for the week ahead. The processed vegetables are far fresher than any “prepped veg” you will get at the grocery store and once they are prepped and stashed in the fridge for the week they are a cheap, convenient and healthy source of inspiration for work week dinners!!

No Food Processor? No Problem
Buy the cauliflower rice prepared or frozen. It won’t be as fresh, and it will be pricier but that’s okay.

For the Slaw? Get a sharp knife and slice the cabbages as thinly as possible. For the carrots, get a grater and watch your fingers! Or, as a last resort, buy a bag of coleslaw or shredded broccoli and try that.

A Cheesy Taxing Reality

Ouch. My early morning news feed had a nasty eye opener this morning.

It looks like the holiday cheeseboards will get pricier this holiday season if you plan on using imported European cheeses. Seemingly overnight, a 25% tax was slapped on an array of European goods, some of which are French wines, Italian cheeses, and single malt scotch whiskey.

I haven’t gotten my hands on the full list just yet, however, my holiday cheese indulgences  did immediately spring to mind. Will I be paying 25% more for Gruyere, Stilton, Parmesan? Most likely yes. The tariffs are supposed to hit mid October, which means there’s still time to stock up.

Alas, I began to wonder,  if I do stock up, how should I store it? Keeping it in the spare fridge doesn’t always work so well due to the temptation staring back at me every time I run down to grab the spare eggs or milk.

That said, I remembered an old blog post I wrote years ago…it has a handy tip worth sharing:

In general, cheese doesn’t lend itself to being frozen, but take note that Stilton, England’s historic blue, freezes quite well! I gleaned this little tidbit years ago while I was poking around the website for the Stilton Cheese. The cheese can be cut into six ounce portions, wrapped in foil or cling wrap, and then frozen for about three months. To defrost the cheese, simply let it thaw in the fridge or the larder for about 24 hours. The slow defrost method is recommended because it prevents the cheese from becoming too crumbly!

So, let’s put the deep freeze on this cheesy taxing reality, folks!

 

 

Pears-Check the Neck

Move over Pumpkins! It’s Pear Season here in the Pacific Northwest!

Tis the season for pears. Let’s face it. Who needs pumpkins when you have pears?

That said, do you know how to choose a perfect pear? Well, if not, read on!

Because these gorgeous fruits are grown to maturity on the tree and then brought to ripeness at room temperature off the tree, it can be hard to judge whether certain varieties are ready to be eaten or not.

With a Bartlett it’s fairly straightforward, because the skin changes from green to golden, indicating ripeness. However, with others such as Bosc, Comice, and D’Anjou, it is harder to judge because the skin doesn’t change color and the flesh doesn’t soften all that much.

That’s why it’s worth mastering the “Check the Neck” technique. Developed by the USA Pears, this simple method teaches us to apply some pressure to the pear’s neck, which is also the stem end. If the pear yields to the gentle pressure, then it is sweet, ripe, and ready to eat!

It’s so worth learning quirky tips like this one, because they make grocery shopping and cooking for seasonal ingredients so much more enjoyable and successful!

Crafting Content for Main Street

Writing. Editing. Fact checking.

I’ve been at this gig for thirty years now.  Of course, I’ve learned many things over the years but one thing that really strikes me is that as much as things change, they also remain very much the same.

One of those things is without a doubt the power of the written word.

Over the course of my career, I’ve seen the dramatic shifts in publishing, both in platforms and in standards. To adapt to those shifts, I’ve also utilized my training in an infinite number of ways and for a variety of clients and publishers across platforms, developing recipes, writing press releases and newsletters, crafting social media content, writing blog posts for Amazon and most recently acting as a Contract Editor for Amazon here in Seattle.

One of my favorite challenges these days is helping my cadre of small business owners. Small business is a quiet but mighty economic engine here in the United States, but I believe it’s these folks who often get caught between a rock and hard place. They don’t have the resources to tap the expertise of a large media company and many of these business owners are so busy tackling the day to day operations that they simply don’t have the bandwidth or desire at the end of the day to craft content and engaging social media for their customer.

That’s where I come in.

I love working with small businesses. I find that listening to them, hearing their story, brainstorming ideas, and writing about what makes them unique is a cost-effective tool.

Basically, it’s a simple time-tested tool that brings customers OFF the sidewalk and IN the door.

So, if you have a small business, contact me to craft the content you need on Main Street!

A Quick Gingery Salmon Pho

The Emerald City is living up to its reputation this week. Cold. Rainy. Dark. Ugh.

Yesterday, I was craving a light and lean salmon lunch but I couldn’t bear to make a salad so I decided to shift gears and focus on using some king salmon in soup. Chowder was too heavy so I started to explore pho as a reasonable option.

The more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea and began to wonder if I could devise a simple technique that would cook the salmon but simultaneously safeguard the fish’s buttery texture and telltale flavor.

Working quickly, I loaded my InstantPot with some chicken and vegetables, set it to high pressure for 25 minutes and headed to the Asian market in my neighborhood for some cilantro, Thai basil, fresh rice noodles, and Napa cabbage.

At home shortly thereafter, my soup came together in mere minutes. The hot simmering InstantPot broth was a ladled into a Le Creuset saucepan with finely shredded cabbage, a few slices of ginger, and about an ounce of rice noodles. That simmered for about two minutes and was poured into a pho bowl. I then added about two ounces of finely sliced skinless salmon into the steamy broth and let the salmon cook gently in the residual heat of the broth. I then added a final garnish of herbs and sliced jalapenos and my light and lean Gingery Salmon Pho was ready for slurping!

IMG_2763So, here is the basic and easily adaptable method for making a quick pho at home:

Step One:

Put about two cups of chicken broth into a small saucepan. Bring to a rapid simmer over medium-high heat.

Step Two:

Add about a half cup of finely sliced Napa cabbage , a few slices of fresh ginger, and about one ounce of rice noodles. Simmer for about two minutes, stirring once or twice.

Step Three:

Pour the steaming broth carefully into a  deep bowl, top with about two ounces of thinly sliced and skinned fresh salmon. Using chopsticks, gently poke the salmon into the hot broth to submerge it and to help it cook in the hot broth.

Step Four:

Garnish with finely chopped fresh cilantro, Thai basil if available, and thinly sliced jalapenos. Serve!

Butterball or Bust!

Hey, PSA, to all loving caring moms out there!

The next time you get a text from your kids be on high alert and don’t fall for the turkey query at hand.

There’s a cheeky little prank going around amongst our kids who are grown and on their own…they are texting mom and asking how to microwave a 25-pound turkey! I received this text from my dear daughter who now lives in New York. I didn’t fall for it because I had seen it the day before when one of her longtime classmates called her mom, videotaped the call and then posted the hilarious long-distance mother/daughter exchange on Facebook.  When my daughter’s prank hit a dead end with me, she went on to text her dad and brother. They both fell for it and worried phone calls rapidly ensued to set her straight.

Well, my rebuttal to this? Text them the number to the Turkey Talk-Line at Butterball and tell them to call these turkey pros who have been at it for over 30 years.

Why? Because next year you are coming to THEIR place for Thanksgiving and they’d better start practicing now!

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Julefest at Seattle’s New Nordic Museum

Seattle’s Nordic heritage? It runs deep. And, it’s undergoing a renaissance thanks in large part to the new Nordic Museum, located in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood.

Sleek, contemporary, and inspiring, this museum manages to walk the tightrope of time. In one glance, it brings the artists and current trends of the Nordic countries right before the visitor’s eyes and in another moment, it artfully looks back and shows the visitor where today’s trends are rooted and from which they came.

Formerly called the Nordic Heritage Museum and until this year, located in a turn of the century school building, the new 57,000 square foot museum is a giant leap forward and one that required a multimillion-dollar capital campaign in order to bring to fruition.

Photo Nov 17, 10 09 41 AMAlthough it opened last May, I hadn’t had a chance to visit until this morning.  It’s Julefest weekend at the museum and I knew this would be a great chance to celebrate the season and to see the new digs…for an admission fee of only $7. I purchased my tickets online last night and arrived early at the museum only to find that a line had already formed a half an hour before the 10 AM open!

Photo Nov 17, 9 58 04 AMA Nordic Christmas Celebration, Julefest brings together artisans,  purveyors, musicians, and bakers all of whom share a common Nordic legacy in one way or another.  When I attended Julefest at the old school house location last year, the event was lovely but crowded and cramped. This year? It was a complete shift.

Photo Nov 17, 10 00 50 AM (1)With the museum’s spacious interior, massive windows, and abundant light, Julefest was lively, upbeat and impressive. My first stop was to peruse the “Goodies2Go” section, which is basically the Scandinavian bake sale featuring Christmas classics such as spritz cookies, rosettes, and krumkake. I bypassed those for caloric reasons (!) and moved on to the purveyors where I found tables heavily laden with vintage Royal Copenhagen Christmas plates, Norwegian sweaters, long burning locally made beeswax candles, handcrafted wooden tools and more.

Photo Nov 17, 10 05 43 AMNext on my list was to do a quick perusal of the permanent collection, located up a sleek staircase. A sharp contrast to the permanent collection at the old museum, which was educational but dated, these galleries were bright, fresh, educational and informative while at the same time displaying many items that ran the gamut from contemporary to historic.  There were many nods to the community’s fishing legacy here in the Pacific Northwest, and I really enjoyed seeing some of the vintage items, such as old canned salmon labels and tools of the seafood trade.

Photo Nov 17, 10 22 57 AM

Photo Nov 17, 10 08 51 AMNext up? The gift shop which was very sleek and even fashionable might I say. A case of contemporary jewelry and items is right there at the entrance, while books, Norwegian sweaters, and Royal Copenhagen caught my eye.

Photo Nov 17, 10 08 44 AMNearly last on the list? I had to check out the museum cafe, Freya, which has a lovely sleek fireplace at the entrance and features updated Nordic specialties such a smorrebrod, Danish dogs, and even personal smorgasbords!

Before leaving, the last thing on the list was a gift to me. No, it wasn’t Royal Copenhagen or a new sweater. It was a new cookbook and an individual membership to the museum. I intend to visit often.

 

 

 

Grandma Holmquist’s Hazelnut Chocolate Chip Cookies

A good recipe and great ingredients withstand time.

I was reminded of this on  Sunday evening. It was hot and steamy in my little Seattle kitchen, and I was decidedly cranky. I was anticipating a busy Monday ahead and wanted something small, delicious, sweet and easy.

I needed to soothe the transition from Sunday to Monday. Pie? Nah…too time-consuming. Dinner? Well, my husband was in charge of that. So…I mulled my options and within minutes I was digging through my recipe box looking for an oldie but a goodie: Grandma Holmquist’s Hazelnut Chocolate Chip Cookies.

I first discovered these gems when I visited the Holmquist Hazelnut Orchards in 1997, and Grandma Holmquist invited me into her farmhouse kitchen. She had baked a batch of these classics earlier in the day and handed me one straight from the cookie jar. She said she’d been making them for years and told me with a smile that she couldn’t keep the jar full when her farm clan was busy. Indeed. they are simple, easy and superb. And, the flagship ingredient–DuChilly hazelnuts–are the winning ticket.

Unlike other more run of the mill Pacific Northwest hazelnuts which are round and need to be skinned before using in recipes, the Du Chilly is a little-known heirloom variety. Elongated in shape and hard to harvest, they lack the bitterness of other varieties and are unique because they don’t require any tedious rubbing and skinning before using. Simply toast, chop and add.

I eventually wrote about the farm and published the recipe in The Seattle Times Pacific Northwest Magazine that year, but the recipe became one that I made regularly when my kids were little. Aside from the amazing hazelnut flavor thanks to the toasted and chopped hazelnuts, the dough is ridiculously easy to crank out…it is oil based and can be stirred up in one bowl.  Frankly, it was the easiest way for me to crank up a batch of delicious homemade cookies while little kids cruising around at my feet!

So, next time you are craving a little chocolate, a little hazelnut, something yummy, something easy…thank Grandma Holmquist for this one! She was on to a good thing years ago!

Grandma Holmquist’s Hazelnut Chocolate Chip Cookies 

Makes about 48 cookies

2 eggs

1 1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar

1/2 cup white sugar

1 cup  canola or Wesson oil

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 1/2 cups flour

1 cup chopped lightly toasted hazelnuts

1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a large bowl beat eggs well. Add sugars and beat until well blended. Add oil and vanilla. Stir well to combine

Sift in dry ingredients and add hazelnuts and chocolate chips.

Drop by rounded tablespoons onto cookie sheets and bake in batches in the middle of the oven for 8 to 10  minutes or until the cookies are lightly browned.

 

 

The RV Eater: Local in Alaska.

Kelp pickles. Kachemak Bay Sea Salt. Haskap Jam. Halibut. Sliced sourdough.

These are just a few of the local foods I scavenged and savored on a recent RV trip to Alaska. While traveling from Anchorage to Seward and then down to Homer, I poked around shops, farmers markets, bakeries, restaurants and harbors to hunt down these off the grid goodies made by small local and dedicated artisans.

My husband and I have been camping for decades now and one of my side shows while doing so has been to hunt down local specialty items while we are out on the highways and byways. For many years I had a mobile kitchen in our family travel trailer which took our family of five far and wide through the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. This week we had a fully equipped kitchen in a Minnie Winnie which we rented from Great Alaskan Holidays in Anchorage.

While cruising through the Land of the Midnight Sun this week, I stocked my pantry with a spontaneous array of local goods. It was a delightful way to bring the flavors of Alaska to the Dixie plates on the campground dinner table.

The kelp pickles, made in Sitka from local seaweed and seasoned with the iconic bread and butter pickling spices, were ridiculously good. Pickle rings were added to smoked cheese bratwurst carted up from Seattle. They were also tucked on smoked salmon canapés, resulting in a very Scandinavian inspired hors d’oeuvre.

The sliced sourdough was from The Bakery in Girdwood and sadly didn’t last long in my mobile kitchen. Light and flavorful, the bread made great sandwiches and was enhanced even further with sunflower sprouts from the Saturday Homer Farmers Market. It was the bread of choice for breakfast and lunch.

The Alder smoked Kachemak Bay Sea Salt also from the Homer farmers market added a lively touch sprinkled over the evening salad.

Haskap Jam from Alaska Berries was scored at the visitor center in scenic town of Kenai. No one at the center could tell me much about the blue jam but back at the Heritage RV Park it was great on my morning granola with yogurt and berries. Eaten seaside while being warmed by the sun was simplicity at its best.