Birds and Bees…In Motion

This last weekend, my friend Sami and I decided to head to the coast and dedicate ourselves to fall craft. We arrived at the beach house with mountains of supplies.

On Saturday morning I woke up to the insane flapping of hundreds of pelicans out on the river.  The sun was shining and the burlap was calling. After moving the dining room table onto the deck, we sorted a pile of coffee bean bags and went to work. The pelicans continued flapping and the bush next to the table was swarming with honey bees, getting in their last hurrah. It was a perfect day to be outside creating.

lunch break: roasted tomato soup and smoked cheddar and peppercorn grilled cheese sandwiches.

bees!

and more sewing

I think the burlap rugs turned out great! i am hoping to add a few big pillows into the mix.

After a long walk in the sunshine,  we met up with Brian and Stacey for dinner at the Pelican Brewery and headed to bed early. Crafting is exhausting!!

Sunday morning, I woke up to more crazy flapping pelicans but not so much sunshine. Perfect day for canning. While Sami spent more time with the burlap, I started canning my veggies. I made spicy pickled carrots, spiced Indian pickled green beans and cauliflower. They are so beautiful!

Sami canned mountains of apples and pears.

We had another night to relax and another morning to wake up with crazy birds, had the BEST prawn tacos in manzanita and headed home with our goodies.

Perfect weekend!! We decided this must be done every year. We even had time to get a little surfing in! We pretty much rocked the weekend!

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Here Piggy Piggy

Several weeks ago, at a Willie Nelson concert, my friend  Joel proclaimed that he wanted to roast a pig for my Annual Green Bean Birthday BBQ. With the help of a couple glasses of wine, i didnt hesitate before saying SURE! that sounds fantastic!  i even appliqued a pig on my skirt to celebrate!

Move ahead 2 months on a Thursday evening and picture me, invitations sent, RSVP’s returned, large BBQ built in my back yard, another year older and a large, slightly bloody, dead pig in my back seat. Disturbingly it looked like a human being wrapped in plastic. i almost wished i had been pulled over, just to see the expression on the cop’s face.

Sami, bless her heart, let me vent by apprehensions and kept me laughing while we picked up the piggy and made sure she got into her bathtub of briney goodness. Lucky for us, my neighbor Loree also popped over so we had a third person to take pictures! After unwrapping the pig I salted her cavity and gently prodded the kidneys and head. It was all rather fascinating to me.

 

Friday…piggy in her salty ice bath

Saturday morning, Joel arrived the night before and we woke up bright and early to start roasting! Joel started the fire (no matches for this kid) and i made a nice glaze from apple cider, spices and maple syrup.

 

Oh yeah, and Joel butterflied the entire pig! crazy!!!!

We then carried her over to the BBQ and made a cover from foil and an old screen door.

There were a couple hours of mystery temperature fluxuations but we figured it out.

By 2 the piggy was off the grill and covered with foil and burlap.

By 6 we were digging in!

 

By 730 all the plumbing in my house freaked out and we had to bring in the big guns! Nothing like a minor crisis and really fantastic friends to make a party official. Thanks again guys!

 

 

Here is the quick and dirty lowdown

BBQ

1 – bbq made from 3 layers of cinderblock, 4 long and 3 across with 1 grate that is NOT coated in weird chemicals, galvanized or painted.

1 – 50 lb bag of charcoal

1- pile of cured apple wood chunks

PIG

1 – fresh 75lb pig

1 – large tub

15 cups of salt

2 cups of oregano and thyme

2 bags of oranges

several bags of ice and a water

Fill the tub with water, salt, herbs, squeezed oranges and juice. Put in the pig and several bags of ice, depending on how hot it is outside.

cover with a screen door to keep out the raccoons and curious pets

TIME TO ROAST

keep the heat around 225-250 degrees. it is easy to put in too many coals so be gentle with the pile!

75 lbs of pig should take about 60 lbs of charcoal or charcoal/wood combo and take about 5 hours to cook

we let her rest for a good 2 hours before we cut into it but i doubt you have to wait that long.

This is where I found our how-tos! this site is really fantastic!

http://cuban-christmas.com/pigroast.html

The Pig was moist, smokey and perfect! Friends brought over fantastic sides to share and i think that beside the rain, we had a fantastic time!! Joel says that the most important thing he learned from this was that he wants to do it again!! now that i have done it, i would do it too! it was fun!

ENJOY!

Hey Joel! is that a pig tongue in your mouth?

 

 

 

It’s All In the Details

Last weekend I was invited to a Dinner Party in the Garden by my friend Kris. i had been following her garden progress through spring and summer and it was lovely! I was slightly confused because she referred to the garden as the Sister Wives Garden, and not having seen her in a several months, wondered if she had become a polygamist. Of course I accepted the invitation and asked if I could bring my visiting cousins. Kris said Sure!, just bring a couple extra bottles of wine.

It was the hottest day of the year.  As we melted our way through the day, my friend Joel drove down from Olympia to join us, without AC, poor guy. He is planning to create a similar dinner party at home and I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to get some ideas. I know i did!

We arrived in Camas at the Sister Wives Garden. Two young gentlemen greeted us at the top of the road guiding us down a VERY STEEP HILL. As we made our way down the hill the valley opened up before us with a beautiful field, the garden and a table, with seating for 60. I audibly gasped. It looked like something from a magazine.

We parked the car and made our way over to the festivities. The first thing to catch my eye was the John Deere full of ice and wine bottles. I decided at that exact moment that if i own a farm, i will do exactly the same thing, every chance i get.

The appetizer table was piled with fresh fruit, cheeses, puffed pastries, blue cheese crackers with fig tapanade and of course gorgeous crudite from the garden.

Joel and I grabbed a glass of wine and made our way up the adjacent hill to take in the view, and find a patch of shade. The feeling of happiness was palpable. Everyone was enjoying themselves and so pleased to be there. After meeting some fantastic people, dinner was announced and we took our seats. Our meal was served family style and prepared by Kris! I cant imagine how early she had begun cooking!!!

We had a beautiful salad full of garden veggies, a caprese salad, roasted vegetables and chicken mushroom pasta. For dessert we had beautiful fruit tarts and smores around the fire.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I could have stayed all night! the bon fire was keeping the mosquitos at bay and a slight chill in the air. A few hay bails had been arranged around the pit and covered with warm old quilts. Alas the time had come to say good-night as we drove bck up the VERY STEEP HILL.

Thank you Kris, Susie and Steve for inviting us to this really fantastic evening. I feel so lucky to have shared in it. And no, Kris is not a polygamist, she just has really awesome neighbors who love to garden, host beautiful dinner parties and celebrate the magic of a vegetable garden. My kind of people.

For more beautiful photos, you can view Marcie, the professional photographer’s photo album HERE

The Good, The Sad and The Blond

This summer has been really busy and lovely. I find myself in that tailspin, not quite believing it is already August, but getting just a little excited for fall…So to break down the last 2 months, I am on a waiting list for the graduate program I applied for and hoping I make it in by March. To keep myself occupied I have enjoyed  massive quantities of wine, er, i mean,  live music, the garden and long weekends, visiting my friends far and near.

 I am thoroughly enjoying my garden this year. I have a hard time collecting anything to create something else because i love to wander around just eating. My peas this year were prolific, which isnt a huge surprise after the cool spring and early summer.  I planted a cover crop of buckwheat and fava but the chickens took care of the seeds for me so i still have a bare patch of earth. I have HUGE figs ripening up, thousands of raspberries and big bunches of kale. I just replanted my beets and carrots in hopes of a fall crop. I also planted two elderflower trees and am hoping to make some cordials next year! (if i am not living in Italy of course)

I dont even recall if i HAD red tomatoes last year so this first red baby  is a huge treat. i finally found my sweet spot in the yard for these heat lovers. i am hoping for a great August harvest.

I also covered the back 40 with burlap to kill the weeds and prepare for a dump truck of wood chips and fall apple trees. This is also where the chickens will move, if  i ever get the coop rebuilt.

Beside the garden, I am in the process of painting The Green Bean, really really green! i started with the patio area to see what i thought of it. i LOVE the color and am hoping to start on the front of the house this next week. There is nothing shy about this color. I call this color Carl Green because I began painting the day after my friend Carl’s funeral. In tribute to him, I paint in bold color that makes me smile.

And lastly I am in the midst of a chicken crisis. My sweet sweet Penelope is quite ill. Over the past 2 weeks her comb has grown pale and her sparkle has disapeared. She always came to me for a pat and a treat, now she curls up in a corner and sleeps or stays in bed. This morning, i wrangled my friend Molly to help me minister Penny with some buttermilk. We are hoping that the probiotics and slick texture will clean her out and break down any blockage. Her comb went from green to bright cherry red after a good solid dose.  I had to take this shot of as she resigned herself to her milk coma. Fingers and toes are crossed.

I leave you with my new favorite summer love. Out local market, New Seasons, makes a great kale salad but i discovered a very similar recipe after a couple of trial and error batches.

the BEST KALE SALAD

1 bunch of kale
2 carrots
1/2 cup of sunflower seeds
1/4 cup of Annie’s Goddess Dressing

Wash the kale and stack the leaves out flat one on top of the next. Roll the leaves and using a sharp knife, cut the kale roll into thin strips.
Grate the carrots, peel and all and add too the kale
Toss in the sunflower seeds and dressing.

i know it sounds a bit  simplistic but the flavors of the sweet carrots, the toasted nuts and crisp kale are a perfect combination with the dressing.  it is the greatest salad I have had in ages. i eat it almost daily.

Italia and “THE BEST PASTA IN THE WOOOORRRRLD”

About a month ago, while tending to a bruised heart, I grew restless. I wanted to go somewhere to clear my head, when I came across an old bookmarked website for a  graduate program in Italy. My tax returns came in on the same day. These fateful cards could only mean one thing; a ticket to Italy! More fortune rained down as two of my best friends decided to come with me. With less than a month to plan our trip, we laid out the dates, locations, rented a car, contacted some friends i had made in Italy and were off.

Never having been to the NW corner of Italy, we decided there was more than enough to explore in the region. We began our adventures in Torino with the Alpine.

While traveling around Ireland in September, i met a couple traveling from Italy. After a short van ride and a couple pints of Guinness, we became facebook friends and said the usual, “if you are ever in my part of the world, dont hesitate to contact me!” Who knew it would be so soon.

Federico and Alice picked us up at the airport and became our personal guides for a couple of days, introducing us to Grom, which really is the best ice cream in the world. Everyday i had a grapefruit and coconut gelato.

On our last night in Torino, we hopped a bus and met  at Federico’s home for dinner.

they promised us THE BEST PASTA IN THE WOOOORRRRLLLLDDD. They didn’t disappoint.

What always astounds me, is that Italian food is so beautifully simple. Anyone can take tomatoes, olive oil, garlic and onion and make a sauce but what many people miss is the patience to make it well. Federico and Alice gave us the lowdown. Finely mince the onion and garlic  and saute them in a good quality olive oil until they are soft. Add diced cherry tomatoes and slowly cook them down until the liquid is gone. Then add your red pepper flakes and some perfectly sweet fat shrimp. Make sure your pasta isnt overcooked and add it, on high heat, to the sauce with a little more olive oil, fusing the flavors. DELICIOUS!

The second pasta we had was also tomato based but included a white wine reduction and bacon. What could go wrong? Absolutely nothing. Alice ended the meal with home made Cannoli.

The food, the company and sealed friendships will go down as one of my fondest memories.

The next morning, we hopped on the local metro system and located our rental car. With Stacey behind the wheel we quickly fell in love with our little black Fiat and headed north into the Aosta Valley of the Alps.

To be continued…

When Life Gives You…

…a beautiful jar of raw cow milk, the options are limitless!

Last weekend, I drove down to Kookoolan Farms to pick up my pig. While I was waiting at the farm, I noticed a cooler full of fresh milk from that morning, in big mason jars. I couldn’t resist.

I brought a jar home and plowed through my recipes. In the end, I opted for ricotta dumplings. One of my very favorite things for Spring.

To make the gnudis (italian for naked, as in uncased pasta filling) I needed to start with fresh Ricotta, making it with my beautiful cream-topped jar of cow milk.

Start with a good solid pot and add 1/4 cup of Apple Cider Vinegar to each half gallon of milk. Add a thermometer and heat around medium high until the temp reaches 185-190 without boiling.

When the curds separate from the whey, turn off the heat and let sit for 10 minutes undisturbed.

Carefully ladle out the curds and place in a cheesecloth-lined colander. I used a clean white cotton pillowcase. gather up the cheesecloth/pillowcase, tie and hang for a couple of hours to drain additional whey.

You can drink the whey, which is really good for you, or you can feed it to the chickens…they LOVE it.

To your beautiful 1 cup of fresh ricotta,

add 2 eggs and 1 egg yolk

fresh grated nutmeg

1 cup of parmesan

beat fiercely with a whisk until the mixture is smooth and light.

fold in 1/2 cup of flour

cover your hands in flour and roll mixture into 1 inch ricotta dumplings.

bring a pot of water to a boil. drop dumplings into water until dumplings rise, about 2 minutes.

Traditionally these beauties are perfect with a little browned butter and crispy sage. I decided to use the beautiful spring broccoli, brussel-sprouts and asparagus.

I just sautéed everything up with a bit of bacon and thyme, and topped the whole thing with grated parmesan and brown butter.

VOILA!

In Deep

My absolute favorite season of the year is upon us and i am in deep. I started another Advent calendar this year for the Hanson Family. I just love making these and they are all sooooo different and goofy. but i love them all.

Ruby is sure that there is room in each pocket for 2 treats per day. and today is day 1! i guess that doesnt make it an official “advent” calendar but you get the point.

For Thanksgiving, i got to celebrate with the Eussen clan. i have really enjoyed meeting another Eussen uncle and his four beautiful daughters and fantastic wife! they are so much fun. We had a perfect meal and i got to make dessert…it was rich but really fun to make. It also contains 6 sticks of butter…YIKES!

I made the sweet little acorns, leaves and pumpkins out of marzipan and then dusted them with edible glitter. i will be doing that again. they are so pretty. and easy to make.

sigh, so now i am cleaning up the piles of felt bits i have left around the house and getting ready to unpack the christmas boxes. YIPPEEE!!! now all i need is snow please. 

Sam does not agree because his bits and pieces dont like being cold.