A Soul and Stomach Pleaser

Are you happy it is Spring?  I am thrilled, ecstatic, joyful!  This was a difficult winter, with the exception of our two week vacation on the Hawaiian Island of Kauai in February, but I will tell you all about that in coming blogs.

You might call it convenient that I love potatoes, knowing that my darling Hubby works with potato farmers, but they have been one of my favorite foods all my life.  Do you also recall that I have a fondness for homemade soup, from the broth on?  Given the slightest provocation I will combine the two for a wonderful, decadent potato soup.

Maybe it was finding our friends’ potatoes in the local grocery store (Basin Gold), maybe it was the bright green of the parsley and chives outside my kitchen window, maybe it was just my desire to make this dairy-free, creamy soup – but I had to make it for a gathering of friends. ( It was a large pot and we had no leftovers.)

As much as I have been a life-long potato consumer, I am a very recent convert to bacon.  I believe I have told you about it in other blogs, but I will tell you again: Hills Bacon is a relatively clean bacon. There is no MSG, which is very important to me.  It smells and tastes better than any other bacon I have been exposed to.

Usually potato soup recipes call for leeks, but the humble yellow onion, or Walla Walla Sweets when they are fresh, are perfectly acceptable here as well.  When the leeks look best, they are my go to, shallots have also gone into the pot.  It is the fresh garlic, that I enjoy with the potatoes and bacon the most though.

Intrigued?  Here is my recipe:

Decadent Potato Soup

  • 20 ounces high quality bacon
  • 2 T. bacon fat
  • 2 T. chopped garlic
  • 2 cups onions, chopped small
  • 2 cups chopped celery stalks and leaves
  • 3 tsp. chopped fresh thyme or 1 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 tsp. celery seed
  • 6 c. broth, homemade if you can
  • 8 medium/large yellow potatoes (I used about ten pounds of potatoes for this pot)
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped chives
  • salt and pepper to taste when serving

Directions:

  • Cook the bacon.  I lay strips on a wire rack in a cookie pan to bake them; put the pan in the oven to preheat to 350*F, cook until as crispy as you like them.  They should be pretty crisp for this soup.
  • Chop onions and celery
  • Mince garlic
  • Remove a couple of tablespoons of bacon fat to a thick bottomed stock pot for the onions, celery and garlic.
  • Once softened, pour the broth into the pot.  Chop the potatoes into 1/2″ cubes leaving the skin on them, boil in the broth with the other vegetables and the bay leaves.
  • When the potatoes are soft add the thyme and celery seed to the pot and remove the bay leaves.
  • Use an immersion blender, or do batches in a regular blender, to puree the chunks of potatoes as much as you would like.  I like to leave some cubes of potato in mine.
  • Chop the bacon into small pieces, chop the fresh parsley fine and add this to the now creamy, hot soup.  Give it a good stir to incorporate the bits.
  • Chop the fresh chives into small pieces, reserve for serving along with salt and fresh ground pepper.
  • If you wish, you can add a dollop of sour cream to the bowl and swirl it for contrast before sprinkling the chives on top.
Potato soup with crispy bacon and fresh chives.
A hot bowl of potato soup with fresh chives on top and crispy bacon in it is a delightful comfort food.

I drank a Merlot with my soup this last time, but have enjoyed smooth whites like a Chardonnay or Semillon and other reds when we have had it other times.  Cheers!

Ordinance Brewing, beer in the desert of Oregon

It was Potato Conference time again and the Ladies Program that brought us to the Stanfield Hutterian Colony last year provided us a catered lunch at Ordnance Brewing, outside of Boardman, Oregon.

Ordnance Brewing, Boardman, OR
Ordnance Brewing was founded in 2014 in the beer dessert of Boardman, Oregon.
Mike and Suzanne poured for us.
Mike and Suzanne (not pictured) poured for us; well done team.

We walked off of the bus, made it the twenty-five feet of ice to the door of the brewery to a warm welcome by the staff, Mike and Suzanne.  They asked what we usually liked, poured what they had comparable to it and then took requests.  It was a friend of the organizer that catered the soup and salad luncheon with homemade cheesecakes for dessert.  The combination of well made food and good beer while visiting was terrific.

Farmers tend to gather and drink beer to discuss the local goings-on, what is happening with the crops, and relax after a long day in the field.  Ordnance Brewing is the product of a few farmers in the desert of Northeastern Oregon pretty far from the craft brewing populated regions.  In 2014 this brewery opened, locally sourcing grains and blueberries to make about 50 barrels of beer a month.  Here we are in the early days of 2017 and there are four tap houses (most in the Boardman area) and one in Wilsonville, south of Portland, 22 ounce bottles are distributed and cans are going to be available in a couple of months.

Original vat system at Ordnance Brewing, 7-15 barrels.
The original vat system at Ordnance Brewing produced 7-15 barrels of beer each month when they began in 2014.
Current vat system at Ordnance Brewing as of 2016.
The current vat system at Ordnance Brewing is at 300 barrels a month with potential for more growth.
Ordnance Brewing bottling line
The 22 ounce bottling line at Ordnance Brewing will be joined by a line for cans in a couple of months.

Craig Coleman, managing partner and the farmer that grows the blueberries for the Bloopers, blueberry wheat beer, gave us the grand tour of the place. Brewmaster, Logan Mayfield, and Assisstant Brewer, Ryan Kreps, were not there that day.

Craig Coleman and his daughter, Kate.
Managing partner Craig Coleman and his go-get-’em daughter, Kate, at Ordnance Brewing.

There was a beer style for everyone; my friend went home with both of the coffee flavored beers while I took home some bottles of Kolsch to share with my Hubby.

We still have snow and super cold temperatures, hope your winter weather is manageable and you are staying warm. Cheers!

A Comfort Food Rethought

Last week I told you Hubby still wasn’t feeling well; he (finally) took himself to the doctor to learn he was suffering from Walking Pneumonia.  This form of the illness is not necessarily life-threatening, but it is a lung infection that drains your energy and prevents sleep at the same time it demands it.  He came home with an antibiotic and proceeded to sleep in his chair for two days.  As he regained his sense of smell and taste this week it made sense to make him one of his favorite dishes: Cabbage Rolls.

The head of cabbage was large enough that I decided to make my family’s traditional recipe and play with the filling with the rest of the leaves.  Since I can’t use the tomato in my mother’s version, I use broth (yup, our home-made) to cook the rolls in.  I believe the tomato comes from a Polish recipe while the broth is more traditionally (southern?) German.  But there are variations of cabbage rolls from much of Europe and Asia.  Hubby warms some of the tomato sauce I made him this summer to put over the rolls as he enjoys the combination.

To mix things up I began thinking of what else I could fill the cabbage with.  The lamb filling from the Dolma would be amazing.  How about lentils with curry, chili or Garam Masala for a vegetarian version?  Traditional fillings are pork, beef, or lamb, but I am sure are just as good.  Fish?  What ethnic seasoning combination wouldn’t be fun to try.  Pork with ginger and soy sauce in Napa Cabbage?  Savoy, red or green head cabbage, pickled or fresh… the possible options are unlimited.

Needing to work the Locati Cellars tasting room at the last-minute, I had less time to play than anticipated.  Hubby, my driver, as I can walk but not yet drive after my surgery, was in charge of choosing what to pick up to fill the remaining cabbage leaves.  Ground turkey that I combined with onion, turmeric and Garam Masala, also cooked in the broth as that is what I had available.  These smelled heavenly as they cooked and they are wonderful!  Traditional Polish Cabbage Rolls can be served with yogurt, I took out a bit of my locally made sheep milk yogurt to have with this and it is fabulous!

Stuffed Cabbage Balls

  • 1 large head cabbage
  • 1-2 lbs lean ground beef
  • ½ lb ground pork (not necessary, but flavors well)
  • ½ cup par boiled white rice
  • 1 finely chopped onion
  • ½-1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 can crushed or diced tomatoes
  • 1 can V-8 style juice
  • 1-2 Bay leaves

Cut the stem from the head of cabbage, steam in two inches of boiling water (stem side down)in a large pot until the leaves are cooked, 5-8 minutes (they should be pliable, but still firm enough to work with). Cool the head of cabbage, maintaining the stem side down as the water drains through the cabbage best that way. When cooled, peel leaves from the head as carefully as possible, set aside to finish cooling.

To par boil the rice put rice and an equal amount of water in a saucepan, bring to a boil, simmer until water is gone. Let cool.

In a large bowl, place all meat, rice, etc. and work until well mixed. Form balls to fit the cabbage leaves, rolling the leaves around the ball of meat. Place each roll, seam side down, in a large pot, layering until they are all in. Place the bay leaves among the rolls; pour tomatoes & juice over the whole pot, just covering the cabbage. Cover and simmer for 1 ½ to 2 hours to cook the meat thoroughly. This can be done in the oven if you are using an oven proof pot (dutch oven style or in a lasagna pan) at 350*F.

Serve hot with liquid from the pan or thicken to a gravy if desired.  A piece of fresh rye bread is my favorite accompaniment to sop up the broth at the end of my meal.  But potatoes would be just as good.

Ok, your turn, does your family have a favorite Cabbage Roll recipe?  How do you serve it?  What else would you like to try wrapping?  Since the rolls freeze well and are easy to heat, they make a quick mid-week evening meal or nutritious lunches for work/school.

Happy New Year to everyone. Cheers!
Happy New Year to everyone. Cheers!

Have a spectacular and safe New Year’s Eve celebration and ring in 2017 with those you love close by.  Cheers!

Kale and white bean soup

Hey, I am on my feet again!  For the last two days I have been able to stand and walk on the foot I had surgery on six weeks ago.  After so much sitting, I am thrilled to be up.  My Hubby has been the best care provider, despite not completely getting over the cold we both had right after my surgery.  He has been shoveling the snow from the walks and driveway in sub-freezing temperatures, traveling and working hard on top of caring for me, it isn’t too surprising he is struggling to shake this cough and cold.  Despite not feeling too great himself, he made us a wonderful and nutritious chicken soup for our Thanksgiving dinner.

On my first full day up and about I decided it was my turn to make a soup for him that would help him recover.  With our homemade soup stock, (‘bone broth’ for those of you in the trendy scene) as a base, I wanted to ensure there were lots of good vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, so dark leafy greens (kale), carrots, onions and garlic, potatoes with their skin, and white beans.  Granted, the garlic is the best for immune support, but the combination is worth the effort for flavor.  The parsley is frozen, so I couldn’t put it in this soup, but fresh parsley would be great at the end.  This made enough soup for two meals for us.  If you make it as part of a larger meal, it will feed more; conversely, if you need to feed more than four people, increase the ingredients as needed.

Kale White Bean Soup

  • 4 cups broth, home-made if you have it
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1 large clove minced garlic
  • 2 medium potatoes with skins on, cubed
  • 2 medium to large carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon crushed dried winter savory or lemon thyme
  • 1 can, well rinsed, reduced sodium white beans
  • 1 bunch of curly leafed kale, prefer organic for us, chopped torn or into small pieces
  • salt and pepper to taste

Bring the broth to a boil and reduce heat.  Saute’ the onions, garlic and carrots in olive oil or butter until just soft, add to the broth.  Add the potato and simmer until the potatoes and carrots are soft enough to stab with a knife.  Add the thyme and winter savory (a lemony flavored herb), and the can of white beans, simmer another five minutes to incorporate the flavors of the herbs and warm the beans.  With the soup removed from the heat, turn the kale pieces into the hot soup.  Cover for a couple of minutes to allow the firm leaves to fully wilt.  Season with salt and pepper to taste, serve immediately.

Following supper the annual Carolers knocked on our door with a lively rendition of Jingle Bells.  We can now look forward to increasingly longer days since Wednesday was the Winter Solstice, I am on my feet just in time for the Christmas weekend.  Wishing you and yours a festive and fun, yet safe, Holiday.  Cheers!

Festive fare you’ll love all year

Are you looking for something a little different to make for holiday guests this year?  You can slice these for small bites or serve as-is for dinner.

When my mother, a heavy influence in my cooking, told me Rouladen was her choice of birthday dinner every year with her parents I wondered why I had never seen her make it or had it myself.  Curiosity led me to look into what went into making them; remarkably straight forward I decided to get to it.  I was certain they were more complicated than they looked as my mother’s reticence to making them had to have a reason.

No such thing, they are simple and easy to make.  I began with the German version from my old German cookbook (yes, I still use paper cookbooks) using raw bacon and raw onions.  The Scandinavian cookbook had a version with cooked bacon and sautéed onions, so I made that next.  To me the German recipe cooks together, melding the flavors better than the Scandinavian recipe.  But my mother was content with the Scandinavian ones I brought to her just before Thanksgiving; that is apparently her preferred style.  My Hubby was thrilled to be a guinea pig for my learning and hopes I will make them again once I am back on both feet.

I did find a version online that was a bit different, it had parmesan cheese in it rather than bacon.  What the heck, we had the cheese, so we tried it; no disappointment here.  I also found an Italian version of rolled steak with tomatoes.  Apparently, as with so many things, there are ethnic recipes that use local ingredients and techniques common to cooking in general.

Rouladen

  • Thin cut beef, veal or pork; pound to thin if necessary
  • Thin sliced onion (saute’ for Scandinavian style)
  • Dill pickles sliced or spears
  • Stone ground mustard
  • Bacon slices (precook for the Scandinavian style)
  • Shredded Parmesan, optional (in place of bacon slices if desired)
  • Soup stock
  • Olive oil to brown
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Cotton string or toothpicks

Layer, roll, tie, brown, simmer and enjoy.  We paired this well with a local Cabernet Sauvignon.

Hope your holiday celebrating is well under way and those you love are close to heart if not to hand.  Cheers!

The most exciting news!

As you may recall, this summer we purchased a Cessna 182A in July.  During the last six months we have been busy structuring a business: Walla Walla Soaring.  This place holder page and our Facebook page will allow us to share with you as we continue to make progress toward offering glider rides this Spring.

Blanik America stock photo of a L-23
From the Blanik America site, this is what the glider we are discussing will look like.

Finding a two place glider, one for the pilot/instructor and one for the visitor/student (yes, instruction will be available in time too) with low time has been a bit of a challenge.  But, with perseverance and the right contacts, we have been in discussions about a ship located in Upstate New York with the group that owns it.  This is a Blanik L-23 or Super Blanik, I have included a stock picture for your reference since we haven’t actually seen it ourselves in person yet.

Walla Walla Soaring business card
Our Walla Walla Soaring business cards are here! Martin Field will be the base of operations.

In the coming months we will share this journey of preparing the 182 to tow and refurbishing the glider with you.  This is such a nerve wracking and exciting experience.  I haven’t flown in a glider, yet.  After getting started learning to fly our plane, I am super stoked to get into the glider too.  How about you, want to soar with us?  I hope so!

As I have been nursing my foot after surgery, I haven’t done much cooking.  When I am granted partial weight-baring I will get back in the kitchen.  Until then, enjoy your festive gatherings and simple meals. Cheers!

Stretching beyond my ‘comfort zone’

Before my son moved out of our home five years ago he kept all of his favorite t-shirts and put them on until he just couldn’t fit them any longer.  My son’s a pack-rat, a horder of epic proportions.  I suggested I use those special t-shirts to make him a small quilt.  With his blessing, I sliced through the t-shirts, keeping the parts he liked best, and laundered them.  Having no real experience making a quilt, I tucked the t-shirts away and tried to ignore them.

We moved, I went to school and began a new career; no pressure.  This year, I realized I had to make good on that promise as my son’s homeless status became more precarious than ever.  Enlisting his sister’s sewing expertise (but no quilting experience) I rewashed the shirts.  Armed with a small amount of gleaned knowledge I went to the local fabric store for interfacing to adhere the t-shirt material to, cotton batting and fabric for the shell of the now to be queen sized quilt.  Adjusting the image in my mind to accommodate what was available vs what was not, I began to wonder about the wisdom of this offer.  Not only was this a larger project than anticipated, my looming surgery meant time was more limited than originally thought.

This quilt, the stretching of our talents and knowledge, needed to be:

  • extra warm – layers of easy care material make this possible
  • large enough to cover my 6’4″ son – used a queen size flat sheet as a guide
  • water proof if possible – best I could come up with was to Scotchguard both sides

I did another load of laundry composed of all of the new fabric.  Then I began ironing: the fabric, the interfacing required some patience to adhere to the t-shirt material and then all of the seams as we went along.  Working afternoons and evenings as time allowed my daughter and I worked diligently to get the quilt pieced together so I could do the finish work of tying small knots throughout it, sealing it with fray check and Scotchguard to help protect it for a while.  Imperfect as it is with our inexperience, it is done.

We do our best to short up his needs as we can.  Calling a tent in Seattle home isn’t what he wants, not how he was raised, but it is presently the only place he has. (I have shared some of his story before: earliest, another, again, latest.)  As the weather gets colder we hope this blanket provides both physical warmth for his body and a link to us, his childhood and some of the good memories that can warm his spirit.  Thankfully, there is an address that I can ship it to so he will receive it.

When I look at our local homeless I see my son’s face.  Any help we offer here is an offering made with the prayer that someone in Seattle is reaching out to help those in Seattle in a similar way.  Stretch if you can, take on a giving tree gift, drop requested items off at a drop point in your community, and know that someone somewhere will be better off because of it.

So Lame

Did you have a wonderful dinner with friends and family yesterday? Will you be continuing your celebrating with everyone and everything you have to be Thankful for or shopping on Black Friday?  I hope you have been enjoying your extended weekend with family and friends.

When Harvest ended I made a concerted effort to see a doctor to set in motion the process of correcting a painful bunion and hammer toe on my right foot; last Friday, I had my surgery.  Has anyone else experienced this?  After being foggy brained for a few days, Hubby and I came down with colds and we knew we were having chicken soup for supper on Thanksgiving.  He makes the most amazing chicken soup, all from scratch.  Despite his cold he has taken such good care of me!

Foot surgery convalescence.
Keeping my foot elevated with ice most of this week with my most excellent Hubby taking care of me.

My independence and activity level have been curtailed drastically and I have at least another week of no weight baring to get through.  (It actually helps to not feel good, I am less antsy.)  The prescription medicine makes me so dizzy I can’t function, so lots of keeping my foot raised and ice (primarily behind my knee) with an over the counter anti-inflammatory when needed.  Our new floors are perfect for a few minutes of zipping around on my rented scooter when I do get up.  I am sleeping on the sofa so I can keep the foot raised without keeping Hubby awake all night fidgeting.

Chicken Soup

  • 1 whole chicken or 2 game hens (turkey breast works well here too)
  • Water to cover the bird(s)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups chopped carrots
  • 4 cups frozen peas
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped parsley
  • 1 package of your favorite egg noodles or 2 cups cooked grain of your choice

Boil the bird in water until cooked, approximately 45 minutes. Remove from the water to cool.  If your broth isn’t strong enough for your liking use a high quality bullion replacement (low sodium is best) to amp it us a bit.  Cool the broth enough to skim the fat from the top and dispose of it.

When the meat is cool enough, remove it from the bones and skin, pulling into bite sized pieces.  (I keep the bones and skins to continue to boil in my soup stocks as there is still a lot of nutrition left in them.)  Turn the broth on and put the chopped carrots in to cook.  Saute the onions and garlic in a small amount of butter or olive oil until they are soft, put it into the simmering soup pot with the egg noodles.  Cook as long as the noodles need.  Add the chicken, peas and parsley right before the end of the required cooking time. Serve immediately.  This is a family favorite and comfort food extraordinaire.  Cheers!

Thankful, just thankful

This week, with only a few days notice,  a group of friends gathered at our house for a ‘Feast of Friendsgiving’; a Harvest meal to celebrate our successful Crush experiences and catch up.  We hadn’t seen each other since August, as the first grapes were coming in.

Monday afternoon we decided Thursday evening we would have ourselves an ‘alternative’ Thanksgiving meal together.  Traditions are all well and good, but you can change it up once in a while, or think outside the box, if you will.  Utilizing the traditional foods of Thanksgiving we were to each prepare a dish to contributed to the whole.  Our contribution was a pot pie of turkey and garlic mashed potatoes, the recipe is below.

I grabbed a few sprigs of berries, red leaves and greenery from the yard, put out the hand thrown pumpkins my son made many years ago, and lit candles (I love candles) and some appropriate napkins and the tables were set.

As everyone arrived the meal came together: glazed carrots, corn bread, spring rolls, pasta with Brussel sprouts and prosciutto, the turkey pot pie, cranberry walnut tarts, cranberry Sangria, and a deconstructed pumpkin pie.  Great food, excellent wine and the best of company…

Turkey Pot Pie with Garlic Mashed Potato topping

  • 1 or 1.5 lb precooked turkey chopped or ground turkey browned
  • 1 minced onion
  • 1 large clove of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery hearts
  • 1/2 lb quartered fresh crimini mushrooms
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 cup high quality chicken broth with 1/4 cup reserved
  • 2 table spoons cornstarch to thicken the 1/4 cup reserved broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried ground sage
  • 6 cups peeled, cubed potatoes
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 3 large cloves of garlic minced fine
  • 3 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley

Your pan should accommodate your meal, shallow is better.  I used a 14″ cast iron frying pan for a group of ten.

Boil the potatoes to just soft, drain the water and return to the pot.  Add the sour cream, butter and minced garlic and mash to a creamy consistency.  Keep warm.

Brown the meat, if it is uncooked, add the carrots, then mushrooms, adding the onion, garlic and celery hearts (the leaves at the middle of the celery bunch) pouring the white wine over everything and lowering the heat.  Add the peas to the pan, spreading them out over everything.

Have the 3/4 cup of broth simmering, whisk the cornstarch into the cold, reserved broth to thicken it.  Pour this over the turkey and vegetables.  Either dived into ramekins or leave it in the large pan.  Cover with the mashed potatoes, sealing them to the sides of the pan as best as you can.  Place under a broiler (or in a hot oven if it is on for another dish) for a moment to brown the potatoes.  Sprinkle the parsley over the top and serve.  The wine you cooked with is likely a terrific wine to pair with.

As you travel or make room for family and friends in your own home, we wish you the most wonderful and safe Thanksgiving.  Cheers!

The Roots of Thanksgiving

Next to turkey’s starring roll (for many people) in Thanksgiving, root vegetables are likely the next most common food on the table.  And why not, they are spectacular in their own right!  My family does both creamy mashed potatoes and cavity-inducing candied sweet potatoes (same root we call yams) in a big way.  Naturally, onions and garlic are present as seasoning in many dishes and carrots are sometimes cooked with peas.  But with so many delicious roots, why limit ourselves?

Root vegetables
So many delicious roots! Do you know them all?

I asked you how you cook your turkey last week, have you ever cooked some root vegetables with or right after it?  There is a fried turkey every year for our family festivities.  (During the first few years of this we brought some Russet potatoes sliced in wedges to fry too.  Wow, did they disappear!  But the mashed potatoes  were still more popular, so we ended that.)  Grilled or roasted?  Sautéed?  Oh, the yummy possibilities!  Can you imagine the beautiful look, as well as flavor, of a bowl full of cooked red beets, yellow sweet potatoes,  orange carrots and white potato or parsnip tossed with thyme and olive oil?  I would then sprinkle a bit of chopped fresh parsley on it.

By the way, if you grow your own or find them attached, most of the tops (examples) are not just edible, they are delicious!

Suggestions for healthy and possibly more decadent root vegetable recipes from the internet.  Enjoy:

If you aren’t quite sure what all of the roots in the above picture are here is a quick reference:

  1. ShallotsID of root vegetables
  2. Red Onion
  3. Parsnip
  4. Celery Root (Celeriac)
  5. Rutabega
  6. Turnips
  7. Russet potato (baking potato)
  8. Yukon Gold potato (thin-skinned as are other specialty potatoes in various colors)
  9. Beet, red
  10. Carrots, they come in various colors too
  11. Radishes and their tops
  12. Garlic bulb
  13. Yellow Onion
  14. and 15. Both are sweet potatoes, sometimes they are labeled as yams but that is a very different root (see).

How did you do?  Hope you find something fun for your holiday gathering here.  Cheers!