Breakfast Musings…..Helping Out

August 9, 2011

This is my favorite breakfast: part of a toasted sourdough baguette, a fresh nectarine or peach, fresh goat cheese and homemade tayberry jam. I do like pancakes with maple syrup, and I do love biscuits and sausage country gravy. Granola with almonds and a full fat organic vanilla yogurt can win me over too. There is pure taste bud joy in the commingling of crusts, creaminess, the slapping together of tart and sweet and sour in the breakfast you see above. I feel a certain success in getting the nectarine to ripen perfectly in it’s brown paper bag. The jam recalls Bruce in the kitchen with his little lacy apron, mashing the berries, stirring the jam, steam wafting throughout our little house, wait, there was no lacy apron? Ok. A different story.

I did a small benefit dinner for some friends last week. One of the qualities about living in a small town is that we know each other. I am not saying I know everyone in LaConner but a lot of us run into each other all the time at our small store, small post office, the bank, walking the dogs, the dock where we dump in our boat, our favorite shops where we know the owners and those who work there. Somehow this makes us all neighbors in the best sense of that word. So when a neighbor becomes ill and has no healthcare plan, and that could be a whole new rant of a post, we rally. There have been benefits and donations, she is getting everything she needs and thankfully  is still with us today.  So I donated a couple of dinners for six, my favorite number to cook for.

How lovely to then be able to cook for other neighbors in the cause! It was a beautiful afternoon on Skagit Bay, up in the trees, looking across to Goat Island and the entrance to the Channel.  We started with goat cheese, pestos, olives, I love those chartreuse ones I can’t spell or pronounce, and some crackers, my favorite opening. Next was a salad of mixed baby greens, gorgonzola, blackberries, toasted pecans and a berry vinaigrette, followed by a filet of fresh halibut, marinated for a few minutes in the vinaigrette, baked for 10 minutes, topped with a skewer of grilled spot prawns, and a nap of reduced and strained raspberries with garlic, red pepper flakes, sea salt and honey, brown rice on the side. The dessert course ran riot! Chocolate genoise with chocolate ganache with raspberry filling and a mound of softly whipped cream! Fresh peach crisp flavored with cinnamon and cardomom resting next to a spoonful of lavender/vanilla ice cream. Enjoy these pictures!

The champagne grapes make a sweet contrast with the cheese.

I will remember how to spell that beautiful olive!


You can use walnuts, almonds, or pine nuts in this salad. I like the milder, sweeter pecans with the super tart blackberries.



White plates would have made the raspberry reduction stand out nicely.




Why so many desserts? We couldn’t decide on one. Small portions saved our day. And there must be left over cake, crisp, and ice cream for a midnight snack.



I am hoping for more photos to come from this afternoon. Everyone had their cameras out for the repast and stunning day.


2011 Canoe Journey Chronicle of Canoes

August 3, 2011

The Swinomish Tribe hosted the 2011 Inter Tribal Canoe Journey this last week. I live on the other side of the channel and so had a wonderful view of the arrival procession of canoes, and then seven days of protocols, singing and drumming took place in the village. You had to be there. Below are some of the canoes that made the journey, some coming from as far away as the north end of Vancouver Island. Click on the photos to enlarge so you can see the details.

Above a waterproof canvas canoe with wood frame.

Some canoes were made of fiberglass, some were carved out of one red cedar tree, taking over two years to finish.

  This is a gorgeous example of traditional painting of the salmon.

On the right you can see the carving, as well as the gear needed for travel.

The Swinomish built three pavilions patterned after their traditional woven cedar hats, that are at home on the new beach and park they created for the Canoe Journey, afterward for all to enjoy. The Canoes are gone now, but we will all remember the beauty of the songs and the generosity of the Swinomish People.

Chasing the Salmon in Rosario Strait

August 3, 2011

We wake up early, for me, at 5am, make coffee, sandwiches, check our gear for licenses, navigation tools, poles, tackle box, cell phones, gloves, the net, you gotta have a good net, a bucket for me to pee in because I am a girl and have not mastered the bend-over-pee backwards over the rail method…yet. Then we drive to the boat launch, put our $5 in the box, make sure the plug is tight, straps are off, motor is tilted up, and slide our 18 ft. white Weldcraft into the channel.

It takes about 30 minutes to hit the strait and after that I can’t tell you where we go, I have been sworn to secrecy…but if you fish I am sure you know where to put it in neutral, drop your lines, and bring the kicker up to 1.6 knots, try to relax and watch the poles for the jigglies. Sometimes we have an extra passenger.

All these activities are subject to the tides we are trying to catch. As water moves through the strait and pushes up against islands, fish move along the inlets and around the points and  there is where we want to be.

There are three types of salmon out there right now: King, Silver, and Humpy. Or as some refer to them: Chinook, Coho, and Pinks. This is a 22lb. King salmon which was fileted and grilled with garlic and butter.

This turned out to be a white king, which we think might be part of the Frasier River Run up in B.C. White King have a delicate flavor, olive oil or a bit of melted butter are a nice addition, I like to add old apple tree prunings to the coals for more flavor. Traditionally, alder wood smoke is used.  Below is a 8lb. Coho, fileted out. Again, this can be grilled, open faced. We use two grills the same size, that fit our little Weber. Lay the fish out flesh side down on one oiled grill and cook for about 5 minutes. Place the other grill on top, grasp both grills with heat proof gloves and turn the grills over. The fish now lays on the new grill, skin side down. Carefully release the top grill from the beautiful marked flesh. Cook for a total of 10 minutes….this all depends on the thickness of the flesh. The rule of thumb is 7 minutes for each inch of flesh.

This last photo is of a 7lb Humpy we caught a few days ago. Bruce cleaned it, left it whole, stuffed it with lemon slices and roasted it for about 20 minutes, 10 per side, with some Hickory chips on the coals as an experiment. The flesh is very tender and after cooking simply open up, remove the lemon, and pull gently at the back bone and all bones come loose in one slow movement. Traditionally, Humpies, or Pinks are smoked. Some folks think Humpies are not worth the trouble…..this fish is delicious.

So, we’ve been having fresh caught fish and beets, salad greens, cucumbers and green beans out of the garden. I am going to get some pistachios, a couple of limes, and make my sisters cold beet and pistachio salad with lime dressing soon.

Clam Chowder Rich, Slightly Briney, with Nappe!

July 26, 2011

We had eaten most of our bowls and I had forgotten to take photos. But you need this recipe now because it is cold and rainy in July and nothing quite takes away the gloom like clam chowder and a nicely toasted grainy bread with butter.

My Clam Chowder


2 cups clams, manila, steamers, butter type, geoduck, washed and chopped small, I don’t like big chunks, this is about 4 lb. of clams in the shell if they are the little steamers…if your steaming water is clean, no grit, then add 1 cup of the steaming water to the onion/celery mix below.

1 ounce, about 1 thick slice, cooked bacon. This is optional, yet that smokey, salty flavor is a perfect partner for almost any critter that comes out of the sea….and we know how it likes to cling to potatoes

1/2 yellow onion, 1/4 inch dice

2 large stalks celery, 1/4 inch dice

2 large russet potatoes, peeled, 1/2 inch dice

1/2 t. white pepper

1/2 t. celery salt

1/2 stick salted butter

1/4 cup flour

3 cups half and half or milk

Bring 4 cups water to boil in a medium sauce pan and when this comes to boil, turn down to low and add your potatoes. Cook for 4-5 minutes, potatoes are just done, still firm in the middle. Take off heat, drain, and set aside.

Melt 1 T. butter in medium sauce pot and add the onions, celery, white pepper and celery salt. Sweat these vegetables until they are translucent and soft, about 10 minutes, on low heat. Add the rest of the butter and melt. Add the flour and cook, stirring around so the flour and butter blend in that heavenly relationship of roux. pas ‘d roux?

Heat 3 cups of half and half or milk to scald. Add this plus any steaming liquid left over, and the bacon to the pot of vegetable and roux. Mix briskly with a wire whip (say that a couple of times!) until it begins to thicken. Add the clams and potatoes, stirring more carefully now so as not to break up the potatoes. Heat is still on low. Allow this to begin to bubble slightly, 5 minutes. The chowder should definitely coat a spoon or have extra nappe as a pastry chef would call it. Taste for seasoning. It should not need anything but if you think it needs salt by all means use your favorite sea salt. If you like it zippy add a few red pepper flakes and wait 10 minutes to serve so the heat sets in.

Some folks like dill in their chowder. It radically changes the flavor so take care.

To mix it up you could make a shrimp chowder, same kind of directions and ingredients and definitely add the dill here….maybe 1/2 t. at the most.  A tiny bit of grated lemon zest is good in this one too.

Serve what ever kind of chowder you make with thick crusty slices of toasted bread with lots of butter… or dunk the toast into the chowder. Some folks break the toast up into bits and add it to the chowder, it gets a bit soggy, a poor girls dumpling of sorts.

Sorry there is not a picture available…..but you can taste it right? The salty, rich, yet creamy texture, the clamminess of the clammies, the stalwart yet tender friendliness of the potatoes, and the stability of base notes celery and onion.

You know, it is wonderful to have those living clams in their little shells in the neighborhood but if you live far from these sweet treats you can always get canned clams in their juices and use that. Just be sure to taste them and adjust the amount of salt you need.

Stay warm out there in…..July!

Two Days of Summer So Far

July 26, 2011

If you live in the Pacific Northwest you know what I am talking about. The rest of the nation is sweltering. We are wet and very green. This was not the year to plant eggplant, peppers, cantaloupe, or tomatoes. If in some wonderful twist of fate the on-shore-flow from the jet stream taking a dip goes away and we get our great northerly winds August and September could still be warm……and we surely would relish a few tomatoes for our toasted bread with goat cheese and basil. The romaine has been fantastic…..delicious Caesar salads, and triple stacked in big sandwiches for a good crunch. Our radishes came and went quickly as they do. we tried those watermelon radishes. Good! As you can see from the pics, this is the third week of July and the garden looks as though it is June…..if I compare it to the spectacular summer of 2009. But I shouldn’t do that. Each summer brings its own offerings. A lesson in being present with what is. A challenge to create new recipes for that great crop of Walla Walla sweet onions…..discovering new twists on applesauce because we will have apples beyond belief. We have a Jonagold semi dwarf tree and a variety of Gravenstein that produces smaller apples. One of my favorites is Caramelized Applesauce. It is great as a dessert, breakfast, and glaze on fowl and pork. I will give the recipe when October comes around!

Culinary Arts Students Working

May 5, 2011

Welcome back to our Culinary Arts room.  I want to tell you about the great students I have this semester. There is a nice mix of young men and women.  I find that each student has a talent for some aspect of cooking/baking. they all are beginning to pay attention to the details. Several of the lesson plans hone in on those important details.I ask the questions – what kind of visual details make a food appear more delectable, seductive (yes), palatable? What is the nature of a proper, stunning garnish?

today we played with cream puffs, opening them up carefully, filling so that the filling showed in an attractive way, and decorating with a variety of sauces and added fillings, even playing with viscosity for a particular effect. I made a standard ganache with part kept warm for drizzling and the other room temp for scooping. We made a caramel sauce and set up the same kind of viscosity for that. My caramel sauce formula is 2 parts sugar to 1 part cream to 1/2 part unsalted butter, with a pinch or two of salt added at the end. After all the stuffing and drizzling we plated our sweet jewels for the camera.

Here is a picture of students working:

Now I know some folks would   be worried about working with bare hands on food that will be served right away with out cooking. My students are going to eat all of these themselves! or perhaps share with friends (: My feeling on the matter of bare hands is that as long as we are keeping a very clean station, our hands are washed often, then it is important to handle foods, make good communication and understanding with and about our foods. Barriers do get in the way of this. There are always special circumstances. We take that into account.

Here are some more photos:

We used a black tablecloth for a back drop and don’t you think a doily always makes food look more refined, special? Mothers Day is this Sunday and I encourage everyone to make whipped cream filled cream puffs for mom or grandma.

This Food Revolution/School Lunches

April 4, 2010

……at last, TV and the masses have moved me to write.

We are hearing about, and seeing on TV, a food revolution suddenly going on in the U.S. This brings a snarky smile to my face. The ubiquitous famous cook of the moment could come to any state in the nation and find school district boards, superintendents, food service nutritionists and managers, cooks and servers committed to providing fresh, local foods to the K-12 population.

One might see completely wiped out salad bars at the end of lunch, buckets moments before filled with organic greens, cucumbers, garbanzo beans, broccoli, artichoke hearts, sunflower seeds, olives both black and kalamata, shredded cheeses, cottage cheese, sliced ham, hard boiled eggs, cooked and chilled beets, with home made dressing choices like honey mustard, balsamic, blue cheese and ranch. Add homemade potato salads, broccoli salads, Chopped Asian salads and more.

One might visit with a food service manager and discover the careful choices made when ordering the commodities products from the state agency providing this service. Many managers avoid or take lightly the canned vegetables, the prefab omelets, the chicken nuggets, the beef “dippers, the American cheese products.

Who do you think has encouraged these agencies to offer whole wheat bread flour and whole grain pastas that have appeared just this year?

In truth, I am completely excited about this new “furor” over the way we eat, this new wave that is catching up with the wave that came along about 10-15 years ago when parents and food service employees came together to make a difference. How many elementary schools now have nutrition curriculum that includes menu making for lunches? Curriculum that includes a school garden? Curriculum that includes trips to the local farm, co-op, farmers market? They are everywhere.

I believe that curriculum in the elementary classroom and enough adults spending time in the cafeteria with k-6 students, helping them pay attention to their food, as well as serving lunch after recess when children are really hungry enough to eat, all these combined will affect how they will make the right choices as they move to middle and high school. We do need parents!

I see a first day of school in the near future when fresh local vegetables are stir fried with some kind of local protein, served with fragrant brown rice to kids who just can’t get enough….and say please and thank you without prompting…..

Another School Lunch Tray #3

January 14, 2010

Lasagna was on the menu today at school. We actually use that old lasagna recipe that is in the old USDA cook book. We just use the best ingredients we can get. We use real ricotta and mozzarella and parmesan cheeses. Ken cooks down the lasagna sauce with tomato paste and lots of herbs, then puts it all together. It is really good. We get frozen haricot verte and flash cook them just before serving so they are bright green tender and flavorful. Our rolls….I used to make them before my hands gave out. These are whole grain light and nutty. Students had a choice of bananas, on the menu, and a bowl of satsumas or apples.

So, does anyone out there have concerns about the big milk producers putting high fructose corn syrup in the chocolate milk these days? I’d rather it had some real fat in it and a little real sugar than HFCS. You can read about this stuff. Look it up.

Here is the salad bar…..after about 150 students plowed through…..lasagna is popular, usually not so much left.

Bringing in the New Year

January 13, 2010

This post is part wrap up of the culinary class at our school brunch just before Christmas, thoughts about the new year and Twelfth Night, and special gifts and great ideas.

the last day of school before the holiday break brings our Christmas Brunch, all students come, the meal and festivities are free. We usually serve ham, cinnamon rolls, a huge array of fresh fruits, hot cocoa, milk, and juices. We usually give out mini candy canes to the elementary, and there is a bunch of card giving from the older grades. Our superintendent usually gives out presents to all staff. In the past we have received fuzzy vests or jackets with the school logo. This year we received stadium blankets for those cold football and soccer games. My students usually spend the morning with the kitchen staff cutting up fruit, icing cinnamon rolls and serving on the line. they seem to really enjoy this kind of holiday “work”. Have you noticed that teenagers tend to not want to be placed in a setting where they have to “serve” their peers? This time of year that changes in a big way for most of my class. but they wouldn’t do this every day.

One of my students in Creative Foods gave me some paperwhite bulbs for Christmas. It is really special to receive gifts from teenagers. That doesn’t happen for me very often. I am too tough! Here are the paperwhites! Thank you so much B.G.

One of our last projects for completing the first semester of Culinary Arts is the demonstration benchmark. Each student picks a recipe, works up a shopping list, and then demonstrates the item in front of peers, talking as they work, giving out the recipe, which the students must write down as though they are going to make the item from what they write down. The students add interesting bits of history or culture or family lore that are pertinent to the recipe. They can make almost anything they want: time and cost are the main factors, and the recipe needs a certain level of complication.

Here is one students yummy ricotta cheese, garlic, parsley and basil dip plus his homemade sweet potato and russet potato chips. He did an excellent job using a mandoline and keeping the oil at the correct temperature.

As Twelfth Night approached I did some writing for friends. I like to think of Twelfth Night, the night the Magi came to find baby Jesus, as a time to reflect on how at any given moment we can decide that the world can change for us, or that the world is changing and that we can be part of a new way of being and living. So I channel these prompts or favors, or fortunes, perhaps they are even instructions……I never know. These are printed on colored paper and wrapped with a bit of ribbon. Each friend can pick one. I believe we pick the right one always. Here are a few of the “instructions”….

Expect clarity 2010

Expect greater understanding of yourself and others this year. Relationships will flourish if you simply spend more time with those you treasure. Your color is sky blue. Hike to a mountain lake and jump in to restore your vision. Take a nap under an azure quilt with faith and make a life long friend. when doubt complains be kind.

If confusion follows you around for long buy a sketchbook and draw your feet every day until they walk off the page.

How to live with faith in 2010

Remember that faith is different than dogma and needs no rules or laws to have effect. Faith is best friends with understanding and vision who are waiting to meet you. Your color is pure silver because silver shimmers in the presence of faith. Wear silver rings. Light candles in silver candlesticks. Take believing in what you see and know to a deeper level. Please do not confuse faith with naivety.

You are The serpent in 2010

You are constantly changing to meet the needs of situations and people. This year your work and play involves constancy with your ideals, love and family. You will find that what please you pleases all. Your color is the deep green of moss. Your sound is the wind rushing through the tall douglas fir. Climb the tree and build your dreaming house there. Wisdom will meet you there.

Oh, lucky one! Courage is coming to meet you in 2010. Perhaps you should take that first aid class. You have already prepared yourself by learning how to pray and committing to staying in one place, growing roots. You will become very comfortable with a certain helpful solitude. Please do not confuse this with loneliness for you are far from that malady. You will be attracted to red spray paint and big felt tip pens. Be sure to wear red socks…….and lipstick!

Ride with joy in 2010

This is the year for you to gather all the gratitude you have been feeling and cash it in for the pay off called joy. Joy shows up when your heart is brimming over. This makes you cousin to songbirds and second graders. This is the year for dancing lessons and yellow pillows, scarves and cars. You are younger than you think. Joy is contagious so share it, especially with those who haven’t caught on about gratitude.

so which one would you pick?

The Christmas Lights

January 4, 2010

Something I have learned about myself over the years is my need to be surrounded by color. Our home is filled with intense colors: A deep natural green in the kitchen to off set our pale beech cabinets, the pumpkin painted hallway where the evening sun splashes through, the deep pinkish blue in the living room with white trim to remind me of the Mediterranean coast, our celery shade of paint in the bedroom that is cool and goes with all the paintings and photos. Our front door is painted Tulsa Twilight, a purple color, with red trim, see below.

Which brings me to the lights on our porch and trailing along the espalier apple trees in front. My crappy photo taking doesn’t do justice to the warm happy feeling I get every time I leave or come home. If I had the time I would probably be one of those folks with the 200,00 lights draped everywhere.

well, obviously I don’t know what I am doing with a camera. Trust me, you’d want to stop by my house too if you saw how cheerful a place it is…..