Snow pansies, in the snow

I blogged awhile ago about planting snow (or icicle) pansies this fall.  The guy selling them at the Yakima Farmer’s Market said they’d bloom in the snow.  I wasn’t sure about that, but they were pretty so I bought some to try.  I planted them in a half barrel, and now that we’ve had our first snowfall, which set a record for the amount of snow this early, I can tell you that my snow pansies really are OK in the snow.

Here’s what they looked like last night, after a day of snow:

Oh, you can’t see my pansies?  Neither can I.

The day warmed and the sun kind of came out.  As did the pansies.

So far, so good.  We’ll see how they continue to fare as winter sets in.


Squirrel work

Along with a bucket of carrots, I also brought home a pail of hazelnuts from work.    Hazelnut trees grow well in Oregon and Washington, and I am always happy to bring home any that are surplus.  So along with hitting the carrot jackpot, I also hit the hazelnut jackpot.  And the shallot jackpot, but that can be another post.

Enjoying the autumn sun, I sat out on the back deck and gently used a hammer to open the shells to remove the hazelnuts.  Lots of mess.  Good thing it was outside and I could just sweep all the pieces away.

All that work.  Here’s the reward:

Time to get baking some hazelnut biscotti.  Here’s a good recipe from a fellow blogger.

Hitting the carrot jackpot

I love carrots!  You knew that, didn’t you?  If you didn’t, you do know.  Love them so much that years ago, while in high school, I ate so many that I think my skin turned kind of orange.  I’ve tamed my appetite since then, but still think carrots are wonderful.  Not all carrots, mind you.  Some are too old or large to still be sweet.  But when you find good ones, I think they’re like gold.  Only orange colored.

My boss likes to garden,  He has a large garden at his country home, and this year had a bumper crop of carrots.    However, none of his household members are all that crazy about carrots.  So he brought some into work to share.

I brought home a large bucket of very tasty carrots.  They were just begging to be part of dinner.  So tonight I prepared them for dinner using a recipe from Tyler Florence.

Roasted Carrots with Orange Brown Butter

Scrub and peel a bunch of carrots.   The recipe said to leave the top on, but since the carrots came to me already shorn, that’s the way I fixed them.

Place in large, shallow baking pan and drizzle with olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Bake in 400 degree oven for half an hour or so (until tender when pierced with a fork).

On top of stove, in saucepan, melt a few tablespoons butter.  Keep heating until it starts turning brown, then add a few tablespoons of orange juice and a half tablespoon of brown sugar.  Heat a few more minutes to thicken.

Take roasted carrots out of oven and drizzle with orange browned butter.

Last step – pile on your plate and enjoy!

Putting the yard to bed for winter

The weather is getting cooler.  No killing frosts yet but mornings are chilly and the air has that nice clean feel about it that means it really is fall.

Which also means leaves to rake and garden beds to clean up.  The sprinkler system is blown out, the yard mowed for hopefully the last time before winter.

And newly planted pansies fill the planter on the back patio.  Wait.  Newly planted pansies in October?   Isn’t that a spring activity?

I noticed a nursery vendor at the Sunday Yakima Farmer’s Market had, along with the expected ornamental winter cabbage, “snow pansies”.  They looked so pretty I bought a few pots, planted them, and headed back a week later to buy some more.  They are supposed to be hardy enough to keep blooming until it gets quite cold, then be the first flowers blooming in the spring.  I read up about them and found that they aren’t recommended for containers, due to more less soil insulating the plants.  I’ll follow the advice to add some mulching to help.

We’ll see if they actually fill out a little before winter sets in.

As American as ….

…..Pear Pie.

Not what you expected from me, is it?  I work for an apple processor.  So this should be about apples. But, we also process a lot of pears.

Last week, I was working on a project with Bartlett pears that I collected from our bin yard.  I’d dragged in two 5 gallon buckets full, and peeled and cored them both by hand and using a mechanical peeler.  But the weird part is that my project needed the peels and cores, not the peeled pears.  So I dunked the peeled pears in a bucket of water with ascorbic acid to keep them from browning and asked around to see if anyone wanted any peeled and cored pears.  I found a few takers, including myself.

So last night I decided to bake a pear pie.  The first time I’d ever had a pear pie was some years ago when my friend Grace treated my family to dinner, and wowed us with this as a dessert.  Since then I’ve enjoyed things like spiced poached pears, served with oatmeal at of all places a Best Western along the Columbia River.  But I’d never made a pear pie until last night.

The pie was easy to put together.  Make a crust, slice up the already peeled and cored pears, then add some sugar, flour and cinnamon. I did get a little fancy and used a Nordic ware pie topper I bought last year for the top crust.

Here’s the kind of design it makes.  This isn’t my pie, as I forget to get out my camera.  Instead of taking a photo, Dave and I just helped ourselves to a piece of warm pear pie, and the another. But mine looked pretty similar, except for the color of the fruit.   By afternoon today the pie was history.

The Fruits of the Yakima Valley. Once again, always a delight.

Stay hungry. Stay foolish.

My reading on the internet last night brought news of the death of Steve Jobs, founder of Apple computers.  I am writing this on my old workhorse eMac computer.  My Macbook is nearby, also used daily.  Our original iMac “died” some years ago, but was in some ways my favorite due to it’s bright orange color and bubble shape.  Apple  brought to me an ease of using computers.  And fun!  Always “oh so wonderful”. Never a drudge.

Thanks, Steve.  You graduated from high school the same year I did, even though you were born a year later than I was.  So I  consider you a class mate of sorts, in our journey through life.

I liked the line from the Whole Earth Catalog that Steve Jobs quoted in a commencement speech a few years ago.   It was on the last page of the last issue.   “Stay hungry.  Stay foolish”.

“Stay hungry.”  That’s what keeps me thinking and sometimes writing  about food and nutrition and cooking and gardening and on and on.  And about life.

“Stay foolish”.  That’s what keeps giving me joy as I hike in the mountains and giggle with friends and family.

Peace to all of you.

What more is there to say?  (except maybe try to get back to blogging and being foolish a little more often???)

Soy Vay!

We headed out for a night of camping this weekend, to be followed by a hike into the alpine country the next day.  Of course, this was Labor Day weekend, and most every one else in the Pacific Northwest had a similar idea.  Good thing we have lots of acres of national forests and parks and plenty of campsites.  We found an OK campsite near the trailhead we wanted to use the following morning.   When you head out on Saturday afternoon of a holiday weekend, you adjust somewhat your expectation of finding the “perfect” site.  I was pleased to find an open spot that had a nice picnic table and plenty of space for a tent.   While not creekside, you could hear the water rushing by.  And the other campers were polite and quiet.

We hadn’t planned very well in advance, but kind of threw together food to get us through a dinner, breakfast and lunch on the trail.  I had a piece of sockeye salmon that I decided to put in a ziplock bag and drench with a marinade before leaving.

I used a teriyaki sauce that I really like.  Erin pointed me in it’s direction a while ago, and I’ve been using it ever since.

It’s a funny brand.  Jewish boy meets Chinese girl and they start cooking.   I like all the little sesame seeds and the flavor.

So, come dinner time we got out the Coleman stove, put on the griddle and tossed on the salmon that had been marinating all day.

Along with some homegrown tomatoes and corn and potato salad (slightly pink from roasting alongside some beets), it was a delicious meal.  And not just because everything tastes better when you’re camping.

Oh, the hike the next day was gorgeous.  You really couldn’t ask for a better hiking weather, even though we shared the trail with a lot of other hikers.

Sue and the beanstalk?

The Yakima Valley is paradise when it comes to summer produce.   The rural farm stands and city farmer’s markets are filled with a huge variety of fresh fruits and vegetables.  Dave and I went down this morning to check out the Yakima Farmer’s market, and left when we could not easily carry anything more.  Since we’d been gone for two weeks, the refrigerator was pretty empty.

We brought home  sweet peppers (green and purple), several pounds of nectarines, an eggplant, cucumbers, beets, leeks, and sweet cornWe didn’t buy tomatoes since our tomato plants in back of the house are starting to bear lots of both cherry and large tomatoes.  The surprise in the backyard is that the pole beans I planted last spring are still alive and thriving.  We don’t have much garden space so I decided to try container gardening for beans.  We filled up two barrels with soil, and added a tepee of bamboo poles for the beans to climb on.

First the birds ate the sprouting seeds until I covered the entire area with netting. Then the insects came in and munched away.  I seriously considered ripping out the plants and giving up.  But I didn’t.  At some point the vines started to thrive, and when we returned from vacation I was pleased to find that the two containers are now forming a trellis.

Yes, here I am, barefoot as usual.  And drawfed by the bean stalks.   I picked off the “too large” beans yesterday when we got home and was surprised that they weren’t tough like I expected after cooking.  Today I picked a bunch of “just right” sized  beans, and will make a Chinese inspired dish of sizzling green beans (like we enjoy in Seattle when out for dim sum).

Chinese style Green Beans

1 lb fresh green beans
vegetable oil cooking spray or 2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 teaspoon gingerroot, peeled, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes


Wash beans, trim ends and remove strings.

Arrange beans in a vegetable steamer (or a colander that will sit nicely in saucepan), and place over boiling water.

Cover and steam 5 minutes.

Drain and plunge into cold water, drain again.

Coat a large nonstick skillet (or wok) with cooking spray or peanut oil and heat until hot.

Add gingerroot and garlic and saute 30 seconds.

Add beans, saute 5 minutes.

Combine 2 tablespoons water and remaining 5 ingredients.

Stir well.

Add to beans, cook 30 seconds or until thoroughly heated, stirring constantly.

The mountains are calling

“The mountains are calling and I must go”. John Muir

It’s been a cool summer so far. A pocket of unseasonably cold weather got stuck in the Pacific Northwest while the rest of the country has been sweltering. And that’s just fine with me, as I don’t like baking heat. But I do love hiking in the mountains. And you can’t really get out hiking at higher elevations (where the mountains are….) until most of the snow melts. Normally by mid July we’re able to get to most of our favorite trails. Not this year. I’ve been impatiently waiting, and when an outdoors writer for the Seattle Times published an article this week titled “Too much snow on your favorite flower trail? Here are 5 hikes you can do now, with blooms aplenty”
it seemed like she was speaking to me saying “time to go”. She mentioned a trail at the east entrance to Mount Rainier National Park where we hike most every year. As the weather predictions called for Yakima to hit 90 degrees today, we thought it was a good day to head for the hills. I watched the temperature monitor on the car drop as we drove higher. By the time we reached the parking lot for the Sheep Lake trailhead, it read 54 degrees. Hey, that sounds familiar. Kind of like the temperature for most of our visit last week to the ocean. Not only was it cool, but the parking lot indicated lots of reasons to be concerned about this “snow free” hike.

We put on our fleece jackets and packs, grabbed out hiking poles and left the car. A forest service employee was greeting people at the trailhead, making sure they knew there were many sections with lots of deep snow and obscured trail. We felt pretty well prepared so we headed off into snow. Early on the trail changed to snow free for awhile and we were delighted with gorgeous wild flower displays. Notice how the flowers are blooming as soon as the snow melts.

In snow free areas, flower displays were colorful and thick.

Also, lots of majestic vistas.

And many sections where we were left wondering just where the trail was.

While the pace was slower than normal due to all the snow, we did reach the lake. And warmed up considerably while getting there. However, we decided not to continue onto Sourdough Gap as we usually do. Just too much snow.

So, what does this have to do with being a food scientist and food? Lots, I think. No recipes today, nor photos of food being prepared. Instead another quote from John Muir to end this post.

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to the body and soul.”

birch bark madness

We just passed the date for the annual wine bottling party with my wine making group. Unfortunately, Dave and I had another “engagement”, raising funds for a conservancy group’s land along the Yakima River Canyon. But I “paid my bucks” and got my wine. It came to $50 for 41 bottles of home made wine this year. Now, is that extravagant or what? We have Trader Joe’s “Two Buck Chuck” beat by a long shot.

Here’s the best part of all. The wine is fine (and I’m a poet, if you didn’t notice). But some of the labels this year were beyond fine. Last year we peeled off some birch bark at the vineyard, and thought it might lend itself to some very nice home made labels. And this year we made it happen. The first attempt was a failure. The iron on transfers did NOT work. But with a lot of messing around, we ran pre-cut pieces of birch bark through a printer and ….. Success!!!

Look closely. Admire deeply. Handcrafted. These really are birch bark, not paper. Unique? Yes, I think so. Don’t you wish you were part of my wine group?