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Let’s talk dirty….

April 18, 2015

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead

Rich, lovely compost

Rich, lovely compost

I think everyone has a memory of one of their relatives glaring at them and telling them to clean their plate. My grandpa on my mom’s side was the card carrying member of the clean plate society in our family. He would eye your plate with his somewhat milky eyes and look at you in astonishment and declare, “A starving child from (fill in the blank, but it was mostly from a place in Africa) would kill you for that!” I would roll my eyes and oblige him, till he turned his back and then give it to the dog. Mission accomplished, plate cleaned.

Many years later, I finally realize what he was talking about. I’m not talking about the concept of cleaning your plate, that’s not hard to understand. No, I’m talking about the issue of food waste in the world. I know, it’s a dirty subject but the amount of food wasted globally in a year is more than enough to feed 1 billion hungry people. Let me repeat that…..1 billion people. That’s one thousand million hungry people, fed with what we waste a year.

Beautiful squash grown in our compost

Beautiful squash grown in our compost

Cart’m Recycling did a waste audit a few years ago. They bravely sorted through 7,000 pounds of our local garbage to see what everybody throws away in our community. Food was the most abundant “single source of waste” by a landslide, right here in our little community. That is more food in our garbage than anything else, even plastic.

It seems we aren’t alone though as the average food waste for the United States, (the biggest offender in food waste in the world) is 35% to 40% of our food supply. Another astounding number! To break that down, the average American family of four tosses over 1,160 pounds of food a year — from scraps, spills and spoilage. That’s 1.2 million calories—enough to provide a starving child with a lot of food for a long time. Grandpa was right.

One may ask, “How is throwing out food all that bad? I mean doesn’t it decompose at the dump?” It turns out that landfills full of decomposing food release large amounts of methane gas, which is said to be 20 times more lethal of a greenhouse gas that carbon dioxide. And America’s landfills are full of rotting food, and therefore the single largest producer of methane emissions in the U.S. This is a major contributor to global climate change and reduction of our ozone layer.

One of our local farmers produce grown in compost

One of our local farmers produce grown in compost

Now that I’ve given you the bad news, let’s have some good news. We as individuals can implement small changes that make a big difference in the amount of food we throw away each year. Through a little effort and planning you too can make a big difference.

Of course, reducing food waste starts at home. Shop smart and try not to buy impulse buys as those are the most likely to land in the trash. Implement the “P” word, ya know planning, and make lists before you go shopping to get just what you need. For example, the food waste in most of Europe is low in comparison to the U.S. and U.K because they buy only the foods they need for the meal they are cooking that day. Try to buy only what you need, which is a novel idea here in America.

Another way to help reduce your families food waste is to monitor what ends up in the trash for a few weeks and then make a plan to plug that leak. If you find out you consistently let your salad greens go bad before you use them, buy less or get making more salads. It is also a good idea to go through your pantry and figure out what foods are going to expire soon and plan some meals around those. Use the same tool on your fridge and go through it once a week and discover the foods that are lurking in the back and create a meal around using them up. With the internet at our fingers, it’s easy to put in what ingredients you have and voila! A bunch of recipe ideas will turn up to stimulate your creativity.

I have found the very best way to reduce food waste is…. drum roll…. to compost. We have been composting for years and it really doesn’t take that much effort, particularly living here at the coast. We have a 5 gallon bucket, yes we do, in the kitchen and we fill it on a regular basis. Hunky hubby drags it back to our compost pile and dumps it, throws some mulch on it like twigs and grass clippings, then walks away. In time, it all breaks down and we have rich rewarding compost to spread around the place.

If you do not have a lot of space, it is still easy to compost with a little more planning. There are some pretty creative compost bins you can purchase or make that don’t take us that much space. There is lots of great information about composting on line but don’t let it overwhelm you, it isn’t rocket science and it is a great way to turn your waste to wanted rich dirt. (Particularly with our sandy soil!) Pick out a simple solution and go for it. It is so rewarding.

Love your mother by being careful with food waste

Love your mother by being careful with food waste

The important point in all of this is to do something about our food waste. It is a big dirty secret that needs our intentions and attention to change. In our abundant country it is easy to overlook this issue and turn the other way. I know Grandpa and all our ancestors would appreciate our effort now to care for our earth for generations to come by cleaning our food waste up.

A sweet dream comes true, in your cupboard

April 9, 2015
The vanilla orchid

The vanilla orchid

It took a few years and some strategy to get to the first and most successful vanilla farm in the U.S. but I recently made it. Nestled in the verdant jungles of the Hamakua Coast on the Big Island of Hawaii where King Kamehameha once walked, this pioneer farm is an inspirational story of a dream made true. Of course there was lots of hard work and ingenuity to make this dream come true, but that’s what makes it such a groovy story. As we drove up the curvy jungle road to the farm, my tummy growled, I had been looking forward to this for a long time.

Hawaiian Vanilla Company

Hawaiian Vanilla Company

The “Hawaiian Vanilla Company” as it is called, serves a delicious “vanilla” luncheon with vanilla in every dish and drink and then an informational (and very entertaining) tour of the orchid farm itself. Jim Reddekopp, co-owner and “head bean” as he calls himself, seats everyone himself and brings them vanilla lemonade or tea, beaming with pride. His children (called the little beans) weave around the tables, helping out and bringing a homey feel to the function. As we dig into the delicious food, their story begins to unfold.

Jim and his wife Tracy Reddekopp hatched this concept during dinner, one fateful night. They had just purchased 10 acres on the big island to raise their 5 children and something else, but that something else hadn’t been made clear yet. Tracy’s mother, an orchid enthusiast, suggested they start a vanilla farm. After all it is the perfect warm climate for the humid loving vanilla orchid. Jim looked bemused as he shared with us. “Something about that idea just clicked in my brain. Little did I know what I was getting into.”

Jim serving us shrimp fried in vanilla butter

Jim serving us shrimp fried in vanilla butter

How lovely is that, to raise kids and vanilla orchids on the same land? A dreamy idea alright, but the doing part, not so dreamy. Vanilla is a mysterious finicky creature which was born in the jungles of Mexico and is the second most expensive spice (just under saffron) in the world. It is expensive because it is difficult to grow and pollinate. The flowers only open for a few hours and if you do not hand pollinate it in that time, you’re out of luck till it blooms again next year.

“Someday I’m going to write a book about growing vanilla” Jim Reddekopp told me as we toured his vanilla farm with a full vanilla filled tummy, “and it could be called, ‘Vanilla, the book of failures.’ I mean we had to start from scratch. When Tracy and I bought this land back in 1998, you couldn’t just google, ‘how to raise vanilla’ you had to figure it out.”

20150216-IMG_6341“I finally found one old Japanese guy, here on big island that had been researching and growing vanilla beans for over 25 years.” He smiled, amused, as he continued, “Mr Kadooka was my real-life Mr. Miyagi,” (the martial arts mentor in the Karate Kid movies) “He was my like my vanilla sensei and he would make me set there for HOURS until he gave me one nugget on how to grow vanilla.” Jim finished “What he was ultimately teaching me was patience and that is most important in growing vanilla and children.”

Back up at the bright yellow “Vanillary” which was an abandoned slaughter house they transformed into a light filled restaurant and store, Jim explained to us some of the culinary principals of vanilla. “The flavor of vanilla is lost in our mouth unless it is carried by a courier that delivers it to our taste buds. The three couriers are acid, (like citrus) fat (like cream and butter) and alcohol. Alcohol tears down the cell structure of the bean pod and seeds and takes the flavor from it all and makes extract.”

Jim went on, “Now to make your own vanilla extract is very easy, except you need patience. The way to make your own bottle of never ending vanilla extract is to take a 12 oz bottle and split your vanilla beans down the center, put them into the bottle and add your favorite alcohol.” (I use a leftover bottle like a salad dressing bottle)

He continued, “First time in doing it, we recommend you use vodka, as it is truly lets the flavor of the bean shine, but you can use whatever alcohol you like.” (I have used them all and I prefer good ole cheap whiskey. It makes the best vanilla extract hands down! And I don’t even like whiskey, so go figure.) Jim looked at us here and smiled wryly, “Here is where you need your patience, if you add one bean to the bottle it will take you and year and a half to get a good extract, 3 beans takes 6 months and 6 beans take 3 months, wait till you get that nice amber color.”

“Now this is your mother bottle, you never want to use it directly in cooking” he said shaking a bottle of vanilla extract at us, ”You take it out of the cupboard, fill another 3 oz bottle with 1/3 of the extract which you will use, then refill your mother bottle with the same alcohol and put back in the cupboard and put the date of the refill on it. The average baker goes through about 4 oz a year, and at this rate, if you use 3 vanilla beans, your mother bottle could last 12 or more years.”

This is such a better way of having vanilla extract! Not only is it cheaper but the store bought ones can have questionable ingredients, like “vanillin”. Vanillin which is the compound most present in vanilla pods, was created since real vanilla is so expensive. At first it was made innocently enough from wood, then modern science got ahold of it and now it is made from waste produced by the paper making industry. It is toxic and doesn’t contain the 249 other compounds in vanilla that form its complex flavor.

IMG_3706Jim finished up with us by saying, “When you make your vanilla extract, you are choosing to make an ingredient that you and your family will treasure and you are also supporting a small business with a big dream. Remember,” and he pointed to a sign hung in the window, “Dreams come a size too big so we can grow into them.” You can have this dream without all the hard work and patience by just making your own vanilla extract. Vanilla pods and lots of amazing vanilla products can be bought at Hawaiian Vanilla’s website. And hopefully someday you can make the pilgrimage out to visit this amazing place too.

Steelhead trout, our NW winter bounty

March 14, 2015
Fresh grilled steelhead trout

Fresh grilled steelhead trout

We live in such a fertile rich valley here that some of our wonders are easily overlooked, like the fact that we have one of the most abundant winter steelhead runs in the NW. Fisher people all know this fact, as steelhead are one of the most sought after game fish in the nation, but to the folks who don’t fish, they are under the radar.

First let’s define what steelhead are, they are a rainbow trout on steroids. (Or maybe I should say on seafood) They are commonly mistaken for being a salmon but they are a trout that goes to sea for 1-4 years, then comes back to spawn in the rivers that they were born in, just like a salmon. It is easy to see why there is so much confusion between the two.

In fact, until 1988 they were considered a type of salmon, Salmo gairdneri, an altogether a different species from the rainbow trout. Then by genetic research and some (ahem) cross breeding for the hatchery stock, their species was changed to the same as rainbow trout, Oncorhynchus mykiss.

Steelhead also eat a similar diet to salmon while out to sea like juvenile fish, squid and amphipods (aka krill) so therefore their flesh can be the same intense orange color as salmon and taste very similarly. Though some steelhead who eat less krill will have remarkably light colored flesh and taste similar to a trout. So even though steelhead are technically a trout, I treat them much like salmon when cooking them.

Our steelhead run in the Nehalem from around Thanksgiving till April. There are actually two runs, the hatchery run starts around Thanksgiving till about March and then the native steelhead run starts in January and goes till April or so. The natives are protected are a gorgeous large fish that can get up to 50 pounds, but are mostly around 12-15 pounds. The hatchery fish, which we can keep and eat, are smaller, weighing about 6-9 pounds.

If you have never had fresh NW winter run steelhead, and you love salmon, you are in for a delight! My husband is an avid fisherman and so keeps us well supplied in hatchery steelhead for our winter larder. If you do not have a fisher person to keep you in fish, you can buy them commercially.

The American Indians of the NW have fishing rights to sell a certain amount of steelhead so they can be bought at our local stores and fish marts this time of year. If you see some, buy it! Just make sure and buy the steelhead with orange flesh, it has more flavor. (And of course test for freshness, always! I give fish the “sniff” test. If it smells fishy, then it is old. You want it to smell like the ocean, slightly salty and clean)

My husband and I have cooked steelhead in many ways (in fact he has a couple in the smoker right now) but our favorite way is to grill it after marinating it. Even though steel head is remarkably like salmon it does have a bit more delicate of a nature, so be careful not to overcook. This recipe is one of our old standbys. Ii is excellent with any fish, but particularly steelhead and salmon. Enjoy this winter bounty that we are so lucky to have.

Grilled Steelheasd trout for dinner!

Grilled Steelheasd trout for dinner!

Rum glazed steelhead trout
This marinade is excellent for salmon too.
The marinade
3 Tabls of brown sugar or coconut sugar
3 Tabls of dark rum
2 Tbls of organic soy sauce
1 Tbls of grated fresh ginger (peels on)
The zest and juice of one lime
3 cloves of garlic, pressed
Splash of your favorite hot sauce (I used
1/4 tsp of black pepper
The fish
4 (6 oz) steelhead fillets or steaks
Garnish with sesame seeds
(I used Vivi Tallman’s seaweed sprinkles)

Combine the all the ingredients for the marinade in a medium bowl and whisk up till well combined. Nestle the steaks (or fillets) in the marinade and then cover, and tuck in the fridge for a half hour for super fresh fish or up to an hour if the fish is not as fresh. Turn a few times during the marinating.

Ok, now you have two ways to cook this fish, grill it or fry it, depending on the weather. (And I suppose your desire too) We prefer to grill it. Here are instructions for the two ways to do it;
Grilling; Spray your clean grill racks with high heat oil then turn on the grill to high to get things nice and hot. Put the steelhead steak on the grill (discard the marinade) and then turn it down to med-high heat and grill for 6-8 minutes on each side till you cut into one steak and see it still lightly pink in the center. (Don’t be bashful about cutting into one steak to check where your cooking time is) Take it off the grill at this point, it will cook the rest of the way.
Frying; heat a large iron or stainless steel skillet over medium high heat with 1 tabls of high heat cooking oil in it, like coconut or avocado, and add the fish and marinade to the pan. Cook fish 4-5 minutes on each side or until the fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Place one fillet or steak on each plate, drizzle each serving with the pan juices, sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve with salad and rice.

The winter art of slow cooking

February 2, 2015
Moroccan Lamb Stew

Moroccan Lamb Stew

The winter has pulled its misty blanket down over the coast and the time of inward has begun. I used to dislike this season and pine for the long sunny days of summer but now I rather enjoy this quiet time full of long luxurious nights and hearty nurturing food.

My favorite of these hearty foods are the slow cooked ones like stews, soup, and braises. These long cooked foods reflect the season in how everything seems to slow down and take its time with a delicious outcome. They need the same thing as winter; patience and a low slow fire. The process of taking humble ingredients such as tattered veggies, a tough cut of meat, spices, and liquid to make an aromatic flavorful dish is nothing short of magic.

There are a few secrets to making this magic happen in the pot. The first important trick is to brown the meat. This adds an intense rich depth of flavor to the dish that isn’t achieved any other way. The important safety tip to this is to actually brown the meat and not sweat it. If you sweat it, it makes for very tough meat in your pot no matter how long you cook it.

Brown your meat at high heat and in small batches with stew pieces so make sure the pieces have plenty of room in the pot to brown. The easier way to do this is with a whole piece of meat like a lamb shank or a chuck roast. Using a whole piece of meat will technically make it a “braise” opposed to a stew. (I love braises!) If you don’t have the patience to brown the meat right, just don’t do it at all. This way you won’t get tough chewy meat but you won’t have the depth of flavor either.

Next you want to de-glaze the pan with a flavorful liquid, like broth or wine, add your spices and veggies, tuck the meat in and wait. The secret for a flavorful stew or braise is cooking it for a long time at a very low heat with the lid on. This condenses the flavors like no other way of cooking.

I recommend a heavy pot like a cast iron dutch oven. If you don’t have one, invest in one. Seriously, they will change your life. You can spend as much on a dutch oven as you want from the fancy pants “Le Creuset” at $250 to the work horse Kirkland (Costco) at about $80. I have the Kirkland and just love it. (You can use a slow cooker for these meals as well just set on low for 6-8 hours.)

I also recommend using dried herbs and spices. Fresh herbs do not hold up to the long slow cook and virtually disappear. If you want to add fresh herbs, do it at the end to preserve the flavor like I have done in this Moroccan lamb braise. It is such a brilliant dish and even though it has many spices in it, the long slow cook brings them together in perfect balance. (And the aroma while it is cooking will fill your senses!) Settle in and enjoy a lovely slow winter’s meal.

Moroccan Lmb Shanks

Moroccan Lmb Shanks

Moroccan slow cooked lamb shanks
This dish is easily made vegetarian by subbing cauliflower and sweet potatoes for the lamb and cooking it just till the veggies are done. You can sub in almost any meat (no fish) but lamb is best. Lamb is available at Mother Nature’s from a local meat farmer. Serves 4

1 TBS of cumin
2 tsp of coriander
1.5 tsps of salt
2 tsps of fennel seed
1/2 tsp of cayenne pepper
1 tsp of smoked or sweet paprika
1/2 tsp of ground black pepper
4 lamb shanks
OR 2 pounds of lamb stew meat
2-4 TBS of coconut oil or another high heat oil

1 large onion finely chopped
2 TBS of tomato paste
2 cups of broth, chicken or beef
1 15.5 oz can of garbanzo beans
1 cup of dried apricots, cranberries or chopped dates
1 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes
2 cinnamon sticks
1 TBS of finely grated fresh ginger
Zest of one lemon
Juice of one lemon
1TBS of honey
Garnish with chopped fresh cilantro

This is going to be fun and delicious! Mix the first 6 spices together in a shallow dish, such as a pie plate till blended. Rinse your meat and pat it dry then roll it around in the spices till well covered. Heat up the oil over medium high heat in a dutch oven or other heavy stew pot and brown the meat on all sides. (This is a breeze with the shanks but if you are using stew meat, you will need to do it in two batches so that it will have room to brown) Transfer the meat back to the spice plate after browning.

In the same pot, add a bit more oil and sauté the onion, reducing the heat to medium, until the onion becomes fragrant and translucent, about 5 mins. The onions will pick up all the left over spices and simply have you dancing over the pot! Add the broth and deglaze your pot by cooking for a few minutes, then add the beans, dried fruit, tomatoes, cinnamon sticks, ginger, lemon zest, juice and honey and bring to a boil stirring often. Last but not least, add the lamb and all the rest of the spices in the pie plate, then reduce the heat to a low enough setting that the stew just barely simmers. Cover the pot and go read a book. Simmer till the meat is super tender and falling off the bone, about 3-4 hours. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Serve with cooked quinoa or cous cous and sprinkled with fresh cilantro.

Beating the tight pants blues with rosy grapefruit

January 12, 2015
Grapefruit and Avocado salad with grapefruit vinaigrette

Grapefruit and Avocado salad with grapefruit vinaigrette

I have a personal question to ask you, how’s your pants fitting? Mine are tight. Yup, it’s that time of the year when we all get the opportunity to start new and take the tight out of our pants. One of my favorite ways to combat the battle of the bulge is to break out the grapefruit. Their bright color and brilliant flavor seem to cut through the layers of fat and melt them off.

This isn’t just wishful thinking, it is actually true. Grapefruits contain naringenin, a flavonoid that balances out blood sugar levels and helps to prevent metabolic syndrome, a condition associated with weight gain around the waist. Researchers reported naringenin has this effect because it signals the liver to burn excess fat rather than store it in the body. (Super important for the muffin top elimination program!) Eating half of a fresh grapefruit before a meal was found to produce a significant weight loss, according to studies.

There are many other healthy benefits to this fruit as well. It is obvious they are loaded with Vitamin C and antioxidants but what most people don’t know it that grapefruit also are bursting with lycopene, which tomatoes are famous for. Lycopene is a cancer fighter called a carotenoid. Among the common dietary carotenoids, lycopene has the highest capacity to help fight oxygen free radicals, which are compounds that can damage cells and cause cancer. (BTW, lycopene is only found in pink and red grapefruit, not the white)

Grapefruit! The great fat melter

Grapefruit! The great fat melter

Grapefruits are also a champion in reducing the bad cholesterol, LDL. If you eat a grapefruit everyday for 30 days you could possibly lower your LDL by up to 15%. Another magnificent fact about this wonder fruit is that is prevents kidney stones. If you ingest 2 cups daily, it will change your urinary PH level to the point where it will significantly reduce the formation of those little painful buggers. (This is true of orange and apple juice too) The nutritional benefits of these fruit are too numerous to list but just knowing the fat burning fact has me signed up eating one a day.

It is important to note that this powerful fruit has some drugs that it doesn’t play well with. If you are taking immunosuppressants like cyclosporine and calcium channel blocker drugs, such as felodipine, nifedipine and verapamil, or statin drugs, you should avoid grapefruit. The compound we were talking about earlier, naringenin, messes with the way your body absorbs these drugs which can cause big problems so make sure and read about it and stay informed.

On a lighter note, grapefruit are a relatively young fruit in the great spectrum of produce time. They were created in the 1700’s by crossing a Jamaican sweet orange with an Indonesian pomelo (both very ancient fruits) in Barbados. If you have never had a pomelo you aren’t missing much. They are large grapefruit looking thing that is super tart, pulpy and thick skinned. This cross was a great improvement on this old cranky fruit, believe me.

Grapefruits hopped over to Florida in the early 1800’s and became quite a sensation. Soon there were grove upon grove and now the US leads the world in grapefruit production with Texas being at the top of that pack. It’s no wonder, as the grapefruit is as delicious as it is nutritious. Avocados and grapefruit are a refreshing combo that highlights two fruit that are in season. Try this easy and tasty grapefruit salad to beat the tight pants and winter blues.

Grapefruit and Avocado salad with grapefruit vinaigrette

Grapefruit and Avocado salad with grapefruit vinaigrette

Grapefruit and Avocado salad with grapefruit vinaigrette
You can make this meal an entrée with the addition of cooked shrimp. I prefer our local bay shrimp that are sustainable seafood. Serves four.
The salad
2 washed ripe avocados
2 washed pink grapefruit
1 large shallot, minced
A head of butter lettuce
OR enough spinach for 4 servings
1/2 cup of pomegranate seeds (optional)

Grapefruit vinaigrette
1/4 cup of grapefruit juice
1/4 cup of EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
Zest of a grapefruit
1-2 cloves of garlic, pressed
1-2 teaspoons of honey, warmed
Salt and pepper to taste (A pinch is good)

Start this salad by preparing the grapefruit. We want nice fat pith free grapefruit slices, so cut the peels off the grapefruit then cut the segments out of the grapefruit over a bowl so you can catch all the juice. When you are done cutting the segments out of the grapefruit, squeeze the juice from left over grapefruit in the juice bowl.

When you get done with this process you should have enough grapefruit juice for the vinaigrette which you make now. Combine all the ingredients for the dressing in a small canning jar, put the lid in tight and shake-a shake-a till well mixed.

Set out four plates and layer with the washed and separated butter lettuce or spinach. Now cut the avocados in half, remove the seed and cut into slices, lengthways and arrange on the greens alternating with grapefruit segments in a pin wheel design. Drizzle the vinaigrette over the avo slices to prevent them from turning brown and the rest of the salad. Sprinkle with the minced shallot and pomegranate seeds and a pinch of salt and pepper then serve up some health in the new year.

Chocolate crinkles with a NW wrinkle

December 18, 2014
chocolate crinkles with a NW wrinkle

chocolate crinkles with a NW wrinkle

Hazelnuts are one of my favorite flavors of the season. I know they are available all year, particularly in Oregon, but the holiday season is their time to shine. Their distinct nutty flavor just yelps holidays, particularly wrapped in the delicious package of a cookie. Let’s face it, the holiday season is about cookies and hazelnuts are one of my favorite additions to all these for that holiday flavor.

Hazelnuts are an ancient nut that originated from the Mediterranean region, probably the area of modern day Turkey. Hazelnuts are still big in Turkey, where they grow 70% of the world’s hazelnuts. Here in Oregon, we have the perfect climate to grow hazelnuts as well, and grow 99% of these nuts for the US. A little know trivial fact is that the hazelnuts are Oregon’s state nut decreed in 1989. (Now you know)

And for a good reason, supposedly Oregon‘s hazelnuts boast bigger size and richer flavor than the rest of the world. You could say we grow the foodie hazelnut of the world. Because of this, 50% of hazelnuts are exported to places like Europe where the nut is a stable in the baked goods and foods there. (Can you say Nutello?)

In fact, this has been going on a long time over there. In 1995 archeologists found an ancient ginormous pit full of hazelnut shells in Scotland that has been carbon dated to 9000 years ago. This suggests a large scale production of these nuts that sustained not only a large community but it is figured they also exported the nuts to other communities. This mighty nut has been a big hit in Europe and the world ever since.

So the big question is this nut called a hazelnut or a filbert? The answer is both. Filberts were the name originally given to the nut in Europe by the French. They got their name from a French saint, Philbert, who has his special day on August 22th, takes place during the height of the hazelnut harvest. So naturally, it was believed that the filbert was his gift to the people. The name hazelnut came much later by those rebellious Americans that wanted a different name for their special nut, so started promoting it.

Chocolate and hazelnuts are a match made in heaven and therefore should be eaten in large quantities (or at least during the holidays). This chocolate hazelnut crinkle cookie is a perfect combination of all things good and are beautiful to behold. I have given you three different ways to flavor these delectables or you can choose just to let the flavors of chocolate and hazelnut shine and leave out the flavorings. They will be welcome at any function or just eating by the warm cozy fire in your own home. I have a gluten free version on my site Happy holidays and may your’s be warm and filled with laughter and cookies.

chocolate crinkle cookies with hazelnuts

chocolate crinkle cookies with hazelnuts

Chocolate hazelnut crinkles
I’ve given you three ways for these to go, coffee, orange or peppermint. They are amazing either way just up to you.

2/3 cup of toasted hazelnuts
2 tablespoons of sugar
6 oz a good dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces
2 3/4 cup of unbleached organic flour
2 TBLS of unsweetened cocoa powder (I used a dark one)
1 TBLS of espresso powder or fine ground coffee
OR the zest of one organic orange
OR 1/4 tsp of natural peppermint extract
OR leave the flavorings out
2 tsp of baking powder
3/4 tsp of a fine salt
1 stick of unsalted butter, softened
1.5 cups of packed light brown sugar
2 farm fresh eggs
1/4 cup of milk or coconut milk
1 tsp of excellent vanilla
3/4 cup of powdered sugar

Alrighty now, let’s get baking! Put the hazelnuts and sugar in the blender and pulse together until coarsely ground. (If you don’t have a food processor, chop the nuts super fine and mix with sugar)

Now melt your chocolate in the microwave in a microwave proof bowl by zapping for a 30 seconds then take out and stir, then zapping another 20 seconds, then stir some more, then zap another 15-20 seconds stirring till smooth, let it set for now. (If you have an aversion to microwaves, melt chocolate in a metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water or top of a double boiler, stirring until smooth. Remove bowl from heat and set aside.)

Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Set aside while you whip together the butter and brown sugar until mixed well, takes a few minutes. Add the eggs one at a time while continuing to whip the butter mix, then add the melted chocolate, vanilla and milk and beat till smooth and fluffy, a couple more minutes. Now mix the flour mixture into the butter mixture until just combined and add in the nut mixture, till just mixed. Cover the bowl and chill in the fridge till super firm, about 2-3 hours or overnight.

Now comes the fun part! Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and place the racks in the middle of the oven and grease your baking sheets up. Place your powdered sugar in a bowl and fluff it up, and get ready to roll. Take out your chocolaty dough and roll a one inch ball and then roll it into the powdered sugar, and arrange on the baking sheet about 2 inch apart. Bake the cookies till puffy and cracked about 12-15 mins. Let cool a bit before moving to a cooling rack. (If the powdered sugar is melting before the cookie is done, try rolling them in a bit of granulated sugar before the powdered sugar.) Try not to eat them all and share.

Thank you Julie Barker

December 8, 2014
Potted chevre or montrachet
Potted chevre or montrachet

Potted chevre or montrachet

Every once in a while a person comes along that changes your life. Julie Barker, former owner of Bread and Ocean Bakery, is one of those people for me and the community. Julie just sold Bread and Ocean to a local family. This transition has brought lots of memories flooding in about Julie that I am so thankful for.

When I first met Julie in 1995, she was part owner and chef at the Blue Sky Café in Manzanita. I was new to town and still cooking hamburger helper for dinner. For those of you who remember, “The Blue Sky Café” was a luminary dinner restaurant that changed the way people thought about food…forever. I know it changed me; I fell in love with food there. It was open under Julie’s care (and a few partners) from 1987 to 2003. As one of my friends put it, “The Blue Sky became the watermark for all restaurants, everything was compared to it and still is.”

Julie didn’t start out as the chef she has become, she started as a bartender/server. Julie remembered, “When we bought (the Blue Sky) my partners came up with the name the “Blue Sky” which in the finance world means unrealistic and impractical expectations. Which was very true as we bought it for much more than it was worth.” She continued, “But you know, you fall in love with the idea of an amazing glamorous life where you cook and serve beautiful food and people come in and they love it. It is such a simple dream….but it’s actually a lot of hard work.”

Julie Barker with her dear freind Anna

Julie Barker with her dear freind Anna

They also came to realize how difficult it was to have good cooks as Julie said, “When we (Julie, her ex-husband and partners) bought Blue Sky in 1987, our cooks were pretty much run of the mill and we ended up weeding them out. I started messing around in the kitchen out of necessity.” She was completely untrained so she started searching for direction in her cooking and began devouring cookbooks like novels. “I would read hundreds of them and one of the important ones I got was The Café Beaujolais Cookbook” which Julie consumed.

Around this same time, Julie and her ex hubby stopped in Mendocino at the Café Beaujolais and had dinner. This turned out to be a game changing meal. “At this meal we ate things like a goat cheese salad with bacon vinaigrette, you know that was the very beginning of chefs using goat cheese, and it changed my life! From that one meal I woke up,” She paused, “and fell in love with food and cooking.” Manzanita has been ever thankful for this awakening!

Julie left the Blue Sky in 2003 and started Bread and Ocean bakery. This was an upheaval for the devotees of the Blue Sky, but we were able to wet our appetite on her crazy delicious sandwiches, deli salads and stellar baked goods. She continued to shine her great love of food down on us from this delicious place till she became restless once again.

That’s the thing, with a great lust for taste comes restlessness and we will benefit once more. Julie is going to open an ice cream and chowder shop in Nehalem this next spring called “Buttercup”. She shared, “I will be making 5 different rotating seasonal chowders – a traditional, maybe a spicy Thai-style seafood chowder, maybe a non-dairy, coconut milk based sweet potato, black bean and corn or smoked chicken or smoked salmon or shrimp chowder.” Julie continued, “My list of ice creams, sorbets, gelatos is long but plan on rotating 10 seasonal varieties including non-dairy.” I’ve seen her list of ice creams and it is going to be crazy delicious offerings once again. And once again she will be sourcing her produce, milk and even salt locally.

Meanwhile back at Bread and Ocean, things are going to be pretty much the same. All the fabulous foods offered there will stay there along with all the employees that are going to keep things running smoothly during the transition.. The new owners, George and Linda Reddish and their daughter Emily LeCompte will be making every effort to keep Bread and Ocean delicious so make sure and go on down and support this local family.

As a parting gift, Julie has generously shared her most requested recipe, her famous potted Montrachet that was served at the Blue Sky. We are so lucky she has brought her love of food to so many people, it’s contagious. After all, I am no longer serving hamburger helper. Julie, I thank you for this. You have brought such deliciousness to our lives.

Potted chevre or montrachet

Potted chevre or montrachet

Potted chevre or montrachet
This recipe is for a big or a little jar as you want to make it. I like to make it in half pint jars. They will last in the fridge for up to a month so make a bunch of them and have them ready for gifts or pot luck additions for the holiday season.

Layer in crock or mason jar or whatever in this order for EACH layer:
2 T soft goat cheese like chevre or montrachet
1 T. chopped sundried tomatoes
1 T. chopped roasted garlic
2 tsp chopped olives of choice…kalamatas are Julie’s fav
1 T. chopped fresh herbs…she liked to use basil and oregano
2 T. really good extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)

Get out all the ingredients and prep them first. Layer the ingredients in your chosen clean jars and make sure and press down each layer. Pour you EVOO over each layer as you go. You should be able to get 3 layers in a 1/2 pint jar. Finish off with a generous pour of EVOO. Make sure and bring this most requested recipe to room temp before serving. Serve with baguette slices from Bread and Ocean.


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