Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Onion jam update!

A couple of people have asked how the onion jam turned out, and how the swap was.

The jam was SO SO GOOD. I highly recommend making a batch. Make sure you really cook the onions for a long time - you want them soft and brown and sweet. There's no need to process the jam - I'd say after adding all of the post-caramelizing ingredients, stir a lot for maybe 20 minutes, fish out the rosemary if it's still intact, and put the jam in a container in the fridge. It will probably keep fine for about three weeks and would be amazing on turkey sandwiches, or dolloped on pork chops.

The swap was a fun success! There were 10 people there, and I brought 7 jars to swap. Everyone had an open container of their goodies so people could sample, and then the selection process began. We were each assigned a number from one to ten and took turns choosing what we wanted to take home; the selection process went from 1-10 and then backwards from 10-1, and was repeated until we were all done. The first two choosers chose my jam!

There's an honor system in place - since I brought 7 items, I got to choose a total of 7 things, but no one was tracking me. I took home a great haul: beer, limoncello, that quince paste called membrillo that you get on cheese plates sometimes, German mustard pickles, tomato jam, and TWO jars of a BBQ sauce I really really liked.

I liked that some people thought outside the box in terms of offering size - the beer was actually 3 bottles of a homemade IPA; one couple brought small containers of three different things and if a person chose their items, they could have two items count as one selection

All in all it was really fun and well-organized. It was over in an hour, and I'm looking forward to the next one in about six months... and I'm already pondering what I might make!

Crafty goodness

I know, I've been on a bloggy tear. Don't worry, it won't last!

My brother & sister-in-law are expecting a daughter very soon - the family betting pool spans October 30-November 10. I knit her a couple of hats, but they live in a warm place so it's hard to know how much use she'll get out of anything else. I will probably do a sweater at some point, but I'm not in a huge rush.

I DID want to get her some crafty goodness, though, so I asked some super-crafty friends for very (VERY!!!) easy sewing projects I could do. I was counseled to do a very simple blanket, and some burp cloths.

Blanket directions:
1. Cut two squares of fabric of the same size
2. Line them up face to face
3. Sew them together, leaving a four-inch gap in the stitching
4. Turn the bundle inside-out through that gap
5. Hand-sew that hole closed
6. Do another round of stitches around the whole thing
7. Do some stitching in random spots in the center area of the blanket so the two sides stay attached to each other.

This took me a LOT longer than it should have, but I got it done and am pleased with the results. The cloudy side is flannel and the pink side is cotton; I thought I pretty cleverly made the stitching-down bits look like rain.

Burp cloth directions:
1. Cut a skinny strip of fabric the approximate length & width of the center of a cloth diaper
2. Hem the strip all around
3. Sew it to the center of the diaper

This was faster, and not really as satisfying. Maybe I need EVEN CUTER fabric if I do this again. (See that? I'm already forgetting the teeth-gnashing involved in this project...)

I mailed the crafty goodness off to the expecting couple and they were quite pleased. These were their first burp cloths, so they promptly draped them all over their shoulders as a test run. We were on a Skype video chat and it was quite fun to watch!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Onion math

I'm going to a food swap next weekend - organized by some foodie people (women, I assume, but I don't know for sure!) and so of course I wanted to make something delicious, not too hard, not too common, not too expensive... which wasn't an easy task!

In the end I decided to make Caramelized Onion Jam using a recipe I found online. Then I doubled it - and it's a good thing! Onions get very very small when you cook them!

Take 12 onions, chop them and saute until they soften then put over low heat, stirring regularly, for a few hours. I think mine took about 3 hours to fully caramelize.

12 onions - in two pots!

12 onions, 3 hours later, consolidated in one large skillet

Add brandy, vinegar, honey, sugar, salt, pepper, and rosemary.

In the end you'll get six 8-ounce jars. That's two onions per jar! 

The way the swap will work, we'll let everyone sample what we bring, then we draw numbers and take turns picking what we want to bring home. If you bring six items, you'll go home with six, in theory. 

I made another smaller batch of the jam, so I have a total of nine jars. One will be for sampling, one I may hold back, and that means I'll bring 7 to the swap.. I think. We'll see!

Want to know how the jam came out? Check out this later post

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Pomegranate goodness!

I know, I've been HORRIBLY lax! It's been a super busy year - I got a new job that requires a lot more focus and brainpower than my last one did: I traveled less and worked more and cooked less and all in all - not a lot of blog-fodder.

But, I was going to a ladies' dessert & drinks night this past weekend, and I was trying to think of something seasonal, and appealing, and easy, and not too dish-intensive. (what has become of me? so sad!)

Out of nowhere I recalled that I'd seen pomegranates at the grocery store, and I wondered if anyone had put them in brownies before? I turned to the internet and indeed they had.

Very easy recipe:
A. melt together: 170g dark chocolate, 70% and 1/2 cup butter
B. while that cools, whisk together: 3 eggs, 1 cup white sugar, 1 tsp. vanilla, 1/2 tsp. salt
C. stir A into B, then stir in 1/2 cup all purpose flour
D. Finally, stir in MOST of the seeds from 1 pomegranate - reserve about 1/4 c  (see note below about seeding a pomegranate). Then you sprinkle the rest of the seeds on top and push them in a little. I should have been more careful about where I sprinkled mine, but oh well!

Put the batter into a prepared pan (sprayed or parchment paper-lined or greased/floured) and bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes. Mine came out more fudgey than cakey and I possibly should have baked them a bit longer, but oh well. I'd done a 9-inch square pan and thought since they were skinny they might be getting dry inside... nope!

I had a bunch of the brownies left over, unfortunately - mine were among three other brownie-type dishes brought to the event. Next time I will be more creative!

Note: While I was at that internet searching business, I watched a video about how to seed pomegranates. I find it really annoying that so many blogs are turning to video content (I just want to read!!!) but I did watch a video for this technique, and then I tried it. It works! You cut the pom in half, pull the edges apart to loosen up the pith a bit, turn the half upside down over a bowl, and smack it repeatedly with a large wooden spoon. This seems to shake the seeds loose from the pith without making a giant splattery mess.

Monday, September 14, 2015

I've got sunshine...

...on a cloudy day!

It's been a long, hot, sticky summer and I for one am excited to welcome fall, and hopefully some rainy weather. Today it didn't get any warmer than 60, and even though I have almost no food in the house, I managed to throw together a little something on my stovetop.

Rainy day lentils
1) Mince four garlic cloves and an inch-long piece of ginger. Saute in olive oil. Add 4 ounces of red lentils and a can of light coconut milk; let simmer.

2) In a separate pot, make some sort of rice or mixed grain. I have a nine-grain blend I got from an Asian supermarket in California. I added soup base to the water to give it a bit more flavor.

Combine and enjoy a rainy-day treat!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Mount Saint Helens - to the summit!

After seven months of training and over 100 miles on the trails, I was as ready as I was going to be for Mount Saint Helens. My friend Julie got ten permits (100 people per day get to go for the summit in the summer time) and there were six of us from Portland and four from Seattle.

Every hiking party has to sign in and out, so they know if they have to come looking for you.

I'd hiked with each person on Team Portland at least once, and it seemed like my pace was a good mesh with at least a couple other hikers. The other three were faster, but didn't seem to mind regrouping regularly, so we planned to just stick together for the most part.

View of Mount Adams

The MSH trail is an out and back, on a route called Monitor Ridge. It's under 5 miles one-way, and I knew that the trail was broken up like so:
 - 1/3 slight elevation climb along a forested trail
 - 1/3 "trail" in a boulder-strewn wall, with a ton of elevation gain
 - 1/3 trudge/scramble/two steps forward, one step back along an ashy slope.
The entire elevation gain is 4665 feet, with the peak at an elevation of 8280 feet. The vast majority of the climbing occurs in about 3 miles.

An idea of the terrain we had to climb - for hours.

The hike was super tough, both physically and psychologically. One person in our group has done the hike many times, but never in summer - only when there is lots of snow on the mountain. Then, he said, all the boulder field is covered by snow, so you just snowshoe on up! Of course, you also have to start a couple miles further away from the trailhead...

Fortunately I'd read a recommendation somewhere online to bring sturdy work gloves. I used my hands a LOT on the scramble up and down, and would have shredded my palms and fingers without my trusty leather gardening gloves.
View from lunch - we'd come a long way! 

We got lucky with the weather - it was warm but not hot, and we had cloud cover much of the time. We got one wind/rain squall, right after we cleared the boulder field on the way up, but it abated pretty quickly and I didn't even bring out my warm jacket, though I did put on a hat and long-sleeve layer for a while. We all had plenty of food and water - in all I drank nearly all the 5 liters of water I brought, but I didn't run out!
We still had a very long-looking way to go - that lighter brown is the rim, and there are people up there. 
It took us about 90 more minutes of uphill hiking to get there. 

I was most despairing when we stopped for lunch. We started hiking at 7am, and at 12:40 the top still looked impossibly far away. We (I, anyway!) had a tentative plan to turn around at 2pm - my logic was that we'd have been hiking 7 hours by then, and could spend nearly that long coming down, and I didn't want to get caught out in the dark if I could help it. Others on my group wanted to go for the summit no matter what, and I was nervous about the possible consequences.
It was a relief to get out of the boulder field, though the going was by no means easy!

At 2pm we weren't at the summit, and it still seemed a ways away, but at least we were out of the boulders and onto the steep rocky/ashy slope. We decided to go for it (summit fever is real!) and I made the summit at 2:10. Woooooo!
Dramatic summiting shot. 

One of my friends stopped about 20 minutes short of the summit, just feeling too maxed out. But she was close enough that she could hear our voices, and after some reflection and regrouping, she decided to go for it after all. Fortunately I spotted her attempt to join us, just before she was obscured by a rise in the ground. One of the fitter members of our group went down to confirm she was in fact making an attempt for the top, and kept her company on the way back up. I was grateful he was able to be so nice, because I did NOT want to cover any bonus ground myself!
Looking down into the crater. It was hard to get a decent shot!

We hung out at the rim for a while, taking pictures and enjoying the moment. Then, however, we had to face the fact that we were only halfway done with our hike! Going down was still super hard, and I was so so tired already... I didn't take a single picture of the descent!
Triumphant group shot (of most of us)

The last two miles of trail (the wooded, gradual grade) felt like they took forever...but I officially signed us off the trail at 7:21 - for a total of 12:21 hiking. What an accomplishment!!!! My body is still sore four days later, but I'm slowly getting back to normal.
This is how we all felt! 

I'm actually toying with doing South Sister next year... we'll see!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Mount Saint Helens - training hikes!

Earlier this year a friend came up with an audacious-feeling goal: summiting Mount Saint Helens on August 2nd. I guess it was a bucket list item for her, but it never was something I ever considered doing. However, I'm not one to back away from a challenge, and I do better with fitness activities if I'm terrified of some event I'm committed to doing, so I agreed to join!

Multnomah Falls - a classic for a reason

I'm so glad I had this event in front of me because it got me out on the trails way more than ever before. Ever since I moved to Oregon in 1996 I wanted to do more hiking (I told myself) but somehow I rarely did more than one or two hikes per year.

Springtime on Hamilton Mountain

This year I did a ton of hiking - at least 107 miles! I started in January hiking in Forest Park with friends, but then we started hitting the Gorge and got some real classics in:
Wahkeena Falls, Angel's Rest (twice), Cape Horn, Herman Creek Trailhead, Hamilton Mountain (twice), Dog Mountain, Herman Creek & Nick Eaton Trail, Multnomah Falls to Nesika Lodge, Forest Park (starting outside Linnton), Wahkeena to Multnomah Falls, Algonquin Park (in Canada), Mt. Defiance, and Eagle Creek.

Dog Mountain in wildflower season

My favorite was Dog Mountain - it's legendary for its beauty during wildflower season, and we went in May, on Mother's Day. I was stunned at the flowers - SO beautiful! I've been hearing about that hike since I moved here and I now know it's worth the effort.

Part of the trail on Mount Defiance

Mount Defiance is a legend amongst hikers - some joke that you summit Mount Hood to train for Defiance! It IS a beast - 12 miles round-trip, 4800 feet of climbing, relentlessly UP or DOWN, and the last couple of miles of trail were actually scary, they were so steep, slippery, and eroding. But, we persevered and felt like we were as ready as we were going to be to tackle Mount Saint Helens.

On the way down on Defiance. This part of the trail was super scary. 

Next post: Mount Saint Helens!!! (spoiler alert: we survived!)