The Pig, the Puff, and the Pie of Portland...

I'm scrawling down these thoughts as I sit (gratefully) inside our well-heated car, awaiting Eric's exit from within the tire store. Apparently one should possess snow tires to cross the rockies in the middle of January so as to safely move from Portland to Santa Fe.

So I decide to wait (gratefully) inside our well-heated car and scrawl thoughts while he did quintessential manly things - like buy snow tires.

It's pouring rain in Portland for about the 4th day in a row, and I listen as the guy on the radio confidently announces, amidst trying to sell outdoor gear, that we are in fact in the middle of a Pacific Northwest winter.
You think? Genius that one is.

I check Santa Fe weather on my phone. (I got tech-saavy for Christmas)
A big fat yellow dot plops itself on my screen. Part smiley. Part snarky...
The sun.
It still exists!
All the way across the Rockies.

Now I fully recognize that this here blog has had its own bit of a holiday vacation. It was all, "I need to sleep in, take a hot bath, and probably buy a Christmas tree or something." Low blow. Who can argue with Christmas? I surrendered - Vacation it had.

Christmas Tree 2011

I also fully recognize that this here blog has deviated a bit from its intended path - the making of a Mennonite cookbook. Partly out of its own (and mine) organic evolution, partly out of that fantastically fun French cooking course, and maybe partly out of that lil' decision to move cross country with the author's man.

But rest assured dear readers, 2012 will surely beckon us back on track! The desert pulls at the writer in me, and thus I declare...
There shall be a book! (or at least part of one) There shall be a hunt for a publisher, book proposals, decisions on recipes, interviews, probably a few chiles (cause you know... when in Rome), and a Mennonite Writer's Conference. Seems audacious doesn't it? I figure you, dear readers, will help keep me on track.

Meanwhile however, Portland is not leaving me wanting. And my attempts to revel in it are going quite well...

The sis Sarah came in for a visit!  Certainly there was a need for pizza (duh) and among other treats - the Chicken and Rice cart. It's so good you don't even mind eating off a newspaper stand, next to a parked car, in the freezing cold.

I then got in on the handiwork of an in-home pig butchery with some folks from the The Collective, Portland Meat Collective and The Farm. Thanks be to Bubba who raised the pig on many hazelnuts and much love!

Amidst the rush, I planned a much-needed moment of solitude at Breitenbush, one of my favorite spots in Oregon. I had to go back one last time - for the drive, the soak, the hike, the sauna. And of course that yummy, hippie, free-range, vegan lunch! 

A weekend with the girls to celebrate: a birthday, a pregnancy, a departure, surprise guests, and the Oregon coast...

photo by Emily Shirk Birky
photo by Emily Shirk Birky

A Goodbye Party with a Grapefruit Cake Disaster:

Salvaged Grapefruit Cake Bites:

Solstice Dinner with my first-ever attempt at Puff Pastry... 

photo by Janan Markee

They puffed!!!!

Janan, who has spent some time next to a Kenyan woman at a Kenyan stove, taught me the art of chapatis... It's all in the roll, the flip, and the fat. Yumm!!

And finally... my family, even from afar, celebrates Christmas with a Secret Santa Gift Exchange (though it's never all that secret-y by the end... surprises have never been our strong suit). 

Sister Jenny blessed me with a beautiful cookbook, which I immediately put to use on a Christmas Apple Tart. 
Thanks Alice and Jenny. I mean... Secret Santa... ahem. 

photo by Sarah Boyts Yoder

Happy New Years Dear Readers! 
Thanks for seeing 2011 close alongside me... 

Love love, 


Pizza! (and the frozen mozzarella cheese)

The Mozzarella Cheese from Freezer Challenge at work

As it turns out... you can freeze mozzarella cheese!

You can make lasagna for a friend who is about to have a baby.

You can have leftover mozzarella cheese from said lasagna, and then realize you are going out of town the next day, dreading the idea that this pricey cheese shall mold in the frig while you're away.

You can say to yourself, "Self, throw that block o' goodness in the freezer. I don't know if that'll work or not... but we may as well try." (Your Mennonite great grandmother cheers from the beyond and your vacation is all the more relaxing - knowing that cheese is safe.)

And it ends up... months later, you can thaw that frozen cheese, shred it, toss it on a homemade pizza, and serve it to some very happy guests.

Sister Sarah was in town... lovin' on Lucy, eatin' on pizz!
Bonus: Pizza night is great for putting guests to work... Make their own!

And then have them cut it! Thanks Levi!

A few tips on your Pizza:
1. Make your own dough! I use that Bittman recipe I just linked... super easy and delish. Make sure to prebake it for a few minutes as this will help make an evenly and thoroughly-cooked crust.

2. Don't overwhelm the pizza with too many different ingredients. Your mouth gets all confused and can't appreciate each precious one. I clearly lost inhibition and went a little crazy on the above, but my favorite combo: Proscuitto, Caramelized Onion, Mushroom

3. Cook the veggies beforehand. Since pizzas don't bake for very long, the veggies won't render their ultimate flavor. Sooo... caramelize sliced onions in olive oil and butter. Do a dry saute of the mushrooms. Roast those red peppers.

4. Resist over-herbing your tomato sauce. Over-herbing (yes, it can be a verb) takes away from the other flavors. The best sauce I've found is supremely simple: A large can of those peeled, whole tomatoes - squeezed in my hands, salted, and tossed on the crust.

5. Freeze leftover mozzarella cheese!

6. For dessert, serve that Breyer's vanilla ice cream atop Simply in Season's Fruit Crisp.

So with that we can say...
Mozzarella Cheese
Breyer's Ice Cream (it's only halfway through its life)



My Freezer and the Challenge of Black Bananas

The moving date is pretty much set. January 10th(ish) - I'm choosing to be hopelessly optimistic.

So one should begin to think about packing - sorting, sifting, Goodwilling, boxing, trashing. (Should being the operative word here.) And even the kitchen is grounds for some editing and rewriting during the transition. I'm thinking the extra wok I've had in the back of the cabinet for sentimental reasons should probably be the first to go.

And then there is the freezer, chock full of memories, mistakes, surprising treasures, crap loads of future banana bread. Although it would be tempting to push this stash to the far reaches of my already-cluttered mind, and then just heave all of the tasty contents into the trash bin on moving day. Alongside those old gym shorts... That would not be very Mennonite of me.

Thou shall not waste. 
Wash your plastic bags. 
Turn leftovers into casseroles. 
Scrape the mold off that cheese. 
Put that black banana in the freezer. Again. 
Despite my elbow in the rib here it's something I really value about the Mennonite faith adn community - the tenet that one should never take for granted what one has, including in the freezer, and heaving anything in one's trash should be an intentional and thoughtful choice. Like the gym shorts - thoughtful and intentional.

Black Bananas are no exceptions.

So clearly I thought to myslef... "Self... This calls for a Freezer Challenge!"  I shall use every last thing in that intimidating freezer before I depart on January 10th(ish).
Here's my contents so far:

- Cherries
- Pears
- White beans - from that soup
- Mixed berries - from waaayyy too long ago
- 10 bananas - duh
- Shredded coconut
- Nectarines
- Breyer's ice cream
- 1 pint of Lovely's Fifty Fifty caramel ice cream - which was a dreamy surprise and so obviously has since been eaten! 
- Little squares of lime juice - from that time I bought far too many limes and couldn't bear the thought of not using the juice. Juice those suckers and freeze in ice cube trays.
- Corn tortillas - Uuuhhh.... really Katie?
- Masa - from tamales night with Janan
- Some meat from Gartner's that I didn't know was there - Question: Should one consume a meat of unknown origin? Discuss. 
- Dried red peppers
- Red chile peppers
- Galanga root
- Ginger
- Turmeric - a Cambodian theme emerges
- Lamb - Score!
- Razor clams - From Flying Fish... Another score!
- Green peas - Not sure about this one... I don't even really like peas.
- Pork stock - From this here pig-  This is where it gets interesting.
- Escolar - Flying Fish's 2nd appearance... Sushi night is calling.
- Crushed tomatoes
- Mozzarella cheese - I'm not actually sure you can successfully save mozzarella this way, but again... it was throw it out or freeze it. I couldn't bear the thought...
- Ricotta cheese - same as with the mozz
- Leaf lard - A hear a pie in our future.
- Cafe Umbria coffee beans - I know, I know... Don't freeze your coffee beans. What was I supposed to do? 
- Chocolate - From the wonderland that is Sheridan's.  

That be all. I must admit I'm a bit fearful of this task, but I'll keep you updated. Wish me luck...

It shall all be gone come January 10th(ish)

Uncle Virg's Custom Roasting Sticks

Yesterday was a good day - one of those days that just lingers by nonchalantly, not dramatic or extreme, just quietly sweet and pleasant...
Sunny skies in Portland
Keturah's sugar cookies in the oven
Engaging guest for dinner
Exciting box from the mailman...

Within that box and its many layers of cardboard, masking tape, duct tape and padding were the White's Custom Roasting Sticks we'd ordered, our names imprinted in the coffee-colored birch!
Katie B.
(and maybe a few gifts for some unsuspecting roasting-loving friends).

You see last week in Kansas, during our Thanksgiving visit, we quite wisely decided to invest in the
beauties which are handcrafted by my very own Uncle Virg White (pictured below). He is surely a food artist if I've ever seen one. 

The exciting delivery from the mailman

And maybe I shouldn't be making unsolicited plugs for my families' handicrafts, but what with the holiday gifting season, and what with the birch's photographic tendency, and what with my adoration of all things family and food-related.... it just makes sense.

Patiently awaiting their leather loop
Each roasting stick gets a pin in the map... One more for Portland (or Santa Fe)

Our family has the tradition of big bonfires surrounded by stick-wielding hungry folks, asking for the flames to do their job on the meal. Virg began making his roasting sticks simply for these occasions, but word got out about their quality and voila... White's Custom Roasting Sticks! 

Like I said... sunny, glistening skies in Portland. 
You can order yours here - custom made of course. Enjoy!