Tag Archives: local

food swap scores

When we posted about the stuff we brought to the Oly Food Swap, a lot of you wanted to know what we brought home. I finally got around to photographing a lot of the goods.

This lemon curd was at the top of our swap wish list. We recognized those gorgeous tags immediately! You can get them online here. And if you’re looking for a recipe for canning lemon curd, there happens to be one in Put ’em Up.

Two ounces of dried porcini mushrooms. What a score!

If you haven’t ever tried porcinis, allow me to recommend this recipe for potato gnocchi with tomato porcini sauce.

We have nearly polished off the big hunk of Irish cream fudge we got.

Mmm, salsa verde.

And two jars of this green tomato salsa. I am drawn to all things gingham, but I sampled this stuff and it is amazing.

Almond roca, made by hand.

This nectarine honey is some sort of syrup. Not sure how we’re going to use it, but I’m pretty sure it will be delicious. How can those ingredients go wrong?

I believe the information on this table said this strawberry jam was cooked with bay leaf.

Assorted canned goods. I can’t wait to try that canary melon vanilla syrup!

I know a certain teenager who is going to be eating a lot of applesauce – in smooth and chunky varieties. These giant quart jars are just some of the applesauce we brought home. I know we’ll be swapping again! Go here to find a food swap near you.


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Filed under canning

Tacoma Soup Picnic

We are in love with a Tacoma soup counter called Infinite Soups. It’s such good food, it’s hard not to lick the last traces of soup from the container. I imagine their soup is the perfect lunch for the downtown Tacoma worker. Since we don’t live or work close enough, we use every visit to Tacoma as an excuse to pick up some soup.

Since there is no seating, we use any dry day in Tacoma as an excuse for a soup picnic. Luckily, Wright Park is just up the street.

chipotle cream

They post their daily soup picks on Facebook (in creamy and non-creamy options that contain meat as well as vegetarian and vegan). There are so many choices it can be hard to choose, but they are generous with the samples.

We have never sampled a flavor we didn’t like.

potato green chile

Wright Park has been around since 1890.

white birch

It’s full of some of our favorite trees.

Late fall means naked trees showing off their woody skeletons, or in this case revealing giant seed pods, perhaps?

No 19th century park is complete without lions.

Or cannons.

strawberry rum ball & valhalla brownie

And if you need dessert, Corina Bakery is just around the corner.


Filed under fall, food

Oly Food Swap

Have you heard about the food trend sweeping the nation, FOOD SWAPS?

Contemporary swappers can thank Kate Payne for this trend. Kate’s book, the Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking, encourages people to host these parties and trade homemade food. We went to the second Olympia Food Swap last night. I attended the first one a few months ago, but we took a lot more stuff to swap this time. The swap itself is a bit overwhelming at first. Everyone’s running around, trading blackberry jam for fudge and beer salsa for homebrew, and it can make you a little dizzy. Once you relax into the chaos, though, it is an organic process and a lot of fun.

We took some preserves from our pantry to trade, but we also made some extra treats just for the swap. Krista made a compound butter with organic butter, honey, orange zest and lavender. And whoa, this stuff is delicious. If butter is your favorite food (you know who you are), you should consider making this. And then eating all of it.

We also packed up the brown butter crispy treats that were such a hit when we made them recently. This time around, Krista dipped half in white chocolate with espresso salt, and half in bittersweet chocolate with sea salt.

We’ve been in love with Martha’s southern pralines since we made them as holiday gifts last year. Everyone seems to appreciate their delicious, bourbon-y charm.

We also made my favorite granola of all time. I make this granola every other week or so. We usually make this recipe with honey, but we made organic cane syrup for this batch and it turned out extra delicious. I hope the granola lovers who took it home appreciate it.

We also took some homemade cola syrup, too. That went fast.

I was impressed and excited by so many things that our fellow swappers brought. It’s certainly nice to diversify our jam and salsa collection, but it’s also exciting to get ideas and inspiration. I really like seeing the food other people can make at home. One of the swappers had homemade rainbow sprinkes for goodness sake. I can say with 100% certainty that the idea of making homemade sprinkles has never crossed my mind before. We’re going to try to feature some of our swapped food in upcoming blog posts to keep the inspiration going.

So, have you gone to a food swap? What was the best thing you brought home? If they are happening in the little town of Olympia, there’s probably one near you. If not, you could organize one. Go forth and swap, and report back!



Filed under food

coffee chaff: upcycled chicken bedding

People are always teasing the modern backyard farmer with their thousand-dollar chicken coops about the true cost of their eggs. While our coop was closer to half that price tag, we have talked about our choice to use pricier organic, local chicken feed. With that in mind, anywhere we can cut costs seems like a great idea. How about free bedding?

Coffee chaff is a byproduct of coffee roasting. Have you ever roasted hazelnuts? Those papery flecks of skin that come off the hazelnuts are similar to coffee chaff.

We learned right away when we brought our chicks home and had them all set up in the brooder that there is one downside to using coffee chaff. It is really lightweight and easily gets kicked up into their food and water. While they were in the brooder, we mixed coffee chaff with pine shavings to solve that problem. Thanks to the smart design of our Garden Coop, our chickens always have access to their outdoor run and their food and water can be kept separate from their bedding. As we run out of pine shavings, we have been using more and more coffee chaff without any problems.

Here the ladies are strutting around in freshly changed bedding. I keep saying bedding, but it is really more like chicken litter. They sleep up on their roost. We have found that we can just layer more bedding on top once a week and change it out once a month. Some people do a deep litter method where they encourage the chickens to turn it and add layers as needed, going for as long as a year before changing it out.

You can see we still have some pine shavings left. We continue to use a higher chaff to pine ratio and expect we won’t have to buy another bag of wood shavings.

We store the coffee chaff in a big garbage can in the garage. It is so lightweight that it is easy to transport back and forth. The first local coffee roaster we went to was more than happy to let us take some bags of coffee chaff before it was tossed out. Thanks, Olympia Coffee Roasting Co.! We just have to stop by on the right day of the week. It’s been pretty easy so far, and we have a few other coffee roasters we could check with if we were in need.

Having the faint aroma of coffee in the coop is just an added bonus.


Filed under chickens

catching up: Astoria, Oregon in pictures

Sometimes I’m amazed at all we are able to accomplish, and other times our hectic pace catches up to us. It ain’t easy working more than forty hours a week, parenting, cooking, cleaning, keeping up with animals and hobbies, and squeezing in every last bit of fun we can. And that is the short version of the list. One can only use so many commas. Lately what has suffered most seems to be the cleaning and blogging. We’ve been running all around the Pacific Northwest in search of fun on our weekends as my shift-worker schedule is about to start overlapping the traditional Saturday-Sunday weekend for a awhile. I have one more Sunday off, and then I imagine we will do a lot more staying home, cleaning, cooking, and baking. I think our dear readers can look forward to a lot of posts about soup and baked goods in the near future.

Until then, I wanted to share some photo highlights from our recent weekend in Astoria. We already told you about Talking Tombstones, but we didn’t tell you about a late night walk in the woods at Fort Clatsop, Jess performing a quickie wedding ceremony for our friends on the beach next to the Peter Iredale Shipwreck, amazing beers at Rogue, finally climbing the Astoria Column, and so much more.

These witches were crashed into light poles all over downtown Astoria

from piers 39 & 17 respectively

If you ever have the chance, stop at a Rogue location. We didn’t try the bacon maple as it actually contains bacon, but we tried just about everything else.

the quickie ceremony

Catching the sunset on the beach at Fort Stevens

A ranger led walk in the woods in the dark at the Lewis & Clark Visitor Center at Fort Clatsop.

A foggy view atop the Astoria Column

I was told that bird was a crane but I’m not so sure. Look at it large and tell me.

We caught the last trolley of the day

Since we were the only people on board, we got a personalized tour from the best conductors/tour guides ever.

xo Krista


Filed under travel

Northwest Chocolate Festival: Part II

Did you miss Part I? For some of our favorite vendors and our thoughts on coffee & chocolate, basil & chocolate, and even broccoli & chocolate, check out the first post.

Before anything else, I’m just going to get this out of the way:

Some sensual body art happened. In case you’re wondering how those thin slices of vegetables stick, the answer is that the artist licks them. And yes, we did watch for awhile.

These are cacao pods:

We saw lots and lots of cacao pods. They come in different varieties and therefore a variety of colors. They also change colors as they ripen. It wasn’t all that long ago I really had no idea how chocolate was grown and processed. Then we went on a tour of the Theo Chocolate factory in Seattle. I always recommend this to people visiting town or as a fun date or family activity for locals. They show you where chocolate comes from and how they roast it. Oh, and you get to eat a lot of their amazing chocolate.

At the Northwest Chocolate Festival, we learned even more about how chocolate begins. We got to see the parts of the cacao pod up close and personal. As gardeners and bee keepers, it was interesting to learn there is only one pollinator, the tiny midge fly. The flowers are open for only two days before they drop off. In that time a tiny midge fly has to pollinate it, and it takes five or six months to form one of these pods that each contain only 20 to 40 beans.

Above is a pod with the beans removed. I was fascinated when a volunteer told us the piece left in the middle where the beans had been attached is called a placenta. And next are the beans removed from the pod, still covered in mucilage:

Mucilage sounds pretty gross, right? It seemed a little less gross when we read the description on one of the posters at the fest: a sweet fruit called mucilage that tastes similar to a mix between peach, marshmallow and lechee fruit.

Okay, yum. In the photo above they were doing a little fermentation experiment in a beaker on a heating pad. In reality, at the plantations where they are grown the beans still covered in mucilage are carefully fermented and dried. Without fermenting, the beans are bitter. Pretty cool, huh?

We also got to see cacao nibs turned into chocolate old school style. Stone ground! They just mixed in a little bit of powdered sugar, and we got to try a taste. Stone ground chocolate has a grittier, toothsome texture that is actually quite good. We tried and really enjoyed several flavors of stone ground chocolate from one of the vendors, Taza.

Taza Mexican-Style Stone Ground Chocolate

I’ve seen this stuff at our co-op here in Olympia and plan to figure out a use for some ASAP.

Our only complaint about the festival would be how challenging it was to get into any of the classes or demonstrations. There was way more demand than seats. We showed up 25 minutes early to the caramel demo and were too late. We learned our lesson and strategized better the next time around. We really wanted to see a cooking demo about the savory application of chocolate, so we stood in the back for half the preceding demo so we could grab seats as they opened up. Chocolate lovers are serious business.

We might have been disappointed after all that effort when the savory chocolate dish was not vegetarian, but at least Levi got to enjoy one of the smoked bacon and chocolate crespelles. He rated it an 8 out of 10, and he is a tough judge. We enjoyed learning more about making crepes from scratch. They used cocoa powder, hazelnut meal, and a little quinoa for texture. The crepes were stuffed with chocolate, sage, and smoked bacon, folded twice and refried in butter. The recipe is online here, and I hope to try it soon. I might even have to attempt a savory chocolate dish using chanterelles and a little smoked cheese. If only there had been a chocolate and cheese pairing demo!

We had tons of fun at the festival. Since it was $20 per person and we ate so much chocolate, we tried not to bring any chocolate home. Levi was so impressed by Ritual Chocolate made in Colorado (with only two ingredients: chocolate and cane sugar), he pulled out his own money and brought home one of these bars:

This kid rarely has money to spend, so that’s a strong statement.


Filed under family, food

Northwest Chocolate Festival

Somehow this is the third year we’ve had a chocolate festival nearby and we just found out about it this year. The three of us piled into the car and headed to Seattle with high hopes. We were not disappointed by the Northwest Chocolate Festival.

First we managed to squeeze our way into the chocolate and coffee pairing demonstration put on by Zoka Coffee and Intrigue Chocolates Co.. What exactly do you look for in a good pairing? What I took away was that each one should make the other better, and what fun to experiment with different flavors. It was most notable when we slurped our coffee (I wish I could recall which one) with the earl grey truffle. Whoa, suddenly there were brand new layers of flavor in my mouth!

We made sure to stop by the Intrigue table so we could try the basil truffles. The chocolatier had talked them up; basil bringing up the nostalgia of grandma’s kitchen and a summer garden. Basil and chocolate – who knew? It’s incredible. We will be taking a field trip to the Intrigue shop in Pioneer Square for sure.

As we wandered from one vendor to the next, I pressured Jess and Levi into trying samples of chocolate with broccoli. They hated it. I thought it was… interesting. Not terrible, but certainly not something I plan to explore further.

Nobody had to twist my arm to try Olive and Sinclair’s Salt & Pepper chocolate. I loved it. No surprise there, really. I love good ol’ cracked black pepper. I’ve tried black pepper soda, so why not chocolate? This company is from Nashville, and they have some quality southern chocolate. I see on their site they have a buttermilk white chocolate bar coming soon. I need to try that. And maybe order a whole bar of salt & pepper, too.

So what makes chocolate exceptional? After reading a lot of informational posters and tasting a lot of chocolate, we all agreed that we truly appreciate these chocolate nerds artisans who perfect their roasts. We tried some raw chocolate samples and hated them. Levi couldn’t stop talking about how you couldn’t really taste the chocolate, you were just tasting the flavors they added. Then we tasted some chocolates made from the same variety of beans from the same part of the world roasted different ways. Mmm, dark roast!

Next we fell in love with Hot Cakes Confections.

Exhibit A: they were smoking chocolate outside. We never did get to try any, but how cool.

Exhibit B: their vintage van

Exhibit C: take and bake molten chocolate cakes in MASON JARS!

It looks like we will have to visit some Seattle area Farmer’s Markets to find more.

It goes without saying, we ate a lot of chocolate. In fact it was so much chocolate, we had to take a lunch break and go get some vegan Chinese food before going back for more. There is so much to show you, it is too much for one post. We will have a little more of Northwest Chocolate Fest to share with you tomorrow.


Filed under family, food

our fall tradition: the local cider mill

Every October we head over to nearby Lattin’s Country Cider Mill. There’s a pumpkin patch, an apple slingshot, tractor-pulled wagon rides, and all the adorable farm animals you can handle. The real reason we go (and the teenager still comes with us): fresh from the fryer apple fritters.

This year and last we ended up going on the weekend, which means a lot of patience and determination are required. People for miles around know about these fritters. First you wait in a long, slow line to pay for the fritters. Then you get a number and have to wait with a crowd of people until yours are ready and your number is called. We figured out a couple years ago how to pass the time: apple cider slushies!

Apple cider goodness in slushy form. Genius.

Levi & Jess saved their appetites and got smalls. I went for the large. No regrets!

The other way to pass time while waiting for your fritters is to watch them being made. It is mesmerizing. They have them already prepped, and then lower entire trays directly into the fryer. Then they stay nearby with what look like giant chopsticks to flip them over when the first side is golden brown. Once they are pulled out they dump them off the tray and literally pour a pitcher of glaze over them.

The glaze melts before your eyes and the gleaming apple fritters are ready to go. Once we have our bag of fritters in hand, we make a beeline to the nearest spot to sit outside and eat them while they are still nice and warm.

Levi took the first bite and declared that not only were they worth the wait, they would be worth 10 times that wait. Then he did the math and we decided maybe they wouldn’t be worth that long a wait, but they most certainly were worth the 30 or 40 minutes we waited and then some.

Warm and gooey sweetness with bits of fresh apple. There is nothing quite like it.

I have no idea how Levi made himself this short but I appreciated it.

There is so much to see and do. I’m so glad we were able to fit this into our busy weekend. A few more highlights:


Filed under fall, family, traditions

PSMS’s 2011 Wild Mushroom Show

We really turned up the nerd quotient this weekend at the Puget Sound Mycological Society’s Annual Wild Mushroom Show. We’re rank amateurs when it comes to wild mushroom knowledge and experience, but we make up for it with enthusiasm. There were cooking demos, mushroom identification experts, and activities for kids (including a mushroom petting zoo). We even squeezed in a fascinating lecture by Britt Bunyard about really weird mushrooms.

The highlight was the main room of the show: an exhibit of countless mushrooms, grouped by type in semi-natural forest exhibits. The diversity of mushrooms is extraordinary, and I was impressed that they had so many fresh specimens in one place at one time. We saw famous choice edible mushrooms, like chanterelles, bolete/porcini mushrooms and the coveted Matsutake. There were poisonous mushrooms, deadly mushrooms, and mushrooms that didn’t look like mushrooms at all. Here are some of my faves:

Witch’s butter, or Dacrymyces palmatus. It’s an edible but flavorless rubbery jelly. Just because you can eat it doesn’t mean you should. The name and appearance made it look like a witch had hocked up a bright orange witchy loogie and spit it out on a log.

Ramaria/coral fungus. This haunting fungus looks like the tiny hands of lost souls reaching up from a shipwreck on the bottom of the ocean. I love it.

Pseudohydnum gelatinosum / jelly tooth. There was a specimen of this guy in the petting zoo. Playing with it reminded us both of sticky hand toys. We learned you can roll this mushroom in sugar to produce “Nature’s Gumdrop.” Let me know if you try that.

Clitocybe odora smells like licorice, no joke. We also sniffed candy caps (maple-y), Matsutakes (spicy), and a Russula that smelled like shrimp. There was even a mushroom that smelled like grape soda, though we could only detect a hint of it.

Mycodeltiology: the study of postcards with fungi. I’m not sure if this is a real thing but the postcards were adorable.

This gnome was knitted with yarn dyed with mushrooms. I learned that you should not underestimate the extent of mushroom-inspired art.

Oh, and during the lecture we learned there is a fungi called cordyceps that infects insects and turns them into zombies. Well, okay it controls their body just before killing them and growing out of the corpse. Check out this video:

You can see more of Krista’s mushroom photos here. I had a great time at the show, and I know so much more about how much I don’t know about mushrooms.



Filed under fall, food

what to do with all that squash

Goodbye tomatoes. Hello squash!

Somehow our plant only produced one of these gorgeous sweet meat squashes. So what in the world should we make with it?

Confession: neither of us liked squash as kids. The older I get, the more I like squash. These days there are a handful of squash varieties I absolutely love. I suspect that list is going to grow. So now that we have squash on the brain, how about a little SQUASH LINK LIST:


Filed under fall, food