Backyard to Table: A Cooking Reminder

Finding good food in Portland does not seem like a difficult task. Everywhere you turn offers a craft cocktail, a beer brewed up the street, fish fresh from the coast and mushrooms handpicked in the misty wildwood of the Oregon back country.

But after a while, the delicious food scene either numbs your palate to deliciously prepared, well-sourced delicacies or you start to get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of restaurants to try.

IMG_3911

 

Don’t get me wrong– I adore the food scene in PDX. I’ll even give you a list of my handpicked favorites to try should you ever visit.



And believe me when I say the food scene out here is the best in the US. If you think you’ve had good wings, you absolutely haven’t until you’ve tried Whiskey Soda Lounge‘s fish sauce wings. Those would probably be my last meal should I ever leave this place.

Despite all of this goodness, you know what resonates the most with me these days?

The tiny garden in the backyard.

Portland can tell me all day long (and it does) that they ‘source locally’ and ‘pick from the garden’ and establish ‘farm to table’ connections. But despite their best efforts and their tremendous successes, there is nothing that can compare from a fresh red tomato plucked off the vine, still warm from the sun.

Their farm to table and my farm to table are tremendously different. Those were seeds we dug into the wet ground a few months back. (By ‘we,’ I will admit, my green-thumbed roommates did the heavy lifting since they don’t kill plants like I do.) Now they’re vegetables, big and ripe and bursting with wonder.

So, for the past week, I have made all meals at home. Despite one late-night run to the greasy spoon diner in Southeast after a ceiling-splitting worship jam from the talented Matthew Zigenis at Bridgetown Church, there has been no money spent at all on food this week.

I am lucky enough to know — and take advantage of– the wonderful folks at a local bakery who give me their day-old breads in exchange for coffee. I never have a shortage of thick, fresh, crusty loaves within reach. This is the springboard for every wonderful sandwich and toast imaginable.

Processed with VSCO with p5 preset
Pie, made with the fresh apples from the tree in the backyard. Also, arts and crafts day with the roommate. We are working on floral wreaths.

I am remembering with startling familiarity how wonderful it is to cook, elbow-deep in something crafty, tasty and new.

Plus, it’s cheaper. My wonderful fella and I are trying to hit up some overseas countries for some crazy Jesus-loving missions work in the next few months and are saving every penny possible to get there. Eating deliciously seems an easy way to do so– its hardly a sacrifice at all.

We’ve even gone so far as to build campfires and construct gourmet ramen noodles with one kettle and some random ingredients.

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset
Gourmet fire ramen. 

Here’s to the friendly reminder that food doesn’t come from grocery stores. Food doesn’t come from restaurants. Food doesn’t come from well-meaning companies that send gift boxes.

Food comes from the earth, and it’s delicious that way.

 

Soft Power City

 

It has been entirely too long since I’ve blogged. My computer broke down, I got busy, I switched jobs… lots of things have happened.

But there is no excuse not to write. At the end of the day, there are few things I love more than reflecting and typing (and sipping a craft coffee drink while I’m at it).

Where have I been? What have I been doing? Days here in Portland pass like a blur. I’m coming to terms with the city I live in, trying to understand it. Having moved around so much and experienced a lot of life before I was even 20, I figured moving to this hip, easygoing city would be a cakewalk.

It has been anything but. Portland, although weird and freeing and full of good restaurants, has been a monumental challenge. It has been a challenge with my faith, my family, my own ideals, my pocketbook… pretty much, it’s been a Challenge with a capitol C.

This is a city that screams, “BE WHOEVER YOU WANT! DO WHATEVER YOU WANT!” This is a city that praises individualism, a city that preaches tolerance for every race, sexual identity, religion, lifestyle, background — but only if you keep it to yourself.

The lifestyle here is far more indulgent than I ever imagined it would be. There is no shortage of distractions. I put off deadlines, emails, phone calls from home for the sake of eating somewhere new or grabbing a coffee. It’s such soft compromise, the way that it seductively calls, hang out a little longer, have another drink. 

I can feel it creeping into the way I handle customers in my workplace. I’ve had to build a mental wall between myself and the desire to roll my eyes and explain yet again that a macchiato is not like the Starbucks version of a caramel latte for heaven’s sake.

It’s as though I am an antacid tablet dropped into the fizzing center of a city designed to quietly dissolve my ideals and stir me into compromising.

But if I serve a God that is bigger than violence and hunger and famine and fear, he can equip me to handle soft power, too.

The biggest blessing by far has been the presence of the church. When I say ‘church’ I  don’t mean four walls and a preacher, although those exist. (More or less, anyway, my church takes place in a bar every Sunday morning and you should check it out if you live here, it’s rad. Click here. )

I mean the moving, living, life-giving community of those that serve Christ and are willing to battle compromise in this city. I have found people that love to serve the homeless in our city, people that staunchly oppose the ideals of Portland’s strip-club mentality without having to protest with pickets.

Christ followers here don’t run around lighting courthouses on fire or protesting the gay pride parade. They love and support those around us, but they stand steadfast in their ideals.

The other day, some of our closest friends here in the city met up in one of the many hip, white coffee shops downtown. We drank our craft brew out of handmade mugs and laughed a little, but we were there to pray — for each other, for our church, for the city. As we bowed our heads in this public place, I couldn’t help but glance out the window occasionally. Passersby were doing double takes, the baristas were watching us awkwardly behind their espresso machine.

Believers in the urban core of the city are not faced with persecution or threats. But we are pressured to compromise, to bow to Babylon of our day and not infringe on anything that makes anyone uncomfortable. I wanted, momentarily, to retreat and go back to drinking my coffee and laughing loudly to prove how normal I was.

In the softly dissolving, quietly-whispering city of indulgence and tolerance, we don’t have to fight or attack. That doesn’t mean, however, that we have to fold.

And that, ladies and gents, is the most important thing I am learning since I moved to Portland.


If you live here! You should check out Reason Church and Bridgetown: A Jesus Church. Listen to Podcasts as you bike downtown or something. They’re awesome.

Campfire Setup

If you’re in Portland right now, you know. It’s hot outside. It’s 100 degrees, which means coffee shops across town are running low on cold brew and the fan aisle of Walmart looks like the apocalypse struck.

It’s time to leave town and go camping.

IMG_4987

Recently, I made the best purchase of the season. I bought a camping cookstove that hooks up directly to a propane tank. It’s small, durable, travel-friendly and, most importantly, heats evenly.

Hand in hand with its soulmate, a cast iron skillet, camping just took on a whole new level of outdoor cooking confidence.

IMG_5031

By no means should you bail on building a fire or cooking on it, but if speed and efficiency are your game, you should consider a similar hookup. (Any outdoor sports store has ya covered.)

So what did I cook with my new, fancy gear? I’ll be honest, I didn’t exactly reach for any stars. I made egg-in-a-hole, and it tasted delicious. Something about that mountain air.

IMG_5024

Step one. Lay out your gear. Never travel without your skillet, some cooking oil and some salt. (Pepper optional.)

The only additions to this truly minimalist setup were a loaf of bread and a carton of eggs.

Step two. Put that pan on the burner and warm it up. Grease thoroughly with oil.

Step three. Use any possible device (I used the lid of my Pam spray) to punch a hole in the bread, cookie-cutter style. Place bread in pan and let toast. If it doesn’t sizzle when it hits the pan, your skillet isn’t hot enough.

IMG_5039

Step four. Crack that egg right in that hole. Please note the (clean) hiking sock used as a pan handle and take my word of advice: buy a pot handle sleeve or bring a towel, those babies get too hot to touch. Or be ghetto, like me, and use a sock or something.

Season with salt and pepper, then flip your toast as gracefully as possible to cook the opposite side. If your yolk breaks or you make a mess, tell your camping party that you are serving a ‘rustic-style’ breakfast and that they have no other choice but to eat it and marvel at your authenticity.

IMG_5047

IMG_5044

Remove from pan and serve.

Eat, enjoy, and pack up your things for a hike. You’re in the great outdoors! Go enjoy them.

 

Greek Orzo Summer Wedding Salad

For Luke and Val.

IMG_4836

I have been to so many weddings this past month my head is spinning. They’ve all been completely lovely.

There’s one last wedding to complete this season of matrimony, and by an unfortunate twist of fate, I can’t even make it. I’m bummed.

But the good news is, even though I can’t make it, I can send food! One of the more creative touches the happy couple added? Recipe cards for a potluck reception. Super creative, guys!

Also, I’ve never actually met the couple. (Hi, Luke, hi Valerie!) I’ve heard awesome things about them. I can’t wait to hang out with them after they’re married. But in the meanwhile, to conclude this season of holy matrimony, here’s my potluck contribution. It’s one of those make-ahead dishes that travels well and can be as versatile and summery as you like.

Ingredients:

  • 1 box of orzo pasta
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • lots of fresh dill
  • 1/4 c white vinegar
  • 3 T Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 c olive oil
  • 1 container feta cheese
  • salt and pepper

Directions:

1. Fill a pot with water and bring to a boil. Add orzo and cook 8-10 minutes until pasta is thoroughly cooked and al dente.

2. In the meanwhile, quarter the cucumber into bite sized pieces. Halve the cherry tomatoes and roughly chop the dill.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk together Dijon and vinegar for dressing. Drizzle in the olive oil slowly, whisking until thoroughly combined. Add the dill, then salt and pepper to taste.

4. Drain the pasta and rinse under cold water. (The goal is to cool down the pasta, since this is a chilled pasta salad. Nothing is worse than warm cucumbers.) In a large bowl, combine the vegetables, feta, dressing and orzo.

5. Taste and adjust seasonings. Feel free to brighten with lemon juice, or add your own touch — green onions, shallots, shrimp or anything else!

IMG_4833

Finally, eat, drink and be merry! Or married. Whichever is applicable.

 

 

 

Hop the Fence, Have Adventures

We got outside the other day. Phones down, boots laced, we headed towards the coast where the misty sunshine called. Part of an attempt to step away from social media and live like hermits, adventures have begun to feature more prominently in our daily lives.

It’s true, what they say. Stopping the car to jump out and take a picture of a mountain for Instagram isn’t the same as climbing the mountain. The adventures you hear on the internet aren’t nearly as intriguing as the ones people keep to themselves.

IMG_4007

I invested in a pair of Danner hiking boots (and proceeded to dye, treat and lace my own shoelaces thanks to my very invested leatherworking boyfriend) and have since found it’s impossible to stick to the trail. One of our favorite things to do is hop the fence entirely and go where we aren’t allowed.

I don’t recommend this on the most professional level, but let’s be honest. How many adventures happen when you stick to the beaten path?

IMG_3942

The inaugural boot break-in trip went swimmingly, we hiked Mount Hood and found a gigantic swamp near a breathtaking clearwater lake. Of course, this being spring, we found ourselves in the middle of frog mating season. I’ve never heard croaking so loud! The whole forest was ringing with the creaks and groans of frogs, and the still-snowy ground was littered in clear, gelatinous eggs. Each egg had a tiny tadpole forming in the center. It was disgustingly fascinating.

But I must admit, Cannon Beach is my favorite spot to escape to. The big volcanic rocks are beautiful and rugged. The mist wraps around them like a dame’s fur coat and are gorgeously foreboding. Every picture I’ve taken is flawless; it’s as though the coastline doesn’t have a bad angle.

IMG_3948

IMG_4071

Anyway, since summer is around the corner, why not try lacing up your hiking boots, too, and seeing where you end up?

I recommend the following:

  • Bring snacks
  • Bring a camera (if you want)
  • Dare yourself not to post any proof of your miraculous adventures online (be old school and write it down in a notebook if you think you’ll forget details)
  • Keep your adventure boots in the car so you’re always ready
  • Ignore most fences, don’t be afraid to take risky routes
  • Pack water and first aid
  • Climb things
  • Use common sense
  • Collect cool objects
  • Just get out there. And make it a habit!
  • Share your best adventures around a campfire
  • (Learn how to start a campfire)

 

Coffee Tours: Slate Coffee Roasters, Seattle, WA

Slate Coffee Roasters is every barista’s dream.

“Open 7 – Close.” reads the sign propped in front of its tiny, 6th Ave location. The space inside is small, minimalist, appropriately slate grey.

The heart, soul and center of the shop is gleaming Slayer espresso machine, sparkling like a new Christmas toy.

“Hello!” the friendly barista for the afternoon with her perfectly rimmed glasses, crisp white button-up tucked into black high-waisted shorts, smiles with confident professionalism. She knows where she is and what she is serving. She is the master of her profession. “Drinking here?”

IMG_3368

Following immediately are glasses of water and menus, as table-service coffee materializes. The menu, although plain and simple, black and white, needs explaining. Familiar terms like ‘latte’ and ‘cappuccino’ are nowhere to be found.

“Everyone has a different idea of what a latte is,” she explains without prompting. “Here, we keep it simple and refer to it as what it is. Espresso plus milk. We offer four ounces, six ounces or eight ounces of milk with each double shot.”

Skimming the menu further, she continues, “We do not have any drip coffee at this particular location, but will happily do a pourover for you should you prefer.”

After placing an order, returning the menu and waiting momentarily, the coffee appears. It is as it should be: an artistic centerpiece.

IMG_3390
Were I to have any detrimental coffee comment to add to this experience, it would be the mound of foam atop the final macchiato. I was disappointed that there was no creamy microfoam to do the milk justice (but will attribute it to the fact our barista probably milk-shared to make two orders and I assume I received the tail-end of the pour.)

IMG_3392

The most popular item at Slate Coffee is a deconstructed milk drink. Served in small flutes, a single shot of espresso and a scant few ounces of steamed milk sit separately, side-by-side. The last flute holds the two together in what would technically be referred to as a macchiato.

The hope is to show the drinker the importance of each component before enjoying them together in a tiny symphony of thick, vanilla-cream milk and rich espresso.

The milk, of course, is local and non-homogenized. Buttery, rich and fatty, it results in creamy texture that has the natural viscosity of a melted vanilla shake. This milk is pure and sweet and heavenly. Matt Perger would beam with pride.

IMG_3395

I will warn you that if you’re looking for an in-and-out coffee experience, Slate is not for you. Slate is for savoring and appreciating coffee as culture, not for slugging 16-oz lattes as fuel. Any other shop in the world will offer that experience; Slate politely declines.

(They will, however, happily explain their menu in detail. Please ask them questions, they live for it.)

IMG_3383

My personal experience featured the Chelbasa Ethiopian espresso, a natural processed coffee from the Gideo region of Ethiopia. It tasted like bakers chocolate and cherry cordial with a lingering aftertaste reminiscent of licking the bowl after making chocolate covered strawberries. In short, it was one of the best espressos I have ever encountered. It had me re-evaluating my life choices to better center them around better coffee stewardship.

Of course, in a shop with a shiny gold EK43 and a Slayer at the helm, anything less would be underwhelming. It is certainly good to know, however, that some barista in Washington State is living my dream.

The myths are true: coffee here is nothing short of perfection.


Check them out HERE or give them a visit!

5413 6th Ave NW, Seattle, WA

1309 NE 45th St, Seattle, WA

602 2nd Ave, Seattle, WA


Side note: Seattle is awesome. See adventures below.

IMG_3407

IMG_3409IMG_3418

IMG_3422

IMG_3430

 

Dumplings & Broth

Sometimes I want to take the ’20 Minute Dinner’ recipes and chuck them down the sink.

Sometimes I need my dinner to take me two hours.

Sometimes it’s not about the food so much as it is the process, about taking mindless eating and turn it into mindful eating.

The best cure? Handmade dumplings in ginger broth. It’s warming, delicious, and it takes an unashamedly long time to make. It’s the perfect meal to eat while reflecting on life.

IMG_0825

Ready to make dinner? Have an evening free? I recommend this dish on a night in when there’s no one to bother you, or when you want to have a leisurely conversation in the kitchen. This meal will keep your hands busy, yes, but the mellow, energizing scent of ginger, turmeric and cilantro will keep you content.

Also, things taste so much better when you give them all the time they deserve to become wonderful.

Without further ado.


 

Chicken Dumplings in Cilantro Ginger Broth with a side of Coconut Rice

Ingredients:

  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1  1/2 cups Calrose rice
  • 3 chicken breasts
  • 1 T coconut oil
  • 1 T turmeric
  • I lime, zested
  • 2 T freshly grated ginger
  • 1 shallot, diced fine
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Handful of mushrooms
  • 1/2 daikon radish, diced fine
  • Won ton wrappers
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 fresh bunch cilantro

IMG_0781

IMG_0799

Directions:

  1. In a rice cooker (if you have one) add rice and coconut milk. There should be about 1/4 inch of liquid covering the surface of the rice. If you need more liquid, add water.
    1. If you don’t have a rice cooker, bring rice and coconut milk to a boil, then reduce to a bare simmer and cover with a lid. Let cook until all liquid is absorbed and rice is tender, about 20 minutes. Keep warm.
Coconut Cream
As delicious and desireable as this thick coconut separation is, if your coconut milk has divided like this, stir it up with a spoon before dumping it into your rice.

2. In the meanwhile, wash and dice your vegetables. Save all the discarded odds and ends and throw them into a small pot. (This includes knobby chunks of un-grateable ginger, daikon bits, mushroom stems, etc.)

3. Cover the vegetable chunks with enough water to submerge them all. Feel free to add chunks of ginger for stronger flavor. Bring liquid to a simmer and let it happily bubble away in the background while you continue.

IMG_0767

IMG_0770

4. Heat oven to 375. Cover chicken breasts with oil, salt and pepper. If desired, also season with dried ginger or turmeric. Bake until cooked through, about 20 – 25 minutes.

5. In a sautee pan, heat coconut oil. Add ginger, shallot, garlic, mushroom, daikon, turmeric, lime zest and any other desired vegetables or seasonings. Cook until tender. Let cool.

6. Around this time, your chicken should be finished cooking. Let cool slightly. Dice into small chunks or shreds, combine with sautéed vegetables.

7. Set out your wonton wrappers. Keep a small bowl of water handy to wet the edges. Place a small amount of filling into the center of the wonton, then fold diagonally to create a triangle. Tuck all the pointy ends into the center and seal with a pinch. Repeat.

Dumping Demo

IMG_0832

8. Strain the vegetable odds and ends out of the broth, discarding the veggies and saving the broth. To the liquid, add 4 cups of chicken stock. Taste, season as desired. Squeeze the lime into the broth.

9. Bring broth to a simmer. Gently poach a few dumplings at a time until tender, about 6 minutes.

10. Serve dumplings in broth with a side of coconut rice. Garnish with fresh cilantro. (Tip: don’t add cilantro until the very end to keep the flavor fresh and the color bright.)

IMG_0861