Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Brentley Softpacks: Bags so functional even the tags have a purpose!

This company has gone by many names over the years.
Brentley Softpacks
But two things have always remained constant. It's a local company and the quality of bags is impeccable.
My husband got his first one in the early 80's. I got mine when I came here to go to college. When my oldest went to kindergarten he got one as well. In a few years our youngest will continue this tradition.

Their bags last forever and this Fathers Day I got a more professional looking one for my husband to take to his office. It's chic and functional. He was pretty happy with it and then we noticed the tag. Yes, the tag. Apparently it is made up of dried yet flattened seeds. You can plant them in your garden and they are supposed to grow into flowers. That is the coolest thing I've seen in a long while and VERY Bellingham. Talk about taking recycling to another level. We are going to plant them today. I love this idea.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Kids Northwest: The only place we go for shoes, boots and sandals.

Here is Mike Hodgin helping Finn find just the right fit for his Tevas.

It's summertime and naturally my boys need new sandals.  So off we went to our local kids merchandise outfitter, Kids Northwest

We've been buying shoes, boots and sandals (and various other children's toys and clothes) here since our oldest Ross was born 8 years ago.  Why?  Because they have quality merchandise at fair prices and they are passionate about children's gear.  In reality I can choose to buy shoes anywhere, but I go to Kids Northwest because I know I will always come home with shoes that will last and fit my boys well.  This doesn't happen when you purchase shoes online.  You get ill fitting shoes and since there's no accountability the quality is hit and miss, even if the brand stays the same.  And returning anything online is a big pain in the youknowwhat.
Mike and Janet Hodgin are the owners of this store.  They are wonderful people and they know everything there is to know about children's shoes/boots/sandals.  My boys are weeds and they grow out of everything.  FAST!  So getting the proper fit is not only essential, it prevents me from wasting money and waste is my pet peeve.

When I was growing up my mom used to take my sister and I to this really cool local children's clothing and shoe store in Tacoma, WA.  I remember that store fondly.  All the people who worked there knew us by name and my mom refused to buy shoes anywhere else.  My mom would claim that when she bought shoes at other stores the fit was never quite right.  I never really understood what she was referring to but now I do.  You see the shoes were the same at all the other stores, but the people fitting us in our local store knew how to do it properly.  Mike and Janet know how to fit children properly.  They know that each piece of footwear has to have just enough room to grow, while maintaining a fit that doesn't allow the shoes to go flopping all over the place.  Kids and parents hate that and shoes are important.  Very important.
Mike and Janet are two of the first businesses owners I met when I first moved to Bellingham.  They were kind and considerate and allowed me to ramble on and on about being new in town and the challenges of raising children.  I will forever be grateful to them for welcoming me into this community.  Someday I will be very sad when my boys outgrow their store.  However, the values they instill will linger. 
  • Kindness
  • Knowledge
  • Quality
Kids Northwest.  Thanks for keeping us happy today and for many years to come. 
Yay for Summer.  Our new Tevas. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Huevos Rancheros with Local Black Beans and Red Pepper

I used a recipe I got with Acme Farms and Kitchen and adapted it a bit. The black beans are from Haricot Farms and the eggs from my son's preschool. I added red pepper to this recipe and used up some homemade leftover red sauce. Sometimes being local means more than just local ingredients. It also means using what you have available in your own local kitchen.

The best part about making this was the fact that I was missing a few important ingredients.  We have a Haggen (local Bellingham grocer) near us and I biked myself and my son with a trailer to the store to pick up the red pepper and cilantro.  We have a nice non-profit called SmartTrips that allows participants in the Whatcom County area to calculate any trips made without using your car.  You can make a smart trip using the bus, a bicycle, your feet or carpool.  It's a nice site because you can calculate total miles used but also how many calories burned and also various other environmental benefits of keeping your car off the road.  After 10 trips you get a SmartTrip card that gives discounts at local participating businesses.  Every year my husband and I compete to see who gets their card first.  He bikes to work about 2/3 of the year so he usually wins.  Either way, we are sending a good message to our family, our environment, and making a connecting with local businesses. 
I love this town!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

100% Whole Wheat Pizza with spinach, garbanzo beans, olives and goat cheese.

The finished product.  Healthy, energizing AND yummy.

My husband and I were cleaning up dishes tonight and I realized that my viewpoint has changed when thinking about what to make for dinner.  In the past I would find some kind of meat or fish in the freezer or grocery store and then plan a meal around it.  Once a meal was constructed in my mind I would then find a vegetable side to accompany it.  What has changed?  I realized tonight that I now do quite the opposite.  I look into my garden, refrigerator, or pantry and find a vegetable(s) and that instead becomes the main course.  I still include a vegetable side dish but now veggies dominate our entire meal.  This is quite a mind shift for me and very revolutionary.  Now don't get me wrong.  I'm not turning into a vegan or even a vegetarian overnight.  However, I have been trying to incorporate more plants into my diet and I will admit that Mark Bittman has influenced me in this somewhat.  I still love meat.  I just eat less of it and what I do eat is from sources I know and trust. In short, meat accompanies dinner sometimes but it very rarely dominates it these days.  However, though my perspective on food has been altered somewhat, my passion for good tasting, locally sourced food has not.  Here's I've been up to recently.

I've been experimenting with breads lately.  I've never felt completely competent around breads so I've been experimenting for a few months.  Here's a link to my other blog/website about how this new obsession began.  After searching the internet for well rated cookbooks I finally found Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzber, M.D.,  Zoe Francois.  I checked it out at the library and after a few renewals have now decided to purchase it from Village Books.  They have a nice chapter about flatbreads and pizzas and so I decided to give homemade pizza a shot. 

Now pizza is faster to make than bread but there's a trick.  Pizza doesn't have a second rising like bread does and you really need to have everything ready and prepared right before it goes into the oven.  You don't want the dough to sit and rest.  It will start to stick to your prepared surface and if you have placed sauce on your dough it will get soggy quite fast.  So get everything ready ahead of time.  That means:
  1. sauce
  2. pizza dough
  3. toppings (cooked or raw) 
  4. preheated oven (450 degrees)

So lets get started.  Most of the ingredients I used here are local and nearly all of the veggies are from my CSA box from.Acme Farms and Kitchen.  I decided to use a red sauce for this pizza.  Here's how I made it. 

Step 1:  Basic Red Sauce  *local ingredients are highlighted in green

  • 14.5 oz. can of Fire Roasted Crushed Tomatoes
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large clove of garlic
  • dried oregano (about 1/4 tsp.)
  • fresh basil (2 fat leaves)
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground pepper
This is the most versatile sauce ever.  Please note that you can use it on pizza, pasta or anything else that calls for jarred pasta sauce.  Also note that tomatoes are incredibly important when making this red sauce.  Don't skimp.  Buy the good ones.  Use either San Marzano tomatoes or the Fire Roasted ones from Muir Glen.  The fire roasted aspect imparts a ton of flavor. 
Here's everything you need.

Now, first heat up a small amount of olive oil in your small pan.  Keep the oil on medium heat, smash the garlic and toss it in the oil.  Let the garlic brown for about 10 seconds and add the crushed tomatoes.  Be careful the oil will splatter a bit.  Swirl a little water in the can, swish it around and dump the leftover tomato residue into the pan.  Don't waste those tomatoes.  They're not cheap. 

Lower the heat on the sauce and simmer until becomes as thick as you like.  While the sauce is simmering tear up the basil leaves and add the dried oregano.  Salt and pepper to taste.

My husband dried this oregano from our garden.   When I want to use it I squish it with my hands over whatever I'm making. 
Remember you can use this red sauce for pasta, lasagna, sandwiches etc.  Just remember to reduce it and/or blend it to suit the dish you are making.  I usually make a ton of this and freeze it.  Then I thaw it out when life gets really busy.

You can blend the sauce into submission, but for pizza I like a bit of texture so I choose not to.  I also reduce this sauce a lot more than usual.  I like to make it pretty thick because I don't want to risk having a soggy pizza crust.  No one likes that.  Eeeew.   

Step 2:  100% Whole Wheat Pizza Dough *local ingredients

Before I begin this segment, I must tell you that this dough takes time.  Plan ahead and make it at home so it will taste better.  However, if you are feeling spontaneous or just don't have the time at the moment here's another suggestion.  Go to your favorite pizza place and ask them to sell you their dough.  Most places will sell it to you for very little.  Buy a few pieces of dough and freeze some for another day.  Most places will not only do this but it is far cheaper and better than anything you'll buy in the store.  In Bellingham, LaFiama does this but their dough is not 100% whole wheat and this one is! 
It helps to whisk the dry ingredients together before you add your liquids.

This 100% whole wheat dough can be used for more than just pizza.  I use it for focaccia and other artisan breads too.  Once the dough is made and has rested it is super quick to make pizza.  If you want to make this and save time, make the dough on the weekend and let it rest in the refrigerator until you're ready to make pizza.  After that, it takes the same amount of time as any other dough and it will be homemade and it will be better for your health.  Remember that whole grains fill you up faster than refined grains but have the same calories.  However this dough is  really good.  I never sacrifice taste for caloric content.  That's just silly and I refuse to live like that.  Healthy yes!  But it has to taste good for me to recommend it.

Mix all of the ingredients in a large container or bowl.  Make sure it can hold over 5 quarts because this dough is really going to rise. 
Yes.  I mix my dough in a BIG food safe bucket. 

Once everything is mixed, cover it with a towel, lid or plastic wrap and let the dough rise for about 2 hours at room temperature. 
Before rising:  Only 2 quarts.

Make sure that whatever is coving your dough isn't airtight.  That part is really important.  After 2 hours your dough is ready for pizza.  If you don't want to use it right away put it in the fridge.  It will be easier to handle once the dough is cold. 
After rising:  Yowza! 

When you are ready to make some pizza, grab a wad (yes, I said WAD) of dough from your bucket.  It should be about the size of a small grapefruit.  Toss a small amount of flour onto your work surface and dough and roll out with a rolling pin.  This dough rises a bit in the oven so roll it extra flat for a thinner crust.  With time and experimentation you will find what you like best. 

When the dough is rolled out to your desired thickness, gently place onto a piece of parchment paper.  I prefer Reynolds Parchment Paper.  Place your sauce evenly onto your dough and then begin to add your toppings. 
Cut the parchment paper to fit the size of your dough.

Schmear on the sauce.

Add your toppings. 

Step 3:  Toppings (cooked or raw)

Now I'm not much of one for the traditional overly cheesy American style pizza.  I like to be creative and since I'm lactose intolerant I have to be very particular about what cheese I do include.  Sometimes I don't add cheese at all.  Thankfully, I can tolerate goat cheese so that's what I used.  The beauty of pizza is that you can put pretty much anything on it.  I tend to like cooked toppings but raw ones are nice too.  Be creative.  Use what is in season and what you can find locally. 
For this pizza here is what I used.  *local ingredients
  • Cooked garbanzo beans (Haricot Farms)
  • Goat cheese feta Gothberg Farms  (This stuff is gold and this is my favorite goat dairy!)
  • Cooked spinach from my CSA
  • pitted Kalmata olives. 
Add a bit of olive oil to your pan, cook your washed spinach until it looks very dry and then salt/pepper to taste.

I mixed the rest of my toppings in the hot pan but turned off the burner.  The residual heat will evaporate any additional moisture. 

If any of your toppings are cooked, be sure to let them thoroughly cool before placing on your pizza.  Certain toppings really require cooking to make sure the water they contain is released before they are put in the oven.  This is especially important for people who like vegetables on their pizza.  If you just want the plain old pepperoni and cheese this won't really apply to you.  However, the pizza I made here is vegetarian and therefore has more veggies.  I don't want those goodies to get my crust soggy so I cook and cool then beforehand.  Examples of toppings that need to be dehydrated through the cooking process are:
  1. spinach or other greens like kale or swiss chard
  2. mushrooms of any kind
  3. onions, leeks (alliums)
  4. broccoli
  5. cauliflower
Once your toppings are ready place them over your sauce. 
Slide the pizza onto a pizza stone or cookie sheet and cook in a 450 degree oven for 5-20 minutes. 
5 min. for thin pizza and 20 for super thick. 

Keep an eye on your pie until the center is bubbly (the dough not the cheese) and the outer crust is hard.  Let cool on a cutting board for a few minutes and then feast!

I usually pair my pizza with an additional salad and a glass of red wine.  Beer can be fun too but pizza was made to go with red wine.  Remember Italians had their hands on this creation WAY before us. 

Be creative.  Experiment with toppings and sauces. 
What's on your favorite pizza?  Tell me because I want to give it a go myself.  Better yet.  Send me a picture at 
Let's vote on our favorite. 

    Wednesday, June 12, 2013

    Asparagus pizza!

    Shiitake and Asparagu Pesto Pizza with Goat Cheese
    I used local ingredients for this entire pizza. Local dough, pesto made from local veggies, local mushrooms and of course local asparagus. This was the best pizza we've had yet this year.

    Thursday, June 6, 2013

    The best CSA ever!

    The gogeous ACME CSA box.

    For those of you who haven't been living under a rock for the past few years you might have noticed that "being local" has become quite the popular thing to be.  Many people are interacting locally in many different ways but in the end it's about doing things closer to your current home.  Some of the cool local things I've recently read about and participated in are:
    • Creating a home garden.  (That's about as local as you can get.  After all it's in your own back/front yard.)
    • Shopping at local businesses
    • Perusing at Farmer's Markets (Bellingham, WA has two each week.  Yippee!)
    • Joining a CSA
    This last one is the one I'm going to talk about today.  One of the coolest ways to interact within your local community is to join a CSA.  Specifically, CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture.  and in general it consists of a farmer opening up shares of their farm that you purchase.  In return for this purchase and usually additional seed money you get a box of goodies from said farm.  If you want to learn more about CSA's and want to find which ones are available in your area click here.

    Now I have joined many CSA's over the years and they've all been somewhat satisfying.  I adored the idea of directly supporting farms, farmers and their associates but sometimes I ran into a few issues.  First of all since I have a large garden I couldn't always get through all the produce.  I had this big box of veggies/fruit and my garden producing at full force and it all became too much.  The other problem I ran into was that in my area I only got veggies or fruit and sometimes the occasional carton of eggs.  To get local meats and breads I had to go to the Farmer's Market or CO-OP and it felt like the CSA was a wasted trip.  Finally, the last and worst problem I ran into with one CSA was that the produce was too fresh.  In other words the produce was ready to eat and would go bad before I could use it.  I love purchasing local but wasted produce is simply money down the drain.   I hate waste more than anything. 

    Therefore I kind of gave up on CSA's for awhile.  My husband was not happy with them either and he was a kind of a hard sell for the above reasons.  Then one day I was happily playing on facebook and someone mentioned a place called Acme Farms + Kitchen .  I am always curious about everything local and because it was new I checked them out.  I noticed instantly that this was no ordinary CSA.  This was a pair of moms who started a company that coordinated with local farms and businesses to provide local products that were organized into neat and tidy boxes.  In fact they refer to these boxes as a CSK (Community Supported Kitchen) because they offer a range of products.  Yes, that's correct.  This company not only offers produce but they also offer bread, fresh pasta, meat (chicken and seafood), beans, honey, milk, name a few.  The best part is that everything you purchase is local.  Yippy Skippy.

    I must also mention that the produce included in the boxes in impeccable.  It's perfectly fresh yet lasts all week long.  I've been getting produce boxes for over a month now and nothing has gone bad.  If anything it lasts a little over a week.  Here's a nice picture of one of the CSA boxes I recently received.  Isn't everything gorgeous?
    Here's what's inside.  Stunning huh?

    Acme Farms + Kitchen also offer these fabulous things called locavore boxes.  The locavore boxes are wonderful boxes filled with produce and other delights. Not only does Acme Farms + Kitchen tailor make them to your dietary needs but they also comes with recipes.  Now these aren't just any recipes.  They are incredibly varied recipes that incorporate all the local ingredients included in your box.  That means that there is no waste.  You use absolutely everything in them.  What this concept translates to is a significant cost savings on your grocery bill and your family ends up eating far more vegetables than they normally would.  It's a win, win, win.  My husband is now a true convert and is addicted to the dairy-free locavore box that we routinely get.  And please note that my husband is incredibly frugal and quite picky about the quality of his food.  He and I are both like kids in a candy store when we pick up our CSA.  It has been quite the blessing in our home. 

    So thank you Acme Farms + Kitchen.  Thank you for being smart organized women with good hearts and sound minds.  Because of your business our local economy just gets better and better. 
    Please notice that there are shucked oysters from Taylor Shellfish Farm, Ralphs Pretzel buns, Breadfarm Hoagies, pasture raise eggs and Bellingham Pasta Co.Fusilli.  This is the non-veggie portion of the dairy-free locavore box I just purchased. 

    Tomatoes in June!  Kale, green asparagus, assortment of lettuces and oregano.  Yes, herbs are often included in the produce box.  Nice touch!