Sunday, February 27, 2011

Well done, Macrina!

My dear, dear Macrina Bakery just made Bon Appetit Magazine's "Top Ten Bread Bakeries in the US" list. I have never worked there myself, but on top of feeling proud that I have been smart enough to eat there for the past seven years, I went to pastry school with, and still currently know, quite a few people who work there.

Macrina deserves all the recognition that it gets. Leslie Mackey runs a fabulous business and the baked goods are just plain delicious.

From Bon Appetit:

"Especially worth your dough here are the Macrina Casera ("of this house" bread made with a natural wild starter created from organic grapes) and the oatmeal buttermilk bread (ideal for sandwich making)."

Friday, February 25, 2011

Clean Kitchen 101

I am not a creature of routine. It's just not how I function, and I know myself well enough to make this work best for me. Up until now, this has been good enough for me to keep a pretty clean house. Cleaning when I am inspired has worked well, because I like to be tidy so I am inspired often. I know that when my sink is shiny and free of dishes that I feel like my entire life is more in order.

However...What I have observed and gleaned from talking to mamas is that the only way to keep sanity in a household with any children under 2 is to have some sort of routine.* As my hormones have kicked into high speed nesting gear, I have decided to begin a weekly cleaning routine for my home. Something tells me that with an infant, this is the only way anything is ever going to get done.

For inspiration, I went to Real Simple Magazine's website and searched "Clean Kitchen." I love the breakdown I found of what to clean in an article called "How to Speed-Clean Your Kitchen":

Every Day

  • Wipe down the sink after doing the dishes or loading the dishwasher (30 seconds).
  • Wipe down the stove top (one minute).
  • Wipe down the counters (one minute).
  • Sweep, Swiffer, or vacuum the floor (two minutes).

Every Week

  • Mop the floor (five minutes).
  • Wipe the cabinets, backsplashes, and appliances (10 minutes).
  • Wash the dish rack (four minutes).
  • Wipe the switch plates and phone (one minute).
  • Wipe the inside of the garbage can (one minute).

Every Season

  • Empty and scrub down the inside of the refrigerator (30 minutes).
  • Empty and clean the insides of the utensil drawers (15 minutes).
  • Scrub down the cupboard exteriors (30 minutes).
  • Clean the stove-hood filter (10 minutes).
  • Perform "Shiny Sink 101"

Obviously, this doesn't get everything done, and I end up spending more time on one thing than another, omitting this and adding in that. But even if I already did all these things, it's really great to have a checklist to be sure to get things done. I do so love crossing off to do lists. Oh, and I also love that "Shiny Sink 101."

*Ironically, I have noticed the other integral piece of keeping sanity as a mother is to be flexible enough to realize that routine is going to be interrupted every. single. day.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Hard to admit...

I think living in the Pacific Northwest has influenced my thinking. This video clip made me die laughing...especially with all the chicken talk that I've been doing.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Chicken Debate Continues

NPR today was talking about Measure 1130- what I like to now call, "The Great Chicken Debate." They had two guests on the show; Paul Shapiro, the senior director of the factory farming campaign for the Humane Society of the United states, and Greg Satrum, vice president of Williamette Egg Farms.

I know I am biased, but in my opinion Greg Satrum's arguments didn't hold water. To sum up, they were:

1. It's a more extreme measure than any other state has enacted.
2. It would mean we had to change 95% of the egg farming industry
3. It would mean that egg demand might drive the prices up to $5-$7 per dozen.

He meant the arguments to be negative, but to all those points I say: I know! That's why I like it!

I can't figure out how to get a podcast onto this blog, so here is the link to the whole discussion. It's very interesting. (If you want to skip the first part, you can fast forward to about 2:50)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

A Happy Morning

2 Things make me very happy in the mornings. Since the rare Seattle sun was shining in our kitchen window today, I thought I'd take the opportunity to capture them.
(Aren't you proud of me for remembering the camera?)

The first is my common breakfast of an English Muffin with butter and apricot jam, and a glass of green tea. During the week my breakfasts are not elaborate. Just enough to get me up and at 'em.

The other is our weekly delivery of organic produce from our CSA, Full Circle Farm

Aaah, healthy greens!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Bun in the Oven!

In case you are wondering- it's totally the metaphorical bun that I'm talking about. What I'm trying to say is...I'm pregnant!

There haven't been very many odd cravings, but I must say my relationship with food has certainly changed. I am just more...finicky. Not to mention, if I did have cravings I would say it was a hankering for comfort foods of my youth (home made mac and cheese, pizza, cheese and more cheese). I will definitely be sharing all of my ups and downs here, but don't worry this won't turn into a mommy blog. There's enough of those to go around (Like there aren't enough food blogs....HA!).

Anyway, so far I have learned:

-I must eat every hour. Even if it's just a piece of fruit. The problem is if I let my stomach get empty (and when I feel hungry, it's too late). However, I also can't eat too much, because if I get overly know what comes next (Super Bowl Sunday was not a good night!).

-I can't keep desserts in the house. Me + a cake= bad news enough before baby, but now there is just no stopping me.

-Being happy about getting bigger is just tough. Being a woman who has always been body conscious (like most woman, I'm sure) it is hard to let go! I'm not talking about fat even, I'm just talking about celebrating that bump that is protruding from my previously flat (well, flat enough) tummy. I have to constantly remind myself what it is that's making me grow!

That's all I have to say so far. I am not very far along yet (12 weeks), and I'm sure I'll have more adventures to talk about later. Thanks for putting up with this blabbing mama!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Now I Want an iPhone

There has been a refusal on my part to succumb to the purchase of a smart phone. I have been in a stubborn battle (with no one but myself, really) to prove that most people (stock brokers, celebrity assistants, and company CEO's aside) do not need that kind of technology trailing them like a ball and chain all day long. Unless it's for your work, if you can't spend a couple hours out of the house without checking your email and browsing the internet...something seems wrong to me. This has changed with the iPhone now being available through Verizon. Also, when I saw this app for translating, it totally blew my mind. Can you believe that? Immediate visual translation?! It won't be long before there there will be a little ear piece that a person can wear to do the same thing, no?

Anyway, my point does have to do with food, and since we have been on the subject of GMO's this article talks about a free new app that can help you while shopping to avoid certain labels in the grocery store that are commonly tainted. If you, like me, do not have an iPhone (*yet*), at the bottom of the link there is a PDF that you can download. I would encourage you to skim it over so that you have an idea of common brands to avoid.

And seriously, if you didn't click on the link above, watch this video down here. It freaks me out (in a good way) every time I see it! I love technology!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day

To-morrow is Saint Valentine's Day

All in the morning betime,
And I a maid at your window

To be your Valentine.

{William Shakespeare from Hamlet}

PS. Please remember your baker friends today! Valentine's Day is by far the busiest and most stressful holiday for a pastry chef.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Who'da thought?

I suppose Nordstrom does everything well, don't they? My friend made the most delicious Thai Chicken Noodle Soup the other day, and when I begged to be told where it came from? None other than a cookbook from the department store.

Flipping through the book quickly, I noticed that, just like the store merchandise, the recipes are top notch, well thought out and carefully selected. Not to mention, great for parties!

I saw the book for sale in the Nordstrom Cafe, but it I can only find it available used online.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Valentine's DIY...why think of my own when other's are so good?

I have a few things up my sleeve for Raj this Valentine's Day. My main gift every year is to request that we stay in. It's my way of being low maintenance and letting him off the hook of having to come up with some spectacularly romantic kind of date (not to mention, when $$ isn't spent on an expensive meal, it can be spent on other things...such as jewelry ;). We can go out to a nice place any day, why deal with month ahead reservations, pricey "prix-fixed" meals, and crowds? After seven years of marriage, you learn that just spending time together can be more romantic than anything.

Other than that, here is what I have planned:

First off, I wanted to make some sort of heart pin to send Raj off to work with that morning. I will tell him that he must keep it on all day. I love these felt ones here. They aren't sparkly, so he won't be embarrassed to wear one into a meeting...right?

Second...oh man, I can't get over how adorable these downloadable stickers from Twig and Thistle are. They have a PDF and instructions, and all you have to do is find some sticker paper.

Third, our Valentine tradition is to stay in and eat homemade pizza (made by your's truly) and watch a movie. I always do at least one classic margherita, but these ideas here sound like they could be a crowd pleaser (Umm honey and truffle cheese? Yes, please!)

Last, triple chocolate mousse. 'Nuf said.

And that's everything I have planned! (except this. *wink wink*)

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

More on Chickens

Sorry if that photo is hard to look at...but it's reality and my purpose of posting it was to give you something difficult to ignore.

Now, going back to the Washingtonian's fight for chickens: This article from the Olympian is really, really great. It's very factual- when circumstances speak for themselves, there is no reason to over dramatize or publish propaganda.

Contemplating Valentine's Day

Every Christmas I think about making baskets of goodies for my friends, family, and neighbors. I know it's the thought that counts, but I get utterly uninspired when I go to houses and see countertops and cookie jars crammed full of treats already received. Valentine's Day is a great time to get my baking going again. It is, after all, a day for showing love and eating decadent desserts.

Here are the recipes that I am considering putting in my Valentine goody baskets.

{Since cake is difficult to transport, why not make these Red Velvet Cookies instead?}

{I have made these Chocolate Dipped Shortbread Hearts before. They are so pretty and sweet.}

{I know Rice Krispies Treats aren't fancy, but they are always a crowd pleaser. A little pink dye and a heart shaped cookie cutter makes them festive!}

{No Valentines spread is complete without rich Chocolate Crinkles}

Monday, February 07, 2011

Game Day Food

Yesterday was the Super Bowl. I couldn't have told you who was playing before yesterday, and to be quite honest, I'm not even positive who won. What I do remember was how good the soft pretzels that I made were. Snacks. That's why I like sporting events.

It was the first time I have used that recipe, and if I do it again I will either halve the recipe or double the amount of pretzels I roll. Mine ended up HUGE and puffy. I think they should have been rolled out much thinner. Still, they were delicious with mustard or tomato sauce. Goal!

Saturday, February 05, 2011

An Education...Part 3

So what does this have to do with Whole Foods Market? The article originally brought up brings to light the stance that the world's most powerful companies are now taking on Genetically Modified Organisms. The author suggests (and frankly, I agree) that Whole Foods is compromising its standards for money, and to avoid Truth-in-labeling.

To summarize the article:
1. For their support, Whole Foods Market is asking Monsanto for "compensation." This is what is known in street language as "selling out" or "prostitution."

2. If Whole Foods continued to push for Truth-in-labeling, they would be damning many of their own products. As of now, the only way to be sure you are not eating GMO's is to buy organic, but Whole Foods sells many "natural" products as well. Customers would be aghast to walk down the aisles of that store and see granola bars and tortilla chips labeled "MADE WITH GMO's." As the article points out, "If you put a label on genetically engineered food, you might as well put a skull and crossbones on it." Consumers may be gullible, but we are not stupid.

The big irony is this:

The definition of a Whole Food is, "Food that is unprocessed and unrefined, or processed as little as possible before being consumed." Genetically engineered food is nearly processing itself from the moment it begins to grow. In conclusion, my personal respect and trust of Whole Foods Market has dropped significantly.

If you remember nothing else, I want you to remember my favorite quote from the article:

"There can be no such thing as 'coexistence' with a reckless industry that undermines public health, destroys biodiversity, damages the environment, tortures and poisons animals, destabilizes the climate, and economically devastates the world's 1.5 billion seed-saving small farmers."

Thursday, February 03, 2011

An Education...Part 2

Hopefully now you all have a good understanding of what Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) or Genetically Engineered (GE) product is. So now you may be wondering why this is a bad thing? Really, if a fish hormone can produce more tomatoes, rice soy, or other plant, thus ending world hunger, why is that a bad thing? Well, first off, let me ask you this- in the past ten years since GMO's have been on the rise, has there been a drop in world hunger? Any wasteful, gluttonous American (yes, I know that's harsh, but I'm guilty too) can testify that the amount of food produced is not the problem. (Also, a lot of GMO food aid is from the US is refused in other countries).

So...What are the risks of GMO's? Aside from being just plain weird...

1. Health risks are unknown and impossible to track. You have no idea how much GE produce you have eaten in your lifetime. Nor does anyone else, because law does not require labeling. When you change the structure of a cell, it would be logical to assume that one is not getting the same health benefits as a cell grown in nature.

2. The risk- or inevitability- of contamination with other non-GE crops. If one farmer grows a non-GMO corn crop next to a GMO corn crop, seeds will blow over and cross pollination will occur. A farmer then cannot be really sure what he is growing and selling.
2a. This is part of reasons for the huge fight over alfalfa. Alfalfa grows and cross pollinates faster than even other crops. Also, it is used in almost all animal feed. This means even if you decide to not eat alfalfa anymore, you still will be if you eat any form of meat. (In fact, even the grass fed meat I preach constantly could be contaminated, because GMO alfalfa could blow over into grazing pastures as well.)

3. The scariest implication is this: Each and every GMO seed is patented and owned by the company that created it- 99.9% of the time, that company is Monsanto. This means that Monsanto can do whatever they want with those seeds and crops. When Monsanto's corn seeds blow over into a competing farmer's land and the farmer sells those crops, Monsanto takes those farmers to court, proves the farmers were growing GMO corn (whether knowingly or unknowingly), and sues the farmers out of business. This happens over and over again. Eventually, when there is no distinction anymore between GMO and non-GMO corn, Monsanto will literally own all the corn in the world. And if they want to make it illegal for you to grow corn in your own backyard? That's their choice.

That's enough for today. Digest.
If you want to read more, I like this article.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Just a photo...

I'd like to interrupt my ranting to bring to you something beautiful, luxurious, happy, and delicious. Eat with the gods and serve with ambrosia. I've got to find an excuse to make this...cocktail party, anyone?

{Photo from one of my favorite fashion blogs- This is Glamourous}