oiling your wood.

One thing life has taught me, is that some things really are made to last – and there are definitely some kitchen equipment I plan to have for my lifetime. Our throw-away culture is destroying our minds into thinking that most of what we have is disposable. So treat it rough, with American panache, and then dump it in the trash.

Well, I’m here to tell you that your things – with a little cultivation – can remain functional for a long, long time. In specific, you wooden equipment will smile at you if you follow two simple rules: do not soak and oil regularly.

Below I have included pictures of my sadly neglected wooden cutting boards and spoons that I loved up on and oiled on one side, to show you the contrast.
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The hows and whys.

Why wood? First of all, I prefer wooden equipment for many reasons – some of which are: they are aesthetically pleasing, they feel best to the touch, unlike plastic they don’t leach nasty chemicals and they don’t give bacteria a happy home to breed, they are easier on your pans and knives (respectively), they are heat resistant, and they last a long time.

Why oiling? Wood is natural substance that dries over time. When wood dries it shrinks (that is why your cutting boards will pull apart at the seams) and becomes brittle. Heating wood and washing it with soap further dries it out. Regular oiling with proper food-grade oil keeps your wood soft, which keeps it from cracking, warping, splitting, or splintering – and they will also retain their color longer.

How to clean your wood. Soap is fine, some people like bleach – but I think it is unnecessary (see link above about wood’s natural anti-bacterial properties), but never place wooden items in dishwasher (too much water and heat) or leave soaking (this will cause your equipment to soak up water and expand, leading to cracking and warping).

What kind of oil? You want to use a food-grade oil that is not prone to rancidity. Olive oil does not work, because it will go rancid quickly (if it’s not already, check out how gross olive oil can be). Use mineral oil, a mixture of mineral oil and beeswax, or you can buy a pre-prepared oil in a bottle just for the occasion (pictured below).

How to oil your wood. Now that your wooden spoon/cutting board is clean and dry, rub oil on generously with a soft cloth and leave to soak in for up to 24 hours. Then wipe off with a clean cloth and you’re done! Simple as that. Repeat once a month.

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unoiled side

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a generous greasing, waiting to be wiped off

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after oiling

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For some great heritage made spoons - check out my friend James Blackwood at Pretty Good Mules!

For some great heritage made spoons – check out my friend James Blackwood at Pretty Good Mules!

 

Ans a little wood wisdom from James:

Wood will expand and contract as it absorbs and gives off water. Unfortunately, it does that much better at the surface (especially the end grain) than on the inside and all that movement over an unchanging interior will cause cracks and fissures. Adding an oil or oil/wax finish helps stabilize the moisture content of the wood in the face of all the hydrological vagaries of a kitchen.

Mineral oil and the butcher block conditioner you indicate are good options for treating wooden items. It’s a bit more expensive, but for most things I’ve gone to using flax seed oil. It is a hardening oil which will slowly build up a finish as it oxidizes. This is a very slow process, a single application of oil not wiped from the object may take up to 6 months to dry fully, so just keep applying it as you mention in the article. Wipe it on. Give it a few hours or a day to rest and then wipe away the excess. Slowly it will build up a more durable finish. Another option is walnut oil, but I’ve seen some quibbling over nut allergies sensitivity and I don’t want to take the chance, though I personally know folks that swear by it.

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Sprouts: A little life in the dark days

I have taught a few Raw Foods classes over the years, though I would not call myself an expert, I have done some research on this subject. One of the things that almost always gets people to sign up for my classes is Sprouting! Lentils Sprouting seems to hold an intense fascination with people today, and I completely understand. To me it sort of fulfills that human desire to create, to watch things grow. Since most of us have a million excuses not to actually grow our own vegetables, we can at least sprout some lovely shoots on our kitchen counter with little to no effort in a matter of days.

Instant gratification. Fresh Food. Micro Farming.

I find myself doing most of my sprouting in the days of winter – when sunlight and fresh food is scarce. The ground is frozen and the sky is slate gray, but my little sprouting trays are teeming with life.

Separating my sprouting into two different types makes my brain a little happier, as I like to sprout some from (A) and some (B) at the same time (in different containers) so that I have sprouts to munch on and sprouts to cook with. (These are just a few of my favorites out of 100’s of things to sprout.)

Sprouts that I can eat whole and raw (A) and Sprouts that have to be cooked or the seed removed (B).

(A) group includes thing like Flax, Wheat and Rye Berries, Radish, Broccoli, Cabbage, Alfalfa, Almonds, Black Sesame

(B) group includes things like Sunflower Seeds, Mung Beans, Black Beans, Kidney Beans, Lentils, Brown Rice

Sprouts are incredibly easy to grow – you can honestly use a wet paper towel (like the experiment you did in grade school, remember)! But here are few methods that most people prefer (click photos and link to the site they are from):

Jars with cloth or net over the top.  (click photo to find site this photo is from)

Jars with cloth or net over the top.

Hemp Bags

Hemp Bags.

Or my preferred method: Sprouting Tower with Trays!!

Or my preferred method: Sprouting Tower with Trays!!

This sprouting tower basically just “fills itself” – I pour water in the top (the top is the white tray on the left) and it fills and then empties into the next tray by the use of the magical force of gravity, and repeat on each level until all the excess water is trapped in the last tray until I empty it. The ridges on the bottom of each tray ensures that the seeds remain moist but not too wet.

Recently I sprouted flax seeds, black lentils. and wheat berries,

IMG_1654with quick and wonderful results,

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Day Two Wheat Berries

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Day Two Flax Seeds

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Day Two Black Lentils

that just kept growing.

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Day Three Wheat Berries

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Day Three Flax Seeds

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Day Three Black Lentils

AND SOME WOULDN’T STOP!

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The science and nutrition around sprouting is quite simple (and a super old practice). First of all seeds (and this includes nuts, beans, legumes, and grains) are routinely eaten in their whole or ground form – but you are actually missing a lot of the nutrition that is contained within these little things. Since seeds carry around the beginnings of new life, they store huge amounts of highly concentrated nutrition to help a little sprout start and make it into the ground – where it can begin to draw nutrients from the soil. This “highly concentrated nutrition” is actually protected by carbohydrates and insoluble fiber, to basically make it harder for others to access and easier for the seed to “sleep”. With the process of sprouting, or waking the seed from nutritional hibernation, you jump-start a reaction in the seed that (a) begins photosynthesis, (b) enzymes begin to metabolize the carbs and fiber to gain access to the more nutritious amino acids, proteins, minerals, and vitamins, and (c) causes the seed to start to grow.

It’s an ingenious plan of nature to make these plant babies so self-sufficient, simply carrying its first few days worth of food around with it. And to get at that wonderful nutritive food is easy! Easy as stealing candy from a baby, a baby sprout plant that thinks it is going to use all that energy and nutrition to grow into a plant.

To wake these seeds up you need two things…come on! think back….fifth grade science class…..Water and Light! The correct balance is the only hurdle to jump. Too wet and you get moldy seeds. Too dry and they don’t sprout. Too much light and they fry. Too little light and they won’t crack. Generally I find, for the light – especially in the winter – that on the kitchen counter is light enough. Assuming your kitchen isn’t in an underground bunker.

Water, on the other hand, is a bit trickier. Really you just want your seed moist, but not wet – and certainly not soaking in a pool of water. It is best to moisten them twice a day.

Well, ok now – Get To Sprouting!!! and look out for my post on what to do with all the sprouts you now have!

(The first photo in this post was borrowed from this blog: http://www.insonnetskitchen.com/sprouted-lentils/ )

From Restaurant Chef to Home Cook

In my new life, the one where I live in the woods and my better half is in school (ie we are broke) I find myself cooking more at home than ever before in my life. I cook as much as possible to avoid buying things, as in I make granola so we don’t have to buy cereal. Not only is this cheaper, and usually tastier, but it also lets me control what is going into our food. My granola has organic oats, dried cranberries, nuts, organic flax seeds, honey, and coconut oil – that’s it, no weird preservative or packing gas or additives.

I have taken to this lifestyle quite quickly, probably on account of my cheffing background – the idea of making something from scratch that will last for a while (in quantity and quality) is not foreign to me. thinking in kitchen I want to share with you the tricks I have picked up over the last several months of my domestication.

I buy lots of milk on sale (which is usually close to it’s expiration date) then I turn it into kefir or yogurt after a few days of using it. Doing this extends the life of the milk and you can still use it for pretty much everything you can use milk for (the yogurt you make will undoubtably be the thin “drinkable” kind). I use it in place of any milk product for baking (great in scones, biscuits, cornbread), eat it on my morning granola (sometimes with a slash of milk to lighten the tartness of it), or add it to smoothies. The great news is, these homemade delights have the same nutritional value as milk, with the addition of probiotics (great for immune health and easier digestion), B vitamins, and phosphorus.

I buy all our beans dried. Canned beans are not only packed with salt and weird preservatives and other CRAP, but they usually have such a miserable texture, too. You don’t have to soak your beans if you don’t want to, just set them to boil and cook them until done – better yet, get acquainted with a pressure cooker. I like to cook lots of beans at one time and then freeze what I don’t use in small ziplock bags, that way I can just pull out a bag of chickpeas whenever I want to make hummus or a bag of kidney beans when I want to make red beans and rice.

Making granola instead of buying cereal. Holy smokes cereal is SO expensive. Granola is easy and relatively cheap to make – and much better for you than most of the cereals out there. (I am working on a granola/granola bar blog post.)

Don’t buy things in boxes: make your own crackers (they last for a really long time!), make your own cookies (it literally take 15 minutes to put the dough together), make your own granola bars!, make your own mac’n’cheese, make your own stock, and definitely don’t say to yourself “It’s too expensive/time-consuming/hard” because if it is nominally more expensive, it is MUCH better for you and your family – if it takes a little longer, then think about how this can become family bonding time (you can even still watch your favorite shows while you do it) – and everything is hard the first time, the more you do it the easier it becomes and the faster you get at it.

Think before you shop and cook. Plan at least some (if not all) of your meals ahead, to stop yourself from buying frivolous or unnecessary foods. I usually plan my meals for the week around the protein or a theme, like : Thursday we have that pork roast, so I’ll need sides for that & Friday I want to make Mexican, how about cheese enchiladas & etc. Think of how your ingredients can work from one meal to another – you have a lot of rice leftover from Mexican night, then make chicken and rice soup with that chicken stock you have in the freezer. Planning is really the key to saving money and your mind! Get everyone involved, have fun with it. (Check out my meal planning post!)

Make food you can enjoy all week long. On sundays I like to make one soup and one salad (like potato salad, quinoa salad, pasta salad), this way when someone gets peckish there is always something to grab in the fridge. And it’s even hearty enough to serve as the “I don’t feel like cooking tonight” dinner.

Freeze. Freeze. FREEZE! The freezer is your best friend when it comes to saving time and money. Making soup, stock, bread, beans, pastries (like empanadas or samosas), and sauces in bulk and freezing them gives you something made and ready to heat up for a quick and cheap dinner – or – buy big pieces of meat or meat/fish/chicken on sale and freezing it can save you lots of money.

You don’t need years of culinary training or tons of money to make great meals for you and your family – just a sense of planing and a few great recipes under your belt. Let me know if you want any simple recipes to get your foundation started – I suggest a soup or two, a great pasta dish, a great bean dish, a braised meat dish, and (of course) granola!

Scones, one of the best quick breads

I love scones, because they are basically a biscuit that you can fill with any amount of fun things – sweet or savory!

The last few times I made scones I tried all different kinds of combinations:

Cheddar and Cashew

Sunflower Seed, Dried Cherry, Mexican Chocolate

Flax Seed, Pecan, Dried Cranberry

 

This is my simple scones recipe:

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I often write recipes to myself as just a list of ingredients (ask any one of my former employees and they will surely roll their eyes about it), so it’s not surprising that there are no directions. In baking, I like to make sure I have measurements for the ingredients, as I am not a good enough baker (yet) to guess on the amounts of leaveners, etc. The technique on scones is a basic biscuit technique – simply: mix dry ingredients, cut in butter, add liquid and other flavorings/additions (like nuts, berries, or cheese).

A few words of wisdom from my years of baking at work and at home:

*Make sure your baking powder and baking soda are no more than one year old. Everything in your kitchen runs out of life eventually (even dried beans can become inedibly dry after a few years) and these items are not an exception. If you are in doubt, just get new ones – it’s not that much of an investment to ensure successful baking.

*Use unsalted butter. Always. Salt is a preservative, meaning salted butter is more likely to be a lot older. Plus you want to be able to control the salt content in your cooking.

*Don’t get overwrought about “room temperature butter,” just let it sit out for like 10 minutes – that’s it. It just has to be slightly pliable.

*Don’t overwork your dough – unless you are making bread or pasta, you don’t need to knead a dough. Stir it until it is wet and everything seems evenly distributed.

*Last, but certainly not least, don’t get stressed out. Food is like a reflection of your mood, if you are stressed about making something it will most likely turn out tough/undercooked/wrong because you nervously stir it/open the oven too much/skip a step. Relax, enjoy the feel/smell/taste of it all.

 

Simple Scones

makes 12 small scones

 

3 c flour

1/3 c sugar

2.5 tsp baking powder

.5 tsp baking soda

3/4 c butter, room temp

1 c buttermilk, milk, cream, or yogurt

 

1. Preheat oven to 400degrees.

2. Mix dry ingredients in bowl, add butter pieces. Cut butter with a pastry cutter or using hands until you get a gravely texture.

3. Add liquid and any other flavorings (nuts, dried fruit, cheese, etc) and stir until combined.

4. Separate dough into thirds, and turn each third on a floured surface until a cohesive ball – form into a 4″ puck and chill for about 30 minutes.

5. Remove from refrigerator and cut into fourths. Bake on a baking sheet for 15-25 minutes, until slightly browned.

note: You can keep the puck in the freezer for up to three months. Just pull it out and let it thaw on the counter for an hour or two, cut into fourths and bake as usual.

 

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Dry Ingredients

 

Cold Butter

Cold Butter

 

Room Temp Butter

Room Temp Butter

 

Add Butter to Dry Ingredients

Add Butter to Dry Ingredients

 

Cutting Butter By Hand - squeeze butter between thumb and forefinger and drop back into the flour mixture. Repeat.

Cutting Butter By Hand – squeeze butter between thumb and forefinger and drop back into the flour mixture. Repeat.

 

Halfway Through the Cutting Process - the butter is still big and looks flakey

Halfway Through the Cutting Process – the butter is still big and looks flakey

 

Done Cutting the Butter - the mixture resembles small gravel

Done Cutting the Butter – the mixture resembles small gravel

 

Add Liquid Ingredients

Add Liquid Ingredients

 

Four Inch Puck - chill before cutting

Four Inch Puck – chill before cutting

 

Cut in Fours and Put Into the Oven

Cut in Fours and Put Into the Oven

 

Golden Brown Scones

Golden Brown Scones

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Good Housekeeping

I took this tattered cookbook from my mom’s house years ago, and somehow figured she wouldn’t notice. The ignorance of youth.

Well, she told me not that long ago that she knew I took it and (like only a mother would) said she is glad I have it. So, thanks mom. I love this book, it is basic and easy and it has had years of use at my mother’s hand. I remember her pulling it out whenever she couldn’t remember exact measurements for her favorite recipes. It gives me a warm sense of home.

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On a recent cold Sunday morning (ok, more like afternoon) I decided to make French Toast. I actually went through about five old cookbooks until I found a recipe for it. Didn’t seem to be a popular dish until the sixties, though it does appear in really old publications (like the White House Cookbook, 1894, as “American Toast: To one egg thoroughly beaten, put one cup of sweet milk and a little salt. Slice light bread and dip in mixture, allowing each slice to absorb some of the milk; then brown on a hot buttered griddle or thick bottomed frying pan; spread with butter and serve hot.” An interesting and savory version from over 100 years ago.)

The recipe given in the Good Housekeeping Cookbook, 1964 was pretty simple, I suppose for me too simple. So I took the base recipe:

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and added some things, so it looked like this:

FRENCH TOAST

(makes 4 – 6 servings)

4 eggs

1/2 t salt

2 T brown sugar

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup yogurt (vanilla or plain)

6-12 slices of any kind of bread

oil, butter, or fat for browning

1. Break up eggs with a whisk, then whisk in salt, sugar, milk, and yogurt until well mixed.

2. Dunk bread in egg mixture. Let them soak for a few minutes if they are thick.

3. In a skillet or on a griddle, melt butter or fat on medium heat. Add in as many pieces of toast to fit in pan. Brown both sides and keep warm in oven as you brown the other pieces.

4. Serve warm with cinnamon sugar, honey, maple syrup, jam, or any such sweet thing.

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Eggs.

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Whisk.

Add Salt, Sugar, Milk, and Yogurt.

Add Salt, Sugar, Milk, and Yogurt.

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Let it soak up all the goodness.

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And soak.

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I love a cast iron pan. I use have oil half butter, which keeps the butter from burning.

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Brown. And don’t overcrowd the pan.

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Another flip.

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Brown the other side.

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Serve.

Try this for a perfectly subtly-sweet hearty breakfast, I suggest serving it with any form of pork (or if you are disinclined to eat meat, try some other such salty goodness to pair with this sweetness like: homemade eggplant sausage, soy-free vegan bacon, or just delicious hash browns).

get ready for market day!

Liz and I whipped up some fun stuff for Wednesday.

 

Turmeric and Mustard Seed Roasted Potatoes and Cauliflower

Olsen’s Red Lasoda potatoes roasted with Nash’s beautiful fresh cauliflower

 

Very Local Peanut Butter & Jelly

Alvarez Peanuts crushed into peanut butter, Alm Hill and Gaia’s Raspberries cooked into jam

 

Tahini Slaw

Fresh made tahini, tossed with Nash’s green and purple cabbage with Gaia’s carrots – beats mayonnaise slaw any day!

 

SImple Roasted Vegetables

Boistfoot green squash and rainbow carrots, Gaia’s beets and red onion, Alvarez patty pan squash roasted to perfection

 

Carrot Caraway Rye Salad

Rye berries tossed with caraway pickled carrots, roasted rainbow carrots from Gaia’s, fennel and cucumber

 

Liz’s Amazing Kitchen Sink Salsa

Alvarez tomatillos, tomatoes, corn, poblanos, jalapenos, and Mayacoba beans served with tortilla chips

 

Miso Roasted Apricots

pink and purple radish, snap peas, and nori vinaigrette

 

Peach Caprese

Samish Bay fresh mozzarella, layered with ripe peaches, cucumbers, and opal basil

 

Summer Succotash

the jewels of summer – ripe tomatoes, yellow corn, and snap peas tossed with pickled green beans

 

Come by and say hi!

 

today’s menu

Grab you bags and bring your appetite down to Wallingford for some deliciousness.

This week we will have:

Moroccan Red Wheat Salad

Nash’s red wheat berries with produce from One Leaf (eggplant, cucumbers, fennel), parsley, and Liz’s amazing spiced tomato syrup

Peach Caprese

a NW take on an Italian favorite, Collins Family Orchard peaches with lemon basil and Samish Bay fresh mozzarella 

Potato Salad

Olsen’s red lasoda potatoes, tossed with carrots greens and a creamy roasted garlic dressing

Turmeric Potatoes and Cauliflower

Clara’s favorite bright yellow and delicious (not to mention nutritious) hand-stainer recipe : potatoes roasted with lots of turmeric and mustard seeds, finished with lime juice and tossed with caramelized cauliflower – let us stain our hands and countertops with this pungent spice and you just relax and reap the benefits

Kitchen Sink Salsa

Liz’s salsa making magic continues with this all-over-the-place amazing salsa of tomatillos, corn, and jalapeños from Alverez with pinto beans, ancho, pasilla, and (of course) lime

Plus something for the kids!!

KFH peanut butter

Fresh Made Peanut Butter and Raspberry Jam Sandwiches!!!

So we’ll see you there…

my catering job.

I have had the pleasure of catering some extremely scenic places this summer with my catering job – as well as having some fun tasks. Like these:

A big pile of ribs.

A big pile of ribs.

Got to grill a huge amount of pork ribs on a giant grill outside – I would say a great way to spend a sunny blue-skied day. Far from the chatter of the kitchen, babying some gorgeous pieces of meat.

 

Preserves for days.

Preserves for days.

The other day I was given ingredients and told to make preserves – this is what I came up with: Apricot Ginger Jam, Spicy Apricot Carrot Gelee (it was supposed to be another take on Carrot Marmalade – which I adore – but the pectin went crazy and it firmed up to the consistency of a Turkish Delight), Pear Balsamic Preserves (with port and grapes), Caponata. It was, by far, the funnest day at work I had in a long time.

 

The view from my oven.

The view from my oven.

This is at Mohai on Lake Union, where we literally set up feet from the water. It is glorious to say the least. We get to watch the sea planes land and listen to the clanging of the rope against the masts of the sailboats in the breeze – by far the most relaxing “kitchen” we work in.

 

Out the window at a job on Pier 9 - disregard the weird UFOs, they are just reflections.

Out the window at a job on Pier 9 – disregard the weird UFOs, they are just reflections.

My walk to Pier 9.

My walk to Pier 9.

We worked a job on Pier 9 – which is not by itself pretty, but the walk there had a stunning view and I got to sneak a little peak at the lake during a lull in service.

 

Grilling Grapes.

Grilling Grapes.

 

Making liquid nitrogen ice cream.

Making liquid nitrogen ice cream.

Smoking marshmallows.

Smoking marshmallows.

 

 

 

Out the door of the Virginia 5.

Out the door of the Virginia 5.

Worked a wedding on this lovely boat, the Virginia 5.

Worked a wedding on this lovely boat, the Virginia 5.

The view from my oven on the Virginia 5.

The view from my oven on the Virginia 5.

The Virginia 5 is a historic steam boat that lives on Lake Union near Mohai – the kitchen, sorry “the galley,” is a horrible tiny sweat box – but the ship is beautiful and it went out on the water for the ceremony. I could keep my eye on the outside through that door above and occasionally got to steal away a minute or two to step outside.

+++++

All in all my conclusion is that Seattle is full of scenic and amazingly stunning things in the summer time. I am so so very glad that my job takes me out of the shop kitchen to experience some of the glory.

 

just a piece.

So I applied to work here:

pie

 

oh so close…I didn’t get it because I have to go out of town too much – I totally understand the plight of the small business owner. We shall see what the future holds…maybe they will call me back at busy season.

Well, on my stakeout of the place (which I did before I went in for the interview) I dropped in and bought a few tiny Berry Pies. Like this:

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Holy flipping glob!!! Each one is about two bites – and two of the best bites of pie I have ever had in my life. I mean, I expected them to be ok….But they were phenomenal. Much respect to these pie makers.

my papa’s 60th

In my move I pretty much missed my father’s birthday – and it was a big one.

So on my last trip home I got the fam together and made of my pop’s favorite dishes – osso buco. (I found out this was his favorite when we went to Italy a few years ago and he set out on a mission to eat osso buco at every place that served it. Honestly it was an amazingly interesting experience – we tasted osso buco from fancy places to corner cafes, each a little different.)

You will find soon that I am not the biggest fan of traditional recipes – I much prefer the paragraph method that is basically me telling you the story of how to make something with extremely loose quantities.

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Start with thick beef shank; salt and peppered. Sear to a dark crust in cast iron. Add chunky mirepoix (carrots, celery, and onion) garlic, and sage. Deglaze pan with red wine – about a half inch. Cover and throw in a 300degree oven until the beef is falling apart. Add more liquid if you need, the meat must stay moist. This will take a few hours.

Pull the meat off the bone – place on platter. Scoop out mirepoix with slotted spoon and place around meat. I also like to place the bones on a separate platter on the table, so people can eat the marrow at will. Simmer the pan liquid – adding stock if necessary – until it is tasty. Whisk in a whitewash (water and flour, 2:1) and thicken the sauce. Season with salt and pepper and add a touch of light vinegar or lemon juice if it needs a bit of brightness.

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I also made home made peanut butter cups – my dad’s two favorite things are peanut butter and chocolate.

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