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Monday, February 08, 2016

Seed Swaps - Free Seeds

I've become addicted to seed swaps over the course of a year. There are so many different ways you can get seeds besides buying packets online or at your local big box stores. I can't even count the number of seed swaps I've participated in the last year. I'm sure it's over 20. I should really slow down because there's no way I'll be able to plant everything I have. Those of you that are new to gardening and don't think you have much to share, it really only takes one packet of seeds to start. Some people will even freely give out seeds, asking nothing in return. I want to share with you all the various ways I've swapped or been given seeds.

Local Seed Swaps

If you're in a relatively large city there may be seed swaps that happen right in front of your nose. We attended our first Snoqualmie Valley Seed Exchange this year. This particular exchange was free and open to the public.  You could join whether you had seeds to trade or not. There were many tables set up with seeds organized by type. They received seed donations from nearly a dozen seed companies for the event including: Ed Hume Seeds, Pinetree Garden Seeds, High Mowing Seeds, Johnny's Seeds, Peaceful Valley Farm Supply, Baker Creek Seeds, Bountiful Gardens, Adaptive Seeds, Territorial Seeds, Wild Garden Seed and the Organic Seed Alliance. In addition to all of these seeds, people were encouraged to add their saved seeds or extra packets of seeds to the tables as well but it was not required. I donated some of my bean and mustard seeds and picked out several varieties of tomatoes, greens, radishes and herbs. This is an annual event here that I'm sure we will go to again in the future.
6th Annual Snoqualmie Valley Seed Exchange

Another local group we participate in is called the Green Elephant Plant Swap group. They meet a four times a year and exchange everything from seeds, hardwood cuttings and plants. We've gone to several of those events and always bring home something exciting.

Hardwood Cutting Exchange Seed Swap

Seed Swap Websites and Forums

Earthineer is my favorite seed swap site. You can search for exactly what you're looking for as well as post what you have for trade. You can then contact the person that has what you want and offer up a trade. I've done a few trades through this site by searching for some particular seed I was looking for. There are a few other sites which I have not yet tried like HeirloomSeedSwap and GardenWeb Forum.

Facebook

There are several seed swapping Facebook groups but I have only participated in Share the Seed USA group. Other groups include Great American Seed Swap, The Free Seed Exchange, Great American Seed Swap/Trade (different than previous group), Seed Traders for Future Generations, Seed Swap and The Trading Post.

Instagram

I have several gardeners I follow on Instagram and occasionally someone will post some interesting fruit or vegetable or a photo of their seed catalogs or seeds they just got in the mail and I'll ask if they would be interested in doing a seed swap and 9 times out of 10 they will say yes.

A photo posted by Paula Thomas (@gapey) on


Youtube

I also follow several gardeners on youtube and there are a few that do seed giveaways every year or several times a year. One of those channels that does several seed giveaways by you simply mailing a self addressed envelope to them is Love Your Land. She posts lots of gardening how to videos and has done several seed giveaways on her channel.

Group Swaps

Big Family Homestead is a youtuber that hosts a group seed swap with groups of 20 people. I've participated in a couple of group seed swaps like this and the way those work is you send in 20 (or however many participants there are) packets of seeds to the seed swap host, as does all the other participants and then he re-distributes all those packets to everyone so you will get back 20 different packets of seeds and you don't know what you're gonna get till it comes in the mail. Those are always fun to do. I've also participated in a group swap via Instagram that fdclinton hosted which had 14 participants. Below was my submission to that swap.

A photo posted by Paula Thomas (@gapey) on

Last year's seeds from the Big Family Homestead swap:

A photo posted by Paula Thomas (@gapey) on

If you know of other sites or ways to swap seeds, feel free to leave your links and suggestions in the comments.

Monday, December 07, 2015

Instant Pot Steamed Eggs

I bought myself a little early Christmas present during a black Friday sale on Amazon. I got the amazing Instant Pot IP-DUO60 7-in-1 Programmable Pressure Cooker for only $78.50. Little did I know it's more than just a pressure cooker. This thing does just about everything. It has various settings for steaming, yogurt, rice and you can even saute in the thing. Had I known it did all these things I would have gotten one earlier. I've only had it out of the box for 3 days and in that time have made 5 different things in it and have enough leftovers to last me the rest of the week. This is what I've made so far:
  1. nom nom paleo's kalua pig
  2. predomenantly paleo's lemon garlic chicken
  3. instant pot's soft boiled eggs
  4. 100 days of real food's pumpkin purée (I used lakota squash)
  5. nom nom paleo's Mexican Beef
Instant Pot On Fresh Eggs in Instant Pot
I thought I would share my experience with using the Instant Pot to make steamed eggs. You may know fresh eggs are a pain in the arse to peel using traditional boiling methods so I always steam the eggs for easy peeling. I decided to use the steam setting on the Instant Pot to make a few boiled (steamed) eggs to see how it does. I didn't realize the recipe I was following was for soft boiled eggs until I got them out of the cooker. Next time I'll try adding 2 more minutes to the time and that should get a nice hard boiled egg. The 4 minute cooking time I used resulted in a nicely cooked white with a yolk that wasn't runny but more a medium consistency.

Steamed Eggs Egg Ice Bath

Instant Pot Medium Soft Steamed Egg

Ingredients:
6 eggs
1 Cup Water

Directions:
  1. Add 1 cup of water to Instant Pot and place wire rack (trivet) in the bottom
  2. Place eggs on wire rack, spacing evenly on the bottom
  3. Close cooker and be sure the valve on the lid is set to "Sealing"
  4. Plug in cooker and push Steam button and reduce time to 4 minutes for medium soft egg (6 minutes should give you a hard boiled egg)
  5. When done, place a cool wet towel over lid and move valve to "Venting" to release steam
  6. Remove lid and using pot holders, remove rack with eggs, drain pot and fill with cold water and ice cubes
  7. Lower rack of eggs into ice water bath, adding more water if needed to cover eggs and cool for 5 minutes
  8. Remove and enjoy or refrigerate 
I had one of my 6 eggs crack during cooking. I've seen various recommendations to reduce the chance of eggs cracking which include using a steamer basket, placing eggs in cookie cutters or canning lids.

Semi Soft Boiled EggEgg Topped Salad

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

2015 Chicken Additions

Over the past 4 months my flock of chickens has grown by 6 so I thought I would give an introduction now that they are nearly all grown up.

This is Agnes, a silver laced wyandotte. I always thought wyandottes were one of the prettiest breeds and they are also known to be one of the most docile and friendly. She joined my flock the beginning of October. She was delivered to me by a neighbor who was having trouble with her bullying his other girls. She's a young girl that just started laying so I was happy to see if she would get along with my girls. We decided to just put her in the run with no introduction period to "give her a taste of her own medicine". I was skeptical and a little scared she would get beat up. We kept a close eye on her and was surprised how well it actually went. They didn't welcome her with open wings but there wasn't much fighting other than Lucy but she likes to fight with everyone. Now they seem to be best buds and frequently hang out together when free ranging. Agnes held her own quite well and moved up the pecking order pretty quickly and has settled in around #3 or #4. She's currently my most regular layer but is still laying her baby eggs that are much smaller than the rest of the girls. The first couple of weeks she laid her eggs in the chicken run but has finally figured out the proper place to lay them and now leaves them for me in one of the bottom nesting boxes while everyone else lays in the top boxes. I'm glad I was able to provide a home for her and that she didn't end up in a soup pot.

The other 5 additions are now 4 months old and came to me as fertilized eggs from someone I met in a local chicken Facebook group. Bailey, one of my buff orpingtons, had been broody for 3 weeks and didn't show any sign of breaking out of it. I saw a post on the group about someone having fertilized olive egger eggs for sale and decided to give it a try. I've been wanting to add some olive eggs to my already colorful egg basket. I brought 5 eggs home and gave them to Bailey to sit on. After being broody for 3 weeks, I wasn't sure if she would be up for sitting on some eggs for 3 more weeks. I marked the eggs with a pencil just in case some more eggs happened to appear in her box and I'm glad I did because I found 2 more eggs in her box and was able to remove them.

On day 21 (July 29) all 5 eggs hatched. The day after they hatched I moved Bailey and the babies to a sectioned off corner of the chicken run with a brooder so the others wouldn't bother them. After a couple of weeks I let the babies and mom out with the others, with supervision, until I was confident Bailey would be able to protect them. Luckily Bailey is the top of the pecking order and if anyone even looked at her babies they got chased away. She was a great mom and hope she will be able to raise more babies for me in the future. At about 2 or 3 weeks it was clear I had two boys and three girls. The boys got their combs and wattles well before the girls. Their biological parents are a black copper marans hen and either a blue or black Isbar roo. Only two of them look alike and the rest are pretty easy to tell apart. The girls should start laying in a couple months and the boys are now crowing like there's no tomorrow and starting to get the urge to procreate.

Calypso and Oliver



Izzie and Shylo



Onyx

Monday, November 23, 2015

Limoncello Thyme Chicken

In my previous post I mentioned a tour we took of Letterpress Distilling and the great limoncello that they make by hand. They challenged us to create a recipe using their limoncello. Their favorites will be served at their 3rd anniversary party. I thought I'd do a play on lemon thyme and use Limoncello for both the marinade and the sauce for the plated chicken. I thought it turned out very well. If you can't find a good limoncello you can substitute vodka and lemon juice. I used chicken breasts for this recipe but you may use thighs which are more forgiving if overcooked. I served it over a bed of eggplant and onions stir fry mixed with quinoa.

Limoncello Thyme Chicken

Limoncello Thyme Chicken Recipe

Serving size: 2
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 40 minutes

INGREDIENTS
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs
1 tbsp coconut oil or other cooking oil
1 tsp thyme leaves for garnish

Marinade:
2 tbsp limoncello (or 1 tbsp vodka + 1 tbsp lemon juice)
2 tsp fresh chopped thyme leaves
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp honey

Sauce:
3/4 cup chicken stock
1 tbsp corn starch
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp butter
salt & pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS
  1. Add marinade ingredients to a small bowl and whisk until well combined. 
  2. Add marinade and chicken to a ziplock bag and massage bag until chicken is well coated with marinade and put in fridge for 1 hour
  3. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  4. Add cooking oil to a skillet and set to medium high heat. 
  5. When pan is hot, add chicken, and set aside the marinade. Cook chicken on each side for approximately 5 minutes or until well browned.
  6. Place chicken on a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil and into preheated oven. Check temperature of chicken every 5 minutes until chicken reaches 165 degrees, approximately 10-15 minutes.
  7. While chicken is in the oven, add corn starch to chicken stock in a small bowl and stir until combined. 
  8. Deglaze the skillet with the left over marinade and simmer at medium heat for a couple of minutes. Add lemon juice and chicken stock/corn starch mixture and stir frequently until chicken is done.
  9. When chicken is done, remove from oven and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm until ready to serve. 
  10. Add butter to sauce and stir until melted. Add salt and pepper to taste. 
  11. If using thighs you can add chicken to the sauce pan and serve when ready or plate the chicken with sauce over the top. Garnish with fresh thyme leaves.
Chicken Breast Browned

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Letterpress Distilling

Letterpress VodkaWe had the opportunity to take a tour of Letterpress Distilling with some fellow food bloggers in the Seattle area. They are a relatively small operation in South Seattle with a big enough space that allows them room to grow and I'm sure they will.

The owner, Skip Tognetti, treated us to some local cheeses, cured meats from Salumi and two cocktails to go with them. The first cocktail was a twist on Bee's Knees called La Vespa, made with their vodka, lemon juice and Captive Spirits Big Gin. I'm not a huge gin fan but mixed with vodka and lemon juice, it made for a tasty cocktail. The other cocktail, served hot, was the Letterpress Toddy made with their limoncello. Both recipes can be found on the Letterpress Cocktail Recipe page.

Letterpress Toddy La Vespa

We later got to taste the limoncello and vodka by themselves. A lot of the vodkas I've tried don't have a lot of flavor but this one is very complex with some anise and vanilla notes. I was really impressed. The lemoncellos I've tried before have always been really sweet and I wasn't very impressed by them. The Letterpress limoncello however is not like the others. You can tell just by looking at a bottle next to other brands that it's different. Not only do they not use artificial ingredients but they use local blackberry honey as a sweetener rather than sugar or corn syrup that most other brands use.
Vodka Tasting

Letterpress is truly a hand crafted, grain to glass company and sources nearly all of their ingredients locally with the exception of the lemons for their limoncello which come from California. They use no artificial flavorings or colors like the majority of limoncellos on the market do. Much of their process is very manual and little to no automation. They zest each lemon by hand using a lemon zester and stir the jugs of lemon zest infusion by hand daily until it's ready. They are also continuously testing the alcohol content as it comes out of the distiller.
Lemon Zest InfusionMeasuring Alcohol Content

One of the processes they use that I found interesting is how they separate out the proteins from the limoncello so that when people put it in the freezer, they won't get a separation and that's exactly what they do to separate it out. It goes into a freezer to allow the proteins to separate and they are removed. The process is done a few times to remove as much of the proteins as possible. They are currently looking for creative ways to use the discarded proteins. Raina, from makemendgrow.com, was lucky to take a bottle of the proteins home with her and plans to make some soap with it. I can't wait to hear how it comes out. I might have to try and get some for soap making too.

We all got to take home a small bottle of the limoncello, a couple of limoncello shortbread cookies and we bought a bottle of the vodka which comes with a batch and bottle number on the label. They have a blood orange liquor coming out in a few months that I'm hoping to get my hands on a bottle. It's a seasonal product with limited quantities and I hear it's really good.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Farestart Guest Chef Dinner

Last year I had planned to go to a dinner at Lola Seattle that Jean Layton, a fellow food blogger, was organizing before IFBC. Unfortunately I had to cancel at the last minute due to an illness. Luckily she organized another dinner this year and I was actually able to go. This time she made us reservations for about 14 of us at Farestart. I had heard of the restaurant but didn't really know much about it. They have a culinary training program to help the homeless and disadvantaged. They also help them with job placement after they graduate from the program. Our reservation happened to be on graduation night though I didn't arrive early enough to see the graduation.

Not only was it graduation night, but it was also Guest Chef night. Our featured chef was Chef JP Ponticelli from Tulalip Resort Casino. They were very understanding with the various food restrictions: gluten free, vegetarian and I think there were a few others. All the dishes that came out for those with restrictions looked just as good as rest. We left the wine pairings up to Alina of One Girl, One Glass, One World. She did a great job picking out the wines for us. I had a long drive home so I didn't drink too much but I did give all four a try and as usual, my favorite was the red, the Kudos Pino Noir.

1st Course

Shrimp Cocktail Bateaux Sauvignon Blanc
Amuse Bouche: Fantail Shrimp Cocktail Spoon with celery root relish
Wine: Bateux - 2014 Sauvignon Blanc

2nd Course

Cucumber of Baby Greens Koi Pond Cellars Blushing Geisha
Salad: Cucumber of baby greens, local baby greens, Rogue Creamery Oregon blue cheese, baby heirloom tomatoes, citrus basil vinaigrette
Wine: Koi Pond Cellars - Blushing Geisha

3rd Course

Hawaiian Broadbill Swordfish Kudos Pino Noir
Entree: Grilled Hawaiian Broadbill Swordfish, herb-chive blossom butter, matchstick vegetables, Parisian potatoes, lemon chive butter reduction
Wine: Kudos - 2012 Pinot Noir

4th Course

Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta Rosa Regale Sparkling Red
Dessert: Peach Melba, Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta, Poached Peaches, Raspberries, Toasted Almond Tuile
Wine: Rosa Regale - Sparkling Red

FareStart Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, September 21, 2015

IFBC 2015 - Sur La Table Test Kitchen

I attended the annual International Food Blogger Conference (IFBC) in Seattle for the 3rd time. It would have been the 4th but you may remember last year I fell horribly and mysteriously ill the first day of IFBC and was unable to attend or do much of anything other than lay in bed all day and take a few visits to the walk-in clinic.

The past few years there have been some optional excursions before the conference and I was signed up to visit Sur La Table's test kitchen last year and was so bummed to have missed what looked like a pretty awesome experience from what I heard and saw on social media. I was ecstatic when I found out they would be doing an excursion for IFBC again this year. These excursions tend to sell out fast so I signed up the second I saw it was available to ensure a spot. For those that couldn't get into this one, several other excursions were available to choose from.

There were buses that left the hotel to take everyone to their excursions. All the buses arrived and left except ours. Unfortunately, the Sur La Table bus was MIA and we ended up taking taxes to their test kitchen in South Seattle, at least 10 of them. Fortunately we did have a bus to get back to the hotel but the mishap delayed our excursion by about 45 minutes.

We had a cooking demo featuring one of Kitchen Aid's newest gadgets, a spiralizer attachment for their mixer. They made zoodles with an heirloom tomato sauce which we later got to eat. I have a cheapo plastic spiralizer and it works just fine. At first, I didn't think I would have any use for yet another mixer attachment. That was until I discovered it is more than just a spiralizer. The attachment will also peel, core and slice an apple and other fruits and vegetables which was something I would actually use. The attachment is definitely going on my wish list.
KitchenAid Spiralizer Attachment Making zoodles with heirloom cherry tomato sauce Lunch Break

KitchenAid Precision Coffee Press The other new product I was excited about was a coffee press that was just released this month. It's not just any coffee press, it's a stainless steel precision press that has a built in scale that weighs the coffee and water in grams or ounces. It has a built in timer too. All it needs is a built in coffee grinder and it would have everything. We came to find out that they gave all of the excursion attendees one of these coffee presses so I didn't even have to put it on my wish list. I'm really excited to give it a try.

Kitchen Aid makes the only magnetic drive blender. If you look at the bottom of the blender jar it is completely flat. If you use a blender regularly you probably know the base of it is the first thing that gets worn out or broken. I had a Blendec for many years and I don't know how many jars I went through. I finally decided to switch to a Vitamix after the 3rd or 4th blender jar. I've only had it a year and so far it's holding up.  You know Kitchen Aid is proud of this product because they offer a 7 year warranty with the purchase. It will be interesting to see how it gets rated. If I start having problems with my Vitamix, I may look into this one but not ready to switch just yet. Vitamix has a pretty good warranty too.

They had tables full of products on display in the test kitchen and a lot of it was their Christmas season merchandise, lots of red colored things. We got to take home a Christmas themed Silpat which I already tested out to roast some cherry tomatoes.

Sur La Table Holidays

It was a fun excursion despite the late start. I would definitely recommend checking it out if you ever get the chance, maybe at a future IFBC if they ever have it in Seattle again. They always treat the bloggers well and send them home with a bag full of great goodies.
Sur La Table Swag

Thursday, September 17, 2015

5th Annual Heirloom Tomato Festival

I first heard about and attended this event last year. I believe I saw it come across my twitter feed which I rarely look at anymore these days. Now, I'm more of an instagrammer than a tweeter. This year's attendance was not as large as last year, maybe because the weather wasn't as sunny and warm but at least the rain managed to stay away. It was perfect weather for a tomato festival I thought. All the more food and wine for the rest of us.

Several wineries and restaurant chefs were in attendance serving up some delicious tomato based dishes and wine/beer to go with them. We learned if you want more than just a small sampling of a wine you can actually ask for a full glass. I don't recall that option last year but never thought to ask. We sampled most if not all of the wines and foods too. The prawn dish served by Trace was our favorite dish this year. We enjoyed chatting with Chef Derek Ronspies from Le Petit Cochon. It's a fairly new restaurant in Fremont that serves up farm to table and nose to tail cuisine. They actually change their restaurant menu daily so there is always something new to try. They brought a refreshing tomato ice cream with a little burnt egg plant puree.

There are around 100 varieties of tomatoes at the festival that are grown by the Bromiley's and Prentice's in Moses Lake, WA. There are tables set up with plates and bowls of cut up tomatoes with toothpicks and salt shakers for people to taste. The tomatoes are also available to purchase for a very reasonable price of $2/lb. I've already started planning the tomato varieties for next year and there a few on my wishlist that I don't have seeds for yet and one of those is the Japanese Black Trifele. I was excited to see that tomato at the festival and bought a pound of them so I could save the seeds for planting next year. I also bought some super snow white, chocolate cherry and one called dark green Mexico. A google search didn't turn up anything for that one so have been trying to figure out if it goes by another name. I'm thinking it may be a kumato but not sure. I've attempted to contact the growers via Facebook in hopes of getting more information on that one.
Green Doctors Currant Tomatoes Tomato Tasting Tomato Patch Browne Wine Beer BaconBacon Gazpacho Copperleaf Pizza Prawns Tomato Crumble Naka Ice Cream Crush Heirloom Tomatoes