Friday, October 31, 2008

Restaurant Reviewer Blogroll

I've just been added to the Restaurant Reviewer Blogroll.


Submit Your Blog

My First Food Blog Award

Recently The Hungry Engineer awarded me the 2008 Fabulous Food Blog Award.

Now I'm very happy to pass the award onto:

Dog Hill Kitchen I love the food and stories.

Wicked Good Dinner Always original with fabulous pictures.

Skinny Chef Healthy and delicous food. Plus a ton of interesting information.

Fig and Cherry Beautiful site! Everything looks delicious.

Peanut Butter and Julie One of my all time favorites.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Necessity is the Mother of...

Well, in this case, a fabulous risotto with crab.

It's been one of those months where we keep glancing at our calendar. How many more days until payday? Really? That many? Somehow we managed to muddle up our grocery budget this pay period. Normally I get all the food cash right up front and divvy it out accordingly. And I meant to take out some cash, but ended up just using my debit card. Then, of course, the extra food dough in the bank got spent on various other things.

Which brings us to this week. Five long days until payday and not a scrap of chicken or fish or meat in the freezer. Time to get creative.

Oh, wait, what's that in the ziplock bag? A hunk of pinkish mystery protein. Then it dawned on me--this must be the leftover crab meat from a couple months back when my husband volunteered to go pick up some dinner and came back with 3 gigantic Dungeness crab (why is it that husband's expect us to search for all the sales but when they buy food it's crab or ribeye?? just wondering if that mystery happens in any other households...).

Crab is a pretty fortuous find, you might be saying. With only 2 eggs left, omelets were not going to happen. How about Crab Risotto? My husband is the risotto master in our house. And, more good fortune...I had a big hunk of parmesan in the fridge! Let's get cooking! (It was really wonderful, by the way)

Had it not been for the seemingly unending pay period, I may not have stumbled upon the gold mine of crab before it was freezer burned to death.

More inspiration happened today in the form of some hearty bean soup. Last Christmas I bought what seemed like a keg of beans from Costco. I love making bean soup--especially when I've got a nice ham bone to throw in there. Needless to say, we haven't quite finished off our keg of beans.

Well, no ham bone, but I did have a few slabs of bacon. That should work, I thought. And an onion, and some carrots (well, maybe it was the bottom of a bag of baby carrots that were looking a little rough), more good fortune--a can of crushed tomatoes, a little chili powder and some garlic. Voila! Gourmet bean soup (followed up with some really great homemade biscuits).

So far, so good, I'd have to say. And with a little more bacon in the fridge and those last 2 eggs, I'm thinking Spaghetti Carbonera tomorrow. Mmmmm....

Oh and did I mention that running out of bread forced me to make some of my own? Dang, life is good when poverty leads you to homemade bread, crab risotto, and yummy bean soup!

I feel a cliche coming on here...something about lemons and lemonade, but I'll spare you.


Monday, October 27, 2008

Seattle Food and Wine Experience!

Doesn't that title set a festive mood? That's exactly how I felt as I excitedly anticipated this event today. A gorgeous Sunday afternoon in Seattle, a babysitter watching the kiddos, and a food and wine experience. Not only did FoodBuzz secure a free ticket for me as one of their featured publishers, but I got a whole package of interesting goodies including an important-looking Press pass!

I didn't really know what to expect heading through the doors, only that I was to take photographs, make notes, and try lots of delectable treats from some amazing Seattle restaurants and wash them down with little tastes of oh so many wines from the Napa Valley wine region. Sounds like a good day, doesn't it?

Press passes are cool, let me tell you. I should have known from the gate security's comment that, "Oh, you're press, you don't even need a ticket, do you?" But as soon as I walked through the door I was introduced to a couple of different event coordinators and handed several VIP food tasting cards to be used at various restaurant booths including Rovers, Salish Lodge, Cafe Juanita, Campagne, Etta's, and Crush. Plus a large wine card to be checked off as I tasted different wines--as it turned out, only a couple of booths actually checked anything off (lucky for them I'm not a complete lush!).

But, first, let's talk about the food.

Right off the bat, we wasted a couple of our VIP food passes on some ultra heavy braises at the Rovers stand. I believe it was an elk braise with farro and a rabbit braise with white beans--think cassoulet. It was difficult to negotiate the fork and tiny plate while also holding my wine glass. Plus, the spices just weren't my favorite. And honestly the rabbit could have been chicken.

Actually, braises seemed to be a popular theme among the food booths. Campagne also served a braise--beef stew a la frenchie--which normally I love, but not really at a food and wine event!

The best braise of the day was from Crush--a three year old restaurant in Madison. Get ready for this...pork belly braised in bourbon and cider served over smoked apples, garnished with bacon powder (yes, the white fluff really is bacon powder!). Fabulous. Visit them at Crush.

Some other absolutely delicious highlights include a foie gras stuffed duck meatball with huckleberry sauce from a newer Italian inspired restaurant in the U-District called Enotria.

And thank you to the chef from Salish Lodge for giving us some truly perfect food bites. This one which one of the chefs set out especially for this shot started with a tiny bagelish round of bread topped with huckleberry preserves and a swirl of delicious foie gras, garnished with a bit of rosemary.

The best sweets table goes to the ladies at Alaska Silk Pie who served up a couple of martini glasses full of either double chocolate silk or a strawberry-key lime-white chocolate silk. Very New Year's Eve.

Thank goodness this was located next to Tony's Coffee the maker of my all-time favorite coffee: Cafe Caramelita which I have bought at PCC for several years now.

A couple of other wonderful tastes came from products on the Stonewall Kitchen table--amazing lemon curd, strawberry champagne dessert sauce, and chardonnay caramel sauce.

Loved the fig almond fruit paste from Valley Produce Company, an Australian company. The proprietor had the sense to give me a free sample (after all, I was Press). Apparently, a whole pound of fruit goes into a 2.6 oz. block of fruit paste. Serve it up with some blue cheese.

And for a healthful alternative to the standard peanut butter, try cinnamon walnut pecan butter from Marilyn's Nut Butters .

Now onto some delectable libations...

Lots of bubbly out there...I got schmoozed by the beach bum at Barefoot Bubbly, but oddly felt that I was interrupting something between him and a blonde SoCal desperate housewife wannabe.

We especially enjoyed Brazin--a label on the Gnarly Head table (I've always loved their Old Vine Zin that my friend Gretchen introduced me to a couple of years back).

A special shout out to the self-described "unpretentious wine club",
Seattle Uncorked. This wine club is FREE to join, protective of your info, offering a discount on admission to local wine events and in several wine stores. Sommelier David LeClaire heads up this club, so for questions you can email him at

Obviously, I could go on and on...I didn't even mention the squid chorizo salad from Tom Douglas's Etta's or the Grand Marnier Prawns from The Barking Frog (tasty but mushy, tempura batter needed). Or hundreds of other wines I didn't get to.

Thanks for a spectacular day, FoodBuzz! I'm in for next year.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Maverick Minestrone and Gotcha Focaccia

A Political Take on Baracking Bread Together

With the election upon us, politics is big on almost everyone's mind. So why not have a little fun with it?


Gotcha Focaccia
(Adapted from "Layered Focaccia with Cheese and Arugula", Happy Days with the Naked Chef by Jamie Oliver, page 238)

1 Basic Bread Recipe
--2 lbs (6-8 cups white bread flour)
--2 cups tepid water
--3 packets active dry yeast
--2 TB sugar
--2 TB salt
Olive oil
4 oz Parmesan cheese, grated
5 oz Fontina cheese, grated
4 oz mild Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
1 large handful of arugula
1 handful of fresh marjoram (honestly who ever has marjoram on hand?)

To make the bread dough:

1. In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast into the water and pour on the sugar. In a large bowl mix the flour and salt (it should resemble a GOP convention at this point). Time for a little integration...make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in half of the yeasty water. Gently mix in some of the flour until it becomes, in Jamie's words, "stodgy". Add the rest of the liquid into the center and then proceed to mix in all the flour.

2. Remove all jewelry before the taxing work of kneading. Lightly flour your hands and dust the countertop. Turn out the dough onto the counter and knead for 5-10 minutes until the dough is "silky smooth" (movie reference, anyone?). Cover with plastic wrap and allow to double in size like the national debt (about an hour).

To make the Gotcha Focaccia:

1. Flatten the dough onto a floured work surface. Roll into a large rectangle. Drape half onto a floured baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil.

2. Add all the cheeses, then the arugula (sorry, but iceberg lettuce won't cut it here) and the marjoram if you've got it--I never do. Press everything into the dough.

3. Fold the remaining dough over the top, gently press out the air bubbles. Seal the edges as if you're Joe the Plumber caulking a pipe for your plumber's license. Rub the top with a bit more olive oil and prick it all over with a fork cuz it looks cool.

4. Allow to rise for another 30 minutes, then bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes. Let it cool for about 1/2 hour, then slice it up and serve with Maverick Minestrone! Extra can be wrapped in foil and frozen if desired.


Maverick Minestrone
(Adapted from "Streamlined Minestrone", The Vegetarian Cookbook by Nava Atlas, page 40)

2 TB olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise and sliced
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
2/3 c small pasta (such as tiny shells)
1 c canned chickpeas (I used kidney beans)
1 c frozen peas
2 TB minced fresh parsley
4 c water (or broth)
Optional: finely chopped kale or other greens (think "flakes")
salt and pepper

1. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and carrots; saute for a few minutes until they are as golden as Cindy McCain's hair.

2. Add the zucchini, tomatoes, some salt and pepper, and the water (or broth--but salt levels will have to be adjusted accordingly!). Bring to a low boil, then cover and reduce the heat to simmer very gently until the veg is tender but not mushy--about 30 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a separate saucepan until al dente (still slightly chewy--they will cook a bit more in the soup). Drain it like Wall Street on your retirement portfolio.

4. When veg is done, stir the cooked pasta and the beans/chickpeas, green peas, and parsley into the soup. Water it down if the message, I mean the soup, is not quite right. TASTE IT! Then adjust the seasoning until it tastes good (sometimes I add oregano, too). Heat another 5-10 minutes, then serve.

If you're eating the soup with this bread, go easy on the salt in the soup. The salty cheeses in the bread will compensate.

Hope you enjoy this hearty fall meal and don't forget to make your voice heard on November 4th! And, lighten up, will ya?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Foodbuzz 24 Video

A great foodbuzz video about their 24,24, 24 events. 24 meals, by 24 bloggers, in 24 hours. I'm trying to think of one myself. If you have any great local ideas just comment back with them.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Episode 5: Pasta

My homemade pasta video. Enjoy.

Julie Jams Pasta from Arnold Arnan on Vimeo.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Ricotta Q&A

There have been a few questions regarding the ricotta...

1. What is the yield? (Actually, no one used that sentence, but it makes me sound official--more like "How much ricotta does it make?")

About 3 cups

2. How does it compare with store bought?

In my opinion, it is creamier and possibly more mild (although ricotta is about as mild as it comes anyways). Certainly, it tastes fresher.

3. Can you make it with goat's milk?

Try it and let me know. But I'm sure you can--good idea.

4. What uses are there for ricotta?

Lasagna, ravioli filling, a creamy spread for bread. I've seen recipes for ricotta cakes and souffles, but haven't tried them yet.

5. How long does it keep?

About 4 days in the fridge (so I've read--we ate all of ours the first night).

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Pasta Party

Sundays have long been a creative day for the kitchen. I remember the giant roast beef and potato lunches of my childhood. I don't know how my mom could spend such a busy morning at church (sometimes teaching Sunday School--always in the choir) and then come home and prepare such a feast! And we usually had at least a couple of guests if not more.

Well, I can't handle the Sunday lunch thing...but I do enjoy Sunday dinners! I try to make a point to invite someone during church-usually at random, so if you're wanting an invitation you'd do well to sit near me! In my experience, you don't really get to know someone unless you've eaten a meal with them at their house. It's just something about the setting and food together.

For the last few months we've been trying a milk delivery service. It's great to always have milk on hand. However, since one of my two milk-age children has a dairy allergy and both us adults only consume enough milk to lighten our coffee, we're finding an abundance of half-gallon containers in the fridge. Normally it is a sea of green fat-free cartons, but I switched it up a bit last week opting for a gallon of the red whole milks to compliment the green.

But what to do with all that whole milk? My super skinny girl won't even drink it. And then I stumbled upon a recipe for making Ricotta cheese! Make cheese, you might ask? (I asked--thinking in my modern mind that normal everyday humans actually lacked the capacity for cheesemaking--don't you need a factory and machines and secret enzymes for that?)

The answer is that ricotta is the easiest thing in the world! There are only 4 ingredients--all very normal.

1/2 gallon of whole milk
1 c heavy cream
3 TB white vinegar
1/2 tsp salt

(Watch the new video for instructions!)

So my Sunday project started out as ricotta making...and from there progressed into making homemade pasta, rolling it out into ravioli filled with various ricotta concoctions (and a non-dairy option for the dairy challenged), all with some fun new friends and their 2 kids helping out.

It was so cute to watch four little people catch the ribbon of pasta as it rolled through my handydandy Kitchenaid Pasta Roller. They were amazed at how long the ribbon stretched. Then they were all put to work placing a small spoonful of filling every couple of inches on their own personal pasta ribbon. "Gluing" the pasta together to make ravioli involved chubby preschool fingers dipped in water painting the whole surface. And then they all got their own knives (a very big deal as you can imagine) to cut the pasta into square-ish ravioli.

Kids just love food so much better when they get to help make it. I believe I heard comments from the table like, "Can I have more of the best food ever?" and "This is my favorite dinner in the whole world." Pretty darn good reviews if you ask me!

(Be sure that there will be a pasta video up shortly!)

My favorite fillings included:

Creamy homemade ricotta, lemon zest, lemon juice, s/p, pine nuts all topped in a sage butter sauce

Creamy homemade ricotta, chopped basil and parsley, parmesan and pecorino cheeses

Oh and the last use for that superb ricotta:
Bread toasted with olive oil, rubbed with garlic. Ricotta broiled with a bit of olive oil, then spread on the bread. All topped with a relish of sun-dried tomatoes, parsley, lemon zest, and shallots.

Wow! It was good! And so much fun to have friends over and let the kids help with dinner.

Episode Four: Ricotta Cheese

Episode four of my video series.

Julie Jams Ricotta Cheese from Arnold Arnan on Vimeo.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Cheerful Cake is Better than Humble Pie

I had a really unusual weekend. My sweetie honey let me leave him with 2 of our 3 kids for a couple of nights while I enjoyed my sister down in Stumptown. After a four hour train ride with my 5 month old baby (it went pretty darn well!), my sister and her 2 month old baby picked me up at the Portland station. Our first stop was New Season's supermarket (the Portland general equivalent of PCC) where she loaded up a sack of apples, refilled the maple syrup jar, and managed to buy about $50 worth of olive oil. Then onto her great new house--a self-proclaimed Recycled Residence built by her husband's real estate team.

That night we enjoyed fantastic Roasted Chicken (it's a family favorite, now) and potatoes with some hefty salads prepared by her friend. We talked until our eyelids drooped which was rather early considering we both have infants plus other children besides! The next morning we enjoyed our Gabriel brand poppyseed bagels covered in a good amount of sweet butter. It took awhile to get everyone ready for the day. In fact, by the time we were all ready, it was naptime for her cutie pie toddler.

Finally, we made it out the door to explore the great variety of Mississippi Street shops. There are a few districts in Portland that don't have any chain stores or restaurants--they are actually forbidden by law on one of the streets. That makes for some truly unique shopping. She took me straight to Pistils Nursery. Wow--this nursery has some great plants! I purchased an air plant--a tiny succulent that sits atop some turmeric colored glass stones inside of a clear glass bubble. Lots of gift ideas in that shop!

That night I suggested some Korean Bul Go Gi for dinner. My sis makes a great version of this that I had last time I was down. I tried to replicate it once, but I needed to see it done again. Hopefully I can step up to this dish soon. With the babies down for the night, we snuck out to a late night dessert bar (the name escapes me). Fallen chocolate cake (or I think they called it Chocolate Truffle Cake) is usually a sure bet. This one was so yummy and rich that I, yes me, could not finish my portion. Imagine that! It certainly required the cup of coffee we ordered to accompany it.

Unfortunately, I had to leave the next day. It is always so sad to say goodbye to my sister. Living a few hours away frankly bites big time. I've spent the last few days feeling what amounts to a little grief.

So, I baked. I've been wanting to try the "Nicky's Vanilla Cake" recipe in Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl for some time. This seemed like the perfect moment. A simple, moist, and dense cake--it didn't even need any frosting. Actually, it reminded me of a great coffee cake. After eating a couple of pieces in one day, my husband suggested I take it with me to the women's group at our church on Tuesday. Good idea--I managed to whittle it down to just a couple of pieces by the time it was over (and, yes, I saw one certain pastor slyly slip in for a piece before I left--you know who you are!).

All in all, my mini vacation was great, but parting is sad. Until Thanksgiving rolls around, I'll just have to make do with this yummy cake.

Nicky's Vanilla Cake

2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temp
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup sour cream
2 TB vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350. Butter and flour a bundt cake pan.

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, blending well after each.

Mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add to the butter mixture, blending well. Add sour cream, blending well. Then mix in the vanilla.

Pour batter into cake pan and bake 40-45 minutes until golden. Let cake cool on a rack in the pan for 5 minutes, then turn it out onto the wire rack. Leave until cool.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Butter-rific (and the recipe)

Mmmm...breakfast was good this morning! Since that great recipe made 2 loaves of Brioche, we got to keep one ourselves. We thought about making Brioche French Toast this morning, but decided we should try the bread a little more naturally prepared to really get a feel for the flavor and texture of it.

I sliced us some hearty 3/4 inch pieces, lightly toasted them, and then put a dollop of my homemade raspberry jam on top. The taste was just like a croissant in loaf form! Wow, so good. What did you think mom? How did you prepare yours?

Some of you asked for the recipe, so here goes.

Golden Brioche Loaves, page 48
"Baking From My Home to Yours"
Dorie Greenspan


2 packets active dry yeast
1/3 cup just-warm-to-the-touch water
1/3 cup j-w-t-t-t whole milk
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
3 sticks (12 oz) unsalted butter, room temp. but still firm


1 large egg
1 TB water


Put yeast, water, and milk in mixing bowl and dissolve the yeast. Add flour, salt and fit mixer with dough hook. Cover with a towel to keep flour from blowing out. Turn mixer on low to dampen the flour, then remove towel and increase speed to medium-low for a minute or two. It should look dry and shaggy.

Scrape sides and bottom of bowl. Set mixer to low and add eggs, then the sugar. Increase speed to medium for about 3 minutes until the dough forms a ball.

Reduce speed to low, add butter in 2 TB size chunks beating until each is almost incorporated before adding the next. The dough is very soft like a batter. Increase speed to medium-high and beat about 10 minutes until the dough pulls away from the sides.

Transfer to a clean bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave at room temp. until doubled in size (about an hour). Deflate dough by lifting up the edges and letting it slap down in the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and put in the fridge. Slap it down every 30 minutes for 2 hours. Then let it chill overnight.

The next day, butter and flour 2 loaf pans.

Pull dough out of fridge and divide into 2 equal pieces. Cut each of those pieces into 4 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a little log about 3 1/2 inches long. Place 4 logs in each pan. Cover with wax paper and let rise until they almost fill the pan (mine didn't fill the pan, but they did expand until they touched. Dorie says 1-2 hours, but I let mine go 4 hours and they still didn't fill the pan.).

Preheat your oven to 400. Set the pans on a sheet pan. Beat the egg with the water and glaze the loaves using a pastry brush. Bake for 30-35 minutes until deeply golden. They will rise some more.

Let cool 15 minutes in the pan and then invert onto a rack to cool for another hour. Mmmm...

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Golden Birthday Brioche

It took more than 4 hours of rising, but it was finally baking time. Thirty minutes later, baked to golden perfection and smelling so good that my husband's nose was enticed well outside of our was done.

Maybe this will have to be a 3 part series...we haven't even tasted it yet. I'll have to let you know how the birthday girl liked it.
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