Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Crunchy Granola and Pretty Good Pesto

Since the streets of Portland are paved with granola, I thought I’d post a recipe. It’s easy, delicious, and relatively low in fat.

Crunchy Granola
4 cups rolled oats (I use thick-cut organic oats)
1 cup chopped pecans (or almonds, walnuts, peanuts, hickory nuts, macadamia nuts, pistachio nuts)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup honey
1 cup raisins or other dried fruit (optional)

Mix dry ingredients well in a large bowl. Combine oil and honey in a smaller bowl. Pour oil-honey mixture over dry ingredients and mix until well blended. Spread on a cookie sheet and bake at 325 for about 30 minutes. Stir occasionally as it bakes. (Watch it carefully during the last 10 minutes or so, as it will brown very quickly.) Cool, add dried fruit if you wish, and store in an airtight container.

Bonus granola-related trivia. Whenever granola came up in a conversation my dad always used to say, “crunchy granola, sweet!” Years later, I realized that it was a reference to a song by Neil Diamond entitled “Crunchy Granola Suite.” There are lines in that song that go like this:

“Da da da da
Da da da da da
Dee dee dee dum”

And other lines that go like this:

“Deedle-ee deet deet deet deet
Deet deet deedle dee doo.”

I kid you not.

For a while there my dad was way into Neil Diamond. He even had a zip-up brown velour shirt vaguely reminiscent of this.

Here’s my pesto recipe. Sadly, I have no fascinating pesto-related trivia.

Pretty Good Pesto
3 cups (packed) fresh basil leaves (remove any tough stems)
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/3 cup pine nuts
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste)

Put basil and garlic in a blender and process until fairly well combined. You’ll probably need to get in there and moosh stuff around to get it properly blended. Turn the blender off while you do this! Add the pine nuts and blend them in. Add the olive oil gradually while processing at a low speed. When the consistency looks pesto-ish, stop blending and transfer the proto-pesto to a bowl or other container. Stir in the Parmesan and the salt.

Makes about a cup to a cup and a half. Use immediately or store in an airtight container in the fridge. It will keep for at least a couple of weeks.

Crap. “Song Sung Blue” is stuck in my head now.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Marsey Doats

The Eat Local Challenge is wrapping up in a few days. I finally got down to the Hollywood Farmers’ Market on Saturday, expecting to find the pickins pretty slim—maybe a few radishes and some arugula. Nothing to get too excited about. But as I neared the entrance I detected the overpowering, siren scent of basil and could see (and smell) that I'd underestimated the bounty that can be produced by an Oregon spring. (I guess I'll never quite get over my Midwestern upbringing.) Sure, the market's far from being in full swing, but the variety was pretty impressive, I thought. Here’s a sampling:
  • artisan cheeses
  • asparagus
  • beets—the standard purple kind and an arrestingly beautiful blood-red variety
  • bok choy
  • breads and pastries
  • carrots
  • collards
  • elephant garlic shoots
  • fresh pasta
  • honey
  • kale (several varieties)
  • lamb
  • leeks
  • lots of different lettuces
  • morels, porcini, and other wild mushrooms (tres spendy at $24/lb, but naturally I appreciated their presence)
  • mustard greens
  • onions
  • parsley
  • patty pan squashes (?)
  • pears
  • peas in the pod
  • potatoes (new and fingerling)
  • radishes
  • strawberries
  • tomatoes (hothouse grown, but local)
  • turnips
I was totally unprepared and hadn't much cash with me. As luck would have it, the farmer (from Junction City, Oregon) with the gigantor bouquets of basil had a “rainy day special” going on the basil. I bought two bunches ($2 a bunch) and a pint of strawberries, which, I’m sad to report, were only so-so; I really think it’s still too early for strawbs. I made pesto with the basil, and it totally rocks. I will be eating pesto and goat cheese sandwiches for the next week. Yum! I’m really hoping that I in the upcoming months I will be able to make local-in-the-extreme pesto, as I’ve planted some basil in my garden. I have a poor track record with basil, so it’s good to know I can always just buy up a bushel of it there if mine gets all pallid and spindly.

Perhaps the coolest discovery I’ve made doing the Eat Local Challenge has to do with oats. At the beginning of May I didn’t even know that oats were grown in the Northwest, but it turns out they are! The downside, though, is that that a 2 lb package of local oats from Bob’s Red Mill in Milwaukie, Oregon (just outside Portland) costs about three times as much as the oats I can scoop out of the bulk bin at WinCo or Fred Meyer.

Bummer. But. Whilst snooping around at WinCo one day, I happened to spy the giant brown sacks of oats that they use to fill the bins and noticed that the oats came from a mill in Eugene, Oregon. Score--or so I thought until I went home and checked the Web site of the mill in Eugene. The mill is part of a huge corporate enterprise that is “positioned to handle all of your ingredient needs”--a far cry from the warm fuzzy feeling you get when you visit Bob's site. (On Bob's site he tells the harrowing tale of the mill being burned to the ground. Fortunately, the firefighters were able to save Bob's pride and joy--his quartz millstones from France.) At the Eugene mill, it turns out that only 30 percent of their oats come from the U.S. (who knows which part); nearly half come from Canada; and about 25 percent come from Finland and Sweden. So… not very local.

Then yesterday I happened to be at Fred Meyer, and I thought maybe I’d see if Freddie’s leaves their big sacks of oats lying about near the bulk bins. They don’t, but they do label their bins with the source and--wonder of wonders--Freddie’s gets their oats from Bob’s Red Mill! And here's the beauty part--because Freddie's buys in such bulk quantities, Bob must cut Freddie's a fantastic deal, because the oats sell for the very attractive price of 59 cents/lb for “regular” and 79 cents/lb for organic. That’s cheep! And it’s local. I’m sure most people wouldn’t go that nutz over finding a local source of oats, but it’s very good news for me because I make my own granola and eat it every day for breakfast. It’s nice to know that I’m benefiting the local economy and getting a bargain to boot. My Scottish ancestors would no doubt approve heartily of my thrifty oat-eating self.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Abducted By Aliens

Mars or Bust!

Beam Me Up, Jesus

Silver Snout

Alien Kid

Yoda Pooch

Back pretty soon, I will be.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

A Gentle Plea for Chaos

Blue Geraniums and Million Bells
Originally uploaded by Rozanne.
I’ve not said a word about my garden this year and last year you couldn’t shut me up about it. What’s the deal? Did I pave over my garden in concrete? No. It’s just that, I guess, there’s not a lot about this year’s garden that’s so very different from last year’s garden. Except. The garden is filled with quite a number of plants I never planted! Also, plants that I thought had died an ignominious death a few years back have somehow resurrected themselves. Chaos rules! And I'm not at all displeased. It adds the element of surprise to gardening. Not that there isn't already plenty of that to be had when you're a gardener, e.g., you come out one morning to find your foxgloves skeletonized by cutworms. But I'm talking about good surprises.

Anyway. See this deep burgundy snapdragon?

Poppies and Snapdragons

I have no idea how it got here. Well, I have a few theories. Two years ago, a similar snapdragon (perhaps its grandpappy) managed to grow out of a teensy little crack in our front steps. I don’t know how a snapdragon seed ever got itself wedged in there as I’ve never planted snapdragons, nor do I know why it would find that to be a hospitable place to grow but it did. That grandpappy, however, did not return last year, which was not surprising because snapdragons are annuals. But this year a snapdragon once again appeared, and I quite like the spot it’s chosen, although some might say that burgundy snapdragons and bold and blowsy orange Oriental poppies aren’t quite the thing.

Another plant that deserves recognition and praise is the yellow Calibrachoa ‘Million Bells’ pictured above. I love these creepy-crawly pee-wee petunias. I planted two of them last year as foils to all the blue hardy geraniums I cannot stop myself from planting. They weave in and out of the geraniums quite artfully, I think. And get this. They somehow survived the winter—a winter that included ice storms. Pretty good for an annual that is native to freakin’ Brazil.

There are a few mystery plants as well. Oddly, all seem to be huddled over near the raised bed where I grow herbs. I think one is a bellflower. I’ll know in a few days. I’ve also got a clematis-y looking vine wending its way up the laurel hedge. I’m thinking it may possibly be a porcelain berry vine (Ampelopsis brevipedunculata). I had one of those the first year I planted my garden. It found it wanting and in a fit of pique got rid of it. But how, exactly, did I get rid of it? I don’t rightly remember. I probably felt it was wasteful to just throw the plant away and yet it wasn’t performing so I didn’t want to keep it. Half-assed solution? Dig it up and replant it, but plant it in an out-of-the-way place where it would probably fail to thrive and I could be shut of it, without having to suffer the guilt of having ruthlessly uprooted it and tossed it in the yard waste wheelie bin. But here it is—(if it is the porcelain berry) four years later—rising from the dead. Zounds!

Thursday, May 11, 2006


Perfect But Not Really

Impressed? Well don’t be. This seemingly flawless fragment of the Fuzzy Reception cardi is indeed deeply and irretrievably flawed. It measures (correction: measured) 15 inches wide but is supposed to be 18 inches wide, which means that were I to continue I’d end up with a cardi suitable only for a toy poodle. Never mind that I knit a gauge swatch, and it appeared that I was knitting exactly on gauge. Somehow I funked it, and there was nothing for it but to rip every last stitch out and return the yarn to a primordial squiggly mass. R.I.P.

It was rather painful. Last night, I fortified myself with a glass of Zinfandel and halfway watched a DVD of All Creatures Great and Small, which is always guaranteed to portray much more heart-rending catastrophes than anything I could create on a pair of knitting needles. I figured that between the anesthetic properties of the wine and the distacting properties of All Critters, I’d make it through the depressing task of unraveling, without focusing too much on how many hours of toil were gurgling down the drain.

I haven’t had much spare time to knit lately, but tonight I’d carved out some time to catch up with my brother on the phone. I haven’t talked to him since January—not since I detected that he’d discovered my blog and I made a panicky phone call to him at his job and forbade him to read it ever again. Anyway, we had plenty of catching up to do and I figured I could start over with the cardi—this time on larger needles.

Well, three hours and six pee breaks later (my brother has a self-described "walnut-sized bladder"), I am not much closer to recouping my progress on the cardi. I got about two inches of the diagonal slip-stitch pattern knitted, but something went haywire and I had to rip back an inch. So I’ve got the rib stitch border and one inch of pattern. (Hold your applause.) The chat with my brother, however, was great and loooong overdue. For example, he’s thinking of getting married! OK. I’d heard a rumor from my sister, but in addition to being famous for having a walnut-sized bladder, my brother is famous for indecision and procrastination, so I will hold off for a while on buying that sister-of-the groom dress. Komma, if you’re reading this (and you know you shouldn't be), I am only stating known and thoroughly documented facts (re: the walnut, the indecision, and the procrastination).

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Derby Girls

Roller Derby
Originally uploaded by Rozanne.
I’ve never liked or been good at competitive sports, but if I were 15 years younger and fearless instead of quivering and lily-livered, I’d have loved to be out skating with any one of Portland’s Rose City Rollers teams at the roller derby last night: the Break-Neck Betties, the Guns ‘N Rollers, the High Rollers, or the Heartless Heathers. They wear miniskirts, fishnets, and ruffled panties with heavy-duty kneepads, elbow pads, and helmets. They wear old school skates (not blades). They have names like Apocalipstick, Black Sabbatha, Wreckingdoll, and Magnet Mad Atom. They skate on unforgiving concrete. They knock each other down. They get right back up* and scramble to rejoin the pack. They work their way to the front, elbows and hips slamming into opponents, sending them sprawling ass over teakettle into the crowd. They don’t care if hundreds of people see their underpants. They drink PBR (natch). In short, these girls are scrappy! I love it!

This kind of thing is right up my alley. I screamed til I was hoarse; I think that’s the first time I’ve ever done anything more than politely clap at a sporting event. I was rooting for the Heartless Heathers (motto: “We come from the land of the ice and snow.”**), because an acquaintance of mine is a Heartless Heather. It was thrilling to see her out on the floor and to discover that she is one of the key members of the team. She’s super focused and solid out there; unlike most of the other girls, she rarely got taken down. Very few girls were able to pass her and, if they tried, she usually managed a definitive smackdown, without causing herself even a teensy momentum-diminishing wobble.

I was in awe—I had no idea she was such a tough girl. She was kicking ass and taking names, and, not surprisingly, the Heathers won handily, in no small part due to her skills as a skater and palooka. What is surprising is that off skates she’s the sweetest, most laidback person you can imagine. She’s always laughing. However, I do recall that she once brought a packet of Bertie Bott’s Jelly Beans to a party and insisted that we all try at least one. She, herself, downed several of the nastier ones, like vomit, earwax, and earthworm, which I think clearly demonstrates the kind of moxie she’s got. I wussed out and only tried the dirt flavor. See? I would totally not make the grade as a derby girl.

*One girl didn’t get back up, but that was because her nose was broken.
**I, of course, approve of the nod to Led Zeppelin.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

A Bit of a Wander

Azalea and Lilac
Originally uploaded by Rozanne.
Someone in my neighborhood planted this bright, double-butterscotch azalea (or rhododendron?) right in front of an intensely lavender lilac. The blooms won’t last long on either, but while they do—whoa, pretty darn striking. I just got back from a bit of a wander through my neighborhood and down to the Hollywood District. I had some errands to do and work is a little thin right now (I’m attempting not to panic), and it was a gorgeous, breezy day, so I kept my pace down to a stroll.

I started by making yet another attempt to find what I’ve started referring to as the “mystery house.” This is a house I walked by a few weeks ago that has a landscaping scheme I’d like to borrow/adapt for my own front yard when, at some point in the distant future, I actually buckle down and get rid of the dumb and hateful lawn. At the time I first discovered the mystery house, it didn’t occur to me to notice which street I was on, and I’ve been intermittently trying to locate the house for several weeks now. Today, I got lucky and re-found it. I took pictures from all angles—something I probably wouldn’t have done if I’d thought anyone was home. With all the hysteria and paranoia about privacy these days, I’d half expect someone to dart out of the house and demand to know what the haybells I was doing. On the other hand, Portlanders seem pretty laidback about gawking. While my sister was visiting, we took a photo of this questionable piece of garden “art,” and the owner popped her head out of the front door and treated us to a 20-minute homily on dog poop, but in a friendly way if you can try to imagine that.

The wisteria is in full bloom now and pergolas with profusions of blossoms dripping off them are simply everywhere. I wonder why, though I had my camera, I failed to take even one photo of wisteria. Here’s one someone else had the foresight to photograph. Perhaps I didn’t take a photo because, much as I like the look of wisteria, I prefer to enjoy them at a distance. They've got the most fetid smell—reminiscent of a junior high locker room.

I topped off the jaunt with a stop at the neighborhood gelato place, which unbelievably, I hadn’t been to in months. (What is wrong with me?) As I used my little flat shovel to carve out petite mouthfuls of gelato (Belgian chocolate-brandy-caramel and lemon custard—if you must know—a weird combo, admittedly, but not as weird [assured the girl serving me] as what someone ordered last week—mango and Turkish coffee), I recalled that this was my week to focus on local dairy products and here I was in a local gelato shop.

I went back up to the counter and asked the girl what gelato was made of, since I realized I didn’t rightly know. Is it cream or milk or what? Turns out that it is a combination of mostly whole milk with some cream, but neither is local. The gelato is made in Michigan. Illusion shattered! I had assumed all their gelato was made right there on the premises, with dairy products from one of our famous Portland dairies or, if not that, at least from Oregon udders somewhere, say, Tillamook County out on the coast. Oops. This means that I will now have to go immediately to Staccato Gelato and get the lowdown on where they get their dairy products. I know for a fact they make their own gelato. Given that this is Portland and that their gelato is organic it probably means that they're onboard with the local thing as well. Fingers crossed.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Udderly Local

Sorry about the bad pun, but today is the first day of the Eat Local Challenge, sponsored by, “a group committed to challenging themselves to eat mainly local food during a specific period of time,” which this year happens to be the month of May. Spurred on by Jamie’s enthusiasm for the Eat Local Challenge, I’ve decided to participate this year. I like the idea of supporting local, independent farmers (as opposed to agribusiness) and the local economy, but perhaps an even more important aspect of eating locally grown food is that less fuel is used to transport it, which cuts down on pollution and conserves natural resources. Eating local is something I sort of do already, but I'd like to do it a little more systematically, conscientiously, and knowledgeably.

Here’s my plan.
I’ll define “local” as the states of Oregon and Washington. (If I wanted to make it really easy on myself, I’d include California.) However, I’m not setting myself too difficult a task since this is my first attempt—I’m looking at this as more of a fact-finding mission that will inform my eating habits from now and on into the future than an inflexible edict for the month of May. Each week I plan to focus on sorting out the various local options for a particular food group.

Week 1: Local dairy products (purchased so far: Alpenrose cottage cheese, Sunshine cottage cheese, Tillamook mozzarella cheese)
Week 2: Local breads and grains
Week 3: Local meat, fish, and other sources of protein
Week 4: Local fruit, veg, fungi, beer, wine, and miscellaneous

Notice how I cleverly made Week 4 the produce week. I can tell you right now that the only local produce options currently available are some tired Oregon onions and a few sad sacks of Washington potatoes. By Week 4, I should be able to wax lyrical about Oregon strawberries—the best! Also by then the farmer's market should have enough on offer to allow me to put together a respectable salad.

My findings so far. I already knew that Portland is lucky enough to have two local, independent dairies: Alpenrose and Sunshine. I regularly buy products from both, but until today I’d never taken the trouble to do research for a side-by-side comparison.

Both, I think, pass the Local Challenge (and my own) criteria with flying colors. They both produce rBGH-free products, are family owned, have been in business for decades, and have their dairy plants within the Portland city limits.

Sunshine appears to go a few steps further than Alpenrose in that it declares on its Web site that it embraces sustainable farming and environmental practices. That’s important to me. I was all prepared to award a few extra points to Sunshine for that until I did some more investigating on Alpenrose’s rather home-spun Web site and discovered that Alpenrose is “much more than a dairy.” Get this. It actually has a velodrome on its premises that is one of the steepest and most exciting tracks in the U.S. How weird and unexpected is that? But there’s more! They have a replica of an Old West frontier town (named [what else?] Dairyville), which features a 600-seat opera house with a 4,000-pipe organ. Also, a race track for Quarter Midget cars (similar to go-karts), a doll museum (bound to be creeptacular!), and various calliopes, nickelodeons, and victrolas scattered about here and there. What a mish-mash. Time for a field trip!