How to make your own sprouts

I love salads, and I love sprouts, so sprouting grains should be a no-brainer for me. I’m home all day so I have plenty of time to rinse grains and shake a jar from time to time, yet I didn’t get around to actually trying to sprout grains until this week. I must have suffered from the misconception that it would be time consuming, and I hadn’t prioritized it as a new kitchen project until I saw one of those fun mesh lids at the Ukiah Natural Foods Co-Op. From there I hit the bulk spices section where they have a truly impressive collection of grain-sprouting options. I opted for “salad mix” and took my goodies home.

I arbitrarily decided to start with 1/3 cup:

sprouts - before

Happily, 1/3 cup was the exact right amount! Here are my sprouts, 3 days later:

sprouts - after

(Kimchi in the background… more on that later)

It’s ridiculously easy. Here’s how you do it.

1) Put 1/3 cup of your chosen grain or mix in a quart-size jar. (You can find sprouting grains at your local co-op or make your own mix from seeds. Also, apparently red lentils make delicious sprouts.) Top it with a mesh lid, or if you don’t have one, use a square of fabric with the ring screwed over it.

2) Soak in warm water and leave overnight.

3) Drain in the AM. Then, rinse and shake the grain twice a day for 3 days. (I did this by simply running water over the mesh lid and pouring it back out.)

4) Refrigerate and eat! Should keep for a week or so.

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Solstice Fruit Party (with honey syrup recipe)

It’s summer! As my mom would say, the days are now getting shorter. But who cares? In Northern California, the gloriously long growing season stretches out ahead with a million promises of kitchen projects old and new.

Right now in Ukiah, the plums are on and they mean business. My friends Addison and Caitlin have three plum trees in their backyard, plus there’s a tree in my neighbor’s yard and dozens of others around town, so we decided to gather as many as we could and have a plum pitting and processing party on the first day of summer. We made pizza and canned both whole and pitted plums in honey syrup (thanks, Carson). We also set some aside for dehydrating; in all, we processed a 5 gallon bucked of plums. Special props to Lauren for her pitting prowess!

Plum solstice

Lauren and Addison hard at work

plum spread

Two days later, Caitlin and I got together to process the nearly 200 pounds of pesticide-free, tree-ripened beauties we ordered from the Central Valley. We got apricots, nectarines, and peaches, all for a crazy good deal at about 75 cents/lb. (I’d rather pay a buck and have the money go to the laborers, but that’s another story).

fruit pile

This isn’t even the half of it.

We cut a ton of the fruit to freeze, but we also made 10 pints of peach butter and about 20 quarts of peaches and apricots in honey syrup (thanks again, honey!) before calling it a night. The nectarines and some of the apricots weren’t quite ripe so there’s apricot jam and nectarine… something in our future.

Peach gems

Carson encouraged us to blanch and peel the peaches before we canned them, which he then did for us which was awesome. Caitlin: “They’re like beautiful gems!”

Peaches and apricots

Caitlin eek face

I happened to catch this face just as Caitlin ladled a little too much peach butter into a jar.

My kitchen floor has never been so sticky. No matter how many times I mop I can’t seem to get the last of the fruit juice off of it. TOTALLY WORTH IT.

canned goods after

Honey Syrup

If you ever have a ton of fruit that you don’t want to freeze, dry, or eat fresh, but you don’t want to put a lot of effort into canning it either, syrup is the way to go! It’s simple: mix one part honey to three parts filtered water and heat (not quite to a boil). Voila. You can put sliced fruit directly into this mixture and process in a water bath and you’re done. (Look up exact processing times based on fruit and jar size.) You can add spices like cinnamon or vanilla if you want, or a slug of bourbon or brandy, but it’s delicious as a plain syrup which will become infused with the fruit. If you don’t have honey, granulated sugar does the trick, too.

Lost and Found

I have a long history of losing my wallet. I have no idea why, but for some reason I have a tendency to set my wallet down and walk away from it. Bad habit, right? But it always comes back. I have left my wallet at a coffee shop in Philadelphia, a Subway sandwich shop in Crescent City, a Safeway in Seattle. I think there are more but I can’t remember.

I think I do it subconsciously to restore my faith in humanity. I have even had it stolen and gotten it back! (The other time it was stolen was at knifepoint in Argentina, so I can forgive the universe for not getting that one back to me and I hope the dude really needed my crappy cell phone, house keys, and $12.)

About a month ago, I lost my wallet again. I retraced my steps, called all the places I’d been, and turned up nothing. But still, I held out hope. I did eventually cancel my debit card (after checking it daily for fraudulent activity), more because I wanted access to my bank account than anything. Part of me thought I’d set it in a drawer or other dark corner of the house (another weird habit) and that I’d unearth it at some point. I never really gave up hope that I’d see it again. I did finally decide that I needed a replacement license, so after four weeks I went to the DMV.

That night, my esthetician texted me saying someone had posted my found wallet on Facebook.

It was at the same little convenience store where I left it, only that stop was such a blip on the radar that I had totally forgotten going in the first place. The cash was still in it ($26!) and other than some roughing up of the leather since they had literally hung it up with my ID facing out in case someone recognized it, it was intact. (Ironically, I bought this wallet years ago in Argentina).

So thank you, Little Baker’s Market in Redwood Valley, for once again restoring my faith. And for the $26… the exact amount it cost to replace my license.

Taste of Mendocino: Success!

After months of planning, the Taste of Mendocino went off almost without a hitch. It was last Tuesday at the Golden Gate Club in San Francisco’s Presidio neighborhood.

Why do the Taste of Mendocino in SF, you ask? The goal is to connect Mendo businesses – wineries, food producers, tourism organizations, etc – with Bay area customers. The first part of the day is for trade and media, and then it opens to the general public for the last two hours of the event.

We had a stellar planning committee, enthusiastic vendors, and tons of interest in both the Mendo and SF communities. The event has been going on for years so it has a good reputation, and positive feedback flowed from vendors and participants alike. I was so excited to be part of it and I’m already looking forward to helping out again next year.

Here are a few pictures I took from the day.

ToM flowers

I got to arrange the flowers – a dozen Mason jars’ worth. We felt a jar would add to the “Mendo vibe” (plus it’s the easiest and cheapest vase around).

ToM frontToM is hopping

ToM view

Gorgeous view of the bridge and water! I took this just as we were wrapping up so it has a nice evening glow.

ToM Jen and Eli

Jen and I enjoy a well-deserved glass of wine at the after party at Dixie.

This weekend’s 50 degree swing

Welcome to the North Coast, where temperatures can swing a full 40 degrees in a single day, and where you can drive 45 minutes to escape sweltering heat and arrive at a foggy coast.

Saturday: Ukiah, 109 degrees

When I woke up at 8:00 it was 70 degrees, and it shot up to 100 by noon. The only real option on a day like this is to wallow in water, and luckily we had been invited for a dip at the Magruder ranch in Potter Valley. After buttoning up the house (I drew blinds I didn’t even know we had) we poured ourselves into Carson’s sweltering truck and headed out to Potter Valley. This is the site that greeted us:

Grace

Game on! A 10 minute walk through bull-inhabited fields brought us to this sweet spot next to a small dam. After a few minutes in the water it was easy to forget how hot it was, but getting out of the water reminded you right quick.

dam swimming

After a few hours we loaded our goods back onto the ATV and then had the idyllic experience of floating rather than walking back to the house. Regal oaks framed the sky above us, and swallows dipped around us as we slowly floated by. There were a few “butts up!” sections and Susan’s tube was sacrificed to a shallow rocky outcrop. We had to convince some cows to let us pass; lots of laughter and a few wipeouts. I could have floated down that river forever.

Sunday: Mendocino Coast, 60 degrees

Although it dropped down to a manageable 90 degrees in Ukiah, we decided to spend the day on the coast. We took the 253 to the 128, stopping briefly in Boonville and driving through the campsites at Hendy Woods (I want to go back and hike!) before hitting Husch winery for a tasting and a walk through the vines. It was pretty sunny even a tiny bit inland, but as soon as we hit the coast the grey sky melted into the grey sea.

We started in the town of Mendocino, a gorgeous Stepford-esque town geared toward tourism. After a somewhat frustrating meal we rewarded ourselves with fudge from the Mendocino Chocolate Company (yum) and then fulfilled a classic coastal stereotype: we bought Mendocino sweatshirts. It was cold, ok? Our new sweatshirts happily donned, we took a short drive and then walked the 1/2 mile path to Point Cabrillo lighthouse in all our matching glory. (Carson: “You know we can never wear these at the same time again, right?”)

Point Cabrillo

This is a lovely little spot. Carson told me that east coasters like seeing west coast light houses because they’re so short. We have high cliffs so there’s no need to build a tall lighthouse, unlike the low, flat Atlantic beaches that require high structures. I’d never thought about it before but realized he was right after thinking about the lighthouses I’d seen back east.

Us Point CabrilloFor some reason Carson loves white/light colors, and somehow I let him talk me into a white sweatshirt. Rather than letting it sit untouched in the back of my closet for fear of stains, I fully plan on dyeing it once it turns grey from use.

Point Cabrillo landscapeFrom there we went to Caspar beach and watched the surfers while eating a little snack I’d packed for us – farmer’s market tomato and cucumber slices with cheese and salami (plus a beer for Carson). Then we drove home via the 20 and barbecued a flank steak I’d marinated that morning. Topped off with a garden/market salad, it was the perfect meal to end a lovely day.

Monday: Thunder and a chill

Rumbling thunder woke us at 5 am, and it was still going at 7:30. I wish it had kept up all day! Alas, I’m happy for a little rain and overcast skies since I thought we’d seen the last of days like this until the fall. I lit my new Mandarin Lavender soy candle (part of Carson’s anniversary gift to me) and I’m bundled up in my new sweatshirt, drinking coffee and procrastinating on the work I have to do before heading to San Francisco later today. I’m on the planning committee for Taste of Mendocino which is tomorrow at the Golden Gate club in the Presidio. More on that later I’m sure. And hey, if you’re in the Bay area, join us.

I hope you all had a great weekend!

Cherry Chutney, sort of

Cherry season is about halfway over here in California. With just a 6-8 week time frame I wanted to make sure I got all my cherry recipes in. I started with these pickled cherries which ended up being just as gross to eat as they were to look at. Whoops.

Not one to be discouraged, last week I undertook another new recipe at my mom’s request: cherry chutney.

The recipe requires pitting, which I did using this idea for a cherry pitter. I have mixed reviews about this contraption. It did work, but not nearly as cleanly as in the video. It didn’t really matter since chutney needs somewhat mangled cherries anyway. Plus it gave me the chance to experience “blood-and-guts” hands (which for some reason I enjoy).

cherry guts

From there I doubled what looked like a promising recipe. Based on the reviews I started with 1/2 cup less vinegar but otherwise I followed it to a T. That was a mistake.

I’ve never used Chinese five spice before, but I should have followed my instincts: as I dumped a full 1/4 cup into the pot I was thinking, “Wow… this is a LOT of spice.” I was right – the chutney was astringent from it. Time for triage!

I had another green apple so I chopped that up and tossed it in. I also had a bunch of strawberries that had soaked in rum for 2 weeks (more on those in another post). A Google search revealed that rum is not out of place in chutney, so after a quick mash they went into the pot.

rum strawberries

Mmm, rummy.

Then I added another cup of sugar because it seemed like it needed it. After letting that simmer for 30 minutes I added lemon juice to brighten everything up, and decreed it DONE. It tastes like Christmas and will probably go really well on pork. So far I’ve had it with goat cheese and crackers, which was delicious. Note that although it tastes good, in the recipe below I decreased the amount of Chinese five spice because even the version I ended up with didn’t need as much.

The following recipe made 5 pints, which I put into eight 1/2 pint jars (water bath processed) and one pint jar (will last for about a month in the fridge). You could easily substitute more cherries or regular strawberries for the rummy strawberries, but then you can’t call it Fruity Boozy Chutney.

fruit chutney

Fruity Boozy Chutney

  • 2 pounds cherries, pitted
  • 3 Granny Smith apples, chopped
  • 2 cups mashed rum-soaked strawberries (3 cups unmashed)
  • 2 red onions, chopped
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup fresh ginger, grated
  • 4 TBSP lemon juice
  • 2 TBSP Chinese five spice
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Cinnamon stick

Directions

Throw everything into a large pot. Bring to a boil over medium heat and reduce to low. Cover and let simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. If you want a thicker consistency, remove the lid and keep cooking until you’re happy with it. Remove the cinnamon stick. Pour into sterilized jars and process in a water bath for 15 minutes to make them shelf-stable.

First anniversary (bring on the gifts of paper!)

Today is my one year anniversary with Carson. It’s a little embarrassing to admit that at 31 years of age it’s the first time a relationship of mine has ever reached the one-year mark. I’ve gotten close: 10 and 11 months, plus a guy I saw on and off for years, but I’ve never committed to one person for a full, consecutive year. Suffice to say I’m sort of excited. Speaking of embarrassed… Carson will probably die when he reads this. Get ready: sentiment is about to eat this post for breakfast.

Today is actually the anniversary of the day we met. I  came to Mendocino last year on June 4 and met Carson at a bee club meeting on June 7. It was a sign that I was in the right place! We had a sort-of date that very same night which is why I feel justified calling today our official anniversary. He came to see me the  next two days before going on a fishing trip that weekend. I asked him to send me a photo while he was gone, and this is what I got:

Carson's motor

We all got a good chuckle out of that one.

The next several weeks were so sweet: he worked nearby and it was hot, so in the afternoons he’d come get me and we’d go for a swim at the lake. One day about two weeks in he called and asked what I was doing, came to pick me up, and took me to help him slaughter a young goat. It was the first time I’d participated in taking the life of something I was going to eat, and I held that goat’s head and stroked his face until he passed. It was powerful and sad and I cried a little. Carson treated me gently, then butchered the goat with precision and skill, and for the first time I thought, this could be something.

This is the first picture ever taken of us:

first pic

Then fire season started for him – a full two months later than this year. I keep telling him that if he’d started at this time last year, we wouldn’t have met. His being away was hard, but it let us take things slowly and get to know each other via emails, phone calls, and text messages, a modern twist on old fashioned courting. He writes such beautiful little texts – I called them “tiny love letters” in my July 10 journal entry. I save the best ones in a document and read them whenever I want my heart to swell.

I went to Seattle in September for a long visit and to gather all my belongings for the return trip: I was going to permanently relocate to Ukiah. It was one of the easiest decisions I’ve ever made. I fell in love with Mendocino as I fell in love with Carson, and today I love them both more than ever.

backyard pic