{Christmas craft} Reindeer food

Over the weekend I cleaned out the abyss that is my sprinkle/frosting/everything cabinet and found a bag of Christmas sprinkles from a cookie decorating party in 2008. (EIGHT YEARS AGO!) Thankfully, I knew how old they were since I dated the bag. Nice work, self.

Anyway, I had been perusing Pinterest and came across a “recipe” for reindeer food.

Reindeer food

Reindeer food is completely inedible for humans but will be quite a delight for the birds! Err, I mean, Santa’s reindeer.

The recipe is simple: whatever you want (that birds enjoy).

I went with ~ 1/2 cup of oats (buy them in bulk!), 1/4 cup of bird seed, and some of all the sprinkles I had in my everything cabinet.

Reindeer food

It’s really easy to make, and if nothing else, do it to make room for a new set of holiday sprinkles!

I had fun and I know Michael’s daycare friends will love their packages of reindeer food tomorrow!

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2016 resolutions

What’s old is new again, especially with my resolutions this year. 2015 was quite a year. In fact, I found out I was pregnant a mere seven days into the year. (A year ago today, you might note.) Shortly after that positive pregnancy test, my 10+ weeks of constant nausea set in and most of the 2015 resolutions I wrote about went out the window.

So, let’s replay 2015’s resolutions, eh?

Our life this year is 10,000% different than it ever has been: balancing an infant (he’s older than three months and no longer considered a “newborn”) with a full-time job, a side business, wanting to see my friends and family, and getting some actual sleep will take some work. We’ve laid a solid foundation, but have our balancing work cut out for us this year. So the word of my year is balance.

Here are my 2016 resolutions. You’ll recognize some redundancy from 2015:

Eat balanced. Every year we end up with a new approach to food (20152014, 2013, 2012) and 2016 is no different. It is, however, a bit more relaxed than years past. In 2015 I was nauseated for more than 1/5 of the year, often only able to eat plain quinoa or mozzarella, dropping 12 lbs during my first trimester. Thanks to the hottest summer on record in Seattle and no air conditioning at our house, I retained a lot of water and gained more than 50 lbs over the rest of my pregnancy. I was very lucky that I lost all the weight very quickly (to the detriment of my gall bladder, but that’s another post for another day) but that 60+ lb fluctuation makes me want to be kind to my body, trying my best to eat healthy, good whole foods (along with a cookie every now and again, but not one daily).

No special ingredients this year. No rotating cookbooks. Just real, good food. We’ll continue purchasing organic when we can and I’ll focus my meal planning on quick and balanced meals. I’ll post some of my favorite recipes here, don’t you worry. I’ll also try and write up the reviews of the cookbooks we tried out in 2015. It was a ton of fun and we found some great recipes.

Physically balanced. Carrying around a 15+ lb weight (Baby Michael) is new this year, and I need to make sure I’m in shape for him. That could mean getting off the bus a few stops early or waking up early to hit the 7:30 a.m. barre class on Saturdays, or even indulging in a massage a pedicure; spending time taking time to take care of myself. I’m still a dedicated FitBit user and have set my daily step goal to 10,000 steps daily. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but it’s a lot more than I’ve been walking the past year, so 10k it is. I’m also making time for taking care of myself.

Drink balanced. As a breastfeeding mom, I have to drink a lot of water to maintain my supply. I plan on continuing this in 2016. Besides, it’s good for both me and Baby Michael. When I said our wine cellar was bursting at the seams last year, I wasn’t kidding. Add in nine months of really cutting back our wine drinking and we have too much wine!! Rather than waiting for a special event to uncork our “expensive” bottles, we’ve been drinking from the cellar and really enjoying ourselves. This will continue in 2016 and beyond!

Be balanced. I’m recycling this one straight up from 2015. Cheers to an amazing 2016!

2015 2016 resolutions

{Wine Wednesday} Game day wine pairings

WineWednesday

VinePair always has the best wine pairing ideas and infographics! (See Halloween candy, Thanksgiving, and Christmas cookies.)

They scored once again with these football foods and wine pairings. I’m sure these would all be great with beer, but that’s not my thing, so this is especially poignant for me. Especially since I’ll be spending the bulk of my sportsball-watching at home, in front of the TV with my little guy. Don’t nachos and malbec sound delightful right now?!

 

2015-9-16 football-gameday-wine-pairings-infographic
Happy drinking and go Huskies, Broncos and Seahawks! 

Big John’s PFI (Pacific Food Importers)

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while now, but Big John’s recent obituary made me want to tell you all about one of my favorite stores in Seattle: Big John’s PFI (1001 6th Ave S, Seattle, WA 98134, 206-682-2022).

PFI's non-descript entrance

PFI’s non-descript entrance

PFI is a unique store, one that you don’t have to visit weekly, but one that any respectable Seattle-area foodie should visit monthly. We have our favorites and occasionally we’ll expand beyond our standard list: spices, pasta, special flour for the pizza oven, crushed tomatoes, candy, and sometimes meats, cheeses and wines.

Allow me to walk your through the store, and highlight our favorites:

Spices for days!

Spices for days!

About 1 million varieties of bulk salts, including truffle salt, my favorite!

About 1 million varieties of bulk salts, including truffle salt, my favorite!

More spices and grains

More spices and grains

So. Many. Flours. We've tried most of them!

So. Many. Flours. We’ve tried most of them!

Pizza flours. (Brandon's go-to combination is 60% Caputo, 40% Nero)

Pizza flours. (Brandon’s go-to combination is 60% Caputo, 40% Nera)

Bulk sweets: chocolate-covered everything (I'd highly recommend the milk chocolate-covered pecans...So would Brandon's Grandpa!)

Bulk sweets: chocolate-covered everything (I’d highly recommend the milk chocolate-covered pecans!)

From woodland creatures to chocolate-covered berries, they'll have something you'll love!

From woodland creatures to chocolate-covered berries, they’ll have something you’ll love!

Need large quantities of chocolate? You're in the right place

Need large quantities of chocolate? You’re in the right place

Even more sweets at PFI!

Even more sweets at PFI!

Dried pasta section, part one

Dried pasta section, part one

The other side of the dried pasta section

The other side of the dried pasta section

There are a lot of canned goods, vinegars, olive oils, wines, meats and cheeses available that I didn’t include here. Check out the Big John’s website (they have unexpected hours) to make sure they’re open before you head down.

If I’m not busy giving birth, maybe I’ll see you there this weekend? (Saturday… they’re closed on Sundays)

2015 National Night Out (Tomorrow!)

It’s already August (where did the past eight months go!?) and with that comes Election Day for those of us in Washington (make sure you vote!) and National Night Out. Both of which fall on the first Tuesday of August.

2015's National Night Out: TOMORROW! What are you bringing?

2015’s National Night Out: TOMORROW! What are you bringing?

What is National Night Out?

National Night Out is an annual community-building campaign that promotes police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie to make our neighborhoods safer, better places to live. Together, we are making that happen.

National Night Out enhances the relationship between neighbors and law enforcement while bringing back a true sense of community and provides a great opportunity to bring police and neighbors together under positive circumstances.

Neighborhoods across the nation host block parties, festivals, parades, cookouts and other various community events with safety demonstrations, seminars, youth events, visits from emergency personnel and exhibits.

Growing up I was the Block Watch Captain for our block, organizing the Night Out potluck celebration each year.

Our Megan’s Island neighborhood usually has a get together and this year is only a little different. Our neighbor Dave professionally smokes meats (ribs, brisket, etc. — it smells SO good on our street come football season!) and will be cooking up BBQ chicken and brats for our Night Out celebration.

(Interesting side note: We toyed with the idea of having Dave bring is smoker up to our house and having fresh pizzas and smoked meats, but we didn’t get out stuff together fast enough this year or last. We’re planning a separate neighborhood pizza party instead. Besides, two parties is better than one, right?)

The assignment for those attending our neighborhood potluck this year is to bring a side dish to share. I usually go with brownies, but since it’s been so hot and brownies are kind of boring, I’ve been scouring the internet for a new recipe and I think I’ve found the perfect dish to bring: a watermelon goat cheese salad. (Of course, any and all of these hot weather eats would be perfect for your Night Out celebration!)

I found this recipe in my new (library-issued) Food52 Cookbook, which happens to be our cookbook of the week this week. It’s perfect for the season and should be perfect for a large group of our neighbors. I plan on making a few (mostly lazy) changes, so I’ll include them here. If you want to see the official recipe, visit Food52.

Watermelon and Goat Cheese Salad with a Mint-Basil Infused Vinaigrette
Serves 4

  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 handful fresh mint basil 
  • teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/2 seedless watermelon
  • 1/2 pound fresh goat cheese
  • 1/2 cup unsalted pistachios
  • tablespoons red vine vinegar
  • teaspoon sea salt
  • dash fresh pepper
  1. Roughly chop the mint basil and add the olive oil and the coarse salt. Grind for about 10 minutes and let it sit for about 1 hour at room temperature. (The original calls for using a mortar and pestle, but we don’t have one of those. I’ll improvise.)
  2. Cut the watermelon into cubes and place in a salad bowl in the refrigerator.
  3. Place the pistachios in a pan and on low heat toast them for 5 minutes.
  4. Remove the pistachios from the pan and chop them roughly. Set aside in a small bowl.
  5. Crumble the goat cheese.
  6. Take the olive oil and mint-basil mix and put it through a small mixer. When completely mixed add the vinegar. Mix again.
  7. Take the watermelon out of the fridge, add the goat cheese, drizzle the vinaigrette, sprinkle the pistachios and finish with sea salt and pepper. Mix and serve!

This is what it’s supposed to look like. Check my Instagram feed tonight to see how my version turns out!

Food52's watermelon goat cheese salad

Food52’s watermelon goat cheese salad

I hope you’re able to enjoy Neighborhood Night Out tomorrow and get to know your neighbors!

 

Top Pot Doughnuts: fresh from the fryer

Ta-da! Top Pot co-founder Mark shares his fresh chocolate, creme-filled doughnuts

Ta-da! Top Pot co-founder Mark shares his fresh chocolate, creme-filled doughnuts

Brandon and I recently had the pleasure of attending a private tour of one of Seattle’s hottest doughnut-teries (like a bakery, but solely for doughnuts): Top Pot Doughnuts.

Brandon loves, loves, loves doughnuts and we make it a point to visit well-know doughnut shops when we’re out of town, on vacation. Some examples include: VooDoo and Blue Star in Portland, Gourdoughs in Austin, and Doughnut Plant when we were in New York City for our honeymoon. We record food and travel network shows about doughnuts and doughnuts often grace our breakfast table.

I’m less of a doughnut fanatic (rather than a sweet tooth, I have more of a savory tooth) but I can’t say no to a good maple bar or frosted doughnut with sprinkles.

Top Pot Doughnuts opened in Seattle in 2002 and they currently have 16 locations here. (Plus a newly-opened shop in Dallas. If you’re reading from Dallas, you should go check them out!)  One of the locations is very close to my day job and I’m lucky enough to have doughnuts grace the office kitchen once every couple of weeks. They have many varieties of doughnuts, with the classics and several seasonal favorites. In fact, I just saw on Facebook that the blueberry cake doughnut made its seasonal debut. I’ll have to pick some of those up soon.

Mark Klebeck and I met through my day job and the more I spoke to him, the more excited I was to share his glowing personality and doughnut knowledge with Brandon. Mark and his brother are true entrepreneurs and I was so excited to hear how they started this and so many other businesses.

Mark met my Dad, Brandon and I at the Top Pot flagship store on 5th Ave in Seattle. (It’s kind-of famous, thanks to a former Seahawk with a sweet tooth.) This location makes 3,000 dozen doughnuts each day to supply doughnuts for the greater Seattle area (that’s 36,000 daily) and runs pretty much around the clock, shutting down for a mere 4 hours each early morning. We stepped behind the counter and into the back to a world of  hand-forged doughnut delight.

Mark and his brother, Michael, created a cookbook for their doughnuts and you can find their dough recipes in there.

Yeast doughnut dough at Top Pot

Yeast doughnut dough at Top Pot

The doughnuts rise 300 percent, so they start off much smaller than you think they’re going to… Like these maple bars being punched out. Doughnut making at Top Pot is an incredibly manual process (truly hand-forged) and the dough above gets rolled flat, perforated and then run through an old-fashioned press that punches out yeast-raised doughnuts like these:

Maple bars: the early stages

Maple bars: the early stages

Nothing gets wasted in this process. The leftover yeast dough scraps from the bar and circle doughnuts gets combined together to form Top Pot’s famous apple fritters. (One of Brandon’s favorites.)

Leftover dough = apple fritters

Leftover dough = apple fritters

Apple fritters before the fryer and glaze

Apple fritters before the fryer and glaze

Once the doughnuts are in their shape, they need to rise. Top Pot has a walk-in proof box where the doughnuts go to rest and grow. This process takes less than an hour. Once they’re plumped up, it’s off to the fryer! All of Top Pot’s doughnuts are fried and we were able to watch cake doughnuts, yeast-raised doughnuts and apple fritters get fried all at once, in separate vats.

For the cake doughnuts, this machine plops the ring of dough in the oil. As it cooks, the doughnut rises. Here is a batch that are almost ready for their glaze!

Doughnuts in the fryer

Doughnuts in the fryer

Once they’re all cooked and floating, the metal tray that is hiding at the bottom of the fryer is lifted out and the doughnuts get cooled:

Hot doughnuts, comin' through

Hot doughnuts, comin’ through

Once cooled, many of the doughnuts (fritters, old-fashioned, etc…) get glazed. The glaze-r is so cool. The doughnuts are placed in a single layer on their wire rack and the whole rack makes its way to the glaze table. Then this trough gets filled with glaze and the doughnut maker covers the whole rack in a swift motion:

Well-glazed glazed doughnuts

Well-glazed glazed doughnuts

Here is Mark walking us through the process. Brandon was really intrigued and was hoping for a sample.

Mark & Brandon: Best buds at Top Pot Seattle

Mark & Brandon: Best buds at Top Pot Seattle

Lucky for him, Mark is generous and Brandon was able to eat his favorite, still warm, doughnut, an apple fritter! He was happier than a kid at a candy shop. Or a kid at a doughnut shop. Same thing, I guess.

Fresh doughnut? Yes, please.

Fresh doughnut? Yes, please.

Our tour finished with more sampling and more learning about the doughnut business and coffee bean roasting business, the profitable side of Top Pot Doughnuts that Brandon and I, the only two Seattle-ites who don’t drink coffee, have very little experience with.

My Top Pot favorites: frosted doughnuts! (Not pictured: my other favorites: the maple bar)

My Top Pot favorites: frosted doughnuts! (Not pictured: my other favorites: the maple bar)

And Mark was nice enough to autograph our Top Pot cookbook…

Autographing our Top Pot Doughnuts cookbook

Autographing our Top Pot Doughnuts cookbook

…and pose for a photo with us!

Brandon, Mark, and Megan | Top Pot Doughnuts, Seattle, WA

Brandon, Mark, and Megan | Top Pot Doughnuts, Seattle, WA

Top Pot is really invested in their community and they have partnered with Northwest Harvest to sell raffle tickets to the Seahawks/49’ers re-match in San Francisco over Thanksgiving weekend. Buy your tickets at any Top Pot location and know that each ticket purchased provides 45 meals. More info can be found here. The drawing is held on June 6.

Thank you to Mark and Top Pot for a wonderful, fascinating, and tasty tour and we look forward to continuing our adventures and trying every doughnut variety you produce!

Oh, National Doughnut Day is on June 6. I know I’ll be celebrating and I hope you do too… perhaps with a visit to Top Pot? Maybe I’ll see you there!

 

{Wine Wednesday} Fancy dinner at the London Plane

WineWednesday

A warm welcome from Matt Dillon

A warm welcome from Matt Dillon

Yes, you read that right: dinner. If you’re not totally hooked up, like I am, then you’ve likely never indulged in dinner at the London Plane. Don’t feel bad, not many have. This event was the first time ever that the London Plane hads served dinner! Thankfully, I’m one of the lucky few, so I’ll share my fun adventure with you. Do you remember our fancy chef dinner at the Whale Wins last year? This was another awesome chef meet-greet-and-dine through the Alaska Airline Signature Visa cardholder program. We attended both dinners with some good friends of ours and we’ve decided to make it an annual tradition. Why? Because these dinners are good. And fun. A lot of fun.

Dutcher Crossing wines

Dutcher Crossing wines

The London Plane is one of Matt Dillon’s new restaurants in the Pioneer Square neighborhood of Seattle. It’s a shop, cafe, bakery, wine shop, bar, and events space that offers breakfast and lunch and all sorts of goodies in between. This event featured Dutcher Crossing Winery, out of Sonoma. Both the winemaker and the winery owner were at the event, schmoozing and telling us about the wines we were enjoying. Our first chance to enjoy was right when we entered the event – we were instantly handed a glass of the Dutcher Crossing 2013 Sauvignon Blanc and several passed appetizers:

  • Spiced nuts and puglian olives
  • Ham-wrapped dates stuffed with romanesco
  • Rye crackers with tuna pate and radish
  • Deep fried leeks with tahini sauce
  • Smoked trout and cucumber with creme fraiche

The wine was exceptional — it was an un-Seattle-like hot spring day and the London Plane didn’t have AC — and the Sauvignon Blanc really hit the spot. It was very crisp and refreshing, with hints of pear. All of the appetizers were also good and my favorite by far was the deep fried leek with tahini sauce. It was a grown-up, fancy cousin of an onion ring. At a small, bite-sized portion, I could have eaten an entire meal of deep-fried leeks. Thankfully, the waitstaff didn’t bring them around all that often. Once we drank all of the Sauvignon Blanc and made a dent in the appetizers, we took our seats. Brandon and I sat upstairs, with our friends and several others, at a long table overlooking all of the action.

The menu at the London Plane

The menu at the London Plane

The second wine pairing was poured a few minutes before the second course was served. Thankfully they were very generous with their pours and I was able to enjoy the wine both alone and paired with the course, as was the case with each course. We enjoyed the 2012 Chardonnay Stuhlmuler Vineyard with an asparagus, spring onion and pea tendril salad with bacon and tarragon. While I’m not really into Chardonnay, this one wasn’t that bad. (We much preferred the Sauv Blanc to it, however.) The salad was great. The flavors were so fresh and bacon makes everything better.

Course two: a delicious salad

Course two: a delicious salad

The third course, one half of a roasted quail, beets and rhubarb with crispy emmer, pistachios and mint was paired with the 2012 Zinfandel Maple Vineyard. The Zin was good, but it wasn’t my favorite. Brandon, however, really enjoyed it.

Course three: Quail

Course three: Quail

The fourth course, anchovy and oregano rubbed leg of lamb with potatoes, braised turnips and walnut sauce, was my favorite course of the night. (Beyond those fried leeks!) This course was paired with the 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon Taylor Reserve, also my favorite of the night.

Course four: lamb

Course four: lamb

The fifth course  (finally!) was a chocolate caramel tart with soft cream and a glass (well, two…) of the 2008 Port Dry Creek Valley.  A great port and chocolate dessert are definitely the way to get Brandon’s seal of approval.

Course five: dessert

Course five: dessert

All in all, it was another amazing feast brought together by Alaska Airlines and Visa Signature. We’ll definitely be back to the London Plane and to another one of these fun dinners!

A few of our empties

A few of our empties

Happy wine Wednesday!