Willamette Valley Pie Co.

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A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of doing some styling and food/product photography for Willamette Valley Pie Company. The company holds a special place in my heart as it was started in 1999 by my in-laws, who were looking to take control of wildly fluctuating berry prices. They banded together with local farmers to start their own processing plant and a few years later, absorbed a local pie business into the mix. It’s changed and grown exponentially since I’ve been around, and I’m so very proud to be associated with it in any way possible. I also happen to live on the very same street and have to practice large amounts of self-discipline not to end up there on my morning walks. The scent of pies baking drifts all the way down to my house on occasion, beckons me in for a delicious, fruity treat.

On the day of the shoot, aside from picking up a load of insanely gorgeous pies and other products, I also got to raid the pie company store for styling props. They do such a wonderful job stocking the place with local products and adorable, rustic housewares that just so happened to look pretty perfect in my turn-of-the-century farmhouse. I even ended up buying a couple prints that went quite well next to the new hutch.

Once I got home, I gathered all of the props I already had and piled them on the table in my prep room, along with the goods I’d pilfered from the store. I hauled all the pies, loaves, turnovers and scones into my house and arranged them all neatly into piles. With a long shot list and a whole day of beautiful light, I set about my work with the glee of a kid in a candy store. Or a pie shop. Heh. I spent the entire day shooting, completely forgetting about lunch, and couldn’t wait to load up all my photos on the computer at the end of the day. With a piece of pie in hand, of course.

I’ve always loved arranging things so they look pretty, and more recently have really fallen in love with photography, but never in a million years did I ever imagine I’d get to do both as a part of my job. The shoot was a dream and has confirmed to me that I should continue to pursue styling and photography as a part of this whole Bird is the Word adventure. So consider this my formal announcement. I’m throwing my hat in the Food Styling + Photography game. If you’d like to work together, just get in touch! For rates and more information, click here.

Thanks WVPie! I hope you love your new photos!

Watching Airplanes

Valentine's-Day-2006

Well, I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted an installment of Our Story here, but we’d come to a point that seemed like it would make a pretty good ending if it needed to, and life circumstances dictated that it did need to, at least for a while. So, I took a break to focus on the present instead of burying my head in the past. And then we moved. And then we didn’t have internet for a month. And then work started to come in. And taxes. And you know how these things happen. All of a sudden I felt completely overwhelmed trying to keep up with the present and plan for the future, let alone diving into the past.

A couple weeks ago I read this post by the author of one of my favorite books about that “itch,” you get when you need to write. And while I totally resonated with it, because she really hits it on the head- you don’t always know what you have to say, you just know you need to sit down at the computer with an open heart and let it all flow out- I also thought to myself, “you know, I must truly be done writing Our Story because I just don’t feel that itch anymore.” Well…wouldn’t you know, I woke up this morning feeling extraordinarily itchy. It’s time. I’m back. So here we go.

WARNING: This posts includes kissing. Lots of it. If that embarrasses you, well, feel free to avoid eye contact the next time you see me. I’ll know why.

This post is part of an ongoing series about how Taylor and I met and fell in love. To get back to the beginning, click here. And thanks for following along!

Last we checked in, I’d been dramatically kissed by a boy so determined to plant one one me, he hadn’t noticed I wasn’t wearing any pants. It was just before Christmas and we had exchanged our first gifts as a couple, both feeling a little awkward about the whole thing. He gave me a Thesaurus (pure romance in the eyes of an English major), the second season of Gilmore Girls and a gift certificate to Powell’s. He already knew me well. And I’d spent most of my Thanksgiving break making him a fleece blanket for basketball roadtrips, and a Photoshop masterpiece with the only photos of us I had, complete with the lyrics of his favorite Johnny Cash song. After swapping presents, we parted ways, each going to our respective homes for the holiday, which, thanks to the fact that we both played basketball only lasted a few days. Before we knew it, we were back on campus and back where we already knew we belonged, together.

He’d picked me up at the airport, a big relationship step at the time, and taken me back to his parent’s house before I had to head to Newberg for practice. We’d spent the day with his family, playing games, cracking jokes and enjoying a spaghetti dinner- my least favorite food of all time, though I didn’t let on- before Andrew, Melissa, Taylor and I all piled in the car and drove to the gym. The boys, who lived in dorm style housing, were locked out of their place so they decided to crash in our living room for the night, which felt totally scandalous at the time. A bunch of us watched a movie together, Chocolat I believe, and then the crowd scattered, leaving just the four of us. According to my journal we stayed up until 5:30 a.m. I’m not sure what Melissa and Andrew were up to all that time, I think they went on a “walk” somewhere, but as for me, well…

We hadn’t kissed since the door throwing incident. Part of me was kind of insulted, you know? Who wouldn’t want a piece of this? But part of me was relieved. All I had to do was a little bit of math and I quickly realized too much kissing, too soon, would not be a good idea. I mean, we were young. I had every intention of making it to my wedding day without letting anybody up in my business, if you know what I mean. But that day was a long way off and since I practically turned into jello anytime the guy reached for my hand, I knew if he started in with the kissing business, who knows what would happen to my resolve.

Well start in he did, in fact. As we sat on the floor talking late into the night, he made his move. I was no stranger to being kissed, I’d done my fair share of what the kids call “making out,” in my day. But something about kissing this boy was so very different. I felt simultaneously thrilled to my core and terrified. I’d prided myself on kissing for sport in my former life, but with him, I felt like a southern belle one step away from needing some smelling salts. It wasn’t that he was the best I’d ever kissed, or the most experienced. In fact, I’d later find out he’d only ever kissed one other girl. It was the terrifying fact that one month into this brand new relationship, I knew I loved him. And I’d never been kissed, really, properly kissed, by someone I loved before.

My journal entry from the next day is full of all sorts of hesitation about all of this happening too fast. Too soon. Terrified of where it might go. But I remember shortly after writing it, hearing a knock at my door. One look at that gorgeous face and all my worries were instantly washed away. I was whisked off to the store to buy ingredients for dinner, which we made together, dancing around the kitchen talking about our futures and who we wanted to be. It was every bit as casual as the night before had been serious. And as terrified as I was to admit that I was madly in love with a boy I really barely knew, everything about being with him felt perfectly right. Something in me knew a relationship with this boy would be a wild ride, but I couldn’t help myself. I wanted in.


Despite the fact that I’d stalked the guy for over a year, I’d managed to play it pretty cool so far in our relationship. Hadn’t showed too many cards. Taken things in stride. Sadly, it wasn’t meant to last. One day in mid-January, after a particularly rough week of basketball practice, and a long tearful call with my parents, I was feeling pretty blue. I set my AIM status as “Grrrr…” and naturally, Taylor texted me to ask what was up. I tried to brush him off, saying I was just upset about basketball and I had to head to class, but shortly after I sat down in my classroom, completely drenched from the walk and still choking back tears, my phone began to ring. I rushed out into the hallway to answer, kicking myself for not setting it to vibrate. Taylor was on the other end.

“Where are you?” he said.
“I’m in class. Why?”
“Nevermind.”

Ten minutes later he showed up at the door of my classroom, soaking wet, rain dripping from his nose, holding a steaming Starbucks cup. He had the biggest grin on his face and was looking at me with such care and concern. It was the most beautiful sight I’d ever seen, and it took all my willpower not to burst into hysterics in front of the whole class. Blushing as everyone looked at me, I excused myself from class and followed him out of the room. We sat down next to each other on a bench in the hallway and tears streamed down my face. He didn’t say much, he didn’t have to. He held my hand as I drank my coffee, and with every sip I felt just a little bit better. It was a bittersweet moment; I lost my facade of “having it all together,” of being cool, calm and collected, but I also got to experience the sweetness of having this guy in my corner. And suddenly, I couldn’t think of anything that could trump the fact that he was mine.

The rest of January is mostly a blur of basketball practice, games and trips. We went on another group date, and Taylor brought me the first of many bouquets of flowers, but before we knew it, we’d arrived at our next really big relationship milestone, Valentine’s Day. I’d never had a particularly good experience with the holiday. In fact, I’d only made it through the many February 14th’s of childhood thanks to the annual heart-shaped ice cream cakes from Baskin Robins my Mom “surprised,” us with every year (thank you Mom). All that to say, I had no idea what to expect.

I remember waking up that morning, realizing what day it was and taking a deep breath. Reminding myself not to get my hopes up, laying in bed attempting to reason with the crazy expectations that seemed to pop into my head every year. I readied myself for the slight taste of disappointment I always had in my mouth at the end of the day. And then I stepped out the back door, and very nearly on to the bouquet of red roses and goofy little poem Taylor had written and left on my stoop. My heart exploded.

I daydreamed through my classes, and most likely basketball practice, counting down until our date that night. We had dinner at McCormick and Schmick’s, a local steakhouse, before heading to our top secret destination. He’d told me were going to dessert, and I figured we’d hit Rose’s Deli, who served our favorite chocolate orange cake. But when he drove past the restaurant with a smirk on his face, I was puzzled. Half an hour into our trip he asked if I knew where we were going, and I confessed, much to his delight, that I didn’t.

Smiling, he said, “What are those lights up ahead?”

He pulled off onto a side road and quickly turned around to back up to a fence that lined the area with the lights. I remained confused until I heard the undeniable roar of an airplane landing very nearby.

“Are we at the airport!?” I asked, craning my neck to see the giant, roaring plane.

He just smiled, hopped out of the cab of the pickup and began to set up a dessert picnic in the bed of the truck. He’d brought our favorite cake, hot chocolate, sparkling cider and an array of other sweets and treats. He spread a couple thick blankets and we climbed in the back, cozying up under a few more. I can’t remember a moment in my life that has been quite as perfect as that one. Even still. Every disappointed Valentine’s Day I’d ever spent was redeemed in that one night. My hope was restored in humanity. Something about all those planes coming in, people reaching their destinations and the people they loved, was so terribly romantic. We sat in the back of that truck, watching planes, talking and snuggling until 11 p.m., and it took all my willpower to tear myself away.

While the night had already been pretty incredible, it wasn’t over yet. Jaime and I had spent a long day the weekend before filming a pretty hilarious Valentine’s Day video for our boyfriends and had planned to sneak into our team room with sparkling cider and chocolate covered strawberries to celebrate it’s premier. Once Taylor and I got back to campus, we snuck into the gym and all sat together, cracking up over our crazy antics and ridiculous impressions. As we walked back to our apartment, re-enacting our favorite scenes, I thought to myself that Valentine’s Day should always come to an end surrounded by good friends.

The early months of our relationship are so fun to remember. So sweet and easy. Our innocence, our awkwardness, our ignorance of each other. Learning how to be ourselves when we were together, celebrating little milestones and sending each other increasingly sappy emails. It was a pretty special time and I lived in a daydream for a solid three months. Though we’d passed each other’s tests, and I’d even gotten the thumbs up from his family, he hadn’t yet met mine. And all bets were off until we visited them in March.

To be continued…

Spiced Plum Rice Pudding

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Okay, so I know I harp endlessly on eating seasonally, and well, plums aren’t exactly in season. In fact, it’ll be summer before we start to see any of those beauties around these parts. But, all I’ve been able to think about lately is this rice pudding with spiced plums, so when I saw some in the produce section at the grocery store, it could not be helped. Sometimes the heart what it wants, or so says the great Selena Gomez.

All jokes aside, this rice pudding has haunted me for years. First, out of curiosity, since I’d never been a fan of anything with the word pudding included. And then I made a holiday variation of the recipe for an event in December, subbing in cranberries instead of plums. I got to taste the dish, but wasn’t able to really sit down and bury my face in a bowl of the stuff like I would have liked. So, since it seems this faux spring is here to stay, I decided this must be the week for me to indulge in one final, albeit tardy, fall-winter dessert.

Being that I’m a bit dairy sensitive, I decided to make this recipe with almond milk instead of the recommended milk. This was a mistake. Go for the real stuff. And honestly, I think next time I make this recipe, which believe you me there will be a next time, I’ll go for an arborio rice instead of basmati. The basmati just didn’t have enough body for me. I’ve made a few other alterations to the recipe, but left the spiced plums untouched, and they were truly divine.

If you are looking for one last warm, rich, indulgence before the season of light and bright food begins, take this one for a spin. I guarantee it won’t disappoint.

Spiced Plum Rice Pudding | Bird is the Word (13 of 15)

Spiced Plum Rice Pudding
Author: 
 
Ingredients
Pudding:
  • 2 cups milk (or half and half if you're feeling saucy)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 1 vanilla bean, seeded
  • 4 cardamom pods
  • ½ cup sugar or maple syrup
  • ¼ cup flaked almonds
  • ¼ tsp salt
Plums:
  • 4 plums
  • juice of ½ orange
  • 2 star anise
  • pinch of cloves
  • 1 tsp ginger syrup (can be found at Whole Foods)
Instructions
  1. Pour the milk into a heavy bottomed pan with the cinnamon stick. Bring it to the boil and stir in the rice and scrape seeds from vanilla bean, also adding beans to infuse.
  2. Simmer on a very low heat for about 30 minutes, making sure that you keep stirring so the rice does not stick to the pan.
  3. Crush the cardamom pods in a pestle and mortar and extract their seeds. Throw the pods away and add the crushed seeds to the sugar. Season with salt.
  4. When the rice looks like a soupy milky risotto but still has a little bite, stir in the cardamom sugar or maple syrup and cook for another 5 – 10 minutes on low adding more milk if it starts to get dry.
  5. Spiced Plums
  6. Slice the plums in wedges. Place in a pan with the juice, star anise, cloves and ginger syrup – heat on low until the plums are slightly softened and the flavours have infused. Do not stir the plums as they will lose their shape. This is a slow process, be patient! Once you have a nice syrup in the bottom of the pan, the plums are done. Let cool.
  7. Top the pudding with the plums and almonds. Enjoy!

Lemon Cake + Curd

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It’s a weird thing to be a cook. Chef. Whatever you want to call it. I learned early on that you are only as good as your last plate. A truth which is simultaneously freeing and damning. Especially in catering. If your last plate is a home run, you’re left feeling on top of the world until your next event. If it falls flat, well, you carry that around for the next however long until you get to wipe the slate clean. It’s a funny business. Luckily, most of the time I get to experience the former, and this dish from my last event definitely felt like a homer.

Most of the time I trade off between coming up with my own recipes for events and adapting dishes from others. Sometimes I beat myself up about this, thinking that if I was a real chef I’d write all my own recipes. But in my humble opinion, writing recipes and being a cook are two very different skill sets, and recipe development takes a lot of time and experience. Plus, there are so many talented people out there doing it, unless I’m really confident in how something is going to turn out, I like to have a road map. This gorgeous cake is from a recipe developer (and food stylist) I really admire, and I felt nothing but pride serving up her beautiful work to my guests last week.

This cake, and accompanying curd, are such a perfect dish for the end of winter. To me, it’s pure sunshine. Dense, moist, earthy cake that tastes just ever so slightly of olive oil. Sweet, bright citrus in a creamy curd. And the most heavenly dollop of vanilla whipped cream on the side. A few sprigs of fresh mint and some Jacobsen Vanilla Bean Sea Salt are the perfect finishing touch and add such lovely color and texture.

Do yourself a favor and give this one a try. Easy to make and even easier to keep in the fridge and eat every day for a week. Everybody needs a little sunshine in the middle of February!

Lemon Cake + Curd
Author: 
 
Ingredients
Lemon Curd:
  • 1 cup lemon juice
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 yolks
  • ⅓ cup natural cane sugar
  • Zest of 2 lemons, peeled
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces and left at room temperature
Lemon and olive oil cake:
  • 1 cup superfine brown rice flour
  • ½ cup almond flour
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup cane sugar
  • Zest of 2 lemons, finely grated
  • 3 eggs
  • ¾ cup applesauce (I used homemade)
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ½ cup Arbequina olive oil, plus more for pan
Whipped Cream:
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 vanilla bean, seeded
  • 1 tsp Jacobsen Vanilla Bean Sea Salt
  • 2 tsp sugar
Instructions
Lemon Curd:
  1. Cook the lemon juice in a small saucepan over medium heat until it has reduced in half. This will concentrate the flavor and make the curd much more intense. Let cool.
  2. Fill a medium saucepan with about 3 inches of water and bring it to a simer. In a heatproof bowl, whisk together the eggs, yolks, sugar, zest, salt and reduced lemon juice. Place the bowl over the pot with simmering water and whisk the mixture until it thickens. Immediately strain the curd through a fine sieve into a clean bowl. Keep whisking the curd until it cools down a bit. You want it to feel about body temperature.
  3. Whisk in the pieces of butter so they melt into the curd and create an emulsion. Keep whisking. The curd will be shiny and smooth. Don't be alarmed if it's pretty thin, it'll set up nicely in the fridge.
  4. Pour in a glass jar and refrigerate. Store in the refrigerator for up to a couple of weeks.
Cake:
  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare a loaf pan by rubbing a little bit of oli on the bottoms and sides.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the first five ingredients.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the sugar and zest together. Rub the two between your fingers to release the natural oils in the zest. Add the eggs and whisk together until incorporated. Add the applesauce, lemon juice and olive oil and whisk to combine. Pour this mixture over the dry ingredients and whisk to combine. Pour batter in the prepared mold and bake for approximately 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  4. Let the cake cool in the pan for 15 minutes or so before trying to flip it over. Keep wrapped in plastic wrap in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Whipped Cream:
  1. Combine ingredients in an electric mixer and whip until soft peaks form.
  2. Slice cake and top with a spoonful of curd, whipped cream, a few sprigs of mint, a sprinkle of sea salt and a drizzle of olive oil.

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Cash-ing In: 4 Months

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This fourth month has truly flown by. I keep waiting for my baby to turn into the puppy monster that everyone has warned me about, but despite his usual spaz moments and a few chomps on my new hutch, Cash is still the sweet little guy he’s been since day one. He’s grown so much this month, and despite the vet telling us he’s a little chunky, we think he’s just the handsomest dog.

He got his third round of vaccinations this month, which meant it was time to socialize, and all my fears that I would be the mother bear at the playground came true. He’s very polite, if not a little over enthusiastic, and has been received warmly by most dogs he’s met, despite the occasional teeth snapping that makes his mama verrrrrry anxious. For the sake of my nerves, we’re easing into the dog park business, starting with some one-on-one dates with Cash’s “cousin” Chase, an older yellow lab. They had such a blast on their first get-together, I had to come straight home and stick Cash in the tub. He was covered in mud from head to toe and pretty thrilled to get two baths in one week.

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Things Cash loves: Splashing around in the bath, sniffing everything, sticking his head between my ankles while I make dinner, eating grass, working in the shop with Dad, “cleaning” the floors, Bully Sticks, his Little Mermaid blanket, any and all carpet, having free (supervised) rein of the main level, being the official household welcoming committee and getting in and out of the car by himself.

Things Cash DOES NOT love: Waiting for dinner, having his nails clipped, getting yelled at for misbehavior, being left in the car, being forced to drop his toys instead of play tug-of-war, not being allowed to accompany me to the bathroom, staring competitions, being thirsty, the vacuum cleaner and generally being left out in any way.

This month we took him to the beach for the first time, where he promptly ran straight for the water, barrel rolling across the sand and giving himself a nice coating of the stuff. He then insisted on sleeping in my lap the whole drive back, miraculously arriving home clean and dry, while I found myself mysteriously soaked and covered in sand.

He’s mastered the stairs and is doing much better on our morning walks, making it all the way to Nana and Papa’s house on a regular basis. He’s nearly house trained, only having an occasional accident when Mom and Dad are too lazy/busy to read the signs. Sorry, bud. And he’s also become quite the co-pilot, accompanying my MIL and I on a road trip to Bend the other day to pick up a Craigslist find. He was absolutely thrilled to rest his head on the console between us when he wasn’t busy napping in the back seat. He’s so smart, sweet and hilarious and we’re not sure what we’d do if we didn’t have him in our lives.

Happy 4 months of life Spaz Monkey! We love you bud!

Roasted Tomato Soup + Potatoes

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This time of year I find myself incredibly sick of all things winter. Especially winter food. Especially since that golden ball in the sky has been making a pretty regular appearance. If I have to eat one more sweet potato or stomach one more type of squash, I just know I’ll lose my mind. I want bright colors and flavors, fresh veggies and greens. And despite the warm days we’ve been having and the green grass outside my windows, it’s still far too early for the delights of spring produce. So…what to do? Buy some out of season Organic tomatoes and roast them til they taste like summer.

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Being in the food industry, I get asked pretty regularly what my favorite cookbook is. And I always feel a bit sheepish answering the question, feeling like people assume it’s one of the greats. Or at least written by some famous chef. I always hesitate when I answer, because in reality, my two favorite cookbooks are simply the ones that inspire me the most. The ones I actually cook from the most and find myself turning to time and time again for inspiration. And they never let me down.

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I’ve always hated the canned tomato soup, feeling like it looked more like milky ketchup than a hearty soup, so when I watched Sophie roast a pan full of juicy tomatoes for the first time, I knew I had to try it her way. At the end of the episode, she sits down and with great glee, dips a huge forkful of her twice baked potato in the soup. That was it. I was sold. Anytime I’m feeling like winter might get the best of me, I make this combo, and suddenly the promise of summer feels fresh again and my patience is restored.

The best part about this soup, for me, is the delightful creamy texture without the inclusion of any dairy. That means I can load up my potatoes with as much cheese as I’d like to compensate. Bon apetit!

Roasted Tomato Soup + Potatoes
Author: 
 
Ingredients
For the potatoes:
  • 4 russet potatoes
  • knob of butter
  • 2 tbsp crème fraîche (or sour cream)
  • small bunch fresh chives, finely chopped
  • 7oz chèvre
  • 1 free-range egg, beaten
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the soup:
  • 4½lbs Organic tomatoes on the vine
  • 1 garlic bulb, cut in half horizontally
  • 2 large red onions, peeled, quartered
  • few sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 tbsp cane sugar
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • few drops Worcestershire sauce
  • few drops balsamic vinegar
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375F. Puncture (with a fork) and bake the potatoes directly on the wire rack of the oven for 1½ -1¾hours, or until tender.
For the soup:
  1. Meanwhile, for the soup, place the tomatoes, garlic, onions and thyme into a large roasting pan and season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Drizzle with the oil, and roast in the oven for 40-50 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool slightly.
  2. Squeeze the garlic cloves out, and discard the skin. Add the roasted tomatoes and onions into a blender along with the mashed garlic, and pulse until smooth (If the soup is too thick, pour into a large saucepan and loosen the mixture with either vegetable stock or water).
  3. Add a little Worcestershire sauce or balsamic vinegar, and season with salt and pepper.
For the potatoes:
  1. Remove the potatoes from the oven and using a cloth to hold the hot potato, cut each one in half and scoop out the insides into a bowl.
  2. Mix in the butter, crème fraîche (sour cream), chives and chèvre and stir in the egg.
  3. Season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and spoon the potato mixture back into the skins. Place onto a baking tray in the oven for a further 15-20 minutes, or until golden-brown and crisp on top.
  4. Dip potato in soup and enjoy!

 

Life on the Farm: Vol. 1

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I’ve had my eye on this house forever. Prayed and pleaded, begged and bargained to get myself in here. I used to make Taylor drive past it every time we visited his parents and slow just as we passed, so I could spend every second drinking it in to my memory. For years I dreamt of what it might feel like to wake up here. To plant flowers in the back yard. To wash dishes and look out the kitchen window. To finally feel home.

Since we moved in mid-December, I’ve spent most of my days here. While I’ve yet to get my hands in the dirt, I have stood at the kitchen window washing a great deal of dishes. I have leaned against the windowsill in the mudroom, heart swelling as I watch my husband and puppy play in the backyard. I’ve woken up to tangerine sunrises and stepped out almost every day just to feel the sun on my face during the afternoon golden hour. I’ve hung my prized possessions on the wall and arranged my canned goods in the basement cellar.

There have been days when the solitude has felt suffocating. Days when I haven’t spoken until three or four in the afternoon. Days where I go to bed in the same clothes I woke up in. Days where the fog is so thick I can’t see the shed that sits just a few hundred yards away from the house. And January and February almost always bring with them a dark cloud that camps above my head for a few months. But despite my annual melancholy, I’ve relished being tucked away in this cozy little house. Feeling, most days, like there’s nowhere I’d rather be.

I have fond memories of the home I grew up in, sure. But too many childhood traumas still live there and having been gone a decade now, my attachment to the place itself, is all but gone. I’ve always felt like Oregon was home, but never really a specific place per say. In the several apartments we’ve lived and our short stint in our first home, I knew our surroundings were temporary and never really felt connected to the walls around me. But here, here is different.

These walls, which I spent weeks painting with a brush in my hand, are my favorite shade of milk bottle white. The creaks and squeaks of the hardwood floors are the soundtrack of my days. My possessions are tucked into built-in nooks and cabinets, and my favorite music plays from the record player in my office. These days, despite the fact that they sometimes make me feel like the only human for a hundred square miles, feel so very precious.

As much as I sometimes hate it, I can already feel the quiet slipping away. As the sun comes out and brings with it all kinds of beautiful, delicious smelling things, the pace of our life seems to quicken. And the final piece of this whole puzzle, in about 30 days time, will fall into place.

I’ve always dreaded the idea of being “settled,” associating it with being “stuck.” Glorifying, in my mind, the ability to carry a light load, pick up and leave, and have the freedom to make changes. I told myself that a home would mean I’d finally have to grow up. Get serious. Stop “messing around.”

But in the last few months, I’ve realized the freedom that can come in calling someplace “home.” Freedom to be quiet, to get to know my own mind a little better, to be able to budget my days for the things I really care about. To focus on the beautiful simple little things that inevitably bring me so much joy; daffodils that smell like heaven, shooting photos in the perfect dining room light or making dinner in my cozy little kitchen. Freedom to hunker down when the world spins just a little too fast, to take time to think things through and get a little perspective.

As Taylor and I prepare for him to make the leap from his position at George Fox, to the family farm next month (Surprise!), I can’t help but feel extremely grateful for this home to shelter us as we transition. Change is hard and I’m bracing myself for this coming one like an impending storm. All I’ve heard is that being a farmer’s wife is not for the faint of heart, and I’m taking heed that it may be a long summer. But at the same time, I can’t help but feel that being here, is some small way, will make it all just a bit easier. I’m so glad I’ve had these quiet months to prepare my heart, log some quality time with my future farmer and really take stock of things. And despite mourning, just a little, that the cozy quiet days are almost gone, I’m so looking forward to the longer, warmer days, time spent in my garden and the buzz that inevitably follows as things start to bloom.

These are exciting times my friends, and I for one, can’t wait to share them with you. Keep an eye out for more Life on the Farm.

Winter Risotto

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I’ll never forget the first time I had risotto. I was wedged into the tiny kitchen in the back of Paley’s Place, trying to stay out of everyone’s way, smiling politely, but mostly awkwardly, at everyone who dashed past. It was my first “stage,” which in restaurant speak, means working interview. I was terrified.

Fresh out of culinary school and my former life of not being a very adventurous eater, I had given myself a pep talk about promptly putting everything they handed me in my mouth without hesitation. This was one of the best restaurants in the history of Portland, and I wanted in. Bad. As I stood wedged into my spot during service, my resolve was put the test as I was handed item after item to sample. I’d tried oysters and charcuterie, vinaigrettes and soup. Stuffed pieces of steak and fries in my mouth and swallowed an innumerable amount of sauces. All with a smile on my face. After a while, I couldn’t even tell what I was eating.

Until a small, silver pot was handed over to my side of the pass with a large silver spoon resting in this warm, creamy porridge. Almost robotically, I lifted the spoon to my mouth, but instead of the bland flavor I anticipated, I was greeted with the warmest, most comforting taste I’d ever known. The risotto was absolutely creamy, but with a slight hint of lemon and wine and had been garnished with a pile of fresh, Oregon Dungeness crab. The fog suddenly cleared from my overwhelmed mind and I looked up at the cook who possessed the hand that was holding on to that pot of heaven. I must have had quite an expression because he smiled, chuckled and asked,

“What do you think, darlin?”

Little did I know, just a few months later, I’d be standing on the other side of that same pass, peeking over that same cook’s shoulder, watching him sear, stir and saute everything imaginable. I’m not sure if it was his passion for the ingredients, his incredible intensity when things inevitably got crazy in the middle of service, or his smooth southern drawl (which became just a bit more pronounced the more he imbibed), but I worshipped that cook. I soaked up everything he said to me, which lucky for me, was a lot. When we had down time, he showed me how to make the recipes on his station. He instructed me to tidy up the walk-in and always make sure my shelf was organized. He helped me scrub my station if the dessert hour ran long, and he eventually encouraged me to assert myself and move up. He constantly told me I had what it takes and I adored him.

When he taught me how to make that heavenly dish I’d watched him plate up night after night, he got a funny edge in his voice. The way he talked about the combination of rice, wine and cheese was so lovely and romantic. Like he was talking about his first love, rather than a pot of rice. Despite it’s simple nature, it’s really the dreamiest dish and I’ll always have a special place in my heart for it, for a multitude of reasons.

If you’re looking for the perfect, laid back dinner to serve to your love for Valentine’s Day, this is it. Perfectly comforting, with a classy edge, paired with a nice glass of wine, you just can’t go wrong.

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Winter Risotto
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • salt + pepper
  • ¼ cup walnuts, chopped
  • 3-4 sprigs thyme
  • 32 oz. organic chicken stock
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1½ cups arborio rice
  • ½ cup dry sherry
  • ½ cup pecorino romano
  • 2 Tbsp mascarpone
  • 3-4 chives, chopped
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 425. Place cauliflower, olive oil, salt and pepper on a sheet tray and toss to coat. Roast for 15 minutes, adding the walnuts for the last 5-8 minutes. Set aside.
  2. Warm stock in a saucepan, keep warm on the side.
  3. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook until soft. Add the rice to toast 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add thyme and sherry and cook, stirring, until wine is absorbed.
  5. Gradually add the stock, one cup at a time, until stock is absorbed. Repeat until rice is cooked, but al dente.
  6. Stir in cheeses, and season with salt and pepper.
  7. Top with cauliflower, chives, olive oil, nuts and black salt, if desired.

By the way, this was the cook who taught me to make risotto.

Party in the Pearl

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How do you start off the year with a bang? Perhaps a private party on the sixteenth floor, in a penthouse that overlooks half of Portland? At least that’s how we got to kick off the 2015 catering season. What a treat!

A couple weeks ago, on a chilly Friday night, while I steamed mussels and sliced citrus, Andrea set the table and lit the candles. The guests filed in, two by two, each handed a glass of Remy Wines 2013 Nebbiolo. As they ooh-ed and ah-ed over the view, we prepped the first course; sending to the table a petite sausage calzone with ricotta, topped with briny, chopped olives.

I’ve known about Remy’s Italian inspired varietals for a while now and was absolutely thrilled with the chance to work with her and her rich, lovely wine. I knew I wanted to give a nod to Italy with the menu, so I chose dishes with a hint of mediterranean flavor, but added in a mix of my own rustic, seasonal style. I was really happy with how everything came out, especially dessert!

Starting the year with a dinner like this- so different from my usual style- was so much fun. I love the variety of events I get to do and how they provide me with opportunities to work with wonderful people and incredible wines.

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Menu
Calzones with Ricotta + Olives
Sicilian Blood Orange Salad with Beets
Pappardelle with Chorizo + Mussels
Mascarpone Panna Cotta with Smoked Caramel + Hazelnut Brittle

Thank you to Valerie for once again organizing a wonderful evening. And to John and Jill for opening up their beautiful home. Here we go 2015!

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Silver Linings

I feel like I’m in a bit of a regrouping place. A lot of the things Taylor and I have been working towards the last few years, have happened! We both finished school, we found a place we wanted to call home and we are pursuing careers we feel passionate about. So it kind of feels like, what’s next? The future is wide open. And as I’ve been dreaming up all kinds of plans for the next few years, I’ve also been taking some time to try and enjoy everything around me at this very minute. Silver Linings, you know?

I want to cultivate a grateful heart. A positive outlook. I want to be a person who looks around and sees the silver linings on a regular basis. Here’s a few from my life lately…

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1. Selfies with my best bud.
2. Discovering a new spot at the beach.
3. Pups who love pie.
4. Learning new things and wading in new (to me) boots.
5. Fishermen who catch trout, even when they aren’t trying to.
6. A guest room full of travel treasures.
7. Naps in the green grass.
8. Reunions.
9. Built-in alarm clocks and waking up to this.

Gratefulness is a gamechanger. What kind of silver linings are you finding in your life lately?