Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Figgy Pudding

Years back it struck me how demanding the last verse is in "We Wish You a Merry Christmas." They are adamant about getting figgy pudding and are not leaving until they get some.

Earlier in December, a coworker sent an email alerting us of traffic closures downtown due to the Great Figgy Pudding Caroling Competition. It wasn't until that moment that I consciously realized that I had no idea what figgy pudding was. Not long after, NPR echoed the thought in this article from The Salt, 'Oh, Bring Us Some ... ' Wait. What Is Figgy Pudding?

I decided it was high time I made some. While the article shares a recipe that looks pretty traditional, I wasn't excited that it called for mutton fat, raisins, lighting the cake on fire, or aging it for weeks. So I kept searching, and came across this recipe for Warm Sticky Figgy Pudding and liked the look of it better.

Photo from Food Network recipe
I'm happy to report it was delicious. It calls for baking in ramekins which worked great, though you might be able to bake it in a cake pan and cut into squares for easier serving. It's called "pudding" in the British sense, meaning dessert, and it's really more of a sweet bread. The dates make it really moist, and it would be fabulous in a loaf pan and sliced, as you would zucchini or banana bread.

But the warm sauce and whipped cream elevate it to a decadent place fit for holiday indulgence. The only adjustment I would recommend would be to half the sauce recipe. It's pretty sweet so a little bit goes a long way, and there is no way you would use all the sauce for that amount of cake. Enjoy!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Fall Mushroom Hunting

I have always wanted to learn more about mushrooms and do my own foraging. I'm out tromping around in the woods most autumn weekends anyway, so I figure if I can find some delicious wild food, all the better. This year, that dream started to materialize when I hiked with a knowledgeable buddy and then took a class.

It started in the North Cascades. We were on a long, rainy hike when we stumbled upon a lion's mane mushroom-- huge, toothy, firm, and heavy from the downpour. It smelled like a mix of sweet cream and the forest floor. It was the size of my head and just finding one felt like a jackpot. But then we started seeing more, and couldn't resist hauling out several.
That night we cooked some of the lion's mane with dinner, adding it to lamb carnitas. The rest of the week I was on a serious mission to use them up: sautéed with bacon, added into lasagna, folded into a frittata, and simmered in Tom Kha soup.
A couple weeks later, in the central Cascades on another hike, we found chanterelles and hedgehogs. The hedgehogs don't have gills but rather little teeth under the cap. It might not come as a surprise that they are in the same family as the lion's mane with all their glorious toothiness.
And what better way to round out October than to go to a Halloween party and find a couple dressed as mushrooms? My ID skills are limited, but between my burgeoning familiarity and their meticulous costuming, I had no doubt: "You guys are chanterelles!"
In November I took my mushroom studies indoors to an all-day class offered by the Puget Sound Mycological Society. Their Mushroom Hunting 101 class covered ID skills, foraging best practices, toxicology, cooking with mushrooms, and non-edible mushroom uses. It was a really comprehensive course that I would recommend to anyone. Of course, there is so much to learn that we barely scratched the surface, but I think it gave me a good foundation.

Huge array of local mushrooms
brought in by the students
In the recent NY Time article Sex, Death and Mushrooms, the author talks about finding the elusive Cauliflower mushroom. Right around the same time, my friend found one locally and shared the bounty. It looks similar in size to the lion's mane, but with thicker waves that make it resemble egg noodles or coral.
Cauliflower mushroom. Image from here.
I had no idea what to do with it, but a quick Google search revealed that it could indeed be treated just like egg noodles. So I followed this chili garlic egg noodles recipe, sautéing the mushroom instead of boiling noodles, and ate the whole mushroom in one tasty sitting.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Willing to Slow it Down

It was a busy spring. I was working full-time, going to school (evening certificate program), volunteering several places, plus I moved into a new place and went to Mexico in the same month. I love having a full life, but I don't like always being busy.

Hanging on Lake Washington

I've come across articles about our cultural obsession with being busy and wearing it like a badge of honor, such Busy is a sickness and Disease of being busy. In the latter, author Omid Safi writes, "Tell me you remember you are still a human being, not just a human doing. Tell me you’re more than just a machine, checking off items from your to-do list. Have that conversation, that glance, that touch. Be a healing conversation, one filled with grace and presence."

Sometime I feel too much like a human doing. A big part of that was being in school, and always having classes and homework. I loved the editing certificate program, but man! it's great to be done.
Homemade cake for our last day of editing class

Cocktail: Rye with- wait for it- reduced Rainier beer
simple syrup. Weird, but delicious.
I haven't had any epic adventures yet this summer, but that's okay with me. Bigger trips are coming up (very!) soon, and so far it's been rejuvenating to have the time to hang with family, especially my nieces and nephews, cook meals from scratch, and get good sleep.
Don't get me wrong-- I've been doing more than just hanging out. I've been playing outside, but just trying not to over-plan or rush from one thing to another.

Bike ride and golden raspberries
Downtown view from the Seattle Great Wheel
Hiking Mailbox Peak
Evening sailing, cider, and swimming in Lake Union
Niece helps me water my deck plants 

Friend's family goats. I really want goats.
How do you find the balance between exploring all the wonderful things there are to do in this world, and not overdoing it?

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Beacon Food Forest: 2015 So Far

What has Seattle's Beacon Food Forest been up to in the first half of 2015? A lot! We continue to maintain the trees, shrubs, and perennials already in place, and plant new annuals in the veggie beds. The monthly work parties are going strong, in addition to smaller work parties, classes, tours, and community dinners. I haven't been taking many pictures lately, but luckily a fellow volunteer has. Big thanks to Jonathan for sharing beautiful photos.

Photo: Jonathan H. Lee //

Photo: Jonathan H. Lee //

Mixing cement
Photo: Jonathan H. Lee //

Releasing lady bugs
Photo: Jonathan H. Lee //

Work party morning stretch
Photo: Jonathan H. Lee //

Early spring seed exchange
Photo: Jonathan H. Lee //

Watering starts
Photo: Jonathan H. Lee //

Me teaching a compost workshop
Photo: Jonathan H. Lee //

Making seed balls
Photo: Jonathan H. Lee //

Spring planting
Photo: Jonathan H. Lee //

Chard harvest
Photo: Jonathan H. Lee //
Planting in the Common Thread garden
for sharing with the local community
Photo: Jonathan H. Lee //

Evening fire at the BFF
Photo: Jonathan H. Lee //

Taking a tour of the site
Photo: Jonathan H. Lee //

Jonathan H. Lee //

Arbor entryway
Photo: Jonathan H. Lee //

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Memorial Day in the San Juans

I think the tradition has been going on for almost 30 years. Every Memorial Day weekend, my extended family gets together on family property in the far corner of the San Juan Islands to do a spring cleaning work party.
Kids' collection of rocks and beach glass
Saturday we set to work, and I was assigned to fence duty for my first time. Our crew walked the fence line to check for damage, and repair any sections of barbed wire that need it.
Some sections of the fence needed a lot of work
I also got to hang with a lot of awesome relatives, including sweet cousins, nieces, and nephews.
Youngest nephew
Oldest niece, with the greatest hair
San Juan view

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Big News: A Volunteer Grant to Mexico

It was during my initial HR phone screening with a recruiter from my work when I first heard about the Volunteer Vacation Grant. I couldn't believe the company offered a grant to support international volunteer work for one employee per year. It just added to the many reasons I wanted to work there.

Fast forward a year and a half to last December, and I applied for the grant and got it! It is a huge honor and I'm incredibly grateful for the opportunity to combine so many things I'm passionate about: my job, volunteering, international travel, and food.

When I first thought about where I wanted to go, I considered going somewhere really far away that I had never been before. But when I was honest with myself, I just wanted to go back to where my heart was: Mexico. I've been there 3 times since 2005, and can't get enough.
The last time I was in Mexico was in 2009, and I volunteered with the same organization I will be working with on this trip.

It's called PESA, which stands for Proyecto Estratégico de Seguridad Alimentaria (Strategic Food Security Project), and is a program of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.

My good friend Josafat has worked for them for nearly a decade, and is now based out of their headquarters in Mexico City.

But when I was there in 2009, he was in the small city Tlapa de Comonfort, in the southern state of Guerrero. From Tlapa he would take day trips to rural communities all over the state to help implement and evaluate food infrastructure projects.

Josa and I in Tlapa de Comonfort, 2009
Corn storage, Guerrero, 2009
Helping with community corn de-graining, 2009
You can read more about my first time volunteering with PESA, and the end of that same trip in this post Making Tortillas and Running up Pyramids.

Well, I guess we are going backward chronologically. In 2007 I spent the end of my last quarter of college living with Josafat and his girlfriend, and teaching English in his grad school. They lived in Cholula, a really sweet little city on the outskirts of Puebla City.

The adjective of a person or thing from Puebla is poblano, and indeed, it's where the dark mole poblano originated. That month I did my ESL certificate teaching practicum and ate a ridiculous amount of mole poblano.
The view of smoking Popocatépetl from Cholula
View from our front door of the
cathedral atop the Pyramid of Cholula
My first time in Mexico I spent 5 months in 2005. I studied abroad for a quarter at the Universad Latina de America in Morelia, Michoacan, volunteered on organic farms, studied Mayan ruins, and met my dear friend Josafat. How did I meet him anyway? Did I really get college credit for traveling? Find out in this post 10 Years Since Mexico.

I'm leaving this week to fly into Mexico City before spending next week volunteering in rural communities. More to come!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Birthday Weekend

I'm ostensibly another year wiser, and for sure another year older. This year, birthday weekend was also Easter weekend, and it was a fabulous couple days with my favorite things: family, friends, good food, and hiking.
Miri's amazing salad with foraged greens. Photo by Matt.

Max baked a loaf of bread the morning we went to
Mailbox Peak. It was still practically warm at the top.

Birthday champagne in the snow.