Friday, August 31, 2012

August - Favorite Things

Lately I’ve been reading a lot of blogs and notice that publishing lists of things for one reason or another is a useful and effective way of conveying to your audience things you want them to know about.

I kind of liked the idea and have decided to start making a list on a month by month basis of great stuff.  So here is my first list.  Included are links, when available, for additional information about the items. I hope you find some things in the list that you too enjoyed in August.  Let me know what you think.  I'd love to hear from you and know if you have a "favorite" thing about August.

Favorite Things ~ August (it's a short list, I'm just getting started)

~ Queen Anne's Lace ~ Tomato Bread Salad ~ My Antonia Goat Cheese  ~ Cape Kiwanda ~ Blackberry Jam ~ Basil Pesto ~ Perserving Summer's Bounty ~ Rain Valley Soap ~ My Life ~

Queen Anns Lace ~ Like blackberries, it grows everywhere in Oregon in August - in the city, in the country, on the roadside, and on the hillside.  It's really very beautiful, kind of like a snowflake in the middle of summer.  Makes a nice bouquet too!

Tomato Bread Salad - One of the best of many ways to enjoy summer's homegrown tomatoes.  

My Antonia - A great American novel by Willa Cather first published in 1918 which realistically depicts frontier life and the settling of the American prairie. Great summer re-read. 

Goat Cheese Cookbook  - Authored by Maggie Foard, there are over 60 farm-fresh recipes for appetizers, breakfast, lunch and dinner using various forms of goat cheese.  Each recipe is beautifully photographed and well thought out for perfect results.

Cape Kiwanda - The family favorite.  We never stop climbing the mountain at Cape Kiwanda!

Blackberry Jam - Plan, pick, and process.  My favorite jam always.

Betty the Cat – A loyal companion this month.

Basil Pesto - Perfect August addition to pasta, veggies, pizza.  Yum.

Preserving Summer’s Bounty - A "how to" book authored by the very credible Rondale Food Center. Everything you need to know about preserving food from harvesting, canning, pickling, drying, juicing, to root cellaring.

Rain Valley Soap - Wonderfully luxurious, lubricating soap handcrafted in Portland.

My Life – Ukulele king Jake Shimabukuro released a brief but completely delightful EP of six classic songs by a wide variety of artists (Judy Garland, Cyndi Lauper, two by the Beatles, Sarah McLachlan, even Led Zeppelin).  My favorite "In My Life"  is a wonderful rendition of the Beatles classic.

Life is good - bye for now!  Evelyn

REMEMBER:  Buy Local When You Can!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Blackberries v.2 – Jam!

I’ve been told that making blackberry jam was as easy as making pie (which isn't all that easy either).  Don’t be fooled, it’s a multi-step process that involves some culinary skill and judgment.  And remember the time and fortitude it took for me to pick the berries.

The first thing you need to do is assemble all the equipment (hidden away in the basement to be used exclusively for canning projects) and ingredients (don’t forget the lemons) necessary to make a successful batch.

It is important to make sure you have all the ingredients listed in the recipe (no subsitutions) so that the jam actually sets up (sadly I learned this from a recent experience).  

If not done properly you may get eleven jars of fruity pancake syrup.  Which is OK if you eat a lot of pancakes.

You can find many excellent  blackberry jam recipes on the web.  Below is the recipe I used this week and was very pleased with the outcome.  It should take you most of an afternoon from start to clean up.  There are several steps so it is a little time consuming, but it’s really worth it to see those pretty jewel-like jars sitting on your kitchen counter.

Blackberry Jam
Necessary equipment 
    10 canning jars, lids and rings
    1 water bath canner with rack
    1 large pot for making jam
    1 large funnel for pouring jam into jars
    1 ladle

    10 heaping cups of blackberries
    ¼ cup juice
    1 box pectin
    8 ½ cups sugar


First I started out with approximately 10 heaping cups of fresh blackberries (no moldy ones please).  You will need to wash them carefully in small batches to get off all the dust and plant debris.  I do this by putting them in a medium sized wire strainer, then run water through them in the sink until they look bright and clean.
Because blackberries have lots and lots of seeds I take about 4 cups of berries and using the wire strainer placed over a pan or bowl, smash them to extract all the pulp and juice leaving just the seeds in the strainer. After about 5 minutes of smashing I end of with about 2 cups of berry pulp.

Then I lightly crush the remaining 6 cups of berries which will reduce to 4 cups of crushed berries.  Combine this with the 2 cups of pulp and you will have a total of 6 cups of crushed and smashed berries.

Now that you have the berries prepared there are several things you need to have ready before you get started actually making the jam. 

First you need to have your canning jars (I use 8oz), lids and rings washed and set up ready for the jam to go in them.  I wash mine in the dishwasher just prior to using.

You should have a water bath canning pot with rack filled with water ready for the recommended10 minute hot water bath after the jars have been filled with lids and rings secured.  Some omit this step, but I’ve opened a jar or two of jam several months after canning and found some mold on my jam so I don’t skip it.  Also since I like to give them away to friends I want the jam to be really safe to eat.

Then you need to have ready the above mentioned:
    ¼ cup lemon juice (about 2 lemons),
    1 box of pectin, and
    8 ½ cups of sugar 

Now you can start making the jam.  

Put the 6 cups of berries in a much larger pot than you think you’ll need (mine almost boiled over this time).  Mix in the lemon juice and the pectin and bring to boil.

Once the berry mixture starts to boil, pour all the sugar in at once and stir bringing the mixture to a full, rolling boil (one you can’t stir down).  Slightly lower the heat continuing to boil and stir for four minutes bringing the mixture up to 220 degrees F. 

Now remove the pot carefully from the stove burner.  The mixture is extremely hot so be careful.  After you skim most of the foam from the top of the pot you can begin ladling the jam into the jars using a ladle and the large funnel. 

Seal the jars with the clean lids and rings and place them in the water bath canner which should be filled with enough water to cover the jars by one inch.  Bring to boil and boil for 10 minutes.  Remove the jars and set on a towel and leave for 24 hours.  You should hear the jars pop as the lids begin to set a vacuum seal.

Using this recipe you should have about eleven 8 oz. jars of incredibly yummy blackberry jam.

Now that you have the jam you might be interested in taking a look at the “Jam Tart” made by David Lebovitz at, it could be worth trying.

I'll be sharing mine with my niece Robin and her family.


Bye for now.  Evelyn

Check Out:
Tastespotting - Excellent site for finding blackberry recipes.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Blackberries v.1 (and I’m not talking phones)

There were two good reasons I went out picking blackberries the other morning; to make good on a promise to my niece, and because there’s really nothing better in the jam world than blackberry jam (OK, raspberry’s pretty good too). 
A jar of homemade blackberry jam should go into the category of “priceless”. You can’t go out and buy it, not the kind that you make from the berries that grow just about everywhere in Oregon. And they really do grow everywhere -  in the city, on the highway, in the backyard, in the woods, and all over the countryside.  

They have huge threatening thorns and little stickers, and because they are a giant invasive weed they usually have thistles and itchy poison oak growing in and around them.  Did I mention the spiders and other crawling creatures you might encounter?  So although they are delicious, abundant and “free”, there is a price to pay.

Nevertheless, since I was out at my friend’s farm tending to the garden, I thought I'd take a look at the blackberry patch down by the pond.  The berries were there - plentiful, ripe for picking and it didn’t take long to get enough for a batch of jam. 
And what a day it was out in the countryside - very quite and serene. It was one of those days to just sit around and watch the world go by.  That being the case, I thought if I was really quite I would slowly make my way down to the pond with my camera and possibly get a good picture of the Red-wing Blackbirds that were so abundant earlier in the summer or a good shot of the Great Blue Heron I saw lift off the pond just the other day. 
So I sat very quietly on the edge of the rock wall that serves as a dam on the edge of the pond.  I sat for 15 minutes - nothing appeared – nothing -  and I thought that being a wildlife photographer was rather boring, but I continued to wait quietly. 
What a delight when I got a visit from Betty the farm cat who needed a little company herself and so we waited together. 

As sometimes happens, it turned into a not so productive but very pleasant moment for both Betty and me. 

And I do have the blackberries.

Stay tuned for Blackberries v.2 - Jam.

Life is good - bye for now.  


Remember:  Buy local when you can!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Summer's Grand Finale

This weekend, the last weekend before Labor Day, the official end of the summer season, is overflowing with festivals and fairs here in the WV.  Although this really isn't the end of summer, it is certainly the beginning of the end and then we're back into the humdrum of work a day world for a while.  The kids will be back in school soon, so go out there and enjoy the remaining glory days. There will be no lack of family fun things to do and places to go this weekend.

Check out these festivities or find out what's happening in your neighborhood.  

Oregon State Fair opens at the State Fair Grounds in Salem starts Friday, August 24 and runs through September 3. This perennial favorite is everything a state fair should be from first class entertainment to farm animals.

Northwest Air and Art Festival, at the Timber Linn Park in Albany starts Friday, August 24 and goes through the weekend. Hot air ballons, Styx concert, arts and crafts, wine and micro beer Garden and car show.  This annual gathering celebrates both local art and the regional tradition of aeronautics. Enjoy an art fair, a stellar concert line-up, and exhibits of exceptional aircraft.

SakéOne's Third Annual Pacific Rim Festival, Saturday, August 25th, 820 Elm Street, Forest Grove. Bring the whole family and picnic! Hawaiian specialties including plate lunch, authentic Island shaved ice, Poké, Japanese bento and amazing Filipino fare. There will be live performances from over half a dozen local troupes lending music and dance of the Pacific Rim to the sounds of Summer laughter. Flights of America's premier saké and the ever-popular Lemon Pomegranate Saketini will be available, as will wines from Abbey Creek Vineyard and local brews from the Old Market Pub and Brewery.

Sunday, August 26, 2012
8:00 am - 4:00 pm, Historic downtown Oregon City.  This family-friendly event is free to the public and hosted by the Oregon City Chamber. 100 booths between 7th and 10th Streets offer antiques and collectibles of all kinds. Come find a special treasure or add to a collection. An appraiser will be available during select hours to provide a “for fun” evaluation of your treasures for $5 per item. There is a limit of 3 items per person. Enjoy live music and food from one of the restaurants and make a day of it.

Stillpoint Farms Mother Earth Festival, 86915 Territorial Rd., Venita, lSaturday, August 25, 10 am to 8  pm.  Come together to open your hearts and connect with all the diversity that abounds. This will be a day of celebration through music, healing arts, creative arts, ceremony, workshops, food and produce.

The 30th annual Eugene Celebration will be downtown Eugene 
Friday, Saturday, & Sunday August 24, 25, & 26.  Everything is going on here from music, wing eating contest, beard and mustache competition, bed races, car show and much more.

REMEMBER:  Buy local when you can!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Panzanella, a.k.a. Tomato Bread Salad

Interestingly Sharing the Good Life in the WV was not intended to be a food blog per se, but I keep finding myself  writing about food.  Maybe it’s because it’s summer and there is so much of it around, both in good quanity and quality.  Nevertheless, over the weekend I had dinner with friends and we made the most incredible fresh homegrown tomato bread salad (Panzanella).  So here I we go again.  I really do want to share this salad with you.  It's one of my favorite summer dishes - one that's main ingredients are available now and will be gone soon – homegrown tomatoes.  If you don’t grow them yourself, you can surely find them at your local farmer's market.

Bon appetite!
Panzanella Salad

All ingredients are approximate depending on your taste.

  • 4 cups of fresh homegrown tomatoes cut in wedges and quartered (this could include cherry and yellow pear sliced in half)
  • ½ cup thinly sliced red onion
  • ¼ cup kalamata olives sliced in half
  • ¼ cup fresh basil leaves torn or cut in strips
  • 2 T crumbled blue, gorgonzola or feta cheese (optional)
  • 2 to 3 cups homemade croutons (recipe to follow)

  • 2 T balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 clove pressed garlic (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste

  1. In small bowl or jar combine the vinegar, lemon juice, pressed garlic, salt, pepper .  Wisk in the olive oil until well combine.
  2. In a large bowl combine the tomatoes, red onion, olives, crumbled cheese and basil leaves. This can be done several hours ahead - cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
  3. About 15 minutes before you are ready to serve, add the croutons and the balsamic/olive oil dressing.  Toss until well combined allowing the croutons to soak up some of the dressing.  Additional salt and pepper may to added to taste.
Homemade Croutons

Preheat oven to 200 degrees F

About 4 cups artisan bread torn into approximately 1 inch pieces.
     Ciabatta, sourdough or pugliese work well. 
3 T olive oil
2 garlic cloves smashed
1 tsp. salt

  1. In a large frying pan, add olive oil and garlic. 
  2. When olive oil is hot add croutons and quickly toss. 
  3. Lower heat and continue to toss the bread until olive oil has been equally distributed into the bread. 
  4. When the bread begins to turn a golden brown remove frying pan from heat and put into the 200 degree oven. 
  5. Turn off heat and let croutons dry for about 30 minutes to an hour.  Croutons should be crunchy but not completely dried.
  6. Store unused croutons in air tight container.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Garden Time

This spring a friend and I decided to put in a vegetable garden on her place in the country. 

This has worked out well for both of us, being single women of a certain age we have been able to depend on each other to care for the garden during the summer. 

At this time my friend is away on vacation so I''m sending her this garden update.  

Dear Juds, Since you been away the garden has done quite well, although there have been a few discouraging developments with the gopher.    

As soon as you left he took care of the remaining beets and when I last visited the garden our number one gourmet cipollini onions growing next to the green beans have disappeared completely. 

I've actually taken to flooding his tunnels just for fun, although I know I'm making little impact on his life.  He's probably enjoying the water in this hot weather. 

For now we're going to have a bumper chop with the green beans on the purple trellis- the tomatoes - of course the zucchini - unbelievably the eggplant - the purple cabbage is gorgeous, and the sunflowers are the sentinels of the garden - pleasingly garish.  I guess I got carried away with those seeds.  The chard is still with us and the kale that you planted is coming on nicely. And we still have savoy cabbage! I tried to make sauerkraut and I think it worked!

The tomatoes are coming on like gang busters and I expect to get lots of ripe ones by the end of the week. In fact, one of the heirlooms (Brandywine) ripened and yes I eat it - it was the most delicious tomato I've eaten in a long time (childhood comes to mind)
I cleaned up the spinach, arugula, and lettuce that was bolting and was hoping to put in another crop of lettuce. Now that it's so hot I'll wait awhile.  Hopefully I can do it and there would be a nice little crop when you return.

The squash growing back of the greenhouse are struggling (the soil is too thin) but I'm determined that we will have a crop and haven't given up on they - yet!  

Betty is always hanging around the house and follows me out to the garden loyally.  She's a sweetie.  The old yellow cat is always stealing her food, along with the Blue Jay.

Today, she didn't come out to greet me right away.  I was a little concerned until I found her under the house where it's cool.

Given your absence, she's probably wondering what's going on in her world!  

Say good-bye Betty.  

See you soon.


REMEMBER:  Buy Local When You Can!