10 Minutes of TV Terror

Saturday was the big demo day, folks. Myself and 12 other lucky home cooks made the long haul to Seattle Center KCTS 9 studios for ten minutes of public television glory.
KCTS 9 Family Favorites airs on Saturday from 11:00am to 3:00pm. The show's hosts Carol Dearth and George Ray has been gracefully leading home cooks through a terrifying course of brights lights and big cameras for years. Th studio is an honest to goodness television set complete with false roofs and short perspective invisible to the viewer's eye.

This girl's family favorite was Spinach and Blue Cheese Stuffed Chicken with Lemon Wine Sauce. I wrote the recipe in the spring, when I was in my fresh spinach and lemon craze, but I think the flavors carry over well into any season. Sure tasted good each of the four times we've had it since getting the call two weeks ago. Poor Hubs.

Everyone has been asking how I got on the show, and to be truly honest, I cannot remember. I sent in a recipe, but can't for the life of me recall if I say the ad online or was flipping through the channels and saw it. I had nearly forgotten about my entry until I got a call from the show's producer Nicole. She immediately set a fun, inviting comfortable tone, wish carried through the entire experience, well except for the first hour...

For some reason, we thought I was going on fifth, but when I got to the studio (late, of course) it turned out that I was airing second. Ack! Thank goodness for the mass of volunteers that came to my rescue. Each of us demonstrators was assigned two volunteers who transferred our ingredients from the classy cardboard box I brought everything in, to glass ramekins and onto a rolling cart. From there, the demonstrators were not allowed to touch a thing. It was the volunteers' job to get out food from the prep kitchen to the studio and into place in front of the cameras when it was our turn. While they were taking care of all that, I was busy sitting in the green room trying not to barf. Some how I made it out of the green room unscathed aside from the half pound of make-up on my face.

It was go time and I was petrified. Here's how it goes...Whoever is on deck (next to go), sits on the side of the studio just outside of the view of the cameras and watches the person ahead of him/her. And who am I behind? Oh, a freaking cooking instructor. THAT'S FAIR! He was fabulous. I felt like an indi rocker who has to go on after Eddie Vedder randomly shows up at the bar. Fun times.

As soon as my predecessor finished, the camera swings to the left and Paula does her spiel about buying the cookbook and DVD to support public broadcasting. Remember, all of this is live and being taped in the same room. She's on for exactly two minutes which is how long the volunteers have to clear what was just prepared and set up my stuff. As I stood there, not allowed to help, I felt like I had concrete feet and Gumby arms. My neurons had given up and quit firing, while my nerves were cracking like sparklers. Chaos had officially set in in my brain.

Luckily, Chef Carol came to my rescue and gave me a huge welcoming smile. She grabbed my around my waist and plopped me into place, snug and cozy between her and George. Up goes the camera girl's fingers and the countdown begun. Five fingers, four finger, three...Smile!

Here is where the lights go out. I chopping bacon, saying "whack it" and trying to smile, but other then that its a bit of a blur. From what I'm told by Thus Hubs and assorted friends and family I did alright, my jokes weren't too lame and the food looked great. Ash Hollow and Willapa Hills were mentioned, which was as important to me as not cutting off my fingers. 


From Willapa Hills with Love...

Courtesy of http://www.willapahillsfarms.com/.

Carefully perched above the foggy waters of the Chehalis River in Lewis County sits a family-run farm making gourmet cheese and yogurt. Willapa Hills Farmstead Cheese, owned and operated by Amy Turnbull and Steve Hueffed, lies at the end of a picturesque one lane driveway lined with rust colored deciduous trees. Across acres of grassy pasture graze a flock of 150 Lacaune-East Friesian cross sheep, bred specifically to produce a line of blue and ricotta cheeses, the likes of which exceed the best this blogger has ever tasted.

While preparing for my cooking demo on KCTS 9, I contacted Willapa Hills in an effort to keep my ingredients as local and fresh as possible. After a quick email exchange we settled on a day when I could come down and taste. Little did I know how well I would be treated.

JJ Attack and I arrived at Willapa Hills in the morning, fog still hugging the dew covered pastures. Sheep and guardian dogs eyed us lazily as we drove by. Although I’m sure the dogs were less worried about my car and more interested in getting some well deserved sleep. Unlike herding dogs, these giant white sentinels keep the flock safe from coyote, cougar and other predators.

Courtesy of http://www.willapahillsfarm.com/.

Like all good experiences, this tour began with food. We were graciously greeted by Kelsie Mae at the entrance to the Farm Store, Willapa’s onsite store. Kelsie Mae had thoughtfully preselected two varieties on blue and a ricotta she felt would blend best with my recipe, and she hit the nail on the head.

First I tasted the Two-Faced Blue, a semi-soft sheep and cow milk blend (which I’m munching on now). Its restrained flavor is punctuated by well-developed blue veins and a delicate, creamy texture. The second cheese offered by Kelsie Mae was Willapa’s Big Boy Blue, a cow milk cheese. Big Boy is true to its name with a more intense bite and larger veins.

Then Kelsie Mae brought out the Pluvious (havarti/parmesan flavor) the yogurt cheese and the honey yogurt cheese. Holy cow. Yum across the board.

Courtesy of http://www.willapahillsfarm.com/.

After my tummy was full, owner and operator Amy came out to give us the tour of the farm. Since I’m a beginner in both farming and cheese making, Amy carefully explained their holistic approach from lambing in the spring to milking two times a day for six months of the year to the actually cheese making. As we slowly strolled along, part in due to JJ Attack’s inquisitiveness, Amy touched on the history of the farm, including the USGS river metering site that was sent downstream in the 2006 storms. During that famous 500 year storm, the water crested just below the deck on their home. The house was safe, but they nearly lost their outbuilding, which will be home to a couple of resident interns this summer. If you know of any agriculture or culinary students interested in learning the biz from pros have them contact Willapa Hills via the info on their website.

Our tour ended with a glimpse into the barn. And I’m talking BARN, not some metal building, but an honest to goodness hay barn with forty-foot ceilings and original pulleys. The bottom floor has been retrofitting for milking sheep and making cheese, but the upper level has been left untouched. Future plans include offering the space for events and I couldn’t imagine a better environment for a wedding or family reunion.

JJ Attack and I left Willapa Hills with an understanding of the patience and passion one needs to leave the city behind, follow your dream and actually build something with your hands. I think many of us dream of taking this courageous leap, but few do. I applaud Steven and Amy for being brave and stepping out of the fold, and for being ardently skilled, delivering to us consumers a product of the highest quality.

We will be back to Willapa Farms in the spring when the new lambs are born, when JJ Attack will be able to feed a lamb from a bottle. You are all welcome to join us.

Featured in high end stores like Whole Foods and Metropolitan Market, Willapa Farm’s cheese is also available at many local farmers markets including Puyallup, Proctor, throughout Seattle and in Portland as well. Willapa Farms offers all of their cheese and yogurt online at http://www.willapahillsfarm.com/. Check them out. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Courtesy of http://www.willapahillsfarm.com/.


More than Zero

He’s one. One year old now. It happened last Sunday. His first big day. How did that happen?

Everyone said, “It goes by so fast….” I listened. Honestly I did, but that last year feels like it hardly happened it went by so fast. Could it be the lack of sleep or is it the unbelievable joy? I don’t know. All I do know is that we have a new member of our family who we’ve been waiting for our whole life.

Is this what completion and peace feels like?

When I was pregnant I daydreamed relentlessly about what my baby would look like, who he or she would be.

I pictured a blue eyed, blonde haired, kinda stubborn, but sweet and kind little boy. Believe it or not that’s exactly what we got. JJ Attack is phenomenal. Hell yeah, I’m biased, but truly he’s everything I, everything we, ever wanted.

So this week I pass my entire good luck blessing onto you. May the next year of your life reveal perfection. We all deserve it…at least until they turn two.


Salsa Therapy

The Hubs and I made salsa the other day and I’m so very proud of us. We did it together, it did not take all day and no divorce papers were filed. In fact, I think he’s hooked. I mentioned making jam and he was into it. 

Honestly, I think the reason he’s so helpful these days, is simply because…he’s helpful. He was born that way. The Hubs loves being invited into the kitchen almost as much as he loves these words, “you’re right.” He keeps count of how many times I’ve said it in our relationship. Pretty sure he’s still on one hand. Whatever’s clever, buddy.

Try it. Invite your husband or wife, or girlfriend/boyfriend into the kitchen with you. It’s a blast.

Here are a few suggestions to creating a completely splendid salsa canning experience:

1. Wait until your baby is asleep. They spoil all the good grown up fun.

2. Beer/wine is mandatory, especially if it’s a soggy Saturday afternoon. Come one, when was the last time you cracked open a bottle at 2:00pm and did something together that actually saved you money and tasted good? Nevermind. Don’t answer that.  

3. Give him/her one task at a time with simple directions and step back. Don’t hover! He/she will do great. Will it look exactly like yours? Probably not, but who cares. It’s going to cook down anyway and it will taste just the same, now take two steps back and resume chopping 47 cups of peppers.

An hour and a half after we started we stood in triumph, applauding ourselves at the seven randomly sized, perfectly canned jars of salsa ranging from medium heat to hot heat to stupid heat.

Yup, you read it right - stupid hot. That would be two seeded jalapeƱos, two whole jalapeƱos AND two whole habaneras. How The Hubs has any stomach lining is beyond me.

Today I wandered out in the yard to pick blackberries for our next canning experience, but was sadly disappointed when I only found a cup full of ripe berries. No worries. The farmers market is only a few days away and you know I’ll get the hook up from my farm homies.


Vacation Elation

Why do vacations ever have to end? Torture, I tell you. Pure torture. Goodbye, Loon Lake. Goodbye summer. Goodbye, white pants.

The boys of summer.

The Hubs, JJ Attack and I just spent a glorious week at Loon Lake north of Spokane, WA with our very best friends and a bunch of kids - ours, theirs, their nieces and nephew and friends'. Four families in total shared one huge house, food, beer and laughs. 

Blueberry cereal bar kiss. Yum!

This was our first vacation as a "family". JJ Attack did really well on the six hour drive, which I was completely dreading. I sure wouldn't want to be strapped down for six hours, but he was a champ. Our little angel slept most of the way, then woke up with a smile and either "read" his books, made his dad laugh or pondered life through the glaze on the window. The Hubs and I had quality time to chat, which was long overdue. Funny how an eleven month old monopolizes most of your brain capacity.   

It didn't take long for JJ Attack to monopolize the baby's play toy once we got there. Um, pretty sure he exceeded the weight limit on that toy.

Can you say, "Baby Huey?"

Actually, all the kids shared pretty well. We brought JJ Attack's blocks, books and a little football and soccer ball. The blocks were a huge hit with everyone. And the little football, well, let's just say that a few Coors Lights and the Dads were channeling Drew Brees. That is, of course, until the next day when their 30s kicked in. Not so limber anymore are ya?

Whipped cream pie facials.
One of my favorite nights was our "keep the kids busy" field games night. We organized the five kids, plus a dad or two, into playing a bunch of games that we all played back in the day, including jelly bean whipped cream pie eating contest, the egg toss and Izzy Dizzy. Ten turns around the bat later and everyone was on the floor in tears. Rumor has it that one of the moms peed a little she was laughing so hard. I say that's a successful evening.

The Hubs, JJ Attack and I even got the chance to do a little hiking.

Nighty night, little prince.
There was a nature conservation area just down the road from the cabin. Perfect! We meandered the trails for about an hour before realizing we probably on private property. No worries. The people in the area were incredibly nice. One lady actually said, "You can walk here with you little baby whenever you like." Love it! I'm pretty sure we wouldn't get that same reception in T-town.

Well, as always this good thing had to come to an end too. Now that we're home, we're back in the swing of things, but I think the vacation gave The Hubs a little bit more get up an go. My amazingly crazy man spent all of Saturday on the ground learning how to change the oil in our cars.

Nuts and bolts.
And he was successful! My beautiful, enginnerd husband actually got down, crawled under my zero clearance Santa Fe and after a few grunts and groans actually changed the oil. I couldn't believe it. I am a very proud wife!

The Wicked Wizard of the Driveway.
With a pumpkin spice latte raised high, I say cheers to summer. This Autumn is going to be busy, but we're relaxed and ready to go.