The perfect blueberry smoothie

Oh, hello there. Welcome to Wendy’s Place and Happy New Year!

I’ve spent a busy year working, homesteading, cheesemaking, volunteering on another farm, doing lots of yoga, cooking, fermenting and not sharing one bit of it. Which I missed.

I think about how many voices are out there on the web and see it as a chorus in a way, collectively making music. When I sang in the chorus in Germany it brought me joy. It brought others joy. Most of the time my voice blended in with many and once in a while it stood out.  I enjoy the process of writing, cooking, sharing thoughts and photos. So here I am. I’m not here to teach you to cook but I do hope you might pick up a useful tip here and there, be inspired to cook and for sure be inspired to eat whole foods. I hope you might glean a new idea, relate to a musing or find something to chew on figuratively and literally.  And I hope you definitely feel a smile grow as you read.

My daughter, Chloe, turned 18 last July. I feel a need to give her her name back. Thus, I’m trying on Wendy’s Place. I’m entering the first year, after 28 years, of no children to feed, nag and hug goodbye every morning, prepare dinner for or kiss goodnight and all the fun that goes on in between. I haven’t know whether to laugh or cry, so generally it’s been both.  I am looking at life as an individual,  as a partner in a rockin’ marriage and of course, always as a parent… but we are officially empty nesters.

2017 is starting off with smoothies like this one here. Blueberry, cranberry, banana. Though we’ve been drinking these for years, I’ve never used cranberry till recently when Ollie thought we were out of blueberries and threw in some cranberries. (Correction- he thought they were blueberries!)

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I threw out a cautionary “dude they are so sour what are you doing?” and dug into the back freezer to retrieve the next 6 lb bag of blueberries (I carry a detailed map in my head of our refrigerator and freezers).  Some of the cranberries sunk down to the bottom and remained. I’ll be damned if it didn’t brighten up the whole thing. I thought “duh” – acid. Whenever a dish needs a little hit of something to round it out usually it’s a need for a little acid- a lemon, vinegar, citrus sort of thing.

We have survivor greens in the garden I’m foraging and always a steady supply of  pealed and frozen bananas. And always an extra sac of baby greens in the crisper.

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Fortunately, this isn’t a new year’s resolution- Going to drink more smoothies. It’s like saying we are going to have a sober January. You can’t really expect a pat on the back for something you already do. Right? We like beer and wine, and drink it, but if we didn’t have it for a month I might not notice. This is something I rarely admit to avoid being a social pariah.

This is our alternative milk of choice when we aren’t using our own goat’s milk. Not a paid endorsement. But I like this one and the plain almond- the no carrageenan is good. I couldn’t keep up with making homemade nut milk for daily smoothies.

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And I’m always trying new protein powders. Pea protein is big right now. I prefer the texture, or lack thereof in the whey powder but ultimately like to switch it up. Some of the plant protein blends are a little starchy. I switch between goat and cow whey.

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For 2 smoothies you’re looking at approx-

  • 2 cups milk (substitute a little yogurt if you like)
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • ½ c cranberries
  • 3 handfuls of greens – mix it up
  • protein powder of choice.
  • whatever other superfood you like to add- maca, lacuna powder… or just check out Nativa naturals in general- I like their products. Chocolate nibs and raw cocoa for instance.

Our blender of choice is a Vitamix. I researched till my eyes popped. In the end I like solid, old fashioned dials, knobs and switches. I think it’s the last blender we’ll ever own.

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With your greens and blue berries you still come up with a rather dull colored smoothie but it tastes great~

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That’s a wrap.

To love, health, and compassion in 2017…

wendy

ps- I’ve taped this old placemat to every bedroom wall I’ve known since I was 8 years old.

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Shakshuka- baked eggs, tomato and goodness

This dish has been floating in my thoughts since Feb 2014 when Chloe and I visited Irving Street Kitchen in Portland and I ate their, quote “Moroccan Slow Poached Eggs and Grilled Garlic Rubbed Toast”.It was spicy, simple yet had depth and very good.

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The house smoked Tasso side of bacon also rang my bell. I basically searched online tomatoes and baked eggs and Shakshuka popped up. But really it’s not a name that’s going to stick in my overcrowded mind. I also reached for the wonderful Jerusalem Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. They have a fantastic website as well.

I drew, as always, from a combination of recipes- Jerusalem, David Liebowitz’s Shakshuka and a simple version in the NYTimes.

Here’s my version – Print Recipe {shakshuka recipe}

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I liked using a couple whole spices along with the powdered- here were the fun ones. Note how similar the seeds are with the caraway being just a tad darker than the cumin.

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You could substitute ground spice for either of these but using the seeds gave me a chance to use this- after a good dusting off.

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My version used 2 red peppers, 1 green pepper, 1 onion and 3 cloves of garlic sauteed in about 3T olive oil (see blurry photo) then I added spices and cooked another few minutes to release their fragrances. Then where I strayed from the majority is I added 3 cans of diced tomatoes vs 2. I personally wanted it a little juicier and to be totally honest that stemmed from overdoing the cayenne.

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Fast forward: added spices, 3 cans of tomatoes, cider vinegar and honey… then you can add about 4oz of feta here before topping with eggs OR throw it on after the eggs.

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I’ve been making a cheese with no name- I call it a farmstead cheese and I can grate it. It’s very feta like in taste. 100% raw Jersey cow milk with a mesophilic culture (but we’ll save that for another time)

Shakshuka @wendyellenthomas.com-4This was a delicious brunch and with virtually making it the night before it was a cinch to pull together. I added sides of Hempler’s applewood smoked bacon and breakfast potatoes. And crusty sourdough of course.

Shakshuka @wendyellenthomas.com-5My eggs cooked about 90 seconds longer than needed here I think. But I made another round the following day as well adding raw chopped spinach to the bowl and topping with the tomato and eggs

Shakshuka @wendyellenthomas.com-7And I watched these eggs like a hawk… and didn’t have any sides to distract me! Shakshuka @wendyellenthomas.com-9I was very pleased with this dish and it will stay in the forefront for summer when peppers aren’t so expensive! You can tell me I should have posted in summer but well I couldn’t wait any longer.

And don’t forget your crunchy bread. Here’s my rustic sourdough.

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And some life photos…Here’s a killer rainbow that graced us last week

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A year in sourdough

I’d like to start with a story of my one hundred year old starter, passed down from generation to generation but alas this is just not so. It started with this little packet of freeze-dried magic from Ed Woods… who I assume was a real person but I’ve no personal connection to except for our http://www.com encounter. sourdough@wendyellenthomas.com I ripped open the packet and followed the instructions to start developing my newbie starter. It took a mere five days if I remember correctly. We have had a relationship for about 18 months now so the beginning is a little fuzzy.

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I continued to nurture it with additional flour and water and the powdered stuff came alive

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Until it nearly exploded

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Full of life it was…I had to get used to the idea of either using and replenishing or tossing a little to feed it. I even had two jars going so I’d have a back-up. But I’m working from just one jar now.

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My original inspirations and methods were sparked by Audra at Girl Meets Dirt. She has a very informative post to read word for word. She’s made some beautiful bread.

I also refer to this simple recipe from Stone Soup blog – rustic sourdough.

I somewhat sacrificed my Creuset dutch oven, unintentionally. I do believe a dutch oven has been one secret to success. I would also buy a cheap one if I was starting over.

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It really only takes one baking round at 500° to toast and speckle it black inside and out. But the enamel has not cracked and the handle has not melted.

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I start the night before by weighing all the ingredients… Check out Stone Soup. Sometimes I’ll use 20% whole wheat. So 65 grams of whole wheat bread flour and 260 grams of unbleached organic white flour.

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I tend to keep a fairly hydrated starter. You can see the consistency here- it’s practically pourable. Here is a site that explains in detail about hydration. I have a broader sense of hydration and just sort of eyeball it. I might get more into it if/when I’m ready for the next learning curve.

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I just bring the ingredients together with a spoon. I let it do its thing overnight.

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And when my starter has had regular attention it will go something like this-bubbly and alive. When not, I just try to give it a little more time to develop.

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I have also just started with a sponge and it too is happy when the starter is- The sponge is just the starter with a portion of the flour added to work a little before the rest of the flour and salt are added. Sometimes I skip the sponge.

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The next morning I massage it out to a rectangle and start the ‘no knead’ method. Brilliant
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Then fold the long edge on top down and the bottom edge up and fold in thirds

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I love to make bread on a day off and just do the turns every 45 minutes or so- I go for 3-4 total. After the last turn I put it in a clean, floured tea towel. Or if I want to make it during the work week- I’ll do it in stages over a couple days in and out of the fridge and it will get nice and sour. The trick, I think, is not to be in a rush.

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I wrap it up in the floured towel for a final rise for an hour. During the last 30 minutes I set the dutch oven in the oven and put it up to 500°- My oven temp can run a little under- so I might vary 25-50 degrees.

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I gently unwrap the tea towel and it goes carefully, topside down, into the hot dutch oven. I will score the top with a sharp knife (a bread razor is ideal). The lid goes on, back to the oven, and the loaf begins to cook. The trapped steam creates an incredible crust and I’m not having to mist the oven to create humidity. Out comes something like this

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Or this

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And this… sourdough pizza crust cooked on a stone in my gas grill at about 500+°- SO GOOD! It was last summer with all our garden veggies for toppings- you may see this again.

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When the starter is neglected –

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You will see this brown liquid forming- just a little alcohol and acetic acid. If it’s pink and stinky you are in trouble and it may be time for the garbage disposal funeral. The King Arthur site has some good info here. And it really takes some serious neglect to do it in.

When we are in gluten free periods the starter gets a little put off. I take it out for a night- drain the liquid off the top and let it get good and warmed up say overnight. Then I leave about a cup of starter and feed it for a couple days. Sourdoughhome.com is another valuable resource.

Here’s the latest loaf after a little starter revival..not too shabby.

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Every now and again a bread loaf. But I just can’t get the same crust. And we are so spoiled.sourdough@wendyellenthomas.com

This one was particularly holey.

Sourdough bread-13 It toasted up nicely with some homemade orange marmaladeSourdough bread-14Last but not least – I want to give you a link to a woman in the UK- She offered kind assistance when I first called for starter rescue help. I love her recipes and philosophy. A good place to start on her site is with an informative post on why sourdough is easier to digest than “healthy” store bought bread.

Happy bread making and eating:)

kimchi bacon fried rice and eggs

So this is far from Irish… but I’m not so on top of the calendar:)
Kimchi bacon fried rice and eggs-8Spring is so near I can practically touch it. The sun and cold do their dance like a strip tease that excites and taunts. You don’t know what’s coming next. I picked delicate new spinach and arugula leaves from plants in the greenhouse creating a bed for my baked salmon lunch today. This first minimal picking sparked a little excitement for the coming growing season. What I realize too, is I don’t mind the winter break and it almost takes a strong nudge to get me in the growing mood. Fresh garden food does not arrive without somebody’s hard work. My first little seeds, planted last weekend will become the seedlings for the first of spring planting. Brassica’s, lettuces, peas… the tomatoes and peppers will grow longer in the glass house.

What we relied on this winter besides store bought veggies was our fermented foods.

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The red sauerkraut was made first with our own Red Mammoth cabbages last fall but I continued to make it with organic cabbage from the market. I played with many napas, bok choy, radishes and conical cabbages for the kimchi and can’t wait to try my new Korean coarse chili powder. I’ll try some napa in the garden this year but it’s a little more finicky than the standard head of cabbage.

This recipe was inspired by my weekend brunch in New York City at The Dutch.

Start with the bacon – about 3-4 slices of Hempler’s thick cut uncured bacon is a nice way to go. Cut into small pieces and fry up.

Kimchi bacon fried rice and eggsThen add about 2 cups of rice- either freshly made or even better, leftovers.

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I had a little pineapple hanging around from juicing and thought why not? I diced this and added it to the bacon and rice.Kimchi bacon fried rice and eggs-6Throw in about a cup of kimchi – homemade or one of the lovely store bought varieties like one from Seattle’s Firefly Kitchens. Mine below got a little pink from adding red radishes. Kind of fun huh?

Kimchi bacon fried rice and eggs-3Give it all a good toss and that part is done.I scooted the kimchi rice to the side of the frying pan and heated a little red cabbage for some color.

Kimchi bacon fried rice and eggs-5I fried up some of our farm eggs…

Kimchi bacon fried rice and eggs-7And what I’m also loving? Fried avocado. Not new to some but new to me. I had this recently at Irving Street Kitchen in Portland with scrambled egg nachos. A little crispy on the outside, soft in the middle, with the heat bringing out the sweetness of the avocado. I garnished our kimchi fried rice and egg with fried avocado and a little fresh cilantro.

Kimchi bacon fried rice and eggs-11This was a Sunday meal for me and my sweetie.

Kimchi bacon fried rice @wendyellenthomas.comAnd in the real world it looked like this

Kimchi bacon fried rice and eggs-12Just to pull it all together:

  • 2 cups brown rice
  • 3-4 strips of bacon cut into pieces
  • half a slice of pineapple cubed
  • 1 cup kimchi
  • fried egg
  • optional garnish of warmed red cabbage, fried avocado,fresh cilantro, pepper flakes

cold brewed coffee with homemade vanilla almond milk

As much as we are enjoying our latest indulgence of cold brewed coffee and vanilla almond milk now… I can only imagine making this by the gallons in summer.Coffee cold pressed-25It started with ummmm, let’s see, maybe an article from one of my magazines and/or just a few blog post readings such as Food 52 and The Kitchn. These are for iced coffee. I’m saving the ice for summer and just having it cold.

Cold pressed coffee

A little fact about me- I am a magazine JUNKIE and have subscriptions to: Hobby Farm, Bee Culture, Culture Magazine (cheese), Yoga Journal (I’ve recently converted), Women’s Health, Oprah, MS Living, Elle Decor, House Beautiful, Country Living, Bon Appetit,and I’m down to the last of my German Food and Travel. The decor ones are short lived as they are usually the add for $5 special. I have stacks of saved French,UK,Australian and German issues. They are all interesting and I love to peruse them now and again.

Print recipe: {cold brewed coffee and vanilla almond milk}

Cold brewed coffee is quite a simple process of soaking medium ground coffee beans overnight for 12-15 hours

Coffee cold pressed-2You’ll find different ratios for coffee to water but my ratio has been 1 cup ground coffee for about 4 cups of water. I think you just need to play with it a little. I switch it up between our local french roasted coffee from Local Goods (higher oil content) or Herkimer drip blend (a drier bean) from Seattle. And from here- some will used it as a concentrate with the original four cups giving 6-8 cups of coffee. I find I like my ratio virtually straight up. I’ll add up to a 1/2 cup of the vanilla almond milk to 8-12oz cold coffee.Coffee cold pressed-3

AND with the idea of cold pressed coffee being less acidic and thus better for a little elbow joint pain I’ve been trying to keep at bay, we’ve been drinking this pretty regularly now. Check out this informative NYTimes article on cold brewing coffee as well as tea where they will also mention less caffeine and a smoother flavor.

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I use a plain old strainer and the butter muslin I bought from New England Cheese Supply for making chèvre. Or you can find something similar on Amazon.

Coffee cold pressed-6Strain brewed coffee
Coffee cold pressed-5And keep in a sealed container in the fridge. I’m making enough for a couple days about every 2-3 days. I’ve read you can keep cold brewed coffee up to a week but in my opinion the flavor starts turning a little bitter.Coffee cold pressed-8The vanilla almond milk also starts the night before with one cup organic almonds soaking in cold, preferably filtered water for 12 hours. I have also read that a minimum of 2-4 hours can suffice.

Vanilla almond milk homemadeStrain out the soaking water Vanilla almond milk homemade-3Place soaked almonds in a blender with 2-3 cups of water. Now I know that is an annoyingly large variable with the water. I’ve seen anywhere from 2-3.5 cups of water used. The first batch I did with 2 cups water and it was lovely and rich. The second batch with 3 cups water, and it was a little thin at first but came together ok the second day… I’ve settled on 2.5 cups for 1 cup almonds.

I used a whole vanilla bean the first batch then moved to 1 teaspoon of Beanilla’s 2 fold madagascar extract.

Applesauce cake-9I add 2 T coconut sugar for sweetener. This you can also adjust to taste. Add a wee pinch of salt.

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Puree this for 2-3 minutes till almonds are completely pulverized. Then pull out the butter muslin once more to strain the nut matter from the liquid.
Vanilla almond milk homemade-8Next job is re-cycling the almond refuse. We could pretend it’s ice cream.

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The first batch I also used 2 cups of almonds and it was too much to use in just a couple days. Ollie still uses milk on his Meusli… – print recipe here– yes- the link is spelled wrong. I NEVER can remember the u comes first.. even after three years in Germany!

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Pouring and shooting

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One of my favorite kitchen gadgets is the aerolatte frother– for a quick foam and sometimes even to whip one or two tablespoons of cream.

cold pressed coffee wendyellenthomas.comIt’s really not a lot of work once you get in the rythym every 2-3 days or 4 if you want to stretch it out. I’ve tried heating it up but I just don’t think it’s as yummy. I’ll still have a hot latte in town now and again but use this recipe (for now at least) for the daily consumption. Again, I flavor about 8-12oz of cold brewed coffee with 1/2 cup vanilla almond milk, 1 tsp maple syrup and a dash more vanilla.

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Here’s to a smooth, non dairy, low acid morning…or afternoon:)

spiced applesauce cake

applesauce cakeSo you might be thinking this is a little more fall like and it is similar to the apple quince crumb cake but to me it’s more of a grab and go slice. I’d eat this after a workout.  And it is a great little cake for January when you want to feel like you are eating on the lighter side. When you still want something sweet but not like cranberry cheesecake or chocolate mousse sweet. This easy to make and easy to eat cake can double as a breakfast cake or afternoon tea cake. OR if you want, slap a little cinnamon cream cheese or buttercream frosting on it, or spiced caramel sauce or how about Fat Toad’s cinnamon caramel sauce… and call it dessert. You can find this amazing goat caramel sauce at Chez Chloe but to buy now visit Fat Toad🙂

Fat Toad cinnamon caramel sauce

This works:

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Orange Carrot Muffins with Chai Glaze

Hi gang… here’s a little healthy yum to share.

Orange carrot muffins with a fresh brewed chai tea glaze.orange carrot muffins-6It’s been a busy month as you might have seen but there’s a little routine starting to rear it’s head. The garden grows and with plenty of grass clippings for mulch, we might actually stay ahead of the weeds this summer… (we’ll revisit that thought in August!) Kale on the left and broccoli on the right has tiny baby heads beginning to form.

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Good eats in New York City

I’ve been dying to get my NYC food pics out. Bone marrow. There I said it. I had been a little leary to try it. I’ve tasted a fair amount of off the grid foods- brains and tongue included, which never made my list of must have again. But this bone marrow with salty, delicate gherkins, fresh parsley, moist (and there’s the m word) grey salt with perfectly toasted bread- my guess under a salamander, was divine indeed. My friends are tired of hearing me talk about. It’s my dinner party topic. But I just can’t help it. And no, this is not an April Fools!

NYC March 2013 Food-2

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EAT PANCAKES! Or Crepes…

Pancakes aka Crepes-10

Did you remember today is Pancake Day? Or Shrove Tuesday- the day after Rosen Montag and the day before  lent (for you Catholics out there- I’m a non-practicing one myself). I did not remember until I got to my email this morning and saw THIS great post from Things We Make. Of course she posted it yesterday which would give you a little more time to prepare. But what we really need for pancakes or crepes is usually sitting under our noses. So for those of you who just needed a little reminder… maybe it’s not too late. This was my first event this morning since Chloe made it to the bus on time. THANK YOU teen guardian angles.

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Polar Bear Plunge 2013, Orcas Island WA

Cascade Lake, Moran State Park, Orcas Island WA 1-1-13
Polar plunge and egg basket-2-2Polar bear plunge. Three very descriptive words. I see a white polar bear in full throttle sinking into an exposed patch of the ice. It is an adrenaline rush that has yet to seduce me.
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