Category Archives: Eats

A Very Homemade Christmas

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In keeping with the homemade theme that began with the From Scratch Cookout, the hubs and I decided to go all Martha Stewart on this Christmas… without the glitter and lace. Simply put, we had four families to gift – 2 sets of parents, and 2 sets of sisters & brother-in-laws and with a hectic (and already pricey) November & December at play, this was not going to be the holiday to get fancy, but rather, to get cooking! So here’s our three step process to creating an entirely Homemade Christmas.

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STEP 1: Fa-La-La-La-La… Stop Procrastinating!

Yeah, we discovered the hard way that a Homemade Christmas is not a one-day shopping deal, but rather, a roughly 6 week affair with your kitchen, and fridge, and a shelf or two of a closet. So when you are deciding on the gifting specifics, think long and hard about what things you can actually accomplish. Try to plan it out as follows:

  • Long Projects – think ferments/pickles, beers/ciders, or any other endeavor that requires nature to take it’s time with the process. Start these early, or skip them entirely!
  • Mid Projects – think pretty things that might require painting, assembling, or very special packaging. Since we did all edible goods, this one wasn’t an issue.
  • Short Projects – do not mistake this for meaning “easy” or “short”. Most of our homemade items were “quick” projects that still took the majority of an afternoon or weekend day – these are the items that you cook/bake a few days out and don’t need lengthy prep or lactofermentation to be successful.

If you pick only one or two Longs, one or two Mids, and a handful of Shorts, you should have a great mix of projects that won’t have you up at 2am on Christmas Eve.

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STEP 2: Set the “Menu” & Get Cooking/Prepping

As I mentioned, we went with all edible homemade stuff – mainly because I have a husband with some pretty awesome cooking ability. Our menu looked like this:

  • Hot Giardiniera, Pickled Corn Relish & Saurkraut with Caraway – Long Projects, since we were doing a long ferment to keep all those good probiotics. We started these about 6 weeks out and jarred them (open-air) on a shelf in a closet to allow the bubbling to do its thing. Before packaging, we refrigerated to stop the fermentation process and avoid any bottle breakage.
  • Vanilla Bean Scented Sugar – another Long Project, mainly because the white sugar and spliced vanilla beans have to be an a large container together for quite some time to absorb all that vanilla-ey goodness. We used a plastic quart container and just shook the contents every few days to keep the sugar from sticking.
  • Bacon Slab & Hickory Smoked Salt – both Short Projects, but also convenient since they are accomplished simultaneously. While the bacon prep can take some time (so start early), the actually “cooking” day can doubly as your Smoked Salt day, since the smoking is already taking place – two birds with one very tasty bacon slab.
  • Hibiscus Ginger Soda Syrup – one of my favorites! A super Short Project that is totally unexpected by even the most from scratch gurus. The premise is to make any simple syrup concoction that could be easily added to club syrup to make an awesome – and healthier – soda drink. We chose hibiscus because we still had some dried flowers from our trip to North Africa and ginger, well, simply because it sounded good with hibiscus. Heat in water, add sugar, reduce, cool, and bam. Done.
  • Orange Bourbon Marmalade – this was initially going to be a pear or berry jam, but turns out, oranges are way cheaper in December. This is another long-ish Short Project that you can “spice up” with all kinds of nice add-ins, we went with Bourbon. 🙂
  • Granola with Nuts & Berries – a wonderfully Short Project, I had no idea how easy it was to make Granola! We added dried raisins, cranberries, and sliced almonds, but you could obviously to whatever the heck you wanted with this amazing stuff!
  • Mustard & Ketchup – probably not the norm for most, but our niece/nephew love their “dips”. These are Short Projects, but you’ll need a full afternoon/day for both. And unless you have an absolute ketchup lover, my personal opinion is to skip the hassle!

A few non-edibles that we are considering for future gifts that continue with the mason-jar, farm kitchenesque theme (and here’s a Pinterest Collection to get the wheel spinning):

  • Scented soap in mason jar pumps
  • Welded mason jar mugs with homemade brew/cider
  • Scented candles in mason jar glasses
  • Tinted or painted mason jar vases
  • Mason jar snow globes – for the kids – love that idea!
  • So. Many. Mason. Jars.

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STEP 3: …And Top It With A Bow …or ribbon, or cloth, or something.

The great thing about homemade gifts? The wrapping can be homemade [read as: inexpensive] too! We purchased 30 jar labels, a fine-point Sharpie, and Holiday ribbon tape (about $11 total) and then cut up some old pillow cases and used other odd bits around the house to do the rest. We didn’t really have a plan, other than to label each item (make sure to label – they have no idea what you made!) and to add a little something that made it look festive. But trust us, the hard work is already done, so don’t stress about it! (And if you have to ship, like the family package below, then skip the extras, since you’ll want to squeeze everything you can into a pre-pay box – no frills!) Then into a basked it all goes – these baskets are likely the ones that you received gift goodies in from a previous holiday season – and voila!

And did I mention… you should *definitely* eat all the extra! Yum!!

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The From Scratch Cookout

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So I have had to backtrack and bounce around and do a little blogging time travel to bring all my Summer posting to fruition… but I am bound and determined to do it. So, let’s back track a bit… to July, to the hot, sun-shiney months of the glorious days of a Portland summer. Okay, now that we’re in the backyard cookout mood…

Welcome to The 1st Annual From Scratch Cookout

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The idea was a true brainchild of my husband: on a gray-ish Fall Saturday, while walking around the Farmer’s Market, he told me that one day he wanted to own someplace that made an entirely “from scratch” hotdog – the hotdog, the bun, the ketchup, mustard, and relish. And this idea grew… from a “one day hotdog” to a “next summer cookout”. And the planning began – with ideas that fell somewhere between the most idealized, hipster BBQ to the most classic, All-American Cookout. The emphasis across all ideas was on everything being “from scratch”.

From Scratch
Fig. making something by starting from the beginning with the basic ingredients [typically: baking ~, making ~, starting ~] I didn’t have a ladder, so I made one from scratch.

And I mean everything. Even the game of corn holes that was brought for driveway entertainment was warmly made by hand to meet the critical cookout criteria:

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The From Scratch Cookout Menu & Prep Schedule

  • Hot Dogs – prepped a week prior
  • Hamburgers – prepped one day prior
  • Cheese (and yes, it melted for Cheeseburgers!) – prepped 4 months prior
  • Hot Dog & Hamburger Buns – prepped a few days prior
  • Potato Salad – prepped two days prior
  • Coleslaw – prepped two days prior
  • Chips – prepped one day prior
  • Relish – prepped one week prior
  • Mayonnaise – prepped two days prior
  • Ketchup (sooooo many tomatos!!) – prepped a week prior
  • Mustard – prepped a week prior
  • Toppings (lettuce, tomato, onion) – prepped day-of event
  • Fruit (watermelon) – prepped day-of event
  • Hard Cider (aka: my private reserve) – prepped 3 months prior
  • Red Ale, Wheat Ale & Pale Ale – prepped up to 6 months prior

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And so it was: after almost a year of brainstorming, 6 months of prep, and several long weeks with a refrigerator full of all things fermenting, curing, marinating, and pickled, stuffed, or pre-baked, the 1st Annual From Scratch Cookout took shape with the help of several Kitchen Ninja’s by the grill and several out-of-town friends on hand for the inaugural event.

And what would an annual event be without the start of an annual koozie tradition? We’ve got several ideas planned for future token phrases, but we were pretty proud of our first From Scratch favors…

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So until next year, it’s been a pleasure handling your weiners!

Wafu

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And speaking of allergies… there is only one thing in all of Portland that can always cure me of that deep down, never ending dampness, that chills to the bone during the lingering Portland winter: Ramen. And while you could ask ten different people where you can get the best ramen in Portland and get ten different responses in return, there is really only one that has always remained at the top of my list: Wafu. Wafu Ramen. Mmmmmmmmmm.

Another SE Division gem – along the strip of slightly-too-good-to-be-normal asian eateries, Wafu stands out as the true comfort food stop on rainy weekdays. It must be something about the heavily salted broth or perfectly poached egg, or more often than not, the generous helpings of pork belly add-ins, but a bowl of this Japanese medecine is my cure all for coughing and sneezy and no nose breathing. (That has a ring to it, doesn’t it? New slogan Wafu??)

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The only difference between this place and my living room on a sick day from school is the slightly more intentional ambience – enormous white paper lanterns, semi-kitschy asian movie posters, and digital displays of foreign anime or black and white kung fu reruns.

And of course, there is an incredible selection of other creatively thought up and well-executed items on their menu, including a Miso Creamed Kale that is reminiscent of an asian-infused cream spinach and Roasted Crab Hand Rolls with somewhat adventurous spices to put a spin on traditional sushi. And do yourself a favor and ask about the dessert specials before you order your meal, because if the Yuzu Cream Puff is being made on site, you’ll want to safe some room!

And yes, sake does help to clear a stuffy head. In case you were wondering…

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