Making Memories in the Kitchen

Heartfelt gratitude

Grandma Violette was a one-of-a-kind, glamorous woman. Living in the small town of Molalla, Oregon, in the 1970’s, she wore long artificial nails, colored her hair w henna, and drove

This is just like Violette’s scooter. A reminder to embrace my adventurous side.

a motorcycle with baskets to carry her three little dogs. She loved to entertain and hosted the best holiday parties.

 

I recently took a pilgrimage to their house, prepared for the possibility it might have been destroyed by wildfire. They’ve both been gone for decades and the house is sold, but it holds so many memories. I went alone, prepared to mourn, with plenty of hankies in my pocket. Thankfully the tears shed were ones of relief. This house was the home of holiday celebrations, Shrinky Dinks, playing with cousins, watching Water Skippers on the creek, and is also where I first tasted oyster stuffing. (Don’t make a face, it’s delicious.)

If it’s been a good foraging year, I sometimes add chanterelles cooked and frozen for this occasion.

What made it memorable was that grandpa cooked, our first holiday after she passed away. It was a basic bread stuffing, but he omitted the eggs and added sautéed oysters and lemon juice; cooking it in an electric skillet until crusty. Let me tell ya something folks, this is my Must-Have holiday side dish. 


 
Speaking of making memories in the kitchen… my co-workers: Elena, Erin, and Stephanie have been teaching a remote Kids in the Kitchen class to middle school students in Clackamas County. This 8-week series is in partnership with Todos Juntos and a grant from Providence.

 

Student photo of Carrot Pancakes

Food Hero recipes are thoughtfully chosen to highlight the cooking skills taught in class. They purchase and distribute ingredients weekly so the kids can participate at home. Students learn knife safety and how to use the stove, oven, and microwave. They bake, griddle, boil, and blend, as well as learn about nutrition and the importance of cleaning as you go. (This is important to parents!)

Student photo of Cowboy Salad

They’re also learning about food photography. (You can see some of their work on our Instagram and Facebook pages.)

To celebrate, at the end of the series, students cook a balanced meal for their families. (Is this cool, or what?!) They gain confidence in their skills, and consequently, in themselves. It’s a beautiful thing and makes me wonder what memories will be created by them in the kitchen this season and for years to come. I’m so proud of our team and the work they do. 

How are you celebrating holidays this year? We’re staying home with

the amazing people in our household, or what I affectionately refer to as Our Germ Bubble. Instead of looking at what’s missing this year, I’m thankful for what we have. A home, our health, nutritious and tasty food, and hoping to continue to make memories with my loved ones.

As always, friends… keep exploring, stay curious, and be excellent to each other.

Buffy Rhoades| mom. forager. gardener. volunteer turned program assistant. a real busy beaver

Thank you for your comments! Please share, and visit the OSU Extension Clackamas County Family and Community Health (FCH) program’s Facebook and Instagram pages, learn new skills on our YouTube channel, read the latest installment of holiday topics in our newsletter, Healthy Together, and more about OSU Extension and the FCH program on our website.  

 

Winter Squash and Wild Mushrooms

Kabocha and Butternut curing on the porch
Testukabuto squash samples at the Culinary Breeding Network

February 16th, I attended OSU’s Culinary Breeding Network Variety Showcase event, sadly one of my last public events before COVID-19, and sampled a Tetsukabuto cream filled Purple Karma barley waffle cone. It blew my mind. Creamy texture and not-too-sweet, the squash was a perfect marriage with the dark chocolate-lined barley waffle cone. I planted Kabocha seeds and plan to attempt to replicate this dish.

Folks love the comfort-food quality of pumpkin and warm spices, and often ask how they can preserve their winter squash. Unfortunately, pressure canning pumpkin (or other winter squash) puree is unsafe. The density of the low-acid puree prevents thorough heat penetration, creating a serious food-safety risk of Botulism. If your “Charlie Brown Pumpkin Patch” has produced more than your freezer can accommodate, consider canning them in cubes and puree after opening the jar. Also, check out Food Hero’s winter squash and pumpkin recipes, nutrition information, coloring sheets…so much goodness… on their website

Pumpkin soup and pepitas. Photo courtesy of Tina Vanhove on Unsplash.

Can’t find jars or lids? Remember the dehydrator and powder technique I shared in the last post, Tomatoes and Autumn Sweaters? This technique works for winter squash too. Wash, cut in half and roast, leaving the skin on, until soft. Scoop out the flesh and mash or puree. Gently cook it down to the consistency of canned pumpkin and add spices to the pulp for pie filling or soup base. Dehydrate on a leather tray at 135 degrees f until crispy. Break into shards and grind into powder and store in an airtight container. Don’t waste the seeds! Toasted Pumpkin seeds, aka Pepitas, are delicious and full of nutrients. Instructions here.

Golden Chanterelle photo by Buffy Rhoades

My favorite seasonal treat, wild mushrooms, present a similar issue when it comes to preserving. Freezing and dehydrating are the only research-based, university-approved methods to preserve wild mushrooms. Mushrooms have a low pH (6.2) and are a food safety risk for Botulism. Due to their uniform size and density, commercially-grown button mushrooms have been researched, resulting in safe, tested recipes. Chanterelles and other edible fungi have not been tested. (I would love to see research on other safe ways to preserve Oregon’s state mushroom.) Until then, I’ll happily forage, freeze, and dehydrate.

I like the effect of dry sautéing mushrooms. It releases their juices and yields a beautifully caramelized mushroom, perfect for dehydrating or freezing. Instead of boiling away the mushroom juices, I save them in a container to use as broth for freezing. (Or mushroom gravy.) If freezing, I add a tiny amount of butter or olive oil at the end of cooking so the mushrooms get somewhat crispy, but I don’t add fat during the cooking process if dehydrating them. (The oil can become rancid over time.) 

When fully cooked, cool, label, and store in the freezer

 

FYI, button mushrooms do not need to be cooked before drying, but due to the fibrous nature of chanterelles, they benefit from pre-cooking. Our Master Food Preserver dehydrating guru, Don Wiley, explained that the cell structure of most vegetables, and this includes fibrous mushrooms like chanterelles, needs to be broken down before drying so they aren’t tough and rubbery when reconstituted. (Steaming is a fine method of pre-treatment.) After dehydrating, consider grinding them up for an easy mushroom soup base, perfect for backpacking or camping, or leave whole. Sealed in an airtight container or vacuum sealer, they’ll keep for months to years. Thank you Don!

 

Until next time, friends… enjoy the beautiful Autumn weather and fruits of the season. Look for more information on the OSU Extension Family and Community Health program on FacebookInstagramYouTube, our website, and newsletter.

Keep exploring, stay curious, and be excellent to each other!
 
Buffy | mom. gardener. volunteer turned program assistant. a real busy beaver
 

Tomatoes and Autumn Sweaters

As last week’s morning fog can attest, Autumn has arrived in the Pacific Northwest. It brings to mind garden clean up, and one of my favorite songs by Yo La Tengo, Autumn Sweater.

End of season tomatoes on a misty Oregon morning.

As the weather cools and Summer crops fade, it’s tempting to let tomatoes stay on the vine, but if you’re going to be canning them you might want to reconsider. Tomatoes from dead or frost-killed vines in your garden are unsafe to can. (Yes, it’s true!) Why? The pH in tomatoes attached to dead or frost killed vines change to a less acidic level that is unsafe for safe canning directions. Despair not, they’re still great for drying, pickling, freezing, and eating fresh! 

Pickled tomatoes w edible flowers and whole spices. Photo courtesy of Kirsten Schockley via #fermentation on Instagram.

The National Center for Home Food Preservation has some great ideas on uses for green tomatoes here. (Pickled green tomatoes are going into this year’s holiday gift baskets as part of a Bloody Mary kit.)

 

Clackamas County Master Food Preservers utilize every bit of their tomatoes by dehydrating the skins left over after peeling tomatoes for canning. It’s an easy, no-waste method of Extending the Harvest. Dehydrated tomato skins, leftover pulp, and seeds become delicious tomato powder. Powder can be used in soup, sauce base, or paste, and is a perfect backpacking/camping food. Bonus, it doesn’t require jars. (Jar and lid shortage is a real thing!)

Blended tomatoes, dried herbs and garlic for dehydrated pizza sauce. Photo by Buffy Rhoades

To make: Blend cooked skins, or whole cooked tomatoes into a sauce and spread on lightly oiled leather trays. Caution! Let the sauce cool before blending in a blender! Dry at 135°F for approximately 10 hours. After about six hours, the tomato leather should be dry enough to remove from the leather trays. Flip onto mesh drying trays and finish dehydrating until brittle.

 

Blended tomato skins. Photo from Buffy Rhoades.
When completely dry, you should be able to easily snap or tear it into smaller pieces. Blend with a blender or food processor until powder. Store in an airtight container and shake to condition. To make into a thick sauce, add 1/2 cup of boiling water to 2 1/2 T of powder. It’ll thicken slowly. If you want a thinner sauce, gradually add water.
 
Hopefully you’re enjoying the warm afternoons, getting time in the kitchen and garden, stocking the pantry, and eating well. Meanwhile, look for the OSU Extension Family and Community Health program on FacebookInstagramYouTube, our website, and monthly newsletter.
Keep exploring, stay curious, and be excellent to each other!
 
Buffy | mom. gardener. volunteer turned program assistant. a real busy beaver