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Point Defiance Park Trails

Point Defiance Park Trails is a 3.6 mile loop trail located near Tacoma, Washington that offers the chance to see wildlife and is good for all skill levels. The trail is primarily used for hiking and is accessible year-round.

A nice walk along Owens Beach, then back up on the main trail to view the Narrows Bridge. Saw sea lions poke their heads above water, scared a baby Douglas squirrel, heard cannon fire and bagpipes in celebration of Queen Victoria’s Birthday. Finally enjoyed a fine picnic, with the background sounds of howling zoo wolves responding to a fire truck siren. Although it was a crowded trail, it was an easy fun hike.

Compound Butters

Compound Butters

In modern French cuisine, prior to 1950, compound butters had a much greater purpose then they do today. If you’ll visit this French Cooking Terms page you’ll see several French recipes that instruct you to finish their preparation with this or that kind of butter.

Compound butters are prepared by adding any number of flavorings to the whole butter by either chopping in the items or using a food processor. The following recipe is only an example and today’s cooks use compound butter for dessert as well as entrees. Spices, herbs and protein can be added to compound butters and they are especially useful when using herbs that otherwise would turn black after being cut and exposed to air.

The kinds of compound butters you can make are without limits. Use berries for French Toast or pancakes. Wasabi for broiled meats and sea foods, cranberries for turkey and the list goes on and on. Adding hard chilled butter to finish a sauce is called monter or monte au beurre which gives the sauce an added flavor and sheen, and when you’ve incorporated some additional flavoring agent into the compound it just increases the gustatory profile. So you could add truffles, lobster, shrimp, saffron, herbs or caviar to just name a few.

My favorite is the classic Garlic Herb Butter

Hardware

  • Mixer, for best consistency
  • Plastic wrap

Software

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley leaves
  • Scant 1/2 teaspoon salt

Application

Using a hand mixer or stand mixer, beat the butter and salt and beat for a couple of minutes, or until fluffy. Add the garlic and parsley, stir to combine well. Transfer the the garlic herb butter onto a sheet of plastic wrap, roll up to form a cylinder shape. Twist both ends tight and keep it in the refrigerator. They are ready to use when the butter becomes cold and solid.

Compound Butters

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Seattle Chinese Garden

The Seattle Chinese Garden when finished will be one of the largest Chinese gardens outside of China. The site features a panoramic view of downtown Seattle, Washington, Elliott Bay and the Cascade Mountains, including Mt. Baker and Mt. Rainier. The five-acre ridge-top garden will showcase numerous pavilions intermingled with lotus ponds, a rushing stream, and groves of pine, maple, and bamboo.

As of this year one court, one pavilion, a dedication wall and a carp statue are completed. It takes about ten minutes to tour the whole place.

Mt Rainier

Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge Trail

Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge Trail is a 4 mile out and back trail located near Olympia, Washington that offers the chance to see wildlife and is good for all skill levels. The trail is primarily used for hiking, nature trips & walking and is accessible year-round. This is an easy and lovely hike to take in the early spring. During low tide when birds are feeding, I saw bald eagles, herons, various breeds of geese and duck, cormorants, song birds and humming birds. It was also cold, rainy and windy day so I suggest treading carefully on the wet and slippery boardwalk.

rocambole

The Season of Garlic!

In our area, garlic can be set out in the garden either in the fall or in the spring. Get spring-planted garlic in the ground good and early or you will get disappointing results. If you plant in the spring, you will normally harvest during autumn. Traditionally, late October and early November are the best times to plant. Fall-planted garlic is ready for harvest by about July. Although it’s not absolutely necessary, a light organic mulch applied after the garlic shoots have come up may help keep most of the frost out of the ground through the winter, or at least prevent frost heaving. Garlic is completely winter hardy. The foliage may be burned back by very low temperatures, but it bounces right back in spring. In the event that fall is dry, it will be necessary to irrigate. Hoeing to reduce weed growth is also highly recommended.

Don’t grow the stuff you can buy at the grocery store! Those come from California and won’t grow well in our Maritime weather. Rocamboles are the most common of the hardnecks and the most reliable in unsettled weather. “Rocambole” is sometimes used as a catchall term for hardneck. Porcelain garlics have the fewest, largest cloves per bulb. Purple stripe varieties are quite variable in flavor and are often considered the best for baking.

Valley of the Dolls

Normally I find dolls kind of creepy, but raggedy cloth dolls I find cute and adorable. I think it’s because I had raggedy Ann and Andy dolls as a little girl.

In a small deserted village nestled deep in the valleys of Shikoku Island, Japan, resides Nagoro: The Valley of the Dolls. Once a bustling center with a big dam hydro-power company and hundreds of inhabitants, this now empty village is home to hundreds of raggedy dolls. Sadly the residents moved to bigger cities over the years searching for better jobs, leaving the village now abandoned permanently. Today, Nagoro has only 37 living inhabitants, and of course, many times more dolls. Artist Ayano Tsukimi is the creator of some 350+ life-size dolls who populate the empty village, each one representing a former villager.

Source: http://vimeo.com/92453765

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Giant Red Velvet Mites

Thanks to The Oatmeal, I learned that Giant Red Velvet Mites (Trombidium Grandissimum) are real. They are called Bhir-buti in Hindi, which translates to “Rain’s Insect”. They live in soil and semi-desert areas of Northern India and spend most of their time hiding until the rain softens the soil for them to come out. T. grandissimum is one the largest known mites and can reach a size of around half an inch or so. The Giant Red Velvet Mite is exposed to hundreds of bacteria, worms, bugs and fungi on a daily basis and secretes anti-fungal oil. The mites circulatory fluid, hemolymph (a kind of bug blood) is also anti-fungal. Its poisonous nature would explain why its deep bright red; to ward off any predators. Its fuzzy body would also make it distasteful to any creature that dare make the mite its prey.

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Botanical Glass


Four months is a long time to go without blogging, but I decided to say something about art.  I rarely talk about art mostly because art hardly moves me.  I do however admire technique and skill.  Jason Gamrath is a master glassblower based in Seattle who has that skill. With glass he creates enormous detailed orchids and carnivorous flowers to help people appreciate the minute details of the plant kingdom.

Source: http://www.jasongamrathglass.com/

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Theo Chocolate Factory

On Valentine’s Day, I took Sig to Theo Chocolate for a tour of their factory at 3400 Phinney Avenue North in the Seattle Fremont Neighborhood. For a $7 tour, you get a quaint history lecture, a tour of their factory floor, chocolate samples and a modest 10% discount at their confectioners counter. You also get hair nets, which you must wear for obvious health reasons. If you have a beard net you must also wear a beard net.

The Building

Theo Chocolate was founded in 2005 in a historic brick building in the Fremont neighborhood in Seattle. The building was built in 1905 and it has housed an interesting array of tenants. It sheltered Seattle’s electric trolley fleet until 1941. After being a transportation hub, the building housed painters and artists in the later part of the 20th century. Then Redhook Brewery in 1989 moved in and opened an adjoining pub called the Trolleyman. You can learn more about the building’s history by taking the Fremont Historical Society’s walking tour.

The Chocolate

According to their presentation, Theo Chocolates gets their name from the scientific name of the cacao tree: Theobroma cacao. Theobroma means “God Food” – theos for “god” and broma for “food”. They did have a small cacao tree, but there is a better specimen on display at the UW Botany Greenhouse which actually flowers when in season. Or you can visit Hawaii’s Big Island or Kauai Island for tours of cacao plantations.

Theo is the first roaster of organic and fair trade cocoa, from “bean-to-bar” as they put it. Fermented beans sourced from Costa Rica, Madagascar, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Peru, Ecuador, and the Congo travel all the way to this Seattle factory. On one factory floor they sort, roast, mill, mix, conche, mold and package.

The air in the factory has a biting chocolate smell, mostly coming from the acetic acid. Tanks of chocolate paste is conched, or gently ground for smoothness, and heated to over 70ºC. Conching refines flavors and drives off the acetic acid produced during cocoa bean fermentation. There are more floral (South America) or earthy dark (Africa) smells depending on where the beans come from

In the Confection Kitchen, they make all kinds of sweets and even offer classes on how to make truffles, toffee, caramels and really anything you want to learn about making chocolate treats.

Dr. Chocolate: Better Science Through Chocolate

Andy McShea COO of Theo Chocolate is also known as Doc Choc, and his personal motto is “Better Science Through Chocolate.” He had no prior chocolate experience before joining Theo, but he knows how to develop an assay and focused on the quantitative analysis of cocoa. For on-site experiments, he has a small research space at the chocolate factory, behind a door marked “super-secret chocolate laboratory.” He’s worked with collaborators from Seattle to Cleveland to Manchester, England. This international chocolate team has developed chromatography and mass spectrometry methods that generate profiles of the volatile compounds released by fermented cocoa beans. The goals are to find biomarker compounds and specific chemical profiles that indicate bean quality, and possibly country of origin.

Sources:

vday

Valentine’s Day

For South Koreans Valentine’s Day is when women shower men with chocolates! Japanese women also gift chocolate to all men around them ranging from love interests to co-workers and bosses. In the Philippines, V-day is celebrated in the same way as their western counterparts, greeting loved ones with “Maligayang Araw ng mga Puso” — literally translating to “Happy Day of the Hearts”.

Since before we were married, we’ve been celebrating Valentine’s Day the way the Japanese and Koreans do: me making sweets for Sig and planning a special day just with him. Come March 14th, Sig will have his turn.

If you’re single you can celebrate Black Day (블랙데이) on April 14 by gathering your single friends and eat jajangmyeon (noodles with black bean sauce) and celebrate your singledom.

vday cookies