Time... and a Dark Gingerbread Pear Cake

March 11th, 2015.  It feels like a lifetime ago.  Thats when we posted our first recipe to our little experiment called Traveling Fork.  It was granola and we had just recently decided to go with the name Traveling Fork over Food Before Coffee.
Since then, we've spent many hours rushing against the dying window light of the short, gloomy winter skies, walking alleys and trails near and far, and testing out countless recipes in the kitchen.  The days just aren't long enough sometimes.

I've learnt so much about cooking, photography, food, travel, relationships... myself, over the last couple years.  It's been a truly amazing, wonderful and creative time and I wouldn't trade a single second of it for anything.  But, times change.  We are constantly evolving.  Traveling Fork opened both Becky and my eyes to loads of new ideas and reignited passions that had been buried deep under school, work and the monotony of life.  It was a self created source of motivation and inspiration.  My mind is a bigger place because of it.

We learned, and we became better people as we buried ourselves in flour and sticky sourdough start, smoked out the house for the millionth time, cleaned the fermented, and quite carbonated, apple cider off the ceiling, got desperately lost in the mountains of Oaxaca, drank warm coronas and waited out rain storms, argued over the placement of spring rolls, cursed out the espresso machine, took another unsatisfying photo, swelled with frustration trying to make a website, go lost in the hills of France, again, ate eggs in a dark shack, took naps, drank beer at 10am, rode bikes down alleys, climbed mountains...
I feel that success isn't how long or how far you make it in something, but how much you learn from the time you have.  And, over the course of the last several years, I have learnt so very much.
Don't ignore your past and the lessons you learn.  That will only doom you to to live in a loop - repeating your mistakes and frustrations.  Learn, or repeat.  

As hard as it is to let this project go and not sit and wonder what could have been if we pursued, it's exciting to be thinking of what projects lay in the future.  Moving forward is not the same as giving up. 

So, by now you might have gathered that Traveling Fork is coming to a close as Becky and I decide to put our energy into other adventures and experiments.  We will miss making pretty food for you. 

Thanks for taking the time to follow along with us.  We have had such a blast making content for you... we hope it has inspired you to get out and do a little more exploring, or stay home and do a little more cooking.

Take care, and I'll catch you on the next adventure


- Noah


p.s.  I leave you with one last recipe that never got posted:

// Dark Gingerbread Pear Cake // makes one 9-inch cake

3/4 cup dark stout
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2/3 cup molasses
3/4 cup pack light brown sugar
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon crystallized sugar, chopped
2 tablespoons ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/3 cup canola oil
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 lb of ripe pears, peeled, cored, and sliced thin

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly grease a 8 or 9-inch deep cake pan with butter (I used a 2 inch deep pan) and set aside until needed

2. In a small saucepan, heat the stout until just simmering. Add baking soda and whisk until dissolved (the stout will froth and then die down). Adjust heat to low and add molasses and brown sugar. Whisk until sugar is dissolved then remove from heat and let cool completely

3. In a large bowl combine the flour, crystallized sugar, ground ginger, cinnamon, black pepper, and salt. Mix until well-combined

4. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, fresh ginger, vanilla, and completely cooled stout mixture 

5. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients in thirds, stirring until just mixed after each addition. Scape batter into prepared pan and top with pears in pattern of your choice. Bake for 50-55 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Dust with powdered sugar if desired! 

Pumpkin Spice Chai Latte

Pumpkin spice lattes have officially hit every coffee shop and cafe here in Seattle and while I love the warming and spicy flavors of cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, cardamom, and allspice, I often find that pumpkin spice drinks are just way too sweet for my taste. I'll call it the Starbucks effect. So my solution, of course, was to make my own (this is my solution for a lot of things, some of which turn out well and others do not...). But this recipe turned out very well and it's one that I'll be making again throughout fall and maybe even into winter. Or at least until it gets too cold and rainy and then only mulled wine will suffice. Anyway, I hope you try this delicious and only slightly sweet pumpkin spice chai latte because it is truly a necessary part of fall. Trust me. 

// Pumpkin Spice Chai Latte // makes 8 cups
You'll want to make a full batch of this pumpkin spice chai latte to keep in the fridge for cold mornings or cozy afternoons. If you don't have the space, though, or you're not as much of a pumpkin spice fan as I am, you can halve the recipe. Also feel free to play around with the spices and sweetness until you find a balance that works for you. 

8 cups whole milk or milk of your choice
1/4 cup maple syrup

3 cinnamon sticks
1 tablespoon whole allspice
1 tablespoon cardamom pods
1 whole nutmeg, cut into quarters
2 teaspoons whole cloves
2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
2 tablespoons loose black tea
1 inch knob fresh ginger, cut into rounds
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt

1. In a large, heavy bottomed pot, whisk together milk and maple syrup. Gently heat over medium-low heat until milk is just simmering - don't let boil! 

2. While milk is heating, place all spices (cinnamon through ginger) in either a mesh bag (like a nut milk bag or vegetable storage bag) or in the center of some cheesecloth. Cinch bag closed or tie ends of cheesecloth together and place spices in milk along with vanilla and salt. Turn heat to low and let steep for 45-50 minutes or more, depending on taste preference

3. Remove and discard spices. Serve chai hot with a dollop of steamed milk or whipped cream and a zest of freshly grated nutmeg

Chinese 5 Spice Pork Dumplings with Braised Bok Choy

It's officially fall! My favorite time of year :) I'm one of those strange people who loves and craves change, so the transition seasons (fall and spring) bring me great joy. I also grew up in Vermont, so the brilliant display of red, gold, and fiery orange leaves that dazzle the Northeast from September through November may have biased me a bit. Washington maples just aren't the same.... 

Other things that I like about fall are:
- Cozy afternoons sipping tea and knitting up wool Christmas presents
- Not having the kitchen turn into a sweatbox every time I turn on the oven
- ALL the fall flavors and foods (particularly pumpkin spice and butternut squash)
- The crisp, fresh air, especially in the early mornings

What are your favorite things about fall?

This dumpling recipe isn't specifically fall-inspired, but it is more of a chilly weather comfort dish. And if you make the dumpling wrappers yourself (which I hope you do), plan on spending a few hours in the kitchen. This is a great recipe for a rainy fall or an especially dark winter day

A few months ago (maybe closer to a year!) Noah and I took a dumpling making class at a Korean restaurant down the street. I wish I could remember all the dumplings we made, but alas, I lost the recipe packet :( It was super fun, though, and I promptly filled our freezer with all sorts of different dumplings in the following weeks. This one - a Chinese 5 spice pork dumpling - is one of our favorites. The pork is lightly spiced with star anise, cinnamon, cloves, sichuan pepper, and fennel and the wrappers are speckled with ground up black sesame seeds, which are more for visual appeal than taste. Once you get the hang of rolling out the dough, filling the wrappers, and folding them, this production goes surprisingly fast. Or you could enlist some friends and have a dumpling making party! To speed things up a bit, use pre-made wonton wrappers, but only if you absolutely need to. The braised bok choy is super easy to throw together and a great side dish for these flavorful dumplings 

// Chinese 5 Spice Pork Dumplings with Braised Bok Choy // makes about 30 dumplings
Homemade dumplings do take time to make, but they are 100% worth it. I like to freeze extra on a baking sheet and then stash them in a ziplock bag in the freezer for nights that I don't have time (or want) to cook. You can save time by using pre-made wonton wrappers, but I highly encourage you to try making your own wrappers at least once :) 

For the dough:
2 cups (9 oz) all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons black sesame seeds, ground (optional)
3/4 c (6 oz) hot water

For the filling:
1 pound ground pork
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 tablespoons white onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup shredded napa cabbage
2 teaspoons grated ginger
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon maple syrup
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon Chinese 5 spice powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon orange zest

For dipping sauce:
4 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoons sesame oil

For the bok choy:
1 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon sriracha
1/2 teaspoon sugar
4 thin rounds fresh ginger
1/4 cup dried shiitake mushrooms soaked in 1 cup hot water (save water)
6 baby bok choy, thoroughly rinsed to remove dirt and sand from crevices. If bok choy is super sandy you can cut them in half and reduce cooking time
2 tablespoon sliced green onions to serve

1. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, salt, and black sesame seeds (if using) and mix until well combined. Make a well in the middle of the bowl and slowly add the hot water. Mix water into flour with a wooden spoon until a shaggy dough forms. Knead the dough with your hands several times in the bowl, then transfer dough to a lightly floured surface. Kneed dough 8-10 times then wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Let sit on counter for at least 20 minutes

2. In a large bowl, combine all of the filling ingredients and mix well. Test seasoning by cooking about 1 teaspoon of filling in a skillet. Adjust seasoning as needed

3. After the dough has rested for 20 minutes, it's time to make the dumplings. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Divide the dough into quarters using a knife or bench scraper. Keep extra dough pieces covered with plastic wrap while working. Roll dough out using a hand-crank pasta machine or Kitchenaid pasta attachment. You could also use a good old rolling pin. I used a Kitchenaid attachment and rolled my dough out to the #4 setting, but use your judgment on how thin you want to go. Err on the thicker side or else your dumplings will fall apart. Also make sure you flour your dough and surface liberally to prevent dough from sticking together. Once you have four long sheets of dough, use a circular biscuit cutter or rim of a drinking glass to cut dough into circles. I used a 3-inch wide biscuit cutter. Spoon about 2 teaspoons of pork filling (more or less depending on side of circles) into center of wrapper and gently flatten filling, leaving space along edges to seal. Dap water along edges of wrapper, then fold dough in desired dumpling shape. I used the pyramid method found in this video, bit feel free to be creative! Place completed dumplings on parchment-lined baking sheet until ready to steam

4. Combine dipping sauce ingredients in a small bowl and set aside until ready to serve

5. For the bok choy, combine the chicken broth, soy sauce, garlic, fish sauce, sriracha, sugar, and ginger in a large heavy-bottomed dutch oven or pot. Drain shiitake mushrooms and add to pot along with two tablespoons reserved shiitake water. Bring broth to a low simmer over medium-low heat then add bok choy. Cover and cook for about 7-8 minutes or until boy choy are tender. Remove bok choy from pot and place on a plate. Turn heat up to medium-high and reduce broth for 10-15 minutes or until slightly thickened and intensely flavored. You can add a bit of cornstarch at this point if you want a thicker sauce

6. While broth is reducing, steam dumplings for 8 minutes. You may need to oil the surface of your bamboo or metal steamer to prevent dumplings from sticking

7. Pour reduced sauce over bok choy and top with green onions. Serve dumplings with dipping sauce. Eat!

Chinese 5 Spice Pork Dumplings with Braised Bok Choy - Traveling Fork

Loaded Salmon Nicoise Salad

Salmon Nicoise salad may be my favorite salad ever. And that's saying a lot because I eat a lot of salads (check some of them out here, here, and here). But in order for a Nicoise salad to be worthy of this fame, it has to be loaded. Like in I-can't-fit-anymore-on-this-plate loaded (just look at these pictures!). For me, the fun and flavor of Nicoise salads comes from its toppings. Lots of toppings. My personal favorites are roasted potatoes, dilly bean, cornichons (aka gherkins), hard-boiled eggs, olives, feta, avocado, and of course, wild salmon. You can really let your creativity shine when it comes to toppings, though. Fresh or canned tuna is traditional, I think, but any other protein would work just as well and don't limit yourself on the veggie opportunities. Great creative!

Speaking of creativity, I've been listening to Elizabeth Gilbert's new book - Big Magic - on tape and loving it. It's about finding and embracing your creativity (whatever that means to you) and living life to the fullest. It's not cliche, I promise. I have always thought of myself as an adventurous person willing to take measured risks and not one to really go along with the crowd or bow down to authority. After college I bought a one-way ticket to Maui, lived there for a few months, and then traveled the world for six years while working on a small cruise ship. I definitely haven't walked the typical path. But over the last few years, I feel life has been a become a bit boring and monotonous. Grad school will do that to you. Don't get me wrong, though, I love what I'm doing for work and I couldn't ask for a better partner, but I also feel like the adventurous side has taken a bit of a backseat. Noah and I talk about it all the time and we have some plans in the works for breaking out of this rut that I'm super excited about (more to come soon, hopefully!). But if you're like me, and need some inspiration to help you take hold of your creativity again, I highly recommend checking out Big Magic.     

Ok, that was a tangent, back to the salad. I really don't feel like I need to say much more about this salad other than it's crazy good and incredibly filling and satisfying. Please do use wild salmon if you can to help support the fishermen. Friends don't let friends eat farmed salmon. That's it. Enjoy! 

// Salmon Nicoise Salad // makes 4 large or 6 small salads
You can either plate these salads on individual plates or make one huge platter to share. If you're sharing just be sure your guest don't steal all the goodies. Also, as I mentioned above, the toppings are totally customizable. Pickled and roasted veggies work great. I've also done goat cheese and herb-marinated feta.  

For the potatoes:
1 pound baby potatoes, any kind will do
2 large cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt

For the salad dressing:
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon minced red onion or shallot
1 teaspoon dried thyme
3/4 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

For the fish:
2 lbs salmon fillets, bones removed
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
Oil for the pan

For the lemon, butter, caper sauce:
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/3 cup capers
1 clove garlic, minced
Pinch of salt

Salad and Toppings:
2 heads red bibb lettuce, washed and torn into pieces
4 hardboiled eggs, peeled and cut in half
1/3 cup thinly sliced red onions
1 avocado cut into slices or formed into roses
1/2 pound feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup cornichons
8 tomato wedges or 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes
1 cup mixed olives
24 dilly beans
Lemon wedges
Parsley for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 350°. If using larger baby potatoes, cut in half. If using smaller ones, leave whole. Toss potatoes will olive oil, garlic, and salt and place in a baking dish. Cover with tin foil and bake for 35-40 minutes or until easily pierced with a knife. Set aside until needed

2. While the potatoes are cooking, whisk together the salad dressing ingredients. Set aside until needed. Prep toppings as needed until potatoes are done

3. Reduce oven heat to 250°. Place salmon filets on a lightly oiled baking sheet and season evenly with salt. Cover loosely with tin foil and bake for ~40 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 135-140°. Remove from oven and let cool slightly

4. When fish is almost done, melt butter in a saucepan. Whisk in lemon juice, capers, and salt. Remove from heat

5. To assemble salad, divide lettuce among number of plates you're using. Drizzle about 2 tablespoons of dressing over lettuce. Top salads evenly with potatoes, eggs, red onions, avocado, feta, cornichons, tomatoes, olives, and dilly beans (I like to make small piles of each ingredient). Place salmon on top and spoon 1 tablespoon lemon, butter, dill sauce over fish. Garnish with lemon wedges and parsley. Dig in! 

The Ultimate Tempeh Reuben

The Ultimate Tempeh Reuben - Traveling Fork

I feel like there's no middle ground when it comes to sandwiches - you either have a really good sandwich that is full of flavorful ingredients that complement each other in just the right way or you have a really disappointing sandwich that fails to satisfy and leaves you feeling very underwhelmed. Sandwiches can make or break a day. This sandwich definitely falls into former category - a really good sandwich. While I love the traditional rueben layered with corned beef or pastrami, swiss, sauerkraut, and 1000 island dressing in between two slices of grilled rye bread, this tempeh version is arguably just as delicious, if not more. If you're a meat-lover, you just need to keep an open mind ;) 

Tempeh is one of my favorite 'alternative' protein sources to eat because it has a great texture and just like tofu it absorbs whatever flavors you marinate it in. The marinade is the key to success when working with tempeh or tofu, as I found out during my 15-year stint as a vegetarian. But back to the sandwich. In between these layers of fresh rye bread, I piled in thick slices of maple-mustard tempeh, slow-cooked red wine onions, avocado mayo, swiss cheese, arugula, and homemade sauerkraut. Each component is super easy to make and can be prepared ahead of time for easy sandwich making on busy week days. I also highly recommend serving these tempeh reubens for a delicious weekend brunch feast. Serve with crunchy pickles and some good quality salt and vinegar potatoes chips.  

// The Ultimate Tempeh Reuban // Makes 2-3 sandwiches
As mentioned above, all of these components can be made ahead of time if you're short on time or want to prep lunches for the week. I wouldn't recommend making the sandwiches beforehand as they'll get soggy and soggy sandwiches are a no-go in my book. Also, if you have a panini grill, by all means use it! We don't have one, so we simply 'grill' our reuben's in a frying pan

For the marinade:
8 oz tempeh
1/3 cup safflower or canola oil
2 tablespoons dijon mustard
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon whole brown mustard seeds

For the red wine onions:
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons butter
2 teaspoons caraway seeds
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup red wine, divided

For the avocado mayo:
1 large avocado
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon horseradish (optional)
Black pepper to taste

To assemble sandwiches:
4 slices rye bread (6 if you're making 3 sandwiches). Good quality makes a difference!
4 teaspoons butter, more if needed
4 slices swiss cheese
2-4 teaspoons dijon mustard
1/3 cup arugula
1/3 cup Sauerkraut

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Slice the tempeh into 1/4-inch slices (you should end up with 20-24 slices) and arrange slices in a single layer in a baking dish. In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the oil, mustard, maple syrup, vinegar, salt, and mustard seeds. Pour marinade over tempeh and marinate for at least 30 minutes, flipping slices once or twice. Bake tempeh for 20 minutes. Flip slices and bake for another 18-20 minutes or until all marinate is absorbed and slices are browned

2. While tempeh is baking, make the red onions. Heat butter in a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-low heat. Add red onions and cook for 10-12 minutes, stirring frequently. When onions are soft add 1/4 cup red wine, caraway seeds, and salt. Continue to cook for another 8-10 minutes or until red wine has been reduced. Add another 1/4 cup of red wine and continue cooking. Repeat until 1 cup of red wine has been used and onions are fully cooked. Transfer to a bowl

3. To make the avocado mayo, mash together the avocado, mayonnaise, lemon juice, salt, horseradish, and black pepper in a medium bowl. Set aside until needed

4. To assemble sandwiches, butter one side of each piece of bread with 1/2-1 teaspoon butter. On the other side of two pieces of bread (not the buttered side) spread about 2-3 tablespoons of avocado mayo. On the other two pieces of bread (again, not the buttered side) spread 1-2 teaspoons of dijon mustard. On the avocado mayo half, layer 2 slices of swiss cheese, 6-8 slices of tempeh, some red onions, small handful of arugula, and about 2 tablespoons or more of sauerkraut. Top with second piece of bread, mustard side down

5. Heat a large skilled over medium heat. Cook sandwiches one at a time, buttered sides down, for about 3-4 minutes on each side. Bread should be deep golden brown and crispy and cheese melted. Enjoy immediately

Walnut Anise Biscotti

Truthfully, I'm not much of a cookie person (Gasp!). I'd much rather have bowl of ice cream or a slice of pie if I'm going to indulge in a sweet, but biscotti have a special place in my heart for two reasons:

1. Growing up I would make biscotti for my dad because he IS a cookie person. He likes the whole gamut - chocolate chip cookies, peanut butter cookies, snickerdoodles, molasses, etc... etc... and of course biscotti. The first time I made them for him, though, I don't think he really understand what I was saying. Bis-cot-ti. In his snow and mountain driven mind they were Big Skis, both in shape and in name. So now biscotti will always remind me of my dad and his love for cookies and skiing.

2. They're Italian and everything from Italy tastes good. Right? Pasta, espresso, gelato, pizza, affogato, mozzarella, wine,  I could go on and on. I have yet to make my way across the Italian border, but when I do, I will most definitely be eating some Italian biscotti (among many other delicious things...). Italy is very, very high in my 'top places to go' list

Despite not being 'cookie person', these biscotti were gone in about three days. With the help of Noah, of course, who is a 'cookie person', like my dad. They're just the right blend between crisp and crunchy, but not so crumbly that they dolefully fall apart after dunking a hot cup of tea or coffee (big pet peeve). I learned a nifty trick from Cook's Illustrated Baking Book to process the sugar and eggs in a food processor before mixing in the flour so that air gets incorporated into the dough. This makes the biscotti light and airy rather than dense and tooth-shattering. Big win. Even if cookies aren't your favorite treat, I highly recommend giving these a try. You'll thank me later :)  

// Walnut Anise Biscotti // makes about 20 cookies
This recipe is adapted from one of my favorite baking guides - Cook's Illustrated Baking Book. The reason I like this book (and their other books) so much is because they go into why a recipe works, not just how to a recipe is put together. For these light and crunchy biscotti, the secret is to process the eggs and sugar in the food processor so that air is incorporated into the dough. Without this air, the cookies would be much more dense and heavy. If you don't have a food processor, you could try beating the eggs and sugar with a handheld mixer.
1 1/4 cup walnuts, lightly toasted
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup cane sugar
4 tablespoons butter, melted
2 teaspoons anise powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg white

For the glaze:
1 cup confectioners sugar
2-3 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon orange zest for garnish (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 325° and adjust rack to the middle of oven. Prepare a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper

2. Pulse 1 cup of walnuts in a food processor until coarsely ground, about 8-10 pulses. Remove walnuts from food processor and set aside in a bowl until needed. Process remaining 1/4 cup of walnuts until finely ground, about 45 seconds. Add flours, baking soda, and salt. Process until well mixed. Transfer flour mixture to another bowl and set aside

3. Add 2 eggs to empty food processor and process until light in color, about 3 minutes. While motor is running, slowly add maple syrup and sugar. Process for a few seconds then add melted butter, anise, and vanilla. Process until well combined, about 15 seconds. Transfer egg mixture to a medium bowl. Add half of the flour mixture to the eggs and gently fold it in. Repeat for second half of flour, being careful to not over mix. Fold in roughly chopped walnuts

4. Divide dough in half and gently form each piece into a 6-8 x 3 inch rectangle. Smooth down the tops and sides as best you can then brush tops with egg white. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until loaves are golden brown and just beginning to crack on top. Remove loaves from oven and let cool on sheet for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, use a serrated knife to cut loaves into 1/2-inch slices. Place slices on a wire rack, cut-side down, and bake for another 30-35 minutes, flipping slices halfway through. Let cool completely

5. To make the glaze, whisk together the confectioners sugar and orange juice in a small bowl. Glaze biscotti after they're cool and garnish with orange zest if desired. 

Walnut Pesto Margherita Pizza

Ever since Noah took up sourdough bread baking about a year ago, homemade pizza has become a serious addiction and not something that we take lightly anymore. He has delved deep into the pages of Tartine’s self-named book to learn the art of making a perfect sourdough pizza crust and when we need a quick overnight version he follows the recipe found in Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast. Both crusts are delicious, but I have to say that the sourdough one wins out because of its complex flavors developed over days of natural fermentation.

Whichever crust we use, our pizza nights have grown to involve at least 5 or 6 mounds of soft, pillowy pizza dough waiting to be stretched out (not rolled) on our limited counter space. The rest of the counter space is scattered with various toppings. Very rarely do two pizzas get the same topping treatment because that's boring and we like to be creative. One of our favorite pizza concoctions is this Walnut Pesto Margherita Pizza with beautiful heirloom tomatoes, toasted walnuts, and freshly made basil pesto. It’s not the most traditional Margherita pizza, but it’s arguably just as delicious. 

// Walnut Pesto Margherita Pizza // makes 2 pizzas
As mentioned above, we like to use homemade pizza doughs, but if you don't have the time (or energy) feel free to use store-bought ones. The heirloom tomatoes are non-negotiable, though.  

For the Walnut Pesto:
1/2 cup walnuts, lightly toasted
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3 cups packed basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup parmesan, shredded

~ 1 lb heirloom tomatoes, depending on how big pizza crusts are, sliced into 1/4" rounds
8 oz goat cheese
1/2 cup walnuts (not toasted)
1/2 cup packed basil leaves, julienned
2 homemade or store-bought pizza crusts

1. Preheat oven to 550 with pizza stone inside. Let preheat for at least 30 minutes

2. To make the pesto, place the walnuts, garlic, lemon juice, basil, salt, and black pepper in a food processor. Process for about 1 minute or until ingredients are roughly chopped, scraping down sides as you go. While motor is running, slowly add olive oil in a thin stream. Process for 2-3 minutes, scraping down sides again, until pesto is smooth. Transfer pesto to a bowl and fold in parmesan

3. To assemble pizzas, roll out dough on floured surface to desired thickness and place on a lightly floured pizza peel. Spread about 1/4 cup of pesto over dough (amount depends on size of pizza crust). Top with half of the tomato slices, goat cheese, and walnuts. Slide pizza onto baking stone in oven and bake for 6-7 minutes or until edges are lightly golden brown. Turn oven to high broil and bake for another 2 minutes. Remove from oven and repeat for second pizza. Garnish with basil and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.  Eat! 

Enchanted Valley + Trail Cookies

I'm writing this as I sit on the front porch of my childhood home in Vermont, savoring a cup of hot tea with milk and honey and trying to fight the urge to nap instead of write. In front of me, across the gravel road, is a sunny, green cow pasture dotted with blooming wildflowers. The cows just went in for milking and we (my dad, Noah, and I) just got back from a quick mountain bike ride on the single track crisscossing the woods in back of our house. Life is good. Coming back home is always good. A respite from the go, go, go of city life in Seattle. 

But this post isn't about Vermont, it's about our recent trip into the Olympic National Park to the Enchanted Valley. There is something so deeply satisfying about heading off into the woods with everything you need (hopefully...) strapped to your back. This was actually my first backpacking trip ever and I'm kind of embarrassed to say that. I've done plenty of hiking and car camping, but for some reason have never actually gone on an overnight backpacking trip. What was I thinking! Backpacking is awesome and now I'm hooked.

The trail that we chose for my first hike was a pretty easy one. Mostly flat, well-traveled, and easily done in 4 days. We had heard that the Enchanted Valley was, well, enchanting, and definitely a highlight of the Olympic Peninsula, so we decided to give it a try for Noah's birthday weekend. My plan was to make some trail bars for the hike, but two days before we were supposed to leave I got a nasty 24 hour bug and spent the next few days recovering. Needless to say, the trail bars didn't happen, but the following recipe for trail cookies will be on the snack list for next time.

I'm not going to narrate every step of our trip because that would make this a long and boring post, but here are the the highlights that we will remember:

- The gravel road. At the beginning and end of our trip we had to hike along a two mile stretch of gravel road to Grave's Creek Campground where the trailhead to the Enchanted Valley started. Winter storms had washed out a section of the road, making impassable by car. It was fine at the beginning, we had fresh legs. But on the last day those two miles were torture. We were exhausted from the 15 miles we had just hiked out from the valley and my footwear wasn't the best so my feet were on fire with blisters. Noah and I didn't talk for those two miles. The rest of the trip was great, though!

- Our first night was spent at Pyrites campsite after hiking in for about 13 miles. We were definitely glad that we stopped here instead of continuing on to the Valley because those last four miles on the second day were the prettiest and we wanted to see it in the morning light

- The forest! We weren't strangers to the Olympic Peninsula or National Park, but every time we go we're reminded of how beautiful it is. The old growth trees - firs, cedars, and hemlocks - are draped with lichen and the forest is intersperested with light-filled meadows and crystal clear streams. Berries are everywhere - blackberries, thimbleberries, huckleberries, blueberries... Enchanting indeed. The only drawback was that we didn't see any black bears. Almost every other hiker we talked to did :( 

- The blowdowns. Holy moly the blowdowns! At one point in the hike we came to the river and it looked like a massive giant had stormed through the valley. Huge trees were blown down in every direction over and in the river and the trail turned into an obstacle course. Thankfully, we weren't the first ones hiking in since the winter storms, so a nice path through and over the trees had already been established

- When we made it to the Valley and chalet on the second day, we opted to camp down by the river rather than up in the main campsite by the tree line. Our campsite was well equipped with a clothes line (noah carved some clothespins), a table made out of sun bleached wood from the riverbed and a tree stump for a base, and a some log benches next to the fire. It was a perfect setup and the privacy was great

- That first night in the Valley, right after collecting firewood, we were hit by a heavy downpour. We were just able to string up the tent footprint over the log benches as a tarp roof before the worst of the rain hit. We stayed mostly dry :) Thankfully we had started a fire before going to get firewood, so we had hot coals to work with when the rain came

- Showering under waterfalls = best showers ever. It was a bit of a trek to get to the thinly cascading waterfall on the other side of the Valley, but so worth the effort after a day of hiking and sweating profusely

- On our way out on the last day, we hiked most of the trail with a ranger who entertained us with stories of his time with the Park Service and Navy. When we were passing through the blowdown section, his radio chatter started going and we heard that someone in the trail crew working with chainsaws had been 'tagged'. We couldn't figure out what had happened until we rounded a bend and saw a section of the path blocked off. Apparently one of them had disturbed a hornet's nest and was stung multiple times. Yikes!

It was a short trip, but definitely a good one. I can't wait to set out and explore more trails and forests by foot with everything that we need strapped to our back. Including these trail cookies (recipe below)

// Trail Cookies // Makes 12 cookies
These cookies are everything a trail cookie should be: salty, sweet, not crumbly, covered in chocolate, and easily eaten by hand. Unfortunately these ones didn't make it on our hike to the Enchanted Valley because I came down with a nasty 24-hour bug two days before we left, but they will definitely be in our packs for the next trip. Or maybe before that... 

Dry ingredients
1 3/4 cups spelt flour
2/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup dried cranberries or cherries
1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1/3 cup peanuts
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger

Wet ingredients
2 tablespoons ground flax seed
3 tablespoons water
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 350°. In medium bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients and mix well

2. In large bowl, stir together the ground flax seed and water and let sit five minutes. Add the remaining wet ingredients to the flax seeds and mix until well combined. Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture and stir until a dough has formed

3. Place a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet. Spoon or scoop 1/4 cup of dough onto the parchment paper about 1 inch apart (they won't spread much while baking). Flatten cookies into a round, disk shape. Bake cookies for 15 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Remove from oven and cool completely on a wire rack

Fresh Shrimp Summer Rolls with Coconut-Lemongrass Dipping Sauce

Hello! How is your summer going? We've been (finally) enjoying some warm weather here in Seattle and it feels like we're packing a lot into our days. A few weeks ago Noah and I spent some much needed time out in the woods on the Olympic Peninsula. We visited the Enchanted Valley, which was my first actual overnight backpacking trip ever! Kind of embarrassed to say that seeing that I've traveled all over the globe and camped at least a million times... But now I'm hooked and can't wait to strap a 40lb pack on my back again and go on some more deep woods adventures! If you want to read more about our trip, check back in a week or two - we're planning a post about it. 

This week, though, we're talking about fresh shrimp summer rolls with a coconut-lemongrass dripping sauce. So good!! We make fresh rolls quite often in the summer because they're relatively easy to make once you get the hang of rolling them up (my job, not Noah's ;). And they don't require turning on the oven, which is a big plus on hot summer nights. These shrimp came straight down from Alaska gratis from Noah's parents (thanks!) and they are so sweet and delicious. If you decide to make this recipe (which I hope you do), please go for the good quality and sustainably caught shrimp because they're totally worth it - both for your taste buds and for the environment. Much of the frozen shrimp that are in the grocery store have been washed with chlorine to kill bacteria or treated with other chemicals. This leaves a definite chlorine or bleach taste on the shrimp that - to me - is unacceptable. Furthermore, shrimp harvesting practices range from sustainable to downright destructive. So please - do your research and care about where your food comes from. 

// Fresh Shrimp Summer Rolls with Coconut-Lemongrass Dipping Sauce // makes 6 large rolls
Summer rolls are one of my favorite summer meals because they are fresh and light for hot days. Not to mention delicious! But, they are kind of time consuming to make... Totally worth it, though, in my opinion! You can even use up random ingredients in the fridge or garden without having to run to the store. Try different protein, veggie, and dip combinations. If this is your first time rolling rice paper wrappers, the first few rolls that you make probably won't look too pretty, but keep at it! They'll get better with practice :)

For the Coconut-Lemongrass Dipping Sauce:
1/2 cup full fat coconut milk
1/4 cup lime juice
2 teaspoons fish sauce
2 teaspoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon finely chopped lemongrass
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon grated ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt

For the Noodles:
1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 1/2 teaspoons granulated cane sugar
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 ounces bean thread noodles
4 cups boiling water

Summer Roll Fillings:
12 large, frozen and thawed shrimp, uncooked and unshelled - about 1 pound
1 small ripe mango, sliced into strips
1 small avocado, sliced into strips
1/4 cup peanuts, roughly chopped
12 long strips of red bell pepper
12 large butter lettuce leaves, more if needed
~1/4 cup each of fresh thai basil, mint, and cilantro
1/4 cup scallions, chopped
12 summer roll wrappers

1. To make the coconut-lemongrass dipping sauce, place all ingredients in a blender and blend on high-speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Pour sauce into a bowl and refrigerate until needed

2. To make the noodles, place dry noodles in a medium bowl. In a larger bowl, whisk together the fish sauce, vinegar, sugar, red pepper flakes, and salt. Bring 4 cups water (roughly - no need to measure) to a boil. Pour hot water over noodles and let sit for 10 minutes. Drain and rinse with cool water. Let drain again until all water has been removed. Toss noodles with sauce and let sit until ready to make rolls

3. To cook the shrimp, bring a large pot of water to a boil. When boiling, salt heavily and turn heat down to medium-high. Add the shrimp and cook for 2-3 minutes or until shrimp are red and tails have curled under slightly. Drain and rinse with cool water. Remove shells

4. To make rolls, lay out all filling ingredients on plates and platters so they are accessible. Fill a pie dish or large bowl with warm water for rehydrating rice wrappers (you will need to keep replenishing the warm water as it cools). Place one wrapper in warm water and let sit for 1 minute. When soft, lay wrapper flat on a dish towel. Place 1 butter lettuce leaf in the center followed by ~2 tablespoons noodles, 1 slice mango, 1 slice avocado, 1 strip bell pepper, 2 shrimp, 1 teaspoon peanuts, 1 teaspoon scallions, and 2 leaves each of basil, mint, and cilantro. Fold the left and right sides of the wrapper toward the center over the ingredients. Then fold the bottom side of the wrapper up over the center. Using your fingers to hold the ingredients in place, start to roll up from the bottom, making sure the sides stay folded in and the ingredients aren't pushed out the top. Continue to roll until you have reached the top and the 'package' is complete

How To Make Overnight Oats

When I discovered the awesomeness of overnight oats sometime near the beginning of my trudge towards my Masters degree, it was game-changing. I was still vegetarian at the time (a whole other post) and I didn't really eat eggs or dairy (I know. How the times have changed), so breakfasts were pretty lame. Think plain oatmeal, peanut butter-banana toast, or maybe a tofu scramble if I had time. But when I made my first overnight oats that were 1. delicious 2. portable and 3. crazy quick to make I knew I was on to something worth experimenting with. After all, I was in school full-time and working 20 hours so that left very little time to cook (which I find ironic because I was working toward my Masters in Nutrition...). I digress. The truth is, though, that I'm not very good at writing down recipes. I kind of just throw everything together and hope it works out (I'm a bit more controlled when it comes to baking, but not much). So that's why it's taken me almost 5 years to come up with a 'overnight oats formula'. But I finally did and here it is! 

The great thing about overnight oats (aka bircher muesli or soaked oatmeal) is that they are completely customizable to your tastes and/or what's on hand in the fridge and pantry. Which, in our kitchen, means there are probably 1000 different possible combinations. One of my favorites, though, is blueberries, almonds, coconut, and chia seeds. This is the flavor combo that I've used for this post, but feel free to be creative and daring! I often use The Flavor Bible to come up with interesting ideas:
- Raspberry, mint, coconut butter, ginger
- Figs, reduced balsamic, walnuts, vanilla, marscapone
- Cherries, dark chocolate, chili pepper
- Kiwi, coconut milk, pineapple, mango, macademia nut

So many options! What's your favorite? 

// Overnight Oats: A Formula // - serves 1
If you're a busy student like I was or find it hard to fit in breakfast during the busy work week, overnight oats are for you. They're so simple and easy not to mention delicious and filling. And there is really no limit to the number of different flavor combos you can create for overnight oats. Try experimenting with different fruits, nuts, seeds, nut butters, milks, spices, and even rolled grains like rye, barley, or spelt. The options are endless!  

1/2 cup rolled oats (not quick-cooking or steel cut)
1/3 cup fresh fruit
1/4 cup mix-ins (dried fruit, nuts, seeds, etc...)
1 teaspoon sweetener or 1 large date chopped  
Pinch of salt
3/4 cup milk of your choice
2 tablespoons plain yogurt
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract or other extract

1. Place all ingredients in a small bowl or mason jar and mix well. Cover and place in fridge overnight. That's it!