Northwest Christmas Traditions

by Carlye Cunniff
( December 18th, 2015 )

Northwest Christmas Traditions


When I was little, I wanted everything about my life to be the same as I saw in Christmas movies. Christmas was certainly portrayed as a day when the world transformed from the chaotic place it actually was to a snow – covered landscape, magically silent and peaceful.


Unfortunately for me, I spent my childhood in sunny California, and my later childhood in rainy Washington. Though my Christmas memories are relatively peaceful (except for the time my dog stole my sister’s entire brick of fudge and spent the entire day throwing up) – we didn’t have many white Christmas’s. The Northwest just didn’t seem like a very Christmas-y place when I was a kid. It always seemed like we did things just a little bit differently here, and I wanted to fit in with all those folks in Vermont who had snow and cabins and maple syrup.


Of course, I look back at those childish memories now and wonder what I was thinking. Of course there is not a typical Christmas, every family rejoices in it’s own unique traditions. Though I still think there is something slightly magical about Christmas time, I realize the snow-cabin-maple syrup combo is not where the magic comes from.


That being said, I wanted to take the time to document what’s different about a Christmas spent in the great northwest – if someone where to visit Seattle during this time of year what would make their Christmas season uniquely Northwest-y? These Northwest Christmas traditions are just what I’ve gathered, I’m sure there are many more out there! 


Aside from the specifics I’m about to launch into, a Christmas is the Northwest just feels different than Christmas’s I’ve spent elsewhere. Our tables are generally stocked with lighter fare, it’s not too cold to enjoy long periods of time outside (snowshoeing or skiing if you live in the mountains, or just longs walks if you don’t), and everywhere you turn are evergreen trees, just waiting to be decorated.


Northwest Christmas Traditions


Perhaps the most exciting part of this post is the food part. This is a food blog, after all. Us Northwest folks love to celebrate the Christmas season with fresh, Dungeness crab, simply prepared with garlic and butter. Dungeness is delightfully in-season during the holidays, and families from San Francisco to Seattle love to stock their holiday tables with it.


The demand for crab on Northwest Christmas tables is enough to make the headlines this year because of the shortage of the fresh seafood in Northwest waters. Warmer than usual water temperatures have allowed toxic algae to stick around longer that normal, contaminating crab normally wild caught for Christmas tables. The crab is most affected in California and Oregon waters – some Washington fishing folk are still able to safely catch crab.


If you’re looking for a little northwest holiday fare for your table, the best way to prepare crab is simple. Boil live crabs in salted water with lemon and vinegar, then roast them with butter oil and garlic. Serve with fresh sourdough bread, a simple side salad and pingo grigio. For a more in-depth recipe, see Crab For Christmas, from SFGate. 


The other holiday food tradition that seems fairly unique to this part of the country is the growing popularity of going out for Chinese food rather than cooking Christmas dinner at home. Of course, eating Chinese food over Christmas is an American tradition, but Seattle’s awesome Chinese food scene makes our celebration extra-special.


Seattle’s International District is home to a plethora of restaurants, many of which will stay open over the holidays. Many folks choose to dine out over the holidays so more time can be spent enjoying the company of friends and family. For others, it’s a great way to be around people if you’re family isn’t in town, or you’re looking for a lively atmosphere in which to celebrate.


Many restaurants in the International District will serve special menu items for the holidays – things like turkey potstickers.


For an in-depth look at where to find great dining on Christmas, check out Best Asian Restaurants: Northwest By Far East from Seattle Met. This article breaks down Asian cuisine into multiple different cuisines, from all over Asia, but I’m not complaining. 


The final holiday tradition that is distinctly Northwest inspired is watching the Christmas ships float by. In true Northwest style, the water is where many of our traditions stem from. The ships (bedecked with Christmas lights) travel to multiple water destinations throughout the season, bringing carolers and Santa along with them. Coastal communities gather to greet the ships, usually around a large bon fire.


Though food is not the staple tradition of the Christmas ship event, many Seattle natives plan specific celebrations for the arrival of the ships. Cooking outside is a common practice while awaiting the ships – meals of smoked meats, bbbq’d salmon and simple picnic fare are highly anticipated.


For those celebrators who want an even more Northwest experience, you can get on one of the Christmas ships and sail around the area. For more information about the ship schedule, see Argosy Cruises. 


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Best Gifts for Home Cooks

by Carlye Cunniff
( December 15th, 2015 )

Best Gifts for Home Cooks

If you are anything like me, the holidays are approaching, fast. Though most of my gifts are settled, wrapped and sitting nicely under the tree (ha!) there are few home cooks on my list that aren’t quite covered yet.

Never fear food – loving friends! This post is dedicated to the procrastinators out there, those of you who haven’t even started shopping. It also serves nicely as a running list of items that can be purchased for me, if anyone out there has me on their list. Hint, hint.

These kitchen – inspired gifts range from the obsessive home cook to the person who watches the kitchen from afar, dreaming about all the meals they’ll make, someday. I think you can find something on this list for everyone – I mean, eating is essential to the human condition, so how could you go wrong?

These are the best gifts for home cooks, but they might just be the best gifts, ever. 

Mini Round Cocotte – Le Creuset 

Le Creuset anything is really a fantastic gift choice. Mini Cocotte’s are a perfect gift – they can serve as a lovely introduction to the world of Le Creuset (or the world of cooking en cocotte) or round out an already impressive collection of Le Creuset. They are an item a home cook is unlikely to purchase for themselves, but once they have them, they’ll use them all the time. Part of the fun is thinking of new ways to use your cocotte’s – this gift is especially good for cooks who are always making meals for one or two, or who love to experiment.

 

Best Gifts for Home Cooks

 

Fresh Cheese Making Kit – Cultures For Health

There is nothing like fresh cheese, especially cheese you’ve made yourself! Cultures for Health sells all sorts of fermenting kits, but cheese-making always sounds the most exciting to me. It’s also much easier than it seems, especially with the thorough instructions the site provides. A great gift for those that covet the natural and homemade.

Arti Scale – Escali

One knows they are moving up in the home cooking world when they acquire a scale – and this one is one of the best. Easy to ready, a huge variety of colors, and the capacity to weight up to 15 pounds of goodness makes the Arti Scale by Escali a perfect choice for home cooks everywhere.

Coffee Subscription – Blue Bottle

Giving a gift that lasts beyond the Christmas season is always exciting – for both the gifter and the giftee. A subscription to a high-quality coffee delivery service like Blue Bottle is a lovely surprise for a food loving friend, especially when paired with a festive french press.

Mortar and Pestle – Milton Brook

 A mortar and pestle is admittedly a bit of luxury item when it comes to a home kitchen, but what is gifting for if not luxury? In some circles, you aren’t considered a real cook unless you’re using a mortar and pestle to grind the true flavor out of everything. So there’s that. This one by Milton Brook is also gorgeous. I got it as a gift last Christmas, and it hold a coveted spot on my counter top.

Best Gifts for Home Cooks

Sous Vide Cooking Tool – Joule

If you’re buying for a home cook who seems to have it all, Joule may be your answer. This brand-spanking new cooking innovation isn’t technically available yet – you’ll be purchasing an item that will start shipping in May. Joule utilizes the art of sous vide cooking (a method that uses low temperature water and long cooking times to cook food to perfection) combined with high – tech software. One can monitor and control Joule from a phone app – essentially creating gourmet meals at the touch of a button. Sign me up!

Fancy Oils and Vinegars – Wei Kitchen

Wei Kitchen is a small, Seattle – based company that seeks to bring the art of Asian cooking to everyone’s home. Wei sells unique oils and vinegars that can be used for a huge variety of home –  cooked goodness – from fancy dishes to bread dipping.

A CSA Subscription 

Another gift that keeps on giving, especially for the adventurous home cook. It might be hard to find a CSA subscription that starts in the winter, depending on where you live, but even a summer CSA to look forward to is a welcome gift for a foodie.

Ready-To-Grow-Herb-Kit – Wind and Weather

Ah, fresh herbs! We all know they taste better, look better and make us all around more impressive home cooks. The trouble is having them on hand when we make a spur of the moment meal. Fret over the herbs no more, and give the gift of a ready to grow herb kit. What could be lovelier than a pot overflowing with edible shrubbery?

A Beautiful Cookbook 

I love cook books. I’m the kind of person who reads a cookbook like a novel though, so keep that in mind while I wax poetic. If you have a home cook on your list anything like me, you really can’t go wrong with a cook book. If the person is new to the home cooking scene, consider a classic, like  Saveur – The New Classics Cookbook. If you are shopping for someone more seasoned, a specific cook book might hit the spot – my personal favs are The Smitten Kitchen, Bowl + Spoon, and Super Natural Everyday. 

Did I miss something? Feel free to let us know in the comments section!

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Chocolate Cranberry Chia Seed Pudding

by Carlye Cunniff
( December 8th, 2015 )

Chocolate Cranberry Chia Seed Pudding

I am a recent convert to chia seed puddings, and man oh man, am I glad I converted. I make chia seed puddings the night before, so breakfast is as simple as putting everything in the blender the next morning. This chocolate cranberry chia seed pudding is simple, full of super foods (cranberries, honey, chia seeds) and even a bit festive for busy holiday mornings.

Chocolate Cranberry Chia Seed Pudding

Have a different variation of chia seed pudding? Let us know in the comments!

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Ingredients (for two servings of chia seed pudding):

1/2 Cup chia seeds

1 Cup hemp milk  + 2 Tablespoons (you can use any type of milk or milk substitute)

1/2 Cup frozen cranberries

1-2 Tablespoons honey, depending on how sweet you’d like your pudding

1 Tablespoon cocoa powder

1 Teaspoon Cinnamon

Chocolate Cranberry Chia Seed Pudding

Directions:

The night before you’d like your pudding, stir chia seeds and 1 Cup of hemp milk together, cover and put in the fridge overnight.

The next morning, give the chia/milk mixture a stir, then add it to the blender with the cranberries, honey, cocoa powder and cinnamon. As the mixture blends, add in the remaining hemp milk, just to give it a little more moisture.

Top with a few frozen cranberries and enjoy!

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