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America’s Test Kitchens taps local cooking blogger for project

  • Written by Deborah Stone
ATK
Bothell resident Megan Pence has been tapped by American’s Test Kitchen as one of six bloggers to host a dinner party to review the company’s soon-to-be-released “Menu Cookbook.”
Megan Pence’s love of cooking and sharing her experiences in the kitchen with others led her to begin blogging about everything from recipes and techniques to cookbooks she finds useful.

She’s been at it for about a year and a half now and currently has close to 1,000 fans and followers. “It’s been such a fun ride,” says Pence, “and I feel like I’m constantly improving the site the longer I do it.”

The Bothell woman was inspired to create her blog after being introduced to a blog written by Ree Drummond or “Pioneer Woman” as she calls herself.

“I spent endless hours reading her posts and trying her recipes,” explains Pence. “I was hooked. She is like the cool aunt, my long distance best friend and someone who lives the life I always dreamed – on a cattle ranch surrounded by beauty and a gorgeous family. I’m a dreamer of white picket fences, horses, vast spaces, a huge kitchen with a country sink and endless counter space.”

She adds, “Ree was my inspiration to jump on the blogging bandwagon.” Pence’s blog is titled “Wanna Be A Country Cleaver,” a name that originated from her college days at WSU.

A friend dubbed her a modern day June Cleaver, commenting that she felt Pence best represented this image due to her love of old fashioned country style living. “I’ve always been a fan of the whole country thing,” says Pence. “And when I lived in Eastern Washington, I rode horses and even became a competitive lumberjack.”

The local woman, who works full time as a document control manager for Brightwater and teaches cake decorating classes part time, makes it a habit to cook almost every other day. She likes taking existing recipes and making them her own or developing new dishes from scratch.

As she cooks, she documents and photographs each step in the process for her blog. Desserts are her forte, as she is a baker at heart.

“I mastered the art of the chocolate chip cookie by the time I was nine,” she says. “Basically, I love anything with chocolate or custard. I’ve branched out to other areas, though I admit I’m still intimidated by cooking specialty meats, like rack of lamb for example. That’s something I’d really like to learn.” Pence is up front and humorous about the happenings in her kitchen, both the good and the bad. She is the first one to acknowledge that not everything goes according to plan.

A few weeks ago, she had a major cooking disaster. “I was making roast chicken,” she explains. “My oven was fluctuating temperature 25 degrees in either direction and though I thought I had fresh chicken, it turned out that the bird was partially frozen inside. I cooked it for an extra forty minutes and between the broken oven and the still frozen bird, it was a mess. I burst into tears and dumped it into the trash in a weepy girl fit. It went from a date night of supposedly roast chicken with my fiancé to a grilled cheese and tomato soup night in a hurry!”

Recently, Pence got word that she was tapped by America’s Test Kitchen as one of six bloggers to host a dinner party to review the company’s soon-to-be released “Menu Cookbook.” Each of the chosen bloggers will give a “Food and Friends” dinner party for eight with a different theme ranging from Provencal bistro to family style Italian. They will share their experiences before, during and after the event via their blogs.

To be selected for the project, bloggers had to explain why they thought they would be the perfect host for an America’s Test Kitchen dinner party. In her response, Pence described how food is the staple of any family or friendly get-together, gathering or celebration.

She wrote, “Food brings people together. It also provides us a link to our pasts when the dishes we grew up with are placed before us, allowing us a chance to reminisce about the ‘good ol’days.’ Good food gives us an opportunity to create new memories that branch off from the ones made around the dinner table.”

Pence explained that she would be a great hostess simply because of the fabulous friends she has who share their time with her and who bond together over their common passion for good food, laughter and adventure.

When she heard the news that she had been selected as one of the hosts, the local woman was thrilled. She views the project as a wonderful opportunity, adding: “It’s monumental for a small-time blogger like me. I’m so excited!”

Pence will be preparing the Family Style Italian Sunday Supper Menu, an array of dishes that includes Homemade Ricotta, One Pot Bolognese, Arugula Salad with Figs and Prosciutto and Chocolate-dipped Pistachio Biscotti with Vin Santo.

Pence will practice making some of the various items before the party and then see what elements she can prepare ahead of the event to take some of the pressure off of the actual day. She is looking forward to learning to cook some new dishes and appreciates the challenge she has been given.

“I like challenging myself in the kitchen,” she adds. “It’s fun trying new things and it makes me feel accomplished when I succeed. Cooking is such a gratifying pursuit for me. And I do love the eating part, especially when in the company of good friends.”

The local woman plans to continue with her blog, as it is a satisfying outlet for her. Her goal is to write a cookbook one day and if she dares to dream big, maybe even have her own show on the Food Network.

“That would be the epitome for me,” she says.

To follow Megan Pence on her blog, go to: www.wannabeacountrycleaver.blogspot.com.

Baby shoes help support orphaned children in Kenya

  • Written by Woodinville Weekly Staff

shoes
These adorable baby shoes were designed by Chantal Garceau. Courtesy photo.
Chantal Garceau, a longtime Woodinville resident, is turning her design and craft skills into a small social enterprise creating baby shoes which are sold to support children orphaned by HIV/AIDS in Kenya.

All proceeds from chantal’s little shoes go to support orphans through the Imani Project.

Garceau, who started her career as a sportswear designer in Canada, wanted to use her design and craft skills to make a difference in the lives of needy children. After retiring from teaching high school a few years ago, Garceau found a new calling when she began sponsoring a child through the Imani Project. She founded chantal’s little shoes as an endeavor to help more children orphaned in Kenya.

What started as a one woman enterprise is growing to a network of volunteer groups like a seniors group in Leavenworth which is crocheting and felting the little shoes designed by Garceau. She created more than a dozen designs of the baby shoes and is introducing new designs for special occasions.

For the 2011 holiday season, she is featuring Jingle Bells and Holly Beary along with the original creations that range from animal designs like a yellow and black bumble bee to the soft gray “Rosie Dog” inspired by her beloved mini-Australian shepherd.

A Woodinville group is forming for volunteers who want to give their time and skill to the project. “Hands for Little Shoes” allows individuals to become involved in small tasks that add up to making a big difference. Training will be provided for those who would like to get involved.

An informational meeting will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 29th at 7 p.m. For more information, contact Chantal Garceau at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or facebook.com/Chantalslittleshoes. Chantal’s little shoes are sold online at etsy.com/shop/Chantalslittleshoes. The enterprise is located at 18824 NE 157th St. in Woodinville.

www.chantalslittleshoes.com; www.imaniproject.org.

Surviving the holidays with a special needs child

  • Written by Amy Sabol, Special to The Weekly

With the holidays right around the corner it is important to remember the families in our community raising special needs children.  For these unique families simple things that we all take for granted, such as shopping trips and traditional holiday events, can be at times very overwhelming and seemingly impossible.

As the parent of a six-year-old with autism the holiday season has been trial by fire for us, but with each passing year we are finally starting to pick up a few useful ideas.

The big event last year was a trip to a nearby tree farm to pick out the perfect Christmas tree. Because of my son Daniel’s autism, he is very sensitive and reacts unpredictably to loud noises, and in last year’s case, we had failed to recall the power saws they use at the farm.  My little guy spent the entire time screaming, covering his ears, trying to lie down and hide his face on the muddy ground and climbing up my leg looking for relief.

The experience was a total bust. By the time we had the tree tied to the top of our van, even the Grinch himself would have been ashamed of our attitudes.

Ever determined, we will once again venture back to the farm, but we are going to do things a bit differently.  It is tremendously important to us that our son gets to experience as many of our family adventures as possible.

Of course, being one of four siblings and unable to express what he is especially interested in, he gets dragged along on a lot of outings. I understand that his screaming and trying to climb my leg was a wild attempt to tell me that Christmas tree farms were not his thing, but we are a family that loves our adventures and I am still going to give it one more go.  I have a couple of reasons for this.

For one thing, Daniel is keen on repeating the word tree lately and as any special needs parent can contest, if your child expresses an interest in something you bend over backwards to accommodate it.  Furthermore, I feel that his being able to see where the tree came from and the process involved in bringing it into our home is important.  I understand that this will not explain why there is suddenly a huge pine tree in the middle of our living room when he’s not permitted to bring in so much as a branch, but he will at least know where this big tree came from.

So what will I do differently? To start, I will bring along the construction grade ear muffs that I bought Daniel for last year’s Fourth of July parade.  They seemed effective at canceling out the fire engine sirens so I am hoping they will put a damper on the chain saws.  I am also going to bring along his favorite treat, fruit snacks, and hand him one out of my pocket every few minutes to keep him feeling like there’s something worth while going on here.

We are not going to be picky about a tree; I am happy to take whatever we can grab.  Truth be told, they are all exquisite at this farm.  We will make things short but sweet.

Last not least, we will bring two cars just in case.  A back-up plan that allows me to leave with Daniel while our other children finish the outing is always the ideal.

If my plan does not work, then my son and I will stay home next year and bake cookies while the rest of the troop venture out for a tree.  More accurately, I will bake cookies and Daniel will throw flour passionately into the air and watch it slowly sprinkle down, dusting the kitchen making it look like a winter wonderland. You see he can be very festive in his own way.

My advice to parents of little ones like mine is keep trying.  Do not let one failed experience stop you from giving the same adventure one more go.

Whether it is a trip to the grocery store or a day at the farm, put as much planning and strategizing into the event as possible and know that although our little ones can not always express appropriate excitement or appreciation, I believe that they are truly happy when they get to be just one of the kids.

Woodinville is home to over 2500 children with varying degrees of special needs. Please remember to have a little extra patience with these families and their children during this busy time of year and know that an understanding smile goes a long way.

‘WHO’S YOUR FARMER?’

  • Written by Valley View Staff

Local farmers highlighted in Jerry Mader’s latest book

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jerrymCarnation author Jerry Mader signs a copy of his book “Saving the Soil” at the Duvall Farmers Market Farm and Holiday Artisan Fair on Nov. 1. Photo by Lisa Allen.

Jerry Mader didn’t let any grass grow under his feet, so to speak, after completing “Carnation Verbatim—A Snoqualmie Valley Memoir,”  a close-up look at some of Carnation’s oldest residents.

The local author went to work immediately on his next project – a book about local farmers, which has just been released.

In researching “Saving the Soil – The New American Farmer,” he interviewed several Snoqualmie Valley farmers to get a grasp of the challenges they face today and the reasons why they tackle such an obviously difficult job.

Mader says that among all the issues concerning Americans today, the quality and safety of the food we buy every day for our families is near the top of the list.

“We want to know where our food comes from and the identity of the people who produce it,” he says. “Yet most of us feel it is impossible to find out. Who your farmer really is remains a mystery.”

In the book, Mader succeeds in clearing up much of that mystery, at least as it relates to local food production, as he shares the experiences and histories of nine of the Valley’s local farmers who produce everything from vegetables to milk.

He says the farmers, although most of them came to farming from non-agricultural backgrounds, all share in wanting to grow healthy food and have a relationship with the community that eats it, through farmers markets and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs.

“Saving the Soil” is a 350-page coffee table book (81/2” X 11”) with 272 black and white photos.

Mader is also the author of “The Road to Lame Deer,” an anthropological memoir about tribal life on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in Montana in the early 1970s.

“Saving the Soil—The New American Farmer” is available for $39.95 directly from Tolt River Press, or by calling (425) 333-6989.

Mader says he is in the process of  interviewing the subjects for his next book – the local Hmong people (many of them also farmers) who came to the area from Laos as refugees decades ago.

Men in Kilts! The Celtic Arts Foundation annual Masters of Scottish Arts Concert

  • Written by Woodinville Weekly Staff

It’s one of the finest assemblages of world class Scottish performing artists ever. And yes, there will be lots of men in kilts! Traditional bagpipes, borderpipes, smallpipes, fiddles, drums and dancers will all descend on Benaroya Hall for one night only at the highly anticipated Masters of Scottish Arts Concert February 10, 2012, 7:30 p.m. at Benaroya Hall. The Scottish people have a reputation for fun and celebration, and this concert is exactly that.

The Mount Vernon Wash.-based Celtic Arts Foundation works all year to gather the best of the best from around the world and the 2012 roster includes:

•   Eight pipers (6 from Scotland, 2 from Canada)

•   Five drummers (1 from Northern Ireland, 1 from Scotland, 2 from Canada, 1 from the United States)

•   Three fiddlers (1 from Scotland, 2 from Cape Breton Island Nova Scotia)

Of the pipers, Fred Morrison’s unique free-flowing yet expressive abilities on the Scottish smallpipes are in sharp contrast with the award winning Dr. Gary West whose impressive knowledge of Celtic folk music and bagpiping history is not to be ignored. Match them with Roddy MacLeod, MBE, one of the most successful piping competitors on the circuit today, and you have an unforgettable evening of pipes.

Flying fingers and tunes performed with unbelievable precision – Scottish natives and Celtic newbies will all delight in the skillful presentations by multiple piping and drumming Gold Medalists and world champions.

Fiddlers include: Andrea Beaton and Troy MacGillivray, (Cape Breton, Nova Scotia) and Deirdre Morrison (wife of Fred Morrison, Bishopton, Scotland); Pipers: Brian Donaldson (East Lothian, Scotland), Murray Henderson (New Zealand) Stuart Liddell (Inveraray, Scotland), Willie McCallum (Glasgow, Scotland), Roddy MacLeod, MBE, (Glasgow, Scotland), Jack Lee (Burnaby, BC) and Bruce Gandy Halifax, Nova Scotia); and Drummers: Michael Cole (Chicago, IL), Tyler Fry, (Ontario, Canada), John Scullion (Ireland),) Arthur Cook (West Lothian, Scotland), and Blair Brown (Ontario, Canada). Four dancers from Seattle and Vancouver B.C., skilled in the art of traditional Celtic dance, add to the evening.

Tickets are on sale now. Prices range from $23-$44 and are available by phone 1-866-833-4747, through the Benaroya Hall box office (M-F 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sat 1-6 p.m.) or online at www.benaroyahall.org.

Celtic Arts Foundation

The Celtic Arts Foundation (CAF) is based in Washington state. They produce Scottish, Irish and Celtic cultural events, provide scholarships to aspiring Celtic artists, and have an international focus. The Celtic Arts Foundation was founded in 1997, and received its 501 (c)(3) status from the IRS in March of 1998. The CAF mission is to “sponsor, encourage and promote Celtic culture through events and educational activities.”