Saturday, December 24, 2011

Winter 2011 PDX Food Swap Recap

A hearty thank you to all who participated in our Winter PDX Food Swap on December 11th.

Amazing to think that one year after our inaugural swap, the mini documentary about our event produced by Cooking Up a Story, along with mentions in the Huffington Post, New York Times, food magazines, blogs, and other news sources inspired the founding of countless Food Swaps around the country as well as this fall's recent launch of The Food Swap Network.

Each of you who have put thought and care into your food and shared it with friends are to be thanked for this fantastic new(old!) community celebration.

As I depart Portland for extended travels and Sustainable Food for Thought grows into a new chapter, Lindsay Strannigan of Rosemarried will take over hosting the PDX Food Swap seasonally in 2012. You will continue to find information on upcoming swaps here, on our PDX Swappers Facebook Page, and on Twitter.

In the meantime, enjoy the peek at this month's delicious swap goods... 
(in no particular order)

mustard, kimchi, oatcakes, herbal tea...
jerusalem artichokes, apple sauce
nut butter, granola, spiced nuts
cranberry sauce or chutney, bread & butter pickles, pickled beans, eggs, beer
brown red wine mustard, sweet mustard sauces, red wine vinegar, jams
fruitcakes, herb chai
spicy pickles, blueberry nutmeg jam, honey, rosemary & balsamic pumpkin butter
challah and baguettes
salted caramels and caramel sauce
jams, jellies, fruit mostarda, flavored vinegar
cranberry ketchup, caramelized onion marmalade, biscotti
bread, jam, wheat berries, bagels, sauerkraut, eggs
chocolate-fig bars
various pickled veggies, home-baked goods
apple maple jam
vanilla spiced pear butter
grape jelly
drinking vinegar
homemade mustards, granola, custom spice & salt blends
canned heirloom tomatoes 

A farewell photo with Lindsay Strannigan of Rosemarried

As always, we're so grateful to Abby at Abby's Table for sharing her wonderful space.

Thanks one and all for another delightful array of home made, hand crafted goodness!
Have a wonderful holiday season with family, friends, and good food, and a merry 2012.

I'll be thinking of you swappers this next year while I'm away. Thank you all for the opportunity to get to know you and to share and receive from your lovely pantries of thoughtfully made foods.  I'll be eager to return to swapping again once I'm home, perhaps with a few foreign recipes up my sleeve? All the best to you between now and then...

Until we swap again,

PS: If you have photos or stories from the event, please do share. Feel free to post on the Facebook Page, link in the comments below, or send a note at via the contact form above.

Want to keep up to date on future swaps?
The easiest way is to like the PDX Swappers Facebook page
and follow us on Twitter.

Stay tuned for updates on the PDX Swappers Spring 2012 Swap date.

{ Interested in Starting Your Own Swap? }

Remember, The Food Swap Network launched this fall!
Visit the site for more details.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A New Season at Sustainable Food for Thought

Friends, with an adventurous heart and a bit of wonder at the seasons of life, I'm writing today to share about changes at Sustainable Food for Thought.

This past summer, after several years of running Sustainable Food for Thought, hosting Food Groups, and offering her front porch as a bulk food drop point, Emily Pastor transitioned from life in the Pacific Northwest to a new home and writing opportunities in Chicago, Illinois. Beginning this new season, she will be sharing her life and writing at

Autumn found me wrapping up commitments and making arrangements to begin a year long journey with my husband to explore the far corners of the earth. While I'm away from Portland during 2012, I'll be sharing photos and stories from our travels at

Though we've ceased our dear Sustainable Food for Thought Food Group gatherings, bulk buying arrangements, and Portland-area adventures, I'm glad to remind you of a few of the new and continuing opportunities led by Food Group friends:

The PDX Food Swap will remain meeting seasonally, led by friend and local Portland food blogger, Lindsay Strannigan of Rosemarried. (Hint: if you're looking for scrumptious recipes making the most of seasonal foods, be sure to bookmark her site!)

Lastly for this update, keep an eye out for a soon-coming post with proper introductions to our new 2012 Contributing Writers! I'm so excited to welcome them as they bring inspiration and encouragement to our group of food friends, sharing their real life, real food experiences.

To each of you readers and friends, thank you for the past years of sharing the Sustainable Food for Thought adventure with us! We're hopeful to see how the next season unfolds and always grateful to look over our shoulders and see the blessings of journeying with you...

~Bethany & Emily

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Reflections on Small-Batch Canning

Why small-batch? There are many reasons why this type of canning has become popular, but for me it’s all about breaking my love for food projects into manageable units. I have memories of watching my mom making jams and jellies on a huge scale, but I don’t possess either the space or the saint-like perseverance to devote to canning on that level. This is only my second year to can on my own, so I’m also still a bit nervous about the whole process. That’s probably an understatement.

I’m neurotic about canning procedure.

I admit it. I worry. I check and recheck (and recheck) directions.

I listen anxiously for each little “ping!” while the jars are cooling.

This means that I am a slow and cautious cook when it comes to putting food into jars, so preserving in small batches really works well for me.

Despite my anxiety over canning, I love the results.

Popping open a jar of yummy goodness in the middle of a dreary Oregon winter just makes me happy.

I was especially excited about canning this fall, because I received a fantastic gift from my in-laws: freshly picked fruit from their small, but productive, hundred-year-old orchard. They had an excellent apple and pear harvest this year and I was lucky enough share in both the labor of bringing in the fruit and the delicious rewards!

I started by turning a sack full of those apples (mixed with some I had purchased elsewhere) into five pints of applesauce. My daughter loves the stuff and I think Grandma and Grandpa’s apples make her like it even more. I like mine with minimal sugar and lots of spice - cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg - whatever I have on hand. The brilliant thing about making applesauce is that it’s very forgiving, which makes it perfect for anxious canners, like myself.

I also had several pounds of pears from their very large, very ancient Bartlett tree to work with. These became four half-pints of pear cardamom butter, using a recipe from Tart and Sweet. Only four half-pints, you might wonder? Yes. I was surprised as well, because I fervently adhered to the recipe, as is my nature to do, and the recipe promised seven half-pints. But my experience with fruit butters is that yields are approximate. The small amount I did end up with is delicious – sweet and spicy from the cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves with a hint of licorice, thanks to star anise pods, which I’d never cooked with before.  I have a feeling it will be delicious with some blue cheese on crackers this winter!

Although I feel like my autumn preserving efforts were modest at best, I was truly blessed by the experience of tramping out into the orchard and working with fruit that would be considered too imperfect for the grocery store, but made up for all of its superficial flaws in depth of flavor. Foraging a harvest from those gnarled and knobby trees, which have essentially been left in their wild, natural state, was a unique and rewarding experience.

Those old trees outdid themselves this year and we’ll be enjoying their bounty all through the winter. So much to be thankful for as we approach the end of the harvest season!

More inspiration & recipe tips: Craigslist Apples & Cardamom Apple Butter

Rebekah Pike is most happy with her nose in a book and enjoys making the most of her pint-sized, apartment kitchen. After leaving her job in media production to become a full-time mommy, she began exploring the sustainable living movement and reconnected with the back-to-the-earth ideals of her hippie parents. In 2005, her love of Oregon’s rugged outdoors led to a summer job as a camp counselor, where she met her husband, Darian. Most of their time is spent chasing after their two year old daughter, Ashlynn, and doing serious “research” at restaurants, coffee shops and markets around Portland.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Winter 2011 Portland Hand Crafted Food Swap

Registration is Now Open for our Winter 2011 Portland Hand Crafted Food Swap!
Hosted by Rosemarried & Sustainable Food for Thought at Abby's Table in SE Portland

Invite Friends & Spread the Word:

After putting up, whipping up, drying, canning, soaking, mixing, stacking, sorting, and setting aside, come celebrate by bringing your favorite creations to swap with fellow Portland foodies. A Food Swap is part silent auction/part village marketplace/part fun-loving open house where your homemade creations (breads, preserves, special concoctions, canned goods, etc.) become your own personal currency for use in swapping with other participants. What better way to diversify your pantry and rub shoulders with friend and neighbors?

When: Sunday, December 11, 2011, 2pm-4pm*
(*Please note the early start time for this swap!)

Where: Abby's Table, 609 SE Ankeny Street, Portland, OR 97214

What: Bring an assortment of your homemade edible specialties to exchange for other handcrafted delights. Sustainable Food For Thought will provide swapping cards, name tags, and organization for the event. You will be given the opportunity to offer trades in a silent-auction type format, and you will be free to choose which trades to accept for your products. Bring as much or as little as you like; there are no caps or minimums.

Who: Pacific Northwesterners {aka the Willamette Valley, the Portland Metro Area, and our Neighbors to the North}. Please note, we are unable to provide childcare for this event.

Cost: Swap participants will be given free entry; a donation jar will be available to help cover the cost of supplies. (Or, better yet, donate one of your hand crafted goods!)


a) RSVP below with your name, contact info, & description of items you plan to trade.

Register early! Due to limited space, we are capping the number of swappers at 35 and will maintain a waiting list.

b) On Sunday the 11th, please bring your hand crafted goods and be read to swap!

c) Simple as that! We’re excited as always to meet one another and celebrate the bounty of the seasons and the fruits of our labor. If you have any questions about the swap, please refer to this handy list of FAQs.

d) Please note the early start time for this particular swap. Make sure to arrive at 2:00pm so we can get started on time. In addition, there will be no appetizer potluck for this swap. Instead, bring extras of the goods you plan to swap so that people can taste and sample.

Registration for this event is now closed. If you would like to be placed on the waiting list, please send an email to Thank you!

Registration is now closed for this event.
All registrants will receive an email confirmation.
Thank you, and we hope to see you on December 11th!

Monday, November 7, 2011

A Community Garden Story

“A community is the mental and spiritual condition of knowing that the place is shared, and that the people who share the place define and limit the possibilities of each other's lives. It is the knowledge that people have of each other, their concern for each other, their trust in each other, the freedom with which they come and go among themselves.” ― Wendell Berry
Last year, not too many months after my husband and I partnered with a local non-profit to start a Transitional Housing Project in Montavilla, we attended a Community Food Forum in the neighborhood. The meeting raised awareness about the conditions and needs of under resourced residents in our corner of Portland. 

We were so grateful this past spring when a local church worked up some of its vacant land, built garden plots, fenced in the area, and opened sign ups to apartment dwellers and neighbors without access to land.

Matt Lawer with the Central Bible Church Community Garden graciously gave our Transitional Housing Program access to our own garden plot, and we enjoyed inviting friends and neighbors from the Program to take part in planting, growing, and harvesting their own fresh food.

We're also incredibly grateful to Jeff Michaels of Cascade Organic for donating an enormous variety of heirloom veggie starts.

{Springtime Planting}

{Growing Food & Friendships}

{Edible Lessons}

A few of our apartment girls game out one summer evening to learn how to harvest and cook fresh greens. After a how-to and taste-test hosted in my kitchen, one of the girls game back 20 minutes later to show off her own cooking skills. She'd gone home and re-created the dish all by herself!

Therein lies the beauty of teaching and sharing: young people empowered to get dirt under their nails, try new foods, cook for themselves, and share the table with neighbors. 


{Summer & Autumn Harvests}
 Again, beautiful heirloom tomatoes grown from starts
donated by Jeff Michaels of Cascade Organic 

We are grateful to each member of the community who participated this past year:

  • Central Bible Church for opening the garden.
  • Matt and Tori for extending the invitation to the community. 
  • Jeff Michaels for donating plants.
  • Our residents for planting, watering, weeding, and harvesting.

Our community is stronger for the opportunities to work together
and the joys of growing, harvesting, and feasting on home-grown, healthy foods.

Thank you.


Friday, November 4, 2011

Bringing in the Sheaves

I recently enjoyed the rare privilege of a solitary trip to the Beaverton Farmers’ Market.
I adore autumn, with all its old-fashioned little rituals.

Drawing in the last of the harvest…

Cleaning out the busy summer’s clutter and preparing home and hearth for winter…

Celebrating the end of harvest and joy of plenty with harvest time feasting and merriment…

Putting up and stocking up for the long, cold winter to come…

Slowing down from summer and preparing for the busy holiday season…

As I walked around the market on this seasonably chilly and breezy morning, I was struck by how different the energy around me seemed from the opening markets in the spring or even the high summer markets of only a few weeks past. The weather was different of course and the trees were now arrayed in their Technicolor best.  But the shift that I sensed was less tangible than that. The mood was cheerful, but a bit subdued from the exuberance and abundance of summer. The crowds were thinner. The farmers were friendly and helpful as ever, but perhaps a bit mellower, as though they were road-weary travelers, approaching home from a long, eventful journey.

As I filled up my bag to the brim with apples, pears, delicata squash, broccoli, potatoes, a few carrots and grapes, I reflected on the deep, abiding ties between humans and the changing seasons.

Here in the suburbs, I often feel divorced from nature, as I’m sure many people do. But I find it interesting that even if you’re not the type to spend a Saturday morning shopping an outdoor market and indulging in philosophical musings, everyone seems to feel a bit nostalgic for the need to bring in the harvest – even though the vast majority of us aren’t directly responsible for the reaping and storing of crops any longer.

Even in our virtually non-stop society, where our lives carry on pretty much as usual, with no thought given to quaint concerns such as “season,” autumn brings to mind the little traditions that link our very modern lives to the celebrations of yore –

Hay rides…

Drinking fresh-pressed apple cider…

Choosing pumpkins straight from the farmers’ fields…

Preparing our families’ favorite seasonal foods at home…

Even die hard city dwellers will find themselves pining for a visit to the farm in October. It’s fascinating to me that despite all our efforts at “modernization” and our attempts to grant nature as little influence over our busy lives as possible, we seem to have some sort of primal instinct that calls us back to the land at harvest time.

By and by the harvest and the labor ended,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.
-Knowles Shaw, 1874

Rebekah Pike is most happy with her nose in a book and enjoys making the most of her pint-sized, apartment kitchen. After leaving her job in media production to become a full-time mommy, she began exploring the sustainable living movement and reconnected with the back-to-the-earth ideals of her hippie parents. In 2005, her love of Oregon’s rugged outdoors led to a summer job as a camp counselor, where she met her husband, Darian. Most of their time is spent chasing after their two year old daughter, Ashlynn, and doing serious “research” at restaurants, coffee shops and markets around Portland.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Autumn PDX Food Swap Highlights

Cheers to harvest preservation and sharing the bounties of our kitchens! PDX Swappers met for our seasonal food swap on Sunday, October 23rd at Abby's Table in SE Portland, and we were blessed with another beautiful array of home made, hand crafted goods.

Many thanks to Lindsay Strannigan, local Portland food blogger and kitchen extraordinaire, for her assistance in running the event. Pay her a visit and take a peek at her recipe for Crema di Limoncello that made an appearance at the swap!

Our Winter PDX Food Swap will be held on Sunday, December 11th at Abby's Table.
Registration opens late November.

Want to keep up to date on future swaps?
The easiest way is to like the PDX Swappers Facebook page.

{ Interested in Starting Your Own Swap? }

Soon, the Food Swap Network will go live, providing access to resources, FAQs, a swap directory, and all sort of juicy bits of inspiration to help you begin your own local event.

In the meantime, check out this smattering of terrific resources:

Hip Girl's Guide to Homemaking: Food Swaps
Brooklyn Homesteader: Food Swaps Across America
LA Food Swap: Start Your Own
Seattle Swappers: How a Food Swap Works
CHOW: Rules for Effective Swapping

PS: If you have photos or stories from the event, please share. Feel free to post on the Facebook Page, link in the comments below, or send us a note at 

Until we swap again,


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