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Recipe: Sweet Potato and Apple Pizza

Posted on: October 7th, 2015 by Jackie Luskey No Comments
Butternut & apple pizza with a pesto drizzle.

Butternut and apple pizza with a pesto drizzle.

As a kid, my grandmother often fixed me a snack of apple slices and thin strips of cheddar. She’d say, “An apple without the cheese is like a hug without the squeeze.” Schmaltz aside, my grandmother was right. My tastebuds have evolved, but I still love apples with cheese.

October marks National Pizza Month. We just had to celebrate it! In honor of the holiday, apple season in Oregon’s Washington County, and my grandmother, we have a recipe that put a grown-up spin on a kid classic. Get the star ingredients from our farmers markets.

Sweet Potato and Apple Pizza

Pre-baking the dough keeps the crust crisp under the weight of fall’s hearty ingredients.
1 pre-made pizza dough
1 ½ cup tomato sauce
4 oz smoked mozzarella, sliced
1 small sweet potato
1 medium apple
3 tablespoons pesto

Preheat oven to 450 degrees
Spread pizza dough on a floured baking sheet or pizza stone
Bake pizza dough for 10 minutes
Slice sweet potato and apple very thin with a small paring knife or mandolin
In a glass bowl, microwave sweet potato slices with 3 tablespoons of water for 3 minutes
Remove pizza dough from the oven and spread tomato sauce on top
Layer smoked mozzarella, sweet potato, and apple on top of the pizza
Drizzle pesto over the pizza
Bake pizza for 10-12 minutes


Of course, you can always order a “pizzetta” from decarli’s amazing Italian menu, as well, to get your pizza fix!


Five Great Picnic Spots in the Tualatin Valley

Posted on: August 19th, 2015 by Jackie Luskey No Comments

The word “picnic” comes from the 17th Century French term “pique-nique,” which refers to epicureans who brought their favorite wines with them when dining out. The simple pleasures of a picnic continue in the Tualatin Valley. Pick up a great bottle of local wine at a quaint wine shop or tasting room, as well as some delectable treats at one of our bountiful farmers market. Then, head to a scenic spot for a romantic afternoon of leisure that feels eons away from Portland, but is really just a few minutes’ away!

5 best picnic spots in the Tualatin Valley

As the gateway to Oregon’s Wine Country, you can plan a winery picnic in the Tualatin Valley.

See a few choice picnic spots below:

Horning’s Fishing & Picnic Hideout
When it says “picnic” in the location name, you know it’s going to be good. This North Plains gem is nestled in an idyllic, forested canyon that is brimming with nature’s most vibrant senses. Take in the earthy smells of the plentiful trees and listen to the soft lapping of the lake as you enjoy your picnic.

Banks-Vernonia State Trail
Put that picnic in a bike basket rather than a wicker one and you’ll be ready for a celebratory meal at the end of this lovely bike trail that also syncs up to the Tualatin Valley Scenic Bikeway. Along the 21-mile trail of trestles and bridge crossings, you’ll find picnic tables dotting the way and inviting you to break bread.

Tualatin River
Here’s something new to try: a picnic in a canoe! The Tualatin River holds a soft and stable current throughout the summer and early fall. The mellow waters invite paddlers to munch on an in-route picnic—or pull over onto the banks for impromptu riverside rest.

Shafer Vineyard Cellars
Located in the foothills of the Coast Range, Shafer Vineyard Cellars offers views of the lovely rolling hills that are rich in vineyards. Grab a bottle of wine from the adjacent tasting room so that you can taste wine from the very same vines upon which you gaze.

Stub Stewart State Park
Pack a night picnic to take along to an OMSI Star Party at this wonderful camping spot. Going during the day? The dog-friendly grounds make this a picnic spot worthy of dog treats packed into your picnic offerings.

Make a picnic part of your Tualatin Valley stay, giving you time to pause and take in the beauty, tastes and energy of the region.

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Tualatin Crawfish Festival

Posted on: July 20th, 2015 by Jackie Luskey No Comments
Tualatin Crawfish Festival

Tualatin Crawfish Festival

Crawfish boils aren’t just for Louisiana. Nope—not for a long time! In fact, The Tualatin Crawfish Festival is celebrating its 65th year of crawfish-lovin’ fun from July 31 to August 2 at the Tualatin Commons. Whether this is your first crawfish festival or you’re a many-seasoned festival goer, this is an easy, unique and must-see weekend event. As the festival is just a short drive from Portland and has the lovely Century Hotel a stone’s throw away, your weekend getaway is as easy as it is convenient.

In addition to the traditional crawfish boil and crawfish eating contest, the festival celebrates more than crustaceans. Other favorite activities include the ridiculously cute “Atsa My Dawg” costume show, the “Corks and Kegs” area with local sips and brews, a Chef’s Mystery Box Cook-Off and an all new “Food Cart Friday.”

For go-getters and those who just want to work off all the food they’ve been eating at the festival, the Crawfish Crawl includes a 5k, 10k and half marathon option that run through Tigard, Tualatin and Durham. Every participant will receive an InCRAWdible Medal and t-shirt.

Tualatin Crawfish Festival Details:
Admission to Friday’s events is free; $4 for adults on Saturday.  Hours: 6-10pm Friday, 10am-10:30pm Saturday, and 10am-6pm Sunday.

Of course, while you’re in the Tualatin Valley you’ll want to scope out other hot happenings in the area. In addition to The Tualatin Crawfish Festival, be sure to make time for these other fun events nearby:

Come take part in the longest-running crawfish festival west of the Mississippi!

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Ask a Local: Nature Photography Tips

Posted on: June 22nd, 2015 by Jackie Luskey 2 Comments

Connecting with nature and connecting with your family is a simultaneous experience here in the Tualatin Valley. In the end, one of life’s greatest gifts is sharing what you love with who you love. Beaverton locals, the father-daughter pair of Gunnar Simonsen and Kira Simonsen, have a special tradition of exploring and photographing the Tualatin Valley via their stellar Instagram accounts, @GunnarSimonsen and @Hoopla68. We caught up with the two for their insider tips!

Gunnar Simonsen's drive by beauty capture of the Tualatin Valley.

Gunnar Simonsen’s drive by beauty capture of the Tualatin Valley.

What are your favorite places to photograph in the Tualatin Valley?
Gunnar: I absolutely love Cooper Mountain Nature Park. At sunrise, you can catch an amazing glow on the trails. Or an hour before sunset, the shadows that poke through the trees make for some incredibly emotive photography.

Kira: I have fallen in love with Dawson Creek. The reflection off the water is unreal. The chalkboard tunnel is so unique and brings a creative aspect to the park. It was very cool to be able to see the baby geese and ducks there this spring.

How did you begin photographing together?

Kira: In 2013, we both got iPhones and just started taking pictures. Once, we went to Rood Bridge Park and uploaded at least 15 pictures each onto Instagram. Photography has brought us closer together over the years. It’s good to get away from an internet and just experience what’s around you.

What tips do you have for novice photographers?
Gunnar: Seek to find the story in everything and tell it with photography. In this, think less and explore more. I love Cooper Mountain Nature Park. I walked those trails hundreds of times and I have taken hundreds of pictures and yet every time, there’s always a new story waiting to be told. So… tell it.

What are some non-nature favorites in the area?
Gunnar: Clark’s Bistro and Pub in Downtown Hillsboro is a new spot that we really like. Of course, Helvetia Tavern for the big burger is a must visit. I also love going to the Hillsboro Farmer’s Market. Then there’s the Intel Oregon International Air Show. I also have a lot of memories with my own father, who passed away in 2003, playing golf at Meriwether National Golf Club and Sunset Grove Golf Course.

We hope you’re inspired to take a photography getaway in the Tualatin Valley! Be sure to share your Instagram pics with the #tualatinvalley hashtag!

nature photography on instagram

Gunnar and Kira Simonsen choose photographing the Tualatin Valley as their father-daughter bonding activity of choice!


4th of July Events in the Greater Portland Region

Posted on: June 17th, 2015 by Jackie Luskey No Comments

What do you love most about the 4th of July? For some it’s the crackle-pop of fireworks lighting up the sky. For others, it’s a chance to get out and be active. Additionally, it’s hard to resist a kitschy Independence Day festival. No matter how you choose celebrate freedom this coming 4th of July, we’ve got the events and attractions to match it. Just a few minutes’ drive from Portland, the Tualatin Valley is a perfectly patriotic escape for the holiday weekend. See our ideas below!

Find patriotic colors at Smith Berry Barn's Annual Berry Festival this Independence Day.

Find patriotic colors at Smith Berry Barn’s Annual Berry Festival this Independence Day.

4th of July Weekend Fireworks, Festivals and Parades

4th of July Fireworks and Family Picnic
Tom McCall Upper Elementary School| July 4 | free

Hillsboro Rotary 4th of July Parade
Downtown Hillsboro| July 4 | free

Old Fashioned 4th of July Celebration
Tigard High School| July 4 | free

Wild West Celebration
Main Street, North Plains| July 4 | free

Annual Berry Festival
Smith Berry Barn| July 4 | free

4th of July Weekend Live Entertainment

Summer Concert – Ants in the Kitchen
Arnold Park| July 2| free

Thoroughly Modern Millie
Deb Fennell Auditorium| July 2-5 | $20-$44

Hillsboro Hops Game & Fireworks
Ron Tonkin Field| July 3 | $7-$16

4th of July Weekend Sport Events

Cook Park Marathon, Half-Marathon and 5k
Cook Park| July 3 | $30-$50

Stars & Stripes Marathon & Half Marathon

Fanno Farmhouse| July 5 | $15-50

4th of July Weekend Markets, Wine and Food Events

Beaverton First Friday
SW Broadway Street| July 3| free

Neighbors Night
Cooper Mountain Vineyards| July 3| $8

Beaverton Farmers Market
SW Hall Boulevard between 3rd & 5th| July 4| free

Wine & Watermelon
Plum Hill Vineyards| July 4-6| No cover charge

Hillsboro’s Sunday Farmers Market
Orenco Station| July 5| free

Tigard’s Sunday Farmers Market
Public Works parking lot| July 5| free

So, what’s it going to be? Parades, live music, an epic run or some good food—or why not do it up and experience it all in the Tualatin Valley? Have a happy and safe 4th of July Weekend!

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Festival of Balloons Trip Idea

Posted on: June 15th, 2015 by Jackie Luskey No Comments

While you don’t have to travel by balloon, you can travel to balloons with the annual Festival of Balloons coming June 26-28. Just like the giant balloons in the sky, the festival allows visitors to blow off steam. Our itinerary outlines a great weekend in the Tualatin Valley, split between two charming cities that are just minutes from Portland: Beaverton and Tigard.

Tigard Festival of Balloons
Check into a Beaverton hotel, with the Courtyard by Marriott being one of many great options.  

Now that your home base is all set for the night, journey to Neighbors Night at Cooper Mountain Vineyards (5-8 p.m.; $8). Take a taste of fantastic biodynamic wine while listening to the Americana tunes of Chris Margolin.

As the sky begins to transition from blue to the pre-sunset pink, head to the Fireside Grill for a great patio and outdoor fireplace, along with inventive cocktails and scrumptious bites.

Take advantage of one of Beaverton’s most beloved summer Saturday traditions, as well as one of its newest. First, create a breakfast spread at the Beaverton Farmers Market, which is the largest all-agricultural market in the state! With a full belly, walk to the Beaverton Flea to find treasures like refurbished furniture and sought-after collectibles.

Now that you’ve had your Beaverton fun, hop in the car and head to nearby Tigard—the Festival of Balloons is ready for you! In addition to multiple hot air balloon spectacles, you’ll be dazzled by the wide breadth of activities: craft fair, carnival games, beer garden and live music.

To prepare for a good night’s sleep, burn off extra energy at the festival’s Twilight Run 5k Run/Walk. Afterward, you’ll have earned your shower at one of the great Tigard hotels, such as The Grand Hotel at Bridgeport.

Before you cruise out of town, see some old school cruisers. There is the Festival of Balloons’ car festival—complete with a competition in 30 different classes—as well as the Classic Car Show at Bridgeport Village (where you c an take care of any tax-free shopping needs, too!).

Clearly, the Festival of Balloons is about oh so much more than balloons!

Strawberries in the Tualatin Valley

Posted on: June 8th, 2015 by Jackie Luskey No Comments

strawberry banner1
So, you love strawberries. Good! So do we! And they’re one of the early gifts of summer. That said, do you know your favorite type of strawberries? There’s a big strawberry world out there and the farms and markets of the Tualatin Valley—located just a few minutes from Portland—are ready to offer you a taste of Oregon’s best strawberry offerings. First, let’s dive into the different strawberry varieties you will find in our fertile fields.

Strawberry Varieties

Albion Strawberries
Albion is a high-yielding strawberry crop known for producing large, juicy fruit that is the perfect sweetness for an everyday strawberry treat.

Benton Strawberries
Oregon Duck fans beware. This strawberry is named after the county where Oregon State University is located. Known for its winter hardiness, Benton strawberries tend to ripen later in the season.

Hood Strawberries
An Oregonian favorite! Pick the last of the season’s Hood strawberries while admiring views of Mt. Hood in the distant. This strawberry is beloved for a reason with its perfectly sweet taste.

Seascape Strawberries
As our farms are located between downtown Portland and the Oregon Coast, it only makes sense that you’ll find some Seascape strawberries. Lookout for this variety on roadside stands on the Vineyard and Valley Scenic Tour Route.

Shuksan Strawberries
Stock up on this variety for jam-making. The glossy-red fruit and its yellow seeds can be preserved in, well, preserves!

Okay, enough talking about strawberries. Now, it’s time to go get some! Here is a list of our favorite places to buy and u-pick strawberries in the greater Portland region:

Be sure to call ahead for varieties and availability!

Can’t make it out to a farm? Let the farms come to you at one of our farmers markets, which are located in the charming downtowns throughout the Tualatin Valley.

Strawberry variety facts provided by local farms and The New Sunset Western Garden Book.


Five Ways to Celebrate Memorial Weekend in the Greater Portland Region

Posted on: May 8th, 2015 by Jackie Luskey No Comments


Memorial Day weekend is a great time to explore the Tualatin Valley's agricultural scene!

Memorial Day weekend is a great time to explore the Tualatin Valley’s agricultural scene!

Summer solstice may be well over a month away, but Memorial Day weekend is always a sort of soft-opening for summer. Ease into summer with a lackadaisical weekend of wine tasting, farms just opening for their summer season, all-American baseball and patriotically minded museum exhibits.

Memorial Day Weekend Wine Tasting

Oregon Wine Month ends on a sweet note as as the wineries of the northern Willamette Valley joyously open their doors for the weekend. Whether you’re staying in Portland, Beaverton, Hillsboro, Forest Grove or somewhere in between, you’ll be a quick drive from wine tasting in Oregon. Don’t miss Dion Vineyard’s Tasting Room Grand Opening!

Visit an Alpaca Farm

Make new friends—and not necessarily human ones at the Open Alpaca Barn (May 23-24, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., free). Alpaca mothers and babies will be outside to welcome visitors, as will artists working on handspun yarn.

First of Summer Berry Picking and Farmers Markets

Blueberry season doesn’t fully burst onto the scene until July, but the first of summer produce will be sprinkled among our fresh farmers markets. Choose from the Beaverton Saturday Market, Cedar Mill Farmers Market or the Hillsboro Saturday Farmers Market.

Patriotic and All-American Memorial Day Events

In honor of Memorial Day, take a visit to the Washington County Museum (Wednesday-Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; $4-$6 admission). In addition to the “Washington County Goes to War” exhibit, take a few minutes to peruse the adjacent exhibit, “Americans All: The Bracero Program in Washington County.” View artifacts that help tell the story of how Washington County came to have the largest Latino population north of Sacramento during World War II and Mexico joining the Allies in 1942 to help fight the Axis.

What’s Memorial Day without a little baseball? Sit in the stands of the Hillsboro Hops Memorial Day Challenge (May 23-24 at Hillsboro Stadium) and cheer on talented youth baseball teams.

Have a happy, safe and wonderful Memorial Weekend with us!

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Celebrating Agriculture in the Tualatin Valley

Posted on: March 18th, 2015 by Jackie Luskey No Comments
Celebrate agriculture in the Tualatin Valley!

Celebrate agriculture in the Tualatin Valley!

Happy National Agriculture Week! In the locavore-minded community of the Tualatin Valley, our farmers, chefs and food servers are supremely tied to the land, the food our area produces, and the farm-to-table experience that food provides for locals and visitors alike. We’d tell you to make a point to explore the agricultural wonders of the Tualatin Valley during your visit, but the truth is that we don’t have to—our farming and food culture is an organic (pun intended) part of any person’s stay.

Chew on this: the Beaverton Farmers Market is the largest all-agricultural market in the state of Oregon. Throughout the seasons, you can ogle at onions, gawk at gourds, chomp on chives and ruminate on raspberries. The final dates of the winter market are March 21, April 4 and April 18. The weekly summer market begins May 2. As each market runs Saturdays (through November) from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., you can partake in some brunch and lunch from the local farm and food artisan offerings. For those traveling from far away, there are plenty of locally made goods that won’t spoil on your journey home. Head to the Unger Farms booth for jams that keep the juicy punch of their berries intact. Our markets reach beyond just Beaverton. In the summer, you can find a farmers’ market in one of our towns or cities almost any day of the week!

In addition to markets, take a drive on the Vineyard and Valley Scenic Tour Route for a self-guided tour of the Tualatin Valley’s agricultural bounty. The tour route includes roadside crop signs, summer u-pick farms, charming taverns and classic general stores. Come July, the route’s road will be fragrant with the scent of not only fruits and vegetables, but herbs as well. Cruise into lavender farms for purple picture-ops and aromatic souvenirs.

Of course, the wineries of the northern Willamette Valley fit into our agricultural story, too. For a new take on wine tasting, plan a day traveling the sustainable wine trail. Not only do all of our winemakers make outstanding varietals, but many do so by organic and biodynamic standards—no small feat!

We hope you enjoy the bounty of the Tualatin Valley as much as our farms and markets enjoy growing and sharing it.

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The Life Cycle of an Oregon Hazelnut

Posted on: January 9th, 2015 by Jackie Luskey 6 Comments

We have just reached the end of Oregon’s hazelnut season, which also means that the life cycle of a hazelnut tree has begun again at the hazelnut tree farms of the Tualatin Valley. The Willamette Valley (of which the Tualatin Valley is proudly a part) grows 99% of all of the hazelnuts in not just Oregon, but the United States; so the start of the New Year and the hazelnut life cycle is pretty darn exciting for us. Yup, our beloved perennial shrub has dropped the last of its delicious filberts and it already using Oregon’s temperate and cool weather to prepare for next season.

The four seasons of a hazelnut tree in the Tualatin Valley.

The four seasons of a hazelnut tree in the Tualatin Valley.

The Hazelnut Growers of Oregon has created a mecca for true hazelnut aficionados at Oregon Orchard Hazelnuts. Here, get your hands on a wide variety of hazelnuts with a roast worth a boast, including salty and sweet varieties. Even out of the prime hazelnut season, you can still connect with farmers of your favorite filbert at the Beaverton Farmers Market, which returns with its winter series in February (complete with white chocolate covered hazelnuts at the Ken & June vendor)

Hazelnuts are not only delicious, but healthy, too. While the roasted nut is often used in confectionery delights, it also provides healthy fats, protein, vitamin E, dietary fiber and antioxidants. Has all this nutty talk gotten you “hangry” for some hazelnuts? Never fear! While waiting for the next crop of filberts to bloom in the spring and summer, you can try one of our hazelnut recipes to hold you over:

Hostess with the Mostess Granola
Nutty Berry Torte
Berry Baked Oatmeal
Chocolate, Cherry & Hazelnut Cookies

P.S. Learn even more about Oregon hazelnuts here.


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