Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Fennel Fronds Feel Fancy

I've been on a quest to eat more vegetables. The crazy cool thing is that this quest has inspired me to get back into the kitchen and cook. It's been a weird summer for me and I haven't really felt like cooking much. I joke that I am on the Trader Joe's diet but it's not really a joke. Thank goodness my pal TJ bails me out weekly with my fav Indian entrees, bagged veggies and pre-cooked lentils. Yes, it's come to that. I don't even want to cook lentils.

Some friends (hi Paul, hi Pam!) were telling me about this delicious fennel salad recipe they have been enjoying this summer. And since I've been struggling with inspiration, I found the recipe and made a batch tonight.

Totally worth it.

Can I just say that fennel fronds feel fancy? And obviously I like to use alliteration.

This recipe was easy, although slicing snap peas into matchsticks is NOT for the faint of heart. Be careful, comrades, and keep those fingers safe.

The words that come to mind on this salad are "fresh" and "fragrant."  I'm not a HUGE licorice fan but the sweetness of the sugar snap peas really dials down the fennel. I added red pepper flakes and less oil than the recipe calls for. The recipe calls for salmon to sit on top of the delightful slaw but alas, I forgot to thaw salmon today. Keeping it real, folks, keeping it real. I have been trying to eat lighter suppers so just a bowl full of this salad is pretty much perfect.


Fennel & Sugar Snap Slaw
Adapted from Eating Well
*Serves 2 (unless you are dainty and eat like a bird)
*Prep time: 10 minutes
*Kitchen Gear Required: Cutting board, knife (and knife skills)

Ingredients:
1 fennel bulb, sliced into matchsticks (reserve some fronds for garnish)
2 cups sugar-snap peas, sliced into matchsticks
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 lemon, juiced
2 Tbsp diced sweet onion
Salt & Pepper to taste
Dash of red pepper flakes

Ready, Set, Go!
1.  Combine olive oil, lemon juice, onion, salt & pepper in a medium bowl
2.  Slice fennel and sugar snap peas into matchsticks
3.  Toss fennel and peas in dressing
4.  Garnish with fennel fronds (please feel fancy as you do so) and red pepper flakes
5.  Enjoy!

Cheerily,
Amy

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

June Favorites...

I guess I'd better get my June favs out there before it's July. Sometimes I wish I could just freeze time (in popsicle form - it's going to be hotter than blazes this weekend. I am looking for every opportunity for something icy).  Here are some of my favs from June!

New Tunes
This is beyond fabulous.  Like cry-your-eyes-out beautiful.  I'm trying to listen to more classical music.  This fits the bill rather well.

Yo-Yo Ma Plays Ennio Morricone
Photo Cred: Amazon

Comfy Shirt
I love that this goes with everything. And the ironing stars must have aligned because I can take it straight out of the washer and wear it without resorting to my least favorite chore (ironing, in case you couldn't guess). Actually ironing and unloading the dishwasher are tied for Amy's Least Favorite Chore category.  They'll have to duke it out while I'm out and about avoiding both chores.

Factory classic chambray shirt
Photo Cred: JCrew Factory

Summer Fruit!
I picked up some peaches from Trader Joe's and they are so yummy. I'm having major withdrawals from my amazing CSA I was a part of last year that is no more. What? No more basket of produce waiting for me every Monday? Lame. Seriously, though. These peaches are stealing the show with a dollop of Greek yogurt and granola.
Fresh Peaches or Nectarines
Photo Cred: Trader Joe's

Wild Sweet Orange Iced Tea
I've sort of been failing in the cooking/menu planning department. This could be related to me gallivanting down to California for 48 hour stints mere weeks apart. Totally worth it. However, I am winning at my Wild Sweet Orange iced tea concoction.  I just brew a cup of this goodness, then add a few drops of liquid stevia and pour over ice (we have a pebble ice machine at work and I am hooked). So refreshing and it's helping me break my coffee habit.

Tazo® Wild Sweet Orange Filterbag Tea
Photo Cred; Starbucks

If you are on the West Coast - stay cool my friends.  I'm still debating ice blocks or wet towels over my window fan.  

Cheerily,
Amy

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Aaaand we're back...

As I sat down to log into this dear old blog tonight, I had two rather startling realizations:

1) It is June of 2015.  We are SIX MONTHS into 2015.  Let's just pause a second and let that sink in (palm to forehead behavior totally allowed, no judgement from me).

2) This blog has had 20,000 views since I began this delightful (albeit sporadic) foray into the world of blogging.  Wowzas.  I guess I should give the people what they want? Oh, you want actual blog posts?  Duly noted.

The above realizations motivated me to turn off Netflix (I kid, sort of), get some of my photographs uploaded and dive back in.  Better late than never, yes? 

Sidebar: To be perfectly honest, part of my radio silence this year has been due to a significant tragedy in my life. While this blog does contain, I guess, a lot of subject matter about me (gosh, I hate how narcissistic that sounds - gag) and my life and my love affair with cooking and food, I haven't wanted it to be a place where I share all the nitty gritty details about my personal life. That being said, it is hard for me to come back to this little piece of the vast information superhighway and not feel like I was somehow moving on too quickly from grief nor giving this period of my life the proper treatment it deserves. But you know, I believe that such a huge part of my healing journey IS about doing the things that I love and I do truly love blogging. So, I'm just going to charge full steam ahead. I'm choosing to deal with processing my grief via other avenues. Whew. Ok. I just needed to get that off my chest. Thanks for bearing with me through that if you are still reading.

One of the things I've enjoyed over the past few months is exploring some local eateries here in Portland (which, let's be totally real, is a foodie paradise). You'd better believe that when family and friends come a-visiting the first thought on my mind is "what magical culinary and Northwesterly adventures adventures await?" Actually, if I am totally honest, my first thought is whether or not I've cleared off the bedroom in my guest room (it tends to be the place where all my mail/crafts/paperwork/receipts reside until I get my act together and put stuff away) and if the sheets are clean.

When my darling sister and nephew came to visit me in April, one of the places we visited was the Lan Su Chinese Garden. Spectacular. I know I've swooned a-plenty about Spring in the Pacific Northwest in previous posts but I just can't help it. It is just so gorgeous and spring is a great time of year to visit this garden. Quiet, peaceful, serene and lovely.



Two of my favoritest people on the planet.
I can't even.  He is so squishy and wonderful.
We also journeyed over to Meat Cheese Bread for some sammies.  I'd heard some rumblings about this place (both in real life and on Yelp) and wanted to give it a try.  To be fair it was actually our 2nd choice.  We really, really, really wanted Pine State Biscuits but alas the location we were near closed early afternoon. The outrage. Meat Cheese Bread, however, was delectable and they produce some really killer sandwiches.  The menu is divided up into hot and cold sandwiches (and salads and sides of course) so we decided to try one of each.  


Here's what went down:
Sandwich #1: Asparagus: Grilled asparagus, bacon relish, a soft-boiled egg, Parmesan cheese and aioli. We definitely liked this one. The soft-boiled egg added a richness to the asparagus (which was cooked to perfection). Their bread is made in-house with a good chewiness that can hold up to the weight of all the sammie ingredients.


Sandwich #2: Park Kitchen: Flank steak, pickled onions, blue cheese mayo, lettuce and vinaigrette. This was basically a really great steak salad stuffed between two slices of bread.  It was pretty darn good. The steak was cooked to perfection - medium and the blue cheese mayo had big creamy chunks of blue cheese. Drool-worthy.  

You'd better believe we demolished those sandwiches like nobody's business. Their coleslaw side was a special side (I think...it was April...so two months ago so I can't remember) and had a decent kick to it with fresh jalapenos and a great dressing.


Off to edit more photos that will hopefully one day soon find their way onto this space. I had a 2 hour nap and woke up at 5:30 p.m. so all bets are off that I can actually fall asleep tonight. #weekendproblems.

Has anyone else tried Meat Cheese Bread? What are your favorite sandwich shops (in Portland and beyond!)?  

Cheerily,
Amy

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Climb Every Mountain (Summer Recap Series)

Can I just say, it was a glorious summer?  I really wanted to recap my Summer-of-Outdoor-Adventuring-and-General-Merriment earlier this year but said "Outdoor Adventuring and General Merriment" somehow got in the way.  I'm going to do a lil recap series while it's cold and gray outside.  First stop...South Sister climb!


This was one of the THE HIGHLIGHTS of the year!  


It was so beautiful.


Breathtaking scenery as far as the eye could see...

 
I'd like to also add that it was one of THE hardest things I have ever done.  Ever. Ever. Ever.  I thought I was in pretty good shape.  How quickly the proud can fall (figuratively and yes, literally.  I fell several times down the slippery shale slopes - thankfully not a great distance).


View from the summit.  Aren't those lakes amazing?


 
This is me.  Really, it is.
 

Doesn't this look Tolkienesque?  (Is that a word?  I don't know but I'm sticking with it).  This is a glacier...and I walked across it.  <-- wouldn't that make a great opening line?  I think I'll use it as the beginning of my epic poem about climbing the South Sister.  Please cue a soaring instrumental music score now.


I'll be the first to admit that at the beginning of this year I definitely fell into the Novice Hiker category.  Thankfully, my outdoorsy relatives stepped in and coached me in the following arenas:

1.  Gear.  It is totally true that your gear can make or break your outdoor adventure.  Waterproof jackets?  Yep, they are super handy when it rains while you are hiking.  I know it's difficult to imagine this could actually happen in the Pacific Northwest.  Trekking poles - yep, super awesome when you are scrambling up and down the side of a mountain.  REI and Columbia are great resources for gear - just keep your eyes peeled for sales.  I actually bought my trekking poles from Costco.

2. Safety.  It seems like you are always hearing about hikers who get into trouble.  A lot of it is common sense but it definitely pays off to think through safety and scenarios to avoid becoming the hiker that gets dehydrated or lost.  Here's a great article on The 10 Essentials

3.  Nutrition & Hydration.  When I was packing food for the South Sister hike I thought I was packing WAY too much food.  Thankfully my uncle assessed my provisions and said I had maybe half of what I needed.  Incredulous, I complied and doubled my food and threw in an extra 32 oz of water.  I ate EVERYTHING!  Bagels, protein bars, M&Ms, jerky, nuts, apple, orange, peanut butter, tuna. When you are hiking for 12+ hours you burn through calories like nobody's business.  And don't underestimate how much water you need.  If you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated. 

I love the feeling of accomplishment when you complete something that is truly a challenge and forces you to dig deep.  I credit climbing the South Sister 2 months before my marathon with really helping my physical and mental endurance (you can't exactly quit when have 5 hours left and a mountain to climb down efore you get back to your car).  The elation I felt when I reached the summit and looked out the the view is something I will cherish for the rest of my life.  Such a high!

And while the weather outside is frightful (aka cold and rainy), I know spring and summer hiking adventures are just around the corner!

Cheerily,
Amy

 

Saturday, December 20, 2014

'Tis the Season...

For Christmas BAKING!  This is going to be a long post.  I'd suggest brewing a cup of tea and putting your feet up.  Or if you are reading this while waiting in line at the mall, that works too.

Last year I was packing up my apartment and readying myself for my migration to the Pacific Northwest (oh, and getting the swine flu for a second time while I was at it).  Suffice it to say, I took a year off from Christmas baking. It is rather difficult to bake when 1) you have packed up all your cookie sheets and 2) you feel like death.

Fast forward to 2014.  I was wanting to dive into Christmas baking in a MAJOR way.  Of course, I needed a partner-in-crime and baker extraordinaire.  This just happens to be be my wonderful, BBC-loving cousin, Elisa.  We decided that we both wanted to bake cookies so we might as well do it together!  It was the perfect solution and a tradition I intend to continue for many, many years.

We decided that we would each make several different kinds of cookies and then bake/decorate them at my house.  Here's what went down:

Elisa made several splendid cookie doughs:  gingerbread (think citrus peel and spices), chocolate mint and cranberry coconut.  So delish.

Per the usual, I went completely overboard.  This could be attributed to any and all of the following reasons:
1) I haven't baked in a long time
2) I bought 4 pounds of butter at Costco which made me a little giddy
3) I just can't help myself

I've been wanting to experiment with biscotti and shortbread for a while so thought this was the perfect time.  I made a spiced biscotti, a rosemary/currant/pine nut biscotti, pecan shortbread, lavender & lemon shortbread, sour cream cookies (I will discuss the frosting of these cookies later, prepare yourself), and sea-salt chocolate pecan bars.

"Isn't butter divinity?" Amy March in Little Women
The makings of biscotti - a work in progress
My biscotti making was an experiment and I still need to tweak the process.  But I love that biscotti is a blank canvas and you can really get creative with flavors.  I wanted something that screamed "Italian!" and "Holiday!" so I opted for the rosemary, pine nut and currant combination.  Flavor-wise it was totally groovy.

And in a total fail moment, I failed to take pictures of my shortbread.  But this shortbread is so delicious I think I will do an entire post about it.  Let's just say I've been obsessed with lavender since I became addicted to the French Lavender Breve at Lavender & Honey in Pasadena.  Oh, all right.  Because you asked.  Here's a picture of me and my adorable new nephew at L&H.

Scrumptious.  And I don't just mean the coffee.  This lil guy is my FAVORITE!
And I have no idea who that woman is in the window behind me.  
Where was I?  Oh yes, lavender shortbread.  I promise I will get a recipe posted here soon for that.  I just want to adjust it ever so slightly.  And I need to go buy more butter.

You all know I like to keep it real here on the blog.  So, this is what my kitchen table looked like. We were basically operating a cookie factory.  Yes, those are cookies in a Ziploc bag on the floor at the top of the photo.  We had plumb run out of counter space.

Real life, folks.

Note the plate and cup in the background.  You can't bake cookies unless you are eating them at the same time.
Aren't gingerbread cookies the cutest?!  Elisa frosted these.  I have zero frosting capability.
A holiday centerpiece can help make order out of your cookie extravaganza. 
Now, for sugar cookies (you know, the ones you frost and decorate).  I grew up making these Sour Cream Cookies that are all kinds of awesome.  It's a recipe we found in a tattered Pillsbury Baking pamphlet and they are amazing.  They have nutmeg which is such a holiday flavor and really takes them up a notch.  They are also pretty darn easy to roll out.  The trouble is that I always double the recipe and so I end up rolling and cutting out thousands dozens and dozens of these babies.  However, this year they turned out to be the perfect blank canvas for my newest maniacal creation - Maple Browned Butter Frosting. Yep, you heard me.  Buckle your seatbelts.

I am not a huge frosting fan (gasp).  I like cream cheese icing for sure but regular frosting is usually too cloyingly sweet for me.  I figured if butter could be the star of the show, maybe, just maybe I'd finally find a frosting recipe I'd like.  Mission accomplished.  I mean, browned butter makes everything better.  How could I have ever doubted its' prowess in the frosting arena??

I ended up making this frosting pretty thin so that we could just dip the cookies in the frosting and forget that whole "frost with a butter knife and have it look like it was done by a kindergartner" business.

So, here's the frosting of all frosting recipes.  And because I love you, the Sour Cream Cookie recipe too.

Maple Browned Butter Frosting 
Makes: About 2 cups of frosting
Prep time: 10 minutes
Kitchen Gear Required:  Saucepan, spoon, measuring cup, mixer

Ingredients:
1 stick salted butter
2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 tsp maple flavoring
2-4 Tbsp milk
Food coloring, optional

Ready, set, go!
1.  Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  Watch it like a hawk until it starts to get all foamy, goldeny and brown.  But not burnt.  We don't want burnt butter frosting.
2.  Pour browned butter into a bowl and add 2 cups of powdered sugar.  Mix together with hand mixer (it will look weird and lumpy).
3.  Gradually add in milk to get consistency you are looking for.  This takes some time.  Keep mixing until it's perfect.  This is also the time to add food coloring if you are wanting the icing to have a color other than maple-brown (which is the way I tend to go).
4.  Frost cookies.
5.  Frost cinnamon rolls.
6.  Frost toast.
7.  Frost spoon.  Lick said spoon.

Sour Cream Cookies
Makes: A lot (I feel like this is totally subjective based on the size of cookie cutters, etc.)
Prep time: 15 minutes
Bake time: 6-8 minutes
Kitchen gear required: Two bowls, hand mixer, measuring cups, measuring spoons, cookie cutters, cookie sheets, parchment paper (if desired), microplane zester (if using whole nutmeg)

Ingredients;
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup (that's 1 stick, folks) salted butter, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
2-2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup regular sour-cream
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt or 1/4 tsp regular salt
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg or 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

Ready, set, go!
1.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Cream together sugar, butter, vanilla, egg and sour cream
2.  Combine dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg)
3.  Mix together wet and dry ingredients.  Don't over beat the dough or the cookies will be tough.
4.  Roll out dough and cut with cookie cutters.  You can also refrigerate the dough and roll out the cookies once you've cleaned up the kitchen (I never do this but it seems like a nice idea).
5.  Bake cookies on parchment-lined cookie sheets for 6-8 minutes.  Take them out while they are still pale for a softer cookie, leave them in until they are golden for a crispier cookie.
6.  Cool completely.  Frost with Maple Browned Butter Frosting for a delicious holiday treat!
7.  I am eating some for breakfast as I type this.

Sour Cream Cookies with Maple Browned Butter Frosting.

Cheerily,
Amy

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Once Upon a Time

Once upon a time there was a girl who moved to Oregon in January. It was cold. It was dreary. White icy particles fell from the sky.

Then, something magical happened.  Spring!  



Then Summer!



And lo, and behold!  I discovered I had this inner-outdoorsy-self who wanted to spend every waking moment outside.  We're talking hiking, whitewater rafting, mountain climbing, marathon running.

Oh, you know, just a waterfall. We have lots of them.  
Suffice it to say, cooking took a back seat this summer as I soaked up the sunshine and lived off the bounty of the land (I joined a CSA and the weekly box of produce totally knocked my socks off). I picked pounds upon pounds of blackberries and my freezer is chock full of berry goodness for the winter months looming before me.

But the thought of cooking (and let's be honest here, developing recipes and taking pictures of said recipes) wasn't lighting my jets.  I mean, when the outdoors beckons...

Disclaimer: To be perfectly honest, we had a rather toasty summer and the thought of turning my stove on in my "it's the Northwest so we don't have air conditioning in apartments" situation may have played into the lack of cooking.

At the top of South Sister.  I kept all my toenails....pretty proud.
This was before I started hallucinating from sheer exhaustion.
But, that's not to say that all sorts of deliciousness didn't happen this summer!  I stumbled across a coffee shop that filled my heart to overflowing.  

Cardamom latte.  The stuff dreams are made of.
Maplewood, you had me at your adorable chalkboard menu.  
Now the leaves are falling, it's blustery and chilly and I'm drinking mugs of coffee and tea (not mixed together, that would be gross).  And you know what? I'm feeling like my blogging sabbatical may be coming to a close.  I miss this little space and all of you!  Plus, it's pumpkin time.  'Nuff said.

Cheerily,
Amy

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Summertime...

Hello long lost lovelies!

Mercy, seems like time is just flying by these days.  We are in full-on "summer-is-here-and-we-better-not-miss-a-minute-of-this-sunshiny-goodness-so-let's-be-outside-doing-fun-stuff-ALL-the-time" mode.

While the spring flora and fauna was sublime, the big blue bursts of hydrangeas and the smell of warm fir trees baking in the sun really does my soul good.

Flowers in mason jars are really the best.  
My days have been full but so very rich.  Where to even begin!  P.S. Thankful for my lil cell phone camera...without it I would have zero photos of the last few months.  I'm feeling inspired to bust out the big guns and start taking My Big Camera out and about.  It's been living a sad and lonely existence in my closet.

Top 10 for May and June

#1 Strawberry Picking.  Firstly, time spent with family is so precious.  Secondly, time spent with family whilst picking strawberries is pretty darn spectacular and delicious.  We picked over 40 pounds of these red beauties and I froze 20 pounds and probably ate 10 pounds--totally worth it.

Sweet berries, you'll be a sight for sore eyes come December.
#2  Boston is totally cool and I kinda want to live there when I grow up.  A work trip led me to this wonderful city and I think I will save all the sightseeing details for a separate post.  Just because I have about a zillion photos of me in the Boston Public Garden reenacting scenes from Make Way For Ducklings. Robert McClosky would have been proud.

The SWAN BOATS! 
#3 Ok, I lied and I am going to talk about Boston some more.  Namely LOBSTER ROLLS.  Insane.  I really will stop now and save the rest for another post.

I swear this lobster roll had well over a pound of lobster in it.  And yep, I ate every morsel.
#4  Growing up I would come to Oregon almost every summer and I was always blown away by how verdant, lush and green it was.  It always seemed so temperate compared to sunny SoCal. I do remember one summer spent with my cousins where it was over 100 degrees and we pretty much ate watermelon, went swimming and then fired up the oven to bake scones (we couldn't help ourselves).   This summer has been glorious in the sunshine department but this week it went a little overboard.  It was in the high 90's yesterday and did.not.cool.off.  90 degrees at 9 o'clock.  Not cool.  Thankfully I have some pretty rad cousins who let me sleep in their air-conditioned house.  

This photo was taken at 9 at night.  It stays so light for so long up here.
This is post my "I'm going to Winco because they have air conditioning and I need to buy
Cinnamon Chex because I love it so" moment.
#5:  My first race of the year.  1/2 Marathon PR (1:43:21) and 8th/145 in my age division.  Pretty stoked considering the course was WAY hilly. I've got at least 1-2 more half marathons in the mix for 2014 and my first full marathon in October.  That seemed really far away when I signed up in May but it is quickly approaching!  

I'm always so grateful when a race is over.
I was tempted to sit down right after I crossed the finish line
but figured that might impede other runners. 
#6-10:  My Trip to California.  Ok, this one is a doozy and really takes up the last 5 of my Top 10 List.  I headed to Cali after my Boston trip.  Pros:  Seeing the sibling kidlets knock it out of the park in their performances of The Wizard of Oz.  I mean, they lit up the stage!  They flew on wires!  They spoke in accents!  They danced with such precision and poise!  Spending time with my beloved family, going out for coffee, buying cute throw pillows with my Mama, a day with my sister eating yummo food at Julienne's in Pasadena and visiting a rose garden.  Cons:  Coming down with a ghastly sinus infection the day I arrived and finally agreeing to go to Urgent care only to discover I had a double ear infection.  Yuck and yuck.  I pretty much felt horrendous the entire time but my fam was so sweet to put up with me, Nyquil-induced haze and all.  

Beautiful roses in Pasadena.  I could hardly smell them in my stuffed up state.
At least they were purdy to look at!
This was the best (and that's not saying much) in a series of really epic failures for a picture.
"You have sick eyes," saith my sister.
I may or may not have walked around said rose garden with eucalyptus leaves
stuck in my nose in an attempt to reap aromatherapy benefits.
There might be a picture documenting this but there are privacy laws, etc.
The Steak Cobb @ Juliennes.  Mercy.  So delish.

There are things I'm for sure leaving out...like having my first accordion lesson at a family reunion, some awesome new running spots, hiking in the Wallowas, finally making it to my first farmer's market of the season.  But it's late and I'd best bid you all adieu (to yer and yer and yer).

Cheerily (and still on antibiotics and longing for the day when I can run again),
Ames