It was a real hardship growing up in the PNW as a kid who, wait for it, didn’t like seafood. *Gasp* I know. The worst. I attribute it to the time that bonus dad got a bone lodged in his throat and had to have it removed by a doctor through his nose – because that’s not a horrifying prospect to an 11 year old girl. From then on I thought that it was the baked salmon’s vengeance for eating him and the salmon that came before him. But as I grew up and time moved on, I started dipping my toe back into the proverbial waters and trying to allude the rogue bone that cropped up on occasion any time I ate fish. Luckily for me, and my fate tempting, I’m back on the salmon train and loving every minute of it.
Salmon and I have had a long history on this blog – we’ve made peace over our rogue bone ways, and we’ve created some amazing dishes together. Picking a favorite is always the hardest part – but between the Salmon Ceviche, the Salmon Burger with Coleslaw or the Smoked Salmon Breakfast Bagel it’s like the Sophie’s Choice of Salmon! And now I have another contender to add to the list. Man, life is tough.
Salmon is a big part of life around Seattle, the annual salmon runs bring fisherman out in droves, and you can’t go far without finding it laid out on a cedar plank grilling in the summer. But we also find ways to keep it so we can savor it all year long. Sustainability is vital to the protection and success of our salmon and we, as PNW’ers, pride ourselves on maintaining the best practices possible to make sure we have our salmon for generations to come.
Recently I was introduced to Farmstr, a local start up that connects local producers with locals buyers – it’s like the Craigslist for farmers! The salmon I used for this came from Loki Fish Company a local producer who prides itself on wild and sustainability caught salmon. I was able to place my order on Farmstr, and pick up my salmon at a designated location in Seattle – which happened to be our local farmer’s market. It was a cinch and it felt great to know that what I was buying was caught locally, and taken great care of.
Farmstr’s selection is always changing, so there is never a dull moment when you log on to see what you can purchase next. Need local eggs? Done. How does a quarter beef or pork sound? Found it! And if you want local smoked salmon – I know a guy! It’s important to know and connect with those who produce your food and help support them and all their hard work.
See if there is a Farmstr in your community. If there isn’t, let’s help find a way to make Farmstr grow and expand so that everyone can connect with their local farmers, growers and producers. You never know what you’ll find, but you know it’s going to be good.
Learn to two best way to prepare your cake pans for cakes that release perfectly every time! No more stuck on cake around here! Check out the buttered and floured and sprayed and lined techniques for great cakes.
For a year before Ben and I got married I took a job as a cake decorating instructor at Michael’s teaching Wilton method to save up some extra money for the big day and our honeymoon. I had taken all the classes, loved them, left smelling like frosting and had cakes for days. Once I started teaching I was so excited to show off all the new skills, but then burned out on the 27 tupperware containers of frosting in my fridge and getting frosting tips stuck in my garbage disposal. So I hung up my cake baking. At least for a while.
But I’m back at it – and wanted to start from scratch with the basics of baking. Good baking leads to better decorating – true story! So today let’s start off with how to prepare your pans for success.
The biggest feeling of defeat you can get in cake decorating is having half of your cake left behind in a poorly prepped pan. My favorite method is this one below – the spray and line method.
Spray and Line Method
You will need:
Parchment Paper – Not Waxed Paper
A Marker or Pen
Non-Stick SprayLay your cake pan on your parchment paper.
Using your pen or pen, outline the outside of the cake pan.
Using your scissors, cut a circle on the inside rim of the parchment paper.
Next, lightly spray your cake pan with non-stick spray. Then line your cake pan with your circle of parchment paper.
You can find pre-cut parchment circles, but they are expensive for only a dozen or so. It’s more cost effective just to take the time to do it yourself.
Fill your cake pan half way and bake your cake. Once it’s ready to remove it from the pan, you’ll get a perfectly smooth bottomed cake. Just remember to remove the parchment!
Butter and Flour Method
I always remember my mom as the butter and flour cake prepper. The first time I prepped a pan this way, I’m pretty convinced I used about a quarter cup of butter in one pan. Awesome. But it doesn’t take much butter, or shortening, to prep a perfect pan .
What you need:
Softened Butter, or Shortening
Using your paper towel, dip about a teaspoon of butter or shortening on to it. Swipe it around the entirety of the pan – making sure to get into the corners of the pan, too!
Next, add in a couple tablespoons of flour. Swirl the flour around the pan making sure to get the flour into the corners and up the sides of the pan. If you see spots where the flour isn’t sticking, use your butter towel to make a little swipe and re-coat with flour.
Using your hand, tap the side of the pan to loosen any big clumps of flour that might remain and pour out.
Then you’re ready to fill it half way and bake according to your recipe! Pan prepping is an essential part of perfect cake baking!! Make sure to practice this week and get ready for next week’s how-to on Cake decorating!
These gooey butterscotch walnut bars, are rich and ooey, gooey, like a pecan pie but with soft butterscotch and walnut pieces crumbled in. Perfect for any time of year.
Sooner or later, they say, we all turn into out mothers. I realize that my life, especially lately, has been round housing me in the face, because it’s all come full circle. When I was a kid, the standard Saturday morning TV viewing wasn’t cartoons – it was episodes of This Old House. And I hated it. Why couldn’t I park my arse in front of the TV and watch my endless episodes of Garfield and Rugrats? But no, it was PBS, This Old House and New Yankee Workshop with Nom Abram who built lots of drawwws.
Fast forward 20 years, and with the Zillow-apping, house dreaming and imaginary house hunting I’m on, Ben and I have take up binge watching reruns of, you guessed it, This Old House. It also gives me a nice break from Breaking Bad, because there is only so much of that I can mentally taken in in any given time.
And just like that I am turning into my mother.
A mother who also watches Tosh.O. A mother who also loved Breaking Bad. And one that knew of my deep affinity for Butterscotch Chips.
Every Christmas 7-Layer Magic Bars made the cookie platter cut. They were my favorite of the Christmas cookies and I lived for opening the bag of butterscotch chips and free basing them right out of the bag. I’m pretty sure only about 3/4 of the actual butterscotch chips ever actually made it into the recipe… The rest went directly into my face.
But that flavor, those cookies and that time of year always reminded me of my mom. Since today is her birthday – HI MOM – I felt it only necessary to sacrifice a bag of butterscotch chips in her honor. I’m sure she wouldn’t mind.
Mom, thanks for always being my person, my friend, and my daily source of inspiration, laughs, and my magic mirror that shows me what a great future I have a head of me. If they say we all become our mothers – I take that as the world’s best compliment and fortune.
It’s Award Season time!! Of the major award shows, the Oscars are hands down my favorite. I grew up a real movie buff, loving the old classics and the glamour of old Hollywood. From Maureen O’Hara to Roslyn Russell, I love the dames of their day shining on screen. But a new era of actresses has emerged and I am beyond in heart with them. Top of my list is, of course, Jennifer Lawrence. Not only is she a phenomenal actress, she’s outright hilarious, and spunky from here ‘til Tuesday!
I’m keeping my fingers crossed for her to win her second Oscar with American Hustle.
The girls and I have been planning our award season plans since the nominee announcements were made, and with the fancy dresses planned and appetizers for days – we need something to sip on. Whenever we get together, our drink of choice includes something with bubbles.
To keep with our oh-so-important effervescent tradition, I wanted to create a drink that the girls and I would love and any American Hustle-r would dig. The one drink that made an appearance at every family gathering for as long as I could remember was ice cream punch, and it seemed like the only way to go when mixing a drink for Oscar season.
KINKY® Liqueur, which is a fusion of super-premium vodka and mango, blood orange and passion fruit flavors, was fresh, flirty and perfect for this drink. With bubbles from the soda and a dollop of passion fruit sorbet, this is a totally slurpable celebratory drink for rooting on Jennifer Lawrence and her oh so luxe teased 70’s hair.
These loaded bacon ranch duchess potatoes are a fancy twist on classic mashed potatoes, but loaded with all the greatness of baked potatoes. Eat them duchess style or just as mashed potatoes for dinner tonight!
Did you ever watch Road Rules on MTV back in the day? The fact that I have to say, “Back in the day” is distressing to me, but as an avid MTV watcher – when my mom wasn’t around – I loved Road Rules and The Real World. And when they combined into one show for the Real World/Road Rules Challenge, I was like Bam Reality TV-Ception!!!! Real World Seattle (duh), and Real World Hawaii and New Orleans were my favorite seasons.
But there was one season of the Real World / Road Rules Challenge that I always remember – because of one particular challenge. Both groups were parked out on their respective RV’s and given their clue – which frankly I can’t remember – but it told them in so many puns and alliterations to get their butts to sleep because the next challenge would test their sleep deprived mental fotitude. Basically the Real World team actually slept, and the Road Rulers didn’t – and after staying up for 48 hours doing mind teasers, simple math and identifying song lyrics of MTV artists, it became painfully aware that after hour 30 of no-sleep that even doing 2+9-5 was a test of will.
That’s about how I felt yesterday. After one hour of sleep and a 12 hour work day. And after a flight that was delayed three times in Denver (once for computer issues – cue panic!) and didn’t get me home and in bed until 2:30 in the morning, when I had to be up and back to work at 6am. More on this next week.
I love sleeping, it’s my favorite.
If I don’t get my 7 hours I’m a royal wreck. Yesterday, work was all the hards because I couldn’t even remember where a document I update daily lived – on my desktop. My brain had all but cracked open my head, hung a “left for lunch” sign on my forehead and never returned.
With nine hours of sleep under my belt now, I feel like a champ and can testify to the restorative properties of sleep.
But it’s not just sleep that is so important, but good and nutritious food. For this recipe, I have teamed up with Idaho Potatoes to help bring awareness to Meals on Wheels and providing good food to those less able. Right now, during the Virtual Side Dish Challenge, some of your favorite bloggers are teaming up and throwing down with their favorite potato recipes, for a chance to win $5,000 for their own local Meals on Wheels programs. I’m so pleased to be apart of this adventure and know that this kind of money in any community can do some serious good.
Please take the time to go vote for your favorite recipe -*Cough* Mine*cough* and bring some light into the lives of seniors today.
There aren’t many more things more incredible on the weekend than a big cup of coffee, watching the news and a giant plate of scrambled eggs with salsa, toast with jam and a mountain of crispy brown hash browns. I can’t be the only one living for the weekends here friends! Hashbrowns make me unequivocally happy.
If we ever go out for breakfast together on the weekends, the hardest decision for me to make is to get a sweet breakfast, like waffles or crepes, or a savory breakfast like a breakfast burrito. Once I have that life altering decision made, I’m all set. When I go the savory route – it must, must, include a heap of hash browns.
Prepare the diving board friends, I’m going in!
I don’t care how you top them, with salsa, ketchup, or just salt and pepper – but hash browns and me are like BFF’s. And if you like hash browns, we can totally be BFF’s, too.
Now, if you’re not in the mood for going out – here is how you can make your very own frozen hash browns at home! Seriously, they are better than what you can get out of a bag! And, did I mention that they are a fraction of the cost?! Well, they are.
Start to Finish these take 20 Minutes! That’s worth your $6.99 for a pack of taters. So if you’re in the mood to save some dough, give these a try!
Get the following
3 pounds of potatoes. Working in smaller quantities is a must – unless you have unlimited freezer storage space, which I do not. And I use Idaho Russet Burbank Potatoes. They are the best!
Two Large Mixing Bowls – Fill them both with cold tap water.
A Vegetable Peeler – To peel your spuds.
Food Processor with grater attachment or a cheese grater
A roll of paper towels
Parchment Paper or a silicone baking mat
Large rimmed baking pans.
A Gallon Ziploc Bag
Peel and place potatoes into large bowl of cold water. This helps rinse the excess starch off of the potatoes. Starch inhibits the browning process, so loose starch is bad starch.
Grate your potatoes in your food processor or cheese grater. Transfer the shredded potatoes immediately into the other bowl of cold water. If you’re using a cheese grater, consider grating the potatoes directly into the other bowl of water.
Leaving the potatoes exposed to oxygen will oxidize the potatoes and start to turn them red or black. No Bueno.
Rinse your spuds. You can let them sit for a few minutes in the water. Using your clean hands, agitate the spuds in the water to make sure they are getting rinsed of all the excess starch. The water will turn almost white with all the starch. Then, drain the water from your shredded potatoes, fill the bowl with water again and repeat. This took me about three rinses before the water started coming out clear.
While the potatoes are sitting in the water, finishing their “rinse cycle”, line your baking sheets with your silicone baking mats and then several layers of paper towels.
Once your final rinse is complete, grab handfuls of your shredded potatoes, squeeze them of any excess water and spread evenly on the paper towels.
Starting at one end of the paper towels, roll the towels and the potatoes together and gently squeeze the roll to extract as much water as possible. Then unroll, and spread the potatoes onto the silicone mat. Make sure the potatoes are in a single layer and not big clumps. Just like when you were shredding potatoes into the water, the potatoes have to be spread thinly so when they get place in the freeze, they freeze as quickly as possible and aren’t exposed to too much air. Remember, air bad because it leads to oxidization.
Immediately place them in the freezer. This is where it’s handy to have your freezer organized so you don’t have to fuss with it when you’re trying to place the spuds in to freeze.
Let them freeze for about 2 hours. Once they are nice and frozen you can pour them into a freezer zip lock bag for later use. Mine last about a week or two.
Keys to perfect hash browns:
Pre-heat your pan.
Use butter for frying hash browns.
Don’t turn them too often!
When it doubt – let them fry longer.
Ty out these other How-To’s of the past to hone your cooking skills and impress all your friends and family.
Easy cheesy baked chicken parmesan, crusted in toasted panko and perfect for busy weeknight dinners. Ben and I love this for those busy nights, and when we need comfort food that doesn’t make us feel guilty!
There are three things I am absolutely terrified of. Okay fine, four. One of them I am doing today, or more accurately, probably right now – flying, to Houston no less. But the other three of the other fears came together and slapped me in a way that only the universe could a couple of days ago…
Fear one involves being humiliated in front of others.
Fear two, slugs.
And nothing can render me utterly helpless, whiney, and leave me wanting my mommy so much as scraping my knee.
Then Wednesday it all happened. It all started off well and good, with a gentle run to see how Huck would be as my new running partner. At 6 years old, he’s mature enough to handle the responsibility of being my protector on the pavement and cheer leader for every step. How wrong I was.
Just as only the universe could do, we had picked up the pace to a gentle jog when out of nowhere, five cars came whizzing by, I tripped on the lip in the concrete sidewalk and Huck decided that that tree, that one right there was the perfect tree to take a leak on and yanked me in the other direction.
Somehow that one second happened so quickly, yet took an eternity – and there I was realizing I was on the ground with a dog at the end of his leash, peeing on a tree, and with hands and knees that looks like burger, five cars full of witnesses – and a slug right next to me. A SLUG.
Lip quivering, voice shaking, and sitting on the wet concrete with slug by my side, giving me a side eye and a casual “Hey, what’s up”, I got up, whispered “mommy”, and just trudged home sniffling and bloody. Have you ever seen Emperor’s New Groove and a sniveling llama Cuzco? Think that, in Megan form.
So, once it all heals, I’ll be back at it again with Huck. Maybe it will go better next time. I’ll just make sure the sidewalk is level and there are no trees around. Or slugs.
This easy cheesy chicken parmesan is one of Ben’s and my favorite chicken dishes. It’s quick for a week night dinner, healthy, and not fried, and still covered in cheese. I love this dish – it’s equal parts cozy and healthy, and perfect for any mood.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts and proscuitto goat cheese pasta makes a gorgeous twist on a classic spaghetti dish, especially when topped with a perfectly poached egg. And – it makes even better leftovers.
The 2014 theme continues – EVERYTHING is better with an egg on top. It is fact. Especially when that “everything” is pasta covered in crumbled goat cheese, roasted brussels sprouts and crispy fried proscuitto. I’m a sucker for every piece of this pasta dish on it’s own – but together, I just about had my mind blown out of my ears.
If there is a fresh veggie in my house – the odds are I will try roasting it. It’s is hands down the best way to make veggies in my book. Especially brussles sprouts. And it’s simple. When I go to the grocery store and I see them see roasted veggies in the deli case for $6.99 a pound I can’t believe it! It’s so easy to do it at home and so much cheaper!
When brussels sprouts get roasted the leaves caramelize and toast on the edges making them really crunchy. Couple that with crispy fried proscuitto – prepared just like bacon, and topped onto carbs – you’re all set.
The most tricky part of this dish might well be the poaching of the egg. If you haven’t ever had a poached egg before now is your chance – it is the crown and glory of this dish. Poaching eggs may seem daunting but it’s really not! This step by step tutorial on how to poach eggswill make it a cinch. I guarantee you will have just found your new favorite way to make eggs.
One of the biggest reasons we don’t do pasta in the house very often is because it’s usually full of unnecessary carbs. Lately I haven’t had a lot of time to go to the gym or for a run to burn them all off. I’d rather just steer clear of carb overload. But I recently tried Dreamfields spaghetti pasta that is packed with fiber and protein that cooked up just like traditional pasta.
It was a delicious surprise.
And – this whole things made for even better leftovers. It is a win-win.
You won’t believe your taste buds with this Bourbon Banana Nut Stuffed French Toast. Roasted bananas, creamy cheese, and cinnamon make a great way to start your weekend!
I’m really curious, but when did songs from the 90′s become OLDIES?! No. That’s not right. It’s just not right. When the Red Hot Chili Peppers start making their way onto the oldies station, something is very wrong in the universe. Any time any one references, “10 years ago”, I always think it’s still the early 2000′s and I am thinking back to the 90′s. Seriously, where is my head?
Whenever you ask me about the OLDIES, it should be stuff from the 50′s, not from the 90′s!! DJ Tanner, and scrunchies, with neon patterned sweaters and sayings like “What if?”, are not oldies!!
Huey Lewis and the News? Still, not the oldies – but getting older.
The Supremes? Classics – but that’s the oldies.
Elvis? Again, the OLDIES!
Red Hot Chili Peppers? Not Oldies.
Sublime? Definitely not oldies.
Chumbawumba? I listened to Tubthumping on repeat in 6th grade!! I’m not even 30 yet. Doesn’t something become Oldies once you pass the 30′s threshold? Even 35? Dang it modern radio – don’t make me feel older than is ever humanly necessary!
But this is still the same girl who jokes about not being old – but can’t make it past 9 pm on a Friday night and zonks out on the couch watching Gold Rush with her husband.
The same girl, who craves Cream of Wheat covered in cinnamon and raisins on frosty days.
And the same girl who yells and shakes her fist at youths blasting their car radios that reverberate the windows in my car…
And the same girl who eats on three hour schedule, and does dinner by five.
So…maybe I am older than I think.
But I still maintain that the Red Hot Chili Peppers – ARE NOT OLDIES!!
Happy Valentine’s Day!! If you’re not interested in the heart shaped box of chocolates this year – even your hunny could make these in a cinch!! And these are the best means of portion control I can think of. Two bite ice cream sandwiches – balancing the best of both worlds – decadence and self-control. It’s like a Valentine’s public service. You’re welcome? I’m trying to help. But it’s not really, is it?
With a week full of coconut, caramel and chocolate – I went right for the obvious choice of ice cream filling – coconut ice cream. But after yesterday’s marathon 8 hour safety training course at work, I doubled down on the coffee and started thinking that coffee ice cream would be ah-maze balls in these two bite ice cream sandwiches.
And considering there are four more hours ahead of me today – on a Friday no less – I’m thinking that these would be the best way to cap off a Friday at work. Don’t you agree? Especially when one mini scoop of ice cream between two cookies takes a whopping 30 seconds to put together, you can have these in your face hole right after you drop your keys on the counter and head straight for the freezer.
Or, since it’s Friday – that means it’s time to crack a beer.
*GASP* Beer ice cream between Samoas.
New mission, should you choose to accept it – obtain all the ice creams and a box of Samoas and chow down, son. Chow. Down.
Welcome to Country Cleaver, where country comfort and convenient cooking come together. Follow my adventures of self-reliant country cooking and baking from scratch with a little life mixed in for kicks! ...more