Wednesday, October 3, 2012
I sincerely hope that none of you have braces, crowns, fillings that are loose, or some aversion to candy coating. That would be unfortunate. And since this little treat has the entire line up of potential arch nemsis-is-is-es to said dental work – I warn you, and can’t be held responsible.
As someone that dealt with a decades worth of orthodontia in my formative years, I am making up for lost time.
Why can’t Halloween have an advent calendar like Christmas? I think all awesome holidays like Christmas should get equal treatment – and equality in candy calendars and countdowns. If it were possible to shove an entire one of these into one of those little calendar nooks, I would. This would also be day number 31 when the last and final advent window is opened and all massive ray of light shines forth in holiday countdown glory.
In other news – I could have used one of these today after a post-work apocalyptic girly meltdown that culminated in me planking onto the bed as soon as a got home to be consoled by an over excited labradork with multiple tennis balls and equally adoring and compassionate Ben.
Thanks to Ben and his eternally realistic perspective on all life things, a hug and a few words of advice worked like a charm.
Since starting this blog, a little over two years ago, I’ve met some of the most generous, kind and hilarious men and women on the planet. I’ve been fortunate enough to have chatted with readers who have become friends, learned new skills in photography, been lucky enough to be asked by friends for advice, teamed up with fellow bloggers for good causes, been on TV, and been to some really, really cool places.
But in that 15 minutes of melt down all I could rationalize was that I was an utter failure at what I do here on this site.
Why would anybody read this site? They shouldn’t have asked me for advice! Who am I to give it? *CUE PANIC*
How irrational, manic, and frankly narrow minded of me. And Ben… patient man that he is, never shied away from the ugly lemon-faced tears, just gave me that hug and that moment to come back to reality with this…
NO Blogger is ever a failure. EVER. Never, ever.
Somedays we all need that reality check and to have someone tell us to not compare yourself to the other bloggers out there. Numbers and statistics matter to companies, but they don’t matter to each other. We, as a community, should strive to be there for one another to help one another grow. We work on our craft at our own speed and we all have varied success. One viral recipe doesn’t make or break us.
And most of all – the success of others does NOT define others as failures.
Think back to when you started your blog. Why did you do it? For fun? A cookbook? A Tv show? A column in the local paper or to just have place in the world wide web for your recipes to have a home? I started it for fun – and am continually amazed at the cool crap and even cooler people I’ve met. It’s already exceeded all expectations -and that is something no one should lose sight of.
Realign your thinking, reevaluate, reassess, and get back to the basics – the FUN of this adventure.
I have learned that we all need friends to ask questions to, to bounce ideas off of, and to pick the brains of one another. So find “your person”, your mentor, your friend and don’t be afraid of to ask the questions, learn the tips and tricks, and share the knowledge and perspective you all have.
Venturing out into the world wide web is a scary prospect, leaving yourself someone vulnerable to the opinions of others and what they may want, say or think. And it is vital and of the upmost importance to support one another, sugar highs, and emotional lows. We might be individual blogs – but we’re all intertwined together.
So tell me – are you looking for a blogging friend? Leave a comment below. Let’s team up, find a blogging buddy and tackle the lingering questions and navigate the labyrinth of this thing we do called blogging. Meet a new person, visit a new blog, learn new techniques – and enjoy all of the creativity we each have to offer one another.
Thus endith the emotional roller coaster. Now – go have a candy apple popcorn thingy. Like a lollipop after the doctor’s office, a little dose of sugar always makes things better.
Candy Apple Popcorn Balls
Prep Time: 45 Minutes
Cook Time: 30 Minuts
Total Time: 1 Hour and 15 Minutes
spiced apple and popcorn balls dipped in traditional candy apple coating
2 cups sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup warm water
1 teaspoon Cinnamon Extract
Red Food Coloring
Spiced Apple Popcorn Balls
2 Bags Natural Flavored Microwave Popcorn, popped
1 bag (10 oz) Mini-marshmallows
6 Tbsp Butter, melted + extra for hands
1 tsp Cinnamon
⅛ tsp Nutmeg
1 ¼ cup Dried Apples, chopped
8-10 sticks for Popcorn Balls
Set out a large baking sheet, cover with aluminum foil. Spray with non-stick spray. Set aside.
In large pot, melt butter and whisk in cinnamon and nutmeg. Add in mini-marshmallows and stir to melt. Pour in 2 bags of popcorn (try and not get un-popped kernels into the mix) and chopped dried apples. Using a non-stick spatula, fold marshmallows, popcorn and apples together. Rub some extra butter onto your hands and clump large handfuls (about apple sized) popcorn mixture together and mold into apple-like shapes. Set aside, repeat with remaining popcorn mixture.
For Candy Coating:
In a medium sauce pan, melt sugar, corn syrup and water together. Bring to a rapid boil and while monitoring temperature with a candy thermometer - bring the mixture to 300 degrees. Stir constantly. Gently dip each stick for the popcorn balls into the candy coating and stick into the middle of each popcorn ball. Here, add in the cinnamon extract and food coloring and stir to incorporate. CAREFULLY dip in each popcorn ball into the candy coating, and place back onto sprayed baking sheet to cool. Repeat with all popcorn balls. Allow to cool completely.
When candy has hardened, and cool - devour.
Candy coating recipe original source - Confessions of a Cookbook Queen
Candy Coating Recipe from Cookbook Queen
Monday, October 1, 2012
When did it become so improper for one to dive head long into a pan full of anything – three year old style? Perhaps when we grew up, gained some semblance of fine motor skills and our parents gave us a wicked side eye and a week’s worth of extra chores for plundering into said pan.
Geez, growing up sucks. But this doesn’t. In any possible or conceivable way.
This weekend, wild and crazy turned lazy and bake-y, was just what the doctor’s ordered. No, I mean that literally - because Julie was going to make her grand arrival to the wonderful world of the PNW and we were going to party like its 1999 with a roadtrip down to Portland for a weekend full of fat pants and food-gasms, but got saddled with a wicked case of the laryngitis whilst I battled on with a lingering case of bronchitis. We are a sexy pair. Me with a smoker’s cough and her with a scratchy throated man voice. Really, I’m so glad I’m telling you all about these top tier ailments we’ve both been dealing with when I’m going to be discussing food here shortly.
Our men are just diggin’ every moment of this. These are what those vows are allll about. Yay, vows!
So next weekend – WE RIDE! And dang am I amped. It’s like Christmas at the airport. And a stocking full of food and off tune car karaoke!
Anyway – since I had so much time on my hands I spent two straight days in the kitchen, wearing yoga pants and super nifty hair in headbands that go back to middle school. And lots of chai tea and pumpkin spice Hershey Kisses to be had by all. I mean, me.
In other news, when Ben came home he brought my wedding gift with him. It’s the bookcase you see below. Hand made. He went all New Yankee Workshop for me and gave me a Megan-Only bookcase to stock with all my cookbooks, props, and all the crap he didn’t want on “his” bookcase anymore. So now I see that his wedding gift wasn’t as self sacrificing as it first appeared – he just wanted a book case sans cookbooks. Which I guess is fair – cause there are a highly unreasonable amount of them.
Whatever his motivations – I love this bookcase. And I know deep down, it was made with all the love in the world. Precisely why I married him.
But that begs the question – or just the statement – that with all his hard work, what did I do with the remaining three shelves he left for excess storage and shelves should I need? I use them as photoboards. Win-Win! Now I don’t have to go and make all the boards I’ve been procrastinating on making. Much like looking into switching car insurances…
Lastly – when my mind (and hormones) changed up on me mid-way through making these, I opted for switching up ganaches from Pumpkin Spice to Dark Chocolate because well, DUH. It’s dark chocolate ganache. Needs I speak forthwith?
Just go forth and make it. Chai, friends. That’s all I have to say.
Chai Cheesecake Bars with Pumpkin Spice Ganache
Yield: 24 Bars
Prep Time: 25 Minutes
Cook Time: 45 Minutes
Total Time: 2 Hours
Chai Cheesecake in small bites with Pumpkin Spice or Dark Chocolate Ganache
For the crust:
1 1/2 cups crushed Biscoff cookies (about 27 cookies/1 package)
3 tbsp. packed brown sugar
6 tbsp. butter, melted
For the cheesecake:
3 (8 oz.) packages of cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
½ cup dry Chai Tea Mix - not liquid chai tea mix
2 tbsp. flour
1 cup sour cream
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
For the Pumpkin Spice ganache:
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
4 tbsp. butter, cubed
15 Pumpkin Spice Hershey Kisses
If making Dark Chocolate Ganache: (optional variation)
1 cup Dark Chocolate chips
⅓ cup Heavy Cream
4 Tbsp Butter, cubed
In a food processor, pulse Biscoff cookies until pulverized and no large chunks remain.
In bowl mix together cookie crumbles with butter and brown sugar. Press into a 13x9 inch pan and set aside.
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. In stand mixer, beat cream cheese until smooth. Scrape down sides of bowl to ensure all cream cheese is smooth. Beat in sugar and chai tea mix until throughly mixed. Add in flour and beat again. Add eggs one at a time, mixing for about 30 seconds between eggs. Beat in sour cream and vanilla extract. Scrap into the 13x9 inch pan and smooth. Bake for 45 minutes.
Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.
For Pumpkin Spice Ganache or optional Dark Chocolate Ganache:
In a microwave safe bowl, add pumpkin spice Hershey Kisses, pouring heavy cream and cubed butter over the top. Place in microwave and heat in 30 second intervals on 50% intensity. Stir in between intervals and cook until chocolate/Kisses have just melted. Do not over cook and burn the chocolate.
Pour Pumpkin Spice Ganache/Dark Chocolate Ganache over the top of the completely cooled cheesecake bars. Wait for ganache to cool completely or chill for at least 30 minutes. Slice, serve and devour.
Original recipe from Bakerella, adapted from Table for Two Cheesecake Bars with Chocolate Ganache
Source: Original Cheesecake Recipe from Bakerella, adapted from Julie Table for Two’s Cheesecake Bars with Chocolate Ganache
Thursday, September 27, 2012
Pivo Prosim!! In other more English words – BEER ME! It’s Oktoberfest people – and it’s time to Oompa-pah! And with Oktoberfest is all about the Oompapa and well, obviously – the beer.
And to celebrate this fine time of year – this Czech girl figured it was high time to put a little extra oomph into the proceedings with my favorite homemade dish of quite possibly all time – the schnitzel. Or as it is pronounced in the homeland – tzriskes.
No, it’s not “triscuits” – contrary to popular belief and Ben who can’t trill an “r” to save his life. But I married him for other reason than the ability (or inability as it were) to trill r’s. Tzriskes have been the go-to dish my grandmother serves when company comes over, usually along with her dumplings, sweet and sour red cabbage and if we’re luck zemelbaba or egg and potato salad.
One bite of a little tzriskes, a little red cabbage and a little dumpling is the stuff dreams and a 9-year old Megan’s dreams were made of. Back when I was 10, my mom and I went back to the Czech Republic to visit the remaining family that was there after my grandparents and my mom fled the country during the occupation of ’68.
During our three weeks there, lunch was often eaten at the pub down the road from the apartment where we stayed. Everyday, without fail, I ate tzriskes, dumplings and cabbage – to the point the server didn’t even ask for my order, it was just presented and promptly devoured.
The trip came full circle for my mom and I and my grandparents who we went with – to meet my great-grandmother and great-aunt who my mom hadn’t seen since her wedding to my dad and I had never met before. At the tender age of 8, my mom with her mother and father were on a family camping trip when they received news to flee the country after the occupation, so they escaped with a suit case between them and into Hungary where they stayed in a camp for six months before coming to the States as refugees. With the choice of new home in Chicago or Seattle – they settled in Seattle, where my grandpa became a lead electrical engineer at Boeing – having never worked on planes before coming to America, and my grandma worked at the corporate bank offices of Seafirst until her retirement. If ever there were people to admire, it’d be the three of them.
When the time comes in life for me to devour the food of the home country, it always brings back memories and ties the past with the present. Good food isn’t just about the taste, but the memories too.
And beer. Cause ya know – we Czechs love our beer.
For More Beer Week Schnanigans check out these lovely ladies!
Kirsten at Comfortably Domestic – introduces us to a local Michigan home brewer turning passion into a business in her “Welcome to Beer Week” intro
Madeline at Munching in the Mitten – shares Pumpkin Beer Bread – just in time for fall
Kat at Tenaciously Yours – shares an overview of Gasthof’s Oktoberfest
Anne at From My Sweet Heart – turns beer into Pumpkin Ale Pretzel Caramels
Lauren at Climbing Grier Mountain – with her Pale Ale Shrimp Po’Boy
Megan at Country Cleaver – celebrates her heritage and Octoberfest in style with one of my favorites – Schnitzel & Dumplings
Beka at Kvetchin’ Kitchen – joins in the fun with her review of the Outlander Brewery.
Mads at La Petite Pancake – creates a fiesta in Beer Battered Shrimp Tacos
Allison at Decadent Philistines – takes Four Peaks Brewery Kilt Lifter Scottish Ale to new levels with a spicy German mustard, ale-soaked sweet potato oven fries and Maple-Ale Ice Cream; some people are just overachievers.
Katie at The Hill Country Cook – reviews the Double Horn Brewery in Marble Falls, Texas
Kirsten of Comfortably Domestic – is back with Black & Tan Brownies
Carrie at Bakeaholic Mama – thinks outside the box with hard cider and a fabulous Woodchuck Sweet Potato Bisque; this is why I love fall.
2 pounds Pork Loin Chops
1-½ cup All-purpose Flour
3 whole Eggs, Well Beaten
1-½ cup Italian Style Bread Crumbs
½ cups Beer - Your choice
¼ teaspoons Ground Pepper
¼ teaspoons Salt
If pork chop loins are thick (1" or larger), fillet them so they are thinner (½" or so).
After filleting the pork chops, tenderize them with a meat tenderizer and set aside.
Place all-purpose flour, beaten eggs, and bread crumbs all in separate bowls.
Add 1/2 cup of beer to eggs and beat again. This adds a great flavor, but if you don’t want to use beer some apple juice would be a decent substitute.
To the flour add the salt and pepper. I find it easier than salting and peppering the individual tenderized chops themselves.
Heat oil in a deep frying pan. To test the heat, take a small sprinkle of bread crumbs and if, when dropped into the oil, they simmer and sizzle, the oil is ready.
Take one piece of pork at a time, dredge well in flour, transfer to egg bowl, and then directly into the bread crumb bowl. Immediately place in hot oil.
Beware- your hands will get gunky!!
When nicely browned on one side, gently flip and continue cooking. Continue this process with each piece of pork. When the breading is nicely brown, they are done! The first couple might not come out perfect, these are always the “testers”. Regulate the heat of the oil as needed.
Trust your instincts when cooking these. Don’t overcook, ’cause you don’t want them to be tough. Golden brown breading means they’re done!
These are best served with a wedge of lemon on the side to spritz with. (My personal favorite and very traditional). But ketchup, mustard or ranch dressing has been used by the people I cook them for.
Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Sweaters, pumpkin spice e’rythang, leaves falling, footie footie football, human quilt blanket burritos and Ah-ha-allll the new shows premiering on TV! You can’t not love fall. Oh, and did I mention Pumpkin Spice lattes? Just covering my bases here. Twice.
There’s one other sure sign of fall – things with bourbon in them. Like apple butter, yo.
Between NCIS, Vamp Diaries (yes, I am ashamed to be admitting that right now.), HIMYM, New Girl, Big Bang Theory (naturally) and mine and Ben’s newest fave show Hell on Wheels – my weeknight sit-on-my-can time if filling up quite nicely!
I can not comprehend fall being anything other than tippy top of my year.
I mean I have been celebrating the start of fall since September first – with that first beloved pumpkin spice latte that I conned out of the dear blessed over-caffeinated and under-rested barista that had been at work since 3 that morning. And that obsession hasn’t stopped since. Well there was that one moment when I bought a small bottle of Peppermint Mocha coffee creamer and had a serious lapse in judgement and a moment of seasonal-identity-crisis – but I’m over it and back on track. Whew!
And will continue to load up on all things fall until Christmas is officially upon us. And no, it’s not Christmas season yet – stores putting out Christmas wear in stores does not give us license to celebrate THAT holiday just yet. Fall we can celebrate ahead of time, but I put my foot down on celebrating Christmas until December 1st. That’s an order.
The line for celebrating all the fall things is always arbitrary. Hooray for arbitrary lines and women’s perogative to celebrate whatever the heck she wants, when she wants – as long as it has bourbon on the side. Apple butter. It’s a fall staple. And it’s even better with bourbon. I swears it.
Bourbon Apple Butter
Yield: 3 pint jars
Prep Time: 20 Minutes
Cook Time: 2 Hours
Total Time: 2 1/2 Hours
Apple butter made even warmer with a hefty dose of bourbon.
4 lbs of Apples
2 cups Water
1 cup Bourbon
1 cup Sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Core all apples. Do not peel. Dice apples into small pieces, place into large pot with steaming water. Soften apples for about 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Put softened apples into food processor and puree until smooth. Place sugar, salt, cinnamon, gloves, all spice, lemon zest, lemon juice and bourbon all into a heavy bottom saucepan. Stir to combine. Over medium heat, stir the mixture to prevent burning. Reduce the mixture by about half – or until the mixture is thick and no longer runny. Make sure to stir constantly to ensure as much moisture is evaporating as possible. The thickening time will take anywhere from 1 to 2 hours depending on the liquid content of the apples.
If canning follow the following procedures.
Pour finished hot apple butter into three hot, sterilized canning jars, wipe the rims of the jars before placing lids on top of the jars and sealing. Place the sealed jars into a boiling water bath and cover with 1 inch of water – boiling jars for 10 minutes to ensure a good seal.
Remove from water with canning tongs and allow to cool. Popping on the jar lids will signal the jars have sealed properly.
To learn more about canning and safe canning procedures visit Freshpreserving.com where you can find everything you need from Ball canning.
Adapted from Simply Recipes Apple Butter
Monday, September 24, 2012
1,294 miles of travel. 5 hours of flight time, a world away and a eyes opened in a whole new way. That was the nexus of my trip to Cordova, Alaska – home of Copper River Salmon. The scenery, the people, and the deep seeded connection that they have to their surroundings is something to be unequivocally admired. And this year, I was lucky enough to travel up there to see the operation that brings us all down here in the lower 48 the salmon we prize every summer.
Kaela of Cookin’ and Kickin’ - my travel buddy for this Great White North Adventure – and I met up in Seattle bright and early to catch our flight up to Anchorage. Cups of Starbucks in hand (obvi) and we were ready to go – with the exception of her nearly getting lost in the labryinth of the Seattle International Airport…
After a few hours of flight time, lots of reading on a book I was woefully behind in and a few bumps along the way we dropped our bags in our hotel in downtown Cordova, and grabbed dinner with Jessyka of CRS, only to witness one of the best sunsets outside the Palouse that I’ve ever seen. Everyone should be so lucky. There was nothing to do but sit back and drink it all in perfectly full and contented.
With one restful night’s sleep under my belt thanks to the torrential downpour the night before that lulled me back to sleep in about the same amount of time that it woke me up – we caught a moment of reprieve in the rain to go walk the docks and meet a few of the people who call the Copper River Delta home.
There are roughly 220 boats in the Copper River fleet, with six of them being run by women. And dang it takes a certain set of lady-cohones to run a boat by your lonesome. But the pride that these men and women have in what they do is incredibly admirable. It’s not a job. It IS a way of life in every sense of the word.
After grabbing a couple of fish ourselves, we took off in our gaiters, feeling totally legit and bad ass, to go paint some fish. Fish painting is precisely what it sounds like – transposing painted fish onto paper, or in our cases – aprons and baby onesies! It was like being back in elementary school, in all the best ways. 6 women with fish, paint, aprons and smoked salmon pizza for lunch – C’mon who can this not be fun!?!
A fish for painting.
Early the next morning when the fog was still setting low on the water, the girls and I all headed out to Orca Adventure Lodge for some kayaking before we took off for the Eyak river and a little fishing.
Orca Adventure Lodge is the lodge and former first cannery in Cordova. With over 100 years of history under it’s belt it’s a sight to see. The old chow house is still used today for the guests and employees alike. And seeing a 114 year old cast iron range still being put to use today really puts the history of Orca into perspective.
I can’t tell you how intense the heat radiating from that beast was. Or how bad I wanted to grab a pan and get cooking!
Waking up, kayaking and seeing otters and waterfalls abound is not a bad way to start the day. E.V.E.R.
As it turns out – one of my old buddies from my WSU Logging Spots days was actually guiding up at Orca the same time I was there! Of all places in the world to run into someone – it’s Cordova. Brian (the guy in the red sweatshirt, bottom center) was out and about getting a last minute guide that took him off the boat we were going to be on together. DANG! But such is life. Our replacement guide though – Awesome guy.
(Now let’s play a game of “Where’s Megan!” – That’s me on the bottom row, and the chick on the left. HI!!)
Oh – you didn’t know I threw axes and ran with chainsaws for fun? Well, now you do.
Our guide Ray – who reminded me of uncle – lives 5 minutes down the road from me here in Seattle! I swear – all paths cross in Cordova, Alaska. Who would have thunk it?
But how did I do fishing? To say that my fishing streak has come to an end would be a terrible and unfortunate understatement. About 5 minutes into settling into our spot of choice, Kaela landed a whopper and I had a fish on. Mine turned out to be a wee dollie – and Kaela landed a biggun that was half the size of HER!!
Mine was the length of my forearm. *hangs head in shame*
It was a riotous couple of hours on the river with Emile, our secondary guide giving us a salmon dance for good luck. It probably did the opposite, with his dancing being roughly the equivalent of Elaine from Seinfeld. But it was a good laugh none the less.
Continuing on with our excited day, our next stop was the Sheridan Glacier. As we drove out the delta, you could see it extending through the Chugach range setting the scene.
Seeing this glacier up close was mind boggling. Sure we saw glaciers on our honeymoon – but walking out to them, touching them, licking the ice (like all classy women do, natch.) was something mind blowing. Nothing else will ever make you feel so small. The crags at the top of the moving wave of ice was worn down and softened by years of wind as it reached its final destination.
During the winter, when everything freezes over going to the glacier is a popular destination for a little family ice skating and locals will even chip off large blocks to use as center pieces for their parties, chipping off bits for their whiskey.
I need a glacier to chip ice off for parties!
But one thing Kaela learned the hard way – was not to wade out to far and top your boots.
It makes for a frosty and soggy walk back.
Later that night we got to participate in the Fungus Festival that brought nearly the whole town together. Kaela, Jess, Beth and I pitched in to help prepare the dinner for almost 150 people, where every course had mushrooms within. Even dessert. Yeah – I know!
Candy cap mushrooms flavored our dessert of cheesecake in phyllo cups. But the star to me was the lamb ragout with porcini mushrooms over cheesey polenta. And when I say cheesy, I mean cheesy. The polenta walked by the cheese and said “Hi”, but to say polenta graced the dish would be an misrepresentation of the facts. And I loved ever minute of it!
After too much food, too much wine, and a lot of time with devout Cordova locals, it was time to lay down for our last night. Leaving the next morning with sun shining all around us was a difficult thing to do. Meeting the people we met, seeing the commitment they have to their craft and to the sustainability of their way of life was nothing short of admirable and inspiring.
Copper River Salmon, and the community that surrounds the delta is committed to protecting the sustainability of these prized fish for generations to come. And I am forever thankful that I got to experience Cordova first-hand. It was something I will never forget.
If you’d like to see more Copper River Salmon and recipes featuring this prized fish – check out these recipes!
Grilled Salmon Buerre Blanc
Grilled Salmon Soft Tacos
Grilled Salmon Burgers and Healthy Coleslaw
Oven Fried Salmon Wontons
*Note* Thank you to Copper River Salmon for allowing me the chance to visit your town. Expenses for this trip were funded by Copper River Salmon. All opinions are my own.*
Thursday, September 20, 2012
Now this is one we haven’t done in a while – but with the chaos that six women’s lives can throw at them all at one time seemed to occur all in the month of August, thus pushing our big send-eachother-all-the-things bi-monthly mission into chaos.
But now that our lives have calmed down to a relatively stable state of disorder we were able to coordinate and send our blogger love packages to one another, only minor catastrophes ensuing.
These girls you’ve met plenty of times before, from our various theme week adventures, like PIE WEEK, Cocktail Week and our soon to be – BEER WEEK. So, naturally you have to stay tuned for THAT. Though all these adventures that keep us close despite all the distances between – we share this ritual of sorts, to keep us close and bring a little cheer to our day.
This month – I was paired with the lovely, smart, witty, cheek bones from here ’til Tuesday, Mads of Le Petite Pancake. And guess what, she’s also a newlywed. *High five for big life milestones!* Oh and she’s been trudging through slogs of books in pursuit of her Master’s degree. Planning a wedding AND a thesis? Overachiever.
Well, when my mail door was slung open to find a key, to another mail box, I had the highest of hopes for what was to be.
Naturally the first thing I got to as I rifled, unceremoniously through my OKMH package was Pocky. And right there I all but lost it. My grandma spoiled me as a kid with every flavored pocky we could find, and after a short student exchange to Japan when I was 14, my horizons were expanded to the depths of Pocky lust. Needless to say, these didn’t make it through the rest of the afternoon…
Now I’ve sen quinoa eh-ve-ree-wah-ha-air, and even bought a bag myself but have been too scared to try it ever since. Don’t ask me why, because it’s really some sort of irrational, fear of the unknown that has stopped me thus far. But now – seems like the time to give it a go. And with sundried tomato and basil? Safe bet, I’ll be a fan.
When Mads got married just a couple months ago, she inherited a new set of family members and a new culture. And since every family has traditions of their own, Jonathan’s family instilled in her the way of the chopsticks. Something she wanted to pass on to me, and let me tell you – I need practice. That night I set about making vegetables and noodles to practice with. It wasn’t pretty, but Huck sure loved my practicing since tid bits were scattered on the floor.
The sandalwood soap, so elegantly wrapped, has been my zen-smell ever since receiving this. I’ll randomly detour into the bathroom just to pick it up and take a big whiff and then carry on about my day a little more balanced and relaxed. Perfection.
Lastly came my favorite of the day – a Brushing Beauty scrubber. With a polka dot dress. How very Cleaver of her. *ahhh haaa* get it? Cleaver? Yeah… It is proudly displayed on my sink, waiting to be christened with the first scrubbing of my cast iron pans. I love her. Her bristles remind me of my formerly box dyed red hair in college – wiry, frayed and able to wipe the grease out of the most dirty of pans.
Red and fried was not a good look. Why didn’t anyone tell me!!!
This was another banner month of our One Kitchen Many Hearts. We might be separated by miles and miles, but we are one, in our kitchen and in our hearts. Awwwww.
Visit the other girls to see what they received. I was fortunate enough to send chili bowls to my favorite Texan, Jeanne – how geographically sterotypical of me… and see what happened to them along the way!
Stop off at Mads’, Kirsten’s, Allison’s, and Kat’s for the rest of our reindeer game cahoots.
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
I’m not entirely sure where to start with this. Just sit here a moment and devour this with your eyes. You’re allowed.
Okay. Ya done? Cause I have a recipe to give you so you can bestow this glory on high upon yourself. Yes, its a gift to yourself. You deserve a gift to your self. And for your face hole.
And this one EVEN qualifies as a gift for your waistline. I know! Just wait and I’ll get to that in one second.
Revel. In. It.
As Ben and I continue to organize the chaos in our apartment, I wanted to make something special for the guy. It was our one month wedding anniversary yesterday. Yeah, that. I’m not normally one to get all obnoxiously mushy (just somewhat mushy) – and our one month anniversary might not be something we’ll remember twenty years from now – but last night, this sounded like just the ticket to welcome the man home and celebrate this itsy milestone in our lives.
With a sum total of 25% of our marriage being spent together so far, it’s no wonder it’s gone swimmingly! But I am relieved and overjoyed to have my husband home for good. He’s kinda awesome ya know. Yeah, you already know.
But the MOVING…
Seriously, the chaos of moving just makes induces in me a panic and nervous twitch in my right eye. This calmed me down and minimized the guilt I would have felt over the full fledged deep fried chicken and greasy-ring-around-my-lips feeling as I devoured it with reckless abandon.
Feelings-eater <- that’s me.
With whole wheat waffles and baked chicken you can sin – but not 7th circle of hell sin, just the regular amount of sin. You know, just enough to be a rebel.
And join me today over at Baked by Rachel for her Apple a Day party where I’m sharing my Bourbon Apple Butter recipe!
Baked Chicken and Waffles
Prep Time: 30 Minutes
Cook Time: 30 Minutes
Total Time: 1 Hours 20 MInutes
All the wonderfulness of the fried version - but healthified.
1 cup All Purpose Flour
½ cup Whole Wheat Flour
¼ tsp Salt
½ tsp Baking Soda
1 ¼ cup Buttermilk
2 Tbsp Butter, very soft
2 Chicken breasts, filleted into 4
1 ½ cup Panko, toasted
⅓ cup Flour
3 Tbsp Milk
3 Tbsp Dijon +Extra for drizzling
Sugar Free Maple Syrup
Combine dry ingredients into medium size bowl. Mix together egg, softened butter, and buttermilk into another medium bowl. Gently whisk the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and beat together until batter is smooth.
Heat waffle iron and using about ½ cup of batter per waffle, grill waffles according to manufacturer's directions.
Remove toasted waffles from iron and place on a baking sheet with a wire rack in over set to "warm" heat. Keep warm until chicken is ready.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Fillet two whole chicken breasts into four. Pour with a meat tenderizer until the chicken is of even thickness. Set aside.
In small bowl combine egg, milk and dijon mustard. Place onto rimmed plate or shallow bowl. Set aside. Place flour and toasted panko into their own shallow bowls or rimmed plates, separately.
Dredge each fillet of chicken in flour, then egg-wash, and lastly coat in toasted panko. Set onto non-stick sprayed broiler pan. Repeat with remaining chicken fillets. Bake at 450 degrees for approximately 10 minutes, or until chicken has cooked through. Remove from oven and allow to cool for five minutes.
Plate waffle, top with baked chicken. Drizzle with extra dijon mustard and then maple syrup. Promptly devour.
Waffles adapted from America's Test Kitchen Buttermilk Waffles. Remaining recipe is by Megan Keno.
Monday, September 17, 2012
My obsession with pumpkin knows no bounds. It rivals even my obsession with Dowton Abbey, and we all know how much that is saying… BTW, it’s already airing its third season in the UK, and it momentarily crossed my mind that I could apply for an international posting with my company for the next four months just so I didn’t have to wait until the dead of winter to start watching the next season. #obsessed.
But for now I will be content and live my days obsessing over pumpkin filled things, fall, apple picking and leaf peeping.
I guess. *le sigh*
And to officially kick off the next 90 days of Pumpkin-All-The-Things I’m redeux-ing the now infamous Pumpkin Crack Dip. If you’ve known me for any length of time, this is nothing new to you. But if you are new around here, Let. Me. Tell. You.
Make ready all your mops, tarps, and paddy bicycle pants, because you are going to need em to catch the drool, mop the drool and pad your ass as you slide out ‘cha dayum chair, son.
Your life will be shifting on a new axis and that is a beautimus thing.
The last couple few weeks have been rapidly changing for Ben and I – as the week we got back from our blessed wedding and honeymoon, he was back to work 300 miles away and mama got a new job! Then I was back in Alaska for four days, then back home to work, train for the new job and simultaneously train my replacement, and lastly – move Ben home!! If it weren’t for all my hacking, coughing and haze filled air the Palouse would have proved stunning as ever, post harvest.
And as you read this he is currently plugging away with a loaded down pick up and most notably with my hand made bookcase whittled from the wood of some
exotic far off land Home Depot, hand stained with his rough manly man-beast of a husband’s hands.
Yeah, it made my slightly sick getting that mushy too. I’ll stop now.
So, to move this carosel all the way around – the last couple of weeks have been stressful. And now that I’m hyper focused on everything from the new job, to cleaning the apartment to have the husband move back home, to having one of my blogging besties coming to visit, and the ridiculous stain on kitchen floor that even Kryptonian cleaning solution can’t remove – this dip is my salvation, sanctuary, and only thing able to distract me from the cocophony of chaos occuring in my life.
And it’s like crack. Natch. So it holds my attention and devotion and distracts me from the gym and fitting back into those nice-ass jeans I worked so hard to squeeze into pre-wedding.
Blast! Foiled again.
But oh. So. Worth. It.
Pumpkin Cheesecake Crack Dip
Yield: 3 cups
Prep Time: 10 Minutes
Total Time: 10 Minutes
1 8oz. Container Cream Cheese, softened
2 cups Marshmallow Fluff
2/3 cup Pumpkin Puree
1 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice
In a stand mixer, or large bowl with a hand mixer, beat cream cheese until smooth. Add in marshmallow fluff and beat to combine. Beat in pumpkin puree and lastly add in pumpkin pie spice mix. Mix until evenly distributed.
Eat immediately with graham crackers and sugar cookies. Or refrigerate in a sealed container for an hour to chill.
Devour without abandon.
Megan Pence-Keno - Country Cleaver
Wednesday, September 12, 2012
In four years of dating Ben and I went on one vacation, to Yellowstone. And that was three years ago for our one year anniversary.
And he wound up in the emergency after getting tossed off his horse the first time I took him horseback riding. By some miracle I didn’t end up single after that…
On this second vacation of ours – our honeymoon – we opted for Alaska. And no horses. No, it wasn’t some sandy beach destination, because even after slaving away at the gym for hours on end, I wasn’t feeling hot enough to be struttin’ my schtoof all over the place. My arms could handle the exposure – they’re pretty rocking right now, but the rest of me wasn’t up for that adventure. Alaska was perfect to prevent that kind of viewing. Hello sweatshirts and heavy jackets!
Ben and I opted for cruising our way to the great white north. Taking off right from Seattle, it was an obvious choice. Booking our cruise through Costco Travel was a breeze. If you didn’t already know – Costco is my Mecca. And they really played a huge roll in our wedding – because that’s where I bought my wedding dress (mine’s the 2nd one down on the right.). No, I’m not kidding.
Pardon my ridiculous expression – I was a little over excited that day.
Anyway – CostcoTravel made the entire process of booking our cruise a cinch. There were a few lingering questions we had about booking our room so after a phone call, we were chatting with an incredible rep who answered all of our questions and simplified the whole process. Ben and I wanted to do things on more of a budget, so there was extra moolah left over for dinners out in port, drinks on board and excursions that we knew would cost a pretty penny. Booking an inside room was the way to go. We figured we wouldn’t be spending much time in there anyway, so it was worth saving a few hundred to forgo the balcony room.
The deal that we booked was the lowest possible flat rate fare that, if there were any rooms available, we would get upgraded too. Since it was Alaska in August, it was a full cruise, so our upgrade never happened. No big deal. We had resigned ourselves to the fact we had booked the inside room, so that if that’s what we got we’d be happy with it.
We did get a free bottle of wine since it was our honeymoon – so that was a bonus. Even if it was only good enough to get ya drunk.
The room was smallish, but it was about what I had expected having cruised a couple times before. The bed was surprisingly comfy, even comfier than ours here at home, rocking me to sleep and affording me nights of 10 hours sleep that I hadn’t had in eons with all the wedding stress and chaos going on the last few months.
Taking two days to get to our first destination was a bit of a sit-around-and-wait maneauver. Juneau was a two day trek away, and after the first full day on the cruise, we’d seen all we had wanted to, and dodged all the screaming running children we could. The buffets were constantly packed, and we quickly learned to time our meals in the dining rooms to right when they opened so we could beat the rush of families and long lines for tables.
Norwegian’s “Free-style” cruising method works well for those not wanting to adhere to strict dining times and eating at tables of 8 with strangers around like more formal lines would. But for me, I was left longing for the more structured cruising with more formal dinners and actually feeling the need to dress up – just a little.
But after two days of being locked on board with bad coffee, we were ready for some time on land.
Skagway had the best coffee of our trip. And we relished the experience sitting in the local cafe for over and hour eavesdropping on the locals and just enjoying the town.
In Juneau Ben and I booked an excursion to go see the Mendenhall Glacier, which was highly recommended by my brother. For $50 a person it was a bit spendy for just having a tour bus drive us 20 minutes from the dock, but it was a great place to go see. The falls are massive, and standing at the bottom of them, you can’t help but get drenched. And the blues and teals coming out of the glacier spires are something to admire.
Totally worth it.
But the six hours in port was not near enough time to see everything that Juneau had to offer.
In Skagway, we had our longest day in port – a whopping 13 hours. We walked around, alot, ate food, strolled through the museums, tried to dodge all of the jewelry shops and tourist traps that lined the streets of each little town and finally sauntered into Skagway Brewing Company for a pint. Or four. And a burger. Or two. It was just what we needed.
Then we burned off our drunk with a little hard work on the railways. Oww, my back!
Back on the boat we went, for another full day of cruising through Glacier Bay. To say that it was breathtaking seems too banal and dull. Clouds covered up the tops of the mountains but standing there on the ship with only the sound of the engine and the crack of the ice was something to behold.
And so after the glaciers were off in the distance, Ben and I caught an improv show, and did a little bowling on board until reaching Ketchikan for our last Alaskan destination.
Since we saved a few hundred bucks on the inside room and received such generous gifts from friends, Ben and I went and got a little muddy on a Jeep and canoe safari. So. Much. Fun. It might not have been a helicopter trip to walk on the glaciers at $600 a pop, but this was reasonable and a TON of fun. Old logging roads and alpine lakes? Win and win.
This excursion took up most of our six hours on shore, but left us with a great memory and a chance to see more of Alaska than just the tourist trap lined streets of town that pawned off gaudy jewelry and t-shirts at every door. It felt like what Alaska was about, even in the small amount of time that we were in Ketchikan.
Our last night was spent in Victoria, BC, where Ben and I walked around town, passed by the famous Empress hotel, and grabbed dinner at a local wharf restaurant where Ben enjoyed the homemade chowder and I on Salmon Wellington (which I will be showing you next week! Stay tuned. Like, totally.)
All in all – it was a fantastic honeymoon with my honey-for-life. Next time – we’ll just fly straight to Alaska, maximizing our time in a super gorgeous place that we both fell in love with.
Final Report Card on Norwegian Cruise to Alaska : B-ish
Honeymoon : A+ , Naturally.
See my detailed report card below.
For a more refined experience – give Holland America or Celebrity a try.
Monday, September 10, 2012
There’s fungus among us! And in your face.
This recipe has been a long time coming. Not because it was difficult or time consuming to make – but with life getting in my way, with things like this, that and the other – this poor little burger baby got lost in the crowd. But no more!
Yesterday my second Alaskan adventure of the year came to a close. Last night I arrived home from Cordova, Alaska where I spent four days in the most pristine and breathtaking little town I’ve ever been too.
Amongst the plethora of activities Kaela and I participated in on our adventure with Copper River Salmon – we also got to experience the Cordova Fungus Festival. I know, right? And it was an experience to be sure. From braised lamb and porcini ragout to candy cap mushroom cheesecake – this was a life altering experience.
*Sidebar* There will be Pl-he-hen-ty more Alaska in your face where this little picture comes from. Promise! But back to the food…
To keep this fungi-filled theme going I figured breaking out this meatless steakhouse burger was totally warranted.
Of course because we all know what I rebel I am – I added bacon to it. So fine, it wasn’t completely meatless, but you get the point.
Into a plastic zip lock bag went my one portobello mushroom cap, and about a ¼-⅓ cup of steak marinade. I chose the A1 Steakhouse Peppercorn marinade, but any of them will surely do you good. The two were left in the fridge to get it on for an hour or two – since I got distracted by a bumblebee, or watching Downton Abbey on dvd for the 3 millionth time…what? It was the Christmas Special episode – and we all know how awwww-inducing that episode was! Don’t judge me.
Anyway – once the mushroom was all juiced up, I the grill was heated and this little porker of a meaty manly mushroom was grilled on medium high for about 4 minutes a side – or until the grill marks were left on it, and it was heated through.
Naturally since we’re talking steakhouse things, caramalized onions were added, tanker ship loads of BBQ sauce was slathered on there and to take it five steps over the top – a heap of bacon and crumbled blue cheese. All the best parts of ridiculously dressed up steaks.
Go big or go home. We have no need for measly topped burgers here.
And so, I shoved it into my face and it was good. Really, this really called for me donning a bib, an apron, and a tarp under my chair – because there is no way this is dainty to devour. Just wear your grubbiest shirt – because this thing isn’t meant to be eaten purdy. But no one is judging here. Least of all, me.
So stay tuned – later this week you’ll be getting a play by play of my Alaskan Adventure with Copper River Seafood and you’ll be simultaneously booking a trip to the great white north. I guarantee it. As ferociously click and search for nursing jobs for Ben and jobs for me…
Portobello Mushroom Steakhouse Burger
Yield: 2 Burgers
Prep Time: 1 Hour
Cook Time: 20 Minutes
Total Time: 1 Hours 20 MInutes
A meatless burger with all the trappings and toppings of a steakhouse steak
2 Portobello Mushrooms, cleaned and stem removed
½-⅔ cup Steak Marinade, I used A1 Steakhouse Peppercorn
1 yellow onion, sliced
4 strips Bacon, fried*optional - omit if you choose to have this meatless
3 Tbsp Butter*
½ cup BBQ Sauce of choice,
¼ cup Crumbled Blue Cheese
2 Whole Wheat Burger Buns, toasted
3 Tbsp Canola Based Mayonaise
In a zip and seal plastic bag, place mushrooms that have been cleaned and stemmed. Pour in marinade and cover mushrooms. Seal and place in fridge for about 1 hour or longer.
*For Bacon version* In large sauté pan, fry bacon until crispy. Remove bacon and drain on a paper towel. Leave bacon grease in pan. Toss sliced onion into the same pan with the bacon grease and caramelize. Set aside caramelized onion for topping later.
*For Vegetarian Version* If you want to omit bacon, heat pan over medium high heat and melt butter. Toss in sliced onion and caramelized. Set aside caramelized onion for later.
Heat grill to medium high heat. Place mushrooms onto grill and allow to heat up about 4-5 minutes depending on grill. When they have heated and left grill marks, turn over and allow to finish grilling on the other side. Set aside when cooked through.
Toast burger buns, place mushroom into bun and top with desired ingredients like onions, blue cheese crumbles, mayo and BBQ sauce.