Wednesday, August 1, 2012
Friday, July 6, 2012
Friday, June 22, 2012
Friday, June 8, 2012
Friday, June 1, 2012
Friday, May 18, 2012
Monday, April 23, 2012
Friday, March 16, 2012
It feels like forever since I’ve posted here. It’s been a busy few weeks, musically, which hasn’t left much time for writing or for fabulous food.
However, a couple of weeks ago, we were inspired by the time crunch to indulge in some really good take-out.
One Friday night, while I was off singing at the Wine Walk in Issaquah, Nancy ordered one of our favorite pizzas from Amante Pizza and Pasta.
The House Special is an eclectic pie, with Canadian bacon, roasted garlic, feta, black olives, spinach, sunflower seeds and shredded pepperoni. It also comes with green peppers and red onions, which we tend to leave off.
Oh, it’s delicious. Their crust has a nice flavor and isn’t too thick. The sauce is tasty, but not obtrusive. It adds to the pie without being too pushy. There’s a lot of stuff, including loads of sweet, creamy roasted garlic and tangy, salty feta.
I’m not sure why I was surprised that those two things balance each other so well. They are really delicious together. There’s the spicy pepperoni, the smoky ham. There’s the surprising crunch of the nutty sunflower seeds. And you feel kind of healthy about eating it because of the spinach. :o)
It’s a hearty pie with generous toppings and balanced flavors. An awesome Friday night special.
Now, because of some friends at work had leftover Chinese food for lunch that week, I had a craving for our favorite, Snappy Dragon.
We actually didn’t get our usual, the jao zi, Salt and Pepper chicken, and Snappy Dragon fried rice (best fried rice outside of my mother-in-law’s).
We decided that veggies would be good, so we got mu shu chicken. We also got potstickers (larger than the jao zi with a thicker wrapper) and the Snappy Dragon chow mein with the hand-rolled noodles.
Heaven! The homemade noodles are divine, with a light sauce, beef, chicken and shrimp, and some veg. The noodles are just so good! I don’t know that words can do them justice. They are toothsome, savory. And they are amazing cold! It’s really hard to stay out of the leftovers to save them for lunch or dinner the next day.
The only complaint I might have is that their pancakes are a little thick, but they are also homemade, so I really can’t complain.
There is something comforting in having those fall-back positions of favorite take-out meals. Not only comforting to eat, but comforting just in knowing that they are there when you need them.
Friday, February 17, 2012
I have to admit, it’s been a tough week, food-wise. Two days after returning from vacation, I came down with a horrid stomach virus.
Nothing like a day on watered-down Gatorade to make one appreciate how wonderful the simple things can taste.
That first, clean, bright taste of applesauce on Wednesday evening after coughing up the contents of my stomach not once, but twice that morning and then taking 5 hours to drink a single 16 ounce glass of water was pure Nirvana (the spiritual plane, not the band).
Pure, unadulterated cooked-down apples. No sugar, no ascorbic acid to help it retain its color. Just apples.
Have you ever taken one of those single-serving plastic cups of applesauce and put it in the freezer? Then you take it out once it’s frozen and scrape the top with a spoon so you get something like an apple-y sno-cone. I used to love doing that when I was a kid. Well, really a teenager and 20-something. I don’t think they had those little plastic cups of applesauce when I was a kid. Someone out there who knows my age correct me if I’m wrong. ;o)
Come to think of is, the apple is probably my favorite fruit to just eat. I grew up eating apples when all you could reliably get were Red Delicious and Golden Delicious. But back then, the Red Delicious were pretty good. We’d buy them in five pound bags and they’d be gone within the week. The apples were small and sweet and juicy almost all the time. Every once in a while you’d get a mealy one.
But as I got older, the Delicious apples started getting bigger and less yummy. They were almost always mealy, not the tasty little gems I’d grown up eating.
Mom and Dad would sometimes get Braeburns or McIntoshes (as opposed to mackintoshes). They’d talk about Gravensteins or Winesaps or Jonathans or Pippins.
I’m pretty sure that Dad would make applesauce from McIntoshes. Maybe Jonathans. Not sure what he put in apple pies before Granny Smiths came around.
I fell hard for the Granny Smith apple in my teens. It was always crisp, fabulously tart, gorgeously juicy. I loved them. But then they started to come up dry and flat-tasting. They, too, got larger and more mealy.
Nowadays it seems like new varieties come around all the time. Now there’s Fujis (which, granted, have been around for quite a while), Galas (okay, they’ve been around a while, too), Pink Ladys and Honeycrisps. So many wonderful eating apples, I can hardly count them all.
My current favorites have to be the Honeycrisps. The flavor is delicate, sweet and tart at the same time, beautifully crisp and juicy.
I know someday I will have a Honeycrisp apple that is past its prime, that has grown too big and gone mealy, and I will fall out of love again.
But for now, they are, to me, the best eating apple there is.
Apparently it’s too watery for applesauce, so maybe I’ll grab some in-season Galas this Fall and make some then. Mmmm...stay tuned....
Saturday, February 11, 2012
Okay, really, where we are has all the modern conveniences. And you can get cell service in town. But not once you get out of Winthrop proper.
On vacation with friends in Mazama, WA, we come here because the cell service is nil and the silence is so complete it has weight and mass. It is a way to escape our everyday lives and yet still have internet when we want it. :o) It’s kind of like ‘roughing it’ going camping by the Metolius River. You can go to the Camp Sherman store where you can only get domestic brie. And the best BLT on the planet.
This tradition (annual for some, occasional for others) started several years ago with just a handful of us and it became almost sacred time to me in subsequent years. That first year, it was a get away I desperately needed, with people I knew wouldn’t judge me while I contemplated one of the most difficult decisions of my life.
There is something about this place and the people with which we share it that is soul-reviving. Some of those people are not with us this year and we miss them. But then N and I have missed the last two years because we just weren’t able to get away.
Not only has this pilgrimage east of the mountains been a way to recharge batteries, but it has also been about great exercise (including snowshoe badminton) and great food and wine.
During that first trip over with M, E and T, I grabbed a bottle of wine from the local grocery. It was local wine from a winery not far from where we were staying. I’d never heard of Lost River Winery, but I loved the wine so much that I went back for a couple of additional bottles that I saved for the following year’s trip. That’s when the love affair started. A friend who came over the next year bought two cases of wine from their new (at the time) tasting room just outside Winthrop.
Then they only made a cabernet sauvignon, a merlot and a white blend called Rainshadow. I think maybe they were producing their first batch of syrah that year as well. I was happy to see, seven years later, that they still produce the Rainshadow. It’s a wonderful white blend.
So it wasn’t a surprise that when I went to the Winthrop grocery store, I made a beeline for the wine section. And found a nebbiolo that I decided was the wine to try this year. Delicious!!
When we do this vacation, we also tend to try and make meals special. There are a lot of people I know who are amazing cooks and we like to all try and show off our skills a little when we get together.
This year, because we are only two small families with two small children, there is a lot more convenience food and much less fanciness. But still some very excellent food.
Last night we decided to go out to dinner. I had been curious about a place off highway 20 that we’ve passed every time we come over here called East 20 Pizza. I looked at their menu online and thought the variety of toppings and the ingenuity of pairings was definitely work checking out.
So we packed up and headed into town where could get dinner and let our phones connect to the cell network. :o)
Let me tell you, we were not disappointed!
It’s a tiny place…a total of 6 4-tops and counter space for maybe a dozen more people. You can also call ahead and take out a hot pizza or a take-and-bake. Their business is definitely set up to serve as many people as possible, even with limited dine-in space. They have some table out on the front porch, but this time of year is not conducive to outdoor seating.
The Papa Dan’s graced our table. A pie with thin crust, a blend of their red sauce and their cream sauce (I requested this modification…their menu version comes with the red sauce), pepperoni, sausage, canadian bacon and extra mozzarella.
It was a phenomenal pie. Even the two-year-old inhaled most of a large slice. We had a couple of pieces leftover. I’m really looking forward to lunch.
At the other table in our party, individual pizzas were the rule. Each person got their own. We had shied away from the little 8” pizzas because personal pizzas, in our experience, tend to be all crust and no topping. But these were just as thin as the 16” my family shared.
There was a pesto chicken, a chicken royale (minus sun-dried tomatoes) and a mozzarella & feta pizza for the four-year-old. All were rated exceptional by their consumers.
Their red sauce is bright and fresh tasting and they apply it to the crust judiciously. To me, the perfect pizza must have the right balance of crust and toppings. And nothing turns me off a pizza more quickly than too much sauce.
The pesto was a vibrant green, which tells me it had to be pretty fresh, too. Basil oxidizes quickly, which is why jarred pesto sauces are a dark, deep green.
The cream sauce is thick and redolent with garlic, which added a wonderful richness when blended with the red sauce. Those two sauces and some pasta sheets and they’d have a killer lasagna!
One of the things that makes East 20 Pizza very Northwest is that they locally source as much of their pantry as possible. Including their wine.
Not only was I very pleased by the food, but they had Lost River wines on their menu. So I had a glass of the Community Red with my pizza last night. It was what I wanted to buy at the store the other night, but couldn’t because they were sold out.
Since we’re hoping to get back into the annual swing of this vacation trip, we are already planning to call ahead our first night back next year so they have a couple of take and bake pizzas ready for us. We can pick them up on the way through town to whatever cabin we stay in.
We can also stop at the grocery store and pick up some Lost River wine and we’ll be set.
I, for one, am already looking forward to next year!
Friday, January 27, 2012
Oh, there’s so much to write about! There’s been so much cooking in this house since I last posted! Soups and stews and tuna casserole (oh my!).
However, I fear there would be riots if I didn’t write about my baking adventures of the past couple of weeks.
And by that I mean the sticky buns.
This will be another case of food blogs colliding. I Googled “sticky buns” and this was the first thing that came up. A recipe for Cinnamon Sticky Buns at SimplyRecipes.com.
I read quite a few recipes, but I kept coming back to this one. It had all the elements I was looking for: an egg-rich dough that was supposed to sit in the fridge overnight, plenty of cinnamon-sugar filling (with brown sugar, not white) and an ooey-gooey, sticky syrup mixture loaded with pecans in the bottom of the pan that ooze all over the baked buns when they were turned out of the pan.
I also loved that, for those who aren’t used to working with or proofing yeast, it had a link to a picture of what the yeast was supposed to look like when it was done proofing, all bubbling and foamy. Nice detail!
There are some out there, I’m well aware, who believe the pecans get in the way of all the yumminess, but I’m here to tell you they are necessary for the yummy. The provide a richness and a slight bitterness that balances all the sweet. I honestly don’t think I could handle all of that sweetness without the balance of some nuts. Walnuts would probably also be fine, but I really love the butteriness of the pecans. It’s really perfect, in my opinion.
The dough was easy to work with…dense and smooth because of the egg yolks. There is nothing quite like the feel of a yeast dough when it’s just right. It gets slightly shiny, it’s moist without being sticky, it’s almost velvety. It's really kind of sexy.
I did things a little out of sequence from the recipe. Because of timing, I put the dough in the fridge after the first rise and let it set there overnight. Then I took it out the next day, let it rise a couple of times, punching it down every couple of hours, before I rolled it out, prepped the goo for the baking pan and baked the rolls.
What did that extra rising time get me? A little more fermentation time, which means a little more flavor to the dough.
There were two things that annoyed me. First, the dough wouldn’t stay on the dough hook of my mixer and I’m not sure why. Maybe it wasn’t sticky enough. It was a rather dry day…the dough didn’t even take the minimum amount of flour the recipe called for. Maybe my egg yolks weren’t large enough. Or maybe it just wasn’t terribly humid.
That’s the thing about yeast doughs…you kind of have to play it by ear when it comes to adding the flour. Too little and your dough will be sticky; too much and your dough will be tough.
While they were baking, the house filled with this gorgeous, sweet, yeasty, cinnamony smell. I couldn’t help myself when they came out of the oven. As soon as they were cool enough, I had to try one. To my credit, it was one of the ends from the pre-cut roll, so it was kind of small.
The other thing that annoyed me…well, maybe annoyed is too strong a term. It just wasn’t quite what I was expecting even though it did taste wonderful.
The ooey-gooey syrup had a pronounced honey flavor. It certainly didn’t keep me from eating them. They were delicious! But I found as the week went on that it wasn’t quite the flavor I remembered from my mom’s rolls. So I need to experiment with the sticky topping. Maybe less honey or no honey at all and dark Karo instead of light.
All in all, it was a really tasty treat. Nice and chewy from the sticky syrup, plenty of cinnamon, a nice, tang to the bread and the crunch from the pecans.
I guess I’ll just have to keep experimenting till I get it right!