Archive | August 2011

Final score: Irene, 1 and Me, 0

Remember how I adamantly tried to refocus your energy away from hurricane Irene to making salted caramel brownies this past weekend? Well, let’s just say that if you live in the Northeast, Irene certainly came out winning across the board.

Sniffle, Sniffle.

That’s right, the brownies failed.

Actually, if we are to continue being brutally honest with each other in our blogging relationship, I think I should admit I failed the brownies. It was a sad sight in the kitchen on Sunday and I am so happy no one was there to witness me waving the white towel of defeat.

As a disclaimer, I have never made homemade brownies. I know you are picking your jaw off the ground right now, but it is true. As a little girl I loved baking all the time, especially when it was our turn to bring treats for Sunday school. I reveled in all my glory as each of my fellow classmates swallowed my creations and went up for more. I loved getting compliments served with surprised expressions from the parents who didn’t want to believe I actually baked them and not my mom. The secret that I kept from them, a sin that I was making every time I made the treats for Sunday school of all places, was that they were all made from a box!! Yes!! I am confessing my sins after 20 years! Betty Crocker was my God in the kitchen each Saturday night!

I hope you won’t judge me.

God still loves me and you should too.

I will never, ever lie to you. I promise. I pinky swear.

Getting back to the salted caramel brownies… It all started with the “caramel” sauce. Before reading the directions, I assumed the caramel sauce was to made up of sugar and butter maybe? But no, it was evaporated milk, brown sugar, powdered sugar, vanilla, and butter.  I went along with it even though it tasted yucky and had a weird consistency. I made up the brownies according to the recipe, double checking it till I felt I was going crazy over a brownie recipe. In the oven they went. I set aside the caramel mixture with a little confidence and took the brownies out when they had slight brownie come out when I stuck a fork in it. That’s what the recipe said to do, so I did it. As the brownies cooled for 30 minutes, I made the chocolate mix to drizzle over the caramel at the end. That was a nightmare! Who would have thought that melting chocolate could be such a difficult thing to do? Not me. The issue I had was that when I melted the chocolate with evaporated milk, at 20 seconds it was creamy and consistent for drizzling, but then at 30 seconds it hardened and became a mushy, ugly, fowl looking mess. I couldn’t figure it out for the life of me!

Eventually the brownies cooled and I spread the caramel sauce over them and let it sit for 30 minutes. It was supposed to have hardened by then, but it was far from that. I let it set another 30 minutes and we had no improvements. The brilliant cook that I am, I decide to check the brownies and see if the caramel is soaking into them. I don’t know what chemical reactions were occurring, but now the brownies were gooey and gross. The oven went back on and I put them in (with the caramel on top) for 15 minutes. They looked awful, so I scraped the caramel (still a liquidy, soupy & goopy mess) into the sink and let the brownies cool.

The best part of this adventure was when my boyfriend tells me (2 days later) his views on my brownie-making. He says that as we were leaving to grab a bite one night, he lagged behind in the kitchen while I was in the car so he could sneak a chunk of brownies. Well, apparently they were hard as a rock and tasted so bad he spit them out and couldn’t tell me for 2 days!! Thanks Babe. I know you are looking forward to the boxed version this weekend, and that is O.K. I know you still support me learning to cook. I’m just glad it was you who tried them first and not my future boss 🙂

If you are feeling inclined to try the recipe and prove to me it wasn’t my fault, then by all means, go ahead. I support you 110%!!! But you have been warned!! Me, I have a lot practice before I can call myself a baker.

If you want to try how good the idea of salted caramel brownies are, Decadent Creations has a version that I initially fell in love with.

from Cooking Light magazine, Sept. 2011

 

Happy Friday!

Hurricane Irene is trying to win over everyone with her forceful nature, charming direction, and may even sweep you off your feet, but I will try to compete with her this weekend for your attention with these yummmmmmy Salted Caramel Brownies!!!

A bakery at my local farmer’s market has a version of these, and THEY ARE TO DIE FOR! While on my weekly trip to the library yesterday, I browsed the pages of “Cooking Light” magazine and they had this recipe. I am SO excited to try them out… tomorrow! Tonight we are off to a BBQ so I hope Irene doesn’t charm you away before then. I have a feeling these brownies could rouse up a storm inside of your mouth – a storm of sensual pleasure for all your itty-bitty taste buds!

Stay tuned….

They are soft, fuzzy, delicate, juicy and delcious – It must be Peach season!

Here in our home, peach season is an exciting time. No matter how big dinner is, we can always be found eating a huge bowl of Red Haven peaches and ice cream for dessert. And when I say a huge bowl, I mean a salad bowl! Unfortunately, it means that you must give way for the “fat” jeans at the bottom of the dresser drawer for a couple of weeks.  It’s okay…. it will be worth it – guaranteed!

Peach picking is truly an art: carefully creeping under the tree so as not to disturb the fruit, you look up to find a nice rosy-red peach bottom. When found, carefully look around at it to make sure there’s no mold or blemishes. Lightly press your fingers to feel how soft the flesh is – too soft is okay if your going to eat it right away, but hard flesh means it isn’t quite ripe. You want to feel for flesh that slightly gives way to your pressure. If it passes the test, gently grab it at the top and ever-so-gently twist it off the branch, and voila!

Last summer I found an AMAZING recipe for extra peaches that couldn’t fit in our ice cream bowls the night before. It’s an adapted recipe from Real Simple magazine. My recipe includes as many local and fresh ingredients as possible, too. The pork was grown in Oregon, the peaches are from Sauvie Island, the Walla Walla onions are from nearby Washington, and the basil is from the farmer’s market.

Roasted Pork Chops & Peaches

1    tablespoon olive oil

4    bone-in pork chops (3/4 inch thick; about 2 pounds total)

2    peaches, cut into wedges (we prefer the Red Haven variety)

1    small Walla Walla onion, cut into thin wedges

3    tablespoons white wine vinegar

6   shiitake or crimini mushrooms

1    Tbsp. butter

1/2  cup white wine

1/2 cup fresh basil leaves

kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions

Heat oven to 400° F. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season the pork with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper and cook until browned, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.
Meanwhile, in a small skillet, melt the butter and add in the mushrooms. Cook until brown around the edges, then add in white wine. If you choose your favorite drinking wine, then you get to have a glass with dinner! Reduce the wine and turn heat down to medium, cooking for 3-4 minutes.
Add the peaches, onion, mushrooms, vinegar, and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper to the skillet used to cook the pork, cooking and tossing for 1 minute. Add all ingredients (and any accumulated juices from the pork)  in an ovenproof pan/dish. I prefer to use a casserole dish. Transfer to the oven and roast until the pork is cooked through and the peaches are tender, 8-10 minutes. Sprinkle the pork and peaches with the basil and serve.

Made a Berry Good Smoothie in the New Blender Today!

Guess what we got?! A new blender!

After getting our rebate in the mail from Costco, we were off to find the perfect blender. Did you know how confusing it can be when shopping for kitchen appliances? Lucky for us, our kitchen is so tiny that I can’t shop for fun gadgets very much. So the other day I found myself *ecstatic* going store to store and comparing all the blender options – the differences aren’t very noticeable until you start touching the device. I’m serious!

For example, the moment I lifted the glass container on what would become our new blender, I knew it was “the one”. The one that had all the traits I’ve dreamt about….The one that seemed to know how to fit my needs like a missing puzzle piece….The one that made me wonder if God really does create our other half…. Sigh…  Oh, wait! I’m supposed to be talking about our blender, not my man!!…. I always seem to veer off track and daydream about him…..

Okay, back to the blender.

The best part is that it has pre-programmed buttons that provides a timed blending of your food in a perfectly rhythmic pace. When I hit the smoothie button, it goes on high for a few continuous seconds, slows to a one-pulse-at-a-time for a couple of rounds, back to a continuous pulse, etc., and repeat. It does EXACTLY the same routine I would do! All on its own!! *Magic* I LOVE LOVE LOVE this thing!!

Here is the newest member of our growing family:

Isn’t she purrrdy?!

Even though I’ve been out picking fresh blueberries & raspberries, we have a freezer full from last summer that I really need to use. Perfect for a smoothie!!

Berry Smoothie

1     cup frozen or fresh blueberries

1     cup frozen or fresh raspberries

3/4  cup vanilla yogurt

1    cup orange juice

1    cup milk

A handful of ice cubes

With my blender, it is easier if I put in the ice cubes first, followed by the OJ and milk. Next I add in the blueberries, raspberries, and yogurt. Blend for a couple of minutes so that the ice is crushed well and the remaining ingredients are blended. Serve in a pint glass and serve immediately.

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A Taste of the Sea

Fish.

And lot’s of it.

It amazes me how much fresh fish we eat. Would you believe me if I said 16 weeks a year we are eating fresh fish? And I very well may have under-estimated that number. We are serious about fresh fish in our home – not only for the health factor, but it doesn’t get much more organic than bringing home your own food from the wild, whether it be veggies or meat. We are proud to eat from the meat we “hunt”; fish, elk, duck, goose.

Well, I only catch fish, but my rugged outdoor-loving real-life Jeremiah Johnson of a man (who can also wear a tailored suit better than any model in any Gucci ad) brings home the rest. He’s the more patient one in this relationship. We’ve agreed that if he hunts it, I will cook it. Yet, somehow I have yet to find any recipes for anything other than fish. Coincidence? Maybe. Or maybe not. I stand by the fact that the pages of my cookbook always stick together in the “game” section. I swear it’s a sign that I don’t need to learn to cook it!

Here’s one of our favorite recipes for cooking our fresh fish:

First, fillet the fish and remove all the bones.

Next, we spread olive oil over the fillets; then add freshly ground pepper, salt, and dill. If using dried dill (as we do), be sure to crumble it in your palm prior to sprinkling over the fish. It helps to release the oils/scent. Add the juice of 1/2 lemon over the fillets. Finally, cut 1 tablespoon of butter into quarters and place on the top of the fillets. Place the fish on the grill on medium-high heat for 15 min., then check to see if its done. Proceed to continue cooking until the fish is fully cooked.

While I prepared the fish, I had 1/2 yellow onion sauteing in olive oil over medium-high heat on the stove. Add a pinch of salt to help them sweat, followed by a pinch of pepper for seasoning. Once they are translucent and beginning to carmelize, I added 1 cup of sliced mushrooms. These were button mushrooms, but shiitake mushrooms would work well too. Cook the mushroom and onion mixture until the mushrooms are brown along their edges, about 5-7 min. Add 1 cup of white wine (I use Pinot Grigio because then I can drink a glass with dinner!) and continue to simmer until the liquid cooks down, about 4 min.

The fish is done! It looks so good in this photo that I am literally starting to salivate. No. Joke. It’s like I can smell the buttery-lemony-dill sauce through the computer!

I served a cut of the fillet with the caramelized onion & mushroom mixture on the side. I HIGHLY recommend serving it on the top, though, because every bite we took tasted so much better when both were on the fork together. YUMMY goodness!! It’s healthy, easy, and flavorful.

You will be so excited for the next chance you get to make it! Enjoy!

Summer has finally arrived! Woohoo!

Do you live in Oregon too? If so, you will be rejoicing with me! If not, summer in Oregon has got off to a late start – so late that the corn fields we drove by on Sauvie Island are only 3′ tall! It is August and if I remember my childhood right, the corn stalks should be getting tassels on them by now. Oregon not only has summer corn to look forward to, but the fishing season is ripe with the movement of summer Steelhead. Grab your poles and let’s go!

That’s right folks, I can fish too. I owe this skill to my main squeeze. He has proven to me that a good teacher can create a great student – I caught and netted 4 fish this weekend! Two had to be given back to the sea, but I still had two for dinner this week. Fishing is the epitome of Oregon outdoor life this time of year. These (mostly) men are serious about this hobby and become incredibly territorial fast. It’s pretty entertaining to watch 😉

Now, you may be wondering about a few things: Do I kill the fish? No way. I turn around and sing “Happy Birthday” while the deed gets done. I just can’t do that part. Do I love fishing? It depends. The weather forecast and what time we get up in the morning (4am!!) decides if I like fishing that day. (I’m a grumpy girl that early).  Do I love to eat salmon and steelhead though? Yes!! Is bad weather, an early morning, and the sounds of slaughter in the background okay with me so I can eat fresh fish all week? I think YES! I make an annual pilgrimage to our fishing spots (I really should go more often, though).  This year I’ve been dubbed “Queen of the Columbia” because my strategy is get on the boat, set my pole, sleep, wake up to a fish on, reel it in, put on new bait, set the pole, sleep, wake up to a fish on, …. and repeat. The boat next to us was getting a little peeved how easy I had it. I was the only one out of a dozen boats getting any fish. My mom would be so proud, beating these men at their own game!

Grillin’ with Bobby Flay

Well, with his cookbook, that is.

Last week I whipped up an easy meal with rib-eye steak, buttermilk mashed potatoes, and Dinosaur BBQ baked beans. Ever hear of Dinosaur BBQ? No, they don’t grill up dinosaur meat, but that could be a great story to tell kids to get them to eat their dinner! They are in upstate NY and have a few restaurants across the capital region area. I believe they originated at Harley Davidson gatherings! I know, a far cry from my typical weekend hangouts, but good food brings all kinds of people together! My mom found out about their food and it made such an impression on her, she gave us all cookbooks one year for Christmas! Yummy recipes that can satisfy any BBQ meat lover’s palate!

Bobby Flay’s Rib-Eye with Molasses-Mustard Glaze

2     bone-in rib-eye steaks

1/2  cup molasses

2     Tbsp. Dijon mustard

2     Tbsp. horseradish

1     tsp chile powder

kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

canola oil

Remove the steaks from the fridge 30 minutes before grilling.

Whisk molasses, mustard, horseradish, chile powder together in a small bowl and season with s&p. Let the glaze sit for at least 30 minutes before using, allowing the flavors to meld together.

Heat the grill to high. Brush both sides of the steaks with canola oil & season liberally with s&p. Place the steaks on the grill and cook until golden brown and slightly charred, 4-5 min.

Turn the steaks over, brush tops with glaze, reduce heat to medium and continue to grill until bottoms are golden brown and slight charred. Center should be medium-rare, 6-7 min.

Remove the steaks and brush with more glaze. Let rest for 5 min. before slicing.

Dinosaur BBQ Beans

2     cans Bush’s baked beans

2     Tbsp. olive oil

1/2  large onion, chopped

3/4  cup chopped green pepper

kosher salt & black pepper

2      garlic cloves, chopped

8     ounces hot Italian sausage (removed from casing)

1     Tbsp. Dijon mustard

1     Tbsp. ketchup

2     Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

1     Tbsp. cider vinegar

1     tsp chili powder

1     Tbsp. molasses

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and peppers, cooking till soft, adding salt & pepper. Toss in the garlic and cook for one minute.

Crumble the sausage into the veggies and cook, chopping to break the meat into small pieces. Cook till the pink disappears. Drain off some of the bean liquid in each can so that it’s at the same height as the beans; then mix the contents on both cans into the cooked veggies and sausage.

Turn down the heat to medium-low and add in the remaining ingredients. Simmer for 5-7 min. Serve immediately, or cool and reheat before serving. (We love it best the next day!)