28 December 2009

Sunday Dinner: Ham, Potato & Cheese Chowder

What do you do with the leftover half of a 12 lbs. ham? Make soup of course!

This started out as a soup recipe, I turned it into more of a chowder. The original recipe comes from Epicurious.com. The following is what I did.

Ham, Potato & Cheese Chowder
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
1 1/2 cups chopped celery
1 1/2 cups chopped carrot
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 teaspoon dried thyme
7 tablespoons all purpose flour
5 cups canned low-salt chicken broth
4 cups whole milk
3 10- to 12-ounce russet potato, peeled, diced
2 cup packed shredded sharp cheddar cheese (about 8 ounces)
2 cups chopped ham
Chopped fresh parsley
Salt & pepper to taste

I basically just adjusted the amounts in the recipe and followed the directions as written. The only other difference--after the potato was soft, I smashed about a dozen pieces to thicken it up just a little more. I also eliminated the hot sauce. I was planning to bring some leftovers to a friend and she doesn't do spicy.

We were quite pleased with the results. I recommend Tillamook sharp cheddar cheese for this recipe (and most recipes, really). I also recommend not being tempted by the lazy route of buying pre-shredded cheese. I don't think it integrates as well.

The only downside: I still have about 4 lbs. of ham to use. In the freezer it goes!

17 December 2009

Sunday Dinner: Roast Beef

Last Sunday's dinner went a little more traditional since it would be the last Sunday dinner before Christmas. It was about 10 degrees last week in Portland (barely an exaggeration if you can believe it), so I thought a nice roast beef would be a perfect way to warm up. That and it was on sale at New Seasons, as was the broccoli that accompanied it. To round out our meal, I used the recipe of a friend of my mom's who is Swedish. I'm not sure what it's called, but I just call it, "those yummy Swedish potato thingies." Descriptive, I know.

To make the roast beef, I used a 3.3 lbs. tip sirloin roast (3-4 lbs. is ideal), browned it on all sides with sunflower oil (or whatever high temperature oil you choose) for about 10 minutes total over med-high heat. This helps retain the moisture and flavor of the meat during cooking.

Roast Beef
3-4 lbs. roast (I used tip sirloin)
1 T high heat cooking oil

Preheat the oven to 250 and place rack in the lower-middle position. Tie the roast, if necessary. Pat the meat dry and season with salt and pepper. Heat oil to med-high until just smoking and brown meat on all sides (about 10 minutes). Set a rack in a roasting pan and place meat in it. Roast in the oven until medium-rare (about 1 1/2 hours). Let roast rest, tented in foil, for 20 minutes. Slice and serve.
Lots of leftovers with this dish

I also made a horseradish sauce on the side to go along with the meat. I grabbed a recipe for a roast off of Epicurious.com and just used the sauce (which I called horsey sauce, even though it's about a million times better than that crap at Arby's). It was a very nice complement to the meat and was great for the leftover roast beef sandwiches we had.

Swedish Potatoes
White or yellow potatoes (as many as desired)
Unsalted butter
Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350. Peel potatoes and slice about 1/4 inch, but not all the way through. Place small amount of butter between slices, sprinkle a little salt and pepper on all the potatoes. Place potatoes in a baking dish (I used a Le Creuset square baking dish). Sprinkle parmesan cheese on each potato and bake until tender.

Tender and crispy potatoes

I served the rest with roasted broccoli. It's a recipe I got from a Cook's Illustrated about 2 years ago and I use as often as possible. Basically, you just toss broccoli spears with olive oil and a little bit of sugar and broil it until bright green. The secret is to heat the broiler and throw the broccoli onto the hot broiler pan so it cooks through and quickly. To serve, add a splash of lemon.
A somewhat traditional Sunday dinner

11 December 2009

Slacking again

I apologize for my lack of posts. My cooking has been limited to pretty simple dinners. I will be making my first batch of homemade marshmallows this weekend, so I should have something to post then.

My absence has been due to wedding planning (booked our venues!) and getting ready to transition to a new job. After 4 1/2 years with the same organization, I'm taking a huge step in a new direction and somewhat getting out of marketing/PR for a while. We'll see how it goes. I'm VERY excited for the move and will hopefully have more time for more culinary adventures. I've also been trying my hand at sewing. Definitely keeping busy.

Next Saturday the 19th, I will be one of the lucky few to be going to a preview dinner at Christopher Israel's newest venture, Grüner. Thanks to a couple of incredible friends, I will be sampling his new "alpine cuisine" restaurant. I will definitely post something then...and maybe even sneak a few pictures!

For now, you can look at a couple of pictures of my first attempt at ciabatta. Delicious, but very time consuming.

06 November 2009

Carrot Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

I haven't fallen off the face of the planet, but I have been busy/lazy. Two weeks ago I got engaged to my boyfriend of five years and since then it's been a whirlwind of activity. Not all of it has been related to the engagement, but it's definitely added some more craziness. (It's good though.)

My latest creation has been carrot cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. I made them for a work birthday party, so I needed them to be perfect. I've talked so much about loving to bake it would be a major disappointment if they were gross. So, that meant calling in the Test Kitchen once again. I found some other great recipes on Epicurious.com for carrot cake with ginger cream frosting and candied carrot curls, but it sounded a little adventurous for this crowd. I went with the basics.

Since it was to celebrate fall birthdays and one gal's birthday is on Halloween, I used some candy corn for the decoration on top (After Halloween price = $0.50...aw yeah). I think they turned out pretty dang good.

The hardest part about this was whisking everything by hand. But I do what the Test Kitchen tells me to--at least the first time around. Emulsifying the oil into the sugars and eggs had to be the hardest part, but it was definitely worth it. All I can say, though, is thank goodness for my Cuisinart. I don't know how I used to grate all that carrot by hand!

20 October 2009

Sunday Dinner: Mushroom Pasta

This past Sunday, I was in the mood for some mushrooms. I saw a recipe last week on Twitter from Foodista for porcini ravioli with sage brown butter sauce, which, by the way, sounded amazing. I don't have a pasta maker and I was too lazy to go to Pastaworks to buy fresh sheets of pasta, so I improvised using the base of their recipe. I understand the Spaghetti Factory has a similar dish...I like the idea, I despise the Spaghetti Factory.

Mushroom Linguini with Sage Brown Butter sauce
1 lb. linguini
1/2 sweet onion
1 garlic clove
10 fresh sage leaves (2 chopped, 8 left whole)
1/4 c. fresh Italian parsley
1/4 lb. crimini* mushrooms, chopped
1/8 lb. chanterelle mushrooms, chopped
1/8 lb. king oyster mushrooms, chopped
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1/4 c. olive oil
reserved pasta water
salt & pepper to taste
mizithra cheese

Cook pasta according to directions. Try to time this to finish at the same time as the mushrooms.

Slice onion very thin. Heat 1/2 the olive oil over medium-high heat for a few minutes, then lower the flame and cook until onions are caramelized. Add garlic near the end and cook until fragrant. Set onion and garlic aside in a medium-size bowl.

Chop the mushrooms (I prefer to leave the pieces pretty large, about the size of a quarter). Add the rest of the olive oil, heat to medium-high again. Throw in your mushrooms and cook until they are slightly brown, but still firm. Throw the mushrooms into the bowl with the onions and toss with the parsley and sage. Add pepper, but I recommend not adding salt until later. Set aside.

Put your butter in the pan and melt down over medium heat. Add the remaining 8 sage leaves and allow the butter to brown slightly. Add the mushroom mixture and toss until well coated.

Drain pasta, but keep about a cup of the water. Put the pasta back in the pan and add the mushroom mixture that is coated with the butter sauce. Shred some mizithra cheese over the top and mix. Add hot pasta water, as needed. At this point you can test to see if you need more salt. The cheese was so salty, I didn't need any extra.

Add a little extra cheese, and some parsley (if desired), and serve!
Sorry the color is a little off. I had a bad setting on my camera phone when I took this picture.

I made another loaf of No Knead Bread a la The New York Times. I prefer this recipe over the Test Kitchen one as there are fewer ingredients and it's much easier. The Test Kitchen recipe is, of course, delicious, but there's (pun alert) no need to take that course when the simpler NY Times recipe is just as good.*Note: New Seasons sells an 8 oz. variety package of mushrooms for $6.99. The contents change regularly, but it is a great way to go if you're unsure what kind of mushrooms you want. I padded mine with the crimini mushrooms since the other can be so expensive.

12 October 2009

Fall Fest Dinner: Sopes, Pozole Verde, and Pumpkin Bread Pudding

Saturday, we hosted our good friends the Rices for our annual Fall Fest dinner. Each year, we go out to the Pumpkin Patch on Sauvie Island to do the Corn Maize, hunt for the perfect pumpkins, and pump ourselves full of sugar at the various food stands. After the patch, one of us cooks dinner and we enjoy a less-popular (read: crappy) horror movie, care of horror-movie aficionado Shawn.

It was our turn to host this year and rather than do our usual American comfort food, I opted to mix things up and do a more fanciful Mexican dinner. One day, I was listening to a story on NPR about an American ex-pat who lived in Mexico City and wrote a book about his experiences, including food, which is obviously a large part of Mexican culture. When he mentioned pozole verde, I knew I had to find a recipe for it. Unlike the traditional pozole I grew up with, this version uses a sauce involving tomatillos and pumpkin seeds. It sounded perfect. I set about my task of finding as authentic a recipe as I could find. Considering my mom was not familiar with this dish, it became a rather daunting task. I ended up settling on one from Epicurious, mostly because it sounded about right, was healthy, and didn't cost a fortune to make.

I made the pozole on Friday night since we wouldn't be getting back to the house until later in the evening AND these kinds of soups always end up being better the next day. I think the most surprising thing about this soup was that it was so spicy. To make the sauce, you use two whole jalapeño peppers, seeds and all, and then puree them with your tomatillos, cilantro, and onion. It turned beautifully. The color of the soup is so vibrant and then paired with all the toppings--cabbage, avocado, radishes, queso fresco--it was practically a piece of art.
Top with shredded cabbage, avocado, lime juice, radishes, fried, tortilla strips, queso fresco, sour cream...whatever sounds good!

I next went on to making the toppings for the sopes. The first time I had these, my mom made them with oysters and they were heavenly. I am not that good...yet. I opted for a refried bean base, chorizo and potato topping, and salsa de jitomate topping and queso fresco. You can get the recipe from the Food Network. I was not crazy about the masa cake, but I think in retrospect, I will not try to make the dough ahead of time. It was dry and crumbly, even though I wrapped it in a wet paper towel, let it sit at room temperature for a while before using it, and added a little more water before frying. Mom--I'm still the apprentice. You are still the master.
Without salsaWith the salsa (and blurry)

Finally, I made a pumpkin bread pudding with dark chocolate chips. I got the recipe from Epicurious, but altered a bit after reading the reviews. Normally, I wouldn't mess with a recipe my first time around, but the overwhelming opinion was that it was a necessity. At the request of Tobias, I added the chocolate chips (this is what happens when you give a sugar addict a choice between pumpkin and chocolate--he says, "both"). I cut down the amount of butter used to coat the bread, used about 1.5 times the amount of bread needed and threw in an extra egg, a little more cream and whole milk, and spices for good measure. I kept the sugar at just 1/2 a cup as I knew the chocolate would more than make up for it. I used Dagoba organic 70% chocolate chips throughout and spinkled more on top for good measure. I threw that together in the morning, wrapped it tightly, and threw it in the refrigerator. I don't know if you're supposed to do that, but I did, and it tasted good.
Le Creuset baking dish still holding strong despite the large crack on its side

Happy Fall everyone!

07 October 2009

Sunday Dinner #2: Beef Stew & Rustic Rolls

I skipped over last week's Sunday dinner (the first of fall) as we just grilled pizzas again and it wasn't the most exciting thing ever. I did, however, find a good use for my leftovers with that menu--meatball and mushroom, pesto and chicken, and fresh tomato sauce and mozzarella. Sound familiar? So, on to this weekend's dinner.

It was a rather chilly day, despite ending up as a sunny day. I spent part of my morning meeting up with my high school friend Kristel as she finished the last 4 miles of the Portland Marathon (go Kristel!). It was a strange way to catch up after 11 years, but I had a great time being there for it. After coming home chilly from running outside, beef stew sounded just perfect. I also wanted to make my first attempt at making rolls. They couldn't be too much different than making bread, but something about their little perfect shape intimidates me.

I used the Test Kitchen as my basis for both recipes. I had never tried their beef stew recipe and found it unusual to throw it in the oven after browning the meat and adding the liquid. Don't doubt the Test Kitchen, though. The meat was unbelievably tender. One thing I don't understand, though, is the lack of celery in their recipe. I added it, but I find it unusual that they don't bother with it. Personally, I love celery in my stew. I failed to recognize the fact that I needed to cook the stew in the oven when planning my meal. It only became an issue when I was to heat the oven to 425 degrees for the rolls. Oops. I have a good Dutch oven (William Temple house--$5!) and finished it on the stove.Can't beat a $5 find like this! Not pretty, but man can it cook.

The rolls were pretty easy, actually. I started a sponge on Saturday night. The recipe is very similar to any rustic bread (I just found out that "rustic" actually means "simple"...interesting). the only difference is after letting the dough rise the first time, you divide it into equal parts (it was supposed to be 18, I got 17) and let the individual part rise again. The dough seemed wetter to me than my usual bread dough, but that might have just been operator error.
Rest little rolls.

After heating the oven with the baking stone for a half hour, I slid my rolls and parchment paper onto the hot stone to bake for 20 minutes until golden. I was impatient and ended up doing all of them at once. I don't think it made too much of a difference, but I should probably rotate them out next time. The recipe says to allow them to cool for a half hour before serving, but who doesn't want a hot roll out of the oven?? C'mon.
Better than fresh from the bakery

01 October 2009

Ciao Vito

To celebrate the great success at the Race for the Cure Health Expo, my friend and our significant others wanted to go out to Toro Bravo for dinner. Much to our dismay, the restaurant was packed (not surprising on a late summer Saturday evening) and we were too hungry to wait for an hour and a half. Knowing this was a possibility, I thought of a few alternatives, one being Ciao Vito on NE Alberta. I had never been and we all thought it be a reasonably substitute. We gave them a call to find out if there was a wait and were told there was not.

After driving around traffic barriers and maneuvering around parked cars in the Alberta district (just our luck, the street fair was that day), we finally made it only to find out there was a 15-30 minute wait. However, we could sit outside. What happened in the 15 minute drive over to make the restaurant go from dead to full, we didn't know. We opted to freeze our rear ends off outside in order to get some food.

The appetizers were very well made. Shawn got the meatballs--pretty basic, but done well. Eve-Maridy ordered the caprese salad, which was also nice. I definitely hit the jackpot with my salad, which had Spanish chorizo, butter lettuce, and cheese (can't remember what kind...this is what happens when I wait a couple of weeks to post). I sopped up every drop with the bread.

After eating our appetizers, we were finally seated inside to defrost. I ordered the special of the day consisting of halibut over gnocchi (my favorite) with porcini mushrooms. The presentation was beautiful, the fish was perfectly cooked, but the gnocchi fell short. Very short. They were hard and did nothing for the dish. I was disappointed by everything but the fish. Shawn ordered the eggplant parmesan and said it was good, but not great. It seemed odd to me that after such delicious appetizers, we would leave less than impressed.

Overall, I may try it out again, but I'm not overly anxious to try it out again. After all, this is Portland there are so many restaurants to try and never enough time or money to hit them all.

21 September 2009

Sunday Night Dinners

Next week, we will re-institute the tradition of Sunday Night Dinner at the house. Back when Shawn worked Sundays-Wednesdays and I lived alone, I would have my neighbor Andy and my friend Michael over for dinner on Sundays. It was a great chance to test out new recipes and watch Gilmore Girls reruns with two great friends.

When Shawn got back to a normal schedule and we moved in together, it took a while, but eventually we started Sunday dinners up again. Only now, we watch football.

Yesterday, we took advantage of what I assume will be one of the last sunny Sundays and grilled. I have been dying to make this grilled butterflied chicken from the Test Kitchen cook book, so when I saw that whole fryers were on sale at New Seasons, I jumped on it. Since we had some beautiful heirloom tomatoes and crook neck squash from our friends' CSA, I thought our chicken should be Italian influenced, and made pesto to stuff under the skin.

About a cup of fresh basil (1.5-2 oz.)
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/2 - 3/4 cup parmagiano-reggiano cheese
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Throw all but the olive oil into the old Cuisinart, hit go, and slowly add the oil. Continue blending until smooth and thick.

Since the chicken recipe is copyrighted, I can't give it out. Basically, you just cut out the backbone, flatten it a bit, stuff some pesto under the skin, then put it on the grill (not right over the flame) for 30-45 minutes. Our 4.5 lbs. chicken took the full 45 minutes. While the chicken was resting, we put the squash on the grill, this time over the fire, and just let it get soft. All I do with it is put some olive oil and a little kosher salt and pepper on it. Let the natural flavors come out. I have to say, it was some of the best squash I've ever tasted.

As for the salad, I just cut up my tomatoes, tossed them with our delicious Rosa D'Oro olive oil from Kelseyvilla, California, and sprinkled liberally with fresh basil. I also threw on a little kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, for good measure. A few of the red ones are from my pathetically small tomato plant--not nearly as delicious as the yellow heirlooms, obviously. At least it provided a little color.

All together, it was a lovely end-of-summer meal.

29 August 2009

Birthday Cake

Of course I had to make my own birthday cake! I wouldn't have it any other way. Since my birthday is at the end of August, I don't usually want to turn on the oven. The weather has been rather kooky this week with 80-degree days mixed in with cool days of rain. The day I planned to make my cake, it was 90, so I made a frozen dessert.

This is a pop art raspberry cake that I found on Epicurious.com. Wish I had a better dish for serving it.

Everyone loved it and it was really simple to make. The best part was cutting into it.

I don't like to make changes to recipes the first time I make them, but in this case, I made one small adjustment. The combination of the sugar and raspberries was a little too sweet for me; I like my raspberries on the tart side, so I added about a 1/2 tsp. of lemon juice to increase the tartness. Next time I try this, I will probably cut down on the sugar--3/4 cup is too much, in my opinion.

I would also label this a low-cost recipe...unless you have to buy gelatin. Before I realized I had a few packets in my baking drawer, I bought a box of it, for $7.89. Why would anyone need 32 packets of gelatin? Fred Meyer really needs to stock a small box.

17 August 2009

Grilled pizza with Babbling Brook: the crossover blogisode

Yesterday I went over to my friend Stacey's house for a long-awaited sewing date. I haven't sewn on a machine in years (decades, actually) and she just added the hobby to her list of crafty endeavors. She showed me how to make a simple tote bag that I am gifting to a cousin, whose birthday I missed recently. I call it my punk rock bag. Besides the super cool fabric, it also has ragged lines...very punk rock. And I, uh...intended it that way. Right...

Cool bag

I've also been wanting to try grilled pizza. I've been reading a lot about it in FoodDay and in blogs lately. What a great way to avoid heating up the kitchen AND making pizza. I started the dough Sunday morning (whole wheat since I ran out of bread flour) and the 2 lbs I made was enough for 4 pizzas.

Our combinations:
  • Fresh basil and fresh mozzarella (not quite margherita, but close)
  • Tri-color peppers and mozzarella
  • Artichoke hearts, mozzarella, and fresh basil
And the most decadent pizza award goes to...
  • Gruyere and bacon (bought at farmers market), with a few sweet 100s tomatoes from Stacey's garden (pictured)
We learned some valuable lessons, too.
  1. Don't set the porch on fire by allowing Shawn to use lighter fluid
  2. Grill one side of the dough, take it off the heat for a few minutes before decorating it and let it rest before putting it back on the grill to finish cooking; makes for some outrageously delicious crust
  3. We are pizza toppings geniuses (or, at least advanced)

15 August 2009

Grilled steak tacos

After a busy day out with my friend Nicki and her two boys and newborn baby, I am ready for a lazy evening in. We spent the late morning/afternoon at Big Truck Day at Calistoga park. It was a fun, but exhausting, day. Luckily, I had already planned our meals and grocery shopping on New Seasons' Web site, so the shopping trip was easy.

Tonight's plan: grilled steak tacos. I've made a similar dinner before when our friend Jeremy was visiting. This time, I decided to spice up the marinade. Here's (more or less) a recipe:
  • Juice from two limes
  • Few tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Couple tablespoons chili powder
  • Dash (or two) of cayenne pepper
  • Teaspoon of oregano
I whisked that together in a Tupperware container and threw in our nearly one pound cut of London Broil (seasoned with salt and pepper of course), a cut of meat that was on sale for $4.99/lb at New Seasons this week. I let that marinade on the counter for about a half hour.

We put the meat and couple thick slices of white onion over the grill until the meat was medium rare, then threw the corn tortillas on to get warm and a little chewy, so the juice from the meat wouldn't tear them. After pulling it from the grill, I squeezed a little more lime on the meat and let it rest for five minutes.

The result:
Not bad for $4.80 of meat, which will also give us another meal. Make sure to slice thin so it is tender.

A delicious way to start Saturday night.

Many colors make for a delicious dinner!

09 August 2009

Lovely Hula Hands

Last week we hosted Shawn's parents, Norm and Karen, during their annual summer visit from upstate NY. Since Shawn, Karen, and I all celebrate birthdays in August, they were kind enough to treat us to a lovely dinner out. The original plan was to go to our neighborhood restaurant Roux, however, it closed about a month ago (sad). After some discussion, we decided to try out Lovely Hula Hands on North Mississippi.

After a week of intolerably hot temperatures, Portland finally started to cool down--enough to even sit on their lovely patio out back for a late supper. In fact, our table is pictured (photo care of their Web site).
I started with a cocktail, a fact I later regretted just a bit since it didn't fit very well with my meal. However, the drink was delightful, slightly tart, and nice for the weather. Shawn ordered these tasty little grilled padron peppers as an appetizer. They weren't spicy, but slightly sweet and given a generous sprinkling of sea salt.

I had to follow Karen's lead on ordering the rib eye. It's my favorite cut of meat, and it came with butter lettuce dressed in homemade ranch, and crispy onion rings. The onion rings could have really made this meal too heavy, but they did a nice job not drowning them in batter and grease. They complemented the meat very well.

Shawn opted for the chicken, which had a crispy skin and was served on polenta, asparagus, and mushrooms in a sauce. I wish I could remember what the sauce was exactly, but I didn't write it down, and the menu changes weekly.
For dessert, I had my eye set on the buttermilk panna cotta. I was slightly disappointed that they weren't serving it with fresh berries, like what I had seen on the menu the previous week, but the plum granita proved to be almost as delicious. My one (small) criticism is in regards to the service. It wasn't bad, per se, just frantic. For example, after tasting my steak in combination with the lemonade cocktail I had ordered, I decided I should probably get a glass of wine. Unfortunately, by the time our waitress even looked at us again, I was pretty much done. It wasn't the end of the world, and overall the service was ok, it was just too hard to get anyone's attention since they seemed to be scrambling. I'm not sure what the source of this problem was, maybe just an off night. That small factor won't stop me from going again, though.

04 August 2009

Portland Pizza: Atomic Pizza, Apizza Scholls, and Vincente's

Over the past few weeks (and visits), I've eaten more pizza than I normally would. Which brings up a great debate: what's your favorite Portland pizza place? I've been to three (two new to me) in the last couple months. Let's review.

Atomic Pizza - www.atomic-pizza.com
I had high hopes for this place. It opened up on N. Killingsworth earlier this year, and from the looks of it, promised to be a cute neighborhood pizza place with delicious looking pies. We started with a house salad. It was presented well with lots of good toppings and a delicious dressing. A little pizza-parlouresque with the black olives and croutons, but a decent start.

Before moving on to the pizza, let me just state one thing--pizza toppings create a lot of disagreement in our house. Shawn hates the traditional pizza toppings, such as pepperoni and sausage. Since moving to Portland, though, he's more tolerant since many of the pizza places are
more upscale and a lot serve house made meats, or similar. However, that still doesn't prevent the usual argument over whether or not we get meat on our pizza. I like veggies, but I like more substance if I'm going to have toppings. We do agree on one thing: cheese pizza rules all. However, I almost never get it.

Anyway, we ordered the Arbor Lodge, which has tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, garlic, artichoke hearts, red peppers, red onion, mushrooms and black olives. The sauce was decent, although a little heavy on the oregano in my opinion, the toppings were plentiful and fresh, but the crust was lacking. It just wasn't there. My hope is that they are still figuring things out and will adjust the crust. Overall, the experience was not bad. I may try again later this year when I crave pizza and don't want to drive.

Update--found the picture!

Apizza Scholls - www.apizzascholls.com
It seems that every foodie in Portland has raved about this place since it opened. When my sister came to visit last month, she had it on a short list of restaurants left to try (well, the moderately priced ones at least). I saw a photo of one of their specialty pies in a magazine that had fresh clams (still in the shell!) on it and thought, "I must try this place." However, no fresh clams on the menu this time. No one else would've let me order it anyway.

We started with the antipasti, which was surprisingly big and very delicious. We couldn't agree on one of the menu pizzas, so we built our own. They have a rule that you can order no more than 3 items on a pizza, due to the thinness of the crust and how quickly they bake it. That was fine--made the decision much easier. We settled on mushrooms, olives, and canadian bacon (it's ham, Gina!). This was what was left by the time I remembered to take a shot:
While I might be dreaming of the crust and its crisp outer shell and tender, chewy core for the next few months, I found the whole thing to be your typical overhyped Portland restaurant. Let me say this, though: it's nothing against the restaurant. I think they do a wonderful job making a truly amazing crust. The toppings were good--it's just that sometimes in Portland, a place (person, thing, event...) gets so overhyped that it's almost impossible to fulfill expectations. I think what I'd do differently the next time I go is order the margherita pizza or with a topping that lets off less liquid than the mushrooms. The crust got a little soggy in the middle. Anyway, worth going back, but definitely not taking the title for my favorite pizza.

Vincente's - www.vincentesgourmetpizza.com
Call me old fashioned, but Vincente's on Hawthorne is still my favorite pizza in Portland. I've tried many of their pies and they've all been delicious. The crust is just right and the toppings complement each other perfectly. The atmosphere is gerat, but sitting outside isn't always pleasant as you're either right on Hawthorne or 20th (unless you really want car exhaust with your pizza). I'm willing to overlook that--at least it's shaded.

I also love the garden salad. I swear they put crack in the ranch (or maybe it's the poppy seeds...hmmm). I'm not always a fan of ranch, either, but it's different when it's made from scratch daily. I usually order the patate, lamb, n'ham pizza--besides being fun to say, there are freaking red potatoes on the pizza. And when it's accompanied with lamb sausage and prosciutto. Well, let's just say, we converted two more to the potato-on-pizza fan club this weekend when we took Shawn's parents there.

Suffice it to say, I love pizza. It's just good stuff.

Some other one-minute reviews...

Pizza Oasis
Pretty solid pizza, but there's not one pizza combination on their menu that I'm crazy about. It's always delicious, though. Only downside is that it gets really hot in the restaurant since it's an open kitchen on right on W. Burnside.

Flying Pie Pizzeria
An institution in Portland. Nice pizzas cooked very well (better calzones here than anything else, if you ask me). If it wasn't so far away now, I'd probably love it even more. Comes in a close second as my favorite. I used to live a mere 3 blocks away--that's dangerous. I really love the fact that they have an old school salad bar, too. Reminds me of Shakey's, or some place like that. Bonus: you can pick your desire crust size, if that's important.

Pizza A Go Go
What a disappointment. We ordered a cheese pizza for delivery once and by the time it got here, it was stone cold. Don't offer delivery if you can't get it here hot, or at least warm. Secondly, it was $16 and not that good. I stopped in there once during a lunch break from my CPR class at the Red Cross (a couple blocks away) and got a slice of pepperoni. It was really greasy. It tasted ok fresh from the oven, but not worth it. Best thing going for it: the kicky name and Web site.

Eh. Bad sauce--too sweet.

Goose Hollow
It's like comparing apples and oranges. Yes, it's pizza, but it's different. Fresh from the oven, it's amazing. Cold, not so good. Although, pizza is not the reason you go to Goose Hollow, it is pretty delicious, and you can order a half pizza.

Old Town
I'm not crazy about their crust, but overall, it's a pleasant enough experience. We have one on NE MLK now and the new building is pretty nice, so we'll probably go again at some point since the weather is nice and they have a wall that opens.

Pizza Schmizza

Good in a pinch. Especially great if you want to play Michael Jackson's Moonwalker (only on NW 21st ave.)

Same as above, omit the Moonwalker. Good salads, too.

Mississippi Pizza Pub
I like this place. It's always fresh and the crust is nice. The music venue is a nice touch, too.

Lucky Lab--Capitol Hill
Good beer, decent pizza.

I like it, but Shawn doesn't. Nice, thin crust. I appreciate their sustainable efforts as well.

Still waiting to try...
Ken's Artisan Pizza
Dove Vivi

Man, I've eaten a lot of pizza. That's not even all of it.

15 July 2009

Country Fair, camping, and more!

Three-day weekends always bring out the best in me. That extra day just seems to push me into full-relaxation mode. Two days is not enough. We also went on our first camping trip of the summer (sad, I know) and to the Oregon Country Fair. If you've never been to the fair, it's hard to explain, but trust me, there's more than just hippies there. It's fun for the average person. And I digress...

More importantly, it was also a weekend full of delicious food. Saturday we picked up our friend's tent and headed down past Eugene to a campground called Black Canyon in the Willamette National Forest. We took a chance and booked it online a couple months back without any knowledge of what it would be like, and very few pictures to base our decision on. Luckily, it worked out. After last year's 2-week mostly camping trip, we set up quickly and were able to enjoy most of the day relaxing. That evening's dinner was specially requested by Shawn--ham, potato, and cheese foil packets.

I made them 3 years ago on our first camping trip to Olallie Lake and he was in love. I learned a valuable lesson from that trip--don't overfill them! Otherwise the cheese and potato burn on the outside and you end up with spots of raw potato, no matter how long you cook it. They turned out perfectly! And with cooking our portions in shifts, kept us from devouring the contents and over stuffing ourselves. After a few beers and some nice conversation around the campfire, it was time for the piece de resistance...s'mores.

Shawn hadn't had a s'more in 20 years as of 3 years ago. He won't make that mistake again. I make the best s'mores--dark chocolate with perfectly toasted marshmallows. We bought a caramel filled chocolate bar, but never got to it. We were both too stuffed after our regular ones.

Sunday was the Country Fair. I knew we were supposed to have thunderstorms, but was hoping they would hold off until the evening. No such luck. We managed to get to the Fair only an hour after they started and it took a long time for them to stop! Nonetheless, we enjoyed stir fry noodles at our friend's booth, Stir Fried, and after tromping through the mud for a couple of hours, got our coconut ice cream, then left. Let me explain something about this ice cream, though. It's homemade and probably one of the most delicious things I've ever tasted. I have literally been talking about this ice cream for a year. It comes from a place called Ring of Fire in Eugene. If you're near there, I recommend seeking it out. Un-freaking-believable.
Shawn enjoys his ice cream in the rain

Wet and muddy, we decided that we would head home rather than risk sleeping in a tent-lake. On our way home, after much traffic, we stopped in Salem at the first restaurant that we could stand that served beer (it was THAT kind of drive). We stopped at Applebee's. I normally can't stand most chain restaurants, and Applebee's is no exception. It was awful. Food was bad, drinks were expensive (my beer was flat), and we both felt bloated and sick all evening. I would say never again, but you never know...

Monday, we had the day off already, so we spent the day as if we were on vacation still (which I guess we were). We spent most of the day in the St. John's neighborhood of North Portland, ending our little excursion with a trip to Pattie's Diner and Soda Fountain. It really was a step back in time. Most everyone there knew each other, we sat at the counter, and I had a root beer float, Shawn a hand-dipped chocolate shake. Service was a little slow, but pleasant. We decided we had to take his folks there for a meal--I'll do a follow up.

After our decadent afternoon treat, I thought we should have something a little healthier for dinner. I sauteed some zucchini (fresh from the farm), mushrooms, fresh tomato, red onion and garlic in olive oil, then removed all the vegetables, added a little more olive oil and threw in some fresh oregano (from my coworker's garden) and red pepper flakes to taste.

I tossed all that together with whole wheat spaghetti and about 1/8 cup grated parmaggiano-reggiano cheese, little pasta water, and magically a delicious and healthy dinner appeared!

The next best thing, besides the flavor, was that we had 4 more servings leftover. Not a bad way to stretch the food dollar.

06 July 2009

Summertime, and the living's easy

Summer is my second favorite season, a close second behind fall, especially here in in the Northwest when the weather is perfect--sunny, not humid, and warm. This past week was particularly beautiful in Portland with temperatures in the 90s and nothing but sun. (I can handle it for a few days, but that's it.) With the warm temperature comes camping, vacation, outdoor fun, and of course, visitors. We had our first visitor the last few days. Shawn's friend Jeremy came out for a short four-day visit from NY. We spent a lot of time at various breweries since Jeremy's a big beer enthusiast, but tried to stay in to cook most of the time to keep costs low(er). There was, of course, an exception for a dinner out at Pause.

With the first one down, Shawn's parents visit to go, as well as concerts, camping, the baby shower I'm throwing, and vacation...I needed to find a way to cut down our food budget a bit. Here are my challenges:
  1. We eat about 85% organic; I mostly shop at New Seasons
  2. It's hot out and difficult to make soups/stews I would normally resort to in the winter, as well as bread for sandwiches
  3. I'm back to eating healthy with the start of a new boot camp
  4. I get lazy, especially when it's warm
I've been reading a lot of articles about eating on a budget. The problem with many of them is that they rely on cutting coupons for products I would never use and/or they ignore a balanced diet of fresh food. I did, however, find one on salon.com by a woman who attempted to buy basically "ethical" groceries for her and her husband on the food budget allowed by food stamps. That would be a little beyond what I'm going for, but it's the same idea. How can we eat the food we're accustomed to and still be able to afford all these extra activities? Let me tell you, it takes some creativity, and I'm still learning.

Day One. I found a recipe for red lentil soup on epicurious.com. I meant to make flatbread to go with it, but got lazy last night after cooking dinner. Too bad, too, as it would've gone perfectly. We just ate some tortillas we had laying around. We also have two more servings to put away for later in the week. My recipe calculator estimates that a serving of 1.5 cups is only about 126 calories, 5 grams of fat, and 6 grams of protein.

Tonight I am cooking up some pinto beans for Wednesday's dinner*. Beans are so easy, cheap, and delicious. It kills me to buy the canned stuff, but I still do. As a kid, I hated the smell of cooking pinto beans. I guess I knew it meant we were having beans and rice...again. As an adult, I love it. I don't know if it makes me think of my mom, or I just realize now how lucky I was to eat such delicious homemade food. Maybe both. But I digress. We had some extra 10% fat ground beef I bought while it was on sale last week in the freezer, so I'm making taco meat tomorrow night. That will extend into another meal (or two) later this week when I don't want to cook.

The funny thing about all this is that it just takes a little preparation, which I do, but my cravings usually end up getting the best of me, and we go out. I would say that's our number one problem. I guess I can't be perfect all the time. (Ha ha.) I'm sure I will have more revelations and ideas as I continue this journey to cook well on a (tighter) budget. Now if someone can just keep me from happy hour...

*If you're really curious, tomorrow we're having hot dogs with macaroni and cheese. I know I know...but it's Back to Nature whole wheat macaroni and cheese, and nitrite-free turkey hot dogs...they were on sale! We also have salad fixins.

30 June 2009

Going out to eat & watching Food, Inc., do not mix well

Last week my friend Stacey, Babbling Brook, and I made a date to go see the film Food, Inc. at Cinema 21. While we were at it, why not grab some dinner? Since both of our significant others are opposed to Indian food, we settled on Swagat quite easily.

I ordered the lamb vindaloo thali dinner. The lamb was very tender, naan and curry were tasty as usual, and the various bean dishes came out nicely. It's not the prettiest food in the world, but definitely good. We both finished up with the rice pudding for dessert, which was a little sweet for me, but just the right ending after the spice of the vindaloo.

After running back to our cars to drop off the many leftovers, we headed over to Cinema 21 to see Food, Inc. I hadn't planned on catching this film, but Stacey recommended it as I've read one of Michael Pollan's books, In Defense of Food, and have become very interested in/concerned with where my food is coming from.

While watching the film, I had this whole big post formulating in my head, ranting about how undereducated people are about food and wanting to start a revolution with my little blog...and then I came back down to earth. Honestly, I care and I want other people to care, but it just can't be done that way. I would recommend first to see Food, Inc., start questioning, and then get informed. It's a great starting point, but by no means the gospel by which we should all live. It's so important to think about this issue, though. Food is an essential to every living thing on this planet and affects so many different aspects of our lives--don't you think we should know what it's about?

12 June 2009

Oregonian's Best of 2009

View the list

I'm a bit surprised by the list, honestly. Navarre was voted the top restaurant this year, and while I don't disagree, I'm am surprised that it wasn't one of the usual "sweethearts" of critics' lists. I'm talking about the list that usually includes Le Pigeon, Toro Bravo, and so on.

I haven't been to the majority of the restaurants list, but am steadily working my way down it. My favorites on the list include: Bluehour (clearly), Driftwood Room (if solely for my own personal sentiment), Fire on the Mountain, Higgins, Navarre, Pambiche, RingSide, Saucebox, Screen Door, The Country Cat, and Toro Bravo. I've also tasted some samples from Ten-01 (and met the owner) and really liked it. I have yet to dine there, though.

One major disagreement...
Por Que No: I don't get it. I really don't. I swear I'm the only person in this world who cannot stand this place. I get the whole theory behind it, using sustainable and organic ingredients, which I love. But here's the thing...you still have to cook it well. I won't go off too much (because I could), but the one time I ventured there, I had the special, which was the pozole, and it was awful. Overly salty and more like a stew. Maybe it's because I know what real pozole should taste like. Anyway, then there was the tacos Shawn got. They were ok, but for $7, they should have at least had two corn tortillas, rather than the one that ripped. So I disagree not only flavor, but also the usual "cheap eats" tag it gets. I'd rather forgo the sustainability and get a burrito at King Burrito for $3.95. I know, it seems to go against everything I believe in. I like to keep people on their toes.

09 June 2009

Eating like a bird

I found this cute blog by a woman up in Washington. It's called Eating Bird Food. It seems contradictory to my type of cooking, but in a lot of ways, I totally agree with her views on food. I just haven't been disciplined enough to make that much of a change in my eating habits! Anyway, check out this recent post and you might win some superfruit spreads.

08 June 2009

While the trainer's away, the campers will play

My personal trainer was in Texas teaching other people how to torture train people, so I did not work out on Saturday like I normally would. Apparently this proved to be a bad thing; or good, depends on how you look at it.

Friday night I went to see Metric. I ate at Pause. Cuban sandwich...soooo good.

Saturday, we had a little goodbye BBQ for our dear friend Chris who was visiting, but had to go away for a few more months. Sad. But at least the food was delicious. We started at 2. I brought my macaroni salad (every time I say I'm bringing it, I feel a bit like a mom from the 50s). Chris bought pretty much every animal there is to grill. Rib eye roast. Lemon-rosemary chicken skewers. Pork burgers with tomatillos and avocado. Elk ribs (delicious but chewy; I may start an elk-only diet since you'd give up chewing well before you'd eat too much). So much meat. Oh, and asparagus and these amazing tomatoes Stacey makes topped with bleu cheese and bread crumbs, then grilled until crispy (sorry the picture is a little blurry). I tried to graze throughout the day, rather than filling up fast. I thought that might help reduce the chances of eating too much. I was wrong, because then Amanda and Aric showed up and brought artichoke dip and desserts. Oy. So, many meats and side dishes later, I was beyond full. The one thing I can say is that at least I didn't drink too much. Just a glass of white sangria (care of Michael), a phenomenal glass of pinot (care of Aric), and a couple beers. Not bad for a 10-hour stretch.

The next day, I planned on grilling a hunk of London Broil, which had been marinating in a mixture of olive oil, rosemary, garlic, and red onion overnight. It was a little overcast, but never rained, so we were good to grill.

I took advantage of the cooler weather to get some baking in while I could. I made a batch of peanut butter brownies, as well as another loaf of multigrain bread. I went for a run during the bread's second rising (still makes me think of church), and when I came back, it was a little larger than I expected. My last loaf turned out well, but was a little dense, so I was actually glad I let it rise so much longer.
The top heavy bread

And back to the grilling. To go along side our meat, I made some soft asiago polenta and we coated asparagus in olive oil and drizzled it with lemon juice after it came off the grill. Top the polenta off with a hunk of asiago and pour a glass of wine--a perfect Sunday night dinner!
Shawn enjoys a brownie with our movie