About Me

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Just a simple gal living on the outskirts of Portland making ends meet. I have lived in Portland for over 20 years and I am happy to call it home. On this blog you will find everything from cooking to my crazy life. I hope you enjoy.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Braised Beef Cheeks

I have to start by saying that I love having people over for dinner I just hate the prep work it takes to get to that point. Getting the house cleaned and all the fussing to make it presentable is no easy feat. The work started on Friday with scrubbing the bathroom, sweeping floors, dusting nooks and crannies and ended Saturday about an hour and half before guests arrived with the putting away of the last of the freshly washed dishes and a quick once over in the kitchen wiping down the counters. The only thing I can compare this frenzied preparation to is getting ready to have your in-laws come to Thanksgiving dinner. Once the food is on the table, and I hear the sighs of appreciation I am golden.
Well the cleaning frenzy may have started on Friday but the main course was actually started on Thursday afternoon. I made Braised Beef Cheeks It is a once a year treat for us and well worth the added effort of making them two days ahead before reheating and serving. This is one of the simplest recipes I have ever made and the results are pure perfection. I have made it and served it the same day and it is really good, and I have made it and let it rest in the refrigerator for two days and re heated and served it, and for whatever reason that really good dish becomes something otherworldly (don't believe me ask the bf). This dish has been known to cause people to lose the ability to speak, but as delicious as this dish is it looks like a hot mess in the pan, so no photos.
Dinner was perfect and after a luscious fall dessert made fresh that morning Mr. & Mrs. T headed out into monsoon type weather content and very full. I guess that is what it comes down to your satisfaction comes at the end when you are waving goodbye at the door ready to drop in your tracks. Special thanks goes out to the bf for knowing and understanding my love/hate relationship with dinner parties and all three of the fur kids (Pixel, Willow and stepchild Lu) for not launching yourselves into anyone's dinner plate.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Biscuits 101

Honestly, I used to make the world's worst biscuits. Hard little hockey pucks with no flavor no flakiness even the local birds didn't want them because they were so horrible. It was really breaking my heart because I love biscuits so I decided to re evaluate what I was doing and how I could improve them. In the past, I had always just followed a basic biscuit recipe. Today I combine flavor options to make a beautiful, buttery biscuit that the bf raves over. Making a better biscuit is easy my only suggestion here is use fresh ingredients. The recipe I follow is the Better Homes and Gardens Biscuits recipe with a a couple of options added.
Ingredients 2 Cu. all-purpose flour 1 Tlb. baking powder 1/4 tsp. baking soda 2 tsp. sugar 1/2 tsp. cream of tarter 1/4 tsp. salt 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper 1/4 tsp. ground cayenne pepper 1/2 Cu. Shortening or Butter (I use a mixture of both and sometimes for added flavor I will use 1 Tlb. of bacon grease in place of the butter or shortening) If I really hate myself I will use straight butter. 1 Cu. fresh buttermilk Directions Blend the flour and all the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Blend in butter/shortening and mix with pastry blender until you have what looks like crumbs or peas. Pour in the buttermilk and mix until you get the consistency you want. Now if you want to roll out biscuits dough and cut us less milk if you want to be able to spread it into a lightly greased pan (8x8) use a little more. Bake in a preheated oven at about 350 for 20-30 min. depends on your oven. Enjoy!

Monday, September 23, 2013


Whether good or bad everyone has an opinion about meatloaf. You either love it or hate it. I can honestly say that I have converted a naysayer to someone who loves meatloaf...well at least my meatloaf. I have heard meatloaf recipes that have everything from breadcrumbs to rice in them. Some recipes too complicated and others simple. I do not know how I came to my meatloaf recipe, but I have been told it is worth keeping and it makes for great leftover meatloaf sandwiches for the next day's lunch. I guess what I am trying to say is meatloaf is what you make of it or out of it rather, and what your family likes and loves should go into it.
Kari’s Meatloaf Ingredients 2 lbs of ground beef 1 lb of Italian Sausage (my family prefers spicy) 1 small onion (diced) 1 can stems and pieces mushrooms (one of the few things I do with canned mushrooms) ¾ cu. diced/cubed cheddar cheese ¾ cu. breadcrumbs (I make my own breadcrumbs from leftover homemade bread) 1 egg, dash Worcestershire sauce, fresh ground black pepper, salt, ketchup (I make my own ketchup) Directions Place the ground beef and sausage in a bowl and combine by hand. Next, add the salt and pepper and any other seasonings and ingredients you may like and blend in well. Shape into a loaf, place into prepared pan and spread a little ketchup on top. Bake the meatloaf in 350° degree oven for 1 ½ hours or until done. Check with a meat thermometer.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Stocking up

Yesterday the BF and I took our annual trip south to this quaint little town just 35 minutes drive from Myrtle Creek, OR to pick up are annual side of beef. Now I know many people think that is just plain crazy when you could just by your beef at the grocery store...obviously, you have never had beef raised right.
My 82-year-old Uncle raises this beef for family and a few very close friends and he has been doing it as a hobby for years, but as much as he tells you, he does it because it is his hobby I can tell it is out of love for his family and friends. These cattle spend their days lazing in green pastures with fresh and pure creek water at their disposal. They enjoy the warm summer sun and all the fresh grass they can consume. They are not injected with a lot a crap and they are by no means put under any sort of stress. Now I know there are a lot of haters out there who do not eat meat because of animal cruelty or because eating meat is wrong...whatever. I know a former Raw Vegan who is now on a strict Paleo diet for health issues and personal reasons. She bought organic grass fed beef, fell in love and honestly I have never seen her happier. Sadly, I know there will come a day when my Uncle hangs up his spurs and decides that he just cannot do it anymore. I do not know if any of my cousins will pick up the reins and take over the beef business. I do know that if I lived closer class would be in session and I would step in and run this end of the family operation, but living in Portland I don't have room for cattle in my backyard...pretty sure the neighbors would complain. So for once a year I am going to bliss out on the first steak of the fall thick, juicy and cooked to perfection by my BF and toast my Uncle for all that he is.
Now maybe some of you would like to know how to cook this inch thick Rib Eye the right way. Let me tell you what we do. 1. Rub into steak olive oil (both sides) 2. Liberally sprinkle with fresh ground pepper and kosher salt (both sides) 3. Grill 4 min. per side (medium heat) longer if you do not like it rare. Let the meat stand for a few minutes before you cut into it. That is it this steak does not need any fussy spices or unnecessary sauces...that is almost sacrilegious. Enjoy!

Friday, September 20, 2013



I do not know what it is about this time of year that I just cannot get enough of it. I cannot think of one thing about autumn that I dislike.  The clear crisp mornings, starry nights, geese flying over head and the many, many smells of the season will draw a deep contented sigh from me every time.

I feel myself following in the footsteps of my ancestors with the fall harvest by storing and preparing food for my family and readying the home and hearth for the long winter ahead. Just the smell of apples and cinnamon alone can invoke wonderful memories of family gatherings long past.

This is by far one of my family’s favorite recipes:

Apple Bread w/ Crumb Topping


4 Cu. peeled, cored and chopped apples (I like Granny Smith, or any other tart apple)
4 large eggs slightly beaten
1 Cu. vegetable oil (canola works)
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
3 Cu. all purpose flour
2 Cu. granulated white sugar


¾ Cu. all purpose flour
¼ Cu. granulated white sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
½ Cu. room temperature butter (1 stick)

Directions for bread:

Preheat the oven to 350°. Lightly grease and flour two standard loaf pans and set aside. Peel, core and slice or chop the apples. In a large bowl, beat the eggs with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add the oil, vanilla, baking soda, salt and cinnamon and beat until completely combined. Next, add the flour and sugar mix on low until combined then on high until smooth. The batter will be thick. Fold in the apples mixing by hand. Divide the batter between the two prepared bread pans.

Directions for topping:

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, sugar and cinnamon. Cut the butter into the mixture with a fork or a pastry blender if you have one. Sprinkle equal amounts of the topping on each pan of bread batter. Bake for about 1 hour on the center oven rack. The loaf should be firm to the touch when done if it is not bake for an additional 5 minutes. Remember all ovens are different. Remove the pans from the oven when done and let them cool on a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before removing the bread from the pans. Wait for the bread to cool completely before slicing into slices…if you can.


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Urban Raccoons

Well folks it is that time of year again all across Portland urban raccoons are relocating and coming to a neighborhood near you… that’s right soon they will be looking for shared housing with you and your family. Through the years I have had my run in’s with these furry, bandit faced, nocturnal mammals and I am here to tell you it is not fun. My first encounter with a raccoon was some years back. I was leaving for work one morning, before the rooster crows, I went out to my car and behind me in the driveway was a large raccoon just sitting there looking at me. It was obvious from his disheveled appearance that he was either very ill, or had spent one hell of a night out on the town. I slowly walked towards him, hoping he would leave, he did not move, hiss or show any kind of objection to me invading his space. I backed away slowly, got in my car and left for work hoping that he would be gone when I returned. However, that was not to be the case. I came home from work early fearing the worst and getting exactly that. The raccoon was still in driveway and very near deaths door. I called the local animal shelter, Fish and Wildlife, Audubon Society, Zoo, Police, State Patrol everyone I could think of and was told repeatedly that “we don’t handle that” and that the only way to rid myself of this dying raccoon was 80.00 and a company called ---------- to come out and take care of it. Eighty dollars to a single mom with two teenagers is a lot of money. In the end, I had a neighbor dispatch the raccoon and we buried it in the back yard. Not at all something, I wanted to do but completely necessary.
My second unsavory encounter with raccoons in Portland was 6 years ago this past August. It started with a putrid stench coming from somewhere in/under my house…having a teen aged son the first place I looked was under his bed (and they say Alaskan Crab Fishing is dangerous)…no nothing there, not clean, but no hazardous waste…or at least not enough to create the putrid odor. I figured I being an unlucky homeowner had some sort of sewer leak under my house, so I called for a free plumbing inspection to come out the next day…the smell got worse…The boyfriend left for Burning Man the same day the plumber showed up. The plumber came in sniffed around asked where the odor was the worst… in 85 degree heat it smelled awful everywhere. He wanted to know where the trap door was to the crawl space, which was in my son’s bedroom. He opened up the trap door that led to the crawl space under the house took half a sniff and slammed it shut. I asked him “What is it?” He stated firmly “Not a sewer leak I guarantee it, what you have is a dead animal and a big one too”. I asked him if he was going to get it out from under my house he said with a chuckle, “No that’s not my job, but I can recommend a company (see company above) that for about 300.00 will crawl under your house and remove it. At the time, I was receiving the information from the plumber I was on the phone with the boyfriend who was speeding his way to the playa and all the Bohemian delights Burning Man had to offer. The boyfriend’s words to me were “Honey if you can handle the smell until I get home, I promise I will go under the house and get rid of it as soon as I get back. I decided I was tough enough to put up with it…besides I spent the hottest part of the day away from home in an air-conditioned office. Amazingly enough the raucous smell was gone in a mere 4 days. Mother Nature and maggots took care of it. I know…gross. Whatever…I call it efficient.
Winter of that same year another raccoon decided to move in lock stock and fleas under my house. She also brought along her half grown kits. They made such a racket at night that it would wake us up or just keep us awake. The noises drove the dogs to madness they would wander from heating vent to heating vent and barking and growling down into them, and our kitten took to staring down the heating vents in the kitchen with all the curiosity and intensity of a young mongoose waiting to kill his first cobra. The other two cats, much older and wiser, were afraid of going outside. Honestly, I did not blame them; the new tenant was a large female raccoon with her yearling offspring, 3 of them. We did what any normal family does we researched on how to get rid of them. The internet is filled with ideas on how to get rid of raccoons, but many things would require hurting them or killing them and I did not want any part of that. I do not like them but I do not hate them enough to hurt them. We finally found something we hoped would work for us. We gave the raccoons talk radio…that is right we lowered a portable radio down to them tuned to 620 KPOJ Portland. No, we were not trying to raise their political awareness, contrary to popular belief; we had read that having to listen to humans in such a close proximity to where they are trying to raise a family would drive them out. Within a week the talk radio did the trick and as soon as we were sure they were gone, we boarded up any access under the house they might have. Over the years, they have tried to get back under the house to the point of trying to tear the boards off covering the access holes. Whenever I see a raccoon in the backyard, I jump off the porch screaming and yelling. I am fairly sure the neighbors think I am nuts and this explains why they do not speak to me. I do not care let them think what they will…the raccoons are gone and we can all breathe easier.