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.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Busy Weekend

I was sooo busy last weekend I didn't have time to blog... I hope you can forgive me. We had a couple nice days and things just had to get done and bike rides had to happen. Plus I had a huge side job that I was on a mission to get at least half done...and I did.
Saturday I had decided Friday night that I needed to reduce the amount of containers in my freezer so I could reuse the containers for something else and so I could locate the North Pole (o.k. kidding). I had a few partially full, frozen quart containers of some interesting looking brown sauces (you know the mystery gravy that you are not sure when you had it, or one hundred percent sure of it's origin). So after thawing and really close inspection Saturday morning I determined, and that they were not some horrible lab experiment (kitchen mistake) gone wrong I decided they were beef in origin and most likely safe for human consumption. I made beef stew using the gravies as the base for the stew... It turned out amazing. Plus as a bonus I got to use my brand new shiny crock-pot. Thanks again sweetie! So I guess the moral of this portion is: Don't be afraid of things in the freezer that time has forgotten (unless moving or breathing)...experiment.
Sunday I did reuse my containers on Sunday morning. I made my homemade Spaghetti Sauce, but I made enough to last somewhere around 4 months. I simply make a quadruple batch of my sauce and cook it til it is almost done. Then I shut off the burner let the sauce cool. After the sauce has cooled completely I put equal amounts into clean plastic quart containers and put in my freezer for later use. This works perfectly on those weeknights when your mind draws a blank and the only thing your capable of is heating up food and boiling water (I know this isn't just me everyone goes through this). So pour the thawed sauce into a sauce pot and bring it to a simmer, add a 14 oz. can of diced tomatoes, maybe some more spices...whatever. Let it simmer for an hour to get the full flavor, boil some water for pasta and you have dinner. If you manage to have a green salad and some crusty bread well then you have a feast. Open a bottle of wine invite a friend over and they will think you spent all day on this.
Back to Saturday While my stew was blurbing (should be a word) away on the side counter I decided that I needed cake and not just any cake but a Toasted Coconut Pound Cake My daughter had suggested this pin to me so I took a look at the recipe a month back and honestly it has been haunting me ever since, so Saturday was the day to make this cake. I followed the directions to the letter except I added coconut flavoring instead of vanilla, and I used some salted butter. I think next time (and there will be a next time) it might be fun to add a little rum extract and some finely chopped and toasted almonds along with the toasted coconut. It was amazing. I had one piece and sent the rest away. Seriously I don't need those calories lingering around the next day when I am back on my calorie counting week...haha.
Saturday afternoon and evening I also put together some of my Artisan Bread (October 5th 2013 blog) for dinner on Sunday and some of my Cajun biscuits for the stew Saturday night (September 27th 2013 blog). So besides the baking, cooking, cleaning, shopping, side project and bike ride on Sunday I think I had a pretty full weekend. As usual the weekend was too short and on Tuesday I thought it was Wednesday...which means it has been a long week so far.
I hope one and all had great weekends last weekend and are looking forward to the weekend just around the corner. Me I plan on going to my favorite kitchen shop and using the coupon I just noticed in yesterday's mail...I see a shiny new cheese knife in my future along with maybe some cake decorating supplies. Carpe diem!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

St. Patrick's Day

So yesterday we had a family dinner at the bf's Aunt and Uncle's house in honor of St. Patrick's Day. The house was bursting with good food, family and friends and thankfully all I had to do was show up with a loaf of Irish Soda Bread.
Irish Soda Bread is one of the easiest breads there is to make, it takes very little time, and barley and kneading is involved. My Irish Soda Bread recipe comes from an old Better Homes and Gardens cook book that I have had on hand for many wonderful recipes for many wonderful years. I make a very standard recipe I don't add raisins or currents and I do not use whole wheat flour. The recipe is as follows: 2 cups of flour, 1 tsp. baking powder, 1/2 tsp baking soda, 3 Tlb. butter, 1 beaten egg, 3/4 to 1 cup of fresh buttermilk, and 1 more egg beaten in separate dish to brush on the top of the bread before baking. Directions cut the butter into the dry ingredients with a pastry blender in a large bowl until you have what resembles crumbs. then add the butter milk and one beaten egg and mix together until you have a slightly sticky dough (if you need to add a touch more buttermilk now is the time)The dough should be like biscuit dough. Place dough on lightly floured surface and knead about 12 strokes. Form a 6 inch round loaf that is slightly higher in the center than on the edges (like a scone)then cut a 4 inch cross into the top and center of the dough. Brush the top of the dough with the some of the second beaten egg and bake on a lightly greased cookie sheet in a preheated 375 degree oven for about 25 to 35 minutes (depending on your oven). Let it cool before you cut into slices or it will fall apart completely.
The second thing that I brought to the family gathering was a Ricotta & Dark Chocolate Cake. I made this cake because I wanted to try something new and different than the standard chocolate cake or desserts that I usually bake and take to these family parties. This recipe comes from a food blogger that I stumbled upon and this recipe is one I just had to try. It is simple and tasty and perfect for taking to a party. I also have confirmation that it is delicious if a two year old boy eating three slices is any sort of proof.
The ingredient conversion is as follows: 10 1/2 oz. of whole milk ricotta cheese, 3 eggs, 5 1/4 oz of raw sugar, 7 oz. of spelt flour, 1 1/2 tsp baking powder, pinch of salt and 8 3/4 oz of dark chocolate (72% cacao). If you can't find a 72% cacao dark chocolate do what I do use a lesser percentage (mine was 64% cacao)but add like a 1/4 tsp of dry instant coffee. Now that the ingredients are converted follow the rest of the directions and you will be just fine. This batter is very thick.
Combining the cheese, eggs and sugar.
Getting ready to melt the chocolate in the microwave.
Prepared pan dusted with cocoa powder.
Adding the dry ingredients.
Melted chocolate.
Abandoned the mixer and started using a large spoon.
You can see that the batter is very thick.
Looking good baby.
Now to serve that amazing chocolate cake I simply sliced off both ends and discarded them (which means I ate them) and then sliced the rest of the cake like a loaf of bread overlapping each slice on top of each other and gave it a good dusting of confectioners sugar. The presentation was simple yet classy.
May your blessings outnumber the shamrocks that grow. Happy St. Patrick's Day to you and yours.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Dinner, Drinks and Dessert

Had a couple of friends over last night for dinner and despite the rain and thanks to a covered porch we (and when I say we I mean the bf) grilled some steaks and I made some garlicky green beans and some delicious butter steamed baby red potatoes.
Because my dinning and kitchen area are on the small side I don't usually invite more than a couple of people over and I try to keep the dinners simple and delicious. The other reason I keep my dinner parties small is, and I know I am not the only one who goes through this, no matter what everyone is going to hang out in the kitchen and dining room while you make dinner. I don't know why and neither does anyone else that I have spoken with about this strange phenomenon. I mean I clean my house before any and every dinner party but I pay special attention to the kitchen because that is the only room anyone is going to really see.
Spring has finally arrived so I was able to cut a fresh bouquet of daffodils for the table from my flower bed out front. They are bright, cheery and not too heavily scented, which is perfect for the dinner table. I always try and avoid anything that is going to compete with the aroma of a wonderful dinner.
Now for dessert I like to make things that don't need any last minute steps with the exception of maybe whipping some whip cream up to serve on top, or pulling ice cream from the freezer. Keep it simple and if you can make it ahead then do it. Last nights dessert was a Butter Pecan Cake that was really yummy, and turned out perfectly. I will say this though I thought the batter to be a little stiff so I added a touch more buttermilk to get my cake batter to the consistency I wanted, and the frosting I don't think needs to set up in the fridge for an hour. Maybe 45 minutes maximum.
The layers rose really well.
Aren't those pretty.
One of the two food scales I have. I truly think a food scale is a must in the kitchen.
Who doesn't love homemade frosting?
In goes the buttered Pecans.
Towering layers of love a.k.a Butter Pecan Cake.
Thanks to my friends Mr. G & Racey for the Sake, dogs, conversation...and for liking my cooking. It is always fun to have you over and thanks to my bf for being a master griller once again.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Dessert in a Pinch

The other night the bf's cousin came to dinner. There wasn't a lot of notice, so I didn't have time to fuss over making a dessert like a cake or pie or some other confection worthy of company.
I went through the list of ingredients I had on hand and the time frame I had to work with, and then remembered this wonderful recipe from Ann Burrell for Palmiers. This is a quick and tasty little dessert that can be served up for just about any occasion that you need something lightly sweet. These little Palmiers are not too filling (unless you eat a dozen and I have...in one sitting) and you can add a couple of things to the cinnamon and sugar to dress it up.
Ingredients 1/2 cup white sugar, 2 tsp. ground cinnamon, zest from one medium/large orange, 1 sheet puff pastry. Now here is the fun part you could cut out some of the sugar (like one or two tablespoons)and mix in some finely ground pecans or walnuts. You could also scrape a vanilla bean into the cinnamon and sugar along with the orange zest. Just don't overdue it go easy and keep the flavors light.
The next step is you take your cinnamon and sugar mix and spread half of it onto your work surface and place your sheet of puff pastry on top.
Sprinkle the rest of the cinnamon and sugar mixture on top.
By rolling out the puff pastry lightly you embed the cinnamon and sugar mixture into both sides of the pastry dough.
Roll the puff pastry up from each of the short sides keeping each roll tight and the same size, pinch each roll together so it holds it shape.
Cut 1/4 in. slices and place each slice on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake in preheated oven at 400 degrees. Bake for about 10 min. on one side then flip the cookies over and bake an additional 8 min. or so depending on your oven. You want them to be golden brown.
Now admittedly I have to sorta play with mine after I slice them to get them to hold their shape and look good, so feel free to do the same.
But in the end you are going to end up with a plateful of happiness. These cookies are best if allowed to cool completely. They crip up the cooler they get, which makes for a really delightful cookie that is perfect to serve.

Sunday, March 2, 2014


I wasn't really sure what to title this particular blog post, so I just kept it simple and to the point. I know my vegetarian friends are cringing, sorry I can't help you. I eat meat I have never been embarrassed, horrified or disgusted about that fact in any way shape or form. With that being said I am going to move on.
K.B. and I have been looking forward to this day for somewhere close to five months. It was a matter of putting the funds together, which is never easy for a couple of working girls, but when we set the date and time and picked out what we wanted and how we wanted it we were like a couple of kids in a candy shop. Now you would think by the way I am talking that I am gearing up for some girls weekend away full of sun, umbrella drinks and sandy beaches well you couldn't be farther from the truth this was a morning filled with rain, big wet friendly dogs, chickens, an incredibly nice lady and livestock...In particular lambs and ewes. The conversations leaned towards wool, spinning, shared recipes and photos of dogs, much missed, that are no longer with us and invitations to come back. K.B. and I made the trek to SuDan Farm in Canby, OR to pick up a whole cut and wrapped lamb. Sure we could have gone to the farmer market and picked up the meat, but where is the fun in that.
K.B. and I each got to hold a lamb and talk in length to the owner about the operation on Sudan Farm and I really appreciated the insight to the day to day operation. How the lambs were cared for. I like the fact that the lambs are grass fed and hormone free. I like knowing that this lamb I have in my freezer is locally raised and came from healthy stock.
We picked up our cooler of meat and headed to get some hot coffee in us and discuss what was on the menu for the nights dinner. K.B. went home to make a savory lamb stew. I myself decided to grill lamb (loin) chops and do up some veggies to go along with. K.B and I both picked up a couple of extras. I got a rabbit for braising and K.B. picked up a chicken...I have no doubt that both are going to be amazing. We also each got a 1/2 lb. (I weighed mine K.B) slab of smoked lamb bacon...you know that is for breakfast this morning.
So I grilled some lamb (loin) chops last night or I should say the bf did. I was in charge of the butter steamed new potatoes and roasted whole carrots with honey and rosemary . The entire meal was a huge success and I have to say I have never had lamb that was so tender and flavorful. The lamb was not at all over powering it was absolutely the best lamb I have ever had...truly sublime. Made me even happier that I embarked on this endeavor to purchase enough to last a while.
Now I don't have a photo of K.B's. lamb stew to share with you...take my word for it, it looks amazing, but I do have a photo of the dinner we had last night.
Before grilling. I simply seasoned the chops with salt and pepper both sides.
we seared the chops on both sides and then closed the lid for the final stage of cooking. The recipe said to leave the lid open, but the temp outside was far to cold (they had predicted snow for the day).
Grilled to perfection.
all together now.
K.B. with a sweet ol farm dog.
Yep that is me still with my boots and muddy jeans on. It was a busy day errands to run, grocery shopping to do. I didn't manage to get out of those muddy jeans and boots until bed time last night. Yesterday was the most fun I have had in a while...way better than any umbrella drink I have ever had.
Much thanks again to Dan and Susie Wilson of SuDan Farm for doing it right.