Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Pittock Mansion

Some more photos...
Matt & I visited Pittock Mansion in Portland 2 weekends ago, then promptly took my parents to see it the next week. It is supposed to be one of the best views of the city, as the house is perched on the 1,000-foot West "Hill." (The only hills I grew up with were freeway overpasses, so this is definitely a mountain to me.) Luckily, the two of us went on a clear day and took lots of pictures. Unfortunately for my parents, their visit was on a cloudy with low visibility of the mountains. (Perhaps they'll need to come back soon and try again!)

Anyway, it is called the Pittock Mansion because, well, the Pittock family owned this big home. The husband and wife duo were pioneers on the Oregon Trail, Mr. starting the Portland newspaper here and Mrs. being very involved in social work efforts and gardening in the area. I actually read about her in one of my social work textbooks a few years ago...pretty nifty!

We haven't taken the tour of their house yet, but if you go around to the backyard, that's where beautiful greenery and flowers line the 'cliff' of the views. The five or six mountains in the Cascades Range you can see in a 180-degree span include Mts. Hood and St. Helens.

Yellow Rose of Texas Oregon
Wouldn't it be fun to have those views in your backyard? Well, I'll visit this one for free when I'm wanting a giant garden. And I don't have to remember to water the plants... :)

Happy Day!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Simple Focaccia

 I remember the first time I tasted focaccia bread. It was at one of those Italian chain restaurants where they sing you Happy Birthday in Italian and bring out baskets of warm focaccia to dip into herbed olive oil and devour. I think I was 12. The strange looking puffy yet flat bread was piping hot, spongy and really delicious. The soft bread tasted like I imagined Italy felt.

Since then, I've had some more tastes of the bread, topped with meats and cheeses, even used for paninis and sweetened for a simple dessert. It's time to try and make it. Mostly because I love an excuse to use rosemary.

A note on rosemary...I really love this herb. It's hearty and can be grown most anywhere. It's a treat to see it growing wild in Texas, where the heat can destroy even the toughest of plants. Rosemary is pretty as a full bush but also looks nice if flower arrangements and just to have around the house. It's also a plant that's hard to kill (i.e., forgetting to water it for a month, and it keeps on ticking!). We love to use fresh rosemary but dried is great, too. There's a longer stemmed dried rosemary that we get from Whole Foods. It's by far the best quality I've found, and a little goes a long way. So this was definitely included in the focaccia.

Simple Focaccia
This simple bread is wonderful to make while you prepare the rest of dinner, or while you're around the house for 2 hours. No mixer required. Top the bread with the seasonings/toppings of your choice. Some ideas: Italian seasoning, crushed red pepper, lots of dried rosemary, thyme, chives, sun dried tomatoes, sliced pepperoncinis, red onions, garlic (roasted, cloves, powder), olives, mushrooms, bell peppers, cheeses (mozzarella, parmesan), prosciutto or pepperoni.
Adapted from here
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 TB instant yeast
1 t. salt
1 1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees-ish)
3 TB olive oil
Toppings/seasonings of your choice

STEP ONE: In a large bowl, combine flour, yeast, salt, water, and 3 TB olive oil. Mix for 1-2 minutes, until all combined. Dough will be sticky.

STEP TWO: In a lightly oiled 9X13 baking pan, place the dough, flattening out a bit. Cover with plastic wrap or a towel and let rise in a warm place for 45 minutes, or until the dough has risen and is puffy.

STEP THREE: Remove the plastic wrap and poke the dough all over with your fingers. Drizzle with olive oil (lightly) and top with seasonings/toppings. (I used Italian seasoning, dried rosemary, garlic powder, and a little sea salt.) Bake for 40 minutes.

STEP FOUR: After cooling for 5-10 minutes, slice into squares and serve. (Great for open faced sandwiches, dipping bread in herbed olive oil, side bread for a meal, etc.)
Happy eating!

Is My Kitchen Equipped?
Have you walked into a Williams-Sonoma or other lovely kitchen store lately? Have you gazed up at the bright lights reflecting off of the shiny copper pots and pans, fancy knives in glass cases, and kitchen gadgets lining the walls and reaching up all the way to the heavens?

Oh, it's quite a sight, isn't it? And don't even get me started on the baking pans tucked on shelves and the espresso machines that make you drool...a little.

Shiny, shimmery, fancy schmancy kitchen stuff. Does the good (i.e. PRICEY) stuff make you a good cook, even a Top Chef? It reminds me of middle school when the kids on the basketball team would buy Air Jordans to "make them jump higher and get more baskets." Move over Michael Jordan, little Sam's mommy just got suckered into buying him $130 shoes. 

Okay, so we're not suckers; many of us are savvy, bargain shoppers who just want to get better at life (cooking) and want to do it without going into bankruptcy to buy that $1500 pot that was too good to pass up. But a splurge is okay, too, sometimes. The funny Mark Bittman has a great article on the essentials needed in any kitchen. They're practical items that are as cheap as $1 and as expensive as...well, he doesn't recommend any expensive. 

When you look at the photo/diagram of the kitchen supplies he recommends, I (basically a nobody compared to this food giant) completely agree. However, investing in a mandoline has yet to happen, mostly because I like all 10 of my fingers, thank you. But for those of us who are not so clutzy, a mandoline is a great addition.

Hope you enjoy this article. And, if you have another 7 minutes, I'd read his article on Meat (same website on the main page). Interesting stuff, friends. Happy cooking, bargain hunting for a $3 baking pan and *most of all* happy eating!!


Friday, September 21, 2012

Road Trip


I am desperately behind in posting bloggie stuff on here. I will eventually catch up, I promise. So today (my day off) was spent transferring lots of files (photos) over to an external hard drive so I could share more with you! It's a tedious task but feels a little like cleaning the house...not so fun in the moment, but feels great after everything's all cleaned out. I'm in the process right now. Anyhoo, for some photo fun...

I. Texas: Mom & Dad's Backyard

My mom has a love of stars, based on a song, so you find them all over their Lone Star home. (No, it's not a country song.)
Sam's perch on the couch (cat?)

 II. Kansas: Awesome In-laws

HAPPY 3rd Birthday Party Day tomorrow, Libby!!

Chris, Matt's bandmate, came by Kansas for a visit/jam/lunch. Jolly good!
Some, but not all, of our awesome Kansas/MO family!
 I'll post food soon, I promise. I have a few exciting things up my sleeve. Will you believe that Mark Bittman was in Portland yesterday and I *had to work*??? I listened to the interview with the local NPR station on my way to work, which was awesome, but I'm sure hearing him in person was pretty rad. Maybe another time...

Happy eating!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Busy Girl's Smoothie

Wow, what a great couple of days! My parents came through Portland for a couple day stay on their way to Seattle for an Alaskan cruise. We ate a ton and saw a lot. We are so glad they came to visit!

In the meantime, they went on their cruise this morning, and Matt & I went to our neighborhood farmers market. It was so busy and so packed full of enticing fresh organic produce, baked goods, artisan crafts. And lot of crepes, omelets, barbq, gourmet breads, and other ethnic tasties to stuff in our faces. Highlights: my Marionberry scone and Matt's sausage pinwheel sandwich; a 2 1/2 foot long zucchini for $2; and tomato varieties that included chocolate cherry, pineapple and too many heirlooms to count. I'd never seen or heard of these before! How fun.
We got our produce for the week or 2 and are so excited to try! How about now? And quickly, so I'm not late for work?

2 servings
1/2 cup milk
4-6 oz of low fat yogurt
1/2 cup berries
1/2 apple
1 banana
3 cups spinach

Combine all ingredients in a blender, then add 4-6 ice cubes. Drink half and share the rest with a friend!

Happy Saturday!!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Healthy Substitutes

Shortcuts are awesome. They make things quicker and easier...and better for me. And you. Do you have any shortcuts?

Substitutes in cooking/baking take on the same effect. They make things quicker (no extra trip to the store for 1 missing ingredient), easier and are better for you. Many of these you have probably seen before and even used in the kitchen. But I decided to list these for fun and helpfulness in the day-to-day adventures of trying to live a healthy, happy life.

For whole eggs:
Egg substitute/egg beaters
Egg whites (3 egg whites=2 eggs)
Unsweetened applesauce (1/4 applesauce=1 egg; sub in baking only)

For oil (in baking):
Applesauce (equal measurements)

For butter:
Whipped butter (1/2 the fat/calories)
Applesauce in baking
Apple butter/pumpkin butter
Cooking spray, small amount of olive oil

All-purpose white flour:
Whole wheat pastry flour (light and airy for baking)
Oat flour
White wheat flour
Spelt flour

Regular pastas:
Whole wheat pastas (at least 50% wheat flour)
Whole wheat orzo
Whole wheat couscous
Brown rice
Quinoa (key-nwaahhhh--much harder to pronounce than to prepare)

Traditional breadcrumbs:
Whole wheat breadcrumbs
Rice Krispies cereal
Corn flakes

Sucanat (sugar cane natural)
Reduce (the amount of white sugar in a recipe and pump up the flavors of vanilla, almond, peppermint, cinnamon, or nutmeg)
Fruit juice (another type of sugar, but processed a little easier by your body than white sugar)

Savory spices (rosemary, smoked paprika, garlic powder, crushed red pepper, smoked chili powder, black and white pepper, cumin)

Turkey bacon
"Veggie" sausage (Boca, Quorn, etc.)
Thinly sliced prosciutto
Thick sliced pancetta (more flavor=eating less & having my fill)

Milk from a moo cow:
Unsweetened almond milk (vanilla, chocolate, or original)
Soy milk
Hemp milk

Fat free half-and-half (some have lots of chemicals, so read the label first)
Low fat buttermilk (king of baking--can sub for cream + butter in a recipe!)
Silken tofu

I challenge you this weekend to find one of your favorite, go-to recipes and try to make it with one of these (or another) healthier substitutes. Good luck, and let me know how it goes!

Happy weekend and happiest living!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Those Little Things

Can you believe we've been residents of Oregon for a month now? Wow, neither can I. And we've eaten out exactly 2.4 times since we've been here. I'm actually proud of us for the IMMENSE amount of self control that it has taken to eat at home. Eating out, trying new places and new dishes are thre of Matt and my favorite things, so I know our bank account thanks us for the sacrifice. ;) anyhow, that 2.4 times included:
-a great NE seafood chain with a tasty seafood Cobb (see photo)
-a burger/Chinese place 2 blocks from our house (okay:too greasy)
-and the .4 was a cup of soup from the beautiful Zupan's Market, a specialty grocery in the Pearl District/Downtown. This is my absolute fave kind of grocery store, run like a corner market that you pop into every day or two for a few tasty items. Matt thought they had one of the cleanest and most organized produce section he'd ever seen. It's fun. And, of course, there's a Peet's coffee inside--of course! And I had spicy white chili (photo below), but next time I'll try the banana cold soup(!) (photo below). The description made my eyes pop out with excitement!

Okay, that's all for now. I've learned another thing about Portland (& maybe the NW in general)...personal space is all relative. Not in a creepy way like strangers greeting you nose-to-nose, but sharing tables at an outdoor patio or greeting complete strangers is more common here than in the famously friendly South. Just something to chew on.
I made a super healthy bfast item that ill share ASAP. Happy Tuesday and Labor Day weekend to ya!