Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Having a "Blast", Wish You Were Here

Mount St. Helen

We went on an unexpected and extended road trip this past weekend. We wanted to take our mountain bikes out and there isn't much under 90 minutes away. We were prepared for about that until we got within 5 miles of the trailhead and read the sign (Road Closed 500 yards ahead). Well, SH#@!. So, I hurriedly flipped through our little Portland MTB pocket book and found one up the road another hour. Okay, so we're already out here, let's just do it. It really turned out to be more like 1.5 hours, but who's counting. Did I mention we were around Mount St. Helen? Well, we were, so it WAS worth it.

This second choice ride ended up being awesome. The trail went through the Mt. St. Helen "blast zone". It was quite surreal riding through pumice rock and dead pine trees, but quite a sight. It was sort of frustrating, as there were a lot of trees down and we couldn't quite finish the trail because of a downed bridge, but we enjoyed ourselves nonetheless. We found out that pumice rock floats in water.
This was a pretty cool shot of some dead trees in the blast zone.

I had to share some more canning shots. Tonight after the weekly farmer's market run, we canned 7 pints of salsa and 4 quarts of "dilly beans". This past weekend I made 6 pints of plum chutney as well. Some of you may be getting some homemade goods in your stocking this year...

Until next time.......A&L

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Weekend Culinary Delights

We have eaten quite well this weekend, and so I thought everyone could share in our indulgences.

It began with the Blackberry Peach Buckle I made friday afternoon that we had for dessert that night. What is a "buckle" you ask? Well, I'm really not sure what separates it from cobblers and crisps, but its dang good. Its more like a cobbler with a cakier batter. However, opposed to the cobbler the fruit goes on top rather than on the bottom. I guess its more like a coffee cake. All you really need to know is it's an awesome summer dessert. Use your choice of summer fruit (berries or peaches or a combo work best I think).

Recipe below (courtesy of Martha Stewart Living Magazine):

1 stick of unsalted room temperature butter (plus more for the baking dish)
1 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
2 and 3/4 cups of fruit (translates into 1 pints worth of berries (blue, black, raspberries...) OR a half a pint of berries and about 2-3 peaches chopped OR about 4-5 peaches chopped)

Garnish options: powdered sugar and/or whipped cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 2 quart baking dish. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar with electric mixer. Add eggs one at a time. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. Slowly incorporate dry mixture into wet mixture with mixer on low speed.

Spread batter in baking dish. Scatter fruit on top. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center (about 45-50 minutes, longer if using peaches). Let cool for 20 minutes before dusting with powdered sugar or serving up with fresh whipped cream! YUM!

Next on the list is Saturday morning breakfast which was our Potluck Fritatta. Fritatta is what I think of as an egg pizza really. It's much faster to make than quiche and is more fun. You can really put anything you have in the fridge in this dish, as lots of things can go with eggs. We chose a variety of potates (including the intensely purple Peruvian Blue variety), sage, rosemary, onions, left over lamb-turkey burger, and feta and fresh parmesean cheese. It was really good. Our pictures may look slightly strange because of the purple potatoes, but it is SO good. We've made it before with spinach, cheddar, bacon, tomatoes, red name it! (note - you must use a non-stick pan with a metal handle, as it will go in the oven). Recipe Below:

4-6 eggs
about 1/4 cup milk
1/2 onion
2 potatoes
a few T fresh sage and rosemary
sausage, grilled chicken, etc.
salt and pepper
grated cheese

1. Chop herbs, cube potatoes, and dice onions. 2. Beat eggs and milk, add salt and pepper as you would for scramled eggs.
3. Chop desired leftover meat (we were using some Middle Eastern lamb and turkey burgers we made earlier this week... that recipe may follow in the future).
4. Shred cheese.
5. Preheat oven to 425.

6. Brown potatoes, onions, and herbs in a little bit of olive oil over medium heat. The potatoes cook faster and use less oil if you either use leftover baked potatoes or microwave them for a few minutes prior to using. If you are microwaving them, don't forget to prick them with a fork.
7. When the potatoes are nearly browned, add the leftover meat to heat.

8. Pour eggs over the potato mixture, lifting the sides of the eggs to help the mixture set underneath... as if you were making an omelette.
9. Once the edges are set (3-4 minutes), transfer the whole pan to the oven, and bake until it puffs up and the center is set.
10. Top with cheese, remove from pan, slice and serve.

Here's how we ate it:

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Fruits of our Labor

I promised updates on the whole "preserving" deal. We have begun our quest for buying as much fresh and local foods as possible now and preserving them for consumption later this fall and winter. So far, our canning efforts have produced some of "Peggy's Sunshine Dill Pickles" (recipe courtesy of Adam's late grandmother Peggy). The idea behind these pickles is setting them out in the sunshine gives an extra special something during the curing process. It was a little ironic that the following four days after we made these pickles, it proceeded to rain.....It's okay. It's sunny now.

We couldn't find fresh cukes anywhere at the farmer's markets this weekend (we were impatient and wanted to make them NOW), so we bought some regular old cucumbers and quartered them up. We did use the cayenne peppers and garlic we bought at the market last week, so we got that going for us at least. Much to Adam's disappointment, we saw an abundance of pickling cucumbers yesterday at our farmer's market (after we already made ours). We shoulda waited! Oh well, they look cool anyway AND they are gonna be some spicy dills that's for sure.

We bought 25 lbs. of tomatoes. Yes, that's right. We're gonna start out dehydrating most of these, as all the tomato canning recipes call for 45 lbs. of tomatoes. So, this morning, I boiled about 15 lbs. of them for 30 seconds, slipped the skins off, cored them and sliced them up evenly and layed them all out in pretty rows on our dehydrater. Apparently this is a great way of preserving them (kind of like sundried tomatoes I suppose). I'll let you know how they turn out. We probably won't be eating them for a while though....

What else?......Oh yes, the BERRIES. We bought a half a flat of bluebs and half a flat of blackberries. Even though its very difficult for Adam to save the berries for later (every time I turn around he's got another handful of them), we bought some extra this time for freezing. The best way to do this is wash and dry them, lay them flat on cookie sheets and put in freezer until frozen. Then transfer to freezer bags. The laying flat on the trays prevents huge ice/berry chunks.

You may ask, "How do they know how to do this stuff?" Well, with help from this handy-dandy little blue book of preserving, we have all the information we need to can, freeze or dehydrate anything we want.

I figured since I was learnng to become so domestic-y, I needed an apron. I found this one at House of Vintage in the Hawthorne District. It says "Happy Days" on it and it displays a martini. I don't really understand it, but it somehow fits. :) Stay tuned, as there will be more on these endeavors in the kitchen.....

Sunday, August 17, 2008

A Walk in the Woods

Hello Friends! Sorry its been a while since I've posted. We've been down south for Adam's work and nothing too exciting has happened since then. We decided to go exploring this weekend and try out one of the longer day hikes in the Mt. Hood Wilderness. We chose one called East Zig Zag Mountain and Burnt Lake. It was approximately 11 miles long and the really "cool" thing was it ended at a lake (Burnt Lake to be exact). This was really nice as it was 100+ all weekend here in Portland. I believe we surpassed the record by like 6 degrees. It still doesn't feel quite as bad as like 95 in Missouri, but then again no one here has air conditioners so, that makes it a little uncomfortable at times.

We thought we'd get away into the higher elevations where its cooler. Or so we thought. It was still really really hot. But - we did take a dip in the lake once we got there. Too bad Adam didn't get any pictures of me in my bikini and hiking boots. I'm sure all of you would've gotten a kick out of that. There were tons of crawdads the size of lobsters and fish jumping out of the water all over the place. All with Mt. Hood in the backdrop. Not a bad way to spend a saturday.

The trail up to the lake was lined with wildflower meadows and bushes of huckleberries. We were a little disappointed that the berries weren't quite ripe yet. And, it wouldn't be a true hike unless Adam took several pictures of the flowers. Here's one that was really cool. We don't know what its called...

And what would an adventure like this be without a grand finale at one of the dozens of brewpubs in Portland. Yes, its seems we try a new one almost every week. This one had excellent beer. "Hopworks Urban Brewery" has a delicious IPA and Deluxe Ale. The pizza's not so bad either.

Adam and I are going to try our hand at canning some fresh produce soon. I'm sure there will be at least a couple of posts about how that works out for us. After reading the book "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver we both have become a little obsessed with eating locally and supporting local farmers in hopes of being as ecologically responsible as we can. I know it sounds like a lot of work, but we're gonna give it a try. Those of you interested should check out the book.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Bridge Pedal 2008

This weekend was our first "Bridge Pedal" experience in Portland. Its an iconic bike ride across all of Portland's bridges. No cars allowed! We did the 11 bridge 37 mile ride. There had to have been at least 20,000 people, there were a lot of traffic jams along the way. We got some great shots of the city that we wouldn't have been able to get otherwise:

The event at the finish line was swarming with people and there was this AMAZING band playing. They are a local Portland band, AND are probably my new favorite. Those interested should look them up - ITS WORTH IT! They are called Blind Pilot and they tour by bike (are you surprised? I mean, no one really rides bikes in this city).

Our friend Tita was here with us over the weekend. Here's a picture of us downtown.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Portland by Bike

So, after traveling out of town the last two weekends, we finally got to spend our first weekend in Portland. After a good breakfast on Saturday, we took our single speed bikes up the Springwater Trail north towards downtown.
The annual Red Bull Flugtag was taking place, so the waterfront and nearby trails and bridges were packed.
For those of you that are unfamiliar, the Flugtag is a charity contest involving teams that make human powered "flying" machines. After a skit on the launching deck, they push their machine as fast as they can down the runway and ride it over the edge into the river. Most of the machines nose dive into the water... a few of them fly a few yards as they fall. The teams are rated by judges and by flight distance. It's quite a trip.

Speaking of crazy sights, at one point we heard what sounded like 80's hip hop coming our direction. We turned around just in time to snap a picture of some guy on a double decker bike with a bob trailer loaded down with a fully powered stereo system, cruising the esplanade.

After the Flugtag, we checked out a few cool vintage stores, and then sampled the very fine organic craft beers at "Roots", one of our favorite microbreweries in Portland (of which there are more than 30). At the brewpub, Liz taught me how to play chess, and after an hour or so, I beat her in my first game ever. (It helps to feed her beer while playing!) All in all it was quite a Saturday!
(Note that the parmesean and chili flakes filled in for missing pawns, and the Tabasco made a fine queen for Liz's army)