Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Anniversary in a Treehouse

Can you believe I've been married for three years?  For our third anniversary, Z and I decided we didn't want to do anything complicated (our original ideas included Japan, New Mexico, or even Southern California).  Instead, we chose a remote treehouse hotel in Washington State.  The drive was only about an hour and a half away, didn't involve TSA body scanners, and with no internet, allowed us to truly get away from it all.
The treehouse itself...it was not really very 'luxury' but definitely a neat place to spend some time by ourselves.

There was a great collection of old tapes and a tape player...truly rustic.  Our favorites were an old 'A Perfect Circle' mix tap someone had made, and one of the Ramones.

The Treehouse's kitchen.  The range in the background was the same exact one my last 'college' apartment in Pittsburgh had.


I am going to remember to bring a Mushrooming guide next time I come...lots of them looked edible, and there are a lot of places along the road that will buy your foraged mushrooms to send to stores.

The hike the last day we were there was absolutely fantastic.  For some reason, most of the good pictures of the lake were taken on my phone...I'll have to try and add some later.

For some reason I selected a really odd aspect ratio, and then never changed it back...

An excellent view of Mt. Adams.

Some of the views were like a fairy tale!  I couldn't believe how gorgeous everything looked...There were even some places where there was snow on the ground, like this gorgeous alpine meadow.

After my return I was a bit bummed to have to go back to regular life in the city...but the city is where I live, so until next time!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Another post so soon?

Yes, I must be crazy.

Have you heard of Delicata squash? They are the long, stripy squashes commonly seen in grocery stores. These squashes begin to appear around September, and though they are in the same family as summer squashes, they taste more like a butternut or even acorn winter squash. You may not have even realized they were edible, because they are so pretty, they closely resemble decorative gourds.

Bottom line: they are easy. You only need to remove the seeds and slice them, the skin on these babies is edible! Googling the name will bring up plenty of recipes, but I just slice them, coat them in olive oil, and bake at 375 degrees for 15 or so minutes. (They vary widely in size, so check the oven often to see if they are done.) Good seasonings for them include garlic, parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, etc.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


Watch, as I attempt to bring this blog back from the dead! A blogger blog? How 2008!

This is my first post since April. Last summer I had a pretty serious relapse of my Hashimoto's, and work picked up pretty well for several months. This means when I wasn't at work, I was at the doctors, or asleep. I've had a lot of time off lately, and normally I get pretty depressed about it, but lately I have just been glad to have the chance to clean my home and cook dinner.

So what's new?

Zach found out his severe eczema is directly related to wheat/gluten consumption. I have been cooking a lot of gluten free treats for him to eat, because he is pretty used to convenience foods.

One of the first things I made was frozen breakfast burritos. The ones he loved from Trader Joe's are wrapped in a wheat tortilla and are no longer a good option. I decided to try making my own, with slightly different Ingredients as you can see from the picture: Egg, tofu scramble with pepper and onion, and hashed browns on a rice wrapper + cheese that melts when microwaved. I should mention that these particular wraps are fairly delicate, and hard to wrap up a burrito with. That being said, the flavor isn't bad. So far, the overall results have been positive.

Also, enter Freyja. She was so lovely as a kitten we couldn't say no...so yes we now have THREE felines. Crazy.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

April 2013 - State of the Garden

I've been gardening an unexpected amount this year.  Today alone I planted an innumerable quantity of beans.  I thought three packs would just be about right.  Turns out about HALF of one pack was probably enough for my yard.  I found places to put them, don't you worry!  Gonna be so sick of beans by the end of the summer.  Now it just needs to rain rain rain rain rain.

Camellias bloom all spring.  And they are annoying to clean up after.
This is her "oh my God!" face.  Right now she's looking at Priss.  Behaving like a nut.






Tail in the shot....tail.  Tail in the shot.  TAIL IN THE SHOT!

Daisies often get mixed in with grass seeds here so that many people have small white flowers in their yards on purpose. I only have one patch of them, so we'll consider it a happy accident.

New guy that's been hanging around.

Bleeding hearts.


What garden is complete without a couple of lazy damn cats?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Thai Pesto

Yum!  Thai Pesto for dinner!  This recipe is easy, relatively healthy, and has 'seconds' written all over it.  I enhanced mine with a bit of Sriracha and added stir fry veggies to the noodles and sauce combo.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

This is my first post from my iPhone, so I'm going to be pretty brief. It's basically a test to see how this turns out! Tonight, Zach and I weren't hungry for anything. We went to the store looking for healthy dinner options, but were at a loss for what to make. It was getting pretty late, so I decided pasta would be a great idea. We don't eat it often, and I often crave the type of spaghetti my mom (and probably yours!) made: the kid-pleaser jar of store-bought sauce with ground beef thrown in. So that's what I did, with a few healthy improvements: ground turkey instead of beef for protein, plus red peppers, mushrooms and onions for flavor and nutrition. Kinda lazy. Deliciously lazy.

Sauces come in really healthy options now; be sure to get one without any added sugar.  Some national brands can have a lot, so read those labels!  In addition, whole wheat pasta can be great to help cut down on the carbs, but as I don't eat a lot of pasta, I'm pretty okay with plain old noodles.  This pasta was made of spelt, which does not differ in taste from normal wheat pasta, but it is apparently a somewhat different entity.  I've also used brown rice pasta before with excellent results.

Monday, February 25, 2013

February's food.

Well here we are...February 2013 almost over!  I can't believe it's nearly March, and I've only done a few posts.  That doesn't mean I haven't been busy in the kitchen and around the house.

I included this picture just because I chopped all this garlic and ginger up so finely.  Usually I just leave things in chunks and throw it in.  What's it for, by the way?

This chicken is for the same dish...a ginger-garlic marinade with yogurt.  Can you guess what it ended up as?

Chicken Tikka Masala, with cumin-scented jasmine rice.  I was really impressed with this meal, and for once I followed the recipe nearly exactly, except for one small change:  I used a can of tomatoes instead of fresh ones.  Gasp!  Tomatoes are so crummy at this time of year, it definitely would have ruined the dish.  Not to mention canned tomatoes are just so delicious I could probably eat them by themselves right out of the can.

Speaking of canned tomatoes, last week we had Ms. T's spectacular tomato soup. We ate it with a small salad, and topped it with Parmesan and Sheep Mizithra cheeses.  I put my own twist on it, but I checked out her favorite type of tomatoes for this dish, Muir Glen Fire-Roasted.  

Last night was the dinner to end all, though.  I finally got around to cooking one of the dishes out of my favorite and most inspirational cookbook:  Japanese Hot Pots.  I've had this book for over a year and every single dish in it looks absolutely delicious and beautiful, but I've never attempted anything until now.  Even the one where you cook a fish whole in the pot looks good.  I started, however, with one of the easiest dishes:  Yudofu (p. 45).  According to the book, this dish comes from traditional Buddhist vegetarian cuisine, or shojin ryori.  Most Western-style vegetarians won't find this dish particularly suitable, though, as the broth comes from dashi flakes, which come from fish (produced by a fairly scary process, I might add.) If that single component were replaced, with say, vegetable broth, this dish would be completely vegan.

My end result, however, was probably the most authentic-tasting Japanese dish I've ever created.  It was amazing.  I followed the recipe exactly, making my own stock from dashi flakes.  I replaced the negi with regular green onions, because I forgot to grab some at the store while I was at Uwajimaya.  This meal is cooked in a thin broth made of water and seaweed(kombu), then the vegetables are removed from the cooking water and eaten topped with a sauce made of soy sauce, mirin and dashi stock.  Without getting too techincal, this sauce is very similar to the dipping liquid you would get at any Japanese restaurant when ordering tempura.

Yes, I have my warijoyu in a gravy boat.
We even had the shime, which consisted of rice zosui.  Shime is a concept in Japanese eatin' where you finish your meal with an extra, starchy food.  We added rice to the remaining (delicious) broth that the veggies were cooked in to create a fairly sensational soup.  This makes the meal really, really filling.  That's good because you're basically eating boiled vegetables.  You can eat and eat and still not make it up to the calories of a burger and fries.  

If this all sounds very foreign, remember that I studied Japanese language and culture in college, which is why diving into this kind of thing is foremost in my interest.  If you're not so inclined, the beginning of the book has a section which nicely explains all the components of the meals, including instructions for things you may not know how to do, like create your own dashi stock (almost as easy as making tea).  This book is widely available at many Asian bookstores as well as western ones (I got mine at Powell's Home and Garden location on Hawthorne).  

Last but not least (phew, this is getting long) I made kimchi last night.  I am using an experimental packet from Noh foods.  I have used their seasonings in the past with average results, but the lure of supercheap supereasy Kimchi is just too much for me.  I have made my own from scratch before, however I felt the flavor left something to be desired that time.  I added my own peppers, ginger and garlic to the mix.  If you decide to go the packet route, be forewarned that opening it MADE. ME. COUGH.  You're thinking, "dummy why did you open it so close to your face?"  I didn't.  In addition my husband walked by the counter while I was mixing the cabbage and HE STARTED COUGHING, too.  Just put a towel over your face or something.  We're talking powdered hot peppers, here.

The packet calls for five pounds of cabbage but I used probably two and a half, considering I bought three pounds, and used some for the hot pot.  In the end I got about two and a half pint-sized jars of kimchi packet experiment #1.  It's still fermenting in the fridge, I'll be around with the update in 2+ days.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Emergency diet engage!

Okay, okay.  Zach and I have gained a little weight over the course of the winter so far.  It's hard to have Christmas and New Years (eatin' holidays!) so close to my birthday (usually debauchery and plenty of sushi).  January 26 is also the anniversary of when we started dating, so we usually go out to eat for that.  My friend Anita visited, and that constituted several days of eating out, cooking big tasty meals, and travelling to Seattle where the restaurants are arguably as good as Portland's, if not better.  Most of the fun holidays are out of the way for now.  Valentine's day is the only possible one left.  I usually request not to get too much chocolate, though.

So now I'm trying to cook some healthy meals at home.  Many of the meals are going back to our vegetarian/meatless roots.  I've slowly added chicken and other meat twice a week or less.  Today I made this: Chicken and Feta Tabbouleh.  It takes regular tabbouleh and adds feta cheese (not so unusual) and chicken.  It needs to chill for a few hours, but I took a sneak peek at the flavor for lunch, and I have to say it's a keeper.  In addition, the recipe calls for pre-cooked chicken, so I bought half a rotisserie chicken at the grocery store.  The bonus is that I used all the nice-looking white meat to make the salad, and got to snack on the dark meat while cooking.  Yum.

I cut the amount of tomatoes way down since they aren't really good at this time of year.  I left out the cumin, too.  

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Snowy ageing madness.

For my 27th birthday, to prove I'm not old as hell, I decided I wanted to go cross country skiing.  Yes!  That seems great.  Except I had no idea whether or not it would be difficult, how much skill would be involved, if an instructor was required, etc., so we decided to grab snowshoes instead.  Snowshoeing happens to be the easiest winter sport in terms of "getting into it".  It is, however, not easy.  Imagine plowing through 4 1/2 miles of snowy trail your first time on wacky aluminum platforms.

Why snowshoeing, when downhill skiing is so much more exciting?  Nothing puts me in a good mood like boring, repetitive, physically difficult tasks.  Take my job, for example.  Scanning hundreds of items and sorting them into heavy bags that need to be moved.  Heaven.  Running.  Swimming. Hiking. Extremely satisfying.  I wish I could turn myself into a robot.

In addition, things like downhill skiing and snowboarding usually require passes to a ski-type resort, while this and xc skiing usually can be done just about any old place where snow exists.  In our case we chose to snowshoe around semi-scenic Trillium Lake.  That is to say, its more scenic in the summer.

Doesn't sound appealing?  Live vicariously through these pictures then.

Admittedly, this is the very first time since we've moved to Oregon that I've had anything to do with "The Mountain" (which most of you may know is Mt. Hood and associated mountainous snow zone.)  This has a lot to do with vehicular access, and since we recently got this new Subaru, we thought we could handle it!  I thought I was well-acquainted with snow since I grew up in Western PA, where winter snowfalls can be plentiful.  I just had no idea.

Snow Plows?  F that, Government Camp has BULLDOZERS.  Incidentally, in the middle of the night, we awoke to the sound of Armageddon, which was just all the snow from the entire hotel sliding off the roof into the parking lot.  I was like uh, is Mt. Hood suddenly erupting? I was sure that my time had come.

On the road, we were about an hour from needing tire chains, which would have happened if we didn't haul ass off the mountain at 3:30, right before sunset.

My husband and I are big fans of getting gear as cheaply as you can.  Next Adventure is a place here in Portland which allows you to trade in your used gear and clothing, and additionally buy second-hand gear for a fraction of the price of new things.  Here is my goofy purple vintage Columbia adult snowsuit  which functioned at 100% and didn't cost more than 20 dollars.

Right at the beginning.  An easy downhill start, a bitch at the end of the 3.5 hours because it feels like it's going straight up.


About halfway through.  It's not as cold as it looks, only about 28 degrees.  When you've waited for Pat Transit's 54C in the middle of winter on a windy hill, you can pretty much camp at the North Pole and be fine.

Trillium Lake.  I'm told in the summer, it looks like this:

What to drink when you're done?  

"Love" isn't my favorite flavor, but I gambled and lost.

Products I recommend?

Definitely any Keen brand hiking boot you can get your hands on.
Injinji individual-toed socks, prevents toe chafe-age.
Neff facemasks and additionally their "daily" hats.

Lessons Learned?
-Camelbacks and other water bladders operate on the principle that if you're thirsty enough, you'll drink water that tastes like a shower curtain and like it.
-The hiking boots priced over a hundred dollars are worth it if you have knee problems.
-4 1/2 miles is a lot of snowshoeing for a beginner.

I don't want to know how this is going to feel tomorrow.  Let's not talk about it.