The return of salad season: white beans and tuna over greens.

Hello salad season, so glad you are back with us. My garden is literally exploding with lettuce and kale at the moment, so I’m trying my best to find creative ways to incorporate more greens into every meal. I love … Continue reading

Healthy Snacks: a quick guide to roasting almonds

 

 

oven roasted almonds

oven roasted almonds

Backstory. I’ve been on a healthy snack kick lately. Mostly because I seem to have completely blown my monthly budget on awesome things like trips to the dentist, and a sparkly bag, so I’ve been trying to be frugal (and healthy) in other areas of my life. I’m two days away from a five day vacation, so I’ve been pinching my pennies, skipping my morning lattes and being extra good about packing lunch. Almost every day my snack includes almonds… they are easy, nutritious, packed with fiber, protein, and good fats, they keep me full (especially when paired with a big old glass of water) and they are readily accessible. The ladies that I work with bring almonds quite a bit as well, and you will find us behind the counter at various points throughout the day munching on a handful of them.

A few days ago I shared some of my snacks with my boss and she turned to me and said “why do your almonds taste so much better than my almonds?!?!” the answer is all in the roast. I take an extra 15 minutes at the start of my week to toast my almonds to perfection. Its not really something I thought very much of, just something I always did. Raw almonds are fine, but roasted almonds are better, and growing up it seemed like there was always a bowl full of oven roasted almonds sitting on our kitchen counter. My boss then said “but wait! You can’t just talk about these things and then not explain how to do it!” she then went on a rant about how she didn’t know how to make mojitos, and didn’t know the proper way to roast almonds, and how I needed to start taking my basic kitchen intuition and writing it down. And at first all I could think was “ no one wants to read a blog post about how to roast almonds” and then about an hour later I got a text message from my other boss saying “ how long and what temperature do you roast your almonds? They are so delicious.” Ok, so maybe people do want to read about this.   So here I am, taking my little bit of kitchen intuition and sharing it with you… it might not be mind-blowing or life changing… but I promise you, your snacks are going to taste so much better!

 

Easy oven roasted almonds:

(note: I keep my bulk almonds in the freezer. If your almonds are room temperature you might need to adjust the roasting time)

 

Turn oven to 350 degrees and start to pre-heat.

Remove almonds from freezer and spread out the desired amount on a small roasting pan or cookie sheet. (I usually roast about 1.5-2 cups. )

Place pan of almonds in the oven (even if it isn’t quite pre-heated) and turn on a timer for 10 minutes.

You will need to check on/ stir your almonds about twice in that 10 minutes.

After the ten minutes is up, evaluate the almonds (Use your senses, appraise the color and how they smell… you can tell when they are done, trust me.) If they are still on the lighter side leave them in for 2-3 more minutes, and then shut off the oven. I usually let the almonds sit in the cooling oven for about 5 more minutes before removing the pan and letting them cool on top of the stove. Once they have cooled completely transfer them to a bowl, or mason jar and enjoy throughout the week!

 

Voila, roasted nuts.

 

 

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The Awkward Olive Does Lunch: The Game Changer Salad

garden lettuce

garden lettuce

 

My garden is an explosion of lettuce right now.  So so so so so much lettuce.  Speckled kind, and red kind, and green kind, and fluffier red kind (I’m really good with the technical names in case you couldn’t tell.)   I eat quite a bit of salad, but I can honestly say that I had this particular salad in mind when I planted my lettuce this spring. And I eat it at least 6 times a week, sometimes even twice a day.  I’m adding  it to my Lunch adventures, because I do take it to work with me quite a bit,  but since it is so simple, and mostly comprised of lettuce, I would recommend it as an accompaniment to a main dish rather than as a meal itself.  (or you could do like I did today and make a giant salad and then eat several handfuls of Bugles… you win some you lose some…)  I like to call this the Game Changer salad… because it will literally change how you do meals in the summer.

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The great thing about this salad is that it is only 4 ingredients, and you probably have all of them already.  It will literally take you 5 minutes from garden to table, and its mind-numbingly simple and delicious.  When I tell you what the ingredients are, you might think I’m a little bit nutty, but trust me when I say that this is the absolute perfect salad to enjoy on a summer evening.

Note: This will not work/ not be delicious with grocery store bagged lettuce. It has to be fresh from the garden or the Farmer’s Market. You want the slightly bitter greens with texture and some of that earthy grittiness you can only get from freshly picked lettuce.

  • Garden Fresh Lettuce
  • Yellow or white onion
  • Half and half
  • Good flake salt.

Wash and dry the lettuce, tear it up and put it in a bowl. Thinly slice some of the onion (personal preference as to how much… but a little goes a long way.) drizzle with half and half, and sprinkle with salt, toss. Voila. 5 minutes from garden to table.

 

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I know it sounds a little bizarre, but if you think about what most salad dressings are made of, it’s some sort of fat, and salt, and seasoning. Nothing is worse than an over-dressed salad, and the great thing about this, is that the excess half and half won’t stick to the lettuce leaves, it will just run to the bottom of the bowl, leaving you with a salad that is perfectly dressed! The bitterness of the greens, the sweetness of the half and half, the slight pungentness of the onions, and the salt are a perfect marriage.    (spell check is telling me that pungentness isn’t a word… I don’t really care.)

This salad is seriously going to change the way you do week night dinners. Super simple, light, and fresh.  Also, since you don’t need very much of the onion or the half and half, you should be able to make this salad all week without having to make another trip to the store.

 

 

 

Easy Appetizer: Winter Endive Bites with persimmon and pomegranate

Winter endive bites with persimmon and pomegranate

Winter endive bites with persimmon and pomegranate

Happy National Appetizer Day!  (What? Really? There is such a thing? I had no idea until Sunday night when I saw a sign announcing it at Trader Joes, but since I had already been mentally composing this blog post about my favorite go-to appetizer, I thought it was kismet.)

I’ve always thought that as an adult, one should have a go to, meal, dessert, and appetizer in his or her cooking repertoire. Ideally the dishes should be easy, tasty, and just a little bit unique…  ( Mine are: endive bites, coconut oven fried chicken, rosemary thyme sugar cookies. ) Even if you don’t cook for yourself on a regular basis, you still need to be able to have those meals you can pull together to impress a date, the in-laws, or survive a work potluck or bake-sale.  These items don’t necessarily need to be cohesive, and they most certainly don’t need to be complicated… but having these go to meal components up your sleeve will most definitely come in handy.

Tangent: You might also want to consider adding a vegan dish to your repertoire.  Because lets face it, we all have vegan friends, and they like to eat delicious things too, and though they are choosing to miss out on things like crème fraiche, you also don’t want to be the friend who serves them things that taste like cardboard because you can’t figure out something delicious and plant based to make. Fact: Cooking vegan is NOT THAT HARD… and yet I know so many people who down right panic at the idea of eliminating meat, and dairy.  Last year I had two Vegan and gluten free friends over for dinner… we had a delightful meal of black rice, raw zucchini noodles and tahini dressing with roasted vegetables…(ok, confession, I rarely cook meat a home, because it grosses me out, and since I rarely cook it it makes me nervous… so when I’m at home I’m mostly a vegetarian… so I’m allowed to go off about how vegan cooking isn’t that hard… because  if you take eggs and cheese out of my diet… I pretty much live in a land of quinoa and roasted veggies…) and as we sat there, they told me about all the dinner party horror stories they had from people who just couldn’t quite get a grip on vegan cooking. Here is a hint… just because you are limiting your ingredients does not mean you have to limit the flavor.  Plants are delicious, seasonal plants are even more delicious… you can still use things like salt, and spices, seeds and a myriad of other things to make your food taste awesome.

Also, to all my vegan friends out there. Don’t freak out when you cook for non-vegan people. You don’t need to defend how you eat or what you made for me… and don’t sit around fretting about if I’m going to be satisfied with the meal, or if I am judging you… I will be satisfied, and I’m not judging you (and most other people probably aren’t either). Fact: you eat this way, and it satisfies you, Cooking for someone is a wonderfully nice thing, and educating someone on new ways of thinking and eating is pretty neat too. Just because I choose to eat eggs and cheese doesn’t mean I think you are crazy for choosing not to eat those things.  So just relax, keep doing what you do…

But I digress, and this IS supposed to be about appetizers.. and is, in fact, not a lecture on life skills and eating habits….  So onto Winter Endive Bites.

Here is what I love about endive bites. Everything.   They are ridiculously simple, but  seem a little bit fancy, so you kind of get extra bang for your buck. You can make them in about 5 minutes, put just about anything in them, and they act as their own cup, so they are a completely self contained nibble that works great for passed apps, or stationary h’orderves.  The endive is crunchy, so you automatically have texture built in, and the bitterness of the green is remarkably versatile.

You could come up with hundreds of different fillings to put in endive bites, but one thing to consider is texture, color, taste and overall presentation. (another favorite is roasted beets with walnuts and blue cheese… or blood oranges with fennel, parley and chévre) What I love most about this particular recipe is the marriage of sweet and savory. The persimmon has a little sweet nuttiness to it, and the pomegranate is simultaneously sweet and tart. The pistachios add some texture, and then the gremolata brings in a little zing.  There are a lot of flavors at work, but they all meld together to present this really gorgeous bite.

persimmons, cubed.

persimmons, cubed.

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Winter Endive Bites with persimmon and pomegranate 

Serves 5-6

  • 2-3 heads of endive
  • seeds from ½ of a pomegranate
  • 2 persimmons
  • 1 handful of shelled pistachios (pulsed in a food processor a few times, or lightly smashed)
  • 2-3 spoonful’s of gremolata*
  • olive oil (I recommend using a slightly fruity olive oil in this recipe. I used the 2013 olio nuovo Koroneiki olive oil from The Oregon Olive Mill… which was very ripe, and has a lot of green banana flavor. )
  •  Finishing salt to taste (obviously I use Jacobsen Sea Salt Cause it’s amazing.)
  1. Cut the bottoms off the endive and separate the leaves. Wash and dry the endive leaves and set aside.
  2. Cut the persimmon into small chunks and place in mixing bowl with pomegranate seeds and pistachio. Lightly mix together and then add 2-3 spoonful’s of gremolata. Drizzle with olive oil. Taste, and add salt as needed.
  3. Scoop the mixture into endive cups, and serve immediately.

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*Gremolata

  • Zest from 1 lemon
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced.
  • 1 bunch of parsley, chopped.
  • Mix gremolata ingredients together in small bowl and set aside.

*Gremolata is one of my new favorite things. It is great in soups, on salads, mixed in with rice, on fish… the list goes on. For this recipe, I recommend making it separately and adding it to the rest of the filling, that way you can keep the excess gremolata to garnish other dishes throughout the week.

Note. The gremolata will last a few days in the refrigerator but due to the texture of the persimmons, the fruit mixture doesn’t keep as well.

A Truly Magical evening at Jacobsen Salt Co.

Before I even get started, let me just say that I kinda have a crush on Ben Jacobsen. Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, I can get on to the really important things, like how magical* my Wednesday evening was.

 

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racks and racks of salt

 

(* I’m realizing right here and now as I compose this in my head that I’m probably going to say magical and amazing a whole lot in this post.  I looked up all the synonyms for magical, and it really doesn’t feel authentic for me to say things like fairylike, mystic, or paranormal… stupid thesaurus. I apologize in advance if you want to punch me in the face because I’m gushing about my magical evening. )

 

I woke up on Wednesday morning to sunlight streaming in my window. Both my cell phone and computer had died in the middle of the night so I had no idea what time it was (yes they were both situated in bed next to me, its fine I sleep alone, there is plenty of room) but I laid there for a while just basking in the fact that I had the day off, and I figured I probably couldn’t sleep through my morning yoga class even if I tried (well, ok I could, but I was pretty confident that even if I didn’t know what time it was, I hadn’t yet missed my class. I was correct).  I started to think about what I was going to do that day, and as I laid there looking at what was potentially the last really perfect Indian Summer day, I decided to drop everything and spontaneously head to the coast for a dinner at Jacobsen Salt Company.

 

I had been toying around with the idea for a little while, and I knew I would be going to at least one of the dinners there this fall, I just hadn’t decided which one. I had a million reasons why I hadn’t signed up for this dinner, but on Wednesday morning, none of them actually seemed legitimate (ok, maybe the budget reason was legit… I’m choosing to ignore that)  I was bummed I wasn’t going to any of the Feast Portland events over the weekend, and was craving a foodie adventure. So I rolled out of bed, found my computer cord, waited for baby-mac to charge, and promptly bought a ticket. Gotta love the power of the interwebs.

 

Over the past few weeks a few things have changed  a bit in my life. The largest thing  being my job (more about this at another time) but I’ve suddenly found myself working a lot less (hilarious that full time seems leisurely these days) and have been trying to focus on filling my free time with things that make me happy. Exercise, socializing, fun experiences… and lets face it. Amazing food and wine make me really, really happy. Throw in fun people, and pushing out of my comfort zone a little bit, with the spontaneity factor, and I’m pretty much blissed out.  So getting a ticket for a dinner with Chris Cosentino at a enchanting salt factory on the Oregon coast was really a no brainer.  (seriously, why did I wait until that morning? I have no idea… going to this dinner was perhaps one of the best decisions I’ve ever made… at least one of the most fun things I’ve done for myself in a long time)

 

Fall time always makes me feel a little introspective. With the afore mentioned free time, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, evaluating, and self analysis. (sometimes this is good. Other times not so much, but at the moment, I think it is good to take a step back, and realize ways in which I want to grow) One thing I’ve really been sensitive to is trying to make a name for myself. Maybe not even really that… it’s more like I want to be memorable. At my former job I really struggled with this, partially because as an event planner it is pretty much your job to blend in and be behind the scenes. This was all good and fine at weddings, and private functions, but it got really frustrating at industry events and wine club pick ups, because I felt like I was meeting the same people over and over and over again, and each time they had no clue that we had met dozens of times before. A lot of that is just the industry, and some of it was me being a wall flower, but regardless, it started to wear on me a little bit. Not that I want to be the center of attention, but I think every person at least hopes to be memorable in some way.

 

I went through a lot of the same thing last year when I started dating my ex. He is a chef, and kind of a famous one, and once again, I would go out with him, and I would “meet” people whom I’ve met before, and now suddenly that we were together I was standing out.  At least at the time… flash forward to now, and I run into people that I met when we were together all over the place. They usually just look at me with no recognition, all the while I’m replaying conversations I had with them in my head. I’m trying not to take it personally… I have a really hard time with names, and I know that I meet a lot of people at the market, and I can’t always place where I know them from…  But at the end of the day, I don’t want to be forgettable, but I also want to stand out for who I am, and not for who I am with or where I work.

 

And I feel like in the last year I’ve finally gotten a handle on this. I know that most people actually associate me with where I work… but I’m pretty ok with that.  Red Hills Market is kind of the epicenter of wine country, and if people know who I am because I make their latte’s every day, or because I cater at their winery, I’m ok with that. Because for the first time since I joined this crazy/fun/unpredictable industry I feel like I’m actually a part of the community, and not just orbiting outside of it. And it feels nice to be making connections, and mostly making them on my own. (of course, I get home on Wednesday evening, and my ex, who is friends with Chris Cosentino calls me to ask about the dinner, and immediately says “well did you talk to Chris? Did you tell him that we know each other? Did he give you the time of day because you know me?”  Le sigh.  No, I did not name drop, and I knew that I  totally could have, and perhaps would have had a magical celebrity chef moment… but for me Wednesday night wasn’t about name dropping. It was about amazing food at an amazing place, and putting myself out there for who I was.)

 

Anyway, long tangent coming back around…  I had been at Jacobsen Salt Co. all of two seconds, and I step out of my car and the first thing I hear is “Oh hi Awkward Olive!”  And there is Jami Curl of St. Cupcake and Quinn  aka “sprinklefingers” greeting me with a smile and a hug. We had never actually met before, and up until that moment had only known each other through Instagram, so the whole thing was a little surreal.  I know lots of people have twitter meet ups (is there like a catchy term for that? I don’t tweet really, so I have no idea) Anyway, I always had a sneaking suspicion that if we ever met, we would be friends in real life. I should probably be more creeped out that I already felt like I had a connection and a real life relationship with this person whom I have only ever communicated with via photo comments (the fact that she isn’t creeped out that I’m a little bit obsessed with her son,  in a totally not creepy way, makes me think that we really actually get each other pretty well).  I find her to be really entertaining (follow her on instragram, for reals, you won’t regret it) and very relatable.  I knew within moments of stepping out of my car that I was among friends, and that the evening was going to be amazing, and it just kept getting better.  I met a bunch of fun new people, re-connected with some people I already knew, and had a blast putting myself out there.  At one point we were on a tour of the salt facility Jami turned to me and said “When we go into the room with the large pool, I want you to imagine that I have given Ben the gift of an otter, and its in the pool swimming on its back with a little shell clutched to its chest. It will make the tour a lot better.”  Yup I knew she was my kind of person.

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As we waited for the tour to commence, and dinner to be served we lingered by the water, sipped on pink bubbles (the wine kind, not the blowing kind) from Soter Vineyards… It was all pretty much heaven. I’ve been a fan of Soter for quite some time, and my old roommate used to work there, so last winter I became quite familiar with their wine. I also became much more familiar with the people working there, and find them all to be quite delightful. Hallie Whyte and I actually went to college together, but our paths never crossed very much, so its fun to have that Linfield connection with someone now. It’s kind of amazing to me how a school can be so small, and yet I’m still meeting people that I didn’t really know when we were engrossed in academia.  Anyway, I’m getting super off track… the wine, the bay, the facility, the people… to say it was anything less than magical would be a complete understatement.

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Starting off the tour

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Ben and Chris hanging out before dinner

Jacobsen Salt Co. is hands down one of the coolest places I’ve ever been to. It is this tiny oyster farm converted into a salt factory, and it isn’t fancy, and yet it is the type of place that makes you want to drop everything, quit your life and somehow be a part of it.  (I love finding those types of places… don’t you?) My words aren’t really doing it justice right now, really you just have to go and experience it for yourself, preferably on a sunny day with pink bubbles… but I have a sneaking suspicion that it is a pretty magical place any day of the week under any conditions with or without wine.  It also help that there are good people there.

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I met Ben a few years ago when he was just getting things started. He was making a delivery to Red Ridge Farms, and he had giant Rubbermade tubs full of lemon zest salt in the back of his car (before it was even available, back when he was schlepping sea water all the way to Portland to make his salt… it sounds hard.)  He was so charismatic, and so passionate about what he was doing… again, My type of people. How can you not be just drawn to people like that who are so passionate about what they do? (Le sigh, again. On the bright side, I am absolutely 100% passionate about where I work, just not what I do… I’m fine with this for now… I’m only 28, I think I have some time to figure things out, and my job does allow me to teach yoga, which is indeed a passion…) But Passionate people are where it’s at in my book.  Anyway, long story short, Ben is kind of adorable, and maybe the nicest person you will ever meet, and when I started working at RHM, I knew that I wanted him to come and do a salt tasting for the staff. Pretty much my first act as Front of House Manager, was to re-order salt, and get him on the books for our next staff meeting.  (It was SO fun!) I’m pretty sure just about everyone has the same thought/ reaction after hearing his story. Why aren’t more people making salt in Oregon/ Why wasn’t this my ingenious idea?  Regardless, the product is amazing, like truly truly amazing, and it only makes it that much better that the person behind the product with the vision is a cool person.

 

Ok, onto the food portion of the evening. DE-LISH.  I didn’t take nearly as many photos as I should have, or notes for that matter… Part of me wishes that I had notes about each bite, that I had written snippets about each course, and had squirreled away descriptors… I might kick myself for it later… How often do you get a meal prepared for you by Chris Cosentino? But to be perfectly honest, I was too busy basking in the whole experience. Yes, the food was a major part of that… but it was the evening overall that was so memorable, and for me the whole was greater than the sum of its parts. The wine, the food, the setting, the company…

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Le Menu

When my ex called to ask me about name dropping he also was grilling me for details on the food. Apparently Chris told him he was one-upping one of his dishes, so naturally he wanted the scoop. I couldn’t tell you if the blood sausage on the oyster was hot or cold, or what it was served with… I could tell you that I would have probably eaten 15 more of them if given the chance.

 

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I don’t have a picture of the oysters, but I do have a picture of these oysters doubling as salt cellars.

 

 

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The Radish and sea urchin salad was everything I wanted it to be. Light, crisp, simple, yet rich. There was color, and texture, and complexity, and just overall yumminess.

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Probably my favorite dish of the night was the Heirloom tomato and Nduja bruschetta. Come on, you had me at spreadable sausage. Hello. Plus tomato season is just on its way out, and nothing tastes as much like summer as beautiful garden fresh tomatoes.

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Heriloom tomatoes and Nduja Bruschetta

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The next course was  a truly breathtaking assortment of surf-n-turf.  As Jami so perfectly put it “we are going to have the meat sweats after this” Indeed we did. I had 2-3 servings of steak, perfectly cooked scallops, and an assortment of pickled veg. Yes, pickled veg, AKA the way to my heart. I do love a good pickle.

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Smoked Meats, diver Scallops and Incanto Gardineria

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We finished up the food portion of the night with a salt roasted pear. I saw a sneak peek of this on instagram earlier in the day, and had therefore been thinking about it/ looking forward to it pretty much all day. It didn’t disappoint. It was perfectly balanced, not too sweet… oh and did I mention that there was foie gras? It was amazing. Like the last meal you might ever want to eat in your life amazing.

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Salt Roasted Pear, hazelnuts and Foie Gras

 

I failed to take any pictures of the flower arrangements, but they were breathtakingly put together by Field Works Flowers. Meg was lovely to sit across from, and I’m totally enthralled by her work.

 

After dinner, I lingered a bit longer, not willing to end the night with dessert. It’s almost like the whole night was out of  an enchanted fairy tale, because after dinner we strolled back down to the bay, and drank more wine, and listened to the ocean in the light from the full moon. Real life Oregon, sometimes it’s a f*ing fairy tale.  And sometimes in this fairy tale you can’t stop gigging because Jon Valls says things like “It’s the big F*ing dipper, yo!”  Eventually we made our way up to the house, and sat around the fire pit for a while. Everyone else was mostly talking about all the upcoming events/ work to be done for Feast Portland, major upcoming projects etc. This is the part of the evening, where I most likely put on my introverted hat and just sat back and observed everyone’s interactions. I know it makes me seem socially awkward/ uninterested but really its just how I process. I love observing people and how they interact, and I’m just a really good listener, so its easier for me to sit back and hear and see people interacting with each other, and just soak in all the goodness. I know this backfires on me all the time, because I tend not to ask a lot of engaging questions, or any questions for that matter because I feel like I’m getting to know people just by observing. And as a result it feels really un-genuine  for me to ask questions that I already know the answer to. (for example, its kind of impossible for me to make small talk with this incredibly gorgeous wine guy who comes into the market all the time, because I already know where he works, and what he does, and that they are harvesting. I also know that when he comes in 95% of the time he is going to get a breakfast sandwich and salt and vinegar chips… and because I know all of this is makes it really hard for me to ask things like “Oh have you started harvest yet?” because I already know the answer. This is a really really dumb hang up, because obviously if I’m asking the question he doesn’t know that I know the answer… same goes for every other situation in my life… This is why small talk is THE WORST. But also this is maybe why Speed Dating would be amazing, because I wouldn’t know anything about anyone, and would only have a few moments to interact and no time to get all observy of people. Yes, I said observy. Longest tangent of all time. To sum up, why won’t the sexy wine guy just ask me some random small talky question? And more importantly, why won’t the speed dating company get back to me? For reals, apparently no one in the Porland area between the ages of 28-40 is interested in speed dating, because I’ve been waiting for them to schedule an event for 3 months…) Jesus, I should probably stop writing while I’m maybe a head?  Ha, realistically I should just edit this down, but what fun would that be?

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The fire pit/ after party

I left reluctantly, not wanting the evening to end, but knowing that I had an hour and half drive a head of me, and a sassy bulldog awaiting me at home.  I also knew that I had committed to meet a friend at Pilaties class the next morning (like I said, dinner involved meat sweats. Exercise the next day was not optional).  I tore myself away from the fire, gave Ben a hug goodbye, and settled into my drive home, with pretty much a perma-smile on my face.  Good food, good wine, good people. = an absolutely perfect night.  A magical setting, some amazing new friends… I think I’m going to let myself be spontaneous a little more often. I’m also going to eat more spreadable salami. And maybe if I’m lucky, I’ll get to spend some more incredible moments at Jacobsen Salt Co. AKA one of the most amazing places on earth.

 

 

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Lemon Zest Salt

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Freshly harvested salt

*I just re-read this, and the use of magical, enchanting etc is a little gross… but I can’t help it. I wrote this somewhat late at night, and really those are the words that best describe the evening.

Anchors Away: An engagement Party for the Ages

At long last, I have a new computer, my internet is working, and I finally figured out how to install Word onto my Mac (giant learning curve/ why are things so fancy?)

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Earlier this spring my BFF got engaged. It’s a little bit Sex and the Cityesque, as they have been dating for roughly seven years, and no one really expected Jason to pop the question. Well kudos to Jason, because he planned a surprise engagement in Thailand, and the wedding planning is now commencing. Kudos to Amber, who has decided that after all the weddings we have attended/ been in/ helped with, that she A) is not having a bridal party, and B) is not asking any of her friends to help with the planning execution of the event.  (what are we real grown ups or something?) *Side note, I planned weddings for a living, and I was absolutely ecstatic to be in/ help execute all the weddings of my friends that I have been in and helped execute. That being said, I am also ecstatic to know that come next August, I will have a mini-reunion with all of my college friends and will not be responsible for anything besides tackling anyone who might try to make an awkward/inappropriate toast at the wedding. Mainly, because I volunteered for that duty, because if anyone is going to be awkward, it might as well be me tackling them.

Anyway, the point to this story, is that since I am not in the wedding, nor will I be asked to help with it, I figured the least I could do was throw a beautiful engagement party celebrating my friends. The theme was easy peasy  (actually the Theme was “They are Tying the Knot”  but it was easy peasy for me to come up with… Jason owns a sail boat… Amber likes to sail on it. Done.) and everything else somewhat fell into place. I have been working a ton of hours lately, so thankfully I had a little bit of help getting the yard and garden in order,  My mother helped me make the table runner and napkins, my dear friend Janet made the granola for the parfait cups, and Laura swooped in from Seattle for the weekend, and helped me run errands, cut up fruit, and entertain the dog whilst I ran around like a crazy person putting the last minute details together.  I couldn’t have been happier with the results. I had this vision in my head of how I wanted everything to look, but most of my DIY projects usually end up slightly south of that vision. Maybe I’m getting better at crafting/ maybe I’m starting to lower my expectations, but everything turned out beautifully!

So here is to Amber and Jason. Thank You for letting me throw a party in your honor.  Thanks for making the trek out to McMinnville, And thank you for helping me drink the last bottle of prosecco. And Jason, thank you for not getting mad when I accidentally tried to make out with your fiancée during a very awkward end of party photo shoot.

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The Stripy Straws

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The Bubbly Drinks

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The Fruit Skewers with Raspberry Berets

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The Lemon Curd Parfait Cups

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The Bride & Groom

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The Table Spread

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The Lemonade Jars

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The Lemonade

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Anchors Away

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The Menu

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Napkins and Things

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Flowers and Table Scape

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Wild Flowers Tamed

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The Pre Party Scene

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A and J

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Greens Number 1/ Sparkle Squad

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Look, Boys came too

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The Katy and Katie Show

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All the Things

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Guest of Honor and Hostess

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The Far away buddies

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Matching Ladies

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Then this happened…

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Bunting!

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We really like each other

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Cause we are besties

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and we accidentally almost made out, so then we laughed and cried

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But then we got this precious photo, so it was all worth it.

Jay’s Mid-centuryModern Kitchen

So a few months ago, I applied for a Freelance position at The Kitchn.com I Just got the official word this week that I didn’t get it (not like I was holding my breath) but since I did have a lot of … Continue reading

Green smoothies, Healthy choices, and some personal anecdotes about my addiction to gluten.

So I’m back on the green smoothie band wagon. Not that I every really got off of the bandwagon… But when I’m working 11+ hour days, I’m realizing that I need a boost of something healthy, raw, and green to keep me going. I’m on my feet pretty much all day, and though I do get fed while at work, one cannot sustain on breakfast sandwiches, woodfire pizzas, and cookies alone.  (though one might often try…) At the end of the day my energy is so low I sometimes contemplate trying to go gluten free, and seeing if that makes a different… I contemplate this for literally like a tenth of a second before snapping back to reality. Hi my name is Tayler and I’m pretty much a gluten addict… I know that gluten free is kinda trendy right now…(my dog is even gluten free for crying out loud) but I’ve never been much for trends…  This morning I made a salad to go with my croutons… that is right. I didn’t make a great salad and then later think “you know what this needs? some croutons!” no, in fact I did the opposite. I made croutons, and then decided that I couldn’t just eat croutons for breakfast (though I don’t know why not, I’m an adult, I can eat what I want!) so I made a salad to go underneath…
And now for a slight tangent about gluten, but we will get back to the smoothies I promise. Back when I was a kid, long before there was all the hype about gluten intolerance, gluten free etc, I had a bread route. And when I say I had a bread route, I mean my brother and I baked bread every Friday morning, and then went around to our regular customers, most of whom were co-workers of my parents at the local hospital, or people like our piano teacher, and we sold small loaves of whole wheat bread. We actually had a stone flour mill, and we ground the wheat ourselves… mostly on Thursday nights, my parents would be watching ER, and I would run upstairs to the kitchen to grind the wheat during commercial breaks…. (yes, our kitchen was upstairs, and yes, I’m not making this up… Its amazing this didn’t make it onto a college submission essay somewhere…I should probably blog about this in further detail…) Anyway, back when I was eight years old, and baking bread every week, it didn’t seem strange to me that we actually had a little pouch full of gluten in our freezer that we would add to each batch of bread… We were following the recipe, and it sold damn well, and as far as I knew, everyone had pouches of gluten sitting in their freezer for baking purposes.  Needless to say, back then we never had any requests for gluten free bread, and we had probably never even heard of gluten free bread… and laugh all you want at this weird little story, but I was able to buy myself three American Girl Dolls with my bread earnings, and a whole lot of accessories for them… and I can promise you this… freshly baked bread sells better than lemonade any day of the week.
I really have no desire to give up gluten at all… (though I no longer keep pouches of it in my freezer) I know all these gluten free people who tell me how much more energy they have, how much better they feel etc. and I’ve even had people suggest that my eczema might be gluten related… but here is the thing… I don’t feel bad, and I’m terrified that if I give up gluten, or dairy, or any of my other comfort foods I will feel great. (stay with me through this train of thought)  I know that sounds dumb, I’m terrified of feeling great? Not really, but mostly I’m terrified of how bad I would feel if I ever stopped eating these things, and then slipped and went back on them…. I don’t feel bad now when I eat cheese, or gluten, and wouldn’t it just suck, to suddenly feel terrible after eating these things? I think it would… anyway, I try to stick with “everything in moderation” and overall I think its working for me… am I still talking about gluten? ok back to my original topic.

I’ve been taking my smoothies to work to sip on during breaks, or while I’m in the office, and naturally I get a little bit of flack from just about everyone. I get all the usual comments “what are you drinking?” “What is in there?” or “why don’t you just eat a salad?” The answer is, because who has time to eat salads these days? I mean I do, but not at 5:30 in the morning when I’m running out the door to get to work by 6AM for an 11 hour shift. I do, however, have time to drink things from a straw while doing my hair, driving, or any of the other countless* things I have to do to get ready in the morning.

(*A list of things I can do while drinking a smoothie that I cannot do while eating a salad: water the garden, chase the dog around the yard, curl my hair, put on makeup, make my bed, put on shoes, empty the dishwasher, drive a car, empty the trash, put on clothes, do calf presses/ wall squats, vacuum, paint my finger nails, dance around.)
Green Smoothie, ready for the morning time

Green Smoothie, ready for the morning time

Everyone is taken aback by the color, but I think it is mostly awesome… and its not like anything gross is going into the smoothies themselves, it is just often an interesting combination of things… (though if some of you green smoothie drinkers out there could call my parents and tell them that I’m not actually a weird-o/ lots of “normal” people drink these, and this is not just one of my yogi/mountain-muffin/ health kick phases.) My ex used to be totally grossed out by the idea of green smoothies, and some of my co-workers still are… but mostly I think people are used to me showing up to work with jar full of green-ness. I’ve gotta stay healthy somehow! I’m working, I’m running, and I need to fuel my body… and this body needs an obscene amount of kale.  Sure, a salad might seem a little more delicious to some folks, but right now, with my schedule, veggies through a straw makes the most sense. (and its actually pretty delicious) Its especially great on the days that I have to work really early, because I can make a smoothie the night before, pop it in the fridge, and its ready for me first thing, its a grab and go meal that is 100% healthy, and easy.

My recipe varies a little bit, just depending on what ingredients I have on hand, but my smoothies usually consist of spinach, kale, celery, half a granny-smith apple, half a cucumber, a banana (or a pear) coconut oil, chia seed, ground flax seed, mint leaves, and water.  Its super basic, but the banana pretty much masks all of the overly green flavors from the kale, and the coconut oil and mint make everything really palatable. Sometimes I add coconut milk for a little extra creaminess, and I’m sure this summer I will be adding various berries as they begin to come in from the garden.

Look at all of that goodness

Look at all of that goodness

This last round of groceries, I got a huge bag of spinach, and actually pureed it and froze it in ice cube trays, which has worked magically and has saved a lot of time and money. I can almost never use the whole thing of spinach before it goes bad, and this way the smoothies are extra cold. I’m contemplating trying this with kale as well, though I did just plant kale in my garden, so hopefully I will not have to buy as much.

I’ve been pretty consistent in my smoothie consumption (I’d say at least 4 per week) but this week I’m going to try for 7 days of smoothies for breakfast…. the busier I get, the poorer I tend to eat/ the more I tend to over-eat, and I think I owe it to myself to start my day off with an über- nutritious breakfast. Anyone else want to join me? 7 days of green goodness starts now! (or tomorrow, since I did eat that bowl of croutons for breakfast… there really was lettuce and kale underneath it though!)

Snappy Tomatoes: Putting a little pep into your Monday, and a way to curb the Hangries

Here’s the thing: I got a job, and start on Friday! (more on this later) in the meantime I’ve been scrambling around trying to get my life in order with my final week of free time. Naturally I took the weekend to play play play, and spent 4 days eating, drinking, socializing, having good conversations, shopping, laughing, swapping stories, running, catching up, and hanging out as much as possible! SO fun, but I am a little exhausted. =) It really made me realize how much I miss personal connections. Yes, I have them, but blogging aside, I tend to be a really quiet and private person, and sometimes I forget how much I love that human interaction. Just being able to pick up the phone and have a random conversation, or tell a quick little “this totally made me think of you today” is probably what I miss most about being in a relationship.  Obviously, social media makes having these types of connections a little easier, I can post a picture of what I’m doing on instagram, or facebook, and people can like, comment and interact, but it’s still not the same as sharing those interactions and anecdotes one on one…

My week is of course filling up with projects… the house needs to be deep cleaned, the garage organized, there are craft projects awaiting, yoga classes to plan… but first things first, today I decided to spend most of the afternoon frolicking in the sunshine. (I did a fair amount of yard work, actually). I decided that since my free time will soon be much more limited, I was allowed to savor the afternoon, sipping on pink wine, playing with the dog, and basking in the sunshine.  Of course, at 7PM, after I had run a few errands, (and went over to my brother and sister-in-laws, to assist with some fruit tree pruning) I realized that the only thing I’ve consumed today is a bowl of cheerios, two cups of coffee, and two glasses of rosé. I’m a regular poster child for healthy eating habits over here… How does this even happen? I must have been really distracted by the sunshine, because typically if I don’t eat most of the day I get HANGRY (Angry out of hunger) and floppy, and irritated… All of these things hit me the second I walked out of the grocery store, but I think it is somewhat of a miracle that I’ve been able to last the day… Man cannot live on bread alone… but apparently this woman can survive on cereal and cheap wine?

Once the Hanger pangs set in, I zipped home, and decided to whip together one of my favorite basic comfort-food casseroles. It is quite possible I have blogged about it before, but quite frankly, it deserves at least a few posts, because it is that awesome. I give you Snappy Tomatoes:  Firstly, this dish is hilarious, and not one I would typically be drawn to. I like fresh, local, green dishes, and this is definitely not that. Not even close. It more resembles tomato soup in casserole form, and though it isn’t green, or fresh (or healthy?) sometimes you just need a quick and easy casserole.

Mixed up and ready for the oven

Mixed up and ready for the oven

 

Ready for eating!

Ready for eating!

 

The recipe is my Grandmother’s and is published in her church cookbook from North Dakota… I really cannot say enough things about these recipes… Do people still make church cookbooks? Are they still hand-typed, and filled with gems like “Vegetarian Bologna” (do we even want to know what might be in that? I stopped reading after bacon yeast.) I suppose these days we can just find recipes online, and rather than getting together with a group of ladies and comparing notes, and exchanging recipes, we just read each other’s blogs… but there is something undeniably charming about these old school recipe compilations.

Vegetarian Bologna?

Vegetarian Bologna?

 

Snappy Tomato Recipe

Snappy Tomato Recipe

 

I always use more paprika, and more onion than called for in the recipe. I also substituted  olive oil for butter, just because I was feeling extra hungry, and didn’t want to take the time to melt the butter.  I used cheddar cheese this evening, but I think cottage cheese or even ricotta cheese would be pretty delicious… the recipe is quite basic, so it’s really easy to give it your own flair.   The recipe makes just the right amount for 2-3 people (or yourself with leftovers… or not… depending on how Hangry you might be…) and is a perfect little dish for a Monday evening. Simple. Basic. And a little snappy.

Oven-Roasted Sausages, Dinner Parties, and Winter Comfort Foods

I think the new year should start in April… that ways we will start making all these fitness and health resolutions when we are starting to wrap up on cooking the hearty comforting winter foods… I’m on a running kick lately, and it feels great, and I’m trying to follow it up with the diet half (lots of greens, whole grains, etc.) but on these chilly winter weekends, all I want to do is make a stew with giant hunks of bread and stringy cheeses. I want root vegetables all mashed together, brown butter sauce, pastas, and casseroles, and dishes that will warm me from the inside out. This is why last weekend I threw a dinner party and made a wonderfully satisfying dish of sausages apples and pears.

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A few friends and I started a supper club, where once a month we have to try a completely new recipe. I volunteered to host the first round, and when I stumbled across this recipe from The Splendid Table, I knew it would be just the thing.

I did my research, and read all of the reader comments before actually cooking the dish. (and yes, I did brown the sausages before putting them in the oven, and I also left the skin on the fruit).  I also added on a side dish of olive oil mashed potatoes.  I’m kind of having a torrid affair with butter lately, but EVOO is my soul mate, especially when it comes to mashed potatoes. I think it adds a certain je ne sais quoi to the dish, that even the highest quality of butters cannot.

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I also served the mascarpone meyer lemon gelato that I wrote about here. It was an epically delicious meal. Especially since Jay brought some amazing camembert cheese, local salami, and some caprese bites to start off. Janet brought a yummy salad, and some home-made  madeleines. I’m quite surprised we all didn’t immediately fall into a food coma… especially since we took a break for hot-tubing between dinner and dessert.

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The components of the sauce made a face mid-cooking

The components of the sauce made a face mid-cooking

We are still toying with names for the group.  Maybe “Our Splendid Table” or my personal favorite “TB&J” (Tayler, Bulldog ,Jay/Janet). Whatever we decide to call ourselves, I’m sure there will be many amazing culinary adventures in our future.