Wednesday, July 16, 2014

3 Super Salad Dressings

Salads...yeah, many of us aren't too enthused when thinking of salad as a main course for a meal. Unless there's plenty of meat, cheese, or other internal garnishes coming to the party you may just be looking at a plate of greens.

But it's the middle of summer, and most nights it's way too hot to even think about turning on the oven, and even so, all I want is a refreshing, easy to throw together meal. Salads score in each of those categories. But is it filling? Exciting? Enough to satisfy you, and not leave you wishing for more? If you play your cards right,
it's not a problem. Packing your salad with protein rich foods, like nuts, cheese, seeds, couscous, and other grains, will make your salad much more filling. Toast some nuts! Grate in some parmesan! Cook up some couscous or quinoa, or throw in some chia or pumpkin seeds! My new favorite thing to do is have a super simple salad of greens from my garden and a quick viniagrette, and throw an over easy egg on top. It wilts the greens a little, and the runny yolk is like its own dressing. Sooo perfect. My favorite dressing for this salad is a honey-mustard viniagrette. It's sweet, spicy, and delicious.

I've got 3 of my favorite salad dressings here, and they're all super versatile and easy to use on just about any salad, wrap, or sandwich. Beat the heat, and eat a salad!

Honey Mustard Viniagrette

  • 1/4 C stone ground or whole grain mustard 
  • 1/4 C Honey
  • 1/2 C Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1 C Vegetable Oil
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1 tsp sugar
Whisk together mustard, honey, and vinegar. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. While whisking, slowly drizzle in the oil. It will emulsify, which means that the oil and vinegar will become cohesive, and not separate. Once done, season with salt and pepper, and add sugar as needed. If your dressing tastes too acidic, you can add more oil, but be careful of adding too much because it will start to coat your mouth in an unpleasant way. Sugar helps to tame the acidity.

Creamy Avocado Dressing

  • 1 Avocado
  • 1/2 shallot
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 habenero pepper (de-seeded)
  • 1/2 C Champagne Vinegar
  • 1 C Buttermilk
  • Salt and Pepper
If you have a food processor, use it. If not, use a blender. First, blend the avocado, shallot, garlic, habenero, and vinegar until smooth. Then slowly drizzle in the buttermilk. You may need more or less to get the desired creamy texture. Season with salt and pepper.

Raspberry Peach Balsamic Viniagrette

  • 1 pint fresh raspberries
  • 1 peach, skinned
  • 1/2 C Balsamic vinegar
  • 1 C vegetable oil
  • 1 TBSP sugar
  • 2 TBSP Poppy seeds
Use an immersion blender, or normal blender, to combine the fruit and vinegar until smooth. While still blending, slowly drizzle in the oil until an emulsion forms, and then continue to drizzle in while blending. You can strain the seeds out, but I kinda like the texture, and add poppy seeds to give more of a deliberate texture. Season with sugar. 

Pickle Surprise! -OR- The First Time I've Seriously Considered Suicide

Today I decided I was finally going to experiment with pickling green tomatoes. I've been thinking about it for a while, and decided to just do it before they all ripen. I'm getting impatient, and want to enjoy something out of my garden, but nothing is quite ripe yet.

I found plenty of recipes online for pickled green tomatoes, but they all just seemed so...bland. Just normal flavors like you'd find for dill pickles. I wanted to do something interesting, so I headed to the Asian market by my house and grabbed some ingredients. I wanted to do a Thai spice, so I picked up some limes, ginger, shallots, and Thai chilies.

I got home and set about making a brine for the tomatoes. I am super excited about the purple ones, they are going to look fantastic. I smoked a bowl, put on The Flaming Lips, and started chopping away. I got to the little chilies, seeded them, and continued on the the shallots. I got something in my eye, and went to wipe it out...

And I suffered the MOST EXCRUCIATING PAIN OF MY LIFE!! Now let this be a lesson of warning to you...for the love of God, wash your hands after handling these Thai chilies. I am not fucking around, you do NOT want to get this in your eye. I know because I did. And it felt like my eyes were melting out of my face. I was blinded, and literally could not see anything, I was stumbling around the kitchen trying to find the sink, but washing my eyes out only made it worse. I ran between my bedroom and kitchen, which are basically the same room, and repeated "Oh Fuck, Oh Fuck, Fucking Jesus Christ this fucking hurts." Over and over again, and wondering when the pain would stop. I seriously considered just gouging my eyes out with a spoon, it hurt so bad, and was spreading across my entire face. So bad. The pain was just so bad. After about 20 minutes I could finally see enough to go to the bathroom and look for eye drops. None. And having my eyes open just brought the pain back again, and I was again, stumbling blindly just trying to retain my sanity.Thank God my bedroom is a door inside the kitchen, because I blindly found my way in and found my phone.

Now Siri is a dumb bitch, but I think she saved my life today. I asked her how to get chili out of my eye, and she found an article telling me to wash it out with milk. I found Goat's milk in the fridge, and used it to rub my eye and face, and started to feel relief. Oh it was bad, that was a terrible time, the worst pain I've ever felt, and it just wouldn't stop. I remember thinking, "Am I going to die like this?"

Of course I didn't But it was absolutely horrible. Once the experience was over, I went back to cutting up my brine ingredients, and was much more careful with the chilies after touching them. My entire face still felt like it had been badly sunburned for a good couple hours afterward, and my eyes were bloodshot red and puffy.

But they were in integral part of my pickling recipe, and I'm pretty sure they did a great service. I still have to wait a week to try them while they cure in the fridge, but I have high hopes.

The best case scenario is that I'll have awesome pickled green tomatoes to put on everything! And the Indigo Rose tomatoes that are still only semi-purple...OMG are they gorgeous. I wanted my pickles to be slightly sweet, but also tangy and a little spicy too, and the brine tasted perfect. Worst Case scenario- it will be a disaster and I'll have nearly lost my sight for nothing.

 Make sure to cool the brine to room temperature before pouring over the tomatoes, because part of the pleasure is the crisp crunch that can be destroyed by a hot brine. Enjoy!

Thai Pickled Green Tomatoes

  • 4 Thai chilies- seeded and sliced
  • 6 garlic cloves-sliced
  • 2 1/2 TBSP salt
  • 1 TBSP mustard seed
  • Zest of 1 limes-use a vegetable peeler 
  • 10 mint leaves
  • 1 shallot-sliced
  • 2" piece of ginger-sliced
  • 1 TBSP whole black pepper
  • 2 Bay leaves
  • Dash each of fish sauce and soy sauce
  • 1 TBSP each honey and brown sugar
  • 1 C Rice Vinegar
  • 1 C Water
Also, Put in Each Jar...
  • 1/2# green tomatoes, cut in wedges
  • 3 whole cloves garlic
  • 1/4 tsp mustard seeds
  • zest of 1/2 lime-veg peeler
  • 3-4 mint leaves
  • 1/2 shallot, sliced
  • 1/2" ginger, sliced
  • 1/4 tsp whole black pepper
  • 1 Bay leaf
  • 1/2 Thai chili, seeded and sliced
To start, prepare all of your brine ingredients, and put them in a pot on the stove and heat until the honey and brown sugar dissolve. Set aside to cool to room temp.

Meanwhile, prepare all of your ingredients to put in the jars. I cut the small Indigo Rose tomatoes into quarters, but the larger green ones I cut into sixths. I tossed each batch separately with all of their jar ingredients, and then placed them in the jars. 

Once the brine is cooled, strain it and pour over the tomatoes. Put lids on, and store in the fridge for a week before eating. Will be good for 2 weeks. Put on top of tacos, hot dogs, burgers, sandwiches, soups, anything you want really.

Friday, July 11, 2014

REAL Ice Cream!

I have the best boyfriend in the world. He just treats me waaaaay to good, I don't know how I ended up with a catch like him. He kept telling me that he was going to get me a surprise, something I had been talking about wanting. My curiosity was killing me- I love surprises, when it's actually a surprise. But when I know in advance about it, I hate waiting for it to be unveiled. Matt took me to the mall a few days ago, and was looking for pants, so I wandered off to look at girl stuff. When he came upstairs to find me, he was carrying
a Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker in his arms. For me! What more could a girl want??!

So now our ice cream making is going to get out of control. We can make sorbets, frozen yogurt, gelato, just about anything we want. And it will be real. No more sweetened condensed milk! I love making food with him, we both get so excited and always work out some amazing collaboration of our two different cooking styles. With all the fresh fruit that's in season right now, I don't really see any end in sight to our ice cream obsession.

Yesterday we went out to Sauvie Island to go swimming on the river and cool off, because this summer heat is just too much for either of us. It's great and all, but we both keep lamenting the fact that it isn't rainy and foggy, and we just can't wait for fall. I know I'll miss this when it's gone, but right now I would kill for a cold, cozy day and some soup making.

Sauvie Island is breathtaking. I hope to live out there someday, it is the most picturesque, almost magical place that I know, and it's only 10 minutes outside Portland. The stunning farms, green grass, incredibly beautiful trees, and farm stands are almost too much. You can go out to Kruger Farm and pick your own berries, or just wander into their barn and have an entire produce section to choose from. We were both craving peaches, and the ones at Kruger Farm just smelled beautiful and ripe. We grabbed a bunch, along with some nectarines, plums, pluots, and local wildflower honey.

The drive back to Portland was heavenly. Our sunburned skin soaked in the cool breeze that came in as we drove along the river with the windows down, the sweet, sticky perfection of the peaches made our tastebuds jump, and the sound of The Beatles was the perfect soundtrack to the summer day. We made that day our bitch. It was the quintessential summer day.

We were both so excited to make peach honey ice cream, but then I though, why not make it a sorbet? I haven't made sorbet yet, and dairy and I don't really jive all that well together, so sorbet is perfect. Cool and refreshing, fruity and sweet. We used honey as a lot of our sweetener, instead of all sugar, and used it in our simple syrup. It turned out great! The taste of honey is very noticeable, and the essence of peach is fantastic.

Peach Honey Sorbet

  • 5 large peaches
  • 1 1/2 C sugar
  • 1/2 C honey
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 lemon
Bring a large pot of water to a boil (This is for blanching the peaches to get the skin off)
Meanqhile, combine water, honey, and sugar in a small pot and heat until the sugar and honey dissolve.
Score the skin of the peaches, and add to large pot once it's boiling. They will only need to sit for a few seconds before the skin is ready to peel right off.
Once peeled, cut into chunks, and add to the simple syrup, and lemon juice.
Use an immersion blender to mix until smooth. (If you don't have one, you can combine all in a blender until smooth.)
Strain peach mixture, so there are no chunks, and put in the fridge to cool for a couple hours.
Once cooled, add to the bowl of your ice cream machine (which needs to be frozen) and churn for about 15-20 minutes.

Voila! To freeze, put in a plastic container, smooth the top and cover with a layer of saran wrap or parchment paper. The sorbet will get harder as it freezes.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Kale- Yeah, It's Still a Craze...

I haven't posted a recipe in a few days. I haven't cooked since I got back from my trip, because I've been at work every minute since we got back to Portland. Okay, I guess that means all I've done since I got home is
cook, but I haven't done any of my own cooking in my home kitchen. It's funny how you stop thinking about what you do as what it actually is, and it just becomes a habit of life. It's what you do, and you don't really know otherwise.

When I got home around 5:30 AM on Friday, the first thing I did when we pulled up was check out my garden and see how it was doing, even though I was exhausted and had been awake for 22 hours straight, and had to work in just a few more hours. I could barely see them in the faint light of the sun coming up, but I could tell that in the 4 days since I left (which ironically was at exactly the same time in the morning on Monday) my garden had exploded. The corn is taller than me. The squash is pushing out of the edges of their boxes and onto the sidewalk, and the 5 tomato plants now appear to be one mega-plant. All I wanted to do was water them, and see what is going on with everyone, but I forced myself to go to sleep. 

In the morning, I went out to water, and was amazed at how fantastic my garden looks in the light of day. There is now corn cobs growing, and tomatoes are on the vine but still not ripe. My indigo rose tomato looks amazing, I've never seen tomatoes like this. The side facing the sun is deep purple, almost black, and soon the rest of the tomato will ripen. I can't wait to use them in a fresh tomato mozzarella salad, or maybe in a gazpacho. The color will be so fucking cool. 

And there's still all this kale. I didn't really eat all that much kale until it started growing in my garden. I just never got into the craze that much. My roommate, Anthony, is kale crazy and puts it in everything he eats. Literally, I don't think I've ever seen him eat something without throwing some of that green shit in it. So yeah, he's the one that planted the kale. A lot of it, like 7 plants. So I've been going out to the garden every time I eat and grabbing some kale to throw in.

It's good. It's versatile. I use it in salads, put it in my scrambled eggs, throw it in polenta, sautee it and eat it with gnocchi, or make kale chips.

Kale chips- I have seen people eating them everywhere, raving about how great they are. And I finally decided to make some while I was preparing snacks for our trip last Sunday. Why not? I have too much, and it will be nice to have something like that to eat while we're on the road. I wanted to do a kind of Asian theme, and it was an excellent choice. I used coconut oil, then a dash of fish sauce, some Asian spice that I put on everything but don't know what it's called, salt, and sesame seeds. After pulling them from the oven, i gave them a quick spritz of rice vinegar. Boom.

They are so simple, it literally took less than 5 minutes to make them. And I was amazed at how good they were. I planned on making them to bring on the trip, but instead I found myself snacking on them right off the tray while I continued to make other snacks. 

And then they were gone. I don't know what happened to them, one minute there was a full tray of kale chips, and half an hour later there were none. It's like magic. I can't wait to make more, because they are a damn good, addictive, and healthy snack. Win-win-win.

Asian Kale Chips

  • 1 bundle of kale (I just picked a bunch from the garden, but if you're buying it, use a whole bundle)
  • 1 TBSP coconut oil
  • 1 TBSP sesame seeds
  • dash of fish sauce- seriously, just a dash.
  • salt
  • pepper
  • red Asian spice
Preheat oven to 300. The key is cooking low and long, don't rush and turn up the oven too high, or they'll burn.

All I did was take the leaves off the stems. This is easy if you grip the stem at the bottom of the leaf and pull upward. Just takes the leaves right off. Then I tore the leaves into smaller, chip-sized pieces. Put in a bowl.

Melt the coconut oil, and toss into the bowl with the leaves, and then add all the other spices, fish sauce, and sesame seeds. Make sure all the leaves are coated, but you don't want them to be over-dressed. They won't crisp up and will be soggy.

Lay in a single layer on a sheet tray, and pop in the oven. It took about 15 minutes for mine to be perfect. Once you pull them off, spritz a little rice vinegar on them to give a nice little sour punch. 

Try not to eat them all at once. Or do. They're so good, and healthy that you shouldn't feel guilty.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

California Love: Part 2

There are sketchy areas in any city. However, when that is your first experience of a new place, it may not give you the best first impression.
View from our room in the hostel

We booked a room in a hostel in the city center of San Francisco, and were exhausted and ready to settle in when we finally arrived there after our big detour earlier in the day. We were both tired, hungry, and a little grumpy as we checked in. When I googled our directions to the hostel, and told Matt it was in an area called the Tenderloin, he wasn't very excited. He said that it was in a sketchy neighborhood, but it would be fine as long as we had somewhere to sleep. And he was right. The hostel itself was nice. It was quirky and charming, the old school elevator was pretty neat, and it had a cozy feel about it. And the bed-- OMG it was the most comfortable bed I had ever laid on. Fucking tempurpedic doesn't mess around. And after sleeping directly on the ground for the last two nights, our aching bodies wanted nothing more than to pass out. But we decided to go find food.

Matt had stayed in the city for a month with some friends--6 years ago. A lot had changed, but he wanted to take me to his favorite taqueria where he used to go. It was in the Mission, not far from the ghetto we were staying in. The walk there had plenty of homeless crackheads, and we even got to see a dude with his dick out in the stoop of a building. Wow.

So far I was not impressed. But we finally arrived at Taqueria Cancun and yes, the tacos were dynamite. Well worth the walk through the Mission. But all I wanted was to return to that cloud of a bed and take a nap.

Which we did.

We agreed to wake up and go watch the sunset on the bay, a lovely idea...And then we woke up at 10:00 and it was dark out. We tried to decide what to do, but getting out of bed seemed so hard. We finally ventured out to eat at a Thai restaurant that we had read about and wanted to check out, that was conveniently less than a block from where we were staying. Lers Ros Thai was probably the best Thai food I've ever had. Not only was it inventive and featured a ton of meats that aren't featured in most American Thai restaurants, but it was also presented beautifully. I had a coconut milk red curry with duck and pineapple, and it was a gorgeous plate. It was full of flavor and umami, and had just enough fish sauce to add that depth of flavor without overpowering the senses. Matt's rabbit dish off the specials menu was better than mine. The rabbit was succulent and delicious. Awesome Thai and terrific tacos=not a bad night in the Bay City.

We had to leave the next day for our long drive back home, so we spent the morning sightseeing and going to all the touristy spots. Seeing the charming, colorful, flower covered houses lining the incredibly steep streets. We drove to the top of a hill overlooking the bay, and it was so beautiful! This is why I like to not plan things too much when I travel. It's always the unexpected moments that are the best, just like with the spontaneous camping on the beach. Nice things happen.

Of course we had to go to Fisherman's Wharf and walk around all the Alcatraz tourists and trinket stands. I got some postcards and a sweatshirt. I know...I'm so lame. It was a beautiful day, pretty hot actually. We drove out to look at Golden Gate Bridge again, because the photographer nerd in me wanted to snap some pictures. There was nowhere to park, so I had to hop out while Matt drove around, which sucked but it's alright. We headed back to the Mission for our last spot- Mission Chinese. We had both heard about the spot, read about it, and it was on the list of recommended places that my chef-who used to be a chef in San Francisco- recommended to me.

It is everything a Chinese restaurant should be, at least to me. The fun decor, big paper dragons hung across the ceiling, the lack of lighting, and punk rock music in the background that really reminded me of the stuff that one of my roommates(the one who is in a semi-punk band) regularly put on the record player in the living room.. It was fun, and the tattooed waitress was cool and singing along with the music. We ordered local beer, mine was a watermelon ale that the waiter described to me as 'summer in a can' and it didn't dissapoint. We were both enchanted by the menu. This isn't your normal sweet and sour chicken, pork fried rice place. The flavors, dishes, and everything were so out of the normal and...inventive. They all made my mouth water.
Tiki Pork Belly

 We ordered a couple appetizers, and one was the Tiki Pork Belly. I saw the word 'soy caramel' and I was instantly sold. But they kept teasing me. Pickled Pineapple. coconut and macadamia nuts were all in the mix. And fuuuuck was it delicious. The sauce that the belly was braised in was so sweet, salty, almost cherry like. And tender. I love pickled things. Especially things that aren't usually pickled. The pineapple was so explosive, and it's the perfect thing to pickle, really. It's so sweet that having that acid is a beyond perfect balance.

My squid ink pasta with lamb and harissa yogurt sauce was insanely tasty. I've always wanted to try squid ink pasta, so that was also an easy sell. It was a unique Chinese-meets-Middle-East plate that I hadn't expected. But I loved. I was so full, but I wanted to keep eating. And then the General Tso's Veal Rib that Matt ordered...OMG. So tender and juicy and delicious. Veal. It's amazing. We lucked out and arrived about half an hour before they closed for lunch, without realizing it, and were so glad we made it. It was the best thing we ate during the whole trip, and we left with 3 to go boxes!
Squid Ink Pasta-yes, it's black.

We began our drive home at the worst possible time of day. Oh My God the steps toward insanity that we made while we crawled along were frightening. We tried listening to the radio, but nothing came on that we were into. Matt is a serious NPR listener, and his favorite segment is This American Life. I always make fun of him, because every time I get in the car he is listening to NPR. He knows all the different hosts and jingles that open each segment. So we put on his This American Life app- THAT'S RIGHT, THERE'S AN APP FOR IT- and listened to stories about people. At first I was hardly paying attention, but I realized 2 hours in and 3 miles later, that I was interested and actually enjoying it. I laughed at something the host said, and Matt got a huge grin on his face. We listened to This American Life for a couple hours, even when we finally left Oakland and got moving over 5 MPH well after 6PM. We had planned on leaving at 2 because we had a 10 hour drive ahead of us, and Matt had to work at 10 the next morning. So this was a setback. We switched over to some of my slacker stations, but were back on NPR a few hours later. I started looking through and picking the episodes to listen to, and really loved it.

"I Was So High" was one that Matt picked out for me to listen to, and it was hilarious. It was nice to have something to laugh about and keep us awake during the drive that ended up taking us 14 hours. It was nice though, watching the sunset over the mountains in the valley, finally seeing a million bright stars in the sky, and stopping at In-N-Out Burger. I had never been, so that was our final goal on our trip. It was a burger...nothing too special. Although, thinking about it right now is making my mouth water a little bit.

Sunset cruising
I refused to sleep, and stayed awake with Matt, talking, listening to This American Life, and thugging out to some Kanye. When we stopped at a rest area to pee, I made Matt dance around the parking lot with me and jump up and down and sing, so wake ourselves up. This was at probably 3 AM. It was tough, and I closed my eyes a couple times, but powered through and kept Matt company. As we approached Portland at about 5, the sun was starting to come up. It was a little depressing to watch the sun set and then rise in the car, but also beautiful because it was the second sunrise I watched on our trip, and two that I'll always see with my brain camera.

Tea smoked Eel Roll

Saturday, July 5, 2014

California Love: Part 1

Road trips are fun. I haven't been on a really long road trip in years, and this one takes the cake. I made it to the Redwoods! It was so magical, and everything I imagined it would be--but better. The drive was so picturesque, I saw a million unforgettable things, and I spent time with my favorite person, and we got to know each other even better and share some magical, perfect moments together...and some not so perfect ones too!

Matt and I were both so glad that I spent Sunday making snacks for the trip, because driving through rural Northern California had few options for food. The Chai concentrate that I made was a hit. Matt had never had it, and he loved it. We picked up some almond milk at a store in Crescent City and brought it back to our campsite in he Jedediah Smith Redwoods park where we camped the first night. The campsite was amazing! I know that the redwoods are awe inspiring and gigantic, but you just aren't able to grasp it until you are standing right in the middle of them. As we began to drive through them, I started making excited giggly noises, gasps, and I would say, "Look at that big tree! That's a big one." everytime I saw a large specimen. It is just incredible, to be standing in the middle of the oldest forest on earth, with the oldest and largest living organisms on earth.

Morning beer!

There was a river at our site, and the water felt amazing compared to the 90 degree weather. We had the best time just taking walks, splashing around in the water, and making some old fashioned camping food. Our s'mores were to die for though. I don't mean to brag, but I can toast the perfect marshmallow. And we made our s'mores with kit-kats so there was a yummy crunch! I love campfire cooking. Especially for breakfast. I don't know what is so great about making your food over a fire, but it's strangely satisfying. It's like you're reminding yourself, 'I don't need electricity to cook! I can take care of myself.' We used the last two polish sausages from the night before, and I made a delicious scramble with them. I brought 2 mason jars and lids with, which we used to drink our chai, and then I used to mix the eggs, since we had no bowl or whisk. Reccomendation: BRING MASON JARS WHEN CAMPING!  We forgot to buy bread, so we just toasted up some buns and made 'breakfast hot dogs.' They were actually pretty fantastic. Having a glass of chai to start the morning was nice. It went well with our morning beer. I made coconut cranberry orange scones on sunday, so those were great for us to snack on while we waited for breakfast to cook, and even better when we were on the road and hungry.

We continued on our journey, and went through the Avenue of the Giants, which was my favorite part of the trip. We stopped, and explored the forest for a while, and the complete silence was profound. I had forgotten how nice it is to not hear noises, or humans, or anything besides the chirp of birds and the squeak of trees as they softly swayed in the wind. It really puts into perspective how small we are.
Sunset in the Redwoods

We had planned on driving all the way to San Francisco that day, but the sun was setting just as we were leaving the redwoods. When finally reached the ocean on Highway 1, it was starting to get dark, and we saw campgrounds right on the beach. On a whim, we pulled over, and were pleased to find spaces available for only $25. We pitched our tent 20 feet from the cliffs overlooking the ocean. I missed the sound of the waves. They used to lull me to sleep every night, and they do it so well.

I woke up at about 5 the next morning, and once I looked out the window and saw that the sun was about to come up, I couldn't go back to sleep. Matt refused to wake up, so I enjoyed the moment by myself. I walked along the cliffs, and the clouds over the mountains behind me turned radiant pink, just as the fog bank rolled onto the coast. I was the only person awake, and I felt sorry for them, because it was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen. I felt like the luckiest human alive to be witnessing it. What a perfect start to the day.

We drove along highway 1, and the beauty is everything I had heard about. It's amazing how different the coast is in California compared to Oregon. There were none of the quaint beach houses lined up along the edge of the cliffs. Instead there was just farmland. It was eerie almost to see the old, sometimes abandoned, barns and farmhouses sitting there with the endless ocean behind them. Seeing cows grazing right above the waves was so neat. We stopped in Mendocino to grab some coffee and breakfast, and it was the first good cup of coffee we had since leaving Portland. I never thought I would miss latte art so badly!

We ended up taking a wrong turn somewhere, and ended up in wine country somewhere instead of on the coast. We were both wondering why we were so far inland, and then saw a sign telling us we were on highway 128 instead of 1. Ooops. It was so beautiful out there, and a nice little detour until we got on a windy mountain road that took us back to the coast. It was the windiest, narrowest road I had ever been on, and that's saying something as I grew up in the mountains of Idaho. We were both a little terrified, and spent at least an hour and a half creeping along the road, going up, and down, and our brakes overheated at one point. It sucked. We were both a little grumpy by the time we got back on the highway. Our little detour set us back about 2 1/2 hours, getting us into San Francisco at about 6 PM. We left the campsite at 8, so we were hoping to get there by 2. But roadtrips are all about the unexpected, and learning to roll with it and enjoy it. I wouldn't change any of it, because it was quite an adventure.

View from the top of our 'detour'

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Give This a Chai

Tomorrow I will be hitting the open road with my boyfriend for four days of adventure. We are headed to San Francisco, but my main interest is camping in the Redwoods. I've wanted to do this for years, but each summer something always gets in the way, and I haven't been able to cross it off my bucket list yet.

But this is the year!

We have the trip planned, the days have been taken off work, and we'e just picked up camping gear from his parents. I am so excited! Growing up, I went camping all the time, and it is my favorite way to spend a vacation. I don't know what it is about spending all of your time outside, sleeping with nothing but a nylon flap separating you from the wild, and cooking over a fire that just makes me the happiest person in the world. But it does.

I've got 1 quart for the trip...and a glass to test it out
 I like to pack my own snacks and food when I camp, and I've been coming up with some of my favorites to throw today before we leave at the ass crack of dawn on tomorrow morning. I've been finding plenty of inspiration online, and am excited to try a recipe that I found on the blog The Year In Food. Her recipe for Cherry Cacao Ginger Granola Bites looks fantastic, and is just the sort of thing I'm jonesing to make for the trip. Homemade convenience food, but with a healthy spin. I have plenty of food planned, but what can I make to drink?

The flavors are beautiful
Chai is my drink of choice. It's incredibly soothing and comforting in the winter. The combination of spices are enough to make my heart do a happy dance, and want to chug the drink as fast as I can, but also savor it as slowly as possible. It is just as comforting, but refreshing and light during the summer when I drink it iced.

I love spices. They can uplift an ordinary dish to something exotic, extraordinary, and exciting. I've learned more about the magic of spices since I began culinary school, and have adopted the use of them as part of my signature style. I love experimenting with flavor combinations, different blooming techniques, and trying to capture the essence of different international cuisines who have a huge focus on the use of spices.

I've been making my own chai concentrate at home for about 3 or 4 years now, and each time I tweak the recipe a little, trying to balance the flavors perfectly. This is the way I made it today, and it's pretty perfect for me. All I have to do is pack a container of almond milk and I'll have plenty of chai for the trip to San Francisco.

This is really a simple recipe, and . Mix it with equal parts milk, or milk alternative, and you have a chai that is easily as good (if not better) than the one that you're paying $4 for at the coffee shop.

Chai Concentrate

Iced...with cinnamon on top
  • 4 1/2 C water
  • 2 Cinnamon sticks
  • 1 3" piece of Ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 7 whole Cardamom pods
  • 2 whole Star Anise pods
  • 10 whole Cloves
  • 1 whole Vanilla Bean
  • 1/4 tsp whole Black Pepper
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground Nutmeg
  • 1 tsp Orange zest
  • 10 bags Black Tea
  • 1/2 C Brown Sugar
  • 1 TBSP Honey
  • 1 TBSP Vanilla
Prepare spices and tea, set aside.
Cut vanilla bean in half lengthwise.
Bring water to boil, remove from heat.
Add spices, tea bags, and vanilla bean, steep for 15 minutes.
Strain into large bowl, discard spices.
Add sugar, honey, and vanilla, stir until sugar dissolves.
Pour into one large jar, or smaller jars and store in the fridge. 

To enjoy: Mix with equal parts milk, almond milk, hemp milk, or whatever milk alternative you prefer. It can be enjoyed hot or cold, and is great to pack in the cooler for a road trip.