February 26, 2010

Weekend Inspiration

"romantic life is a weekly bouquet of hollywood cerise roses or a new pair of heels, a summer picnic or a handwritten letter, vintage champagne or being lost in daydreams — little luxuries are like moments of repose in the midst of busy days"
..One of my favorite blogs and a never ending source of gorgeous inspiration.

Kevin and I are kicking off the weekend with a romantic walk downtown tonight after work then it’s off to dinner with friends at a favorite NW Portland pub, New Old Lompoc.

Last weekend was heavenly. A last minute get-away with the children to Seaside where we basked in the sunshine, rented bicycles on the beach, laughed and relaxed and slept in on Sunday morning.

This weekend will be quiet and a little bit lonely without them. I plan to do some cleaning, cooking, writing and dreaming about how to spend the upcoming Spring Break.

Happy Weekending.

February 24, 2010

Egg and Prosciutto Pie

Simple Simple Simple!

Just throw the ingredients together in a pan and jump in the shower right when you pop it in the oven and Voila!  Breakfast is ready by the time you are dressed.

This is one of my all time favorite "company" breakfast recipes from an old Gourmet magazine... but lately I've been craving breakfast for dinner.  (this recipe is SO good... all golden and flaky on the outside, layered with deliciousness on the inside)

1 (1-lb) package frozen puff pastry, thawed

2 medium onions, finely chopped (2 cups)

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

4 to 5 oz thinly sliced prosciutto (or bacon if you are short on prosciutto)

1 large boiling potato (10 to 12 oz)

12 large eggs

Put a baking sheet in middle of oven and preheat oven to 375°F.

If dough is in 1 piece, cut in half. Roll out each piece into a 12-inch square on a lightly floured surface. Line a 9-inch square baking pan with 1 piece of dough, draping it slightly over sides.

Stir together onions, oil, and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper and spread in an even layer over dough. Top with prosciutto. Peel potato and thinly slice (about 1/8 inch thick), then arrange in one layer over prosciutto, overlapping slightly. Crack eggs on top of potatoes, gently arranging yolks so they don°t touch one another. Season eggs with 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper.

Cut several slits in remaining pastry square and lay over top of pie, then crimp edge and trim.

Bake until pastry is golden brown and puffed, 50 to 60 minutes.

~While the pie bakes, toss together some arugula greens, thinly sliced pear, toasted walnuts and a little feta for a delish side dish and dinner is served. 

~A light fruity white sparkling wine goes perfectly with this.  Also, try a little chutney on the side, it adds a sweet/sharp/spicy bite.

February 23, 2010

Love Affair with Wine

“Food without wine is a corpse; wine without food is a ghost. United and well matched they are as body and soul, living partners.” Andre Simon

Before marrying my subtly amazing husband, I found myself briefly enamored with a local winemaker.

Long ago, even before dating said winemaker, not only had I not dated in over 18 years, I had no education or clue about how exquisite really good wine could be. In my practical suburban existance, as a young stay-at-home mother and housewife, I didn’t have the patience, interest or time to unearth and research the treasure of wine. When I did imbibe, it was because I remembered to grab a bottle or two of Charles Shaw at Trader Joe’s, (lovingly referred to as Two Buck Chuck)  

After all, it didn't really matter what one "paired" with Mushroom Tater Tot cassarole.

I did not know of the magic that could occur to ones palate while tasting a fresh in-season pear with aged gorgonzola cheese, then sipping a subtly sweet-crisp Viognier. 

My Casanova-ish Winemaker was suave, stylish and worldly. He was an excellent cook, best friends with owners and chefs of some of the great restaurants in Portland and always impressed me when he waxed poetic, giving passionate speeches about his extensive romantic /scientific knowledge about how fine wine and great food are a match made in heaven. He was debonair and dashing and he knew food.
He was the perfect introduction to re-entering the dating scene. He also introduced me to fine restaurants, cooking with local seasonal ingredients, Chet Baker's music and of course…

great wine.

My brief infatuation with the Winemaker was short lived and as you know, in the end, I married my best friend (who is also super dreamy but much less of a Casanova)
but I’m spoiled now.

Don’t get me wrong. I dig a diner style burger with a lowbrow beer as much as the next girl, but I cannot resist a soft and buttery oak and fruit tinged chardonnay or an aged deep ruby, complex multi-layered glass of Pinot Noir. It reminds me of glamour and romance, great food and celebration.

And good wine is all of those things.

Last week, one of my favorite co-workers, Steve and I celebrated our birthdays with a gorgeous bottle of Rombauer Chardonnay 2008 that the President of the Culinary School gave us as a gift from his personal cellar. It was so lovely… gently chilled, soft and rich, buttery with a note of toasted vanilla and a slight hint of peach. I practically swooned after taking a sip, and promptly decided that it would be my new first pick when it comes to wine. (The price-tag is a little hefty at about $31 a bottle, but it’s unbelievably good and worth every penny when you want to splurge)

This rainy afternoon as I sit at my desk, I am dreaming of a simple, seasonal, early spring dinner of fragrant buttered leeks, gently baked sole with sea salt and parsley… a menu that I think I’ll prepare this weekend when I have some time to relax in the kitchen. Maybe I’ll even play a little Chet Baker in the background while I cook.
If you want to follow along, buy a special bottle of Chardonnay this weekend and try it with this amazingly delicious and easy leek recipe. I promise it will disappear from the serving dish faster than you can imagine and will soon become a staple side dish to add to your repertoire…

Simple Butter Braised Spring Leeks

• 4 small or medium leeks, tough outer leaves discarded and leeks trimmed to about 7 inches long and cut lengthwise into quarters or eighths
• 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 1/4 cup chicken broth
• 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest

In a shallow dish soak leeks in cold water to cover 15 minutes, rubbing occasionally to remove any grit. In a heavy skillet melt butter over moderate heat. Lift leeks out of the water and with water still clinging to them add to skillet. Cook leeks, stirring occasionally, five minutes and add broth and zest. Braise leeks, covered, 5 minutes, or until very tender, and season with salt and pepper.

February 22, 2010

Beer Goes with Everything.

It's crazy. 

I LOVE a light lager.  I SAVOR sublime salmon.  But together?  Who would have thought...

I know I've posted a fabulous salmon recipe recently and I stand by that post as being one of the best, healthiest and most flavorful ways to prepare a gorgeous pink fillet of fresh wild salmon.  I could not resist trying this recipe though recently and I have to say, not only is it delicious tasting, but it is probably one of the easiest salmon recipes I've ever made. 
Because it's so incredibly easy to make AND because it calls for a healthy dose of glowing amber ale, it is worth the experiment. 

PS~ don't be afraid of bacon.  A little bit goes a long way and is entirely worth it.

Salmon Poached in Beer
(a good strong wheat beer paired with wild salmon is ideal)

2-3 slices of slab bacon cut into 1/4" bits

1 tbsp. butter
1 scallion (red onion is bolder)
4 oz. beer
8 oz. wild sockeye salmon filet.
liberal toss of sea salt


1. bring bacon, butter and scallion to temp at medium high in a sauté pan just browning the bacon before adding the butter. so long as the bacon is lean, it will leave some nice residue in the pan, the beer will deglaze this residue, that is a good thing...

2. Add the beer and allow it to just boil before reducing the heat to a strong simmer.

3.add the salmon (skin side down) to the just under boil beer-y goodness. toss some sea salt on there and cover the pan. after three minutes, the fish should just begin to firm, flip it so that it's skin up. three more minutes.
pull the cover off. enjoy the fragrant steam. let the liquid reduce a spell, if you like your fish on the med-rare side, pull it and cover it lightly and set aside while you reduce.

4. reduce the liquid to about half it's volume.

5. pour that goodness on the fish.

6. eat and let your eyes roll to the back of your head as you sigh with satisfaction.

February 19, 2010

Cookbook of the Month

This delightful cookbook pays homage to the humble Ramen noodle.  

The recipes are innovative and explained in such a way that not only does it seem easy but it motivates you to be creative and excited about the process of cooking... the scents, the flavors and the stories behind the recipes make it a sensory experience.   I tried one of the recipes available online and immediately ordered the cookbook to add to my collection!

This Ginger Scallion Sauce is such a fantastic recipe, you should make up a couple batches of it at a time and keep it in the fridge as a condiment.  It is fabulous over noodles, (simple ramen or almost any kind of pasta) and it is a decadent marinade for fish and poultry.
I loved it so much I swear I could use a spoon and just eat it up all by itself.  Make it this weekend... it's so simple you'll still have time to enjoy the sun!

As for Ginger Scallion Noodles, the dish goes something like this:

boil 6 oz of ramen noodles.  drain and toss with 6 tablespoons of Ginger Scallion Sauce (below) top with pan roasted cauliflower, a pile of sliced scallions and a sheet of toasted nori.  Improvise as needed... everything tastes good with this basic recipe!

2&1/2 cups thinkly sliced scallions (greens and whites; from 2 large bunches)
1/2 cup finely minced peeled fresh ginger
1/4 cup grapeseed or other neutral oil
1&1/2 tsp light soy sauce
3/4 tsp sherry vinegar
3/4 kosher salt or more to taste

(makes about 3 cups)


Mix together scallions, ginger, oil, soy, vinegar and salt in a bowl.  Taste and check for salt, adding more if needed.  It's best after 15 or 20 minutes of sitting...


February 17, 2010

Spring Fever

Today was graduation for a group of students and they made a delicious spread of fabulous fare to celebrate their adventure into the world of restaurants. Beaker and Flask, a cool Southern Food restaurant in SE Portland called Country Cat, Clyde Common, and Blue Hour were a few of the places where they will be doing their externships. It was like a fabulous preview of the next batch of up and coming Portland chefs!

Aside from a spectacular lunch, most of the day I’ve spent holed up in my little office on the phone and emailing new culinary students who start new classes this week. A few times, I poked my head out of the office and when I walked around the block I couldn’t believe the weather… gorgeous, chilly but sunny and definitely SPRINGLIKE weather! The bare branches of the trees are beginning to show signs of growth and the breeze on my face held the promise of warmer days around the corner. I’m beginning to daydream:

Bike rides on the beach
Strawberry Lemonade
Laundry drying in the sunshine
Reading in Flip Flops
Road Trips
Taking pictures at sunset on the waterfront
Long Summer Afternoons

I am ready.

February 15, 2010

A Belated Valentine Post

I had the sniffles over the weekend, not the most sexy and romantic sort of thing to have on Valentine’s Day. Nonetheless, I have to say, my subtly amazing husband gave me the most romantic thing… a customized playlist.

I remember in highschool, if a guy liked you, I mean REALLY liked you, (LIKED you-liked you) he might just make you a mix-tape.  You could play it in your car or boombox and think of him. 
When I first met Kevin, before we even knew we might like each other as anything more than friends, he made me several CD's of music that I played over and over in my new apartment downtown.  I was slowly but surely getting used to my new life and the songs he chose were a soundtrack and musical score for my new beginning. 

Last week, Kevin spent the better part of a day scouring through our combined CD collection and the iTunes website.  He found songs that we first fell in love to, as well as songs he thought I would enjoy listening to while I write.

I’m a lucky woman, because even with a stuffy nose, I am loved by a very thoughtful man.

February 10, 2010

The Romance of February

“Romance is the glamour which turns the dust of everyday life into a golden haze.”

Amanda Cross

February 9, 2010

The Best Salmon Recipe EVER

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a healthy recipe… I’ve been better about resisting sweets and I haven’t eaten anything with bacon in well over a month but I haven’t been a saint. (dark chocolate however is not BAD for you, it even offers health benefits!)

I love salmon. Especially fresh, well seasoned, perfectly cooked and flavorful salmon. It is so good for you… for your skin, your heart, your brain, the waistline… I could go on and on. I cook salmon about once a week and I’ve tried so many recipes it makes my mind spin. (One of my favorite higher calorie recipes is a gorgeous pecan crusted salmon but I’ll save that for another time)

This particular recipe is from one of my favorite cookbooks as well, The Ultra-Metabolism Cookbook by Mark Hyman, M.D.  It is filled with incredibly flavored recipes for dishes that are low fat, low calorie, usually dairy free and wheat free. The food that I’ve prepared using this cookbook never fails to amaze me because not only is it incredibly healthy and is touted to improve one’s metabolism, but it is some of the best tasting food I’ve made.

I’m sure I’ll be sharing more recipes from this particular cookbook in the near future, but here is one that is sure to get you hooked and will make you a believer. I would guess that after trying this recipe for salmon, you won’t want to try another for a very long time and you may just rush out and buy the cookbook itself or check it out from the library.

Apple-Soy Roasted Salmon

A moist and tasty salmon fillet with a spicy, sweet golden-brown glaze. A squeeze of lime juice finishes the dish.

¾ cup 100% apple juice

4 (6 oz) wild salmon fillets

2 Tbs low-sodium tamari (soy sauce)

1 Tbs sesame oil

1 tsp agave nectar or honey

1 tsp minced garlic

1 tsp minced ginger

¼ tsp Thai Kitchen Red Chile Paste (found in most grocery stores in Asian cooking aisle)

2 scallions

4 lime wedges

Place the apple juice in a small pan. Bring to a boil over high heat and reduce by about half. When reduced, set aside to cool.

Place the salmon in a single layer in a shallow baking dish.

Stir into the cooled, reduced apple juice, the tamari, sesame oil, agave nectar, garlic, ginger and red chili paste. Pour the marinade over the salmon and refrigerate for about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Before roasting the salmon, pour the excess marinade off the fish into a small pan. Bring the marinade to a boil over high heat. Cook until reduced by half, about 7 minutes.

Place the salmon in the oven and cook for about 7 minutes. Brush salmon with the reduced marinade and continue cooking for about 7 more minutes, or until golden brown and cooked through. Before serving, brush again with the marinade and garnish with the scallions and lime wedges.

Delicious with a crisp cold white wine such as a dry Riesling or Pinot Grigio!

February 8, 2010

Decadent Chocolate

Another fabulous idea to give as a luxurious and decadent gift to your lover this Valentine's Day is REALLY good and high quality chocolate. 

On Christmas morning I found this delicious goodie waiting for me in my stocking from my lovely husband who knows just how much I crave dark chocolate and how I love a smattering of Himilayan salt even in my sweets. 

You can't simply unwrap this chocolate bar and gobble it up like a Hershey's brand chocolate, you must savor and experience it, maybe pair it with wine even for an added kick.  On the back of the bar, there are even directions to show you how you can use all of your senses to make the most of your chocolate moment...

How to Eat an Exotic Candy Bar...

See... first, there should be a glossy shine to the chocolate bar, this shows a good temper; rather, a tight bond between the cocoa butter and the cocoa mass.

Smell... rub your thumb on the chocolate to help release the aromas. Inhale the chocolate and ingredient notes deeply through your nose. Can you feel it?

Snap... quality chocolate should always be dry to the touch. Break the bar into two pieces. Hear a crisp, ringing snap, which indicates a well-tempered bar of chocolate.

Taste... place the chocolate on your tongue and press it to the roof of your mouth. Within thirty seconds, the chocolate should slowly begin to melt around your tongue. The taste should not be evanescent; it should have a long, lingering finish.

Feel... recognize the life in your body as you… benefit from the anti-oxidants in chocolate, ride the natural high of chilies, boost your immune system with some of the natural ingredients. Each bar brings its own sensations and benefits. Notice how spicy bars don’t hit you until after you have swallowed.

Pair... dark chocolate with a beguiling, fruit-laden Cabernet Sauvignon blend.

Kevin found this (and a few other treasures) at The Meadow on Mississippi.  I can't say enough about that place.  Maybe I should work there on the weekends.

February 7, 2010

February 5, 2010

Lovely Bubbly

"I only drink Champagne when I'm happy, and when I'm sad. sometimes I drink it when I'm alone. when I have company, I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I am not hungry and drink it when I am. otherwise I never touch it - unless I'm thirsty"
by Lily Bollinger

~Champagne is exquisite. A modern day love potion~

Valentine’s Day is around the corner of course and although yesterday I went on and on about how gorgeous and romantic a glamorous pair of high heels from your lover might be, another thing to think about is what to serve your sweetheart on Valentine's Day night (or any other for that matter)

In France, before a dinner party or before going out, a good sparkling wine is usually served. No heavy hors devours or appetizers, just a simple and elegant flute of champagne or sparkling wine and perhaps some fresh berries or a light cheese plate.

At Christmas, I bought my mom a lovely bottle of this gorgeous light pink bubbly to enjoy in her garden… she has a beautiful perennial and rose garden that she entertains in and especially loves to taste new, slightly sweet and sparkling beverages. Perle Grosseille is not overly sweet, and has the added flavor and color of tiny red current berries. I found it at my favorite little spot, The Meadow on Mississippi, which is the absolute best specialty shop in Portland, I think. It is romantic and intimate and they have a spectacular selection of wines, chocolate, fresh flowers and an entire wall dedicated to interesting and unique gourmet salts from around the world. It’s the absolute perfect place in the city to find something special to either give as a gift or to enjoy at a special occasion just by yourself.

If you want to try something a little more creative, impress your Valentine by whipping up one of these delightful concoctions.  Throw in a few interesting tidbits about champagne cocktails for good measure...

The French Kiss


• 3 oz champagne

• 2 oz Alize Gold Passion

• Orange twist

Mixing instructions:

Add champagne to Alize gold in a champagne glass. Garnish with an orange twist.

The Love Drink


• 4 oz champagne

• 1 or 2 drops Angostura bitters

• 1 sugar cube

• Splash Campari

Mixing instructions:

Put one drop of Angostura bitters on a sugar cube and drop in flute glass. Add champagne and a splash of Campari.

The Classic Champagne Cocktail


• 4 oz champagne

• 1 drop Angostura bitters

• 1 tsp brandy

• 1 tsp Cointreau

• 1 sugar cube

Mixing instructions:

Drop a sugar cube in a champagne glass. Soak bitters into the sugar cube and add brandy. Top off with champagne. Garnish with an orange twist.

A Valentine’s Day Mimosa


• 3 oz champagne

• 1 oz blood-orange juice

• 1 oz tangerine juice

Mixing instructions:

Mix blood-orange and tangerine juice together. Slowly add champagne. Garnish with an orange wedge. (The blood-orange juice is what gives this mimosa a Valentine's Day twist.

Cheers to romance and sparkling beverages!

February 4, 2010

a decadent infatuation with shoes...

Shoes are absolutely intoxicating. In a good way, although I suppose they definitely could be intoxicating in a bad way if they are old and sweaty. But I digress…

Since it’s the month of February and LOVE is in the air with Valentine’s Day just around the corner (and my birthday!) I thought I’d dedicate this blog post as an ode to one of my passions: Gorgeous Shoes.

Quite recently, I decided to collect shoes as though I were collecting inspiring pieces of art. Don’t get me wrong, I’d LOVE LOVE LOVE to have the money to purchase gorgeous paintings and exquisite sculpture, and I do splurge now and again on beautiful photographs I find on etsy.com and Deviant Art  every now and agin.  I also adore purchasing handmade jewelry my friend Holly's crafted and lovely smelling artisnal soaps from local shops.
But for me, a beautiful new pair of shoes is pure bliss. In my old life, I usually sufficed with worn Birkenstocks and tube socks. I was not the least bit interested in fashion really and I didn’t have time for adornments and accessories, sexy lingerie or even nice smelling shampoo or perfume. I was a VERY practical woman and considered myself lucky to squeeze a shower into my busy schedule and as long as my sweats were clean, I was happy. That was life with little children as a stay-at-home mom.

Perhaps discovering Sex in the City ignited my interest in shoes… suddenly I had role models who considered shoes a necessity, a requirement to enhance their independence, femininity and individuality. I studied Carrie Bradshaw’s footwear in every episode and lusted for sexy high heels like I never had before. Somehow, she helped me mentally justify my love for shoes.

When I started working downtown, I bought my first pair of kitten heels, not too high, not too daring, but they lifted my spirits and made me walk a little differently. After stumbling around a bit and teetering here and there, I figured out the rhythm of walking in heels and practiced swaying my hips and walking with a feminine swagger and a little more confidence.
I imagined I was channeling my inner Carrie.   

Slowly but surely I’ve expanded my collection. I found silver sling back treasures at Nordstrom Rack and scouted discounted yellow espadrilles at Macy’s during sales. Gradually, I allowed myself the luxury of looking online at sites like J.Crew and I found blogs dedicated to fashion and footwear. I decided to allow myself a “snazzy shoe fund”, a little luxury money set aside to buy beautiful shoes every once in a while as a treat or for special occasions.

And now I am an addict.

I CRAVE the luxurious Yves St. Laurent Cage Heels
sexy-hip ankle boots

Stella McCartney Wedge Aqua Blue Pumps

and over the knee black suede boots

I view shoes as jewelry for the feet and I can’t believe the difference between well made high quality pair of high heels and inexpensive Payless brand shoes and how they make your feet feel after wearing them for a few hours. I’ve by default become over the past few years, a shoe connoisseur.  (luckily, my subtly amazing husband is a patient man and doesn’t seem to mind)

Our friend Joe was staying with us a few days ago and asked me for some romantic gift ideas to give his fiancĂ© for Valentine’s Day. I couldn’t help but wax poetic about what a great nude stacked heel sandal can do for a woman’s libido and how a strappy jeweled sling back can make her heart race. He listened patiently as I described the perfect shoe, something sexy, something flattering, something a little daring (especially if it’s a gift from your love) I tried to paint a visual picture of elusive, elegant and luxurious high heels… perfect not just for Sue, but for almost all women. I told him as an added suave and romantic touch, that he could give her a pair of black stockings with seams or thigh high stockings as well.
(It’s easy to find a woman’s shoe size and style, just sneak a peek in her closet and write down the size and designer of her favorites when she’s not looking) Joe loved the idea and most likely, Sue will love such an intimate and romantically sexy gift. I told him to put a little note on the box that they are meant to wear out for a special dinner too…

and, who knows where else her slinky new Valentine Shoes will take them!

*All glorious shoe images The Cherry Blossom Girl

February 1, 2010

The Practical Escape: A Hot Bath

It wasn’t a pretty sight. I’ve huddled into a virtual cave for the past four days and I’m finally easing out of it into the light again.

Thursday last week I had one of my lower wisdom teeth pulled and on that particular day, I was smug. I bragged about how little pain I felt and although I had a tiny bit of swelling, I figured I’d made it through the whole process with ease. Little did I know that often it’s on the second or third day that the aching jaw and throbbing begins and the real swelling takes effect. Friday I came into work swaggering, sure that I was a super human who had no need for pain medication or icepacks after going through a little wisdom tooth extraction. By noon I was ready to cry like a baby. I dosed myself with the Vicodin the dentist had prescribed for me and went home to nurse my wounds. All weekend I was on the couch, making tea, reading, watching TV, taking looooong hot baths and whimpering.

Applesauce, soup and popsicles were the only things I felt like eating. Bland and creamy boring food suitable for a nursing home was my fare for 3 days in a row.  I was in pain and for once, food was uninspiring.

It’s not often I’m thankful for my husband’s absence, but it worked out for the best that he was gone over the weekend with friends in Trout Lake. I was able to wallow in my pathetic state with no embarrassment. He couldn’t see me as I schlepped around the house in my sweats and bathrobe with a frozen bag of uncooked rice held to my jaw. I wore my most comfortable faded unflattering sweats, watched endless episodes of Sex in the City, read and re-read all of my old Domino magazines magazines and made a pillow fort on the couch. I reveled in sort of a self-prescribed hibernation and spent several hours in the tub listening to my favorite sad song over and over while drinking peppermint tea. (I would have preferred the bottle of sparkling Shiraz I picked up at the coast a couple weekends ago but that wouldn't have gone together well with pain meds)
I felt about as feminine and attractive as Jay Leno.

As a weekend hermit however, I did get the chance to try out a couple of delightful products that I’d ordered for myself as a splurge a few weeks ago and I am now completely addicted to a couple of yummy smelling, natural bath products. My favorite new shampoo and conditioner smelled like warm vanilla with a hint of spice and made my wild tangl-y red hair smooth and shiny. And THIS lovely coconut cream body scrub made my skin glow. (While I was soaking away my misery, at least I smelled like an exquisite dessert)
My advice for anytime you recovering from a visit to the dentist, feeling the effects of the winter blues, trying to get over a break-up, unwind from the stress of the day or if you just need to escape people and life for a couple hours is this: Run the tub.  Pour in some scented oil and Epsom salts, light a candle, turn down the lights, put on some music, have a glass of wine and drift away for a little while.  Lock the door, tell everyone to leave you alone.  Just for a little while...

A hot bath can cure just about anything.