June 27, 2011

My Favorite Beer

Upright Brewing is a marvelous little brewery on my side of town.  The brew is gloriously light, bubbly, VERY refreshing and in a beautifully artistic, wine-like bottle.  I've been to a couple of dinners where the brewer himself attended and paired each local dish with his swanky beers. 

Simply lovely. 

And very Portland-y.

June 17, 2011

Blueberry-Bleu Cheese Spread

Last night after work, my friend Kristen hosted a divine Summer Dinner Party on her deck. 
She grilled steaks, fresh crisp asparagus and mushrooms...

A few of us who knew each other "way back when" had a blast browsing through yearbooks, laughing about how we used to feather our hair and spend the summer's babysitting so we could afford Gunne Sax dresses, Sbicca rope sandals, and fat tubes of Bonnie Bell lip gloss that you could hang from a string as a necklace.  (Dr. Pepper and Watermelon flavor were my favorite).

I arrived early and tossed together a few ingredients in Kristen's food processor to make a savory dip.  We ate it spooned onto whole wheat party crackers with a thin slice of green apple, which was a wonderful combination of contrasting flavors and textures.  It was even the perfect addition with our steaks... a generous dollop, melting over the caramelized meat. 

This spur of the moment recipe was a definite keeper:

Blueberry-Bleu Cheese Spread/Dip

1 small tub of crumbled Bleu Cheese (preferably Danish)
1 8oz block of cream cheese
1 pint of fresh or frozen blueberries
1/2 Tbs sweet hot chili sauce
1/2 cup or so of toasted chopped walnuts
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onion
1 tsp salt (or to taste)
1/2 tsp fresh cracked pepper (or to taste)

As you toast the chopped walnuts on low heat in a small pan on the stove top, whir together the bleu cheese, blueberries, cream cheese, sweet hot chili sauce, salt and pepper in a food processor. (about 2 minutes)
Stir in the toasted walnuts and then sprinkle on the sliced green onion.  Garnish with a few fresh blueberries.  If you have time, refrigerate for one hour so the flavors meld. 

This would also be terrific served with thinly sliced toasted baguette. 
(and the tangy green apple makes a great flavor addition, so try not to leave it out)

~Enjoy friends and good food this weekend Kittens!

June 15, 2011

Pulling a George Costanza

For the most part, I am a responsible person.

When the weekend arrives, my husband and I often attend the kids sports activities, putter around the house cooking and doing chores. We work in the yard, mow the lawn, grocery shop, do laundry and every now and again, host dinner parties for friends and family. All in all, I'd say we are a rather fairly typical American couple with three pre-teen/teenage children. We are happy, domestic and busy.

And comfortably boring.
We've become that word I always thought of when I thought about old age:

But last weekend, I decided it was time for us to "Pull a Costanza", and do the opposite of the domestic routine we'd fallen into.

My subtly amazing husband was all set to go outside and mow the lawn Sunday morning, when I surprised him with a spur of the moment suggestion:

Bloody Mary Sunday at The Lompoc downtown Portland.

So at 11: AM, we drove to NW 23rd, bought a copy of the Sunday Paper, slipped on our sunglasses and hung out on the back patio of the Lompoc, sipping savory $3 Bloody Mary's.

Romantic. Relaxing. Sublime.

I sometimes forget how to be spontaneous. I often find myself feeling melancholoy and wistful when I don't have my children... missing them so much that I can't really relax and enjoy time with just my husband. When I'm in Mommy Mode, I'm a different person. With all of the time we spend managing a family budget, cleaning, caring for the house and car and family, it's easy to forget about relaxing and hanging out together, like we did before we married.

Try doing something the opposite of what you usually do, every once in a while.
It helps keep life interesting.

June 10, 2011

The Best Way to Cook Ribs

A couple weekends of ago, our good friends Jud and Caroline came over for dinner with their charming daughter Eloise for dinner and to have me take a family photo. 

The evening was lovely.  Eloise giggled as Kev and Jud taught her how to lie in the hammock in the back yard, Caroline threw together a wonderful green salad and we enjoyed a deliciously juicy bottle of red wine that went beautifully with ribs.

Now here is my confession: I've actually never made ribs before.  My Subtly Amazing Husband is pretty much in charge of the grill in the summer, and we are not necessarily a rib-consuming type of family.  But our freezer has been filled with neatly wrapped packages of all kinds of pork and beef that I earned in early spring after trading photographs of prize winning pigs at a local farm in Sandy Oregon.  Needless to say, I'd grabbed a couple mysteriously white butcher paper encased slabs from the deep freeze and let them thaw in the fridge.  Once defrosted, I opened them up to behold two pink and red racks of pork ribs.  Upon looking up recipes online, I decided to combine a few of the tricks I'd read about on the Internet and attempt to invent a perfect sauce to go with. 

Surprisingly, by the time Jud, Caroline, Eloise, Kev were seated at the table with a simple salad, a loaf of New Season's bread and our coveted red wine, the ribs were perfectly fall-off-the-bone-melt-in-your-mouth done. 

And the sauce was divine as well, if I do say so myself. 

I felt like such a Kitchen Cowgirl.

Fabulous Ribs:

1.  Place rack of ribs on a large sheet of aluminum foil in a large baking dish and begin mixing together your rub.  I tossed together about 4 tablespoons of dark brown sugar, 1 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, 1/4 tsp ground mustard, 1 Tbs garlic powder and 1 tsp chili pepper.  Pat and press firmly into the meat and wrap the aluminum foil tightly around it like a present.  Put into the fridge and let rest for at least 2 hours.  (I did this first thing in the morning, then puttered about until later that afternoon)

2.  Take baking dish with foil wrapped ribs out of fridge.  Turn oven onto bake setting at only 275 degrees.  Once the oven is heated, pop the ribs in the baking dish into oven on the middle rack, and let slow bake in it's own juice and rub for at least 3 hours. 

3.  A little before the ribs are due to emerge from the oven, pour 1 can of beer into a saucepan and heat through at medium high heat.  Add 2 Tbs. apple cider vinegar, 2 Tbs. dark brown sugar, 1 tsp. salt, a dollop of Dijon mustard, a splash of soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce and bring to a slow low boil.

4.  When timer goes off, carefully remove baking dish from oven and even more carefully, unwrap the foil around the ribs, keeping most of the foil in tact.  (you want the ribs to continue to marinade in their own drippings)  Drizzle a few spoonfuls of the sauce over the ribs and return to the oven, this time, make sure they are on the top rack and turn the heat up to 475 degrees.   Once the oven heats up to 475, put the timer on for only about 15 minutes so the ribs will become crispy and caramelized.

5.  turn the heat up on the stove top so that the beer-sauce is simmering slowly and reduces to about half.  The glaze should be slightly sweet, slightly tangy and delicious.  Adjust to your taste, and when it has reduced enough, pour it into a dish and set on the table so your guests can drizzle on as much as they like.

June 9, 2011

"Yet it is in our idleness, in our dreams, that the 
submerged truth sometimes comes to the top."
Virginia Woolf

June 3, 2011

A Birthday Weekend

It seems like only yesterday that my youngest daughter was gathering every pink stuffed animal and Barbie to take with her on our hike to the Portland Rose Garden's when we lived in NW.

Yesterday, she turned a whopping 11 years old!  We celebrate this weekend by pretending Portland is Paris... renting a gorgeous hotel room downtown with a glittering city view. 

More photos to follow kittens!

June 2, 2011

A Simple and Divine Way to Serve Strawberries:

The weather in Portland has been a dreary gray.  I've had a case of the blues, and have sorely missed writing and cooking and trying to find the glamorous moments of life. 

Inspiration has eluded me I'm afraid.

But yesterday, as I raced into Fred Meyer's after work to grab a bag of greens to go with dinner, a box of organic strawberries winked at me from the produce section.  (if there is one organic grocery store purchase you can splurge on, it should be strawberries)

I'm a sucker for warm, melted dark chocolate with fruit, but in this recipe, the dark golden homemade caramel sauce shines through, and the combination is beautifully complex, and deliciously mesmerizing.  Shock your dinner guests with the sheer simplicity and brilliance of this dessert. 

Serve the fresh ruby berries in wine glasses , drizzled with the warm dark chocolate and slightly salty , cozy,  caramel sauce, along with a well chosen Port.  You will be a rock star. 

Even in the rain.

Strawberries with Chocolate Caramel Sauce

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream (warmed up a tad in the microwave or on the stove top)
  • 1.5 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened; no more than 60% cacao if labeled), coarsely chopped
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 lb strawberries, (halved if they are humongous)

  • Accompaniment: lightly sweetened whipped cream
Cook sugar in a dry 1-quart heavy saucepan over moderately high heat, undisturbed, until it begins to melt, about 2 minutes. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally with a fork, until sugar is melted into a deep golden caramel, (1 to 2 minutes).
Remove from heat and carefully pour in cream (mixture will steam and bubble vigorously). Once bubbles begin to subside, return pan to moderate heat and cook, stirring constantly, until caramel is dissolved.
Remove from heat, then add chocolate and salt and stir until chocolate is melted. Add butter and stir until just melted.
Cool sauce slightly, then drizzle over strawberries.


*For an added treat, (and to cure the blues during Portland's rainy season) try it along with a bottle of Port from McMenamins

May 5, 2011

Star Star

March 25, 2011

Soup for a Rainy Friday Night

It's almost spring, and I'm excited about the fresh NW vegetables that will soon be available at the local farmers markets. I can't wait to try out a few new recipes with tender-local ingredients. 

Even though you can sense a quiet change in the weather, evenings are still quite chilly, and call for a filling, hot, soul nourishing soup.  This particular recipe is full of vibrant flavor, is made with still easy to find, winter root vegetable ingredients.  My kids actually LOVE it and it's really inexpensive to make.   It's a fabulous little recipe that I invented after being inspired by a cookbook I found at the beach called, "Stop the Clock Cooking".  It's a twist on an African Stew, and it has coconut milk and peanut butter in it for added creaminess and a deep rich flavor that is actually good for you.

The only tricky part is cutting up all of the veggies...

1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 finely chopped medium red onion
1 finely chopped medium green bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped carrot
1/2 cup chopped celery
3 minced garlic cloves
2 Tbs peeled, minced fresh ginger
1 Tbs curry powder
2 large peeled halved, seeded chopped tomatoes (or 1 cup tomato sauce)
1 bay leaf
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 medium sized sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice
1 can drained chick peas
1 can coconut milk
1/4 cup (plus a little extra if you LOVE it like I do) creamy or crunchy peanut butter
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro without stems (for garnish)

Heat olive oil in a 4-quart saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add onion, bell pepper, carrot and celery and saute until fragrant; do not brown garlic.   Add sweet potato and simmer for about 5 minutes.  Add garlic, ginger, and curry powder and saute until fragrant; do not brown garlic.  Add tomatoes and bay leaf and cook, uncovered, until tomatoes are slightly reduced, about 3 minutes.

Add broth and bring mixture to a boil.  Reduce heat to low.  Add sweet potato and simmer for about 5 minutes.  Stir in chick peas, peanut butter and coconut milk until combined.  Cook until heated through, about 2 minutes.  Top with cilantro and season with salt and pepper.

* This recipe makes a generous size pot, and the leftovers are perfect for a chilly Saturday after picking up the kids from track, softball and baseball practices.  I sometimes serve it over a bowl of warm brown rice, serve a side salad for a hearty weekend lunch.

March 10, 2011

The Kate Winslet

 A completely glamorous concoction to wind down the day.

{image from Gourmet}

start with a mixture of London dry gin and red-currant jelly and top it off with dry sparkling wine. Bejewel each glass with a garnish of fresh red currants.2 Tbsp red-currant jelly
2 oz water (1/4 cup)
4 oz (1/2 cup) London dry gin
1 (750-ml) bottle well-chilled brut Champagne or Prosecco

GARNISH: fresh red currants

• Heat jelly and water in a small saucepan, whisking, until jelly has dissolved. Stir in gin and chill until cold.
• Divide gin mixture among 6 Champagne flutes, then top with Champagne.


March 7, 2011

Dark-Chocolate-Guinness-Stout Cake

You can seduce husbands with Beer. 

And chocolate.

And cake. 

So... it only makes sense that a dark chocolate, rich, stout beer cake = the Ultimate Enticement.

To be perfectly honest, for the past few months, I haven't been seductive or sultry.   Not even a little bit.

I have been in sort of a self imposed hibernation and a self-pitying funk... living in flannel pajama bottoms, reading trashy romance novels and watching movies like Beowulf and Doomsday while eating cheesy poofs on the couch.  I've not been charming or fun.  I haven't been pretty or light hearted to say the least.  I've even had cheesy poof powder stuck in my hair at times.   For a while, I felt like Jaba The Hut with a case of the Mean Reds.

But my quietly heroic, Subtly Amazing husband has remained steadfast and kind through even my worst days.  He's listened to me snuffle and whine about the injustices of the world this winter.   He took me to the movies and told me I was beautiful even when I wasn't.  He made me tea, told me bad jokes to help me remember how to smile, and covered me with a blanket when I went to bed at night. 

I'm telling you, I am married to Fantasy Husband.

And my Subtly Amazing Fantasy Husband deserves a medal.

Or at least a cake.

This one is absolutely sumptuous and sinful.  It is the King of Cakes.  The scent of it will make everyone in the household swoon and want to camp out in the kitchen and lick the bowl after you've whipped up the pillowy cream frosting.  It is unbelievably dense, and tastes heavenly when it's warm out of the oven (but you will catch yourself sneaking bites of cake deep into the night).

Don't worry, you don't actually taste the beer in the cake, it simply adds a depth of coffee/chocolaty flavor as well as making it extremely moist.

... and if you buy a big bottle of Guinness, you can sip the left-overs while you whisk and bake.

The Recipe: Chocolate Stout Cake

1 cup and 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup Stout beer
3/4 cup Dutch process cocoa, sifted
2 plus 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups sugar
2 medium eggs, room temperature
2/3 cup softened, whipped cream cheese
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt

For the frosting:
1 plus 1/3 cup cream cheese, room temperature 
1 plus 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
2/3 cup heavy cream, whipped

Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Prepare a 10" spring form pan by liberally buttering it, placing parchment paper on the bottom, buttering again, and dusting with cocoa power to "flour" it.

Add butter, cocoa, and stout to a saucepan.  Warm over a medium heat and stir until melted.  Set aside for 5-10 minutes to cool slightly.
Add flour, baking soda, and sugar to a large mixing bowl and mix together.  Pour in the Stout/cocoa powder/butter mixture, lightly combine.  Then add the vanilla, eggs and whipped cream cheese and beat everything together until well combined.  The batter should be thick.
Pour into prepared pan and bake in oven for roughly 1 hour.  Since all ovens bake differently, be sure to check your cake often.  I always start checking well before the recommended time, just to be safe.  When the cake feels firm and a toothpick comes out clean, it's done. There may be a few crumbs that stick to it.  Do not overbake.  This is a very moist cake, so use your best judgement with the toothpick test.
Let cool for 10-15 minutes, before removing from pan and placing on a wire rack to cool completely.
To frost the cake, place the cream cheese into bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whisk until the cream cheese is smooth and there are no big lumps remaining.
Gradually, add the sifted confectioners' sugar and beat gently to combine.  After 2-3 minutes, stop the machine, scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat on medium speed until lump free.
Remove bowl from mixer and gently fold in the whipped cream, mixing until fully combined.

Place cooled cake on a stand and spread the top with frosting.

March 4, 2011

Musical Books

I just LOVE LOVE LOVE stop-motion animation... especially when it involves dancing books.

Happy Weekend Darlings! And don't worry your pretty little heads. Gorgeous Bits has been severely neglected, I know. I've practically been in hibernation. But the fun is starting to re-infuse my veins, and this weekend I will be cooking up a celebrational storm for my lovely readers.

Please, stay tuned.

Air Kisses kittens~

January 15, 2011

SnapDoodle Coffee Cake

On the weekends, when my kids are sleeping in, warm in their cocoon of sheets and blankets, I am compelled to bake.  One of my fondest memories of childhood is waking up slowly, luxuriously, to the sweet smell of cinnamon and brown sugar.  My mother made coffee-cake, "SnapDoodle Cake", when I was growing up, and now I do.  Almost religiously.  My grandmother Gi Gi's recipe.

It is simple and streamlined... one of those "one bowl" sort of recipes that is practically foolproof.  I do tend to load on the butter and I use the best cinnamon I can find, but it's the weekend.  It's a memory for my children and a staple in our house now, and worth every calorie.  I think the name came from "Snickerdoodle", which is one of my all time favorite cookies.

This is divine with a hot cup of coffee and makes your house smell like the weekend.  I can't think of a more comforting way to greet a Saturday morning.

SnapDoodle Coffee Cake

1 egg
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup milk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Beat ingredients thoroughly-place in greased pan.  
Dot with butter, sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon.

Bake in one layer for 20 minutes.

Serve with a Mimosa.

January 10, 2011

Freakin Delicious Kale Chips.

Now THIS is absolutely BRILLIANT.

I must be late to the party.  Supposedly, this little gem of a recipe has been floating around the Internet for a few years now, and I am so glad I finally stumbled upon it.

I KNOW kale is good for you.  It's one of those "dark-green-leafy" vegetables that is not only in season in the dead of winter and surprisingly cheap to buy, but it is chock full of things that are supposed to be healthy for you.  I've tried to stir fry it, soak it in vinegar, saute it and add it to stews, but I have not been impressed.  I've read it's loaded with antioxidants, fiber, and even cholesterol lowering benefits, and I want to eat it.   But honestly, I've never really liked the taste of Kale. 

Until now.

Crunchy, salty, slightly briny and savory, Kale chips are divine.  Baked and served this way, you may even entice your kids to eat healthy leafy greens, and I haven't come across a simpler recipe.

  • First, buy what is called "Dinosaur Kale" or Tuscan Kale.  (You may need to go to Whole Foods, New Seasons.  I'm not sure Safeway or Albertsons carry the curly kind.)  Using a small sharp knife, cut out the stalk/stem from the middle of each leaf. 

  • Preheat your oven to 250 degrees, and while you're at it, toss about a tablespoon of olive oil into a Ziploc back with the prepared kale leaves.  Coat evenly. 

  • Spread out evenly in a single layer on two large baking sheets and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  (sea salt if you have some) and pop into the oven for about 30 minutes until crisp.  Transfer to a rack to cool.
In Bon Appetite, they are served upright, like this, in a vase...

They are surprisingly addictive, and look super cool on the table.