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