Thursday, November 17, 2011

2009 Books

Hey!  Want to know all the books I read in 2009?  Here ya go!

Lisey's Story - Stephen King
The Mist - Stephen King
Nights in Rodanthe - Nicholas Sparks
The Fiery Cross - Diana Gabaldon
The Coma - Alex Garland
The South Beach Diet - Dr. Arthur Agatston
Brisingr - Christopher Paolini

Just After Sunset - Stephen King
Odd Thomas - Dean Koontz
The Host - Stephenie Meyer*
You Suck: A Love Story - Christopher Moore
Divine Justince - David Baldacci
The Boleyn Inheritance - Philippa Gregory*
Odd Hours - Dean Koontz
Storm of the Century - Stephen King*

A Dirty Job - Christopher Moore
A Homemade Life - Molly Wizenberg*
The Lucky One - Nicholas Sparks
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle - David Wroblewski
The Eyes of the Dragon - Stephen King*
The Husband - Dean Koontz
Sleeping with the Devil - Vanessa Marlow
Breath of Snow and Ashes - Diana Gabaldon

Breath of Snow and Ashes - Diana Gabaldon
The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove - Christopher Moore
Skinny Legs and All - Tom Robbins

Along Came a Spider - James Patterson
The Virgin's Lover - Philippa Gregory
The Constant Princess - Philippa Gregory
Fast Food Nation - Eric Schlosser

The Queen's Fool - Philippa Gregory
Breaking Dawn - Stephenie Meyer


Fluke - Chrisopher Moore
Blackwood Farm - Anne Rice
Harry Potter & the half-blood prince
Harry Potter & the deathly hallows
eleven on top - janet evanovich


Full Speed - janet evanovich
The Other Queen - Philippa Gregory
The Island of the Sequined Love Nun - Christopher Moore


The Prometheus Deception - Robert Ludlum
Remember Me
Second Child - John Saul


Dead Until Dark - Charlaine Harris
Living Dead in Dallas - Charlaine Harris
The Magic Kingdom of Landover - Terry Brooks
The Mysterious Benedict Society - Trenton Lee Stewart
The Black Unicorn - Terry Brooks
Wizard at Large - Terry Brooks
Club Dead - Charlaine Harris
Predator - Patricia Cornwell

Book of the Dead - Patricia Cornwell
A Kiss of Shadows - Laurell K Hamilton
Black Rose - Nora Roberts
A Caress of Twilight - Laurell K Hamilton
Seduced By Moonlight - Laurell K hamilton
A Stroke of Midnight - Laurell K Hamilton
A Kiss of Shadows - Laurell K Hamilton
A Lick of Frost - Laurell K Hamilton
Mistral's Kiss - Laurell K Hamilton

Swallowing Darkness - Laurell K hamilton
Guilty Pleasures - Laurell K Hamilton
Dead as a Doornail - Charlaine Harris
Definitely Dead - Charlaine Harris
Swan Song - Robert McCammon
All Together Dead - Charlaine Harris
My Soul to Lose - Rachel Vincent
Irresistible Forces - Brenda Jackson
Hide in Plain Sight - Marta Perry
Double Cross - James Patterson

* The starred books are the ones I consider favorite books read of all time.

Some of these books had been read before.  I love to re-read good books.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Mediterranean Chickpea Salad

Okay, this is the recipe I've been so excited about the last week.  This is the Mediterranean Chickpea Salad, adapted from a New York Times recipe
 I got the idea from a salad I've eaten on the Portland Spirit.
Normally, I would use fresh tomatoes, but I subbed quality canned tomatoes due to the season.  I can't wait to try this in the summer.  For this version, I used frozen artichoke hearts, WHICH I WOULD NOT RECOMMEND AGAIN.   Use marinated artichoke hearts or ones stored in water.  The frozen ones have no flavor if they are not cooked.  Also, contrary to the picture below, I only used one jar of kalamata olives, but 2 cans of tomatoes.  Keep this in mind, although it can be a preference rather than a recipe requirement.

I forgot to take a pic of the cucumber, so here it is.
The dressing is only lemon juice, red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper.  Use the proportions you prefer.  Usually recipes call for 2:1 oil vs. acid, but I like a 1:1 ratio instead.  Make a dressing you like.
A pic of the final dish.  Not too colorful, but so tasty.  Full of protein and veggies, it's an easy side or dinner entree.


Mediterranean Chickpea Salad:  adapted from The New York Times

2 cans chickpeas
8 oz artichoke hearts
1/2 red onion, chopped,
1 jar kalamata olives, halved
 1/2 cup roasted garlic cloves (optional, mine were from the olive bar and tasted of anise)
3/4 cup feta
2 - 15 oz cans good quality chopped tomatoes, or 2-3 summer tomatoes, chopped
1 cucumber, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup chopped herbs ( I used parsley and basil, but tarragon, chives or any other fresh herbs may be added to your taste)


juice of one lemon
2-3 T good olive oil
1 T red wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste.

Monday, February 7, 2011

A Recipe to Come

I had given up blogging for the past year or so, since I moved away from Portland, into the boonies they call McMinnville.  There are few good restaurants here, and, considering my new job, even fewer opportunities to try new recipes at home.  However, we seem to have developed a routine where I have some time to cook and some time to write, so I hope to revisit the blog.

The recipe to come is my inspiration to continue blogging.  It's a Mediterranean Chickpea Salad, and it's all I want to eat this week.

I hope to make it again in the next few days and take some pictures to post.

The idea came from a salad I had on the Portland Spirit, which usually has terrible food, but redeems itself with this salad.

See you soon!


Friday, June 25, 2010

"Fix"ing Dinner

Who says "fix" dinner.  Like, "I am going to fix dinner".  Is it broken?  Why are you going to fix it?  You make dinner, or you prepare dinner.  Duh.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

La Rambla

Long time no see!  I have moved to the town of McMinnville, Oregon.  I am no longer working as a concierge.  Instead I am co-managing a small pizza shop with my husband Brian.  It's a big change, but a good one so far.  

Here in the midst of wine country, there are a handful of quality restaurants using the fresh, local meats and produce this area is known for.  So far we have tried Cuvee, Thistle and La Rambla.  Didn't have my camera at the first two, but here are some shots of our lunch at La Rambla.  It's a Spanish tapas place.

First up was this partially-devoured chef's choice meat and cheese plate ($12).  It came with housemade chorizo, serrano ham, a hard cheese, a bleu cheese and some candied walnuts.  We had this with some good bread and olive oil.

Next up was the manila clams with chorizo, sherry, garlic and herbs ($7).  I could eat these all day.  We used the clam shells to scoop up the rest of the juice left over in the bowl.  

These were one of the best things we ate here:  Piquillo Peppers stuffed with northwest crab, goat cheese, harissa ($12).  Tons of crab spiked with the spicy harissa wrapped in a roasted pepper.  Mmm, mmm, good.

The Willamette Valley mushrooms with garlic and white wine ($7) were nothing special.  Needed more salt and more garlic or lemon or something.  Also they were white or crimini mushrooms.  We were hoping for something more wild.

Fried green beans ($6) with aioli.  Scrumptious.  A tempura-like batter.

Spice-rubbed Tri-tip with romesco and marinated onion.  These were good, especially with the pickled onion.  I loved the romesco with the smoky steak.  

Our last dish was the chorizo empanadas with a roasted red pepper cream sauce ($8).  I was really too full to enjoy this.  The flavor was bold and a little too salty.  

I thought I'd show the pics of the room.  I really liked the lamps and the paintings.  And the signboard outside.

Overall we liked our meal at La Rambla.  They have a bunch more tapas and even a burger I'd like to try.

La Rambla
238 NE Third Street
McMinnville, Oregon

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Mmmm, Carnitas

 Baby, it's cold outside...actually, today it is 31*F, much warmer than the 14*F of a few days ago.  Still, the crispy weather just begs for something hot and slow-cooked in a flavorful braise.

A few weeks ago we picked up a whole pork shoulder for about 11 bucks. I had a thought of making pulled pork, but decided on carnitas.  Both are slow-cooked pork, but I associate pulled pork with barbecue and carnitas is definitely mexican.  Anything that can be folded into a tortilla has my vote.

I scanned some recipes online and eliminated any that called for orange juice.  I have a dislike of fruit or citrus with flesh. I spotted one from David Lebovitz that looked good and easy to adapt to the crockpot.

It was my first pork butt.  Why is it called pork butt if it is from the shoulder?  I don't know, but it's fun to say "pork butt".  Let me tell you, pork butts are huge.  I decided to just work with half of it at a time, since I wanted to use my crockpot.

Carnitas, adapted from David Lebovitz's The Sweet Life in Paris

4-5-pounds boneless pork shoulder (pork butt!), cut into 5-inch chunks, trimmed of excess fat
1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
2 tablespoons canola or neutral vegetable oil
1 cinnamon stick (omitted)
1 teaspoon chile powder
1 teaspoon ancho chile powder (omitted)
2 bay leaves
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly-sliced

1. Rub the pieces of pork shoulder all over with salt. Refrigerate for 1- to 3-days. (You can skip this step if you want. Just be sure to salt the pork before searing the meat in the next step.)

2. Heat the oil in a roasting pan set on the stovetop. Cook the pieces of pork shoulder in a single layer until very well-browned, turning them as little as possible so they get nice and dark before flipping them around. If your cooking vessel is too small to cook them in a single-layer, cook them in two batches.

3. Once all the pork is browned, remove them from the pot and blot away any excess fat with a paper towel, then pour in about a cup of water, scraping the bottom of the pan with a flat-edged utensil to release all the tasty brown bits. I poured this liquid into the crockpot with the pork.

4. Heat the oven to 350F (180C) degrees.  If you are using oven instead of crockpot.

5. Add the pork back to the pan and add enough water so the pork pieces are 2/3rd's submerged in liquid. Add the cinnamon stick and stir in the chile powders, bay leaves, cumin and garlic. I added the juice of one lime, too.

7. Braise in the oven uncovered for 3½ hours, turning the pork a few times during cooking, until much of the liquid is evaporated and the pork is falling apart. Remove the pan from the oven and lift the pork pieces out of the liquid and set them on a platter.  OR - cook in your crockpot on low for 8 hours.  The liquid won't evaporate, but I just pulled out the pork with a slotted spoon and transferred it to a sheet pan. 


8. Once the pork pieces are cool enough to handle, shred them into bite-sized pieces, about 2-inches (7 cm), discarding any obvious big chunks of fat if you wish.

9. Return the pork pieces back to the roasting pan and cook in the oven, turning occasionally, until the liquid has evaporated and the pork is crispy and caramelized. It will depend on how much liquid the pork gave off, and how crackly you want them.  I browned my carnitas for 20 minutes in a 375* oven.

These were delish.  We had some in tortillas the first night, and then I had the idea to try to recreate a carnitas bowl from Chipotle.

I started with the cilantro-lime rice.  I browed one cup rice in a tablespoon of oil for 10 minutes, or until it smelled nutty, almost like popcorn.  Then I added chicken stock and cooked covered for about 20 minutes.


I juiced some (way too many) limes and added the juice to the rice.  Next was chopped cilantro.


 In a bowl, I layered rice, carnitas, lettuce, tomato, salsa and sour cream.  The only thing missing was the black beans.



Friday, November 20, 2009

Brian's Clam Chowder

I'm back from my honeymoon in Cancun and have lots of pictures. I'll get to that a little later. I don't know if you know this, but I Love Clam Chowder. I have since I was little. Not the red Manhattan style, but the creamy, buttery-rich New England kind. As far as I'm concerned it's the only kind.

I've sampled my share. Here in Oregon, most restaurants serve a version on Fridays. Mo's on the beach is often touted as the best chowder out there, but no way, Jose. It uses frozen potatoes. You can buy it as a mix. Disqualified. My favorite in Portland is at Salty's on the Columbia. It is thick and clam-by and buttery. I like it with oyster crackers.

The one that blows them all away is my husband's recipe. He used to be a professional cook, so it's probably a conglomoration of recipes he's used in different workplaces.

He made it for me last weekend. I paid attention and took lots of notes. However, like many soups, it is different every time, depending on time and what ingredients. The last time we used fresh clams; this time it was canned. We use tarragon, but you don't have to. Lemon juice will suffice when champagne vinegar isn't available. Etc.

One thing I learned from Mo's is that a pat of butter melting atop a steamy bowl of clam chowder is a must. Try it.

Brian's Clam Chowder (makes about 4-5 quarts)

3 yellow onions, chopped
1 red onion, chopped
7 stalks celery, chopped fine
2 shallots, sliced
1 head garlic, cloves sliced thin
6-8 oz bacon, diced
1 lb fingerling potatoes, in one inch chunks
1 cup vegetable stock
4 cans chopped clams (6.5 oz cans)
1 bottle clam nectar (8 fl. oz bottle)
10 oz. can whole clams
2 bunches green onions
1 cup heavy cream
4 cups whole milk
2 tablespoons dried thyme
4 bay leaves
fresh tarragon
1 bunch Italian flat-leaf parsley
freshly ground pepper
pinch celery seed
pinch salt
juice from one lemon (or 2 tablespoons champagne vinegar)

In a large soup pot, head 1 teaspoon vegetable oil over medium heat. Add bacon and saute until fat is rendered. Drain fat and transfer bacon into another bowl and set aside.

Deglaze pot with stock and reduce a few minutes.  Add 1 tablespoon butter, then shallots and garlic.

Saute briefly, 1-2 minutes.  Add another tablespoon of butter, then onions and celery.

Saute over very low heat for 30 minutes, stirring frequently.

After 30 minutes, add potatoes and stir.  Add the chopped green onions.

Drain clams, reserving juice.  Add clams to soup.

Add bacon back to the pot, along with cream, milk, clam nectar from cans & bottle, bay leaves and thyme.  Stir well and cook over low heat.

Meanwhile, chop fresh tarragon.

Add tarragon, parsley, fresh ground pepper, celery seed, salt and lemon juice.  Stir and heat for about 30 minutes.  Stir often so a skin doesn't form.

Serve with celery leaves, crispy bacon and/or green onions as a garnish.  Eat!

Mmm, look at that.  All that is missing is a nice chunk of butter. 

Thanks, honey!

*note:  you may notice the pictures show two soup pots.  That's because we made this batch in two pots, adding half the ingredients to each pot.  Maybe it's time to get a great big stockpot.

This is my 100th Post!  Whoo hoo!

Friday, October 16, 2009


Best Dishes or Meals of the month so far:

Bechamel - topped lasagna (my own kitchen)
Duck - the London Grill
Seafood Dinner - Taste of Jakarta (my first Indonesian food!!!)
Cabbage Chicken Salad - Bambuza
Bun Bo Hue - Chino Saigon

Best Birthday Gift:

iPhone - my favorite app is Kindle for iPhone. I've already read 3 books on my phone and am halfway through the 4th.

What should I post about next? I may need to bake something...

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


I am officially giving myself a break for the next 2 months while I finish planning the wedding and actually get myself married off. I may post now and then, but don't look for me back until October.

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Creamy Asparagus Soup

Asparagus, the harbinger of spring. It's a little past spring now as summer is just getting started in the Rose City, but asparagus still has a strong showing at the local markets. Asparagus is one of Brian and I's favorite vegetables and we are always looking for new ways to prepare it.

Earlier this year, when we were planning the menu for my dad's dinner, I wanted to make some kind of soup. We thought about a shrimp or lobster bisque first, but a lot of our menu was already so rich that we wanted something clean and fresh for the soup.

After browsing the various food recipe sites, I came across this recipe from Emeril. It looked simple and refreshing. I especially liked the idea of simmering the woody ends of the asparagus stalks (the part you don't eat) in the chicken stock, infusing it with asparagus flavor.

Creamy Asparagus Soup courtesy of Emeril via the Food Network

3 pounds fresh asparagus, rinsed
8 cups chicken stock
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup minced shallots
1 cup minced leeks, whites only, well rinsed
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan, garnish

Trim the attractive top tips from the asparagus, about 1 to 1 1/2 inches in length. Cut the woody stem ends from each spear and reserve. Cut the remaining tender stalks into 1/2-inch pieces.

In a medium pot, bring the stock to a boil. Add the tough woody stems, lower the heat and simmer to infuse with asparagus flavor, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and discard, reserving the stock.

Add the decorative tips to the stock and blanch until tender, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Remove with a strainer and refresh in an ice water bath. Drain on paper towels and reserve for the garnish. Reserve the stock.

In a medium stockpot, melt the butter over medium-high heat. When foamy, add the shallots and leeks and cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the chopped asparagus stalks, salt, and pepper, and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the reserved broth and simmer until the asparagus are very tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the heat.

With a hand-immersion blender or in batches in a food processor, puree the soup until smooth. Adjust the seasoning, to taste. If serving right away, return to medium heat and add the cream and reserved asparagus tips. Cook, stirring, until the soup is warmed through, about 3 minutes.

Alternatively, if serving the soup later, do not add the cream and let cool at room temperature (or in an ice water bath). Cover and refrigerate. Before serving, add the cream and asparagus tips, and warm the soup gently over medium heat, stirring occasionally.

To serve, place the soup in a soup tureen and sprinkle with cheese. Ladle into demi-tasse cups or small coffee or tea cups, and serve.