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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Pulled Pork Sandwiches Pretty Much From Heaven

Yep, Rich has done it again.
A nice, lazy Sunday. Back-to-back Christmas movies. Extra kids in the house (winter break). And a smell of slow cooking pork fills our home. Oh, by now I realize that it was very well worth to be awaken by an alarm in the morning on a Sunday. Rich had to get up earlier than usual just to get the pork rubbed.  And now we can smell it!

For the roast he used:

  • pork roast (shoulder) - 4-5 lbs
  • dry rub: salt, pepper, brown sugar, paprika, cayenne
Rub the roast, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 2 hrs.

Combine and pour into the cast iron dutch oven:
  • 2 c. apple juice
  • 1 c. apple cider vinegar
  • 2 TBS Worcestershire sauce
  • 0.5  TBS liquid smoke
  • 0.5 TBS garlic powder
Place the roast in the pan, cover, and slow cook at 325F for about 4 hrs. (pork should pull apart easily.)
Let the meat cool down slightly, to allow you to pull it, and to trim the fat away.  We like to add a little of the broth, in which the meat cooked, back into the pulled pork, to keep it moist.

Serve on top of your favorite toasted buns, topped with some BBQ sauce and tangy homemade slaw. OH SO GOOD!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Beef Daube Proven├žal - a French delight for a rainy day

Ok, I admit, it was very, very tempting to keep all my "Julie and Julia" comments to myself, while watching Rich fidget in the kitchen. A couple of them might have slipped out anyway :)
But who says cooking has to be a serious and somber process! Plus I wasn't the one making dinner :)

It's been a typical wet Pacific Northwest kind of weather weekend, so this French stew-type dish was a perfect fit.

The recipe is really quite simple and economical, and the end result is phenomenal. We used this recipe as a basic guide.
Being a potato-eater, I prefer this served over some rich creamy classic mashed. Not sure how "French" this would be, but like I say, potatoes rule :). My husband, however, is a pasta lover; and since he was in charge tonight, we used wide egg noodles. Regardless, the meal was incredibly flavorful and satisfying. The beef came out tender, vegetables weren't mushy, and fresh herbs with red wine really tied it all nicely together. Try it.

In the voice of Julia Child - "Bon Appetit!"  :)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

For the Love of [Hot] Chocolate

Chocolate rules our house. My daughters are constantly asking for it around here. My husband has it permanently embedded into his shopping list. We love it. We love hot chocolate, we love cold chocolate, we love ALL chocolate!

And today is a perfect day for a nice cup of rich creamy cocoa. It's a lazy, cozy kind of day.  We-don't-have-to-drive-anywhere kind of day.  It's time for some drinking chocolate! So to get the girls off my back, so-to-speak, I entice them with their share first. Extra whipped cream, and chocolate shavings, of course.

It takes them just a couple of minutes to chug it down. Kids... They just don't savor stuff! ;)

But we do! And since we don't have to drive anywhere today, I've decided to add a little "grown-up flair": a splash of Godiva liquor, and some Vanilla rum. Perfectly finished with whipped cream and chocolate shavings, naturally! :)

To make my cocoa, I use this rough formula (per cup):

  • milk - 6 oz
  • cocoa powder - 3 TBS
  • sugar to taste (about 2 TBS for us)
There are two important things to remember in order to make a perfect cup of hot chocolate: do not to let the milk boil, and mix your cocoa powder and sugar with a splash of hot water prior to adding it to the milk. This will prevent the clumps of powder, and will make the cocoa silky smooth.
For our "grown-up" hot chocolate I added about an ounce (total) of Godiva chocolate liquor and Capt. Morgan's Vanilla rum to the cup, before pouring cocoa into it. I also used lavender sugar in place of plain sugar, for an extra hint of blissfulness. Oh, and blissful it was!!! Bottoms up!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Even a Heavy Heart Can Soar. Give Thanks!

Driving out of our long gravel roadway, we looked at each other with complete and unspoken understanding of each other's thoughts for this day: this is going to be a bitter-sweet holiday season. Year 2010 is a year of great losses. Thanksgiving was going to be the first time when we would have to truly face the emptiness left by the dearest people we lost. So it was a somber drive. Recalling the smiles and the laughter of the past, and the agony of the loss, and quietly wondering what will it be like this year...

For the third year in a row now, the Guadan family Thanksgiving is graciously hosted in Seattle by my darling sister-in-law Tina and her handsome husband Justin.

It is such a delight to be here! Everyone is enjoying themselves, including the FIVE dogs freely roaming through the house. The girls are giggling, the wine is passed around, the events are discussed... And then you smell it. It's now flowing from the kitchen into the rest of the house, teasing everybody ever so gently yet with so much power! The bird is out of the oven. The aroma is so intoxicating we can hardly contain ourselves. The dinner is going to be GOOD.

And so we toast to family.  And it feels good. It feels right. It feels grateful. And at that moment I know in my heart, that those, whose seats at the family dinner table were empty this year, are smiling from above. Because it's to their family, and to their legacy.

My heart, heavy with sadness, begins to lift as I am grateful for these beautiful faces:

And for these stinky mutts:

And for this man, whose heart is bigger than a mountain (I know, he doesn't smile for pictures ;) ):

And for Tina's incredible creations laced with love:

This was indeed a day of thanksgiving. Much to be grateful for. I am truly blessed.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Garlic Steak and Fried Bananas - the dinner experiment

I love it when experiments turn out good!
I ran across this recipe while browsing my foodie-friends' blog, and was intrigued from the get go. Steak and bananas? Garlic and cinnamon? Oh yeah. It had to be tried!
Although the original recipe had a NY strip in it (I believe), I used a couple of  T-bones. And about 2x more garlic :)

Oh my,  this steak had an unbelievably satisfying, rich flavor. But of course, it's not just the steak I was sampling, it was the whole deal, with bananas and all. And let me tell you, it was very well worth the anticipation. I really liked the combination of sweet fried bananas and tender garlicky meat! But don't listen to me. Try it for yourself! :)

BTW, the recipe can be found here:

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sunday Delight: Rich's Apple Strudel French Toast

Now and again my husband likes to surprise us with a tasty treat for a weekend breakfast. It's typically quite spontaneous, and always a great delight. Today we were treated to a wonderful, rich and moist French Toast made out of scrumptious apple strudel bread from the Sunrise Bakery.

With just the right amount of cinnamon, and with chunks of apple, this bread makes for a perfect french toast. All you need to add are eggs and milk, along with a couple of other staples, then dress it up with some butter and the REAL maple syrup - voila! Heaven is here.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Breakfast of the Champions :)

This great little hash was inspired by a terrific place in Hood River, Ore. called Sophie's. I was very impressed by their herbed creme frache, and how nicely it tied all the flavors in their smoked salmon hash. So I set out to make my own.
There are two spices, which are the main staple of this dish: smoked paprika (for the hash itself),  and fresh tarragon (for creme frache).

For my smoked salmon hash I fried in a cast iron pan (in small amount of olive oil):
  • potatoes, cubed
  • onions, diced
  • red bell peppers, diced
  • corn kernels (I used canned)
  • smoked salmon lox
  • smoked paprika
  • freshly ground black pepper and salt
For creme frache I whipped together:
  •  Table creme (I usually buy the Nestle brand)
  • Sour creme (just a tsp. or so - depending on how much table cream you use)
  • Fresh tarragon, finely chopped
And of course, perfectly poached eggs - courtesy of my husband, who is a semi-professional egg poacher! :)

A few shreds of smoked gouda added a wonderful touch. I think I'll make this one again! :)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

How about some fish?

Fried fish was quite a staple of Mom's summer cooking. She fried them all: the carp, the cod, the halibut. Cat fish. Mmmmm.
I'm not much of a fish fryer, but once in the blue moon, when the mood strikes right, I don't mind a nice fried fish fillet. Here's to you, Mama! :)

  • 1 lb white fish ( such as cod, snapper or halibut)
  • 0.5 c. flour
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • salt/cracked black pepper/parsley flakes or fresh
  • 1 c. panko crumbs
  • 0.5 c. fresh Parmesan (shredded)
  • 2 TBS oil
Prepare three bowls: #1 - flour; #2 - beaten egg with spices (above); #3 - panko and parm mixed together. Preheat your frying pan (I like to use my trusted iron one), add oil, we're ready to dip & fry!
Coat the fillet in flour, dip in the egg mixture, now coat with crumbs, and throw on the pan. Fry on medium heat until crust turns a beautiful golden color (about 2-3 min. per side). Done!
What's on the plate? Fish that's moist, yet not greasy. Crust that's flavorful, yet not overwhelming. It's a perfect combination of textures. Go ahead, break it open with a fork. You should hear a gentle crunching of the panko crust as the tender, flaky fillet is revealed. Mama dunnit right! :)  Enjoy.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

No More Boring Spaghetti!

What's the fastest, cheapest dinner besides mac & cheese? Spaghetti, right? I mean, you get a package of ground meat, a jar of sauce, a box of noodles - how hard can it be?
For a while, our family had spaghetti dinners weekly! If you've tried this, you know how fast one can "spaghetti out". :) I did!
But I'm not about to urge you to start making all-from-scratch slow-simmer spaghetti sauce, or to start making noodles in your kitchen. Not that it's not worth it. But c'mon - who's got time for this?!
You can, however, turn an ordinary, "everyday" spaghetti into a "superstar" spaghetti  by adding just a couple of extra ingredients. For mine, I've made a sauteed mushroom-garlic-peppercorn topping, and substituted ground beef for sweet basil Italian sausage from our local butcher shop. Oh, what a glorious plate of pasta I got!

To make mushroom topping I used:
  • 8 oz fresh button mushrooms, finely diced
  • 2 big cloves of fresh garlic, minced
  • about 1/4 tsp of freshly-ground black peppercorns
Add about 2 TBS of oil to a skillet, then, once hot, add mushrooms. Sautee on med-high heat just until they start turning golden.

Next add garlic and pepper. Mix, and take off the heat. This will go right on top of your sausage and sauce, followed by freshly grated cheese, and some fresh basil. Super fast, super easy, and MMMMMM.. super good!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Hood River, OR: eat, love, and be merry!

We love Hood River. It has a certain spirit that none of the other local small towns have: it's active, it's vibrant, it's alive. A perfect place to celebrate our love for each other, for good food, and for people.
We stayed at the little place called The Oak Street hotel. What a lovely place! Although tiny by some standards, our room was fabulously romantic, with great views of the Gorge, and offered everything we needed.

Hood River boasts in its ability to offer some of the best prized food, wine, and beer around. And we agree. But truly, it's the people who make it memorable: the girls serving food at the Full Sail Brewery, eagerly sharing everything they know about the place;  a clerk at the Toy Shoppe, graciously going beyond the expected service; a cashier at the souvenir store, extending her hospitality and knowledge of the locale; a couple at the winery, treating each person there with a sincere desire to get to know them; a restaurant owner, humbly offering her very best. At times like this is when I realize that this broken world is full of great people, and I love it!  :).

Here's a short recap of some of the best food experiences:

  • Full Sail Brewery

A spunky little dessert called "Session Black Float" - vanilla ice cream topped with exceptionally creamy black lager. O.M.G.!!!

  • Big Horse Brew Pub

A definite highlight for us was their Kentucky Common brew. We have never tasted anything like this before: a sour beer. It reminded me of the handcrafted brews from the Gorbachev-prohibition-era: 75% barley, 25% corn, and a tad of sour mash :). I can't say this beer wins a taste test for me, but certainly a first-place winner for originality.

A Northwest Steak Sandwich from the Big Horse. Smoked, thinly sliced prime rib, sauteed onions, roasted poblano peppers, melting pepper jack, and horseradish. I won't say anything more. Just look at the picture.

  • Cathedral Ridge Winery
What a great, cozy place, and oh so generous! We especially enjoyed their French Oak barrelled 2008 Chardonnay, and the Bronze-winning 2007 Syrah.

  • The 6th Street Bistro
A super-casual little spot, tucked away off, yes, 6th St., offering seating on the outside loft, as well as inside. Their Grilled Salmon Wrap made for a tasty and filling lunch.

  • Sophie's
And finally, the winner is.... Sophie's.  This place was, hands down, an absolute winner of all culinary delights we've indulged in while on this trip. Located outside of the main downtown dining strip, this humble and unassuming place holds a BIG surprise for those who enter.

We had  the pleasure to experience some of the most pronounced flavors from Sophie's' brunch menu, and of course, were not left disappointed.

If the Food Network came to me, asking what's the BEST thing I've ever had for breakfast, I would, without slightest hesitation declare it was Smoked Salmon Hash from Sophie's.
A rather generous serving of cold-smoked salmon, with wonderfully seasoned cubed red potatoes, a great variety of garden veggies, topped with two poached eggs, and finished with herbed creme frache. With this dish you get the combination of textures, and a flavor that's practically bursting to come out of that plate. No grease, no mush, just right. THE BEST. EVER.

Rich, being on a quest for the perfect eggs benedict, was very happy with another one of Sophie's treats: their Classic Eggs Benedict, which features house-made English muffins, topped with a poached egg, Canadian bacon piled high, and covered by rich, boldly-flavored brown butter Hollandaise. Simple and phenomenal. We will be back - hungry, and looking forward to Sophie's dinners!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

You found it here first: Loose Meat Sandwiches by Rich

This great recipe was birthed by my husband Rich after visiting Philadelphia earlier in the summer, and making sloppy joes for dinner one night. I know, go figure! Sometimes our inspirations come from all kinds of places! :)

For the sandwiches you will need:

  • 1 lb  ground beef
  • 1 Tbs. oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 2 tsp. brown sugar
  • salt & pepper
  • 8 slices provolone cheese
  • 4 hoagie rolls
Heat the oil in the skillet, add onions, and cook until just slightly browned. Now add garlic and chili powder, and cook for about 1 minute longer.

Add ground beef, salt, pepper, and brown sugar. Reduce the heat, and cook until the meat is done, about 4-5 minutes. Make sure to be breaking up the beef into tiny pieces.

To make these loose meat sandwiches truly exceptional, use bakery-fresh hoagies. The ones from the bread isle (in the bag) are too soft and will get soggy fast. Plus you really need that soft squishy inside, but nice, slightly crunchy crust to achieve the intended flavorful result. Both Safeway's and Fred Meyer's bakeries carry nice fresh rolls which are actually cheaper than a bag version!

We toasted our rolls in the oven, at 350F, for about 3-4 minutes. Next, slice the roll, put a couple of slices of provolone, and stuff with beef filling. This final step has to be done fairly fast, so that you get that wonderful beef-cheese meltiness going :).

What will you serve your sandwiches with? A side of steak fries? Wala Wala onion rings? A good crunchy pickle? Enjoy! And please let us know your feedback! :)

On a Quest for the favorite bakery. Ken's Artisan, Portland, OR

Not all bakeries are created equal. Some are smelly. Some are overpriced. Some hardly offer anything. And some are exceptional. Ken's Artisan on NW 21st in Portland makes me happy.
A tiny little corner pad can hardly fit a steady stream of people who want nothing more than a morning cup of coffee and a pastry to go with their morning paper reading. Then there are those who come to grab a fresh loaf of wonderful goodness for dinner. Families! I love to see families enjoying each other's presence; kids indulging in their cream puffs using their whole face. And above all this commotion floats a cloud of heavenly smell of freshly baked crusty bread. Mmmm. This bakery is certainly exceptional.

Vika goes for the Passionfruit Mango Tart: a generously-sized, meringue-topped delight with a bold tropical flavor.

Being a croissant junkie, I chose one filled with ham, asiago, and tarragon.

Finally, we finish with a trio of Macarons: pistachio, huckleberry, and caramel-sea salt. A nice, light, and slightly chewy little bon-bon, which made our hearts sing.  Definitely exceptional!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

In the spirit of baking untraditional pies. Here comes the apple!

I absolutely love this pie! I'll share the recipe, but will let the pictures do all the talking. You know.. that "one picture is worth a thousand words" thing :)

  • 1 c. flour
  • 0.5 tsp. salt
  • 1/3 c. chilled butter
  • 1/8 c. ice water
  • 1/8 c. vodka (I used vanilla vodka)
Mix together salt and flour, then cut butter into this mixture, until coarse crumbs form. Now add your liquids, a spoon at a time, while tossing with a fork - until dough forms. Shape it into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and stick in the fridge for about 30 minutes.

Filling (mix together):
  • 7 medium Gravenstein or Granny Smith apples - thinly sliced
  • 0.5 c. sugar
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. salt

  • 3/4 c. brown sugar
  • 3/4 c. flour
  • 0.5 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/3 c. chilled butter
Mix together brown sugar, flour, and nutmeg. Cut butter into this mixture until you have coarse crumbs once again.

Roll the dough on a floured surface with a rolling pin, then fit into a 9-in. pie pan. Make sure to leave at least 1-inch overhang. As you will see from the picture, I'm not a "crust master", therefore, my crust is as boring-looking as they come. If you know how to make the crust look pretty, with all the squiggly edges, please talk to me! :)

Now spoon the apple filling into your crust.

Sprinkle apples evenly with topping, and bake at 400F, on the lowest rack, for about 35 minutes - until topping is browned.

Now the pictures:

Perfect crust - CHECK (thank you, vodka!)

Perfect golden topping - CHECK

Filling done right , not too crunchy, not too mushy - CHECK!

Fresh ice cream is a MUST! Enjoy.