Sunday, January 30, 2011

Break out the Chacos

On Saturday, we hiked the Dry River Gorge which is an extinct waterway that emptied the Ice Age "Lake Millican."  It was an easy 4 mile hike that meanders upstream on the canyon floor.  No pictures from our hike since we were rushing to finish before sunset.   

Two interesting items about the Dry River Gorge:
1.  Modern petroglyphs adorn some of the boulders
2. Two Ponderosas grow there, and they need 14 inches of rain to grow, and the canyon receives less than 10 inches.

Today, we explored Cline Falls and walked along that section of the Deschutes River.  Gorgeous stretch in particular, due to the high water level.  We will venture back with fishing poles soon.

A pair of swans

Cline Falls

Several layers of clothing and Chacos

Photo credit to Emil Teague!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Spring is here!

Or, we're having a delightful warm spell!  All this week has been sunny, 55 degrees and clear blue skies.  I've done several long walks to soak up my daily Vitamin D.  The remaining chickens are faring well despite being locked in their coop all the time now.  We think a big horned owl or a coyote has been snacking on them.  Bummer! I was hoping they eloped with the roosters down the hill.

Eight deer came by for a visit this afternoon, and I love seeing them.  They stopped by the front yard to say hi and then ventured on to the usual side yard.

Up next:  Possibly checking out Sisters Movie House, similar to Bear Tooth in Anchorage this weekend.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Malted Milk Powder (Ovaltine) and Instant Espresso Powder

These two items greet me every time I open the cabinet.  I bought them each for a particular recipe, and now my goal is to use them up.  The recipes below use the instant espresso powder.  It's easy to miss at the grocery store, so look carefully for a small jar in the coffee aisle.

In May, our dear friends, Teri and Troy return for a visit on their way back to Alaska.  Troy loves cinnamon, so I wanted to try out Cinnamon Squares, another recipe from Dorie Greenspan.  They are wonderful.  Although, I may trade in the bittersweet chocolate for semisweet chocolate on the next round.  Please note, I didn't frost them.  I didn't buy enough chocolate.  I'm not sure they really need frosting.

1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
3/4 cup whole milk
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped, or 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces

Getting Ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 F. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan and line the bottom with parchment or wax paper. Place the pan on a baking sheet.

To Make the Cake: Stir 2 tablespoons of the sugar, 2 1/2 teaspoons of the cinnamon and the espresso together in a small bowl.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, the remaining 1 1/4 cups sugar, the baking powder, salt and the remaining 1 tablespoon cinnamon. In another bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs and vanilla. Pour the liquid ingredients over the flour mixture and gently whisk until you have a homogenous batter. Now, using the whisk or a rubber spatula, fold in the butter with a light touch, just until the butter is absorbed. You'll have a smooth, shiny batter.

Scrape half of the batter into the pan and smooth the top. Sprinkle the chocolate over the batter and dust with the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Cover with the rest of the batter and smooth the top again.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the cake is puffed and beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan; a thin knife inserted into the center will come out clean. Transfer the cake to a cooling rack and let it rest for 15 minutes before unmolding it onto another rack. Peel off the paper, invert it onto the first rack, and cool to room temperature right side up.

To Make the Frosting: Put the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and fit the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Cook, stirring gently and often, just until they melt. Be careful not to overheat the mixture so much that it thins out; the chocolate should be smooth, very shiny, thick and spreadable. (If it thins, leave the frosting at room temperature for a bit, until it thickens a little.)

Using an offset metal icing spatula or a table knife, spread the frosting in generous sweeps and swirls over the top of the cake. Allow the frosting to set at room temperature, then cut the cake into 9 squares, each about 2 1/2 inches on a side.

Chocolate Expresso Cookies

I pulled the recipe for these delicate cookies from, one of my go to websites for new baking ideas.  I'm not sure the espresso comes through very much, so if you're not a fan of coffee, try them!  They didn't spread much and are super soft in the middle.

Next up...searching for malted milk recipes.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Day trip to Sisters, Oregon

It was a gorgeous sunny day today in Central Oregon!  I opened up the doors for fresh air and almost uttered the words, "it's hot."

Almost short sleeve weather...

We headed to Sisters, Oregon about 20 miles from our house.
Population of Sisters is 1,706, and it's a very cute town.  Had lunch at Bronco Billy's Saloon.

Prime rib sandwich with sauteed onions, creamy garlic sauce and melted cheese

Then, we walked around town for the rest of the afternoon.  Stopped in the most amazing antique shop.  Wish Dad and Uncle Ron could've been there to see some of the tools, marbles, and plumb bobs!

Clay marbles

Antique plugs

Emil and a Stanley #8 Plane

Assorted old tools

I LOVE these chickens!

Plumb bob from the 1800's

My favorite picture is the birdhouse made from a cowboy boot.  Just plain awesome.

We also stopped by The Fly Fishers Place, and Emil has a casting lesson with them on Monday.  The guide is super nice and friendly.  And as another Alaska connection, he was a guide in Bristol Bay for five years.

Enjoy the weekend!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Writing and all that goes with it

My good friend, Katie, calls me often, and I am so thankful for our random wonderful conversations.  I bring this up because I am usually doing research for my book or goofing off.  And this is how our conversation goes:

Katie:  Hey!  How are you?
Me:  Good.  What's the weather in Anchorage?
Katie:  Cold.  What are you doing?

Here's some of the responses I've had over the last few months:

1.  I just googled southern last names.  I need a different last name for my main character.
2.  Eating popcorn and reading a book on making cards with rubber stamps.
3.  Looking at  My main character has a shoe fetish.  What are some high end brands?
4.  Looking at  My main character also has a lipstick fetish.  I know you love lipstick too.  What are some good colors and brands?
5.  Dusting the logs inside.
6.  Nothing.  Absolutely nothing.
7.  Making cards.
8.  Giggling as I am putting together a birthday present for Josh.
9.  Playing with the cats.
10. Taking pictures of the dinner I just made.

Actually, maybe those were just last week's responses.

Many of you have inquired about my book since this is "my year of writing."  It's going fairly well, and I've gotten into a schedule.  First, I turn on the computer.  Next, I make a snack, either popcorn or roasted potatoes.  Next, I sit down and find where I left off writing from the evening before.  Next, I make hot tea with honey.  Next, I write out a few sentences.  Next, I heat my cold tea up in the microwave.  Then, I give the cats a treat.  Oh, and I play Pandora on the Jason Mraz station so I have tunes in the background.  Course, I skip every other song since it's John Mayer.  Yuck.

Somewhere in between all that, I work on my storyboard.  I have a huge piece of cardboard with yellow sticky notes in neat rows.  On each sticky note, I write the setting, characters and storyline for that particular chapter.  I am constantly rearranging them as I come up with some grand idea while I am making breakfast or working out.

I don't know how published authors write books, but as you can see it takes me awhile to get into the mood to write.  It's a totally fun process, and I'm really enjoying it.  If you could see my face, as I write certain scenes, you would laugh.  A lot.  I am channeling my Mother, Tom Bunger, my many bad dates, and my overactive imagination.

Oh yeah, an update.  I've written 41,406 words.  My goal is about 75,000 or so.  Then, the editing begins.

Well, Pandora is playing Jack Johnson.  I have dark chocolate covered almonds sitting next to the computer, and I am skipping tea tonight.  Better get busy.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Level 2

We had grand plans today to hike and explore Dry River Gorge since it was a balmy 50 degrees, but rain soon cancelled our plan.  Next, we decided to explore Dillon Falls in the rain, but snow and ice covered the road.  Finally, we ended up spending our Christmas giftcards and shopping at Trader Joe's, Eddie Bauer (fantastic winter clearance sale) and REI.

After REI, we checked out Level 2 Global Food & Lounge  I read about it in The Source Weekly and remembered they have pork belly sliders on the appetizer menu.  We sat at the bar and had two lovely rounds of appetizers (very reasonably priced) and cocktails.  The bartender was super friendly and informed us they are one of the only restaurants with Blind Pig IPA on tap.  He also talked about the local vodka and gin they use as well as the upcoming menu change.

Here are some pics of our delicious food:

Smoked pork belly sliders for $5.  Seriously.

Grilled bok choy with shrimp and slow braised pork fried rice with sweet soy

Ahi Tuna Poke with crispy wonton, sambal soy vinaigrette, wasabi creme, macademia, and soy reduction

Potato Croquettes with masa, cotijo cheese, avocado creme and pico de gallo

If you go here, skip the potato croquettes, and double the order of smoked pork belly sliders.  Yum!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Saveur Magazine

This months' Saveur magazine has great articles and recipes.  It's becoming one of my favorite magazines, and I'm thankful for the subscription (thanks, Wendy!).

Couple of standout items:  Kozlik's Triple Crunch Mustard.  I will be on the hunt for this at my grocery store.  It sounds wonderful, and I use mustard in many of my recipes.  In fact, I add mustard to almost all of my dishes, except baking.  It's one of those ingredients that gives food a little zip.

James Beard's American Cookery book.  It's on my list to buy at a used bookstore.  It's an essential encyclopedia of regional American cooking.

I also clipped six recipes from the magazine ranging from bacon and cheese deviled eggs to osso bucco.  Will try them out over the coming months and keep you posted.

Hope you are cooking and eating well this winter!

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Sunny Sunriver

Today was a gorgeous sunny day, and we explored Sunriver, which is about 40 miles from our home.  It's a small town with tons of snow.  Stopped in at Sunriver Resort, and they have some beautiful art on display, second floor.  Here are a couple of pictures from the resort:

Huge ornaments on a tree

Sunriver Main Lodge

What I really liked best about Sunriver were the trees.  The houses are nestled among the trees.  Seems like the builders were intentional in keeping as many trees as possible, and the drive around town is just so pretty with all the snow.

We also stopped for a quick lunch at Bend Fish Company.  I read they were now serving Hawaiian food.  Emil opted for fish (mahi mahi) and chips, and I chose the Hawaiian lunch plate with chicken, potato-mac salad and peanut coconut slaw.  The side items weren't very good, but the chicken was super tender and moist.  I give them extra points for the eight different kinds of tartar sauce for the fish, and the hand-cut fries were delicious.  So, if you go, choose different side items for the lunch plate...

Props for big portions too!

Jerk tartar sauce and Wasabi tartar sauce

Friday, January 07, 2011

Darn Good Cornbread

Being from the South, I like really good cornbread (not too sweet).  It's easy to whip up, all of the ingredients are generally on-hand, and it's a perfect companion to homemade chili or Campbell's Tomato Soup.  The key to moist cornbread is letting it sit for 20 minutes after it's all mixed up.  The cornmeal has time to absorb the wet ingredients, and it will bake up SO MOIST!

Here's the recipe:

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
2 eggs
1/4 cup butter, melted
1. In a mixing bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the milk, eggs and shortening; beat for 1 minute. Pour into a greased 9-in. square baking pan. Rest for 20 minutes.  Bake at 425 degrees F for 20-25 minutes or until bread is golden brown and tests done.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Orange Berry Muffins

Come visit me in Central Oregon, and I will make you these AMAZING muffins.  Just tried them out tonight since I had leftover buttermilk from the Cocoa-Buttermilk cake last week.

They are so light, and the orange zest comes through very nicely.  The recipe came from Dorie Greenspan's new book that I've mentioned in earlier posts.  Enjoy!

Eating them warm from the oven is perfectly acceptable

Orange Berry Muffins

Grated zest and juice of 1 orange
About ¾ cup buttermilk
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons honey
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
⅓ cup sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
2½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup blueberries – fresh, preferably, or frozen (not thawed)
Decorating sugar, for topping (optional)

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter or spray the 12 molds in a regular-size muffin pan or fit the molds with paper muffin cups. Alternatively, use a silicone muffin pan, which needs neither greasing nor paper cups. Place the muffin pan on a baking sheet.
Pour the orange juice into a large glass measuring cup or a bowl and pour in enough buttermilk to make 1 cup. Whisk in the eggs, honey and melted butter.
In a large bowl, rub the sugar and orange zest together with your fingertips until the sugar is moist and the fragrance of orange strong. Whisk in the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and, with the whisk or a rubber spatula, gently but quickly stir to blend. Don’t worry about being thorough – the batter will be lumpy and bubbly, and that’s just the way it should be. Stir in the blueberries. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups.
Bake for 22 to 25 minutes. If you want to top the muffins with decorating sugar, sprinkle on the sugar after the muffins have baked for 10 minutes. When fully baked, the tops of the muffins will be golden and springy to the touch and a thin knife inserted into the center of the muffins will come out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 5 minutes before carefully removing each muffin from its mold.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Asparagus and Proscuitto

Mission:  The homeowners gave me these two ingredients to whip up for an appetizer. 

They invited friends over for their last night in town and invited us to join them, so I checked out my favorite website ( and found a great recipe.  I tweaked the recipe a bit and wrapped the proscuitto around the asparagus and roasted at 450 degrees for 8 minutes (brushed with olive oil).  The asparagus was really thick, so if you use thinner asparagus, reduce the cooking time.  Beautiful appetizer!

Asparagus and Proscuitto Crostini with Fonduta

Ready for the oven

Ready to eat

Next time I make this appetizer, I'll throw in some coarse ground mustard and a shot of hot sauce to kick up the cheese sauce.

Hope everyone's 2011 is going well!  This will be a big year full of new adventures and good changes!

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Happy New Year to Everyone

2011 is here.  Anyone set some resolutions? 

We had a nice quiet evening at home.  I made Panko-Crusted Chicken with Mustard Maple Pan Sauce.  A few revisions:  sear the chicken breasts, then finish in the oven for about 8 minutes, and let it rest while you do the sauce.

The leftover sauce is great on grilled ham and cheese sandwiches the following day.  Thanks to Katie for turning me on to a delicious recipe!

I also whipped up my first big time cake with buttercream frosting.  The jury is still out on the cake, but the frosting is fantastic!  Many thanks to Chef Sara on helping me locate malted milk powder at the grocery store. 

Cocoa-Buttermilk Cake with Chocolate Malt Buttercream

It was fun spending the afternoon in the kitchen, listening to Fleet Foxes (thanks, LoMo!) and baking.  The chickens are laying eggs again, so look for more recipes to use up all the good eggs!

Hope everyone had a good time last night!  Sorry to miss out on the Tom Bunger Burn Party.  Looks like an annual party now, and a good intro to becoming Social Director for the group!