Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Thai Red Curry With Pork

I ask you fair readers, what does a cold winter night, a head cold, a few ounces of pork tenderloin in the fridge equal on a weeknight?  Well if you said Thai red curry then you are correct!  Seems like a great antidote to the cold weather (hot, hearty), the over indulgence of the holiday season (simple, straightforward) and a head cold (spicy) all on a budget. 

Now you could go on about making my own curry paste but frankly by the time I hunt down all the base ingredients, make the paste and then store it I'd be into the recipe quite a lot of $s.  I use the Mae Ploy brand of curry pastes and all are very delicious, easy to use and fit the frugal lifestyle quite well at a 14oz tub for $1.69.  I love all the products from Mae Ploy I've tried and I have a jar of their Pad Thai sauce in the cupboard waiting for a time for noodles.

So here it is, grab up some of the curry paste and give this a go for your own Thai evening at home!

Thai Red Curry w/ Pork
  • 1 Tbl Peanut oil
  • 4oz Onion sliced into spears
  • 2 Cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp Crushed red pepper flakes
  • 4oz Pork tenderloin, cut lengthwise in half and then sliced 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick
  • 6oz Carrots, julienned about 1 inch long
  • 1oz Red curry paste
  • 1 Cup Chicken stock
  • 1 Can Coconut milk, 5.6oz
  • 2oz Frozen peas
  • 2oz Red bell pepper, julienned about 1 inch long 

  1. Heat oil over medium heat and add garlic & crushed red pepper to perfume the oil while heating
  2. Add onion spears to the pan and cook until tender, stirring often
  3. Add pork and stir fry until browned
  4. Reduce heat and add the carrots, curry paste, chicken stock and coconut milk
  5. Simmer until the carrots are tender
  6. Add red bell pepper juienne and peas
  7. Remove from heat, allow the curry to sit for a few minutes to soften the bell pepper slightly and thaw the peas
  8. Serve over brown rice

This is delicious, quick and inexpensive.  It makes 2 each 2 cup servings.  When served with rice this makes a nice large portion with another great portion for tomorrow's lunch.  I think this entire dinner cost about $2 for both portions.

I love Thai food and can't afford to eat out as often as I would like to have it so this helps the budget greatly and indulges me in one of my culinary loves.


Thursday, December 17, 2009


So it seems the past few days have gotten away from me and I haven't had a chance to post for a bit.  Work, life, a head cold, etc.  Anyway, tonight was the first night I felt like cooking since the weekend and Henry was out with friends so I treated myself and did a pan roast pork tenderloin with a big pile of broccoli with shallots and red peppers.  Healthy, fast, simple, inexpensive (I'm in this about $3) and mighty tasty as well...

Pan Roast Pork Tenderloin
  • 1/2 Pork tenderloin, silverskin removed
  • Grill spice
  • Olive oil
  • 1/2 C White wine
  • 1tsp Dijon mustard
  1. Preheat oven to 400F
  2. Season the pork loin on all sides with your favorite grill spice and rub in just a bit of olive oil
  3. In a saute pan on medium high heat, sear all but one side of the tenderloin.  Once the tenderloin is turned onto the last side put the pan into the oven.
  4. Roast until the meat just gives when poked with a finger
  5. Remove from pan and let rest, the interior should just be pink or medium
  6. Deglaze the pan with white wine
  7. Stir in the mustard and reduce until only 2 tablespoons of the sauce remain
  8. Slice the tenderloin about 1/2" thick and fan on the plate
  9. Drizzle the meat with the sauce

Broccoli with Shallots and Red Bell Pepper
  • 6oz Broccoli crowns
  • 2oz Red bell pepper cut into strips about 1/4" wide and 1" long
  • 1/2oz Shallot, minced
  • 2tsp Butter
  • 2tsp Olive oil
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper
  1. Steam broccoli for about 2 minutes and set aside
  2. Melt the butter and olive oil in a pan over high heat
  3. Saute the shallot for about 1 minute stirring to flavor the fats
  4. Add the red bell pepper strips and toss for about 30 seconds
  5. Add the steamed broccoli and toss over the heat for about 2 minutes but leaving the broccoli very crisp
  6. Season to tase with salt and freshly ground pepper

And this is what it looks like... I hope you like it


Monday, December 7, 2009

Prosciutto, Walnut & Blue Cheese Crostata

Home late from the doc, need to get some work done, need dinner and a coupla cocktails after a usual Monday...
Need I say more?

Prosciutto, Walnut & Blue Cheese Crostata
  1. Slice & toast the baguette, pugliese, ciabatta or whatever good bread you might have around
  2. Top with blue cheese crumbles, I used Point Reyes cuz that's what I have right now
  3. Top with folded thin sliced prosciutto
  4. Top with chopped walnuts
  5. Put in a 300F oven for 5 minutes
  6. Broil for 1 minute
Serve with the cocktail of your choice; tonight it was vodka tonic for me


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Yummy Pozole On A Cold Night

It's just below freezing at the moment outside Casa Hunger and the low is supposed to get down to 20ish tonight.  Today was a day for chores as yesterday was kind of a wash after a really fun night out with friends and enjoying a John Doe show at a local club.  The show started out a bit lame with the opening act being pretty poor.  Then John coming out and letting us all know he was so sick he shoulda canceled but decided to be a trooper and tough it out.  The voice was more than off the first couple tunes but he warmed up and got a coupla Jamesons in him and it turned into a great show.

The aftermath for me was a day of nothingness on a Saturday as I seemed to be suffering from a bit of alcohol poisoning.  OK, I'll admit - ALOT of alcohol poisoning.  Slept until noon, ate a big greasy meal of basted eggs and home fries with Tabasco and a few beers and still went to bed at 9pm feeling like garbage.  It was a great night out, had a great time but really paid for it.  Getting old sux...

So back to today, I spent some time in the yard doing what could be done on a frosty day; filling the pond, trimming some deadfall off of various summery shrubs, picking up after the dog, etc.  Then indoor chores to get prepared for the work week ahead; laundry, vacuuming, talking to Mum about an order for Bariani olive oil (some of the finest olive oil I've ever enjoyed) and then doing some cooking.  I had to run out for a couple items I forgot for my plans but this is gonna be good. 

Pozole - a favorite of mine and for some reason I love it best at the holidays.  You see it is a hot and hearty, rib-sticking Mexican hominy stew. The flavors are layered into the pot and simmered for hours but it is such a simple dish and can be made to fit anyone's taste spice wise. I love this as a foil for the weather and probably because it makes me very happy to eat it. It is also a great counterpoint to all the things I really don't like about the holidays (all the Xmas consumerism is IMHO tangible proof of the existence of evil but I could go on and on about that so I won't) as it is simple, rich, ancient in origin, highly customizable and very frugal to make.  Give it a try, you won't be sorry...

Jim's Pozole
  • 2Tbl Peanut oil - canola or some neutral oil is OK but it won't be as good, just no olive oil as it is not a Mexican or Southwest flavor and it will come through
  • 12oz Pork shoulder, random 1/2 to 3/4" cubes - sirloin steaks, loin chops, etc - use the cheap cuts cuz the tough bits will tenderize with the long cooking times and they taste better too
  • 12oz Onion, 1/2 inch dice
  • 2 Tbl Fresh garlic, minced
  • 14oz Canned fireroasted whole or diced green chiles
  • 3 each 29oz cans Hominy, drained
  • 12oz Beer, full flavored amber - Doz Equis Oscura would be a good choice here but tonight I used a Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale
Now here's where this can get fun because you can use whatever you have on hand but this is what I used to season this -
  • 2Tbl Ground cumin
  • 1Tbl Dark chili powder
  • 1tsp Kosher salt
  • 1tsp Dried oregano, Mexican if you have it but any will do
  • 1/4 Cup La Victoria Green taco sauce
  • 2Tbl Pico Pica hot sauce
  • 1tsp El Yucateco salsa picante de chile habanero
  • 1 Fresh jalapeno, fresh minced (I removed 1/2 the seeds and interior veins, I like spice but it's fine this way and you can always add more)
Another optional part of this is the cooking method, today I used my dutch oven but if you brown the meat and sweat the onions and garlic in a saute pan you can deglaze the pan with the beer and cook this in a slow cooker so you come home to all the lovely latin food aromas and a hot delicious meal

Dutch oven method
  1. Heat the peanut oil in the bottom of the pan
  2. Brown the pork in the oil
  3. Add and sweat the onions and garlic until translucent
  4. Add the diced fireroasted chiles and hominy, stirring to combine
  5. Add the beer and stir up all the brown bits from the bottom of the pan
  6. Stir in the seasonings of your choice and reduce to a simmer
  7. Cook covered for at least 2 hours or until the meat is tender but the hominy is still toothsome
Serve with a lime wedge or two and some shredded cabbage & radish for a traditional feast.  For a not so traditional turn you can always top with any number of other accompaniments; sliced avocado, sour cream or creme fraiche, various hot sauces or pico de gallo, jack cheese or queso fresco, etc, etc.  I think that gives you a good idea of just how great this is and how flexible it can be.

A beer or a margarita is a nice way to go with this and here was mine...

Along with adding an element of freshness and crunch, don't those radishes make it pretty too?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Weeknight Pan Roast

It's cold here in the Puget Sound area and with the lad home tonight it invokes a hearty dinner.  Tonight we're keeping it simple but still a favorite around Casa Hunger - pan roast chicken breasts dijonaise with buttered carrots and oven roast Dakota russets from our garden this past summer.

Pan roasting a piece of meat is a favorite technique of mine and much used in restaurants where I learned it 30+ years ago.  It's simple, fast and can be completed with a pan gravy of which there are a multitude of flavors and styles.  So here's my take on this for tonight...

Pan Roast Chicken Dijonaise
  • 2 Boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • Grill seasoning of your choice (I make my own and will share that formula soon in another post)
  • 1 Tbl Olive oil
  • 1/4 Cup Dry white wine
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 Cup Heavy Cream
  • Salt & fresh ground pepper to taste
  1. Preheat the oven to 400F
  2. Heat an oven proof saute pan over medium high heat
  3. Pat the breast dry and season liberally with the grill spice
  4. Add the olive oil to the pan and swirl to coat the bottom
  5. Lay in the seasoned breasts smooth side down and cook for about 3 or 4 minutes or until golden brown and delicious or GBD (apologies to Alton Brown)
  6. Turn the breasts and place uncovered in the oven until the breasts are firm but still give slightly to the touch
  7. Remove pan to the range and remove the breasts to a plate and tent with foil to rest
  8. Deglaze the pan with the white wine scraping up the yummy brown bits (the fond)
  9. Reduce by about 1/2 then add the mustard and continue to reduce until only a Tbl or 2 remain
  10. Add the cream and reduce until thickened enough to coatr the back of a spoon, only a few minutes over high heat
  11. Pour the juices from the chicken resting plate into the sauce and season to taste with salt & pepper
  • Spoon a bit of the sauce on a plate and place the chicken breasts, sliced on a diagonal on the sauce and serve with the vegetable of choice.

Simple, delicious and on the table in about 30 minutes and we're into this less that $4.  What more can you ask for on a weeknight? 


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

December 2nd...

So as predicted I didn't post last night but that was because I had to fight the need to write.  Oh no need to worry about me, I was fine once I got through that brief period where I was curled up in a fetal position chanting "must write, must write..." but seriously I did miss it after a full month of writing every day.  I think this will make me a stronger writer overall and it certainly helped me understand that even if no one is reading (which I know some of you are from the comments I get here and on Facebook) I'm still gonna set keyboard to fingertip or something like that as often as I can. 

Tonight I'm starting the prep work for a spaghetti feed for 60ish people in the office on Friday for one of my friends that's getting married.  I don't have to prepare it all but I do need to precook 6 or 8 lbs of pasta.  Now the challenge is that we have no place to cook the pasta or the sauce ahead of time and although we're going with the sauce in the jar and Kraft parmesan we still have to have cooked pasta and the only way we figured we could get this done is to parboil the noodles, pack 'em by the pound in ziplocks and then fill those with hot water from the coffee brewers.  We'll set the jars in hot water for a bit then get them in the crockpots before the feed.   This kind of thing is very fitting for us at work, it's what we do; solve problems.

Our team works really hard and we are a very productive lot but we like to celebrate ourselves and our successes a lot as well.  We many times head out to dim sum for a birthday lunch, or have a breakfast of chicken fried steaks with sausage gravy, biscuits and hash brown casserole (dubbed ex-boyfriend potatoes by the contributor cuz that's who introduced them to her) for which I'll have to share the recipe some day because it is soooo tasty!  Sometimes it's unfortunate how much food passes through our area as it certainly doesn't help the waistline but it sure keeps up the morale at work.  This feed is one of those times.

Did I say I work for a little coffee company where we have coffee brewers and espresso machines about every 100 feet in a building that has more square footage than the Empire State building?  Well I do so the reheat part is probably not going to be too difficult and it's the least we can do for our fellow worker and friend.  In fact two friends as Henry and I are friends both with Chris and his fiance Kelli and we'll even be sitting next to them all next season for the Seattle Sounders FC.  They are a great couple and I'm glad I can help with this festive event.

Now I just have to figure out what to feed myself tonight?  Last night was some refried beans with Pico Pica hot sauce and tortilla chips with a Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale.  Who sez we can't eat well (at least tastily) for not too many $s and quickly when you just don't feel like spending a lot of time over the stove?

I'll be back to cooking again tomorrow night as the lad will be back home from his Mum's but for tonight surrounded by all this pasta it may just be a handful of it with some butter garlic and parmesan unless I can muster the ambition to throw in some broccoli and mushrooms.


Monday, November 30, 2009

Day 30 Mish-Mash And Some Blogger Friends

Living the frugal life is not just about saving money at the grocery store but about many things.  One thing is for sure, running your Xmas lights a full month before Xmas is NOT frugal for your utility bill or the planet.  I don't want to offend but SHEESH people!  The solstice is not even for another 3 weeks and that's the tradition for the lights.  To ward off the longest night of the year! 

Tonight I'll be plenty frugal, it's a beer or two and bed but I thought I'd try and introduce you to a couple of blogger friends before I hit the hay...

Many of you have read that I keep up with my Real Estate Agent Scott Cowan.  He keeps it very down to earth and is very real about the bewildering world that is Real Estate.  He's good to read and has even started a weekly post on saving money so it's right up the alley of this poster and my writing.  He'll talk about everything from saving money while throwing a party (remember our first podcast he published here) to the stuff we all know (like changing the amount withheld from our paychecks) and maybe even introduce you to a company that can help you dress your kids for less too.  Give Scott a go at Classic Homes Northwest or fan him on Facebook.

The first blogger friend I made in the world of Food is Eric Rivera of Eric Rivera's Cooking Blog.  Eric was an avid home chef and insurance broker when I met him through FoodBuzz.com.  I was looking for other members in the Seattle area and there he was from nearby Federal Way and his picture had him sportin' a Mariners jacket along with his smiling mug.  Since that time I have followed him as he writed about following his dream and he has begun attending culinary school and is now working at one of the premier restaurants in our area as a chef.  Talk about fun to follow; Eric's passion for food, his inventiveness and his all around zest for life is not only an intriguing and exciting read but it is more than easy to get yourself sucked into that same enthusiasm as you read.

Here is one of Eric's recent creations - Seared Ahi Tuna with a Pomegranate Reduction Sauce and Goma Wakame Pom Salad

The person I missed the most during my summer hiatus and who has been a great supporter of my writing though is Alice of Sweet Savory Life.  She is very sweet, has encouraged me with her words while inspiring me with many of her recipes and leaving me awestruck with her photos.  She takes something we pass by everyday such as chocolate chip cookies or a discontinued flavor of latte and while recreating the method and recipe somehow elevates these things to superstar status or just plain wows us with one of her own creations.  And if her words don't get you, her photography definitely will.  Her photos are beautiful and as you'll see from her own photo so is she.  As you read along you'll also know it's not just skin deep, either.

Check out this recent tutorial on her blog - How to Frost a Cake

Not just any cake but this one -

Reading in the blogosphere is definitely frugal; no cost to the reader, it gets everyone to share thoughts and both writing and reading other's thoughts are a lot of fun.  As many of you might know, at least those that are aware of my participation in NaBloWriMo, this month has been an exercise in posting every day for the month of November.  I would like to introduce you to a new friend I have made through this event, Rachael.  She is writing a book called Gagging Towards Bethlehem as well as a blog of the same name about how she is a very picky eater.  She commented on my blog so I started following hers but I will warn you, there is a bit of seriously adult content but this lady is a hoot!  Now she's a bit (read that as "alot!") irreverent and a bit naughty too so her writing may not be for everyone but I find it hilarious and she comes up with some funny stuff.  She's young, recently graduated college and wants to be a writer.  From her writing she is obviously smart and having seen her photo she's smokin' hot too.  Check her out, I mean anyone that is a fan of Cooking With Coolio (more adult content and ALOT of adult language) has got to have it all goin' on yes?

Anyway, funny new friends along with inspiring recipes and photos as well as reading about someone following their dream or helping others attain theirs; it's all out there in the blogoshere and it's all free just cuz friends like mine want to share.  I hope you give some or all of these people a read, you won't be sorry.

Day 30 is in the history books and I call it a great success (but I might just take tomorrow off)...


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Home Again...

After the post holiday drive with relatively light traffic for this stretch of highway and we're home.  With all due respect to Mum and the fine citizens of Oregon, it terrific to be home.  I'm looking forward to sleeping in my own bed after 8 nights away.

We arrived to a rather large bloom of algae in the pond so had to deal with that right away but after that and unloading the car, going through the mail and bringing the house up to temperature after the last week it was time for a beer and a couple of turkey sandwiches in front a recorded episode of Gordon Ramsay's F Word.

We came home with a couple of new cooking gadgets (a new mandoline!) and a new recipe or two that will come up in the next month but for tonight, I'm tired so I'm signing off for the week.

As for NaBloWriMo, one more day to go but I must say this has been a good exercise (so far) and I hope will stay with me enough to keep writing more often.  I do still like it even with a forced daily entry, in fact I think I like it writing even more now, I just have to keep it relevant.

Anyway Fair Readers...


Saturday, November 28, 2009

I Was True To My Word...

...Traditional Turkey Day feast is in the books for another year!

With a pre-prandial snack of chanterelles on toast and a bit of Truffle Tremor from Cypress Grove we got to work.  The bird was already in the hotbox and Mum had done the stuffing on Wednesday so I scrubbed some real baby carrots and boiled some spuds.  Henry & Mum had formed rolls from a no-knead recipe that was a real keeper and they were ready to go in when the bird came out so here's how it went...
  • I set the carrots on to blanch
  • Henry mashed the spuds with half & half and butter
  • The bird came out
  • The rolls went in
  • The carrots were drained and tossed in brown butter with salt & pepper
  • The mirepoix from under the bird was brought to a boil with some added turkey stock
  • The rolls came out
  • The stock and veg were thickened and strained
  • The bird carved
  • A bottle of 2005 Carlton Hill Pinot was opened
And we ate
...and ate
   ...and ate
      ...and ate some more

A slight nap on the tube to watch the Huskies beat the Cougars (BOO!) and it was time for...


A simple dinner that tasted great and a toast to Grandpa that brought tears to Mum's eyes and made me a bit sniffly and I think embarassed Henry but we couldn't forget him him during his favorite meal of the year when he was just so recently with us.  He tried...

I know he was with us so we were all together one last time.

Happy Thanksgiving all (so it's a little belated!?!?)


Friday, November 27, 2009

Traditional Turkey Day; Part Deux

For the best laid plans...

Today was a day of errands and so after treating Mum to a fine Vietnamese lunch at Bambuza in Tualatin we picked up the Younger Hunger from his Mum and then ventured to Whole Foods where MY Mum had never been before.  We were on the hunt for some cheeses that were freshly cut or would be freshly cut to our order.  When Mum went for a chunk of St. Andre I responded with a "No, no, no" in my best French and persuaded the cheesemonger to sample us a bit of Pierre Robert whereupon my Mum responded with "OH MY!" and promptly returned her chunk of St. Andre to the case.  She promptly chose a drunken goat cheese and a truffled chevre to go along with that bit of triple creme heaven.

After a bit more perusal and Henry stopping for a bit of gelato, Mum let me know that she will need to return to Whole Foods sometime when she has a bit more time to herself to wander the wondrous aisles.  Now as I told her it is not a place, for me at least, to do my everyday shopping it is in fact a tremendous place to stop for that special something and the cheese selection is non pareil.  At home in Washington I am fortunate enough to have a few other cheesemongers nearby so I needn't rely on WF but for a one stop shop with a tremendous selection as well as a vast plethora of other delights and accoutrements to accompany the cheese, there really is no better IMO.

After that and a trip to Costco and then Trader Joe's, both of which are not just a hop, skip nor jump from Mum's house we returned late but it was a good day; beautiful for a drive and since none of our 3 stops had anything to do with Black Friday all were relatively quiet.  Alas though, it was too late to start our T-day feast so after a quick rest it was out for Mexican and margaritas!  No turkey but a margarita is a good makeup for it methinks and besides the waitress took a liking to the lad and brought him extra of the complimentary little postre they offer at the end of the meal.

So again the cry of TOMORROW! rumbles through our collective psyche at Casa Krebs here in Oregon and we will have our T-day feast come hell or high water (but we did indulge in pumpkin pie after the Mexican food, I mean you say pastel de calabaza and I say pumpkin pie but can't we all just get along?)


Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Traditional Turkey Day...

...Tomorrow that is!

The Younger Hunger spent the day with his Mum at friends in Vancouver today and tomorrow they're headed to Mt. Hood for a festive killing of an Xmas tree and some inner tubing on the mountain.  Then the lad will join Mum and I for a traditional Thanksgiving feast in the evening and some helping of the G'ma around the house on Saturday before heading home to Seattle Sunday morning.

With the recent passing of my Dad, Mum just didn't feel like it felt much like Thanksgiving and although I offered to take her out so neither of us would have to do a lot of prep she opted to stay home and asked me to cook something a bit simple for the two of us.  So with a snootful of holiday vino (2006 Methven Pinot Noir, 2005 Chehalem Cerise and then just a pinch cuz I hadn't had quite enough yet of 2006 Carlton Hill Pinot Noir) I whipped up some fresh linguine w/ broiled salmon in lemon cream with mushrooms.  It didn't suck if I do say so myself and we ate nearly all of it :).

Thanksgiving Pasta
  • 12oz Fresh linguine
  • 4oz Grilled salmon, flaked
  • 8oz Button mushroooms, sliced
  • 2 Tbl Butter
  • 1 Tbl Extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 Tbl Fresh shallots, minced
  • 1/4 Cup Dry vermouth
  • Zest of 1 small lemon
  • 1 Cup Heavy cream
  • 1oz Grated fresh Asiago cheese
  • Salt & Freshly ground pepper to taste
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta
  2. Melt butter with olive oil and saute shallots & mushrooms until wilted and soft
  3. Deglaze pan with vermouth and add lemon zest cooking until nearly all liquid is evaporated
  4. Add the cream and stir until reduced by half
  5. Add grated asiago & stir to melt and blend
  6. Add the linguine to the cream sauce and include some of the pasta water if necessary to keep the pasta loose
  7. Toss with the salmon until it is heated through
  8. Serve with freshly grated black pepper and a lemon twist

Happy Thanksgiving!


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Aww, Nuts!

Or should I write - ahhhh, nuts! 

As I while away the hours here in Oregon and spend some great quality time with my Mum, one of the things she alway keeps on hand is nuts and I do like my nuts!  (not those nuts you dirty readers you but frankly I'm rather fond of those as well if I must say).

My Mum keeps a mix of roasted nuts around at all times as one of her pre-prandial accoutrements.  The folks here in Oregon stop each day for cocktail hour and although they gave up the "cocktail" many years ago in favor of a glass of the grape or a bottle of hopped grain beverage, the hour has stuck.  Many times it is just freshly popped popcorn or some sliced toasted baguette with some olives but the pre-prandial nosh is an institution here.  It makes for not feeling like such a piggie to tuck into a large meal as it's taken the edge off the afternoon hunger pangs or also can be a surrogate to the meal if lunch was substantial; today was one of those days.

Henry spent the night last night to help Grandma through a tough day and even around his time spent on the PSP and the tube he was really good and spent time with her asking what he could do for her.  We played a terrific game last night called "Apples to Apples" and I could see the honest joy in both their faces as we concentrated on the good stuff after a tough day.  Today Henry's Mum Kristin came out and the 4 of us went to lunch at a terrific spot here in McMinnville where the beer is exceptional and the food is always terrific, Golden Valley Brewery & Restaurant.

We ran the gamut on the food with a bacon cheeseburger for Henry, side salad and a bowl of chili for Kristin, Cajun chicken sandwich for Mum and a roast pork sandwich with kraut for me.  All delicious made from scratch in their kitchen onsite and very filling.  Beers for the adults and root beer for the lad along with good conversation and most importatnly family around for Mum.

We walked the main street through McMinnville and did a little window shopping for a bit of post prandial perambulation before Henry and Kristin headed back to Vancouver to spend the evening and the holiday tomorrow with friends.  It will be a quiet holiday for Mum and I but that will be just fine, we'll find a local restaurant and head out as we just aren't ready for the big prep session yet although Mum and Henry did spend the morning making yummy pumpkin pie (breakfast tomorrow?  we shall see :)).

Back to the nuts, it's not a recipe, there's nothing special other than they are always here when we visit but it is a constant and a pleasurable assurance to find these in the same spot each time we roll in.  Mum tells me she goes to to the bulk bins and holds the bags beneath the valve until she has what her eyes and hands tell her is enough and stops.  On returning home she mixes up all the different nuts she gets with the hazelnuts she buys by the 100 lbs (we are in Oregon afterall) and spreads them on sheet pans.  Roasting until they smell good, they are removed and stirred occasionally while allowed to cool and then kept in a big jar for noshing.

Tonight that was dinner for me along with the majority of a bottle of Tre Nova Bonatello Sangiovese.  I'm satisfied with my nuts for dinner and a bit tipsy from the wine but all in all a fine evening with me Mum that we topped off with a rerun of last week's Top Chef.

Sometimes it's the simplest things that bring out the best taste and the simplest times that are truly memorable.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Big Day Today

Dad died this morning.  The day has been filled with visits and phone calls full of both laughter and tears.

I said one too many goodbyes today

Monday, November 23, 2009

Why I'm In Oregon

Originally the Younger Hunger and I had planned to be here to visit for Thanksgiving and Wednesday was the day we were to travel but things took a turn for the worse here and we came early so I could get a chance to say goodbye to one of my Dads.

He has been failing for a while now and although he wanted to make it through his favorite time of year, the Holidays it is now just a matter of hours.  Henry has been staying with friends in Vancouver and yesterday his Mum Kristin was on her way south from the Seattle area and was in a wreck that totaled her car and shook us all up.  She's fine and the car is shot but she and Henry came out today to say their goodbyes and before they left Henry went back to talk to Grampa alone.  I am very proud of him as it couldn't have been easy for his 11 years.

Anyway, the reason I started in on this on my blog about frugality... I'm one of the lucky ones in that I have two Fathers that have always cared for me and felt I was worthy of their time and attention as they taught me the way of life.  True neither has been perfect and we've had our differences along the way but they are both my Dad.  Each have taught me different things and even different ways of looking at the same things.  The Dad in Oregon is the one that gave me my love for fine wine and beer, teaching us that these products are food and the good ones are a product of artists and not industrialists.  He taught me that wine doesn't have to be expensive to be great and that there are also ways once you find the wines you like, to purchase them young at a reasonable price and hold onto those wines until they become something great.

This is also the man that taught me to stand up and fight for my ideals regardless of how unpopular they might be because they are mine but also the same man that taught me the difference between a sasanqua and a japonica camellia for although he was a citizen soldier in WWII he also loved all the flora and all the fauna along with his tough guy persona.

I'll probably pepper my next few days posts with things I've learned from this Dad along the way as I write and I hope you'll all indulge me my memories but I'll still focus on how to live the good life but I'll be thinking of one of the people who taught me to live it along the way.


Sunday, November 22, 2009

The End of Another Week

Copper river salmon that me Mum had in the freezer from the season. 

I broiled and finished it with lemon olive oil and we tried a number of finishing salts Mum had that were new; my favorite was the Turkish black salt as it added a lovely salty and minerally flavor that was clean and robust at the same time without overpowering the fish.  Now Copper River salmon can keep up with a lot of flavor but still salts can be so overwhelming at times so I felt this was the perfect balance of the sampler we had.  You can find this sampler here at The Meadow in Portland Oregon and this is the sampler Mum came up with. I also found out she picked up two of these samplers and lucky me, one is for my Xmas gift; WHOOT!  WHOOT!

Along with a 2006 Chehalem Corral Creek Pinot Noir and then a bit of 2006 Chahalem Cerise and a quick green salad it made for a lovely meal to precede the finale of The Next Iron Chef.  OK, so the cheftestants were nothing to write home about this year but I have to say my new FB friend Anya Fernald is crazy beautiful and knows way to much about food so I could watch and listen to her anytime.

Anyway, another quick post as I need to get up in the am to do some work for my real job - gotta pay the bills you know so it's off the dreaming of sugarplums or whatever it is we're supposed to dream about 4 nights before T-day.  I'll work on less lame and more exciting posts over the next few days in an amongst the work schedule but to all my readers, thanks becaue I am trly thankful that someone out there seems interested enough to write back once in a while and let me know that somehow I'm striking at least one cord or so.  So here's holiday XXs to you all


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Day 21; 9 To Go...

I'm in Oregon watching football with me Mum (yes, American throwball cuz she wants to and cuz I can give a little integrity for Mom but I don't have to like it).  Leftover lasagna from the freezer and 2006 Tre Nova Bonatello Sangiovese from nearby Carlton; seriously good juice.  Not a lot to write about right now other than it was a nice drive down and although slow because we stopped at every rest stop available to walk & water the pooch and let him pee it made for a relaxing trip. 

Dropped the lad in Vancouver, headed to Dundee to drop the dog at the kennel where it was a bit traumatic and I'm glad the youngling wasn't with as he would have tweaked and not let me leave the pooch.  The kennel is top notch but a new one for Butch and the other dogs were cacophonous causing him a great deal of fear and anxiety as the kennel gal (who didn't weigh more than my 105lb ultra strong dog) couldn't get him in the kennel so I had to go in with him and back out.  WHEW!  Not something I really want to repeat but may on Monday when I go for a visit.

Anyway, more later on the reason I'm in Oregon as I just don't want to write about it right now but I will say the vino has relaxed me and I've a full belly so it will be a good night.

This is day 21 and although this post is rather lame the point is I'm still on track to meet my committment of 30 posts in 30 days and I just want to write a bit without feeling like I need to post something meaningful every night so it's back to the UofO v Arizona game and a bit more of this lovely juice (BTW, this counts as frugal cuz it's from the Mum & Da' cellar just in case any of you are keeping track).


Friday, November 20, 2009

Burgers and Buffalo Waffle Fries

Tomorrow is a travel day and we'll be gone for a week rather unexpectedly so we had a last 1/2 lb of ground beef in the fridge so it was cheeseburgers on the grill for us tonight.  The usual Friday fare is pizza but since we were out for that last night we still coulda but didn't wanna. 

The highlight of the meal tonight was another attempt at oven waffle fries and this time we used Alexia brand and I used the convection rather than the conventional oven.  I cooked the fries on a rack and at the same temperature called for on the package as well as the same amount of time but the addition of the convection really made the potatoes crisp and they held up to the sauce very well.

We used the same sauce we had for the oven roasted Buffalo wings a couple weeks back and this time I topped them with crumbled Point Reyes blue cheese from last weeks pizza party.

For a busy night of laundry and packing this meal worked for us nicely and the addition of a couple beers and a Mexican coke for the lad made it even a bit better


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Pizza Out Tonight

With a bit of sad family news today Henry, his Mum and I got together tonight to talk a bit and have some pizza.  It came as a way for Henry to go to his Mum's house tonight so I can get a full day in tomorrow as we'll be heading out of town for a week or so but I'll do my best to keep up with my committment to write every day.

We visited a local pizza chain that brews their own beer called The Rock wood fired pizza and the beer is pretty good, the pizza a bit better and the atmosphere is terrific with a rock & roll theme that focuses on "Classic Rock" and the decor runs to said "classics"; Rolling Stones, AC/DC, Jethro Tull and lots & lots of guitar themed furniture and accoutrements. 

The food and beer are named after rock & roll songs and run quite the gamut with traditional pizza pies next to specialty pies with white sauce, burgers, sandwiches and house made ripple cut potato chips right out of the fryer being a serious high point.

Tonight, we started with the Rock Chips then a 1/2 & 1/2 pie of Henry's choice; the classic (pepperoni & mozzarella on tomato sauce) and the other half the "Wild Child", garlic butter brushed on the dough and topped with mozzarella, blue cheese, spinach, roasted garlic and sauteed mushrooms.

We head to The Rock as it is the best pizza in the north end so it is our spot of choice for a casual pie & beer place.  The chain is local to Western Washington and they are very community involved and sponsor a huge "Battle of the Bands" for high school bands in the area to compete and record playing classic rock songs for a grand prize of $10,000 and $5,000 for second prize to support the winning school bands.  This is the kind of restaurant I can support. 

A couple of beers, a salad and a pie that resulted in leftovers for Henry's lunch at school tomorrow and it's on home to tell the world about it.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Cold & Wet

So it goes here in the Pacific Northwest at this time of year, cold & wet.  We had some lovely weather throughout the day but as I left the city it started coming down and it made for a commute of interest I must say.  It's odd that Seattle-ites continually amaze me even after nearly 20 years here with the fear shown anytime there is any moisture whatsoever on the roads.

What's the best way to combat the cold & wet even when you don't have a lot of time but want something good and homemade?  Why thick and rich soup that's what!  It's a bit silly you didn't get that yourself but that's why I'm here; to help with simple, inexpensive treats.

Tonight it's an old standby, cream of mushroom.  I like to add a few odds and ends to the old standbys like this; sort of change it up a bit or to "kick it up a notch" as the too often used phraseologist might use.  In this version I added a couple drops of Tabasco and dijon mustard and although there is some heavy cream it's just a bit to richen the final product.  The thickness and heartiness of the final product comes from the use of yummy, buttery Yukon gold potatoes so it still meets the somewhat healthy bit while still adding a bit of luxury.

Here it is...

Quick Cream of Mushroom Soup
  • 1 Tbl Olive oil
  • 4oz Yellow onion, diced
  • 1 Large Garlic clove, slices
  • 6oz Button mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 Cup Chicken stock
  • 1 Large Yukon gold potato, peeled and 1/4" diced
  • 1/4 Cup Heavy cream
  • 3 Dashes Tabasco sauce
  • 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • Kosher salt, fresh ground pepper and Old Bay seasoning
  1. Sweat the onions and garlic in the olive oil over medium heat
  2. Once the onions have given off the majority of their liquid, add the chopped mushrooms and continue cooking until soft and a bit dark
  3. Add the chicken stock and diced potatoes and cover to boil
  4. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes or until the spuds are soft and some of the liquid has evaporated
  5. Stir in the cream, mustard and Tabasco
  6. Using a blender (CAREFULLY!) with a towel holding the lid on, blend the soup for 1 minute until smooth
  7. Adjust seasoning with the Kosher salt, fresh pepper and the Old Bay to taste and blend for a few seconds more

Serve with some warm crusty bread and perhaps a fine holiday ale?  I enjoyed a lovely 09 Jubelale from Deschutes Brewing

While this was delicious I also had a couple other things around so I decided to once again try some interesting additions so I garnished the soup with sliced scallions and some crumbled Point Reyes blue cheese.  Maybe I need to top with a bit of bacon next time...Hmmm


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Jim's Special

Although the story goes that the Joe's Special was "invented" or more likely just thrown together as are many of the finest dishes in the world at a restaurant in the North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco and I've always delighted in this fine meal of ground beef with onions, spinach and eggs. 

Tonight, a variation of this is one of my usual delicious, fast, the kitchen sink and everything in the fridge kinda meals to have when there is a lot of little bits of stuff and this was a perfect way to use some of the leftovers from the pizza party we had Saturday as well as a tremendous way to get some hot, hearty food on a plater in just a few short minutes.

I got home hungry and needed to get dinner in me as I have some work I needed to get to as well as some laundry to get in.  So I whipped it up, ate in front of a recorded episode of Mad Men and signed into the network for work but now there's a problem with the application I need so it's time for another beer and some more Mad Men to catch up with and some writin' to do.

This is something you can make to your own taste and with whatever you have and it will (probably) always be delicious if you use all the stuff you like but here's what I came up with tonight and it truly was a...

Jim's Special
  • 1 Tbl Olive oil
  • 3oz Lean ground beef
  • 1oz Red onion, diced
  • 2oz Mushrooms, chopped coarsely
  • 1oz Fresh spinach, washed and chopped
  • 1oz Fresh red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 Tbl Mama Lil's Kick Butt Goathorn Peppers in their oil
  • 2 Eggs, beaten
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1oz Feta cheese
  • Freshly sliced scallions
  1. Brown the ground beef in the olive oil
  2. Add the onions & mushrooms cooking for about 2 minutes while stirring to wilt
  3. Stir in the spinach and let wilt
  4. Add the Mama Lil's peppers and blend everything together with fresh ground pepper to taste
  5. Once this is on the plate, top with crumbled or grated feta (try freezing and grating, excellent way to get it all over)
  6. Top with scallions and serve with toast
I had this with a fine Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale and I do believe I'll have that 2nd one now.

One note about the beef, I use (whenever I can) the ground beef from Mountain Beef.  This is a terrific product from truly free "range" beef.  The cattle are not pasture grazed but freely graze on range plants; desert sage, weeds, etc in Eastern Washington and Oregon.  The beef is so rich and has such a great minerally flavor.  The ground beef is made up of the entire cow; premium cuts included along with the more common and more flavorful cuts.  If you get a chance, try and find some of this fine product.  We're lucky enough to have the racher's themselves visit us at the summer farmer's market so I'm hoarding what I bought and breaking it out about once a month.

Stir in the beaten eggs and scramble until done to your liking


Monday, November 16, 2009

Sometimes I Just Don't Wanna Cook

Mondays are my evening for not doing anything when I get home; no TV, no gym, no nuthin' if I don't wanna.  That being said, I need to feed myself and so these nights happen sometimes where even the most mundane tasks like perhaps even frying an egg just seem to be too much.

Lately these type of evenings tend to run to a nice piece of cheese from the fridge, some baguette and an apple with a glass or two of wine.  Tonight I opted for an even simpler solution; just the wine.

Tonight it was a couple glasses of 2003 Contado Mankas Cabernet Sauvignon from Mankas Hills Vineyards and although this has been open for the past few days it was still delicious.  Some of the characteristics of traditional California cabernets are apparent; a bit of smoky tobacco, hint of leather, dark fruits such as blueberry, blackberry & plums but all without the over the top over-extraction and high alcohol "heat" that seemingly has become de rigueur for many California cabs.  The fruit is a standout, with a good structure of tannins.  The balance is terrific and this is a fine everyday bottle of juice although at the top end of my weeknight selections @ $9.99.  Not expensive as many nice bottles go but with the self imposed $10 limit for a mid-week glass or so it is fine indeed.  This is not a bottle to collect and is drinking well right now and should continue to do so for the next year or so.

The fruit for this bottle have come from the Suisun Valley appellation just to the East over the George Mountains from the Napa Valley where the summers are very warm and the breezes coming up from the Sacramento River Delta combine to grow terrific fruit; not just grapes but many other tree fruits as well.  If this is indicative of the types of wines that can be produced for this price, I'm a fan.

Get out and get some here @ Esquin Wine Merchants in Seattle and I'm sure you can check in with the website to find where you can buy it where you are.