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  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.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Voula's Offshore Cafe

If ever you get to Seattle, here is a tremendous place to stop for some food.  Not just food but GREAT food and lots of said GREAT food - Voula's Offshore Cafe.  I've written briefly about this place before but now that we have a second visit under our belts (at least after loosening said belts) I feel I need to give you a bit more to try out this incredible place.

Today Henry and his Mum and I ventured into town for a late breakfast.  We find that a breakfast together now and then is a great way to catch up and synch our heads around the upbringing of said Younger Hunger including but not limited to schoolwork, holiday scheduling, discussions around things like youngsters and cell phones... we could go on and on but I'm sure you parents out there and also single parents that do their best to present a united front with their offspring understand but I digress...

Back to Voula's... Henry's Mum had not been to this particular eatery before and this was our second time and Henry has decided it to be his favorite breakfast place and I believe I'm quickly getting to the agreement place with him on this.  Today Henry had his first ever omelette and was pretty surprised at what 3 eggs filled with bacon and cheddar on a plate full of crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside hashbrowns can bring to the party.  At Voula's they do rolled omelettes on the grill and this is my favorite method because it makes for a creamy center and a lovely yellow (no brown!) product and if any of you ever worked for a chef that threw out omelette after omelette while you continued to work your ass off to get the perfect yellow but completely cooked eggie product out, you know what I mean when I say "NO BROWN!".  Henry ate about 3/4 of this along with about 1/2 the hashbrowns and 2 pieces of toast.  I think he's about to start eating his weight each day...

Henry's Mum Kristin went for the bacon, spinach, mushroom and swiss cheese omelette and only got through about 1/2 of it and 1/4 of her hash browns.  Best part of this is I get the rest of her breakfast to roll into breakfast burritos for the next couple days.  MMMMMMmmmmmmmmMMMMMM!

On to what could really be up there with the best breakfasts of my life; the weekly special and billed as the Guy Fieri choice, the Kickin' Chicken Hobo - chicken Italian sausage with onions and mushrooms scrambled with 3 eggs and hashbrowns and then topped with melted gorgonzola.  Tap on a few drops of Tapatio and golly, that some gooooooood eatin'!

This was at about 11:00 am today and I haven't eaten since so I'm gonna chock this up to pretty frugal dining out.  Breakfast for 2 with coffee and juice and counting the leftovers for about 3 more meals all for about $30 is a great way to end the week.

The week is now at an end and that's about all I got for the time being.  I'll do my best to come up with a few more topics about which I can be more verbose this week.


Saturday, November 14, 2009

A Great Party...

Saturday night and I'm tired so this will be short but we had a dinner party for 6 tonight and did it for ~$20.  An easy way to have a fun party for a few peeps is a pizza party!

Get a few things together; a few familiar things and some not so much and make a big batch of dough.  I doubled my normal batch and it turned out great.  6 each 10" pies and everyone could choose what they wanted and make their own.  I rolled out the discs of dough and turned it over to the eater on the peel and tossed it in the oven for each.

Some of the ingredients tonight were sopressata, proscuitto, hot coppa, hot Italian sausage, chorizo, mozzarella, Point Reyes blue cheese, feta, walnuts, scallions, red bell peppers, prawns, bosc pears, fresh fennel, marinara, olive oil and so on and so forth.

Top this off with a 2006 Scherrer Old & Mature Vines Zinfandel and a 2005 Witness Tree Chainsaw Pinot Noir and Crater Lake orange cream soda and Hansen's natural root beer for the kids and it made for a pretty memorable evening.

BUT WAIT!  That's not all...

Henry made what I truly believe is the best chocolate cake I've ever eaten.  He worked on this thing for almost 5 hours and made it completely from scratch, filling and all.  The cake was toothsome but still tender and was filled and iced with homemade from scratch chocolate pudding.  This was a recipe from the good folks at America's Test Kitchen and Cook's Country and is called the Chocolate Blackout Cake.  3 layers of cake and pudding all with a topping of crumbled cake.  MMMMMMMMMM!

To finish the evening we tried our hand at recording a podcast of everyone's reactions to the food and the company and we'll get that posted soon on friend Scott's blog so look here for a link in the next few days.

Anyway, it was a tremendous evening of great friends, great food, great wine and now I'm spent...


Friday, November 13, 2009

2007 Tertius Tinta De Toro

Earlier in the week I opened a lovely little bottle of full rich juice with the flavors of blackberry jam, dried cherries and even a little bit of strawberry with a bit more than a hint of vanilla.

While this may sound kind of light, this bottle packs a great fruit bomb with enough tannins to keep things interesting, a great balance of acid (don't be afraid of acid in vino, everything needs balance and without the acid there is no fruit).  This was a great quaffer, it holds up well with food and is even delicious the 2nd day.  This is where a lot of bargain wines really fall flat, the day after but this was absolutely lovely the next day.  If you remember my post about cold wet evening gnocchi, this was what I was drinking during the cooking and along with the meal.

An absolute bargain at the $7.99 I paid, this is worthy of a price perhaps even 3 times as much.  Get out and get yourself some of this good stuff


Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Why, Nearly A Year Later

When I started this project last January, I wrote about how I had often said I could feed Henry and I on $200 a month and some of my firends challenged me to do just that.  The blogging part came about because I wanted to document not only the challenge but the actual exercize of feeding us both regardless of success of failure.

If any of you have been following since the beginning, first let me say thank you for sticking with me even through this past summer's hiatus.  On top of that you have seen that I was able to meet the goal, was invited to share some of my learnings through a program showing people receiving the state food assistance that they can feed themselves naturally with fresh foods and not just packaged crap and you've also seen something something else - the fruits of the budget thinking.  Even when I wasn't keeping track of every penny, I still kept an eye towards fresh and healthy but with a budget mindedness.

As I speak about the fruits of the budget thinking, I'm referring to our ability to buy a house this year.  Anyone in the Puget Sound area knows that buying a house here is tough if for no other reason the homes here are just darned expensive.  I was lucky; I wanted a small house, wanted to downsize our living space, our possesions and our lifestyle.  What we got were smaller bedrooms, a single living space (no multiple living / family rooms), a single bath and a small kitchen.  All of this is what I wanted even the smaller kitchen which surprises some people but it's true.  We just don't need a lot of room and a lot of gadgets and along with the idea I was attempting to get across in an earlier post about not needing a microwave or a dishwasher, the idea of downsizing fits in well simplifying our life overall.

This is the 3rd house purchase I've been involved with and I knew that based on previous experience I truly dislike everything about the process; from the looking at potential homes to signing the final loan papers, I find the whole thing unpleasant at best.  I was lucky however to engage the help of a friend for many years, Scott Cowan of Classic Homes Northwest.  He listened to what I wanted, actually heard (this is very important) what I was saying and then was able to help discern what to start looking for in earnest after we had seen a few homes.  Now it was still not an easy process, we probably looked at well over 50 houses and after a couple weeks I needed to take a break from looking, Scott listened and didn't push.  When I was ready to resume shopping he was able to provide me with a number of possibilities and then in short order came up with the home we ended up purchasing.  Scott helped make what had in the past been a bad experience into dare I say, a good time.

In the end, I think we both ended up learning a lot about each other's worlds; Scott loves to help people find and buy the homes of their dreams and I love cooking natural fresh foods for my family on a budget.  Scott seems to be truly surprised each time I'm able to come up with some terrific food for not a lot of money and after both spending time with Scott as well as recommending him to friends and hearing how he works with these people, that he can find just about anything anyone wants for a house within their own budget in this area.

What I think I've taken a lot of words to say is it's not just about the budget food for us but the frugal lifestyle and being able to afford the things we need and want.  Frugal being a far different thing than cheap though allows us to live well at the same time.

Overall, I believe living a simpler lifestyle and watching how we spend the dollars we do have will eventually allow us to live a full and incredibly full life including travel, the arts and entertainment and fun.

Anyone have any other ideas for living the good life on a working man's salary?  I'd sure like to hear them so comment here or join up on Facebook and we'll continue to share the wealth.  You can also follow along here with Scott as he continues to help people find the homes of their dreams.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Junk Food, You Know You Want It...

Tonight we discuss Junk Food and before I get too far into this I must say I truly believe one person's Junk Food is another's nirvana or maybe Junk Food is your nirvana?  Perhaps nirvana is your Junk Food...?  Uh oh there it goes again, my head is starting to fold in on itself.


My most junkie food indulgence is Coca Cola.  There, I said it and I'm out of the closet about it.  I love ice cream, especially good ice cream (Molly Moon's comes to mind and if you live in the Seattle area and you haven't visited yet, it is a must stop; balsamic strawberry anyone?  Salted caramel?), doughnuts are another big one (again, in the Seattle area we are blessed with some fine doughnut-eries; Top Pot is a fave, and Mighty O for a vegan organic choice plus newcomer Frost with their now famous bacon maple bars but my favorites are the Aztec chocolate).  Perhaps you consider fried chicken as junk food and a crispy hot juicy chin drip at a local soul food joint comes to mind with mashed potatoes and mac & cheese.  Burgers and dogs tend to be up ther in the pantheon of what many consider to fit in the Junk Food category too.  Dare I forget pizza?  Noooooo...

The point is, many peeps consider different things to be Junk Food.  Now I KNOW Coca Cola is Junk Food; filled with engineered extra sweet corn syrup and although I'm sure the original recipe was based on herbs and spices along with real cane sugar, we still all know that if you drop a steel nail in a bottle of the stuff it'll be gone by morning.

The other night the Younger Hunger and I were running late and we were both a bit on the non-commital side of choosing what to have for dinner; perhaps something to grab on the way home?  Order a pizza?  Mexican, Italian, sandwiches...?  Well we opted for a bucket of the Colonel's finest and in retrospect it was not our finest hour but it was a relative bargain; 12 piece bucket w/ 6 biscuits, 2 large mashed potatoes (these must be instant eh?  I haven/t eaten these for so long I just can't tell), gravy, 1 large cole slaw (this I do like even if you do tell me the dressing is filled with chemicals) and a chocolate chocolate chip bundt cake for $19.99.  A bargain!

Let's break this down a bit though...
  • The cake was indeed something that was baked more than halfway across the country from us and certainly shipped to us here on the left coast frozen.
  • The gravy is more than likely some sort of powdered form earlier in the day mixed with water.
  • I do suspect the taters are instant.
  • And the grease...what a mess to eat!
So we went for the extra crispy because for some reason I remembered it being less greasy but although the flavor was that of my youth, it just didn't get me too excited and even drenched in the recent household favorite Frank's RedHot Cayenne Pepper Sauce I was still disappointed I spent my dollars and my Junk Food conscience on this.  But hey!  I suppose it is something to which most of us succumb from time to time yes?  Please tell me you do too!?!?  Pretty please?!?!

Another point to bring up about what many of us consider to be Junk Food is that a lot of it is not necessarily Junk Food.  Take pizza or burgers; considering the addage "all things in moderation", if you have a burger with whole grain roll, a bit of cheese, load it with tomatoes, lettuce and onions and use relatively lean beef cooked on the 'que so the grease drains - you end up with what our Mums all told us for so many years is a balanced meal.  Don't add the milkshake, fries, beer or soda and it stays pretty good for you.  Pizza is the same thing; whole grain crust, not too much cheese and a bit of charcuterie and loaded with shrooms, onions and peppers - POOF! another balanced meal but again forget the addition of soda, garlic bread (on white flour bread!), beer, etc.

Although I mentioned not adding the beer, I have to take a moment and state that beer and wine are food and have quite a lot of nutritional value but again that is in the "all things in moderation" camp.  It's good for you "to a point" so a beer or two, that glass & a half of vino with dinner - all good so that way it doesn't fit the Junk Food discussion but I ask you...who among you ALWAYS stops and the one or two?  I myself try but many time I am weak and I fail, especially if the occasion is social and I don't have to drive.

Now I'm not sure we can use the same rationalization on doughnuts cuz I just don't think there is a lot we can do with fried sugary dough to healthify them but hey, we gotta have some food sins right?

Anyone for a doughnut ala mode with a Coke?


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Cold Weather? Makes me hungry...

Well, tonight it made me ravenous and I fell back on one of my tried and true convenience foods tonight; gnocchi.  I keep a couple pounds in the pantry all the time; inexpensive and quicker cooking than pasta, I like it better and even the lad has come to think it is a must keep around item of late.

While I know some people feel they have no need to keep convenience food around the house (my Mum is one of these peeps, I think she feels this way cuz she's retired and has time on her hands) and others live almost exclusively on convenience food (anyone out there have a friend that lives on Lean Cuisine?).  At Casa Hunger things have changed since we gave up the microwave.  No longer able to heat leftovers in 2 or 3 minutes without dirtying any pans, I now try and keep my leftovers to about 1 or 2 portions that I can package up for lunch.  So even leftovers are not really convenience foods for us anymore unless I can reheat in a boil-in-bag scenario or a quick heat in the saute pan.

Anyway, along with the cold weather and wanting to make a quick healthy dinner with a leftover portion for lunch later in the week I've been told I'm not providing enough amusing fodder for some readers.  I was actually told by a friend (Jason Hansen) who will not be named that for some reason I'm "writing about food and stuff" and not writing enough "funny stories" along with.  Huh?

No sure what to tell you (Jason Hansen), but tonight is about gnocchi and I'm just not sure what to find amusing about it other than I had to keep myself from eating the entire pan of hearty, cheesy, vegetable-y, potato dumpling-y goodness.  Oh, I wasn't going to name you (Jason Hansen) was I?

This was actually so convenient I was able to carry on a phone conversation while prepping and was very nearly done when I got off the phone with friend Scott.  He called just after I set the pot on to boil and had begun to chop the broccoli. 

So here it is, convenience food for a cold rainy Puget Sound evening.  On the table in about 20 minutes start to finish...

Cold, Wet Evening Veggie Gnocchi
  • 1 Lb Potato gnocchi; I buy this at Trader Joe's for $1.99, most grocers sell the same for about $4
  • 8 oz Fresh broccoli crowns, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 8 oz Fresh mushrooms sliced; any will do but tonight I used button
  • 4 oz Fresh red bell pepper, 1/4" dice
  • 2 Tbl Butter
  • 1 Tbl Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Clove Fresh Garlic, minced
  • 1/4 Cup Dry white wine
  • 2 oz Fresh grated hard cheese; I used Asiago because I had it but Parmesan, dry jack, etc will all work for this so use what you like or what you have
  • Pinch Crushed red pepper
  • Fresh ground black pepper to taste
  1. Bring water for gnocchi to a boil
  2. Steam broccoli over the water for about 2 minutes
  3. Melt butter with olive oil, crushed red pepper and garlic in a large saute pan over medium high heat and when sizzling, add the mushrooms and saute
  4. Add the gnocchi to the boiling water and stir
  5. Add the wine to the mushrooms and reduce by half
  6. Add the broccoli and red bell pepper to the saute pan and heat through
  7. Remove the gnocchi from the cooking water and reserve about 1/2 cup of cooking liquid
  8. Add the gnocchi to the saute pan with the veg and stir to coat; if necessary add some of the cooking liquid to make this a little saucy (I like SAUCY!)
  9. Remove from the heat and sprinkle with the grated cheese and stir all together until the cheese melts into the liquid
  10. Finish with fresh ground pepper to taste and serve

I had this with a 2007 Tertius Tempranillo from Spain and it was a lovely pairing but that's another post.  Stay tuned for that (Jason Hansen)...


Monday, November 9, 2009

2008 Abbey Page Syrah

One of the problems with inexpensive wine is a lack of extraction.  Most bargains in fermented grape juice tend to be from fruit that does not show the concentration that many of us have come to know from the specific varietal and end up well, kinda thin.

Not so with the 2008 syrah from Abbey Page in McMinnville, OR.  The fruit is from the Columbia Valley appellation of Washington state and this wine has many of the fine characteristics anyone who has come to love the Washington syrahs knows.  Big and juicy with enough tannin to keep things interesting without leaving a feeling like you need to comb your teeth.  Deep red, nearly a brutal purple color in the glass and the nose is full with scents of blackberry and grape jelly without the sweet. 

Although a fine quaffer, this one is tremendous with food as well; from spicy sausage pizza to last evening's lighter fare of Midnight Moon from Cypress Grove Chevre with apples and baguette, this wine will keep you happy and won't break the bank.

Not sure?  Well, you can check out some more as this one has also been getting some other press and for $8.99 get out and get yourself some!  I got mine at Esquin Wine Merchants.


Sunday, November 8, 2009

Heaven? It Could Be...

With our local MLS football club in the semifinals, we began the day with preparations for buffalo wings and a few hours in front of the tube in my comfy chair.  While this is the inaugural season for our Sounders FC and we are avid fans in Casa Hunger, the main event was of course, the wings.

While there are many recipes for chicken wings I prefer to follow (at least loosely) the original made famous by the Anchor Bar in Buffalo NY.  Some wings are breaded, some battered, some with a Mexican flavor profile in the heat and some just for the heat.  I myself prefer the flavor to be based on the combination of Frank's RedHot Cayenne Pepper Sauce and butter although with this sauce as the standard we do believe some experimentation may be in order depending on the mood but the basic cooking method will be limited to one of two acceptable; deep frying or steaming then convection roasting (this 2nd method is new and what I'll be writing about today with a nod to Alton Brown).

IMHO, there is no room for breading or battering of buffalo wings.  The wing must be unadulterated and the key is crispy skin.  THE WINGS MUST BE CRISP ON THE OUTSIDE AND MOIST ON THE INSIDE!  Not that I have much of an opinion in the matter :)

Oven Roasted Buffalo Chicken Wings
  • 3 Lb Chicken wings (about 1 1/2 Lb per person) trimmed of tips and cut into drummette and wing sections
  • 2 oz Butter
  • 4 oz Frank's RedHot Cayenne Pepper Sauce
  • 1 Clove Garlic, fresh smashed
  1. Steam the wings for 10 minutes
  2. Remove to an oiled rack over a foil covered sheet pan and let dry while the oven preheats
  3. Heat oven to 450F
  4. Roast the wings for 20 minutes (we have a convection oven so this helps crisp the wings, adjust the time accordingly)
  5. Flip the wings and return to the oven for another 20 minutes until crisp all over and golden brown
  6. While the wings roast, melt the butter in a small saucepan with the Frank's and the smashed garlic clove and bring to a simmer
  7. Once the sauce reaches the simmer point, remove from heat and remove the garlic (this is a treat for the cook so don't share)
  • Remove the roasted wings from the rack to a metal bowl and toss with the sauce
  • Serve traditionally with celery sticks and blue cheese dressing

Not with this meal but Henry has recently updated his statement "bacon and BBQ sauce make everything better" to "bacon, BBQ sauce and Frank's make everything better".  I couldn't be prouder...