Thursday, September 22, 2016

Maryhill, WA Adventure- Fine Art, Wine & Stonehenge?

One of those places we'd wanted to go visit forever.
Why are some of the closest places the hardest to cross off your list?
Frankly, all our lives are so busy, how do you start to prioritize new places?
For a tried and true "local" getaway, we usually head to the Oregon Coast, Leavenworth Bavarian Village or Vancouver BC.
Maryhill, WA? 
Sounds like a ridiculous place to take a holiday... until you actually GO there!

Maybe you've seen pictures of the Columbia River Gorge?  A 100 year heritage highway lining a beautiful waterway dividing two amazing states, Washington and Oregon.
It's a must do if you live around here.

We set out early on Friday morning of Labor Day weekend, hoping to beat the crowds to our VRBO rental near Hood River, Oregon.  We made a relaxing day of it,and took a totally different road that we first considered.  Pouring rain was coming down on the West side of the mountains, typical for a holiday weekend in Western Washington.
Once we crossed the Cascades?  Beautiful sunshine.  Awwww.

First stop, Maryhill Museum of Fine Arts.  
Hmmm... really?  
I haven't seen a stop light in about 3 hours, and you want me to believe fine arts?  Well, I was wrong.  Do you want me to repeat that... what, you didn't quite hear me admit that?  

Maryhill Museum is a stunning old castle like building built in the early 1900's by Sam Hill, the pioneer of the NW region of highways and railroads. The guy had some serious bank!  However, he never consulted the "Mrs" on his remote (albeit beautiful) location for their mansion. She refused to live there.  Next thing you know, Sam Hill decided to use it to house his serious collection of art collections.

  • Indian artifacts from every region of the US. I especially liked the Arctic Indians waterproof jacket, made out of seal intestines.  Ewwww.
  • French decorator fashion dolls, used after WWII to help rebuild France's couture status.  I kept leaning in to take pictures of these cuties and setting off the alarm.  I couldn't figure out what that annoying noise was until my hubby said "stop doing that!". LOL, who knew?

  • Royalty dress from Queen Marie of Romania (niece of Tsar Nicolas, and granddaughter of Queen Victoria).  A wonderful story of how she supported her friend, Sam Hill
  • Religious Icons... super sparkley gold and OLD. Cool.
  • Rodin sculptures from France... a whole room full of them!  Rodin has been my favorite since reading "Naked Came I" (a book about Auguste Rodin silly!)
  • A chess set collection from around the world, must have been 50 different sets!
  • Art Nouveau glass- collections from Lalique and Daum (Love this, I used to be a crystal buyer at a department store)
  • American Pottery from the 1920's- McCoy  etc. etc.
  • Pendleton blankets looking at current in 2016 with 1905 designs, like my favorite below.

Just down the road, is Maryhill winery!
You get a free tasting if you show them your ticket from the museum.
Isn't that nice that they value arty folks?
The place was mobbed, we couldn't even get near the tasting bar. 
My Solution?
Buy some wine, have them open it and head to the deck to feast in the view.
Oh... what... a ... view!

But wait... not too much wine.  There is still so much to see, and do.  
Cork that bottle, shove it in your trunk and head a little further down the road to...
Yah baby, who knew?  (Actually, we did... but hey, maybe you didn't?)
We went to the real Stonehenge in 1989 while visiting friends in Britain.
we loved it, but you can't get real close, and there was a lot of people around. 
And.. the weather was totally sucky.

Maryhill Stonehenge was a beautiful surprise.
Totally open
Totally empty of others
Totally, breathtakingly beautiful scenery!
Plus, a poignant memorial to WWI veterans, the first in the US. 

In hind sight, I'd say plan ahead and bring some picnic makings (bread, cheese, meat, fruit) and grab that bottle from Maryhill Winery, and feast on the bluff outside of Stonehenge as you soak in the Columbia River Gorge.

Note the petroglyph in the rock over my right shoulder.  This is on the balcony by the museum cafe over looking the river. Doesn't suck at all.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, Maple & Dijon

Fall is in the air.  It is officially the last day of Summer today.
I guess I am ready, since everything I have been making lately is incorporating maple syrup!
I was even dreaming of maple cheesecake the other day... hmmm, we will see.

This recipe is a keeper for a variety of reasons- 1) it has only five ingredients 2) It's an easy side dish for those holidays that might be coming up and 3) it's different from so many other recipes for sprouts! Hey it's really pretty too, so it gets some points for that.

Serves 4-6

16 oz fresh brussels sprouts, trimmed
1/2 red onion, diced
4 oz bacon, diced
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1-2 Tbsp maple syrup
Trim up the brussels sprouts, cutting a bit off the stem end if it looks like it needs it.  Cut each in half and set aside.  I throw in any leaves that fall off and include them too. 

Dice up the bacon and cook over medium high heat until it starts to darken and crisp, but be sure remove it from the heat before it gets hard and crispy.  You want it a bit soft still.  Using a slotted spoon remove the bacon to a small dish off to the side while you cook the rest.  Discard all but about one tablespoon of bacon fat for sauteing the onions and sprouts.

Add the red onions and cook until they start to soften and the color become more pink, and less purple.  Throw in the brussels sprouts and stir to cook.  I like my sprouts a bit on on the hard side and still bright green, but they taste good when they soften up a bit more too.  You will need to cook them for about 5-10 minutes, depending on how done you want them.

Add in the maple, the dijon mustard and stir to combine.  Add salt and pepper and then taste. Depending on your tastes, you may want to add more dijon and/or more maple syrup.
Serve at once. 

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Monday, September 19, 2016

Pear, Bleu Cheese Salad with Maple Dressing

I had this on vacation recently in Hood River, Oregon. 
It was the height of pear season and the salad was divine at a little cafe with my honey and a glass of wine.  Fun times.

Crazy thing is, I have made salads like many times before. 
Why was this one so good?
You know the rules for a good salad?
1) fruity 2) one crunchy 3) one salty 4) one chewy 5) one spicy.  
This had them all 1) pear 2) walnuts 3) Gorgonzola, 4) dried cranberries 5) red onions
What this one different was a simple addition of maple syrup to the vinaigrette.  Yum!
It was easy to do, so here you go!

A great autumn salad!

Serves 2 main dish salads, or 4 small side salads

1 Pear, sliced thinly
1/2 cup Gorgonzola or Bleu Cheese
1/4 cup Candied Walnuts, or other toasted nuts
3 Tbsp Dried Cherries, or Cranberries
1/4 red onion, sliced 
6 cups mixed Spring Greens 

Maple vinaigrette dressing:
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 Tbsp maple syrup
1 Tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp dijon mustard
Salt and pepper

Assemble all the salad ingredients in a large bowl.

Whisk the dressing together in a small bowl until incorporated.  Toss the salad with about half the dressing, serving the rest on the side if people want more.

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Saturday, September 17, 2016

Blood & Sand Cocktail

An intense cocktail, not for the faint of heart.

Our server at Din Tai Fung (a fantastic world wide restaurant chain known for their dumplings) cautioned my hubby that this one was one of the stronger cocktails.  Did he still want it?
Yes, yes he did. 

Makes 1
1 oz. scotch
3⁄4 oz. Cherry Heering liqueur
3⁄4 oz. sweet vermouth
3⁄4 oz. fresh orange juice
Pour all the ingredients into an ice filled shaker.  Shake, shake, shake.  Strain into a glass, garnish with some orange peel, or a little slice of orange.  Serve at once.

Here's a copy of the drink menu at Din Tai Fung that night.  Taking a picture of the drink menu is one of my favorite ways to take note of some interesting cocktails.  I need to make that Taiwan Sunset soon.

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Thursday, September 15, 2016

Smoked Pulled Pork Shoulder

It's a bit strange to buy 16 lbs of pork for a household with two people in it.
Yep, that is a BUNCH of meat!
However, you can really make a lot of people very excited by bringing smoked pulled pork to a party or picnic.  It's really our "go to" meal to do for a crowd.  

In addition, you can easily freeze some of the cooked meat so that you can make this for dinner at a future time.  Once I had about 5 containers of shredded pork in the freezer.  It made life very easy for weeks.

In addition to the sandwich below, we also use leftovers for the following ideas- tacos, enchiladas, "hash" with eggs, add to chili, epic fried rice, taco salads, and Loco Moco.

See below for an example dinner below...  I use Spicy Slaw on our sandwiches.

Brant's famous pulled pork

***for 2 pork butts, approx 16lbs in a 5 gallon covered bucket***
2 qts water in saucepan
1 cup sea salt
2 Tbsp rosemary (i use a sprig of fresh, but either works)
6 Tbsp light brown sugar
1/2 Tbsp cumin
2 Tbsp chili powder
2 Tbsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp thyme
1 tsp fennel seed
1 tsp sage (i use a sprig of fresh, but either works)
1 gallon (4 qts) ice water (mix into brine solution after removed from heat and partially cooled)

Brine 24 hours, drain, pat dry and let dry (uncovered) in the fridge over night.
Depending on when you want to serve it, count ahead 12-14 hours.
Want to eat at 5pm on Saturday? Better put your pork on to smoke about 3pm on Friday to be safe.

Two choices... you can rub with a seasoning powder, here's my go-to recipe.
Or, you can skip the rub all togther as the brine has seasoned the pork very well.  
We still go back on forth on this one... to do, or to do not?  That is the question.

Set your Traeger (or other smoker) at 185 degrees for the first couple hours to get some good smoky action going on.  Then turn it up to 225 degrees and leave it for another 10-12 hours. We use a remote thermometer that has a probe in the smoker, and a reader/monitor inside, and watch it carefully until it reaches 200 degrees.  

Take off and let it cool, then pull it with a couple of forks, or the "bear claw" forks made for pulling pork.

You know it's tender when the bones fall out clean!

Here's the meat, getting ready to start shredding!

Here's the claws we use, it makes short work of it, but forks work too.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Tomato Cauliflower Curry

Lots of great flavors and a very satisfying meatless Monday dinner option

Garam Masala is an Indian spice mixture that is easy to find on Amazon, but you could also make it yourself, here's a link to Allrecipes for a garam masala recipe mixture.  Also, my curry powder is a hot one, so if yours is more mild, you may want to add some more spice like a bit of cayenne to increase the heat.  Then again, maybe you want to make this more kid friendly and keep it very mild! 

Serves 4-6

2-3 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 jalapeno, minced (seeds removed first)
1 1/2 Tbsp Madras curry powder
1 1/2 Tbsp garam masala   
2 lbs. tomatoes, cut into quarters (or one 28 oz can of diced tomatoes)
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1/2 head of cauliflower, cut into florets
1 15 ounce can of chick peas, drained
2 cups corn, fresh or frozen
1 cup green peas, fresh or frozen
1/2 cup sour cream
Salt to taste

Chop your onions and saute over medium heat in a large 4-5 qt pot in the olive oil. Cook for 3-4 minutes until they start to soften. Add the garlic, ginger, jalapeno, curry powder and garam masala.  Stir for another 1-2 minutes until fragrant.  Add the tomatoes.  Cook for 10 minutes over medium heat until the tomatoes start to break down a bit (if using canned tomatoes, this step will be much quicker). 

Add in the tomato paste and the cauliflower pieces, cover and cook until the cauliflower is tender, about another 8-10 minutes.  Add in the chick peas, corn and peas.  Cook for another 2-3 minutes, until all the mixture is completely hot.  Stir in the sour cream and season with salt and pepper to taste.  

Serve at once over rice, quinoa or on it's own with some naan bread. Top with yogurt cucumber cooling sauce, if desired.

Here it is with some sauce on top, which is actually how we ate it.
This sauce was also great with grilled salmon the next night!

Yogurt Cucumber "cooling sauce" 

1 cup yogurt
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 green onion, minced small
1/2 cup of cucumber, minced small
1/4 cup of cilantro, chopped
Salt and Pepper

Serve over rice, or scoop up with some naan bread 

I could eat this stuff all day...

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Yogurt Cucumber "cooling sauce" for Indian Food

I've made these before...  I love cucumbers and yogurt.
Raita Salad
But this one is just different, and wonderful.

Perfect served along spicy vegetable curry, but equally good the next as a condiment for grilled salmon. You could also serve as an appetizer with pita bread, olives and veggies.
I paired this recipe with my Tomato Cauliflower Curry.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

1 cup yogurt
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 green onion, minced small
1/2 cup of cucumber, minced small
1/4 cup of cilantro, chopped
Salt and Pepper

Mince up the cucumber and green onion into very small pieces.  Chop cilantro. Mix the veggies into the yogurt, adding the lemon juice.  Mix and let sit for 15-20 minutes, adding salt & pepper as needed.

Here it is on top of the vegetable curry!

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Sunday, September 11, 2016

Butterscotch Walnut Oatmeal Cookies

Oatmeal, nuts and butterscotch.
Pretty much my favorite cookies!
I used only brown sugar to highlight the extra butterscotch flavors, but you could use a combination of white and brown sugar to make up the 1 1/2 cups needed.
Also, I used the whole bag of butterscotch chips... no one wants a partial bag hanging around, now do they?  If you do, feel free to use less chips in these.
These are good travelers, in case you're thinking you'd better be taking them somewhere to share with pals!

Makes 4 dozen 2" cookies
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups rolled oats
1 bag butterscotch chips (about 2 1/2 cups)
1 cup walnuts, toasted & chopped

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
In a large bowl beat the butter and brown sugar together. Add the eggs and vanilla, beating well.

Stir together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and stir until blended. Stir in the oats, walnuts and the butterscotch chips. Drop by spoonfuls onto a cookie sheet (I used a Silpat, but parchment would work too).

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, until the edges begin to brown. Take them out before they look a 100% done and let them sit for 2-3 minutes before removing to a rack for cooling.

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