Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Holidays with Heritage

It's been such a whirlwind during this holiday season, but I have had many opportunities to spend some time reminiscing with whoever happened to be home~ mostly Mary~ about my holidays growing up and the heritage that has come out of them.

Of course, most families have certain recipes they end up making during the holidays, and I am pretty sure there are dissertations from psychology majors aplenty to this affect. If, for some reason, I am the first one to actually put something down on paper, I would be happy to help some future psychologist with their research. The main question I have is~ why do we do this? Is it just me, or do we have a plethora of recipes floating around in cardboard boxes,
overstuffed envelopes and, of course, well used cookbooks? I have a habit of immediately going to the internet for a recipe even when I am pretty sure I have a recipe for what I want to make somewhere in my collection. Now I know there are some great recipes out on the internet~ if not, I wouldn't have bothered to start this blog. But please hear me- if you have access to family recipes, give them a try!!!

Our resident "pastry chef", Mary, and I had a wonderful time trying this recipe thesis out during our holiday season. We made such things as Cousin Rosie's Italian Pizelles, Grandpa Aziz's pizza dough, Grandma Aziz's oatmeal cookies as well as

Mahmul- an interesting cookie from my bit of Arabic background

plus, of course my "famous" cinnamon rolls.

Here's the recipe for my Grandpa's pizza dough. It is a fairly basic recipe, and it mak
es a great base for many applications- pizza, bread, rolls- you name it, it works! Give it a try and make sure to look through the recipes you may have lurking in some dark corner of your cupboards~

Grandpa Aziz's Bread Dough

6 cups flour
2 packages dry yeast
3 t. salt
1 T. sugar
2 cups hot water
1/4 cup olive oil (you can use vegetable oil in a pinch, but the flavor won't be quite the same)
non-stick cooking spray

Mix all dry ingredients together, holding back 1 cup of flour in a large mixing bowl from your stand mixer if you have one (if not, just use a large bowl). Add 2 cups of water heated to the point of just being able to put your finger in it. Add the 1/4 oil. Mix well, either using the mixer's flat beater or with a large spoon.

Using mixer's bread hook, knead dough for 5-7 minutes- adding up to 1 cup of flour if needed to make a nice smooth dough. If doing this by hand (which is sometimes great and cheap therapy), then knead the dough on a floured surface for 10-12 minutes- still adding the extra flour as needed.

Form dough into a ball. Spray another large mixing bowl with non-stick spray and place dough in bowl. Turn once to coat dough. Cover with plastic wrap then a towel. Set somewhere warm (I like the top of our refrigerator- when there's room) for 30-45 minutes to rise. Once risen, dough will be ready to be used or can be placed in zipper-top plastic freezer bags and held in the freezer for up to 3 months (if it lasts that long).

This recipe doubles easily. Just be careful of too much flour in your mixer~ I have a large Cuisinart stand mixer that I love, but sometimes too much flour will glunk up the mixing mechanism. I usually do a double batch of the dough partially in my mixer then finishing it up by hand~ again, it's great therapy and even better exercise!!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Mary's Cranberry Blessed Bars

Tis the season to enjoy so many sweets~ of course in moderation, and at our house that usually means just getting to try one piece if we're lucky before the boys swoop in for the taking! This year Mary and I have tried lots of delicious recipes with great success. The latest was her take on Starbucks Cranberry Bliss Bars which everyone decided were definitely as good, if not better, than the originals as well as a lot cheaper!!

I've decided to post this recipe for Mary as my facebook profile status about these "cranberry blessed bars" got lots of comments~ this recipe would be for all the folks that wanted it~ with lots of Christmas wishes for all of you~ from Mary too!!

Cranberry Blessed Bars

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups dark brown sugar, packed
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup diced dried cranberries
1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips

4 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
4 teaspoons freshly squeezed orange juice (Mary used clementine juice)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup diced dried cranberries

1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 teaspoons Crisco

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat butter and brown sugar with electric mixer until smooth. Add eggs, vanilla, ginger and salt; beat well. Gradually mix in flour until smooth. Mix in 3/4 cup cranberries and white chocolate chips. Pour batter into a well-greased 9x13-inch baking pan and spread evenly. bake for 30-35 minutes or until cake is light brown around the edges. Let cool.

For the frosting, combine the cream cheese, powdered sugar, orange juice, and vanilla with electric mixer until smooth. After your cake is cool, spread the frosting over the top of the cake, then sprinkle the cranberries over the cake.

Create your icing by whisking the powdered sugar, milk, and shortening. Drizzle the icing over the cranberries in a sweeping motion. Allow the cake to sit for several hours, then slice the cake sideways through the middle. Slice across the width three times to create 8 rectangles, slicing again diagonally to create 16 total triangles.
These can be enjoyed with any coffee and are great for gifts!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Battling the "Bug" with Thai Coconut Chicken Soup

Like most children of baby boomer moms, I remember mine extolling the virtues of chicken soup whenever my sister or I were down with a "bug"~ no matter if it were of the cold or flu type. Every once in a while we would have the "Italian Penicillin" of my Grandma Pitalo's chicken soup, but having a working mom, we didn't get the homemade stuff too often.
This would generally mean getting out the familiar red and white can along with the can
opener and heating it up according to directions on the stovetop. This, of course, was made even easier when the first microwave oven came into our family's kitchen.

Even so, on the advent of my child's first "bug", I sought that familiar red and white can of my childhood. After using the dreaded canned soup for a few years, I came upon the idea- and a simple recipe- for homemade chicken noodle soup. Needless to say, this revelation opened up a culinary world of soup wonders. My family has been subjected~ or the "test subjects" as they like to quip~ to a virtual plethora of goodness in a soup bowl.

Now that they are either at young adulthood or on the cusp of it, we've been trying some new soups thanks, in part, to the variety of veggies we've been getting in our Gardenripe CSA box~ the last for the season- which I am sorry to say- was delivered last Thursday. It was with much sadness and yet expectation for what next season's boxes may include, that I have tried to think through how to use our remaining stash of farm fresh produce sitting in our fridge and on the counter.

This brings me to our Thai Coconut Chicken Soup. With three sickies in our house dealing with the flu going around, I knew chicken soup was needing to be made. Instead of doing my standard "Multi-Ethnic" Chicken Soup Penicillin, I decided to try something using the bok choy in our fridge. I came across the recipe and adapted it for what I had available. It was indeed a hit with the whole family as everyone liked it. I am not a medical person, but I do know everyone has been starting to feel better ever since they ate the soup last night. It could be just the timing, but who knows, it could be the soup...

Thai Coconut Chicken Soup

3 tablespoons crushed garlic (Don't yell~I used jarred stuff we had- fresh would even be better)
3 tablespoons grated ginger (Again, I used jarred stuff we had- fresh would even be better)
1/4 cup sliced leeks, white and light green part only
1 yellow onion
1 teaspoon each cumin & coriander
1/2 teaspoon (or more to taste) Sriracha Hot Sauce
2 cups cooked and shredded chicken
4 cups shredded bok choy
4 cups water
2 cans coconut milk
1 tablespoon fish sauce, if desired

Saute garlic, ginger, leeks, onion and spices in 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in large soup pot over medium-high heat for 4-5 minutes. Add hot sauce & chicken and cook for about 4 minutes to blend flavors. Add remaining ingredients; simmer at least 10 minutes~ it actually tastes better the longer it simmers!!
David likes to serve his with Thai sweet chili sauce~ it adds another dimension to this delicious dish!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Grandma Pitalo's Peanut Butter & Chocolate Chip Bars~ the revised recipe

1/2 cup butter
1/2 peanut butter (smooth or chunky- you choose)
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 1/4 cup unsifted flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (Grandma used Nestle's, but I like Guittard)
1 1/2 cup Reece's Peanut Butter chips (I used Nestle's Chocolate & Peanut Butter Swirl Chips)

Cream butter, peanut butter, sugars, eggs & vanilla until light and fluffy. Combine flour, salt & baking soda; add to creamed mixture. Stir chips into batter. Spread mixture evenly into greased 15 1/2" x 10 1/2" x 1" jelly roll pan. Bake at 350F degree oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool in pan. Cut into bars. Makes 48 cookies.

Grandma said, "I left mine in 20 minutes and the edges were a little too brown. I am sure it was my stove. Ovens vary. I put in 3/4 c. chopped walnuts. Very good. Watch oven."

Revisiting Grandma Pitalo's Cookie Bars

One of my most treasured possessions has to be the recipes from my grandparents handed down for future generations of cooks in our family. Included in this collection is a notebook my Grandma Pitalo gave me on my 21st birthday. Not only does this contain recipes the family and friends have enjoyed for close to 100 years, but it is a hand-written legacy passed on from one foodie to another~ we didn't even use that term during her lifetime, but I know she would chuckle and agree with being called a foodie. Grandma passed away in 1996, but her love of food lives on every time the big, green binder gets opened up. I am not the only one who has been the recipient of Grandma's legacy~ she also wrote out one for my mom as well as my sister. In turn, I have taken it upon myself to make sure all the great-grandkids~ whom she loved more than one can imagine~ receive a copy of these recipes at the appropriate time such as at my oldest niece, Jennifer's, wedding shower. It took me a while to decide how to do the cookbook- in the end I decided she had to have it in Grandma's hand just like the way it was given to her mom and me. Thankfully, all the work I put into getting a binder, copying the recipes & putting them into page protectors (to make it look as close to the originals as possible) was worth it as the expression on her face dawned from not being sure to tears when she realized what she was getting. I am looking forward to being able to do this for my nieces and my own children when the time comes!

I have so often made Grandma's recipes that some are put by the wayside as I open up my many other cookbooks or get out recipes cut out of cooking magazines that I have amassed. Thankfully, my kids will remind me of one recipe or another in the binder that they've got a taste for, so out it comes- stained pages and all (I know Grandma knew what she was doing with using page protectors)!! The latest recipe to get out was Grandma's Peanut Butter & Chocolate Chip Squares. We ended up using this recipe at the Salem Alliance Church High School retreat last weekend at the Oregon coast. My best friend, Shelly, who was there as one of my "sous chefs", worked her dessert-magic as we transformed Grandma's recipe just tweaking it a bit to add a bit more peanut butter. They were so good that I had to make a double batch yesterday just so the rest of my family who wasn't at the retreat could try them. They were, of course, a hit as is evidenced by the rapidly dwindling stack sitting in the container in the bread/snack drawer!

I plan on continuing to revisit Grandma's recipes along with the other recipes I have from family members even amidst the ever-changing and new recipes I collect, if for no other other reason than to keep the foodie legacy of our family alive, and hopefully, well.

Pork & Veggie Stew with Creamy Polenta

  1. For Stew:
  2. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  3. 1 1/2 pounds boneless pork loin, cut into 1-inch chunks
  4. Salt and freshly ground pepper
  5. 1 large fennel bulb, finely diced
  6. 1 small Walla Walla sweet onion, finely diced
  7. 1 jalapeno chile, seeded and finely diced
  8. 2 garlic cloves, minced
  9. 2 teaspoons mild chile powder
  10. 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  11. Pinch of dried oregano
  12. 2 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
  13. 1 cup 1/2-inch-diced carrots
  14. Two 6-ounce red potatoes, cut into 1-inch dice
  15. One 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
  16. 1 pound tomatillos—husked, rinsed and cut into 1-inch dice
  17. For Creamy Polenta:
  18. 1 3/4 cups dried polenta
  19. 1 1/2 quarts water
  20. 1 tablespoon sea salt
  21. 4 oz. cream cheese, softened
  22. 1/2 cup half & half or heavy cream
  23. For Garnish:
  24. Manchego cheese, thinly sliced


  1. In a medium casserole or Dutch oven, heat the oil. Season the pork with salt and pepper and cook over medium-high heat until browned on 2 sides, about 2 minutes per side. Add the fennel and onion and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 7 minutes. Add the diced chile, garlic, chile powder, cumin and oregano and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add the carrots, potatoes, tomatoes and tomatillos, cover and simmer over low heat until the pork is cooked through, at least 25 minutes. This can be left on the stove for up to 1 hour before serving.*
  2. While stew is cooking, prepare polenta. Bring salted water to boil over high heat. Slowly stir in polenta. Lower heat to medium-low while stirring. Cook over medium-low for 15 minutes, stirring continuously. Add cream cheese and half & half or cream while still stirring. Adjust seasoning (salt & pepper, if desired) and bring heat down to low. Allow to cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Place about 1/2 cup polenta in bottom of bowl. Cover with stew. Garnish with Manchego. Find a cozy spot to curl up and eat~ or sit with the family at the dining room table :-) Enjoy! *This is even tastier when reheated the next day since the flavors have all been able to meld!! Just reheat and serve~ the stew can also be frozen for up to 2 months.

Reflections of a Caterpillar...and Some Stew Too

I don't know about anyone else, but the weather here in Salem has been so very autumny! As I am sitting in my somewhat cozy dining room watching the rain fall causing the oak leaves in our yard to tumble to the ground, I feel a bit like a caterpillar starting a little cocoon~ I can still see what's going on around me, but I am quite snuggly in my own little space. Okay, so enough of the caterpillar comparisons and on to what I really planned on writing...

With the season and weather change comes ones' need for warm and comforting food. A few things come to mind, but for me it's usually stew or soup~ served, of course, with some kind of tummy-warming carbohydrate like French bread, pasta, rice or, in this case, polenta. I was going to just make a beef stew, but I also have been trying to think outside the box lately. With this in mind~ and some funky veggies in the fridge~ I decided to make a stew with pork loin. I found a recipe for Pork & Tomatillo Stew on the Food & Wine website (one of my new favorite magazines). Not wanting to totally copy it, I made a few changes. We had it served with creamy polenta and some shavings of Manchego cheese (one of my new favorite hard cheeses).
The whole family sunk their spoons into the soft polenta and tender pork with veggies~ even David, who hasn't been feeling good, enjoyed it. It may not be chicken soup, but I think it definitely qualifies for a "mother's soup-recipe penicillin"!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Honey Bunches Muffins

These were supposed to be made with raisin bran and regular milk, but we didn't have any, so I improvised. The muffins got great reviews from everyone that ate them~ moist, not overly sweet and with just a bit of a crunch, they are perfect for going with morning coffee or as an afternoon snack!

1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 cups Honey Bunches of Oats cereal
1-8 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup water
2 cups unbleached flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons raw sugar (also known as turbinado sugar)

Preheat oven to 400F degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners or spray lightly with non-stick cooking spray. In a medium bowl combine sweetened milk, sour cream and water and stir in cereal; let stand until softened, about 8 minutes.

Stir oil and egg into cereal mixture. Add flour, b. powder, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt. Mix just until blended. Divide batter among cups. Bake, until a toothpick inserted in the middle of a muffin comes out clean, 18-20 minutes. Turn out onto a wire rack; serve either warm or cool. Makes 12 muffins

Thoughts from the Middle of the Week

Wednesdays are now one of my favorite days of the week which seems really strange since it usually gets a bad wrap as "hump day" or in the child's verse, "Wednesday's child is full of woe". This day is special to me for a few reasons~ I meet with a group of ladies for a terrific Bible study, it's my day off from my job as a fencing instructor, AND it's the day that Mary and I, along with my other kids sometimes, get to make and try new recipe ideas!

Today was no exception of any of the reasons~ Bible study was really great as I even brought some Honey Bunches Muffins to share. I mentioned to the gals that these were an experiment, and they were happy to be guinea pigs! Mary and I also made some delicious soup for dinner. Plus we bought some tofu and rice thread noodles that we plan on trying sometime in the next week or so when we ran by our local United Grocers to pick up a couple of things~ we always end up with a few more goodies than we plan when we stop by there.

This weekend should prove interesting as I am heading to Camp Winema on the Oregon coast to cook for about 80 people at Salem Alliance Churches' high school retreat. I've been doing it for the past 4 years, and it's one of the highlights of my year! The food is so much fun to make, and it's a blessing to be involved in such an amazing weekend!! I try to make stuff from scratch, and we always try new recipes every year. Look for photos and recipes next week!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Don't You Carrot All? (bad pun for a bad day)

Not much of a post today as I am just not feeling up to snuff. Mary and I did make a pretty delicious dinner~ pressure cooker/grilled beef ribs, fresh tomatoes with simple olive oil, salt & fresh ground pepper, and these carrots that were as good as any baked sweet potato fries I've ever had. The kids would disagree, but I loved 'em!! Hope you enjoy them too!!

Roasted Carrots with Mint

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 ¼ pounds carrots, cut into finger-size pieces
1 ½ teaspoons coarse salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
¼ cup loosely packed fresh mint, thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 450F degrees. Arrange carrots on rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with oil. Sprinkle with salt, pepper & mint. Mix well. Bake, stirring every 5 minutes, until golden brown, 18-20 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Grandma's Oatmeal Cookies

3 cups old fashioned oats (please don't use quick oats- they don't work well in this)
1 cup sugar
1 cup canola oil
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
10 tsp. milk
3 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 cup raisins (I use a combination of golden and brown raisins, but you can use what you like)

Preheat oven to 375F. Grease pan or line with parchment or silpat.

Combine oats & sugar. Stir in oil, eggs and raisins; set aside for 5 minutes. In a small bowl, mix together flour, baking soda & salt. In another bowl, mix together milk and vanilla.

Add 1/2 flour mixture to oat mixture, stirring until combined. Add 1/2 milk mixture to this and stir until combined. Add remaining flour mixture and rest of milk mixture, stirring well until combined.

Drop by rounded teaspoonful (or use small dough scoop) onto prepared baking sheet. Make sure cookies are not too big, about the size of a small walnut.

Bake for 9-11 minutes, only until lightly browned. Be sure not to overcook~ these need to be brown on the bottom and look a little underdone on top~ then they're perfect!!

Sowing My Oats (oatmeal cookies, that is...)

As I grow older, I am realizing how much of my childhood memories have shaped my relationships~ both with people as well as food. One of these relationships is with my Grandma Aziz and her oatmeal cookies. Grandma wasn't the typical stay-at-home grandma as she has worked since I can remember. During my younger years, I remember getting to spend time with grandma as she ran a statuary store in Hawthorne, California. Then, in my later teen years, I would sometimes drive over to Torrance in the summer to meet grandma at a local restaurant during her lunch break from TRW where she was an executive secretary. She also didn't do a lot of cooking as my Grandpa Ed was (and still is) the cook in the family. I think this was the reason her baking was so special. She didn't have a lot of "specialties", but whatever she did make would be delicious!

I have eaten a lot of oatmeal cookies in my life, but none come close to the sweet oatmeal-y and raisin-y taste of grandma's cookies. These were the first cookies I can remember trying to bake on my own as a 12-year-old budding cook. The best part was how they turned out~ chewy but a little crisp and an almost melt in your mouth consistency~ every time I tried making them. As I grew into adulthood, I went through an cookie "experiment" phase and have tried numerous other oatmeal cookie recipes thinking maybe there was a recipe out there somewhere that would be...dare I even say it...better than grandma's.

My children have been subjected to crispy, raisin-less, chocolate chip added, buttery oatmeal cookies throughout their growing years. Not that these were bad. In fact, some were pretty tasty. The only thing that was missing in any of these experimental oatmeal forays was that they weren't grandma's recipe.

It has been a few years since I've actually made oatmeal cookies~ grandma's or otherwise~ but this morning, after getting up before the rest of my sleeping family, I decided to try another batch of grandma's cookies. Reading through the recipe again, I realized how these are the epitome of oatmeal cookies~ simple yet complex, both in the making and the tasting.
I decided to double the recipe~ just in case they turned out good~ which is a good thing to have done. First thing David- my 16 year old "bottomless pit" eater- did when he woke up this morning was to ask for a cookie. His response made baking these worthwhile as he exclaimed how good they were. My only response needed to be, "why, of course, they're grandma's recipe"!!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Salsa Verde & Chalupas

Salsa Verde

1 lb. fresh tomatillos, husked & rinsed (to remove natural sticky coating)
1- 4 oz. can green chiles
1 yellow onion, chopped into large chunks
2 scallions, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

- Preheat oven to broil, with rack on top shelf.
- Lay tomatillos on rimmed baking sheet. Broil 5 minutes. Turn over & broil for 5 more minutes. Remove from oven & let cool.
- Place cooled tomatillos in bowl of food processor; add remaining ingredients.
- Pulse until blended but still slightly chunky. Place into container & refrigerate. This should last for about a week~ if it doesn't get eaten before that! This is delicious in the following recipe, but it is also wonderful on eggs, with chips, on a salad, etc.


2 tblsp. vegetable oil
12 (4-inch) Don Pancho corn tortillas
1 cup cooked & shredded chicken or turkey
1/4 sour cream mixed with 2 tablespoons milk
1/2 cup crumbled Queso Fresco (or shredded mozzarella)
tomatillo salsa

Preheat oven to 200F. Heat 1/2 tblsp. oil in 10-inch skillet over medium-high, then cook tortillas, three at a time until softened but not too crisp. Transfer tortillas to rimmed baking sheet & place in oven; cover with foil. Continue cooking rest of tortillas, adding more oil as necessary, until all are done. When finished, top with a few shreds of chicken or turkey, a bit of cheese, a spoonful of salsa & a dollop of sour cream. Serve immediately. Muy Bueno!!!
Makes 12 appetizer servings or 4 servings in the Keatley household

Thursday, September 3, 2009

OMG~ it's OAMC time!!

With autumn coming faster than a speeding bullet along with school for almost the entire family (4 in college including my husband and my youngest doing high school at home)~ not to mention more fencing classes for me to start teaching~ I knew it was time to put together meals for our freezer that would allow us to eat food that comes without someone asking "do you want fries with that?" I got out my trusty Once A Month Cookbook by Mimi Wilson and Mary Beth Lagerborg~ the first (and actually only) freezer meal cookbook I've ever owned~ and started looking for recipes I would want to make for this month. I have been doing OAMC on and off for about 15 years. It pretty much got a bit boring after a few years, so I stopped doing it, but I seem to go back to it when our schedules are crying out for good food made easy!! I haven't perfected the system, but I have figured out how to morph meals into the OAMC genre. There are quite a few family favorites from the cookbook that I pulled out this time as well as some others that I've collected/made up over the years. I've decided this time to only make dinners for the week nights as I have so many new recipes I've been wanting to try~ this way I can make sure I am keeping my culinary skills honed as I cook during the weekends.

Saturday morning dawned early as I finished the last of my grocery lists~ that's right, I said "lists" as in more than one. This was due to the fact that I was planning on cooking 18 dinners on Tuesday as well as planning on a weeks worth of camping food. The kids and I hit the Salem Saturday Market to get the few items we didn't get in our CSA box from Gardenripe the week before then ran downtown to try to break our fasts with coffee and goodies from Little Cannoli Bakery. Imagine my distress when we got there to find a sign that said they were closed~ for good. Of course, the good news is that Joann, the owner's mom, was there and she told us Tim had not closed for good, but instead had relocated to South Salem at his new place, Bakery D'Amour. That is great news for those of us in Salem who love everything that comes out of the bakery! We ended up tyring to save time by hitting the downtown Great Harvest. I wasn't too disappointed as I tried a coconut rum cookie that was delicious!! Then we were on to United Grocers (a.k.a. Cash & Carry) to grab a few more things before heading back home to finalize what else we'd need before Tuesday's cooking craziness.

The boys and I spent most of the day scouring the supermarket shelves Monday (except the time I was actually at work for 4 1/2 hours teaching and running a Salem Middle School Fencing League Parent Orientation~ what was I thinking??). At least the evening was an enjoyable way to hang out with my teenage boys~ even if it included an interesting time at Winco as the boys entertained what seemed like half of the store with their rendition of "supermarket stomp" in the bulk section! Finally, I was done with all the shopping for our Once a Month Cooking (OAMC) adventure as well as most of our camping food!

The alarm went off at what seemed way too early, but I got up to start cooking anyway! After starting a pot of Italian Roast, I got going on Grandma Pitalo's (paternal grandma) spaghetti sauce. This takes at least 3-4 hours to get a really good flavor, so I knew it needed to be the first thing going. I had it bubbling on the stove by 7 o'clock (that would be a.m.), and I was on a roll~ especially since the next thing on the list was Grandpa Aziz' (maternal grandpa) pizza dough. After a bit, Mary got up and helped put together the calzones. David was up a little bit later and he did many of the dishes as did my "adopted" daughter, Danielle, who came over about noon to help out too. It went by pretty fast as we ended up getting the 18 dinners done by 2:30 p.m.I decided to reward the kids (and myself, if I have to be honest) by running up to EZ Orchards for shortcake plus I wanted to pick up some fruit for the upcoming camping trip. I know I could've made shortcake, but theirs is really good~ plus we were all a little tired from being in the kitchen all morning!!

The kids also decided to make stuff to get ready for camping that afternoon when we got back. Mary made oatmeal banana chocolate chip cookies while David started working on chocolate toffee s'more cookies. Danielle decided to work on one of our camping breakfasts with oatmeal huckleberry scones. The kitchen smelled divine!!

We usually end up going out or ordering pizza on cooking night, but I decided to use the tomatillos we had gotten in our CSA box to make up some salsa verde. I found a wonderfully simple salsa recipe that I was able to tweak just a bit with stuff I had at home. I then made some chalupas with small corn tortillas, turkey, queso fresco and sour cream. They were amazing! The cheese was really exciting for Mary and I because it tasted so close to what we had in Ecuador. The tortillas were so good plus they were fun to use as they are only 4" round~ I had picked them up at Cash & Carry just because they were cute, and we ended up using a bunch of them- I love when stuff comes together!!
I can't wait to be able to pull out a meal from the freezer instead of having to decide what to cook at the last minute for at least a few weeks. If this works out as well as I think it will, I am pretty sure that we'll be OAMC for the rest of the school year!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Summer Squash Rice Gratin

adapted from Gourmet magazine

2 cups cooked short-grain rice~ I like to use pearl rice from Winco's bulk section for this
2 yellow summer squash, sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick (of course, you can use zucchini if you have some :-)
6 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1- 14oz. can diced tomatoes, drained well
1 medium onion, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 cup grated Manchego cheese (I get mine from Costco)~ you can also use Pecarino Romano or another hard cheese if you prefer

  • Preheat oven to 450F.
  • Toss squash with 1 tablespoon oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a shallow baking pan. Toss tomatoes with 1 tablespoon oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt in another baking pan.
  • Roast squash on top shelf in oven and tomatoes on bottom shelf, turning vegetables once halfway through roasting, until tender, about 10 minutes for tomatoes and 20 minutes for squash. Leave oven on.
  • Meanwhile, cook onion and garlic with 1/2 teaspoon salt in 2 tablespoons oil in a large heavy skillet, covered, over low heat, stirring occasionally, until very tender, 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Stir together rice, onion mixture, eggs, thyme, 1/2 cup cheese, 1 tablespoon oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Spread half of rice mixture in a 2 quart baking dish, then top with half of the squash. Spread remaining rice mixture over squash, then top with remaining squash. Top with tomatoes and drizzle with remaining 2 tablespoons oil, then sprinkle with remaining cheese.
  • Bake on top rack of oven until golden brown, about 20 minutes.

The Keatley Household Does Not Live by Bread Alone~for this week, anyway

I realized this morning when I woke up thinking of what I'd have for breakfast that I've gone a little more crazy than usual. I am pretty sure it has to do with the fact that we have no bread or flour in our house at the moment. Some people love to eat sweets while others crave salty or even fatty foods~ for me it is definitely bread! I don't think I've ever met a bread I didn't like, so this week has been really interesting. I know the kids are thinking this is "interesting" (or "what do you mean we don't have any bread- what am I going to do???) too as they are having to be way more creative than usual. We do have a few other starchy items in the house, so I have been making use of pasta and rice as well as some Scottish oatmeal that's been sitting patiently in the cupboard waiting to be used.

This morning's repast was simple but made me feel like someone was giving me a big hug. I cooked up the aforementioned Scottish oatmeal, using 1/2 & 1/2 instead of water and adding 2 cinnamon sticks, a couple pieces of candied ginger, a few allspice berries and 1/2 of a vanilla bean. Once the milk was almost boiling, I strained out the chunky spices and added the oatmeal. 7 minutes and an occasional stir later, I was in oatmeal bliss. I then went over the top by spooning some King Kelly orange marmalade (bought at Winco but made where I grew up in California) and a little bit of brown sugar. It just got better as everyone was sleeping still, so I got to sit and watch a couple episodes of Gourmet's Diary of a Foodie- my new second favorite culinary-type show after Alton Brown! There are three seasons of shows you can watch on the internet~ be sure to watch the one on Italian home cooks, my numero uno favorite!

I was trying to figure out what to do for dinner when I remembered a recipe I had for zucchini rice gratin. The lead-in even said it would be satisfying for dinner with just a large green salad. This sounded perfect until I realized~ much to my horror (and Brian & Mary's amusement) that we were actually out of zucchini! I looked in everywhere I thought it could be, but alas, no zucchini was to be found. Thankfully, I did find a couple of summer squash, so I was able to make the gratin after all. It now sits on my counter waiting (patiently, like the oatmeal) to be dug into with a large spoon so as not to miss one bit of squashy, ricey, cheesy yumminess!

I also will wait patiently (but not on the counter) to see what else I can come up with this week while we live without the staff of life. When I do take my next bite of bread goodness, I plan on making it worth my to decide what kind it will be.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

"Out of this World" Roasted Kohlrabi & Potatoes

3-4 kohlrabi, ends trimmed and cut into 1/2 inch wedges
6-8 medium blue potatoes, scrubbed but not peeled cut into 1/2 inch wedges
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3-4 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 450F. Toss kohlrabi and potatoes with olive oil, garlic, salt & pepper. Place on rimmed baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and gently stir veggies. Place back in oven for 5 more minutes. Serve while warm.

I plan on using the leftovers for breakfast tomorrow~ if there are any. I like to whisk together a couple of eggs and scramble them up then add the kohlrabi & potatoes the last couple of minutes just to warm them up. I will probably then sprinkle on a little farmstead gouda from my friend Melissa at Willamette Valley Cheese Company and eat happily!

An Alien (Vegetable) Has Landed

As you know, I love to get new-to-me veggies in our wonderful CSA box from Gardenripe! Usually I don't have a problem thinking of new dishes to try, but a few weeks ago I was pretty stumped when I discovered kohlrabi in the box. It looks like something from another galaxy...far, far away~ a light green globe with bumps and three to four stalks sticking out from one side. I really think this might have been what I saw Aunt Beru feed Luke during a scene from Star Wars.

Anyway, I must confess that I tried to ignore these green globes instead of figuring out what to do with them...until today. I was at the house, alone~ a rarity for this mom of four~ and I decided to actually find out about kohlrabi. Googling is a wonderful thing as most people have already found out, and today's search yielded a world of kohlrabi information. I read that kohlrabi is an eastern European vegetable that is part of the cabbage family that can be used raw as well as cooked. I dove into my research a little further and found out that kohlrabi can also be roasted~ one of my favorite ways of cooking right now.

Looking through the rest of my veggie larder, I found some very pretty blue potatoes waiting to be boiled, mashed, stuck in a stew...or roasted! So, with no one else at home to make faces at the newest vegetable to hit the Keatley table, I chopped, drizzled, sprinkled and roasted some "out of this world" kohlrabi & blue potatoes. The smell during roasting was amazing and the taste once out of the oven was even better. Sign me up for more of this alien-looking vegetable anytime!!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Huckleberry Fields Forever...

We got back yesterday from our annual huckleberring/camping weekend up near Mt. Adams in Washington (about a three hour trip from Salem) with my best friend and her extended family. We've been doing the trip off and on for about 10 or so years~ except for the 4 years Ron and Shelly were in Malaysia being dorm parents at Dalat School. We always have such a good time, and this year was no exception!

It was interesting to realize this year that camping with young adults/teenagers is a lot different than camping with small kids. Even though I helped cook the entire weekend, the only person's hot drink I had to fix was my own. Ron- the banana boat (or u-boat) captain, ended up only having to show the kids the correct way to slice the banana for this campfire delicacy then was able to sit back and enjoy the fire instead of making a fleet of boats. The kids even helped clean up~ most of the time!

We never go hungry on these trips as we get together and plan at least a week before we go. This year Ron, Shelly and I (along with a little help from Mary) got together to plan the menu and dole out the ingredients to the various folks who would be joining us. This would be no ordinary outdoor fare, but food fit for a group of camping connoisseurs!

We would, of course, start our days with a hearty breakfast of huckleberry pancakes, eggs and breakfast meat- either sausage or bacon. I had brought a variety of hot beverages to share including what proved to be the most popular, Mannheim Steamroller cinnamon hot chocolate. Ron had brought his coffee press, so those of us who were craving a little java could imbibe to our heart's content. Lunch is always an adventure as we eat out by where we spend the day picking huckleberries. Sandwich fixings are taken in coolers along with chips, fruit and, of course, dessert. The cookie variety this year was almost mind-boggling! The Wests had outdone themselves with chocolate-peanut butter chip (made by Shelly), butterscotch sandies (provided by Chris) and brownies (baked by Gregory). There were also delicious monster cookies that Shelly's mom, Linda, had brought. It was hard to decide which were the favorites, but they all got eaten, so I'd say it was a draw!

Dinner is always so much fun to plan. This year we went with some new options than the normal fare. Ron made his chili (recipe to come as soon as I can get him to write it down for me) with which we had hot dogs and hamburgers~ with or (gasp) without chili.

Ron’s Chili

3 lbs Stew meat (chuck preferred)- cut into small chunks

½ lb ground pork

2 Tbl Flour

1 Tbl oil


1/3 cup dried minced onion

½ tsp garlic powder (divided)

1 can (14-15 oz) beef stock

2 cans (14-15 oz) chicken stock

1 8 oz cans tomato sauce

½ tsp cumin

1 4 oz can mild (or hot) green chilies

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded, deveined, and minced

1 tsp ground black pepper

3 Tbl chili powder


4 8 oz cans tomato sauce

¼ cup chili powder

2 Tbl New Mexico chili powder

2 Tbl Cumin

1 tsp garlic powder

½ Tbl brown sugar

Brown meat in oil and drain. Place in large pot or dutch oven and add seasoning ingredients. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer, covered for 1 ½ hours (stirring occasionally). Uncover, add the sauce ingredients and simmer, uncovered for another 1 ½ to 2 hours (stirring occasionally).

It was a good thing we made so many as the kids (and the rest of us) were really hungry after a day in the fields! We brought rotisserie chicken for Saturday night to be served with garlic bread, assorted salads and fresh corn on the cob. All the kids (anyone under 20) got to have a "cultural educational experience" by helping to shuck the corn.

My other recipe for the trip that you must try is not really a recipe at all. Ron shared how he always cooks corn, and I had never done it this way before. Just place about 1 1/2 inches of water in a large pan and bring to boil. Add shucked corn, standing it upright in the pot. Cook for 8 minutes. Serve however you like it~ we ate it with butter, salt and pepper. It was simple, yet totally perfect!

I have 6 or so quarts of huckleberries now waiting to be used in future treats. I plan on making scones, huckleberry swirls and buckle. I may even try the margarita/slushie recipe on of my friends sent. For now, it's just good to sit back knowing they will be waiting for me- both the berries in the freezer and the fields up at Mt. Adams.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Bruleed Creme Caramel French Toast

This is a wonderful breakfast, but it is NOT creme brulee french toast! I have searched and searched for a recipe that was already written- somewhere- but, alas, it was not to be! I've taken my french toast casserole and used a flan-type caramel on the bottom. I upped it one more step by sprinkling the top with more brown sugar then browning it with my lil' torch! So delicious, it almost tastes illegal!!
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar - divided
  • 2 Tbs. light corn syrup
  • Lg. Loaf - French Country Bread
  • 6 lg. eggs
  • 1 - 1/2 cups half & half
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 Tbs. Grand Marnier

  1. In a small heavy saucepan and over moderate heat, melt butter, 1 cup brown sugar and corn syrup.
  2. Stir until smooth and evenly pour the butter/sugar mixture into a 9”x13”x2” baking pan to cover the bottom of the pan.
  3. Slice bread into 1” cubes.
  4. Arrange the bread cubes in one layer to cover the bottom of the mixture you may need to squish the cubes together a little for everything to fit.
  5. In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs, half & half, vanilla, Grand Marnier and salt until combined.
  6. Pour or ladle the egg mixture evenly over the bread to ensure that all of the bread receives the egg mixture.
  7. Cover with plastic wrap and chill at least 8 hours or overnight in the refrigerator.
  8. In the morning, pre-heat the oven to 350°.
  9. Remove the bread mixture from the refrigerator and let sit on the counter for 20 minutes.
  10. Bake, uncovered, for 35 to 40 minutes or until puffed and the edges are golden brown.
  11. Sprinkle with remaining brown sugar. Either brown the top with a chef's torch or place in pre-heated broiler for 3-4 minutes until top is golden brown.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Never Go Up Against a Silcilian*...Pesto (adapted from Cooking Light)

1/2 cup pine nuts
6 elephant garlic cloves
8 cups basil leaves
1/2 extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
4 ounces Pecarino Romano cheese, cut into small cubes

~Heat a small skillet over medium. Add pine nuts; cook until lightly toasted, tossing occasionally. Remove from heat.
~Combine nuts and garlic in food processor bowl; process until minced. Add basil, olive oil, salt and pepper; process until blended, scraping sides occasionally. Add cheese; process until smooth.
~To Freeze: place 1/4 cup blobs of pesto on silpat-lined baking sheet and flash-freeze for approximately 2 hours. Remove blobs and place in ziploc bag. These can then be added to soups or hot pasta or microwaved for 20-30 seconds to put on slices of Italian bread~ umm!
*Those of you that know movies will obviously recognize this line from The Princess Bride, in which Vizzini tells the Dread Pirate Roberts "Never go up against a Silcilian when death is on the line"~ obviously, we Silcilians take our pesto seriously!!

Am I Being a Pest-o

I couldn't believe the change in the weather yesterday in Salem! We went from warm and muggy to cooler and muggy with rain all in the space of a few hours. This wasn't a huge surprise, as anyone who has lived here for more than a few months can tell you~ if you don't like the weather in the Willamette Valley, just wait a 10 minutes.

So, to get out of the house yesterday for a while, my husband asked if I'd like to go see Julie & Julia at one of the theatres here in town. I had totally loved reading My Life In France Julia Child as it had so many reasons to enjoy it~ the whole story was enchanting! On the other hand, I had only read the first two chapters of Julie & Julia as I was disappointed in the swearing and rabbit-trails that had to do with the author's friends relationships. Thankfully, the movie seemed to try to take the best parts of that book and much of My Life in France and intertwine them with fairly seamless continuity. My husband asked if I had cried at all to which I answered "well, of course" then he confessed he had gotten teary a few times just thinking about the passion that Julia Child had for food. The fact that we were spending a Tuesday afternoon at the movie theatre was part of the joy of being out~ it always feels a little self-indulgent to say goodbye to the teenagers at home and head off to someplace to be entertained for a few hours. Whether you get the opportunity to see it in the theatre or wait to watch on DVD, this is a movie for those of us who call ourselves "foodies"!

Of course, coming home afterwards having to make a couple of dishes for our Ecuador team reunion potluck made me immediately think of food when we left the theatre. I ended up making a tossed salad with ingredients from our wonderful CSA box that got delivered last Thursday. It's always fun for me to see what the folks at Gardenripe drop off since it's when I am at work. Last night's salad included romaine and mixed greens, fresh peas that I blanched right before adding, green beans that I had roasted the day before with some elephant garlic and shallots and a very pretty yellow summer squash. I took some homemade balsamic vinegarette and homemade ranch dressing, so people could choose which one they'd prefer on their salad. I also made a chocolate/cinnamon cake with a mocha icing.

The girls and I went to work out today and followed the workout with a trip to my favorite Salem grocery store- Salem Grocery Outlet on Lancaster Drive. It always makes me wonder why everyone doesn't shop here! They have the best prices on so many things, but even more exciting is finding stuff we've heard about but never tried. Today was "stock up" day for us as Cari has decided she wants to make & take her lunch to work instead of eating out (gee- what a concept). We found all kinds of wonderful bargains! The newest try is orange-strawberry mango yogurt from Rachel's. I am looking forward to trying it with some granola for breakfast tomorrow morning!

I've been trying to figure out some recipes to use some of the produce we've been getting, so this afternoon I made a batch of pesto. It's so much less expensive to make your own, and it's easy to pop in the freezer~ You can either put it into ice cube trays or just put 1/4 cup blobs on a silpat on a baking sheet. After freezing them for a couple of hours, the blobs are ready to be put into a ziploc bag and kept until you need them. Go get some basil and make some pesto~ come the middle of January you can pop some summer goodness over some pasta~ how good is that!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Pain du Chocolat a.k.a. chocolate bread

2 packages crescent rolls (just bear with me on this)
2 oz. unsweetened baking chocolate
1/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
additional powdered sugar, for dusting

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Heat baking chocolate and butter in microwave until butter is melted. Stir until chocolate is melted too. (You can do this part over the stove in a small saucepan, but the microwave works well for this). Once chocolate/butter mixture is smooth, add 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, a little at a time and mix well. Stir in vanilla. Open crescent rolls and unroll each on an ungreased baking sheet. Place about a tablespoon of chocolate mixture on large end of triangle. Roll up and tuck corners of rolls underneath~ it should look like a small rectangle. Bake for 13-15 minutes or until rolls are golden brown. Dust tops with powdered sugar. Wait for 3-4 minutes until rolls have cooled slightly, then enjoy!

To Bake or Not To Bake

This past weekend was rather a lazy one for me~ or at least it felt like it most of the time as there were many opportunities to simply sit back and enjoy the blue sky and fluffy white clouds drifting by my gaze. Saturday morning found me up a little earlier than anticipated, no doubt thanks to Ruby- our wonderful but persistent black lab- who felt she must take the place of my alarm clock every morning, so she can go out to the yard for her morning constitutional. Anyway, I was up and having to decide whether or not to make breakfast. I choose not to, instead opting to wake up my husband (a momentous task all its' own) and convince him to take Mary and me to breakfast. After dropping off Joshua at the fencing salle for his morning work session, we headed to my new favorite place to break our fast. I have been to Word of Mouth Neighborhood Bistro a few times before, and I have yet to be disappointed. This time was no exception as I decided to take the plunge and try their "best of both worlds" which included a heaping serving of veggie hash AND prime rib hash as well as a couple of eggs (over medium, thank you) and a piece of delicious wheat toast. I had tried the veggie hash, but the prime rib was a new and most amazing taste for me. Generally, I am not a huge fan of prime rib, but I would eat it in their hash any day of the week!! Thankfully, I was able to spend a few hours working off my breakfast as I tended to the yard~ it had been woefully neglected while I was in Ecuador~ and I am sure some of the "extra" calories burned off!

Sunday morning came and along with it was the decision to bake something for breakfast before church or not. I decided to do a little kitchen "cheating" and make my version of pain du chocolat (or as my friend Lorie corrected me, "chocolate bread"). I don't usually make breakfast on Sunday mornings as we are rushing out the door, but being August, we didn't have to leave quite so early as there is no Sunday school during the month. Brian actually was up in time to not only put on a pot of coffee, but he helped me bake too (wonders will never cease)! With a hot cup of coffee and a couple of the pain du chocolat in front of me, I was ready for a great day~ no matter what it might hold!!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Chicken Empanadas

3 c. flour
2 tbsp. butter or shortening
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
1 c. water

Mix first 5 ingredients, add water, stir and knead into a dough. Roll out thin and cut into 5-inch circles. Fill with chicken filling given below. Fold dough over into half moons, sealing edges by pressing together. Fry in deep hot fat.


2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1/4 cup cilantro
1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas
1/2 cup carrot, chopped
1 lb. cooked and chopped chicken
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. cumin powder
1/4 tsp. cayenne

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, cilantro, peas and carrots. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until onion is translucent. Add chicken and seasonings. Cool before filling empanadas.

Comida es Muy Bien!!

Finally, after being home a week, I've got a few minutes to start sharing a little about our amazing trip to Ecuador! I know we didn't go for the food, but as many of you will realize, it is always part of whatever I do and wherever I get to travel- I'm sure most of you would say the same!!
Today's memory will be of our first evening in Macas. It is a lovely little town of about 30,000 people. I call it lovely because the smells, sights and smiles are forever part of my heart. We arrived in Macas in the afternoon on Sunday, July 12th after a rather bumpy ride in a 30-passenger airplane- of which our entire team took up the whole plane. It was probably pretty amazing to see the Andes as we flew over them, but I was relegated to the very back seat of the plane that unfortunately had no windows. 10 minutes into the air, and the flight attendant walked down the very narrow aisle with drinkable yogurt as well as a nice snack which I didn't partake in as a kindness to the team member who was sitting next to me willing herself (and praying) not to be ill during our 45 minute trip. Upon landing, we could feel the humidity and see the lushness of the area in full bloom. We had made it to Macas where we would be experiencing so many exciting things for 12 days~ including some of the most delicious food I have ever eaten!

Once checked in to our hotel, we headed to Emanuel Christian School for dinner and to look at the place we would be spending most of our waking hours for the next week and a half. We walked up the steps to the cafeteria which is very open and airy~ and very warm during the day as I would soon find out thanks to a metal roof. The kitchen crew~ Hermana Patricia and daughter Valeria (our breakfast cooks), Hermana Gina (our "jefe de cocina" or "chef of the kitchen") and Hermana Carmita ("jefe segundo" or "assistant chef") had put together a welcome dinner of empanadas filled with chicken and veggies that were absolutely amazing! The crust was flaky, the chicken tender, and the veggies were totally fresh. It was served with a salad that was as tasty and fresh as any found in the Willamette Valley during peak farmers' market months. I am not a huge chocolate milk/hot cocoa fan, but the chocolate beverage they served with dinner was just sweet enough and at the right temperature to set off the rest of the meal perfectly!

I know we were all hungry, but I also know there were very few leftovers that night. My Spanish is definitely lacking, but I did learn to tell our kitchen crew, "Comida es muy bien". It was one of many new food/cooking phrases I would get the opportunity to practice while on our trip. We went back to the hotel after spending a few hours getting ready for to start "Son Rock Kids Camp" the next day, excited and exhausted with both our appetites and our hearts growing and ready to take on more!!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Middle of the Earth Food

So, we are in Quito, Ecuador and the food is so deliciosa!! After being concerned about not having somewhere to get good coffee, my fears vanished as a cup of steamed milk to which I added nescafe and chocolate along with a spoon a raw sugar. The rest of breakfast at our hostel consisted of Ecuadorian bread- totally fresh, great scrambled eggs and fresh fruit nectar. We then went to Pollo Campare (a fast food chain popular in Latin America) where I had arroz con pollo. Mary and I were wanting to get some tres leches cake, but we were just too full. Hopefully, we´ll get back there maƱana!

We also visited the Mitad Del Mundo (middle of the earth) today. Among the beautiful views and monuments were great little shops and lots of good restaurants. It was interesting trying to figure out where to feed the 29 of us, but we decided on Calima- a really cute place with authentic Ecuadorian food. I decided to try the chicken soup which was wonderful while Mary had corn on the cob, fresh mozarella and beans that are something like a cross between lima and fava beans. It was good as well as interesting, but she was very happy with her dessert of vanilla ice cream. We also tried an empanada that would be worth going back for more!

After we arrived back "home" at the hostel, we decided to go around the corner to the bakery for some goodies. I ended up buying some cookies as well as a couple of sweet rolls. The amazing thing about the food is how fresh it all is!

I will post some photos as soon as I can. We´ve got some great ones of dinner tonight that be sure to make your mouth water- or you´re just not hungry!! For now, buenos noches as I am going to go enjoy my sweets!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Eating On A Jet Plane

Tomorrow morning- bright and early- my youngest daughter and I will be boarding a plane heading to Quito, Ecuador. This will be Mary's first trip out of the country, let alone on a plane. We are heading- with 25 other folks- to Macas, Ecuador to work at Emmanuel Christian School doing an ESL/VBS for two weeks as well as painting the school. I will also get the opportunity to teach a cooking class for 60 women along with one of the gals from our group.

One of the parts of the trip I am most looking forward to is, of course, the food. I even went so far to call our airlines, Continental, to find out if we'd be having to pay for food on the plane. Much to my surprise, the very nice Maria with Continental let me know they do not charge for food on their planes. I found out we will be getting more than just peanuts or pretzels~ maybe not a 5-course meal, but it will be food, and it will be free!

I plan on journaling about our adventure and all the new foods we'll get the opportunity to try! Hopefully, I'll even be able to share some delicious recipes that I learn in Ecuador!!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Bok Choi Slaw (adapted from

1/4 cup white vinegar
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons Dijon-style mustard (I like Beaver brand)
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
6 cups thinly sliced bok choi (about 1 pound, trimmed)
1 small head red cabbage, thinly sliced
2 medium carrots, shredded
3 scallions, thinly sliced on the diagonal

Whisk vinegar, sesame oil, fish sauce. sugar, mustard, salt and pepper in a large bowl until sugar dissolves. Add bok choi, cabbage, carrots and scallions; toss to coat with dressing. Chill until ready to serve.

serves 8-10

Also good as condiment for hot dogs and sausages.

A Potluck of Freedom

May the sun in his course visit no land more free, more happy, more lovely, than this our own country! ~Daniel Webster

I really enjoy celebrating Independence Day! I have a feeling it comes from having a family who always made sure that the 4th of July was a day of family, food and, of course, fireworks. I will never forget the taste of my family's fried chicken, potato salad, three-bean salad, and getting to help turn the crank on the White Mountain Ice Cream Maker. It would be worth all the hard work to be the one fortunate enough to be the first to get a taste of Grandpa Aziz's homemade banana ice cream!

As my husband and I have raised our own family, I've taken the helm in the celebrating of our country's freedom. When the kids were younger, it was the pancake breakfast at the fire station and parade in Monmouth, Oregon followed by a potluck dinner at my parents' house. As they've gotten older, we've done a variety of things~ from the Civil War Reenactment at Willamette State Park to picnics with dear family friends at Mission Mill Museum. We've even gone to a Keizer Volcanoes baseball game one year to not only watch our local team, but to also watch a beautiful display of fireworks!

This year, for lunch, we decided to do another picnic at Mission Mill thanks to best friends Ron and Shelly. They brought chicken and fresh Oregon fruit. I was in charge of salad, but didn't have any lettuce or "typical" salad fare. What I did have were all kinds of veggies from our second CSA box, thanks to Gardenripe in Silverton. I had a huge bunch of bok choi along with some broccoli, red cabbage and fresh peas. I also had made a trip to EZ Orchards, our year-round local produce market, to supplement our veggie box with local Walla Walla Onions and a few other treats. I decided to experiment with a cole slaw made with the bok choi and red cabbage as well as a salad made with the broccoli, peas, onions and some bacon added for that smoky flavor and crunch. The highlight for me was a dessert of raspberries that Shelly's mom and dad had brought straight from their garden along with some delicious Umpqua french vanilla ice cream. It brought back memories of that homemade ice cream from my childhood 4th of July potlucks!

The celebrating continued that evening at my folks' house with more potluck goodness. I brought more of my salads since I had made a double batch of each, and my dad did a great job on what he called his "mixed grill" of chicken, polish sausage, hamburgers and Italian sausage. My oldest son, Josh, put together a sandwich that my mom and I both copied as it looked amazing~ Italian sausage, BBQ sauce, and some of my bok choi slaw all on a crusty roll. It tasted as good as it looked! We finished the meal with a trifle I had "thrown" together of lime zest cake, fresh Kotata and Obsidian blackberries, lemon yogurt, whipped cream and shredded mint.

I have often wondered what could top time with friends and family celebrating our country's independence with a potluck, and I found out this year~ the answer would be two potlucks celebrating the 4th of July!!