Friday, August 29, 2008

Name that white flower

The first summer at our house is winding to a close (long, depressing sigh). Throughout the past few months, each time I wander into our yard, a new plant or flower seems to have sprouted. We’ve been continually blessed by the garden fairy. Although, this also leads me to believe we did something very, very bad to deserve the mole infestation.
Back in March, some friends (who have a yard that rivals the Hanging Gardens of Babylon) told us to be careful about digging and cutting things back, and to wait and see what might appear. This was very sound, yet slightly ill-timed advice. The “President’s Day Massacre” had already occurred, resulting in mid-century military haircuts for three prominently placed grass/palm-looking bushes. And yes, “grass/palm-looking bushes” is as accurately as they can be described using my horticulturally-challenged vernacular. Also completely destroyed were some Grape Hyacinth (identified post-mortem) that I mistook for rogue blades of grass.

Minimal damage all-in-all, considering the plans I had for what turned out to be my very favorite flowers — featured in the photos. The leaves looked so pointy and menacing sans blooms; I was sure we were facing an invasive weed. Thankfully I left them alone because my arms got tired. That, and because pruning isn’t really very fun.
My goal for next year is to confidently name and describe plants to visitors, and prevent conversations such as this:

Friend: “Those are really pretty.”
Me: “Thanks, we really like them, too.”
Friend: “They smell good. What are they called?”
Me: “Um, white flowers, I think.”

Perhaps you can help me. Name that white flower!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Team O, circa 1965

I had entirely too much fun playing with Yearbook Yourself this morning. I imagine we both liked malts and danced to You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin' at our senior prom.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Nectarine sorbet

I learned a couple things this week. First, when you watch an egg roll perilously toward the edge of your kitchen counter from across the room and yell, “Stop! Stop! Stop!” the egg will not listen.

Second, pouring a little Gewurztraminer over fresh nectarine sorbet makes me very, very happy. I didn’t have a lot of luck taking a great picture of the sorbet. It was prettier than it looks here, so don’t let the photography deter you from making it. Really refreshing and perfect to celebrate the last few weeks of summer (which make me very sad, so this helps ease the creeping autumn blues).

Nectarine Sorbet
6 or 7 very ripe nectarines
2/3 cup water
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp. raspberry liqueur

Dice the nectarines, don't bother peeling them. The peel will add a lot of color and flavor to the final product, without making it grainy or lumpy.

Add the water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for ten minutes.

Add the sugar, stir until it's dissolved.

Set aside and allow to cool to room temperature.

Puree sorbet base in a blender until it is very smooth (I blended mine on high for about two minutes).

Pour through a fine sieve and chill very well, preferably over night.

Freeze in an ice cream machine for about 15-20 minutes.

When finished, the sorbet will be soft but ready to eat. For firmer sorbet, transfer to a freezer safe container and freeze at least two hours. If freezing longer than two hours, allow to soften for 15 minutes on the counter until serving.

The wine
2006 Three Blondes Gewurztraminer from Icicle Ridge Winery in Leavenworth, courtesy of Brian and Christie Lounsberry.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Like dirt water for chocolate

We spent last weekend in Portland with the Cudworths. Missy and I had a fabulous time shopping on 23rd and stopped to enjoy some seasonal beers at McMenamins while the boys played in a golf tournament.

That’s Missy’s beer on the left, Copper Moon, a pale ale; and mine on the right, Purple Haze, made with Marionberries. Mine was light, fruity and very girly. I just learned last week that a Marionberry is a type of blackberry. I always thought it was its own fruit. Or a congressman from Arkansas.

We also visited Moonstruck Chocolatier, my very favorite chocolate shop. A visit to Portland mandates a stop at Moonstruck. Pictured is a Bailey’s Irish Crème truffle, which lasted for approximately 23 seconds following its time in front of the camera. Their creations are not only delicious, but clever. Right now they’re featuring political truffles — donkeys and elephants! And my personal favorite, the milk chocolate lab. Although the puppies are almost too cute to eat.

Moonstruck makes the most amazingly smooth, melt-in-your-mouth milk chocolate. I know it’s en vogue to snub milk chocolate, but I’m taking a stand in its defense. I prefer milk chocolate’s flavor and texture to that of dark. I recently tried some “high-end” dark chocolate with a texture that can accurately be described as remarkably similar to a gnawed on bar of Ivory soap. If you’re in the 77 percent cocoa mass club, that’s OK. You’ll come around sooner or later and realize that just because someone at FruFru Foodie Magazine told you super-dark chocolate is superior, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true.

Our stay wrapped up with a luau (held at the previously mentioned location in the “Flush valves and flappers” post) and we helped decorate by pinning strawberries on the pineapple palm tree. I ate a lot while I worked — seems to be a recurring theme with me. We were also treated to our first traditional Fijian kava drinking ceremony.

Fijians commonly hold social gatherings centered around a drink called "grog," made by pounding sun-dried kava root into a fine powder and mixing it with cold water. Kava is known for being anti-yummy, i.e., it tastes like sour mud, but the group bonding experience of passing around coconut bowls and drinking dirt water was fun.

“Bula!” (That's what you say when you're finished.)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Flush valves and flappers

I generally don’t take pleasure in others’ misfortune. That is, unless you’re the lady at the independent shipping store who yelled at me for asking to use the packing tape without “offering” her $.75. If you're reading this, Elphaba, I will not be sad if you wander into oncoming traffic. Or if you’re the bank customer who, while I was working as a teller in college, demanded I smile at you. A little misfortune sprinkled in your direction would be OK, too.

At any rate, when bad things happen to other people, I usually feel guilty for simply having thoughts like, “Thank God that didn’t happen to me.” Then I go through the process of convincing myself that these types of thoughts will send me straight to Hell and that I have probably cursed myself into similar circumstances for said feelings.

Can you tell I’m Catholic??

All of this leads me to this weekend’s “adventure in domesticity” or rather, “misadventure in domesticity” at the home of some friends (who shall remain nameless) near Portland, Ore. And yes, I admit to having a “Thank God this isn't happening to me” moment. They lost water pressure to their toilet in the middle of a large party and several guests, including me, were relegated to using bushes and shrubs around their newly renovated and very well-manicured backyard.

So for the penance of the "happy my toilet works" thoughts, I rolled up my sleeves and tried to help fix the problem. (Thanks, dad, for the crash plumbing course.) Unfortunately, the issue lay with the pipes and the only quick-fix was a hose through the window.

At least I got to show off my knowledge of flush valves and flappers. Something I don't get to do very often.

And I can't help but post a photo of the note hung on the wall, too, since I'm a girl and the one who originally suggested our makeshift solution. It puts a grin on my face that makes my cheeks ache. Don't worry, no one had to come running to rescue me.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Oyster Bar on Chuckanut Drive

I’ve been driving by the Oyster Bar on Chuckanut Drive since my freshman year at WWU in Bellingham. I would take the long way home to enjoy the roadside view overlooking Samish Bay and slow my car to a crawl so I could read the fluorescent writing on the menu outside the front door as I passed.

During college, I could barely afford to eat the Reser’s bean and cheese burritos that made up 90 percent of my diet, let alone abalone or swordfish. Not that I would have tried either of those things back then, anyway. I was a vegetarian (“nothing with a face” was the rule) and although I’m sure it’s world-class, selecting gnocchi from the Oyster Bar menu would be truly unconscionable.

So for the past 10 years, I’ve been drooling over this place and trying to come up with a reason to eat there. I guess I could have just gone without a motive, but when you work something up so much, it makes sense to have a reason. The Oyster Bar is a reason kind of restaurant. And then, two years ago, when Morgan and I were freshly engaged, we came up with a really good reason. Our rehearsal dinner. Voila, reason! Unfortunately, they couldn’t accommodate our ridiculously huge guest list for the evening. The restaurant is intimate (read: very, very small), and our wedding party plus spouses, dates and family members were beginning to look a bit like the Osmonds and therefore would require something more closely resembling a large barn.

So the reason search continued …

But then, last week, something special happened. We had our first anniversary and I finally got my wish. A date with my husband of one year; crab cakes; a palette cleansing white grape sorbet with champagne; blue marlin with a rhubarb and lavender gastrique; king crab legs infused with tequila and lime, served with blood orange butter; and cappuccino crème brulee for dessert.

And, yes. Everything lived up to my decade’s worth of cravings and imagination.

P.S. The marlin looked prettier before I got started. I’m still kind of new at this and forgot to take a picture before my first bite!

We're off to Portland for the weekend. See you back here next week!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Coconut and Funfetti don't mix

For my brother Ethan’s birthday this year, I made the most delicious cake ever. Yes, ever. The Rave Reviews Coconut Cake. I got the recipe from my mom, who clipped it out of the Bremerton Sun in the early 80s. A lot of the appeal, for me at least, is the nostalgia. I remember no other food making my dad as happy as this cake.

It’s a simple recipe. The base is a boxed yellow cake mix (don’t scoff, it really does taste good), so I can’t claim to have slaved for days over this thing. Frosting it was a bit tedious, though. I haven’t frosted many triple-layer cakes in my life and it can be a little tricky. Especially if you eat half the frosting before you’re finished.

Ethan loves Funfetti cake, too. He actually asked me if I could make the coconut cake with Funfetti as the base. Since this is possibly the worst culinary idea he’s ever had (sorry, dude, it’s true), but I know how disappointed he would be to not have Funfetti on his 25th birthday, I also made him some cupcakes to share with his friends. As you can see below, I’ve been feeding him for years. I am such a good big sister (and I guess he’s a pretty good little brother, too).

Crab hands, ewwww!

We cracked 10 more crab last night. It was the last of the bunch we caught on Saturday night. Now we have about 14 cups of lump crab meat in our freezer!

Oh, the possibilities …

The only downfall is that I don’t want to even think about crab for at least two weeks because I can’t get the smell off my hands and it’s totally grossing me out. I tried toothpaste, lemon juice mixed with black pepper and a Wonder Bar. Everything helped a little, but it’s still there. I hope no one gets close enough to me at the office to notice.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Crabbin’ at the cabin

The second part of our week-long vacation was a stay on Samish Island. We had a ton of fun at the family cabin and caught a lot of crab. I made Morgan’s favorite, crab quiche. It was so good that even our friend Missy, who was so disturbed about boiling the crab that she set one free (and named it Juan-Carlos), even liked it!

This year I decided to try the Reynolds Handi-Vac to preserve the extra meat we didn’t eat during our stay. Upon first use, I’m pleased to say that it rules. I can’t wait to make Whiskey Crab Soup a la the Cliff House in Bellingham. Stay tuned for that recipe!

Crab Quiche

1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup milk
1 1/4 cup lump crab meat
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup chopped green onions
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
1 deep dish 9-inch unbaked pie crust (I use a frozen, pre-made crust)

Preheat oven to 350F. In a medium bowl, beat together eggs, mayonnaise, flour, garlic powder, cayenne and milk until thoroughly blended. Stir in crab, cheese, and onion. Spread into pie shell.
Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.


Happy one year anniversary, Team O!

We made it through our first year of marriage. Hooray!

To celebrate, we strapped tremendously heavy packs to our backs and slogged through the woods for three days. Romantic, eh? Actually, it kind of was — except for the stagnant, muddy creek that was our only drinking water source. We purified it, of course. Regardless, it was absolutely wretched.

We truly felt like a team when the gnats swarmed us and we had to strategize how to get into the tent without being followed by the little nasties. There were so many, our lantern looked like it had a thick coating of tar the next morning from all that had flown into it and burned. Sick!

There were good parts, though, too. I promise. Like the petroglyphs carved by Native Americans hundreds of years ago. Those were indeed very, very cool. And the mist on the ocean in the morning was so refreshing and peaceful. Sometimes it’s easy to forget the true roar of the Pacific when you’re sheltered in Puget Sound.

The best part was just spending time with Morgan. It’s one of my favorite things to do, which is good since we’re married. Hopefully someday we’ll have at least 50 anniversary stories to share with you.