Summatime in the PNW and the Hunt for Chinese Food

Pin It
Dear Readers,
Summer is finally behind us! Sure, it was nice to have sunshine, and be outside, and not carry an umbrella ALL THE TIME, but I've missed my umbrella. And soups, and darkness at 4:30 pm. That's just who I am, and I've got to embrace it. But first, the husband wrote a post about Chinese Food. And below are some photos to recap our summer. Also, we moved at the beginning of summer, so there are lots of photos of the new garden.

As the adjustments to life in a new state continue, some truths are emerging as our roots grow into the ground each season. Portland is undoubtedly weird, and will keep that way for some time, even if the definition of weird is always changing. Oregon itself is different, very, very, very different than Southern California. Different is the reason we decided to move here--cleaner air, more than 1.5 seasons, easier access to mountains, rivers, and a homier feel with events like blueberry picking, Christmas tree cutting, and a sauerkraut festival with cabbage bowling.

But, not all different is good in our adopted land. Case in point: Chinese food. Chinese options in Oregon are sad, especially outside the metro area. But, we thought, there has to be someplace to get dim sim, dan dan noodles, and dumplings. With some optimism, we attempted XLB, a hip portland establishment that upon entering felt nothing like a Chinese restaurant (IPAs on draft is not cred-inducing criteria in my book). Their takeout food was expensive, the seasoning was off, and depressingly, the xao long bao is only available for dine-ins (sorry XLB, but the kid fell asleep on the drive over). The cold months of winter came, and we made due with Trader Joe's chicken dumplings, pho, Korean bbq, and trips to decent ramen places to satisfy our broader Asian food cravings.

Spring came, replete with flowering trees and a splashy parade of bulbs. First daffodils emerged, then tulips, and hyacinths (and allergies!!!). It wasn’t Chinese food, but when the entire land, even highway on-ramps, look like a floral shop, it fills a certain void. Gradually, we started hearing about a place called Taste of Szechuan. It made the Portland lists, it was recommended by friends and strangers, and at this point we had nothing to lose. We walked into the converted Marie Calendars, and we knew this place was special. It felt Chinese. It WAS Chinese. The menu had Szechuan noodles we had been craving, dumplings, and a whole host of new foods we’d never experienced. We ordered way too much in our delight, and went home with leftover boxes and smiles on our faces.

Spring turned into summer, and we spent it enjoying the outdoors -- picking berries, visiting splash pads, rivers, and wineries. Our search for Chinese food continued, with fruitful results (more to come later). But, first, an overview of our PNW summer in photos.
We have a garden again! And despite planting late in the summer, it really took off, and we've got herbs and greens, and fall surprises coming.

We also managed to get away for a camping trip, and despite all the wildfires around us, we had fun!
Other than that, we spent a good portion of the summer settling into the new house, cooking, and eating outside (so I guess I'll miss that about summer).
 Lot's of trips to parks and splash pads. And Viggo learned to ride a scooter, like a pro.
End of summer tomatoes, accessorized and roasted for five hours at 275 degrees. These headed to the freezer for the upcoming winter. Let's see if they make it past November.


Lamb Shanks (because I miss fall)

Pin It
We've been in a heatwave. Just a little one. A few days of 105 degrees, now high 90s. Total misery for this So Cal transplant. But my fellow Oregonians don't seem to mind it too much, especially if they have air. We currently do not. We thought hey, let's see what a summer in Portland feels like. Well, it feels pretty hot. But 2-3 weeks of heat is better than 5 months, so I'll take it.

In the midst of this heatwave, I was missing fall and hearty meals, sweaters, the rain, and when I came across a couple of good-looking lamb shanks at the grocery store, I went for it. But I wasn't about to spend time by the oven, so I popped these in the CrockPot, and when we got home, they were waiting for us, all tender and delicious.

And here's our little helper, working hard in his boxers, with his belly covered in flour.

Lamb Shanks in Crock
Lots of estimates in this one, because you can't really screw up. Also, I just used what I had in my pantry.

Two shanks
1/2 orange
1-2 cups of red wine
broth or water, I used about 1 cup of chicken
1-2 tbsp tomato paste
1 dried mushroom, because it was there
2 bay leaves
2-4 garlic cloves
1/2 onion
a few sprigs of rosemary and thyme
2-3 cloves, juniper berries and all spice (you can bundle these up if you like)
salt and pepper, lots

Place your shanks in the pot along with all the other ingredients and cook low for about 8 hours.


Maine 2017

Pin It
We've been talking about going back to Maine since our trip in 2011. And when our friends moved back to the east coast, we decided to invite ourselves to the glorious Maine house in Biddeford for a mini reunion.

Maine with kids is not as fun as Maine without kids. But it was fun to see Viggo and Baby Miles hit it off and become BFFs. Also, it was fun to eat lobster everyday.

The trip was a nice getaway, but I never want to travel by plane in July again, and I already miss our friends terribly and want them closer. And now, photos.
House views. That's just the Atlantic ocean, no big deal.
Chowder House smiles. 
Viggs and Miles being cute and cuddly.
All the seafood, including lobster bisque. 
Suspicious of beer and/or dad. 
We hiked and collected shells on the beach. Then Viggo refused to take a photo.
Local oysters in Portland.
Lawn games with the crew. Again, that's the ocean right there, just hanging out, being an ocean.
I think we had a lobster roll a day. Because you have to. 
Beach babes.
Steamers and lobsters, and "other" stuff.
This kid ate half of my lobster, sigh. 
Cool kid at a lighthouse.
On our last night, our hosts made a lot of chicken wings and we put the kids to bed and watched Game of Thrones while drinking mead. It was kinda perfect. 
And one final roll for the road. 


Bulgogi Rolls

Pin It
Cooking with kids is fun, for like 3 minutes. Then they start doing who knows what, but it's typically not what I would consider cooking. And then there's a mess. Mess they are not going to help clean up, right?

BUT, this super easy recipe is actually fun to make with a toddler. Viggo was into picking herbs from the garden, soaking the rice paper, and sort of layering the veggies. Sorta.

We're definitely making another version this weekend with chicken.
Bulgogi Wraps

for meat and marinade
3 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp sesame oil
3 tbsp sugar
1 tsp sesame seeds, I forgot these, but you shouldn't
1 small onion, sliced thin
1 lb of thinly sliced rib eye

1) Mix the above four ingredients first and then add your onions and meat.  Marinade anywhere from 15 minutes to a few hours. I did about 4 hours.
2) Add a tablespoon of neutral oil to hot pan and cook meat and onions. This will cook up fast. I usually cook my onions first, but that's up to you.
3) Let meat cool.

for wraps
rice paper (and warm water)
lettuce/greens, I used iceberg I had around
sliced cucumber, bell pepper or whatever else crunchy vegetables you like
herbs, I used basil and mint

1) Soak your rice paper for a few seconds, based on package instructions.
2) Layer your meat and fillings on top of the paper.
3) Roll (here's the how to, just in case).

4) EAT


Spring in the PNW

Pin It
Now that summer is nearly over, it seems like a good time for a spring overview. Sigh, still playing catch up on this blog. 

I guess it was a pretty rainy spring in Oregon, but I didn't know any better and loved all the cool weather. Sweaters year-round! Despite the rain, we had many adventures and hosted my parents for their first trip to the PNW. 
The Rose Garden above, and Japanese Garden below. 
We made several trips to the coast and Viggo flew a kite.
 Berry season began. 
Leading the pack with his stick.

 Tide pooling and beach drinking.

Strawberry and rhubarb cake (and Viggo's lip ouchie).

 Short sands beach.
 Farm and winery visits.
Tulips and waterfalls.