Lamb Shanks (because I miss fall)

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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

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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

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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

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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.


Whole Stuffed Trout

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We love fish and luckily, so does our little guy. Baking a whole fish is super easy and looks impressive, especially to a 2 1/2 year old (small victories), so it's a popular route in our house.

For this recipe, I used lemon, leeks, parsley, garlic, olive oil and lots of salt and pepper. I like to stuff the inside with herbs and lemon, layer the leeks on the bottom and top, and make slits along the top for the garlic. Depending on the size of your fish, it takes about 20-30 minutes to bake.

That's it!


Korean Ground Beef Bowl

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I've been bad at keeping up with the blog, and got called out on it today. I've been trying to come up with a one-photo format for recipes, because I never take pics of the process in my current poorly-lit kitchen (and don't want to edit them!).

BUT, I have been making lots of very easy, weeknight friendly meals that I do want to share. So here it goes, my first one photo, one recipe post.

Also, I had the leftovers for lunch, and they were really good. In case you're into that sort of thing.

Korean Ground Beef Bowl
via many Pintrest recipes

1/4 cup soy sauce
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (Korean or regular)
olive oil (just enough to brown your meat in)
1 pound ground beef
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger

Brown or white rice
vegetables on the side (I caramelized onions and added bell peppers and carrots to the mix)

sesame seeds
sliced scallions, white and green parts
hot sauce of your choice (optional)

1)      Add oil to hot pan and brown your beef, add ginger and garlic towards the end.
2)      Mix the first four ingredients together and add to your beef. Simmer for about 7-10 minutes.
3)      Cook your vegetables however way you want. You should really have this some vegetables. They are good for you.
4)      Spoon meat and vegetables over rice, sprinkle with sesame seeds and scallions. 


Thrift Stores and Thrifty Polenta Pancakes

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Dear Readers,
Let me start off by saying I was never a fan of thrift stores. Too messy, time consuming and unpredictable for my high-strung personality. But, when we moved to Oregon and I began my job in the farm heartland, and didn't have a Target near my work (devastating for sure), I needed to go somewhere to spend my rainy lunch breaks. So, I discovered the closest such place was a Goodwill.

Then, I decided to fill my entire house with plants, and the Goodwill seemed like a great place to find neat planters and ceramics that can serve as pots. And that is how my Goodwill obsession began. Let me also say, the quality of Goodwill stores in Oregon seem to be much higher than the land I came from (Los Angeles), so that just fueled my new hobby, and apparently inspired the husband to write a post. 

I also want to add, I DO NOT DO compulsions, as the husband tries to suggest below. It's just not my style. And, the polenta pancakes were not bad. 

Every few days the Blog Lady was showing up to the house after work with Goodwill bags full of planters, pots, and puzzles for Viggo. She used her lunch hour to snack and then shop for new, old items to decorate the house with. At some point, I had to chase away thoughts she was developing a shopping compulsion from the sheer number of planter pots filling our patio and windows. Then one night she texted “Big mistake going to Goodwill. So much good stuff.” When she walked into the house and exclaimed “you’re going to have to bring in the box of stuff,” my suspicions seemed confirmed.

But, it’s good to be wrong. Sometimes. The content of that “box of stuff” was a genuine Goodwill find. Pottery from a Native American women’s collective in New Mexico, a signed bowl from Holland, sturdy plateware from well-known, but long-gone American companies, whale and geese coffee cups, etc. I’ve always known the Blog Lady to have a good eye, but this outing was something else entirely. Curious, I typed into my iphone the price for a gravy spoon from England. I followed this up by checking a set a plates, then the cups, adding the figures up and estimating the stuff was easily worth triple what she paid. I didn’t care about resale value, though, just the sheer quality of the goods. They were beautiful--to look at, to hold, to use.  When I got to googling the last item, I was actually sad she didn’t buy more!

While the Blog Lady’s been buying new plates and coffee cups, I’ve been trying to fill these dishes with weekend breakfasts. A recent attempt involved changing up straightforward wheat pancakes by adding cornmeal. Cornmeal seemed both exotic and homey, a Sunday morning breakfast virtue one should always aim for. The process of making cornmeal pancakes from scratch isn’t that different than regular old pancakes, except you add cornmeal. Oh, and this recipe included vinegar to apparently replicate the acidity of buttermilk. The Little Guy loved them, I thought they were interesting, whereas the last review went something like “I knew they’d taste like polenta pancakes.” The Blog Lady had a point. They were crunchy, grainy, and hit your stomach hard. Not quite the fluffy pancakes I normally make. They weren’t bad per se, but before breakfast was over, we agreed cornmeal pancakes would make a better savory dinner item with cheese and vegetables.

Not a thrilling breakfast endorsement by any means, but don’t let that dissuade you.

Animal cups too cute to pass up.
Basket for my weaving supplies.
Cornmeal Pancakes
via thepioneerwoman.com

1-1/2 cup (scant) All-purpose Flour
1-1/2 cup Heaping Yellow Cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon Salt
3 Tablespoons Baking Powder
4 Tablespoons Sugar
2-1/4 cups Whole Milk (more If Needed)
2 whole Large Eggs
3 teaspoons Vanilla
4 Tablespoons Butter, Melted

1) Mix together flour, cornmeal, salt, baking powder, and sugar in a bowl. Set aside.

2) In a separate bowl, mix milk, eggs, and vanilla. Pour into the dry ingredients, stirring gently. 

3) Stir in melted butter. Set batter aside. If batter is overly thick, splash in a small amount of milk.

4) Heat 1 tablespoon butter in a skillet over medium-low heat. When heated, drop 1/4 cup batter per pancake and cook until golden brown on both sides. Remove from skillet and set aside.