Hanging out at the Dairy

Hanging out at the Dairy
Darci(far left) & the Wrights at the Creamery

Monday, March 12, 2012

A weekend in Seattle...

Flowering plum blossoms

Spring is in air, the earth is warming and blossoms starting to emerge. Spring always brings such an explosion of change in color, texture in nature that I begin to feel revitalized as well! Winter isn't my fav season (full disclosure). As much as I try and embrace all days, I don't like to be cold...it's one of my Achilles heal. I find temporary solace in a nice fire, cooking comfort foods and being cozy with my family and dachshunds.
Gabby curled up next to the fireside chairs
 But as cute as this cuddle bug is, I look forward to the awakening of Spring each year! The longer days, the promise of warmer temps, vegetation growing again brings a heightened sense of invigoration. I get "ants in my pants" as Grandma Effie used to say to me. Getting out of the house is a must and I look for the opportunities to travel...

New Rhody blossoms

When the opportunity came last weekend to head to Seattle for a weekend of family birthday fun, time with two of my bestest girlfriends came along, I took my son and I headed out of Dodge...I mean Sequim.
Seattle is only a an hour's drive and a ferry ride away from my town but it feels so different in the energy level, the options of shopping, restaurants, of activities that I actually get energized by my trips there.

Weekend pics/schedule;
Saturday am my son and I stopped at Noah's Bagels in Kirkland and brought a half dozen assorted to my friend Cheryl and her family to share. I was so excited to see them, I forgot to take pics of the various bagels before devouring them. Next was a family party in Ballard for my niece Kasey's 12th birthday.  We have a fantastically close family who enjoys are time together and I leave feeling so blessed for our time together! Saturday night was dinner with my friend Beth at a Malaysian restaurant. This was a "first" experience with this cultural cuisine and I LOVED it and my time with my college friend. Sunday was coffee, breakfast with my parents and my son playing hours of basketball with my Dad.  My Mom and I went to Trader Joes to stock up...I took the flowering plum blossom pic there. Homeward bound again with a blustery ferry ride to Kingston and through the quant historic town of Port Gamble.

A stormy ferry crossing

A sailboat navigating the ferry lanes in Puget Sound

The Kingston ferry landing

Port Gamble's main street
 Returning home after a weekend away is such a treat! My husband missed us, the dogs are eagerly wagging away and our little slice of heaven in Sequim is peacefully welcoming.  Travel does that to me, fills me with an appreciation of what I have in my life and lucky me, my cup is full!

My niece Kasey and me at her Birthday via iPhone & ToonCamera

Here's to filling up your cup my friends.

Chow for now!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Cold weather and comfort foods

Rain, rain go away..

This week was a comfort food extravaganza! It's been cold, rainy, snowy, windy and brisk sunshine here in Sequim. I'm ready for Spring to come and it seems almost here sometimes, for a brief moment.  Until then,  I'll comfort myself with some old and new favorite recipes to feel warm from the inside out.

My first comfort soup is Chicken Soup from scratch but with a slight twist. I REALLY like the Greek Avelgolemono soup with lots of chicken, garlic and lemon with rice but my husband thinks I'm trying to poison him every time I use "excessive" amounts of lemon in our food. In his realm of tastes, excessive lemon=anything beyond a hint. So the culinary compromise of using the inspiration of the Greek soup but with only one lemon.

veggie and chicken carcass strained from stock

To start,  I made chicken stock with my gallon Ziploc frozen veggie stash in my freezer and a frozen chicken carcass. I place these items in my heavy bottomed stock pot (probably a 3 gallon size), and cover with water. This brew boils gently for at least an hour without a lid or if your time allows, cover after an hour and go for up to 2 hours. Strain veggies and carcass off in a large bowl and place the broth back in the same stock pot to finish.

Strained chicken stock with one lemon
The strained broth is now finished with the major flavor components of the Greek soup; lemon, garlic, herbs and rice.

Add 3 Tablespoons of garlic powder

3 stems each fresh oregano and parsley
The 1 1/2 gallons of seasoned stock is brought to a low boil and 3 cups of jasmine rice is added. This soon to be soup has a heavenly quality in both scent and smell that reminds me of the chicken soup my Grandma Effie used to make for us; rich and comforting. This will be an ideal meal for this bone chilling weather!

Stir the golden elixir occasionally so that the rice doesn't stick to the floor of the stock pot and cover. The fluffy, delicate jasmine rice will take about a half hour to cook to tender perfection.

Hello gorgeous!
Amber hued, slightly lemon laced chicken soup with garlic and tender Jasmine rice. It warmed us inside out.

A sliver of sunshine to savor
Something classic like chicken soup is always a go-to dish but now I wanted to try a new twist on some familiar flavors. We really like split pea soup with carrots, celery and smoked ham hock bits embellishing the sweet and starchy pea soup. This time I used the same veggies and ham but used Green Lentils in more of a pilaf style dish.

4 cups of Green lentils

Lentils are added to 1 qt chicken stock and 1 smoked ham hock & 2 bay leaves

Pardon the picture taken while tossing the sautéed veggies...I get motion sickness
 The chopped veggies; 6 peeled organic carrots, 6 celery stalks, 1 sweet onion and 5 toes garlic are sautéed on medium high with 3 tablespoons unsalted butter until veggies are slightly tender, about 5 minutes.

Add the sautéed veggies to the lentils, stock and cook on medium heat
Everyone into the pool! Cook with lid on for one hour on medium, stirring occasionally, especially the bottom of the pan. Remove the smoked ham hock and place on cutting board for 15 minutes to rest. Using a fork, shred the ham off the bones or hock and add back into the stock pot.  The thirsty lentils have plumped having absorbed all the chicken broth, the veggies are now fork tender and the smokey, savory and rosy ham bits complete this comfort food symphony.

A green lentil pilaf with smoked ham

Voila! Something new for us emerges from familiar flavors. My husband missed the "broth" from the split pea soup but enjoyed trying the lentils. My son LOVED the "YUMMY ham bits"! I enjoyed both the lentils and the experience of trying something new with my family.

Another storm passes 

Now for dessert...

A new cold day treat 

 For another cold weather treat, I baked Ginger snap cookies. They were sweet and a little spicy with the fresh ginger, crispy exterior with tender centers.  We gobbled them up! I baked a second batch the following day.

Red skies in the morning...

 More storms coming our way, it's still winter after all. More comfort food to make! The warm refuge and creativity of the kitchen inspire me during the winter months. I love to take a memory and bring it to life in a meal, to warm their stomachs and souls. Or introduce a new food item in a familiar context.

Here's to finding comfort in the storms my friends, winter or not. My kitchen and mind will remain busy, serving up luxurious warmth. Bring on the storms of winter...it's all good!

Chow for now my friends!