It’s been too long since I’ve posted a recipe (work and baby on the way will do that) so I wanted to get this one up I made the other night to share with some good friends that just had their own new baby! There was a sale on hams at the grocery store so I got one with making a soup from the bone in mind. It cost just under $23 and between a ham dinner, ham sandwiches, Cubano sandwiches and this soup we are getting about 12 meals from it! I made my own stock but if you’re pressed for time or don’t have a ham bone handy you can substitute chicken stock.
For the stock:
Bring ham bone, saved cuttings (fat, skin etc), 2 roughly chopped carrots, one roughly chopped onion and 3 roughly chopped pieces of celery to a simmer/light boil. I like to put everything in the pot then bring water up to almost the top of it depending on size. Let this mixture simmer away for at least an hour (which will reduce the water amount and increase flavor) then strain into a large bowl to save for later.
Ingredients for soup:
-Ham Stock (homemade as above or chicken stock)-Approximately 10-16 cups depending on how much you want to make and if you want leftovers. (I always want leftovers)
-1 diced white onion and half diced red onion
-1 large bunch kale with stems removed and chopped
-4 carrots peeled and chopped
-4 pieces of celery chopped
-1 full bag of red split lentils (split peas would work just as well)
-1 regular sized bowl chopped cooked ham (1.5-2 cups)
-4 cloves garlic diced
-2 tablespoons butter
-2 tablespoons olive oil
First off, I wanted to note that I didn’t add any salt at all to this soup as the ham stock had plenty of salt on its own. However if you use a sodium free chicken stock or something similar you’ll need to add some, just wait until everything is cooked together then taste and adjust salt/pepper as needed. I did add pepper a couple times during the cooking process.
To start off, with put your butter and olive oil into a large soup pot with heat at medium and sauté the onions for 2-3 minutes until they start to turn translucent. Next, add in your carrots and celery and cook all together for another 3-5 minutes stirring quite often. Now is a good time to add a little pepper, as “they” say season at every level. After the onions, carrots and celery have cooked down a little add in the chopped kale and diced garlic and cook for another couple minutes just to blend all the favors.
Now start adding your stock and split lentils. I like to add 3-4 cups of stock, then the lentils then more stock depending on how thick/thin you want your soup. Plan on the lentils soaking up at least ½ cup of liquid and remember you can always add more stock after its cooked down and the lentils have absorbed all the water they are going to. I ended up adding about 1.5 additional cups of stock after everything had cooked together just to thin it out a little bit. Simmer everything for about 20 minutes which will allow enough time for the flavors to marry and the lentils to get fully cooked. Serve this with a simple salad and some good crusty bread for dipping. Enjoy!
1 whole chicken no less than 3 lbs and no more than 5 lbs with giblets (if present) removed
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon salt (I prefer sea salt)
1 tablespoon pepper (freshly ground if you have it)
½ can good beer (preferably dark for more flavor)
This recipe is definitely one of my easiest and tastiest with very little prep time and is a breeze to cook! The chicken comes out super flavorful and moist and the wings are probably the best I’ve ever eaten, like chicken candy!
Mix garlic powder, thyme, rosemary, salt, pepper in a bowl and rub over the outside of the entire chicken. Also work to get some under the skin if possible as this will help flavor the meat even more during cooking. Once your bird is all seasoned up you’re going to place it right down over the top of a half full can of beer butt down that has been placed in the middle of a baking pan. I like using a darker beer as it imparts more flavor but whatever you have on hand will work and keep the meat extra moist and flavorful.
Now the chicken won’t look very distinguished sitting on a beer can like this but it allows for air flow all around which will crisp up the chicken skin perfectly while the steam from the beer helps keep it extra juicy along with adding flavor.
Cook the chicken in a preheated oven at 400 degrees for one hour then turn up to 425 and cook for another 10 minutes which will help really crisp up the skin.
The trickiest part of this recipe is actually getting the chicken off the beer can after cooking. I like to let it rest for 5-10 minutes then stick a knife into the bottom of the can to hold it in place and lift the chicken off with tongs. Needless to say the chicken, can and liquid left in the can are HOT so be careful! Once you have the chicken off its ready to carve however you want. This recipe goes very well with some roasted sweet potatoes or really any kind of side you like. Enjoy!
I came up with this recipe by just using what I had around the house from grocery shopping over the weekend. It was a chilly night (for San Diego anyway) and I wanted something that would be easy to make but hearty and warming as well. I had some lentils in the pantry and figured a simple stew with the lentils, sausage and kale would do just the trick!
5 sweet Italian turkey sausages (can be spicy sausage if you’d prefer)
1 lb whole lentils-rinsed and sorted
3 cloves garlic-finely chopped
½ yellow onion-finely chopped
1 bunch Kale with stems removed and cut/torn into bite size pieces
2+ tablespoons Italian seasoning mix (Thyme, Oregano, Basil, etc.)
¼ cup finely grated parmesan cheese with more for garnish if desired
¼ cup or so red wine
1-2 cups water-(although stock would be best I just didn’t have any)
2 bay leaves for lentils (optional but adds a nice layer of flavor)
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh chopped chives for garnish
First cook your lentils according to the package. Usually about 7+ cups of water and simmering covered for 50 minutes does it. If you have a couple bay leaves throw them in to add more flavor and remove when done cooking. Also make sure to drain your lentils well after cooking.
Next I fried all the sausages whole in some grape seed oil in the large pot/dutch oven I would be using for the stew.
When these are cooked through remove them and once cooled slice into bite sized pieces.
Next add a little more oil (if needed) back to your pan along with the diced onions and cook down for about 5 minutes then add the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds or so.
After the garlic has cooked add back in the sausages and stir everything together cooking for another couple minutes. Now is the time to add your red wine and de-glaze the pan as they say on Food Network. Scrape the bottom of the pan so you get all the good bits of flavor into your stew and add back in the cooked lentils starting with about 1 cup of water to thin slightly. (Please note chicken or veggie stock here would be even tastier I just didn’t have any on hand) At this point start slowly adding your chopped kale in a handful at a time stirring well to incorporate it into the stew. Once all the kale is in check your moisture level and if it seems to thick feel free to add some more water. This can be more stew-like or more soup-like depending on your own preferences. Once everybody is in the pool it’s time to season with salt and pepper as well as the Italian seasoning and add in your parmesan cheese. I have some great new seasoning blends I got online from a place called The Spice House and their “little Italy” blend is absolutely delicious and perfect for this recipe. Any Italian seasoning blend will do though and I’d say add about 2 tablespoons depending on your taste. Serve in a bowl topped with fresh chopped chives and some parmesan cheese if you’d like. Enjoy!
My brother is commercial fisherman in Alaska which means I always (almost always) get some great Alaskan treats sent my way for Christmas or Birthdays. This last Christmas he sent some home jarred salmon which I made into delicious burgers. He also sent a can of smoked salmon which I decided to use to make smoked salmon deviled eggs. It was my first attempt at these but definitely wont be the last, wow were they tasty. If you like deviled eggs and salmon these protein packed bite sized treats are going to be a hit!
10 large eggs-hardboiled and cut in half with yolks removed
1 can Alaskan smoked salmon (appx 6.5 oz) flaked
3-4 tablespoons chopped fresh chives-plus more for garnish
3-4 tablespoons chopped fresh dill-plus more for garnish
¼ cup mayo
4 tablespoons finely diced red onion- Shallot would work as well
Juice from one half fresh lemon; 1-2 tablespoons
1 teaspoon lemon zest
Salt and pepper to taste
Paprika for garnish
Overall this is a really simple recipe, along with the egg yolks you want to add all the ingredients above (minus the egg whites of course) to a large bowl and mix well. Once your mixture is ready go ahead and fill all the hollowed out egg halves with a heaping spoonful of the egg yolk mixture. After all your eggs are filled up I like to sprinkle paprika on top for color and a hint of smoky flavor, as well as some finely minced fresh dill and chives which adds a nice green color and one final layer of fresh green herb flavor. Eat these right as you finish then refrigerate the rest, if there are any!
Recently my wife and I took an amazing trip to Portland Oregon and Cannon Beach on the Oregon coast. It was such a fun journey I wanted to share some of our experiences and great places we visited while there! Our main reason for the trip was a good friend’s wedding however I had been looking for an excuse to get back to Portland for years. I first started vacationing in Oregon with my family when I was about 7 years old and over the years we either drove (road trip!) or flew out several times. Our final trip was when I was 15 and my parents, grandparents and I all drove out and met up with my Aunt, Uncle and two cousins in a house we rented just a couple blocks from the sand in Cannon Beach. Needless to say I have been in love with Oregon/Washington ever since those trips and couldn’t wait to bring my wife Beth up there for her first time! I have a ton of great memories from those family excursions but a few of my favorites are when I saw guys surfing for the first time ever, experiencing amazing tide pools pulsing with sea life and mountain biking in the beautiful wooded hills just off the coast, among countless others. These trips are what made me fall madly in love with the West coast and majority of the reason I moved to California and became a surfer myself.
DAY 1 December 31st 2014
I decided the easiest way to write about this trip would be to take it day by day. Day 1 was New Year’s Eve 2014 and we landed in Portland around 6 that night. Our first hotel was the Crowne Plaza which is right near the Portland Convention Center. Since we’d only be staying in that hotel for one quick night we didn’t feel like we needed anything special and I was able to find a pretty reasonable rate (around $170) for the room which really isn’t too bad for the city on New Year’s Eve. The hotel was nice and we had a good experience overall there. Staff was very helpful, breakfast was good and I’d recommend staying there if you need a place near the Convention Center.
Once we unpacked our stuff my buddy Jarret came by to pick us up to head downtown as we had tickets to see The Motet, a killer funk band at The Crystal Ballroom which is one of Portland’s oldest and coolest venues. Per their website the Ballroom is currently celebrating their 100 year anniversary! Also it’s the only building I’ve ever been in that has a “floating dance floor”, and it may be the last one left in the US. I couldn’t find exactly what causes the dance floor to move however a friend mentioned he believes there are ball bearings under the floor. The website for the Crystal Ballroom states its “mechanical” dance floor has been fully restored to its original condition and is like “dancing on clouds.” I’m not sure I’d go that far but it was an extremely interesting feeling dancing on a wooden floor that moved underneath you. It almost felt like a wooden trampoline if that makes any sense.
When we arrived at the Ballroom there was a huge line around the block and even though we had tickets decided to wait out the line in the bar below the Crystal called Ringlers Pub, which we ended up really liking a lot. The best way I can describe it is that it felt like an oversized maritime style dive bar. There were pool tables, shuffleboard and plenty of seating which we all appreciated as it was about 10 degrees outside that night. We hung out and had a couple good local brews in the bar and headed up to catch some of the Motet as they had already started. By the time we got in the place was jam packed and as with any large NYE party it seemed like getting a drink was going to be impossible. We were able to hear one full song before the band went on a break and they definitely sounded great! We stayed for a while walking around checking out the ballroom and around quarter to midnight my wife (who is pregnant) and I decided to head back downstairs and ring in the New Year at Ringlers together where it wasn’t so crazy. The Ballroom was beautiful though and you could feel the 100 year history as you walked around it, plus the people watching was second to none! After we celebrated the New Year with a glass of good scotch for me and an NA beer for Beth we headed back to our hotel to get a good night’s sleep as we wanted to be on the road to Cannon Beach fairly early.
Day 2 January 1st 2015
Early ended up being about 9 which we were fine with as we weren’t in a rush but definitely didn’t want to waste any time heading to the coast. I was so unbelievably excited on the drive out to see this beautiful little community of Cannon Beach that I have so many great memories of! The drive out is gorgeous and prepare to go around 55 the whole time as once you get a ways out the city it’s 2 lanes with very little passing room the whole way. No worries though, just cruise it and enjoy the beautiful scenery. One of the things we noticed right away (especially having come from San Diego) was all the fresh water and rivers everywhere. Living in San Diego where there is nearly no fresh water or rivers and then coming to this area that is so intensely saturated most of the year was almost shocking to our systems. It was really nice driving through an area that isn’t suffering from extreme drought and seeing landscapes more like what Beth and I grew up with in the Midwest. Also there is a really cool tunnel you’ll go through!
Cannon Beach is located nearly straight East of Portland and takes about an hour and a half to drive to from Portland on Highway 26. According to Wikipedia, William Clark of Lewis and Clark fame was the 2nd European known to have visited the area that became known as Cannon Beach in early 1806. Clark later explored much of this region himself and near an area that eventually became Ecola State Park he saw, “…the grandest and most pleasing prospects which my eyes have every surveyed, in front of a boundless ocean…” That viewpoint where Clark stood was later named “Clarks Point of View” and can be accessed by a hiking trail from Indian Beach which is in Ecola State Park and I’ll talk about a little later. The actual town of Cannon Beach is named after… well, a cannon (makes sense) that washed up from a sunken US Navy ship in 1846 just a few miles South of what is now known as Cannon Beach. Another interesting fact is that during William Clark’s first journey to the area he traded/bartered with local Native Americans and one of his companions was Sacagawea.
We arrived in Cannon Beach around 11 and hit a small local grocery store to grab some supplies for a hike and beach picnic we were planning on. Luckily for us the one day we had picked to spend on the coast ended up being absolutely perfect weather wise! Literally 50 and sunny! For January 1st that is as good as it gets in this area. As we were driving into Cannon Beach I didn’t recognize much on the outskirts however as we got into the main area of town everything came rushing back and I recognized all kinds of stuff. Not much had appeared to change since I was last there in the summer of 1995! It’s still the quintessential little Oregon beach town with no buildings above 2 stories or so and amazing views of Haystack rock from just about everywhere you look.
Our first excursion was to head South down the 101 a few miles from Cannon Beach to Oswald West State Park which is one of the most beautiful coastal parks I’ve ever been to. You can park in a handy lot right at the trailhead that takes you down to a perfect half-moon shaped stretch of coastline named Short Sand Beach and referred to by locals as “Shorty’s”. This area is very popular with surfers, hikers and just about anyone who wants to experience a beautiful area as the hike is only about ½ mile max to the beach and very mellow with an easy trail. There are also many other hiking trails that run through this area and branch off the main trail. Do some exploring you’ll never know what you might find! I originally had remembered a rickety single lane walking bridge from being here when I was a kid but we were disappointed to find what we thought was a newer wood bridge in the same spot. Come to find out we just had to take a different trail that ended at the far South end of Shorty’s as the same exact bridge was over the river on this trail. Needless to say I was super stoked to find it and walk across feeling like a kid again!
Short Sand Beach is such a beautiful spot with towering cliffs at either end of it and a picture perfect waterfall at the far North end of the beach. There were a lot of people being that it was the first day of 2015 and nearly everyone had the day off work, however it never even came close to feeling crowded and there were plenty of areas to find your own space. Being from an area of California that doesn’t allow fires directly on the sand we were pretty excited to see people simply gathering up some driftwood (of which there was plenty) and starting up a fire anywhere they wanted to right on the beach. I must admit I was pretty jealous of the guys getting fun little waist high waves who then got to come in and warm up around a driftwood fire in that beautiful setting. After we ate our lunch on the beach and explored around we hiked some more trails (finding the old bridge) and a few times just stopped to soak in the musty green smell of the forest mixed with the pungent (yet delicious) smell of wood smoke that was floating through the trees. If I could bottle that smell I’d take it with me everywhere I go, although I’d probably get some weird looks. One last note on Oswald West State Park I wanted to make was just how friendly everyone was on the trail. I met and talked with several surfers who were more than happy to discuss water temp, waves, etc. with me. Depending on where you surf you probably deal with a lot of “localism” as we do here in San Diego. I didn’t get a “locals only” vibe from this area at all which is cool. I’m sure the fact it’s a highly visited State Park helps but it was nice to feel welcome to a surf spot as opposed to getting the evil eye. Although I wasn’t surfing and didn’t have a board (unfortunately) so maybe that had something to do with it.
Once we were done thoroughly enjoying Oswald West State Park we made our way back up to the car and headed back towards Cannon Beach to check into our hotel, The Surfsand Resort. It’s a great spot that has a building right on the sand and another we stayed in just off the sand. Our room came with a breathtaking view of Haystock Rock and was only about 40 steps to the beach. Overall I would say we were very happy with our stay at the Surfsand as the room was really nice and modern yet didn’t feel sanitary and the staff was very friendly when we checked in. After we got settled into our room we headed out to walk along Cannon Beach and luckily for us the tide was extremely low and we got to do some amazing tide pooling. Beth had yet to experience really active tide pools that are teaming with life as these are so she was nearly in shock at all there was to see! Beautiful Starfish in all kinds of colors and all sizes of bright neon green anemones as far as you could see. The rocks are also nearly covered every square inch in barnacles and mussels which is really fun to see but can be dangerous if you lose your footing as they are very sharp. According to Wikipedia Haystack Rock is a 235 foot “Sea Stack’” which is defined as a geological land formation consisting of a steep and often vertical column or columns of rock in the sea or near a coast, formed by erosion. Haystack Rock is said to be claimed locally as the 3rd tallest such “intertidal” (meaning it can be reached by land) structure in the world. However there are no official references to support this. Haystack Rock is also known as a “Monolith” which is a geological feature consisting of a single massive stone or rock. Another well-known Monolith is Ayers Rock in Australia. Walking up to and around Haystack Rock is an experience in itself. Just the sheer size and how it abruptly rises right up out of the ocean/sand out of nowhere is breathtaking. Including the people and all the activity in the tide pools as well as the gulls and other seabirds everywhere it was quite the busy yet still serene scene. We eventually grabbed a bottle of wine (for me the non-pregnant one) and settled down to watch the sunset on a log just in front of our hotel. It was cool to watch people setting up fire pits and bringing chairs down during this time. Beth and I are both huge campers and grew up with wood heating our homes so the smell brings back nothing but great childhood memories. As the sun set on such a perfect beginning to 2015 I couldn’t help but count my blessings to be in such a beautiful place with the woman I love and our future child.
After the sunset we went back to the room to change and clean up before dinner. We had heard about some good places and checked Yelp and some other sites for recommendations on good places to eat in Cannon Beach. A couple we had met in the airport mentioned the Ecola Seafood Company which we almost went to but ended up deciding on a restaurant called the Wayfarer instead. It was only about 30 yards from our hotel which was handy and also right on the sand. It was busy of course so we just took a seat at the bar which nearly always works out well. The bartender was great and helped us pick our courses all of which were delicious! The crab cake appetizer was exceptionally good and was made with only crab and shrimp mousse as opposed to bread crumbs which made them extra creamy and very tasty. I also had the pinot noir cedar plank salmon which was just as good as it sounds! After eating an amazing dinner and enjoying a couple glasses of 18 year old Oban Scotch (for me) we were more than ready for a good night’s sleep.
Day 3 January 2nd 2015
When we woke up the next day unfortunately the weather had remembered that we were in Oregon and it was January so the temp had dropped to probably around 40 for a high and the nearly ever present Oregon winter clouds were back. We weren’t going to let it ruin our good time though and after grabbing a surprisingly delicious pair of crepes at a local hole in the wall called Crepe Neptune we set out for our next hike at Ecola state Park and Indian Beach. Per the Oregon State Parks website; “Wrapping around Tillamook Head, between Seaside and Cannon Beach, Ecola State Park stretches along 9 miles of coastline and offers outstanding sightseeing and recreation opportunities combined with a storied past”. That is quite the description but it still doesn’t come close to living up to the unrivaled beauty this park holds. The road into Ecola State Park leaves from the far North end of Cannon Beach and it’s only a few miles drive through a beautifully thick Sitka Spruce forest dripping with Spanish Moss to Indian Beach.
Indian Beach is a secluded sandy beach that is said to be popular with surfers and beachgoers alike. The views are striking as the small (about 200 yards long) beach is capped on either end by beautiful sheer cliffs and intertidal outcroppings. There are also some great hiking trails that leave from this area that we explored a bit but we were mostly there for the beach. There were several people surfing, all long boarders it appeared and the waves looked fun if nothing special. Probably waist high and a little sectiony but not crowded. The coolest thing we saw while there was a surfing seal! We literally watched this little guy (or girl) surf a perfect little peeling right hand wave in, turn around and look for the next set wave, then swim back out as fast as possible to catch the next wave. We saw him surf at least 4 waves just like this and you could tell he was having the time of his life! And getting much better rides than anyone else was that day. You know what they say, respect the locals.
After leaving Indian Beach we headed back towards the entrance to the park to a spot called Ecola point where you get breathtaking views of the Oregon coast, Cannon Beach and Haystack Rock along with Tillamook Rock Lighthouse. There was some information here about how a wealthy family had owned all this land and donated it to the state of Oregon so it could be used and enjoyed by all people indefinitely which is pretty amazing if you think about it. We had a good laugh considering how unhappy with his/her relatives someone must be if they gave all that amazing land away! We’re all glad they did though. After exploring this area it was time to leave the beauty of the coast and head back towards Portland to get prepared for our friend’s wedding.
We got back into Portland late that afternoon and checked into our hotel for the next couple nights the Hotel Lucia, which is right in downtown Portland. Overall we were very pleased with our stay at this hotel. Staff was friendly and attentive, rooms were nice if somewhat small and there was an excellent restaurant right next door we ate at a few times called Imperial. I’d highly recommend stopping in here for a drink and some of their small plates or brunch, both of which were delicious! Also this restaurant does all the room service for the hotel which we didn’t utilize but may on another trip. A little personal note on this place, try the crispy pigs tail.
Later that night we made our way to the rehearsal dinner which was a small affair just for family and friends from out of town at a funky little restaurant called the Brooklyn House. It’s a really cool little place that has the Portland feel built right into it and is basically just a little main dining room area set up in a small house. If you didn’t know it from the outside it would be hard to tell this place was a restaurant. Before I get to the food there though we had arrived a little early so we walked a block for a beer (NA for Beth of course) to a picture perfect dive bar called The Lamp. Dimly lit with strings of old Christmas lights and smelling of nachos and craft beer it was definitely our kind of place. I’d highly recommend stopping in for one (or 3) if you’re in the area. It’s also right next door to a live music venue that I’m sure brings in the crowds when there is good entertainment so close. After getting settled in at Brooklyn House and catching up with some of our friends it was time to dive into their delicious food. Beth had the pork Goulash which was easily the best I’d ever had and I got the turkey dinner which is just as it sounds, roasted turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, etc. Take the best homemade turkey dinner you’ve had and you’ll have a good idea of this one. Wow was the food tasty! After eating all this food (especially the turkey) we were close to calling it a night but we hadn’t seen our good friends Bobby and Lindsay in a while and they had heard about a cool place called The Rum Club so we all decided to go check it out. Very glad we did because it was a really interesting, quirky and fun place! Their specialty is rum based drinks in case the title didn’t tip you off so we all ordered some fun fruit/rum drinks (not the pregnant lady though) and caught up while enjoying some really great cocktails. I am not a big fruity drink kind of guy and most of my experience with rum was in Nicaragua and Antigua and usually left me with a massive headache the next day! Although the Nicaraguan 18 year old Flor De Cana rum I had was in a class by itself, right up there with a great scotch or whiskey. It was definitely an excellent ending to really fun day in true Portland style.
Day 4 January 3rd 2015
Today our plan was to get up and grab brunch early (at Imperial, yum!) with our friends Bobby and Lindsay and head out to Multnomah Falls before we had to get ready for the wedding. Multnomah falls is about a 30 minute drive from Portland and is a 611 foot tall waterfall that drops a massive 542 feet before smashing into a medium sized pool and then dropping another 69 feet! This place feels like something out of a magical storybook you read when you were 10. The old stone bridge that stands in stark contrast directly in front of the falls as you walk up is simply amazing to behold. It was pretty cold this day and that was causing the spray coming off the waterfall to freeze all over everything it touched which made getting across the bridge fairly difficult especially with my pregnant wife in tow. We didn’t go up the trail much past the bridge as it was just crazy icy and dangerous although if you made it past the ice I heard the trail got much easier. I had hiked this trail to the top once about 7 years ago on a snowboarding trip to the area and it’s well worth making the walk as you get a beautiful yet dizzying view nearly right down the falls from the very top. After we left Multnomah Falls we walked about ¼ mile up the road and hiked up another trail to a different, smaller but still amazing waterfall known as Wahkeena Falls. Definitely worth the 5-10 minute walk!
After we had filled our souls up to the brim with the beauty of this area it was time to hop in the car, head back to Portland and start preparing for our buddies wedding. We got back early enough that it seemed like a good idea to grab a quick late lunch so we weren’t starving during the ceremony. After wandering around for a while and almost going back to Imperial next to our hotel we ended up stopping at a place called Red Star Tavern which turned out to be a solid choice as we split a delicious burger there.
The wedding was just outside of Portland at a place called the World Forestry Center which per their website was founded in 1964 and their “mission is to educate and inform people about the world’s forests and trees, and environmental stability”. Which is a pretty great thing to be involved in if you love trees and forests as much as we do. It was a beautiful place for the wedding and the building (Miller Hall) that the ceremony and reception were in was understated yet beautiful. It was a wonderful and intimate ceremony followed by delicious food and a great jazz band that made for some fun (and funny) dancing!
Once the wedding was over there was an after party at the Hotel Lucia we were all staying at but before heading back for that Beth and I had worked up some late night appetites with all our dancing and decided we’d take one last late night walk around Portland and see what we could find. Being the smarties we are we asked the front desk where some good late night eats were and right away got a recommendation for pizza at a place called Sizzle Pie. Sounded good to us and was only 4 blocks away! Basically I’ll say this about Sizzle Pie, go there. If you like pizza and you’re in Portland I am highly recommending this place. Deliciously thin crust, New York style slices (and pies) that were cheap and awesome! Plus they had a solid selection of local brews that helped wash down the pizza nicely. After eating our fill we walked back to the hotel and checked out the after party for a while. We actually figured it would be pretty mellow but it was a classic hotel room rager! As Beth is pregnant we weren’t partying too hard and hung out for half hour or so before heading back to our room. Our flight was the next morning and we wanted to get a good night sleep before re-entering the real world.
In finishing I would just like to encourage anyone and everyone to visit the beautiful area of our amazing country that is the Pacific North West. Whether you’ve never been there, visited a hundred times or are just planning your first trip it’s hard to go wrong visiting anywhere in Oregon or Washington for that matter. Both states are filled with jaw dropping jagged coastlines that seem to stretch forever, vibrantly green forests that have that intoxicating mix of musty and fresh green smells weaving through them and in my experience, very friendly people that welcome any and all with the right respectful attitude towards them and the natural beauty of the area. Cheers and travel on!
Helpful links below pictures:
With all the holiday and baby-on-the-way excitement lately my blog has, unfortunately, taken a back seat the past month or so. Well it’s time to get back on the horse (so to speak) and post a new recipe I have been working on!
This recipe is for “Turkey sausage and white bean chili” which has quickly become one of my favorites for cold weather. Its hearty and warming while being healthy and packed with protein at the same time.
-1 lb ground turkey sausage or 4-5 links sweet Italian turkey sausage (feel free to use hot sausage if you prefer)
-2 cans white cannellini beans drained and rinsed thoroughly (other white beans such as navy are fine too)
-2 cans diced tomatoes-I used one can plain with no salt and another can of fire roasted with medium green chilies added for more depth of flavor
-1 cup or so chicken/veggie stock
-2 bay leaves
-1 bell pepper-red, yellow, orange.. etc diced
-5 cloves fresh garlic finely minced
-1 whole yellow onion diced
-1 tablespoon Dried basil
-1 tablespoon Dried oregano
-1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon depending on your taste-Red chili flakes/AKA red crushed chilies
-1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Start off with a large Dutch oven or soup pot and begin to sauté your onions and bell pepper in 1-2 tablespoons olive oil about 5-7 minutes or until the onions turn translucent.
Next add your garlic and I also like to add in about half the dried basil and oregano at this point as it really helps release their flavors into the chili. Once the garlic is in stir nearly continuously and cook for 1-2 minutes max as you don’t want the garlic to brown/burn and get bitter. As soon as you can smell the garlic its cooked enough. Now add in your turkey sausage, if you’ve used sausage links simply cut the sausage out of its casings and break up while you cook it. Once the turkey has browned add in both cans of tomatoes and cook for another couple minutes stirring everything well. Next add the cannellini beans and all the rest of your ingredients including the rest of your basil and oregano, dried chili flakes, bay leaves and cup of stock.
Feel free to add more or less of any of the herbs or spices to adjust to your own personal taste. Also if you want thicker chili just add less stock and if you want thinner then add a little more. Once everything is in the pot together bring to a near a boil then cover, reduce and simmer for 30 minutes stirring 3-4 times. After 30 minutes the flavors should have melded together and your chili is ready to serve! If you’ve made this ahead of time let it sit and cool on the stove then reheat for dinner that night. Chili’s and soups always taste better (in my opinion) once they’ve sat and cooled to room temp then brought back up to heat again. I like to serve this with a good crusty baguette and light side salad. Enjoy and let me know how yours came out in the comments!
Hello all and happy Tuesday! With it getting chillier by the day (especially in some parts of the country!) I’ve been craving a good hearty soup. My original plan was to make split pea with ham however Trader Joes didn’t have any split peas so I (somewhat) shifted gears to making a lentil and ham soup instead. To be totally honest I did basically the exact same thing I would have done with the split peas that I did with the lentils. One little note here I don’t soak my lentils/split peas first as I just don’t think it’s necessary. Just make sure you rinse your lentils in a bowl a couple times draining off the rinse water and any debris that may float to the surface.
I used a smoked pork hock I picked up at the local butcher for my soup and would recommend this if you can get it. Otherwise a ham bone with ham still on it or ham bone and a ham steak diced up would work just fine too. Basically you’re going to get most of the flavor into your soup from cooking it with the bone in. I like to cut all the ham I’m going to use in my soup off the bone first before cooking it. That way you still get all the flavor from the bone and the fat/ham left on it and you add the diced ham later which keeps it from getting tough and overcooked.
So with all that being said let’s get this baby cooking!
First as I noted above cut all the ham you’d like to put in the finished soup off the bone and dice. Do a similar sized dice to carrots and onions and a little bit smaller dice on the garlic and celery. Since I don’t put any of this soup into a blender I like to keep my veggie size fairly small so everything melds together as it cooks.
Now add your 2 tablespoons of butter to a large stock pot and sauté the onions for 2-3 minutes before tossing in the celery and onions. I always like to let onions cook down just a little bit more than other veggies since they have such a strong flavor. Cook the celery/carrots for 3-5 minutes with the onions then throw in your garlic for just about a minute of cooking time. Garlic burns easy so throw it in last and keep an eye on it. I also like to toss in just a little salt and pepper right now.
At this point I went ahead and added all 3 cups of lentils and stirred them in allowing everything to cook together for just a minute or so then add the 9 cups of water(if you like thicker soup use less or vice versa).
Once you have all the water in place your ham bone/ham hock into the pot and bring it to a boil. Once boiling lower heat to a simmer, cover and continue to cook for 30 minutes or so stirring a couple of times. Once the ham bone has released a lot of its flavor (30-40 minutes simmer) remove it and add in your diced ham, chopped thyme and some salt and pepper to taste.
Go easy on the salt as the ham adds quite a bit and you can always put more in later. Simmer this for another 20 minutes or so and you’re ready to eat! I like to get this going as early in the day as I can and once it’s done turn the heat off and let it sit for a couple hours before dinner to let all the flavors join together. Definitely not a necessary step but it does help. I like to serve with some good crusty bread and a side salad! Enjoy.
My wife and I absolutely love stuffed peppers because there basically isn’t a wrong way to make them. You can stuff just about any good chopped veggies, cheese and/or meat into a pepper shell, bake it and 9 times out of 10 it will be delicious!
1 lb ground chicken or turkey
2 cups cooked Quinoa
2 cups cooked black beans
6 assorted bell peppers-I used red, yellow and green
1 white onion-diced
Tops of the bell peppers-diced
1 heirloom (if available) tomato- diced
2 cups Monterey jack cheese shredded
1 can black olives-sliced
4-6 garlic cloves-diced
Salt and pepper
I was trying to think of a more filling and hearty stuffed pepper that would have a lot of protein but also a lot of flavor which is how I came up with this recipe. I love using ground chicken as its just as easy to use in all kinds of recipes you may use ground beef in but is much healthier. You could also substitute turkey in place of the chicken, or if you have it on hand feel free to use ground beef.
The trick with these stuffed peppers is cooking and mixing all the ingredients together in one pan and boiling the peppers before you stuff and cook them. All the ingredients are fully cooked therefore the peppers should be par boiled at least so they don’t have a totally different consistency than the stuffing. For this recipe I cooked my own black beans and didn’t use canned. These taste much better, have a more desirable consistency than canned and you also don’t have to worry about BPA like you do with canned beans.
Starting off you want to cut the tops off your peppers and pull out and seeds and interior ribs. Dice the tops you took off the same size as the onions and tomatoes. In a big pot saute the onions and peppers in a little olive oil for about 5 minutes or until they are starting to cook down and soften up. I like to add a little of the cumin, cayenne, oregano and salt and pepper at this point so those flavors can work their way into the peppers and onions. Use these sparingly though as you can always add more later. At this point add your diced garlic and saute another few minutes then add in the ground chicken and allow to brown for 5 minutes or so before adding the rest of your ingredients, black beans, quinoa, black olives, diced tomato and 1 cup of the Monterey jack cheese. Stir all the ingredients together on low heat and add more of your spices to taste. I’d say about 1 tablespoon cumin and oregano, 1 teaspoon cayenne and approximately the same amount of salt and pepper. As with all my recipes feel free to adjust amounts to your own taste or add anything you like!
After mixing up all the ingredients together take the pan off the heat and set off to the side to cool a little.
Now boil some lightly salted water and place all your peppers into the water for about 5 minutes. I just used a tongs and pushed on them every couple minutes till they felt pliable but still held their shape.
Now comes the fun part, stuff those babies full of that delicious concoction you made! I like my peppers overstuffed to nearly the point of bursting so feel free to jam it down in there and mound extra on top. Final step is to add the rest of your shredded Monterey jack to the top and place into a baking pan lined with tinfoil for easy cleanup.
I baked mine at 350 for 15-20 minutes, just keep an eye on them and when the cheese is nice and bubbly on top they should be done.
I kept it simple and served them with some plain sour cream on the side. Enjoy!
Hello all! For my first restaurant review I took my wife Beth out for an early Birthday dinner to an amazing little Peruvian restaurant in Encinitas called Q’ero. This was my 4th trip there and her 2nd but first for dinner so we were both really excited! I made reservations for 8 pm on open table and received a call from the restaurant around 3 the day of to confirm my reservations which I appreciated. On open table there is a spot to ask for special requests so I decided to test this a little and noted we’d be celebrating my wife’s Birthday and a single candle in dessert would be great. Well when we got there the server right away welcomed us and mentioned Beth’s Birthday which was great and surprised her, however that was all the Birthday Love we got, no candle in our dessert which was only a very mild disappointment.
Q’ero is a Peruvian restaurant and in all honesty it’s the only Peruvian food I have ever tried. However I can’t imagine it getting much better! Per their website this style of food brings flavors from numerous cultures such as Chinese, Japanese, African, Arabic and Spanish. The main thing that I have found during my experiences at Q’ero were not just how delicious their food is but how the flavors are so very unique and different from just about anything else I have ever eaten. The food varies from very light and refreshing (ceviche) to hearty and rich (pork shank, lamb shank, etc).
We arrived at the restaurant right around 7:55 and ended up having to wait till about 8:10 to get seated which I didn’t have a problem with as this place is very small and they can’t push people out the door just because the table is needed. This is also one of the main things I appreciate about Q’ero is you don’t feel rushed at all. The servers in my experience have always been excellent and last night was no exception. Patrick was our server and was very close to being perfect when it comes to how I want to be waited on at a restaurant. He was there just enough to make sure we had what we needed and everything was to our liking but didn’t hover, which is tough in a small place like this. Also he recited the specials perfectly noting each ingredient and taking the time to explain them properly.
We started off with a couple glasses of wine and 2 appetizers. The first one is called “Empanaditas de Verduras” which are noted in the menu as “Savory baked turnovers filled with lentils, sweet potatoes and spinach accompanied by aji panca” which is a type of chili pepper common to Peru. Basically though these are empanadas and delicious ones at that! The crust was perfectly cooked and flaky and the filling was mouthwatering. It wasn’t too mushy and had a consistent texture and flavor all the way through. The aji panca dipping sauce only made them better, it was spicy yet somehow refreshing at the same time. After this we also had their appetizer special of the day which was ceviche. They have their 2 regular ceviche’s that are always on the menu and I’ve had the “Ceviche Don Cucho” which is one of the best I have ever had so we had high hopes for this special. It was different from their normal ceviche in that it had some passion fruit, mint and a few other delicious items we couldn’t quite pick out that made it not only extremely tasty but very light and refreshing on our palate’s after the Empanaditas which of course are a little heavier.
After such a great start to our meal we were both ready and stoked to tackle our main entrees! Beth chose their daily special entrée which was a mix of seafood in a light and tasty broth. There was a scallop, a large shrimp, a nice sized piece of fish (sea bass I believe) and some calamari. It was flat out delicious! The scallop, shrimp and fish more so than the calamari, which was good but not quite as good as the other 3 items. One of the main reasons for this I believe is because the other items could soak up some of the broth while the calamari really couldn’t. It was still good and had great texture though. All in all it was very light and amazing how all 4 pieces of different seafood were cooked perfectly, something that is very hard to do.
I decided to order my favorite thing I’d had at Qero in the 4 times I have been there which is the roasted Kurobota pork shank which on their menu is called “Pernil de Chancho.” The menu notes it’s a “Kurobota pork shank prepared confit style with roasted oyster mushrooms, sautéed with shallots and finished in an aji Amarillo sauce, served with roasted fingerling potatoes.” If that didn’t just make your mouth water please take a minute and check your pulse…. OK, still with me!?
The shank is literally one of the best pieces of pork I have ever had in my life. If you’ve never had any type of Kurobota pork I feel very sorry for you, go out and get some today! Since the shank was cooked confit style it was unbelievably tender and also extremely flavorful at the same time. As I ate it I would get hints of bacon and ham and a bite of the pork, potatoes and mushrooms all together was simply perfection.
Finally after eating all this amazing food we (I) decided to order some dessert as I thought they would bring it out with the candle as I had requested. Unfortunately as I noted above this did not happen but really didn’t take away from our experience. We decided on their tres leches cake which is one of my favorite desserts and as I was going to order a glass of port with it our waiter recommended a black beer called Xingu that he said matched with the flavor perfectly. As Beth and I definitely love a good beer and food pairing I was instantly intrigued and told our waiter that sounded great and I appreciated him bringing it to our attention. In all honesty I was insanely stuffed at this point but the cake was so light and delicious I ate almost all of it! And Patrick our server was spot on with the pairing, both the beer and the cake enhanced the flavor of each other tremendously.
So all in all I would say you’d have a hard time ever going wrong eating at Q’ero however it can get somewhat expensive. After a nice 20%+ tip to Patrick our bill was just this side of $200, which is what I had prepared myself for though. I would definitely say it was well worth it and good money spent!
One other item of note Q’ero is very small and probably can only seat about 30 people at a time so I would definitely make reservations. Also it is a perfect date place but not somewhere I would ever bring children.
I would rate Q’ero and the entire dining experience there as 10 feet (on my surf scale noted above). Which basically means I would highly recommend it to anyone and would expect everyone to receive as great of service and food as we did.
If you have been there or go please comment and let me know how your experience was and what you liked and/or didn’t like!
Please note some of the pics (dark ones) are mine and some are ones I took from the Q’ero website and google. I didn’t want to use my flash in the restaurant so my pics didn’t turn out too hot.
Hello everyone! This is my version of an awesome recipe I found on Sunset.com a few years back. It’s the #1 best reviewed recipe on their site! (here is a link for that original recipe http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/turkey-enchilada-casserole-10000000682860/) I made a couple changes by adding black olives (which my Wife and I love) as well as adding Spanish rice directly to the enchiladas as opposed to serving them as a side dish. This not only increases how substantial the meal is it also adds another delicious layer of flavor and texture. As noted with all my recipes please feel free to adjust anything to match your own preferences. More/less cayenne, more/less cumin, etc.. Have fun with it and don’t be afraid to add in your own ingredients and ideas!
* 20 oz ground turkey
* ½ chopped onion
* 3 cloves chopped garlic
* 2 tablespoons (dried or fresh) oregano
* 1 tablespoon ground cumin
* 1 tablespoon olive oil
* 1 large (29 oz) can green or red enchilada sauce (I prefer green)
* Approximately 18 corn tortillas
* 2-3 cups shredded Jack or taco mix cheese
* 1 bunch fresh cilantro chopped
* 1 can black olives sliced
* 1 pouch microwaveable Spanish Rice
* 1 teaspoon Cayenne powder, salt and pepper to your taste
* 1 11×7 baking pan lightly oiled
* Preheat oven to 425 degrees
To start off you’re going to add some olive oil to a hot pan and sauté the onions for a few minutes until they begin to turn translucent. While you are cooking the onions I like to add a little salt/pepper and dried oregano just so they start soaking up those good flavors and it brings more out of the herb(s) if you cook them a little. It’s always a good rule of thumb to season with every layer of food you are cooking. Go light on the salt and pepper as you work through the recipe though as you can always add more at the end but you cant take it out.
Now add your ground turkey meat and start browning it with the onions, you can also add the chopped garlic and a little more oregano plus the cayenne and cumin. Once the turkey has cooked all the way through (no pink showing) add around 1 cup of the enchilada sauce. I had actually forgotten to drain my turkey before doing this so my mixture ended up a little watery, no problem though I just cooked it a little longer to get out some of the moisture. Best bet is to drain your turkey before adding the sauce though. After you’ve added the sauce go ahead and put in about ¾ of the sliced olives, ½ the chopped cilantro and all the Spanish rice, making sure to microwave it before adding.
At this point remove your meat/rice mixture from the heat and let it start to cool. You’ll now start layering the enchilada’s, somewhat like a lasagna actually.
First it’s a good idea to put down a little sauce right on the bottom of your pan, just enough to cover the bottom so you’re lowest layer of tortillas doesn’t dry out. After putting down some sauce layer your tortillas along the bottom doing your best to cover the entire pan. I put 3 overlapping down the middle and cut another 3, lining 3 halves one side and 3 on the other. Next put a layer of shredded cheese down over the tortillas, then a layer of your meat mixture (about 1/3) topping that with about 2/3 cup or so of sauce. Then simply repeat that step twice more ending with a final layer of tortillas, cheese and sauce on top. Then I like to finish it by topping with the rest of your sliced black olives.
Now you’re all ready for the oven which should be preheated to 425. Place the baking pan on center rack uncovered and cook for approximately 20 minutes until the cheese is bubbling and edges are crisping up. Final step after baking is to add the rest of your chopped cilantro to the top and dig in!
I served this with a side of fresh homemade coleslaw that went perfectly with the enchilada. The tart vinegary flavor of the slaw matched perfectly with the slightly spicy enchilada’s and made a perfect palate cleanser in between bites.