Sunday, February 28, 2010

Skiing fresh powder under sunny skies

We were set to ski last weekend, courtesy of Brad's parents, who gave him (and me!) Meadows lift tickets for his January birthday. But there hadn't been any fresh snow in ages, so we gambled and postponed until this weekend ... turned out to be a great move!

Meadows received about 4 inches of new snow Friday night, and then Saturday's predicted precipitation failed to arrive, leaving us skiing fresh powder under sunny skies almost all day. The snow was very heavy and tricky to ski in some spots, but I'll take that any day over chunky or icy conditions.

The tickets were a three pack - one for Brad, one for me and one for Steve.
I didn't ski with my camera or I would have some beautiful sunny mountain shots. Instead, I have pictures of tired, sweaty, happy skiers packing up for the day.
Thanks, Steve and Donna, for the birthday treat!!


Friday, February 26, 2010

Thick, chewy granola bars

I drive right past Lindsey's work on the way to my work, so I had to bring her a special birthday treat today.... so I had to make these Thick, Chewy Granola Bars from the Smitten Kitchen Web site.

  • 1 2/3 c quick rolled oats
  • 1/2 to 3/4 c granulated sugar (I went for 3/4 - I wanted more sweetness)
  • 1/3 c oat flour (or 1/3 cup oats, processed until finely ground in a food processor or blender)
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/4 t ground cinnamon
  • 2 to 3 c dried fruits and nuts (I used 3ish)
  • 1/3 c peanut butter or another nut butter - optional (I used peanut butter)
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 6 T melted butter or other oil (I used butter)
  • 1/4 c honey, maple syrup or corn syrup (I used farm-fresh honey)
  • 2 T light corn syrup
  • 1 T water

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line an 8″ x 8″ x 2″ pan in one direction with parchment paper, allowing it to go up the opposing sides. (**this is the first time I've done this - I felt very official!!) Lightly grease the parchment paper and the exposed pan, or coat with a non-stick spray.

Stir together all the dry ingredients, including the fruit and nuts. In a separate bowl, whisk together the vanilla, melted butter or oil, liquid sweeteners and water. Toss the wet ingredients with the dry (and peanut butter) until the mixture is evenly crumbly. Spread in the prepared pan, pressing firmly.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until they’re brown around the edges.

Cool completely in the pan on a cooling rack. Cut into squares. To store, wrap the bars individually in plastic or stack them in an airtight container. Smitten Kitchen says they freeze well.

Fruit/nut suggestions from Smitten Kitchen: dried cranberries, apricots, pecans, sunflower seeds, coconut, walnuts, sesame seeds, pepitas, dried apples, chocolate chips, wheat germ, dried cherries, pecans. I used what I had in the cupboard: cranberries, pecans, coconut, sunflower seeds and wheat germ.

These are very good - hearty and filling. But I am disappointed that the peanut butter taste didn't really come through. I'd probably up the amount of PB next time. The birthday girl liked them and my hubby liked them... so I guess they're a hit. I will make these again - especially since I usually have all the ingredients on hand.


Thursday, February 25, 2010

Birthday fondue

Several of our friends' birthdays are this month, including Kendra, Michael and Lindsey on Feb. 20, 24 and 26, respectively. We thought we'd go to The Melting Pot for a gooey, cheesy celebration triple date, but it wasn't meant to be. Instead, Lindsey, Brad and I cooked up a wonderful homemade gooey, cheesy celebration at M&K's house.

Right before we dug in:
Emma sure enjoyed it! I can't believe those are the only photos I took of the whole evening. I didn't even get the birthday boy and girl (Lindsey's having her very-own celebration this week!). I think I was just too busy chowing on the super-delicious dinner and ice cream dessert.

As for the food, Lindsey and I chose two different cheese fondues: "Cheese Fondue" from Simply Recipes and Cheese & Onion Fondue from The Book of Fondues by Lorna Rhodes. It was our first attempt at the fancy cheese sauces, so the Simply Recipes photos and directions helped guide us. Brad and I did most of the prep work and Lindsey watched the pots.

Cheese Fondue
  • 1/2 lb. Swiss-style cheese such as Jarlsberg or Emmenthaler, shredded (we used whatever imported Swiss they had at Grocery Outlet)
  • 1/2 lb. Gruyere cheese, shredded (we had to buy this at Albertson's - and it's really expensive!)
  • 2 T flour or cornstarch (we used cornstarch)
  • 1 garlic clove, halved crosswise
  • 1 c dry white wine - such as Sauvignon Blanc (we used Sauvignon Blanc from Grocery Outlet)
  • 1 T lemon juice
  • 1 T kirsch - cherry brandy (we looked at the liquor store but decided that at $20+ a bottle, we'd skip it)
  • 1/2 t dry mustard
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1. Place the shredded cheese and cornstarch in a plastic freezer bag. Seal, shake to coat the cheese. Set aside.

2. Rub the inside of a 4-quart pot with the cut garlic, then discard. Add the wine and lemon juice to the pot, and bring to a low simmer on medium heat. Bit by bit, slowly stir the cheese into the wine. Stir constantly in a zigzag pattern to prevent the cheese from seizing and balling up. Cook just until the cheese is melted and creamy. Do not let boil. Once the mixture is smooth, stir in kirsch (again, we skipped this), mustard and nutmeg.

3. Transfer the cheese to a fondue serving pot, set over a low flame to keep warm. If your pot is thin-bottomed, a lit candle will probably do. If thick-bottomed, you can use a small Sterno.

4. Arrange various dipping foods around the fondue pot.

Cheese & Onion Fondue (in the chrome fondue pot)

  • 2 T butter
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 t flour
  • 2/3 c sour cream
  • 2 c (8 oz) shredded Gruyere cheese (because it was so expensive, we substituted more of the imported Swiss from the other recipe)
  • 2 c (8 oz) shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 T snipped chives (we used green onions)
  • pepper
1. Melt butter in a large saucepan, add onion and cook 4-5 minutes or until soft but not brown.

2. Stir in flour; add sour cream and cook 2 minutes. Add cheeses and continue to cook, stirring, until mixture is smooth.

3. Add chives and season with pepper. Pour into fondue pot and serve.

We set out all kinds of dippers: crusty bread, cubed ham, cauliflower, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, apples, grapes, celery, zucchini. I turned the left over chunks into stir-fry :)

The fondue was time consuming to make... and not cheap to buy... but I thought it was very good. I preferred the Cheese & Onion, which was more mild, especially with bread or mushrooms. The "Cheese Fondue" recipe was very traditional and white winey. Both were worthy of a second try.


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Muffin Wednesday: Pecan

For this week's new recipe experiment, I tried Pecan Muffins. I had all the ingredients on hand - always a bonus - and the recipe was quick and easy. I thought they were sweet and moist and yummy. Give them a try!

1 1/2 c flour
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c chopped pecans
2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/2 c milk (I had soy)
1/4 c vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Paper-lined muffin tin

1. Combine flour, sugar, pecans, baking powder and salt. Make a well in the center.

2. In another bowl, combine egg, milk and oil. Add to dry ingredients; stir just until moist.

3. Spoon batter into prepared muffin tin, filling two-thirds full. Bake 15-20 minutes.

Enjoy! :)

Monday, February 22, 2010

Rocky Butte, 2/21/10 (and other stuff)

The plan was to ski Saturday at Meadows, but crappy snow conditions prompted us to change directions and stay at lower elevations.

Since I was in town, I attended a memorial service for Justin Bowman, the 25-year-old son of family friends John and Darla. He suffered a heart attack last week. Justin's sister, Karen, was in the Tigard High School Marching Band, and his parents worked with my family in the pit crew.
Justin and Karen

I didn't know Justin personally, but the huge crowd that gathered Saturday to celebrate and remember was testament to a life well lived, even if for a short time.

After the service, Brad and I went for a fast, intense hike at Tryon Creek State Park. Since winter snow is eluding us, we're moving on and getting ready for climbing season! It was a beautiful day in the woods.

Because it was still dry Sunday, Jacob joined us for some rock climbing at Portland's Rocky Butte. Below the road, an old stone retaining wall makes a perfect spot to practice your skills. We parked right above, and Brad used the car to create a top rope anchor. We spent the next few hours going up and down the short wall. I can't believe we all forgot our cameras. It would have been the perfect spot to capture some action shots. Oh well.

Jacob, donning his brand-new rock shoes, learned the real value of those funny feet accessories. He also worked to perfect his belaying skills so he'll be ready for future outings.

I somehow overcame something inside myself and let go of a lot of fear. I stopped doubting and thinking about being scared. Instead, I trusted my shoes (which is very important!) and "zoomed" to the top. It helped tremendously that my climbing partners were super supportive and cheered me on the whole way. They are great guys! I also practiced using an auto-locking Cinch delay device that will be helpful and comforting when I belay Brad's leader climbs.
Our route was too easy for Brad, but he still enjoyed being out and showing us anchors and fixed-line skills and prussic knots. He loves to share his passions with friends and watch them get addicted, too! We ended the day with Taco del Mar fish tacos and combo plates, apparently a new post-adventure ritual.

Now we're ready for Smith!!! Hopefully we'll get some good weather soon :)

Goin' to the chicken farm!

CE2 student Makayla is obsessed with chickens. When she found out that friends Michael and Kendra just got a load of chicks and ducklings, she decided we'd have a field trip to see the babies. So Friday after school, Makayla, Joan, Carly, Alexas, Maira and I loaded into Mom's minivan and drove to "the chicken farm" in Newberg.

We started with the chicks and ducklings:
Then we moved on to the big hens:
Feeding was fun, but then we had to catch and hold them all (at least one of each "color"):
Alexas didn't have appropriate chicken-catching footwear, so she borrowed Michael's size-13 rubber boots. It was really funny!
Maira, who told of getting chased in Mexico by a mean, crazy chicken, kept her distance. But she was very interested in holding the kiddos:
After the chickens, the girls tried to catch Gracie, the giant sheep. Michael offered $20 if anyone could get her. They tried mightily for quite a while, but Gracie eluded. I wish I had pictures of them chasing her through the brambles - it was quite a sight :)

We'll be back to the chicken farm for sure! :)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Muffin Wednesday: Wheat Germ

Today's experiment is Wheat Germ Muffins... YUMMY!
I mixed the dry ingredients last night and finished them off this morning. So they were quick and easy. And the students like them, too. I will make these again :)

Preheat to 400 degrees
Muffin tin, greased or paper lined.

2 c flour
2 T baking powder
1 t baking soda
1 1/2 c wheat germ (gotta love WinCo bulk foods!)
1 c packed brown sugar
2 eggs (fresh from the Rathkey farm!)
1 1/2 c milk
1/2 c vegetable oil

1. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, wheat germ and brown sugar. Mix until well blended.

2. In another bowl, whisk together eggs, milk and oil. Pout into dry ingredients; stir just until blended.

3. Spoon batter into prepared muffin tin, dividing evenly. (I filled 18 muffin cups) Bake for 15-20 minutes.


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Bonus Muffin Thursday: Mashed Potato

Two weeks ago, I made Mashed Potato Muffins from the book to take for Thursday dinner with Jacob, Lindsey, Michael, Kendra and the kiddos. I was in a hurry and didn't take a picture, but they basically looked like mashed potato muffins :)

I halved the published recipe (full recipe below). They were easy and tasted good. But the texture was strange - very starchy and sorta dry. Maybe I'd try again and add some milk or something. And maybe use a hand mixer instead of my old-fashioned masher. Kendra served soup, and several people crumbled their muffins into their soup and said it was yummy. OH - the muffin tin was really hard to clean afterward, even after lots of soaking. Just be prepared.

So not fabulous, but I'll try again with adjustments to see if I can make them better.

Preheat to 400 degrees
2 12-cup muffin tins, greased

10 medium-sized potatoes
1 t salt
1/2 t pepper
2 T oil
4 eggs, beaten
2 onions, chopped

1. In a saucepan of boiling water, cook potatoes until soft. In a bowl, combine cooked potatoes, salt, pepper and oil; mashed until smooth. Add eggs; mix well.

2. In a frying pan over medium-high heat, cook onions for about 2 minutes. Add to potato mixture; stir well.

3. In a preheated oven, heat prepared muffin tin. Spoon batter into hot tin. Bake for 30-40 minutes.


Monday, February 15, 2010

Plan B: training hike - Wahkeena Falls (2/15/10)

Our holiday weekend plan was to squeeze in some early season camping and rock climbing at Smith Rock State Park. We watched the weather all week, sometimes seeing a dry Monday and other times seeing a wet Monday. We waited. We were packed Saturday night and ready to leave Sunday morning, but the forecast got worse with showers most of Monday. Nevermind. Too much gamble for a 6-hour round-trip drive.

So instead of climbing rock with us in Central Oregon, Jacob and Lindsey agreed to go on a training hike in the Gorge. We chose the Wahkeena Falls-to-Multnomah Falls loop, about 5.2 miles.

The boys practically ran up the hill, right past the perfect picture spot at Fairy Falls. Unfortunately, it was humid and I was sweaty, so my glasses fogged up just in time for the photo... so now I look like an alien :)
There were just a couple other groups of hikers on the first part of the trail - and lots of lovely scenery...
The Gorge weather ended up being perfect for hiking. It was warm enough and the sun was out for most of the trip.
We had to visit the top of Multnomah Falls...
Just before the bridge toward the bottom of the falls, Brad said something about a horse. I thought he was joking about seeing a giant Great Dane or something. But then I saw it... a pony on the trail! It was wearing a purple coat. Um... I've seen a lot of strange things on hikes, but never a pony on a leash walking up a paved tourist trail. The group was headed toward the top of the falls... with their pony.

I tried to snap a picture but was too slow. You can barely make it out on the right side of that group - white head, purple coat:
After the pony shock wore off, we made our way through the tourists to the bottom of the falls.
We celebrated a great workout with Mondo Burritos and fish tacos at Taco del Mar in nearby Wood Village. Then we bargain hunted at Next Adventure and Andy and Bax in Portland. Jacob scored some used XC ski boots and almost-new rock climbing shoes - for our next attempt at Smith!


Saturday, February 13, 2010

Baked mini corn dogs

I followed a bunch of cooking blogs the other day and stumbled on a recipe for baked mini corn dogs on everybody like sandwiches. Had to give it a try!
1 c cornmeal

1 c flour

2 T brown sugar
1 T chili powder

1/2 t cayenne pepper

1 1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda

1/2 t salt
1 1/4 c milk
1 egg

1 T canola oil

4-8 hot dogs, cut in half (I used veggie dogs)
8-16 lollypop sticks (I didn't have any sticks)

Preheat oven to 400F.

In a large bowl, combine the first 6 ingredients. In a smaller bowl, mix together the milk, egg and canola oil. Pour the wet into the dry and mix gently with a fork.

Cut your hot dogs in half (mini-dogs not skinny-dogs) and pierce each half with a stick. Dredge each half into the cornmeal batter and place onto a silpat-covered cookie sheet.

Bake for 15 minutes or until the batter becomes golden brown.


I loved these!! They were very fast to make, I had all the ingredients on hand except for the cornmeal (which I bought super-cheap in bulk at Winco), they were fun, and they tasted really great.

The batter seemed a bit runny (you can see that in the picture). I might try less milk next time?? But there will definitely be a next time


Friday, February 12, 2010

Magic Valentine's tree!

You may recall seeing my super-cool magic Christmas tree. Well, best buddy Lindsey brought me a super-cool magic Valentine's tree!!!!!! It was Super Bowl Sunday, so we started it before the game...
"Magic liquid" was immediately drawn up the paper trunk and out the branches:
After the game:
Monday morning:

YAY!!!! :)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Bonus Muffin Thursday: Cranberry Oatmeal

Kendra planned to serve breakfast for our weekly Thursday night dinner and TV viewing. She suggested that I bring muffins, so I figured I'd try another recipe from the book. She made breakfast burritos that were SUPER good! And I made Cranberry Oatmeal Muffins. They were REALLY good. Like an oatmeal cookie. I would definitely make these again.

Preheat to 350 degrees
Muffin tin, greased (I used Valentine paper cups and they turned out great)

1/2 c finely chopped walnuts
1/2 c dried cranberries
1 1/2 c flour
1 T baking powder
3/4 t salt
3/4 c old-fashioned oats (I had quick-cook oats)
3 T softened butter or margarine
3/4 c packed brown sugar
3/4 c milk
1 egg

1. In small bowl, toss together nuts, cranberries and 1 t flour. Set aside.

2. In large bowl, combine remaining flour, baking powder and salt. Stir in oats.

3. In another bowl, whisk together butter, sugar, milk and egg, blending well. Add to flour mixture, stirring just until evening moist and blended. Fold in nut mixture.

4. Spoon batter into prepared tin, filling cups to the top. Bake in preheated oven for about 20 minutes.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Muffin Wednesday: Peanut Butter

It's Muffin Wednesday! This week, I tried Peanut Butter Muffins from my book of 500 recipes. It had few ingredients and was simple. They had good peanutty flavor, but Brad and I felt they were really dry. I thought homemade strawberry jam might help.

2 c flour
1 T baking powder
1/2 t salt
1 1/4 c milk
1 egg
3 T sugar
1/2 c peanut butter

Preheat to 400
Muffin tin, paper lined

1. Mix dry ingredients in large bowl. Make a well in the center.

2. In a blender, combine milk, egg, sugar and peanut butter. Cover and blend until thoroughly mixed. Add all at once to the dry ingredients and stir just until moistened. Do not over mix.

3. Spoon batter into prepared muffin tin, filling cups 3/4 full. Bake in preheated over for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.


Sunday, February 7, 2010

Who Dat!

2010 Super Bowl champs!!!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Edison Butte - Edison Shelter, January 2010

Since Brad and I had so much fun at the AC/DC Shelter, we decided to return the next day to the sno-park and check out the Edison Shelter, which is a shorter loop with less elevation. Because of an injured ankle, Michael and Kendra opted for snowshoes. Jacob, Lindsey, Brad and I stuck with XC skis. The Nordic area has dedicated trails, so we went our separate ways and met up at the shelter. Previous visitors left a warm fire and a plastic sled. We took turns lunching by the woodstove and sledding down the hill outside the shelter. It soon turned into a game: Sled down the hill. Try to get the farthest before wiping out. (maybe try no-hands!) Try to avoid the snowballs flying at your head as you walked up the hill. We laughed and laughed and laughed, feeling like little kids on a snow day.

M&K returned the way they came and snapped this picture of the snow under the clearing sky.
The skiers continued the XC loop, and about halfway back, we spotted what looked like a stone bridge next to the trail. Upon closer examination, we realized that it was a lava tube.
Obviously, it had to be explored! After some spelunking, we continued through the woods, stopping along the way to cruise off piste. The trail was good, covered in about 5 inches of fresh snow from the day/night before. However, the warm weather and spotty sun quickly melted the piles of snow from the tree branches, causing water to rain on our heads. Trade offs, I guess.

Because of our side trips, M&K beat us to the parking lot. But they weren't bored... they were busy burying J&L's car in snow and building this beauty on the hood: Within minutes, another snowball fight broke out, with giant globs of powder flying through the air. The 5 inches of fresh snow on top of the plow mounds made for amazing snowballs... or snow chunks. I nailed Jacob really good, and he retaliated by coming after me with the entire snowman. I still have nightmares of the snowman attack! Lindsey hid behind the car eating snacks, but we eventually noticed that she wasn't there and brought her back into the mix.

I have not had that much fun in a very long time. We played like kids. We laughed until I almost wet my pants. We drew strange looks from "civilians." It was truly an epic snow fight.

The weekend also brought good food, stimulating conversation, Tomb Raider, movies and books. And what better way to relax:
I've said it before and I'll say it again. I have wonderful, amazing, caring, hilarious friends. I am truly blessed. :)

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Edison Butte - AC/DC Shelter, January 2010

Thanks to my very generous aunts (thank you!!!!!!!), we spent another snowy weekend in Sunriver, relaxing, hanging with friends and playing in the snow! Michael, Kendra, Jacob and Lindsey joined us for the trip to Rio de Sol.

First, Brad and I explored the Edison Butte Sno-Park, a newer trail system on Forest Service Road 45 just south of the Cascade Lakes Highway junction (just before Mount Bachelor). Rain fell as we unloaded the car, but as soon as we reached the trailhead, the precipitation turned to snow! We set out for the AC/DC Shelter, a 5.5-mile loop with about 500' of elevation.
We soon learned that the cumulative elevation was MUCH more than 500', with the trail rolling over snow-covered lava beds. One guidebook accurately described it as "undulating." Because of the narrow, winding and nearly continuously rolling trail, it was difficult to get any glide. Still, the snow was nice and the scenery was beautiful as we made our way to the picturesque shelter. The woodstove was stoked when we arrived, so we ate our lunch inside the toasty building. We'd arrived on the Direct Current trail and decided to continue the loop and return on the Alternating Current trail. The AC trail was less windy (and downhill!), allowing great coasting. We ventured off piste several times when smooth, powder-covered slopes called our names. The snow was perfect for practicing off trail - very forgiving. I think I only bit it once the whole day! It snowed the entire trip, making for a spectacular adventure.