2015 Recap

Goodbye 2015. It was nice knowing you. 2015 was another great year full of all kinds of food, but a little less travel and blogging. Tax busy season(s!) coupled with CPA exam studying and a lot of weddings will do that to you.

We travelled around Idaho, Wyoming and Montana keeping things in the country this year for “the big trip”, and if it wasn’t for a quick trip to Vancouver, BC for a Timbers playoff game, I wouldn’t have left the country at all. The Timbers won MLS Cup, and this was the year of weddings [five in total]. New favorite restaurants/this year included: Mediterranean Exploration Company, Ava Genes, St. Jack, Mekong Bistro, and Kachka. SO MUCH GOOD FOOD IN THIS CITY.

Looking back over the top ten posts this year, most of them are from other years like this Icelandic stew and beet and leek soup. It looks like not having a lot of time to blog will do that. Let’s see what was the most popular this year, shall we?

Bozeman and Lewis & Clark Caverns

bozeman

Thai Basil Pork

thai basil pork

Spinach Artichoke Pizza with Sausage & Burrata

spinach artichoke pizza

Coeur D’Alene & Wallace, Idaho

IMG_0662

Chorizo and Chickpea Frittata

chickpea frittata

Chicken Tikka Masala

chicken tikka masala

Missoula, Whitefish, and Glacier National Park

glacier national park

Chorizo Stuffed Sweet Peppers

Chorizo Stuffed Sweet Peppers

Weeknight Porchetta

Porchetta

Buffalo Chicken Dip

buffalo chicken




Chai Spice Snickerdoodle Cookies

If I were writing in chronological order [and I usually do], I had a really brown, boring looking recipe to share. That hardly seemed appropriate for the holidays considering I had these cookies ready to go [and they are the some of the best cookies I’ve made in a long, long time]. Speaking of the ol’ holidays, I hope yours were great. Christmas snuck up on me more than usual, which left me feeling uninspired. I didn’t put up tree. I didn’t put up any decorations. I didn’t bake anything. I did buy this ridiculous sweater and build a gingerbread house stadium. That counts right?

After the usual feast of meat, cheese, crackers [and a bowl of these roasted mushrooms] on Christmas Eve and an all-you-can-eat buffet of Mexican food for Christmas Day, Christmas is over for another year. I’m thankful for being able to get together with the fam that’s here, and definitely miss the ones down south. I could use a little bit of sunshine since it’s been raining in some form for 25 days straight. 25. Ugh. It’s like being a kid all over again and it feels like it’s never going to stop. It made for a great trip to the zoo though. I took Wednesday off just because, and we headed to the zoo to see the new elephant exhibit. Mid-week rainy zoo trips in December not long after the doors open yielded one of the best experiences. All of the animals were out or curled up in their dens that have super close viewing access. If you’re in Portland and haven’t been to see the new elephant exhibit, go.

These cookies are from Adrianna from A Cozy Kithchen’s new cookbook, The Year of the Cozy. I flipped through this pretty book when I was at Powell’s doing some Christmas shopping. She has more DIY awesome in her pinky than I could ever dream of having. Plus Amelia, her corgi, is just so dang cute. These cookies she made are taking the internet by storm, and they came out PERFECT. Even for me. I feel like my baking skills are only ok. Cooking > baking for me, but I like to try every now and then [obviously], but the results end up so-so. Some definitely better than others. These cookies are the exception not the rule to my experience. Everything came together quick and easy. No tartar. No refrigeration. Just pure cookie joy. I even bought cardamom for such an occasion. Worth it.

Chai Spiced Snickerdoodle Cookies

Inspiration: A Cozy Kitchen via A Crepes of Wrath

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon + 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon + 1 pinch ground cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups + 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2oz cream cheese, room temperature
  • 6 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 350° and line two baking sheets with parchment or a silpat.

In a bowl [not your mixer’s bowl], whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, ginger, 1 teaspoon of the ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom, the cloves, allspice, and black pepper.

In the bowl of your mixer [or a another regular one], add 1 1/2 cups of sugar, cream cheese and butter. Beat together until light and fluffy, a good minute or two. Incorporate the oil before adding the egg, milk and vanilla extract. Beat together again until everything is combined and smooth.

Add the flour mixture to the liquid in two batches. Be very careful not to over-mix. You may need to scrape the sides a time or two to get everything together. It will become a soft, pliable dough.

Mix together the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and pinch of cardamom in a shallow bowl or on a plate. Using a tablespoon or a cookie scoop, make equal sized balls of dough. Roll them until they’re soft and even before rolling them in the sugar mixture. Place them evenly spaced on your cookie sheets. Then flatten them with your fingers for a rustic look. They won’t spread a ton, but you may still need to bake several batches.

Bake for about 12 minutes. They will look a little darker, but not much. Don’t overtake. They will be soft and chewy. Let them cool for a few minutes before moving to a cooling rack.

Greek Meatballs

Mediterranean Exploration Company — eat there. You must. It’s the latest restaurant checked off our ‘must try’ list. We’ve been slowly tackling the list once a month, and the list keeps growing faster than we can get to them. M.E.C. is another John Gorham creation. I love his other restaurants, gigantic waits be damned, Toro Brovo and Tasty n Alder (or Sons). You could say we went a little overboard with the number of plates ordered over the course of a few hours, but it seemed so necessary at the time. After all, I don’t know when we’ll be back. The highlights were the lamb and bulgar tartar [raw meat, always gets me], fresh made pita with the roasted eggplant dip, fried anchovies, grilled octopus [the most tender octopus of my life], and the Greek lamb chops. Mouth. Watering. Deliciousness. The desserts didn’t do a whole lot for me. I would have gladly eaten another pita instead. We sat at the bar top that surrounded the kitchen. So fun to watch and eat.

These Greek meatballs were supposed to be made with lamb per the original recipe. I try not to mess with Smitten Kitchen recipes. Deb is a master of her recipes. I had every intention to go grab lamb for them, I swear. The fridge [New Seasons] was completely out though. I instinctively went with ground beef instead, which turned out to be a solid substitute. I still think lamb would be infinitely better, but that’s because lamb > beef in my world. It just is [see Greek lamb chops above]. But in a pinch? When I want to save a few dollars? Beef all the way. The saltiness of the feta and the olives is the star of the show anyway. Putting them on a bed of buttery orzo was pretty much heavenly. I’m currently craving pasta as I type.

I’ve been keeping a bag of breadcrumbs in my freezer for a long time now. I used them. They worked great as a binder. I was actually a bit skeptical since I really don’t care for bread from the freezer. I thought perhaps they’d end up a bit soggy when cooked, but nope! Add that to the list of things I perpetually keep in the freezer [along with peeled garlic cloves and fresh ginger].

Beef Greek Meatballs

Inspiration: Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 1.5 tablespoons of water
  • 1lb ground beef
  • 1/2 of a whisked egg [the rest went to Roma]
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons crumbled feta
  • 1/4 heaping teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon red chile flakes
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, small dice
  • 1-2 tablespoons vermouth or red wine
  • 14-15oz can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons chopped kalamata olives
  • 1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh mint leaves [don’t skip this!!]
  • juice of one lemon [or 2 tablespoons]
  • Orzo [or other fresh pasta] or fresh rolls to make sandos to serve

Preparation

In a large bowl, mix together the three tablespoons of water, ground beef, egg, bread crumbs, 1/4 cup of the crumbled feta, salt, 1/2 teaspoons red chile flakes, one minced garlic cloves, 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, and tomato paste. Roll them into small, uniform balls. I use a cookie scoop for ease.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil on medium high heat. Brown the meatballs on all sides. Do this in batches if necessary. A crowded pan is a recipe for crumbled meatballs. Set them aside on a paper towel lined plate. In the same skillet, add the onion and remaining clove of garlic. Brown in the remaining grease. Scrape up the browned bits at the bottom of the pan. When the onion starts to soften, add the vermouth or wine. When the liquid is almost gone, add the tomatoes, oregano, olives, remaining chile flakes, and mint. When the mixture starts to simmer, add the meatballs to the pan. Cover with a lid and simmer for 20-25 minutes until the meat is cooked through. Stir occasionally. Serve over pasta or in a sandwich. Sprinkle the lemon juice over the top.

Avocado Feta Dip

I spent my birthday weekend in Vancouver BC. Deja vú. I fall in love with that city more and more every time we go and explore more of it. The Portland Timbers have made their way to the MLS playoffs, so we followed them up to Vancouver for their game on the 8th. We would have gone even if it wasn’t my birthday weekend, but it made it a little bit better.

We stayed in an Airbnb in Olympic Village. It was a modern condo that had a Viking range. Swoon. I didn’t cook on it it, but I stared at it lovingly every single day we were there. The rain poured down on our first full day there, but it didn’t stop us from getting out on foot a little bit. Some new favorites from this trip: Rosemary Rocksalt for their namesake bagel, Phnom Penh for some super authentic Cambodian food, Bao Down for a fried chicken steamed bun, Craft Beer Market for 140 beer taps with a high percentage dedicated to Canadian brew, Elysian Coffee for a solid Americano, Japadog for things on hot dogs, and 33 Acres Brewing for the prettiest brewery of all time and their beers are super good to boot. The Timbers won and have moved on to the Western conference finals. It was icing on the cake.

Once my birthday hits, it’s the fast track to the end of the year. I’m all about making foodstuffs for the various events that go out between now and then. I came across this dip in a fit of hunger but wanted something quick. Snacks = meals. So does standing around and eating the giant bowl of potato salad for every meal, but that’s another story. I know more than a few people in my life that would cringe at the combination of flavors in this dip, but that means there is most for me. Depending on your love of feta cheese, you might want to ease into using the whole 4oz depending on the size of your avocado. I love both equally [don’t make me choose a favorite!] so I had no problem committing 110%. I’m sure you could pass on the green onions [scallions, if you’re so inclined] if you wanted, but they’re a nice contrast both in flavor and texture. It reminded me a lot bit of these green onion appetizers that would end up at my parents’ house at family events. Talk about simplicity. Wrap the white part of a scallion in cream cheese. Roll the cream cheese in shredded cheddar. Devour. I’m pretty sure the onion is just a vehicle for cheese, but I am convinced these things are the reason I have no problem eating plain green onions raw as a snack.

Avocado Feta Dip

Inspiration: Green Valley Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 4oz feta cheese
  • Juice of a small lemon [approximately 2 tablespoons or to taste]
  • 3-4 scallions, sliced thin, remove any dry or shriveled ends
  • Cracked pepper to taste

Preparation

This is one of those things that you have to taste as you go in order to really get the flavor you’re looking for. A little bit of something changes the dynamic entirely.

In the bowl of a food processor, add the diced avocado, feta cheese, and scallions. Remember to use less of the feta if you’re unsure of how much you’re going to like the flavor. Blend until mostly smooth. Add the lemon juice and cracked pepper. Combine. Continue until you get a consistency and taste that you enjoy.

If you don’t have a food processor, you could do it by hand just as easily. I used a small food processor that could barely hold all of the avocado and feta cheese, so the scallions, lemon juice, and pepper were mixed in by hand. I didn’t mind in the slightest. Mmm onion chunks.

I am assuming the lemon juice would keep the dip from turning brown on you, but mine didn’t last long enough to find out.

Korean Tuna Melt

Do you have any of those large Asian supermarkets? We have at least two that I’ve been two, Fubonn and Uwajimaya. They are veritable treasure troves of grocery shopping goodness. I’m equal parts torn about going in here hungry and not hungry. I know going in hungry is asking for trouble since there is so many things I want, but that deli area is so hard to pass up. So. Much. Poke. I want to eat poke by the five gallon bucket. Poke is like Hawaiian fish tartare. Aka raw fish. Delicious diced raw fish or other seafood. It usually marinates in various sauces [soy, shoyu, chili oil, sesame oil, etc] and can have add-ins of seaweed, garlic, green onion, and other fresh ingredients. Again, super hard to not eat it by the bucket full. The freshness of the fish contrasted with the bright flavors of the sauce and add-ins really hits the spot. We went to Uwajimaya last time after devouring a bowl of ramen at Kukai. I was stuffed, and yet we still ate a container of poke in the car like we were pressed for time, toothpicks stabbing each tender cube of fish and/or green onion, shoveling it in.

We went for nothing in particular, only to “walk around,” yet miraculously left with fish sauce, oyster sauce, a large bag of thai chilies, several packages of thai basil, and gochujang [Korean chile paste]. This is probably like going to Costco with less rolls of toilet paper. I’ve been lusting after a container of it it. Lady and Pups’ blog will do that to you. I want to make her chicken galbi ramen, cold and warm salmon scrambled egg rolls, and miso stewed short rib french dip, just to name a few. This stuff is the things my dreams are made of — my delicious, delicious dreams. When these tuna melt nigiri [rice balls] were made, I wanted them. I wanted them badly. I’m also lazy, so I made a sandwich. Tuna melt rice balls can become tuna melts rather easily. Sub bread for rice. It’s a vehicle for that deliciously salty and spicy tuna anyway. And cheese. Gooey cheese.

I kept adding and adding the chile paste. And adding more chile paste. It’s a delicate level of spicy that most people could probably handle. Even my sister. I wanted to go the extra mile with seaweed somewhere, either lining the bread or at least crushed into the tuna mixture, but I had to make due with a liberal sprinkling of gomasio — sesame seeds, sea salt, sea vegetables. Why? See the word ‘lazy’ above. The airy ciabatta rolls at the fridge New Seasons were a solid choice for what I was trying to accomplish here, but I can’t help but wonder if I would have pressed it somehow [cast iron on top of a skillet?] it would have been even better. Melty cheese via the broiler was more than acceptable.

Korean Tuna Melt

Inspiration: Lady and Pups

Ingredients

  • 2 cans tuna in olive oil, drained
  • 2 tablespoons mayo
  • 3-4 tablespoons gochujang
  • 1.5 teaspoons sesame oil + more for brushing the bread
  • 1 teaspoon Sriracha
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
  • Gomasio
  • sliced colby jack cheese
  • ciabatta rolls

Makes 2 stuffed or 4 smaller sandwiches

Preparation

In a large bowl, add the tuna, mayo, gochujang, 1.5 teaspoons of sesame oil, sriracha, and ginger. Use a form to mix everything together well. Taste. You may want more of something here depending on your tuna and your tastebuds.

Turn a broiler on high. Brush the cut sides of the ciabatta rolls with sesame oil. On the bottoms of the rolls, liberally spread a layer of of the tuna mixture. Top with cheese. Place those halves of the sandwich on a baking sheet and place in the oven.

Let the cheese get nearly melted and bubbly before adding the other sides of the bread to the pan, cut side up. If you don’t do this, expect super crispy bread [read: burnt]. Remove the pan from the oven and Sprinkle the cheesy side of the bread with the Gomasio. Place the top of the roll onto the cheese side. Devour.