Burger Week

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Burger Week is kind of a big deal in Portland.  It’s this one week in August where about 20 local restaurants feature one crazy-ass burger, like this or this or this, for only $5, and it lasts for exactly one week.  Last year, we only made it to one of the spots, Foster Burger, on the very last night (also the day our little Tuckaluck was born!).  This year we had grand plans to hit up at least three or four — and I had made my shortlist of the ones I was the most excited about.

Alas, this happened to be the third week in a row that Jesse was pulling double headers at work — finishing up at his regular job site around 5, and then heading over to a second house in Southeast to put in an extra 3 hours fixing up a new house for one of his longstanding clients.  I rode the coattails of his work stamina and stayed at the shop until 7 or 8 each night myself, finally catching up on all the multitudes of postponed projects on my own list from this busy summer.

Needless to say, the last thing either of us wanted to do at the end of our day was go wait in line and fight over the last of one of these burgers as they were about to sell out — which apparently was happening left and right this go-round, as Burger Week has gained such an insane following.

But, that’s not to say burgers weren’t on our brains.  In my regular routine (that is to say, when we’re not in summer crazy-town mode of camping every weekend, barbecuing and bluegrassing every night, biking home along the Springwater Corridor at 3:30 in the morning blasting the playlist from my recent half-marathon), I like to read Sunset and Bon Appetit whenever I’m eating alone, take photos of whatever recipes I want to try, and then each Sunday, go through this foodie to-do list and plan my menu for the week.

Usually, it’s heavily influenced by what I know we already have in the freezer, or the perfect way to use up that leftover half-can of plum tomatoes that’s about to go bad, or the fact that this week’s produce run was at Fubonn, the gigantic Asian market, instead of at our nearby farm stand.  Mondays are reserved for errands and appointments, and that’s when I can always swing by Safeway and pick up anything random or extra that might make or break that recipe I really want to make.  Like pistachios.

So it was no surprise that, during this week’s rifling through of recipes, these pistachio-lamb-beef burgers caught my eye.

I’ve never actually made burgers before, but these seemed different enough to warrant an attempt.  The recipe called for some Arabic spices I didn’t have, but I’ve cooked enough Mediterranean food to figure out some good substitutions.  So, into the Cuisinart:

  • 1/2 cup salted pistachios
  • half a large white onion, chopped
  • 1/2 lb. each ground beef and ground lamb
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tbsp baharat (I used dried harissa instead)
  • 1 tbsp aleppo pepper (I went in a different direction and threw in a handful of basil from the garden, and a handful of crumbled feta)
  • 1 tsp each salt and pepper


That one egg white killed me though — what am I going to do with a single remaining yolk??  Well, as it turns out, I’m going to try making my first ever mayonnaise, as that was all that this simple recipe, discovered through a quick Google search, called for in the egg department.


homemade mayo

But, to this recipe I also added a pressed clove of garlic, chopped fresh mint from the garden, and a dash of sumac powder, yielding a complex and Middle Eastern-inspired aioli.


That was totally the right call.

I wanted my burgers bunless, but I knew Jesse would want some sort of bread to make it a true burger, so I had grabbed some whole wheat buns from TJ’s and toasted them up for him.

Jesse didn’t get home from work that night until about 8:45, which seemed a little late to fire up the grill, but he convinced me that these would be better in our brand new hand-forged Blu Skillet from the recent Urban Craft Uprising.

And so that’s what we did.

Chopped up some veggies to dress it with…



And made a super simple salad: a 50/50 mix of two bagged greens I’d picked up the other day (cruciferous greens and arugula) and coated them with a splash each of olive oil, orange muscat champagne vinegar, and my favorite Friends Forever salt.


Oh, and to top it off, we’d gone out to eat at the Hawthorne Hophouse the other night, and I took home almost an entire serving of their garlic parmesan fries when their happy hour grilled chicken caesar proved filling enough.  So I reheated those in the convection oven (which does a surprisingly good job with fries) and split them between us.

And all of a sudden we had ourselves some serious burgers.


Jesse loved them the night of, but what really made my heart melt was the next day when he texted me from his lunch break and, while eating them as leftovers (he even brought a miniature Tupperware of the aioli with him to work), he disclosed to me over text that “This may be my new favorite burger! :D”  That is high praise, coming from this guy.

Planning Ahead

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Sometimes, leaving the house for a day at work is like preparing for a backpacking trip, and coordinating the logistics is like one of those logic problems where you are trying to get 3 people across a river with nothing but a horse, a sandwich, and a raft.


My car is out of commission and being fixed up on Burnside, I have to be at work by 11, Jesse needs to be at work by 9:30, and we both have plans after work.  Which means, the pup needs to come to work with me, because that’s way too long to leave him at home by himself.  Luckily, my plans are pet-flexible (meeting an old friend for drinks at the Landmark Saloon, just down the street from Yarnia, and with a wonderful outdoor patio that I plan on taking advantage of, as it’s supposed to remarkably hit 85 degrees this afternoon).  And no, Tucker and I can’t just score a ride to work with Jesse, because his departure time of 9:00 a.m. is far too early for me to pull off my morning work AND a 6 mile run, which wouldn’t be so anal about if I weren’t training for a half marathon and feeling very serious at this point about sticking to my schedule.

There’s nothing I love more than a good logic problem!


I leave my Yarnia key for Jesse and go for a run.  Jesse leaves for work, stopping at Yarnia on the way to drop off Tucker, gets him all cozy in his bed, locks him in from the outside,  hides the key for me in a predetermined location, then continues on to work.  I come home from my run, get ready for work, and walk to the bus which gets me to Yarnia right at 11:00 when we open.  I locate the key, Tucker’s here waiting for me, happily snoozing, and we spend the day at work together.  At 6, I close up shop, Tucker and I walk down the street to the Landmark where he joins me for his first patio beer (hello, summer!) and I get to catch up with my long lost friend.  Then, whenever we decide we’re done, Tucker and I walk the 3 miles home, and we call it a day.

This is just a day in the life, but here’s what it requires me remembering to pack in my trusty messenger bag before I walk out the door:

  • A vest for later (even if it’s going to hit 85 today, that means nothing when the sun goes down, and if Tucker’s with me, there’s no option of going inside when it cools down)
  • Phone & headphones (long walk home = podcast time!)
  • Lunch (leftover kebabs and Greek salad from grilling last night + brown rice that I thought ahead to make earlier this morning while I was doing my pre-run work)
  • Breakfast = The base to my single-serving smoothie blender — remembering that I still have a smoothie in my work fridge from last week that I never drank, and all it needs to perk back up is a handful of ice from my trusty ice machine at work (yes, most worthwhile investment of my life), and a few spins in the blender
  • Patio puppy amenities: portable Kevlar water dish, a meaty bone to keep him occupied if he gets restless, a squirt bottle in case he gets barky, and treats galore
  • Exact change for the bus, so I can get myself to work and execute this grand plan

We have good teamwork, me and Jesse, and I owe half of our well-adjusted, happy puppy to his compliance with my carefully scheduled plans.  But I also love the times when we barely have to plan at all, and it just comes together.  Like yesterday, when I got this text mid-day while working from home.


That’s a picture of some delicious looking kebabs, in case you can’t tell, that Jesse spotted while checking out a new meat market for lunch.  True to his word, he arrived home with a delicious selection (teriyaki beef, and spicy pork!), I whipped up some easy drop biscuits in the Cuisinart and threw together a salad with Greek dressing I had made last week and already had sitting on the counter, he oiled and seasoned some asparagus and threw it on the grill with the meat, and without even trying, we had collaborated an insanely delicious Tuesday evening summertime meal.

photo (1)

Smoked Brisket Pot Pie and Horseradish Lemon Cream Brussels Sprouts

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This past month has been insane, and I am so lucky to have such an awesome partner to help out with cooking at home.  It’s been the kind of month where I haven’t had an actual day off in over 3 weeks…not that my days off ever ever really “days off,” but I usually have my Mondays and Tuesdays for running errands, sleeping in at least a little, doing work from home in my pajamas, and getting house stuff done like laundry, cleaning, organizing, and working on my own personal projects like reorganizing my podcasts and iTunes, rather than being at the store.

But, I recently hired a second employee, and officially opened up the shop 7 days a week!  Which, because of my penchant for delayed gratification, I know will eventually lead to more time and freedom for me, as our training progresses and I can slowly hand off to her the parts of my job that take way more time than they should, leaving my own projects as the ones that I can focus on, uninterrupted, from my home office (which is a way sweeter deal now that I live in a home that I absolutely love spending time in, with free delicious tea, coffee, and food whenever I want it!), and whittling my in-store time down to one or two days a week for the to-dos that require me to be in front of my work computer, Z-reports in hand, or actual cones in front of me to catalog.

Anyway, this is a long way of saying that in addition to the temporary time stresses of training a new employee on my days off, family drama, acquiring a new dog, overhauling Yarnia’s class system and hiring new instructors to teach instead of myself (also–will result in much more free time eventually…but way less for now!), I am damn lucky to have a handsome chef in the kitchen to have dinner waiting for me when I get home from work.

Oven roasted Tandoori chicken, saffron rice, steamed veggies with lemon-butter-dill-coriander sauce

Oven roasted Tandoori chicken, saffron rice, steamed veggies with lemon-butter-dill-coriander sauce

That was last week — and he made enough Tandoori drumsticks so that we’d have leftovers for him to make butter chicken with later on in the week!  And he says he doesn’t like to plan ahead.  Ha!  When it comes to savory meats, that is a big fat lie.

marinading drummies

marinading drummies

This week?  Well, we had a smashing, semi-impromptu St. Paddy’s Day barbecue at our place on Sunday afternoon, the result of which was a handsome hunk o’ smoked brisket.  I managed to save a yogurt’s container worth of leftovers before it was annihilated, so that later this week we could make our favorite leftover pot pie that I overheard Jesse suggesting to himself around hour 3 of smoking.


He took care of pot pie filling, as has become our routine, while I whipped up a quick dough in the Cuisinart (just butter, flour, salt, cold water…and rosemary!), and some Brussels sprouts for the side.

He’s made this filling enough at this point that he can pull it off gracefully, from memory.  Some chopped onion, carrot, and celery, sauteed.


Chop up all the leftover meat, whether it be smoked turkey, brisket, what have you.


Add that to the pan, sautee it up, and sprinkle some flour in and mix it around to thicken up the gravy-like sauce that’s about to happen.  Add a little broth (we used beef broth for this one), salt, pepper, and frozen peas…


And then he lets me know it’s time to roll out the dough that’s been chillin’ in the fridge.

Into the pie pan it goes, sealed with a lid of rosemary pie crust.


And out it comes, 50 minutes later.


Now, look at those gorgeous Brussels!


I kept it simple — I wanted to whip these up in the 10 minutes that it took the pie to cool.  Into the skillet: olive oil and butter.


Here’s all the seasoning I used: horseradish, fresh lemon juice, cayenne pepper, and “GOG” — a term Jesse picked up from his favorite Roku cooking show, for ginger/onion/garlic, a huge batch of it he whipped up in the food processor and that we keep in the fridge to start just about every meal we cook in the skillet.

I got a few spoonfuls of GOG sizzling in the skillet, then placed the sprouts all face-down in a single layer, and didn’t touch them, until they had browned.


I sprinkled a chopped shallot over top, and then stirred in some horseradish, cayenne, and lemon juice, along with about a half cup of stock from the freezer (I think this was our smoked turkey stock from when we had our last big smoker feast!).  When the broth had just about absorbed, I added a few splashes of cream, salt, and pepper.


Teamwork, baby.


This Week’s Groceries

(really this month’s groceries — I’ve got some catching up to do!)


Those circled items are shampoo and conditioner — not part of the grocery total!

1 2 4



Good friends.

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Between catching up from my trip and prepping for a birthday weekend out at the cabin, I didn’t get to cook at all this week. Thankfully I have awesome friends who invite me over for dinner after work on a Wednesday night!

Butternut squash soup, quinoa salad, homemade chive biscuits, and spinach salad with pears, blue cheese, dried blueberries, and shaved carrots.  Orange-pineapple cocktails on the side.

Chana Masala with Roasted Veggie Couscous

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It’s been pretty quiet here on this blog these past couple of weeks, for a couple of reasons.  The first is that two Sundays ago, we had our good friends Jesse and Elizabeth over for a Sunday afternoon smokeout.  That is, Elizabeth had a grand plan to smoke a giant, delicious ham for her man for Christmas (what a generous vegetarian!), with the help of our trusty smoker.

I actually got the best end of this deal, because I was working all day and then teaching until 7, while the three of them were at our house, dutifully monitoring the carefully formulated smoking times of all the following: two gigantic hams, which had been brined, marinated, injected, and basted for over a day; fillets of salmon and trout, tin foil patches of eggplant and teriyaki onions, a rack of ribs, and chicken drumsticks.  I just got to come home, pour myself a glass of wine, and reap the rewards!


And subsequently, did not cook a single thing for the rest of the week — just ate leftover smoked meats in infinite forms: smoked ham and gorganzola tacos, brown rice with thin-sliced smoked eggplant and flakes of smoked salmon with a fried egg on top, smoked drumsticks with fresh salad for lunch…it was a luxuriously delicious week with absolutely no effort on my part.


Then, directly after that, I got to go on my annual trip out east, to visit some of my oldest friends, in Brooklyn and D.C.


So, needless to say, this past week was not a big week for cooking, either.  Instead, I got treated to a delicious Shabbat stir fry by Jamie and Elon, Saturday afternoon lunch of split pea fritters with Sriracha yogurt and cabbage salad at Dory’s house, and a delicious dinner out with the whole gang in Brooklyn on Saturday night.


Then in D.C., Emily and I got to steal some time away from her kiddos and indulge in some meals together and catch up.  And then in our grand tradition, I made her and her family dinner Monday night, whipping up a yummy meal of chana masala and roasted veggie couscous while she and her husband juggled nighttime routines with their adorable three-year-old son, and now three-month-old daughter!


So yes, I’ve been a bit spoiled these past couple of weeks!

This Week’s Groceries

Safeway 1/11

  • Quinoa spaghetti: $2.79
  • Vanilla creamer: $2.99
  • Half and half: $2.69
  • Cucumbers: $0.89
  • Mushrooms: $3.44
  • Lettuce: $1.99
  • Baby spinach: $1.99
  • Alfalfa sprouts: $1.59
  • Olives: $3.87

TOTAL: $22.24



Safeway 1/12

  • 1 large ham: $36.73

TOTAL: $36.73



New Seasons 1/13

  • Canned pineapple: $1.99
  • Tinfoil: $1.99
  • Orange juice: $3.99
  • Bosc pears: $6.27
  • Yellow onions: $1.64
  • Eggplant: $2.21
  • Trout fillet: $12.64
  • Gorgonzola crumbles: $3.60

TOTAL: $34.33



Fubonn 1/6

  • Baby bok choy: $2.04
  • Green peppers: $1.34
  • Miso soup mix: $2.39
  • Cilantro: $0.50
  • Soy sauce: $3.98
  • Rice stick: $1.38
  • Sweet rice 5 lb. bag: $5.50
  • Brown basmati rice: $5.99
  • Oyster mushrooms: $4.01
  • Tapioca stick: $1.49
  • Sweet chili sauce: $2.69
  • Coconut milk: $3.58
  • Green eggplant: $1.97
  • Kholrabi: $1.23
  • Zucchini: $0.66
  • Instant hot & sour soup paste: $1.99
  • Sesame candy: $1.59
  • Limes: $0.59
  • Yellow bell peppers: $1.94
  • Stir fry sauce: $3.68
  • Rice noodles: $2.99
  • Sweet potato noodles: $1.99

TOTAL: $52.52


Tofu Stir-Fry with Baby Bok Choy, Bell Peppers, and Korean Noodles

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I finally made it to Fubonn this week, and got a few things that have been lingering on my shopping list for months now (brown basmati rice, Tom Kah soup paste, rice vinegar), and of course a bunch of other things that I can’t help but throw in the cart when I’m there.  I can’t attest to their quantity or organic status at all, but Fubon has the absolute cheapest veggies I’ve ever seen — actual good quality Asian veggies like baby bok choy, not the sad looking tufts of greens that call themselves bok choy at regular grocery stores.  Nope, at Fubonn you can get a gigantic bag of about 12 of them for $1.64, and a package of oyster mushrooms that looks like this, for less than five bucks:


So last night when Jesse texted me on my bike ride home, already 7:15 and saying he was just getting home from work as well and can we do something easy for dinner, I knew it was a stir fry kinda night.

I had a package of tofu sitting in the fridge, which was just the ticket because it’s been a very meat-heavy week, between leftover pork shoulder roast, and barbecued chicken drumsticks.  So right when I got home, while I gathered and assembled all the veggies I’d be using, I quickly cubed up the brick of tofu, melted some coconut oil and black bean paste in the skillet, and started frying it up.


I like to cook my tofu for a long time over medium heat, kind of like caramelizing onions.  It drives me crazy when tofu is all soft and crumbly and falling apart — I want it firm and crispy and tough on the outside, but without having to deep fry it.  The key is cooking it in a reasonable amount of oil, with a little bit of salt sprinkled on top to draw out the water, for nearly half an hour, but on a low enough heat so that it doesn’t burn.  Canola oil works better than olive oil for making it nice and crispy, but coconut oil is way healthier and works just as well.


Meanwhile, I took each little bundle of bok choy and separated it — sliced off the closed end so that the leaves would all separate, and then sliced between the stalk and the leaves.  The stalk takes about as long to cook as cabbage, so I wanted to give it a good ten minutes by itself in the wok before the softer ingredients got added, whereas the leaves go in at the very end, so that they wilt and cook just a little bit.

Here’s everybody waiting for the wok to heat up.


I got a pot of water boiling, and cooked a third of a bag of these Korean noodles (they only take about five minutes), setting them aside to cool.  Why Korean noodles you ask?  Well first of all, I love their texture — they are thin and super stretchy, like nearly unbreakably stretchy, and get all glassy once they’re cooked, absorbing the sauce better than rice noodles, in my opinion.  And the best part?  They’re made from sweet potato starch rather than wheat, so they’re totally gluten free!


This may be a thing for the next little while…I’ve been trying to be gluten-avoidant for the past six months or so, but really only half-heartedly.  I decided this week that I’m going to give it a more serious go — not in any sort of Celiac or nit-picky way…I’ll probably still use regular flour to thicken sauces and all that, but I’m going to forego the obvious culprits like straight up wheat pasta.

So, back to the wok.  I started stir-frying the mushrooms and bok choy stalks until they were soft, then added the bell peppers.

As for sauce, we had picked this up earlier this week during a Trader Joe’s frenzy.


I dipped a finger in to try it and wasn’t crazy about it — it was super sweet and smelled more like barbecue sauce than an Asian stir-fry, so I just started with a few tablespoons as a base, then doctored everything up with soy sauce and a bit of fish sauce.  I should have added chili paste in at the point, too, but I overlooked it and ended up stirring it in to my own personal plate, which still worked.

At the very end, I added the noodles that had been cooling until they had been coated with the sauce, chopped up some cilantro for garnish, and served it up!


This Week’s Groceries

Safeway 1/2

  • Apple cider: $3.39
  • Pork shoulder roast: $9.11
  • Chicken breast tenders: $7.52
  • Gala apples: $2.74
  • White onions: $0.62
  • Collard greens: $1.99

TOTAL: $25.37



Trader Joe’s 1/6

  • Half and half: $1.89
  • Hummus: $3.99
  • Olive tapenade: $2.99
  • Sumatra coffee: $5.99
  • French roast coffee: $5.99
  • Asiago cheese: $3.65
  • Crumbled feta: $2.79
  • Gingerbread coffee: $7.99
  • Horseradish: $1.99
  • Pizza dough: $1.29
  • Dynamo juice: $3.99
  • Olive oil: $5.49
  • Pizza sauce: $1.99
  • General Tsao’s cooking sauce: $2.79
  • Seaweed salad: $2.99
  • Biryani rice stir fry: $2.29
  • Frozen cauliflower & romanesco: $2.99
  • Maui beef ribs: $7.61
  • Lemongrass chicken Thai sticks: $3.29
  • Fish nuggets: $3.99
  • Peanut butter pretzels: $3.79
  • Chicken shu mai: $2.99
  • Tricolor radiatore pasta: $1.99
  • Mushroom ravioli with truffle sauce: $3.49
  • Malabari paratha bread: $1.69

TOTAL: $89.93



Safeway 1/9

  • Corn tortillas: $2.39
  • Eggs: $2.59
  • Chicken drumsticks: $7.85 — which we smothered in an amazing rub/marinade during an impromptu grilling party at our house for a friend’s birthday on Wednesday night
  • Ninkasi oatmeal stout: $8.27


TOTAL: $21.10


Lazy Days

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Well, to be totally honest, you’re probably not going to get a cooking post from me this week.  Jesse and I have been whipping up simple little meals here and there — a tofu broccoli stir fry before going out in our neighborhood last Friday, a pasta dinner to eat while we packed for Christmas last Saturday…but we just got back last night from four days out in the Ashland woods with 6 of our friends, and while we ate like kings and queens the whole time, not a single picture was taken, aside from this table, eagerly awaiting breakfast on Christmas morning.


Which was, in case you’re curious, chive-cheddar-cracked-pepper biscuits with homemade veggie gravy, sauteed sausage and mushrooms on the side, and a giant bowl of scrambled eggs; mimosas, and endless rounds of coffee.

What else did we eat?  Oh man.

Christmas Eve Dinner:

  • Wine and cheese appetizers while Kate and Zack gracefully prepared an amazing meal
  • Veggie lasagna
  • Pineapple glazed ham
  • Roasted yams
  • Homemade bread
  • Gingerbread pumpkin cheesecake
  • Regular cheesecake with raspberries

Christmas Dinner (which a bunch of us collaborated on)

  • Channa masala
  • Lemon couscous with roasted veggies
  • Greek salad
  • Curried chicken
  • Warm pita bread
  • Homemaide raita
  • Bars of dark chocolate and a 33-year-old bottle of port for dessert

Other than that, it was a whole lot of hanging out, playing board games, trekking around Zack’s property with snowshoes, making fancy cocktails, opening presents, hanging out by the big wood-burning stove in the middle of the house, and knitting.  It was also a weekend of a lot of firsts for me: first time sledding, first time watching Christmas movies, and I even shot a rifle!  As Zack put it, “Well, we wouldn’t send you out for food, but that wasn’t half bad.”

This Week’s Groceries

Safeway 12/16

  • Orange juice: $3.00
  • 3 cheese blend: $2.99
  • Crimini mushrooms: $2.18
  • Brussels sprouts: $2.49

TOTAL: $10.66



Fred Meyer 12/22 — Mixers for Christmas cocktails, and fixings for Jesse’s yummy sausage pasta!

  • Worcestershire Sauce
  • Bacon
  • Canned chili
  • Diced tomatoes
  • Italian sausage
  • Crimini mushrooms
  • Yellow onion
  • Jalapeno pepper
  • Navel orange
  • Pear juice
  • Grapefruit juice
  • V8 Splash
  • Hazelnut creamer
  • Apple blueberry juice
  • Shell pasta
  • Marinara sauce
  • Half and half

TOTAL: $54.38



New Seasons 12/21 

  • 2 dark chocolate bars: $7.58
  • Zante currants: $1.74
  • Tofu: $2.59
  • Lemons: $2.17
  • Olive: $3.80

TOTAL: 17.88



Grocery Outlet 12/18

  • Whole milk: $1.99
  • Cottage cheese: $2.39
  • Butter: $2.59

TOTAL: $6.97



Portland Fruit Company 12/18

  • Yellow onions
  • Zucchini
  • Collard greens
  • Turnip
  • Rutabaga
  • Parsnip
  • Red peppers
  • Oranges
  • Roma tomatoes
  • Butternut squash
  • Green cabbage

TOTAL: $17.04


Hodgepodge Minestrone Soup

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Whew!  The busiest two weeks of my year are officially over.  With the Urban Craft Uprising Winter Show officially under my belt, my regular dynamic well-rounded life can resume!  Jesse and I pulled into the driveway of our new, much-missed home late Sunday night, driving straight back to town after tearing down from the show.  We both passed out on the couch without making it through even a single episode of Parks & Rec.

My “weekend” Monday/Tuesday after UCU is all about unpacking, deconstructing, and reorganizing…basically getting the shop back to looking like nothing ever happened.  Ha!

So Monday morning I slept in for the first time in weeks, and didn’t leave the house at all, except to go for a long run just before it got dark out.  I had the house to myself all day, and got to do exactly what I was craving: catching upon emails, drinking coffee, unpacking my suitcase, stowing show supplies until the next one (next July!), counting my money, running loads of dishes and laundry, and wearing yoga pants all day long.

I knew I wasn’t even going to pretend to make it to the grocery too, and we had fled the house last Thursday morning with an unsettling amount of produce still left in the fridge, which by Monday night, was looking woefully unperky.  Time for some minestrone soup.  With the house now clean and my slate ready to start December fresh, I wanted those veggie drawers empty, ready to be restocked with new and exciting ingredients for some hunker-down winter meals.  We’ve been eating catered sandwiches and takeout all weekend, and I’m stoked to turn on the stove again.

Here’s what I had at my disposal.

That’s a lot of root veggies.  Lucky for me, I keep New Seasons’ dried 12-bean mix in my pantry.  So while I poured my second cup of coffee in the morning, I also set a cup of these in a pot of water to soak for the rest of the day.  And when it came time to make dinner tonight, I cooked those for about 30 minutes until all the beans were soft enough — even those gigantic ones.

What’s the basis of all veggie soups?  A mirepoix, of course.

I started sauteeing this mix directly in the soup pot, in some olive oil, along with a few bay leaves.  Meanwhile, I skinned and diced those other root veggies (rutabega and parsnip).


Into the pot those went, as I filled it up just a couple inches below the brim with some water and bullion to make a nice broth — cranked the heat until it boiled, then let this all simmer on medium-high until the veggies were just done.  There was also a package of sliced mushrooms that I threw in there, which didn’t make it into the photo shoot.

Then, I added about 2 cups of V8 veggie juice, to give the broth a nice rich tomato flavor, added some salt, the beans which were now cooked and drained, and half a teaspoon of cayenne pepper.  A winter soup needs some kick!


Oh, and the rest of those root veggies that didn’t make it into the soup for fear of overwhelming it, I chopped up and roasted in the oven with a simple mix of olive oil, nutritional yeast, Lawry’s salt, pepper, and oregano, just to have a yummy, crispy side dish to have in the fridge for the week.  Here they are pre-roasting.

What about the beets?  I’m a pretty big beet separatist because…well…you know what happens when beets touch anything.  And in my world, beets don’t go in soup, not even borscht.  I’m one of the lucky ones who loves beets for what they are, so I just wrapped those up in foil, roasted them in the oven at 400 degrees for an hour.

Then I slid off the skin and sliced them up, stuck a wedge of blue-brie cheese in between the hot slices so it got all melty, and drizzled some balsamic over it all.

Now this is just sheer luck of the draw, but I happened to snag some leftover swag from one of our awesome vendors, Honest Biscuits, as we were closing down the Ex Hall at the end of the show.


Heated up in the toaster, this made the most delicious accompaniment to a winter minestrone soup anyone could dream up.

Jesse was out for the night, so I got to enjoy my dinner in one of my favorite ways: while reading through a new cookbook and bookmarking pages.

This Week’s Groceries

None!  Iron Chef-ing it with what’s left in the fridge, baby!  Plus, when we’re up in Seattle on official business, UCU treats us to all our meals, so we were indulging in the rare dining-out vacation.

Homemade Ginger Ale

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So, this happened.

It’s not technically a SodaStream…but it pretty much is.  It’s a knockoff brand that was a featured deal on LivingSocial a few weeks ago, and while I’ve been holding out to buy the real deal until I could justify spending the $80, this was only $30, and way more palatable.

Okay guys, I think between this and my ice maker at work, I’m finally going to succeed at keeping myself hydrated this winter.  I’ve been drinking at least 4 extra bottles of this stuff a day, and am loving always having room-temperature, super-carbonated water on the kitchen counter.  Sometimes the commercial stuff just isn’t bubbly enough, except the second after you open it!  This seems to hold its charge, even up to a day later.

Obviously, the other reason I’m stoked about having this in the house is that we’re going to make some crazy-awesome cocktails.  And when your go-to drink is whiskey ginger, well, then the obvious first step is to make some serious homemade ginger ale.  Like with cardamom.  And anise.  And allspice.

Inspired by this recipe, I bought a pound of fresh ginger, and set to work.  The only part of this process that requires even a modicum of effort is peeling the ginger.  I had found a pretty huge root, so there weren’t too many knobs to navigate around, but 4 oz. of peeled ginger is a lot more than you’d expect.

I sliced this up and added it to a pot of water on the stove, boiling it together with 1 cup each of white and brown sugars.

I know we’re making simple syrup here, but this felt like a lot to me and the end result was too sweet for my taste relative to all the other spices, so next time I’m going to take it down a notch.

Next, I toasted the spices.

In this pan resides:

  • 2t cardamom (whole)
  • 1t allspice
  • 1t peppercorns
  • a few anise stars (mine are all broken up at this point but I tried to aim for about 3 total)

These got toasted on medium-high until they started to brown, and then were thrown in the simmering mixture for about 15 minutes.  After that I turned off the heat, and let the mixture cool together, before straining it into a jar and discarding the spices.

Tonight after work, Jesse and I (and Dory, who’s visiting for the weekend!) are going to hop on our bikes and head over to our friends’ house for some drinks before one of our favorite bluegrass bands plays at the Tabor — an early Halloween celebration since true Halloween falls on a Wednesday next week.

My plan: 2T homemade ginger syrup, 1 cup soda water, fresh muddled ginger, 1 shot Bulleit Bourbon, and some ice.

I’m into it.

This Week’s Groceries

Fred Meyer 10/22

  • Radishes: $0.50
  • Beets: $1.99
  • Roasted chicken: $5.99
  • Spring mix: $2.28

TOTAL: $10.76



Portland Fruit Company 10/23

  • Onions
  • Collard Greens
  • Roma tomatoes
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Brussels sprouts

TOTAL: $8.19



Fred Meyer 10/25

  • Chocolate hazelnut bar: $2.69
  • Dark chocolate: $2.69
  • Cubed ham: $4.79

TOTAL: $10.17



Grocery Outlet 10/25

  • Ginger root: $1.49
  • Half and half: $1.99
  • Coffee: $5.99

TOTAL: $9.47



Pasta Carbonara with Turkey Bacon and Snow Peas

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Wow, I am so loving having another cook in the kitchen — especially one who wakes up in the morning already ruminating on an idea of what he wants to make for dinner.  I’ve had an especially spoiled week, with my work schedule ramping up to its usual fall frenzy, both UCU and Yarnia in full fall swing, and Jesse finding himself with a sleep-in, do-stuff-around-the-house kind of schedule while he waits on an electrician for his current project, I got not one but two evenings this week where I got to come home after a 12-hour work day to find him in the kitchen finishing the last of the dishes with dinner already made and ready to go.

For years all the grocery shopping, cooking, and cleaning up afterwards has been 100% on me!  I hadn’t even considered this bonus perk of living with someone, especially when my evenings often are merely phase three of my work day; after a few hours of transcription in the mornings before work, and then seven hours of plowing through my to-do list at work, I often come home to a few more hours of screen time, whatever I couldn’t finish at the shop — albeit in my favorite little nook of the couch, in pajamas, and with a glass of wine or mug of tea at my side.

The best part is, taking a few days off made me so excited to come home on Thursday evening, with a little more lax of a to-do list that night, and unload the contents of our veggie drawers and try to get creative.  I’m sure it won’t always work out this beautifully, but it happened to be an afternoon where Jesse had gone out to take advantage of what was rumored to be the last sun we’ll see until next April, and got home from disc golf to find me browning turkey bacon and whisking together the sauce for a carbonara, and I think he was equally as delighted.

I had bought this package of turkey bacon on a whim at GO this week, and it seemed like the perfect light protein to throw into some campanelle pasta, along with some equally sized chards of the snow peas that had been lingering in our fridge for almost too long.

This got browned in the skillet along with the peas, and after that, half of a finely diced white onion and a few cloves of garlic for just a few minutes, until they had barely started to soften; all this I set aside while I worked on the rest of the meal.

Now squash, to be honest, is one of those vegetables that I have tried to like for years, unwilling to accept the fact that I just really don’t, but always on the lookout for ways to make it work.  So local and hearty and cheap and plentiful!  How can I not like squash?  Well, I recently discovered, while at my friend Hollis’ house for dinner, that perhaps some Delicata squash, sliced super thin, is just the disguise I was looking for.

So tonight, I tried it out her way: slicing the squash in half lengthwise, I cored out all the seeds, and then cut the squash into thin half moon slices.

These were tossed in a bowl with melted coconut oil, salt, pepper, and my Balti seasoning from Penzey’s, and baked at 375 for about 25 minutes.  And wouldn’t you know it, they came out perfect and delicious enough to eat, skin and all.

Meanwhile, to give us some greens on the side, I whipped up a super quick-and-easy salad of Napa cabbage and red onion, dressed with Smitten’s buttermilk dressing.

I’ve never made a carbonara sauce before, but I have to say, I may be sold on it.  I do love a good cheese sauce, but this one is sooooo much less work than my usual bechamel-inspired one, so much lighter, and really, if you wanted to cheese it up, you could add any soft or grated cheese at the end and it would probably work just as well.

Essentially, while the pasta is cooking (I used campanelle, which I think I had lying around in my pantry from way back this summer when I got overzealous about the festival pasta salads), I whisked together 3 eggs, half a cup of cream (half & half), some salt, pepper, and Italian seasonings.  Then, as soon as I had drained the pasta, while it was still steaming hot, I stirred the sauce in so that it cooked the eggs just enough, but stirring continuously so they wouldn’t scramble.  It’s still a rich, creamy sauce, but not such a gut bomb, and takes about a tenth as long to prepare.  Sold!

This Week’s Groceries

Portland Fruit Company 10/9

  • Bananas: $1.06
  • Honeydew melon: $2.88
  • Red potatoes: $1.66
  • Miscellaneous produce: $8.72 — bummer that they don’t itemize everything, but I know this included a head of Napa cabbage, yellow onions, avocados, roma tomatoes, plums, and nectarines

TOTAL: $14.32



Grocery Outlet 10/11

  • 2 lbs. shredded sharp cheddar: $5.99 — this was cheaper than the brick that I was planning on grating myself for some reason!
  • Turkey bacon: $2.49
  • Chicken strips: $3.99 — guilty pleasure freezer snacks
  • Peppermint Chai tea concentrate: $1.49
  • Tuna: $1.78

TOTAL: $15.74



Grocery Outlet 10/7 (This was Jesse — it shows up on the credit card but I’m still working on him to keep the itemized receipts!  I think this was stuff for the Italian sausage pasta with vodka sauce that he made last Sunday.  Like I said, he’s a meal-based shopper.)

TOTAL: $26.02