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Freddy the Hitchhiker

22 Jul

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Considering the world is on Royal Baby Watch (and I am, too), the daily doldrums of putting a house together is nothing news worthy.  Yesterday, for example, Rob and I didn’t see each other until dinnertime, even though we never left the house (he constructed wood shelving in the garage, I made drapes for the dining room).  After a trip to Ikea, I put together two large bookcases, ALL BY MYSELF, finishing only a little worse for wear (a sore hand, a premature blister on my thumb, and a small cut on my forehead – not sure how that happened).  Our conversations have danced around topics of bookshelves, overhead lighting, paint colors, and hanging pictures.  Not exactly the tête-à-têtes of romance.

However, there is one thing – one sound, I should say – that brings us together with a smile, and helps us forget for a moment about our task at hand.  And that’s Freddy.

Before the boxes, before the enthralling home improvement conversations, Rob, my mom, and I basically camped in our house for a few days.  We ate meals off of our green, plastic camping plates, drank wine out of plastic wine glasses, and slept on air mattresses.  We used folding chairs in the living room and would get up, walk around to the back of the chair, put a hand on each folding side, 1-2-3 lift, and carry the chair to the kitchen for dinner, or the backyard for some time on the patio.  Musical folding chairs became quite standard.

One evening when sitting on the patio, we heard a noise.  It was loud.  Too loud to be far away which meant, whatever it was, its proximity to us was unnerving.  It sounded like a combination between a squeezy dog toy and a sheep in labor, and it literally halted conversation.  Finally, I got up – yes, me, not the boy who sees anything slippery and slimy and runs away like a little girl (sorry, Rob, but you know it’s true).  Perfectly smushed between the upper corner tracks of the sliding glass door was the smallest, greenest, frankly coolest looking frog I’ve ever seen.  Such a loud noise out of such a little being, but that little green tree frog was making his presence known, and clearly wanted to be a part of the party.  Mom put a rock in the door tracks to prevent any accidental casualties (imagine the noise then!).

Almost immediately he was named Freddy, which then started a debate with my dad about whether he should actually be named Teddy, as he was probably a toad.  I do think he’s a Florida tree frog, Dad.  Google told me so.

Freddy has been making appearances on our glass door, hopping and jumping and leaving little froggy foot prints as a reminder of his presence (as if the croak wasn’t enough).  Freddy must have liked us, as he called over some friends and started a little frog fraternity on our outdoor ceiling.  He found his way to work with Rob one day, clinging on to the side mirror long enough to give a little frog thanks-for-the-ride “thumbs up” when he decided to jump off.  Freddy has clearly become a household name.

So, as Rob and I have been spending our days getting all of our honey-dos done, trying to make specific efforts to enjoy this beautiful summertime, and truthfully just get accustomed to Florida’s flora and fauna, we needed to take a trip.  To Ikea.  Why is going to Ikea a trip, you ask?  Well, it’s actually a step up in the Rob ‘N’ Jill Travel World, as when we lived in Oregon, it was a 4-hour trip to Ikea and a 2-hour trip to Target.  Now in Florida, we’ve upgraded to a 2 ½ -hour trip to Ikea (and yes, we would drive to these places, because Target and Ikea are just that awesome).

Like most of our driving trips, I slept most of the ride, and woke up just in time to exit the freeway.  As I yawned and stretched and took a sip of my lukewarm tea, Rob generally stated that it wasn’t that bad of a drive.  We had made it to the-land-with-Ikea (aka Orlando) with no problems whatsoever.  Until we stopped.

Rob made a noise unlike any noise I’ve ever heard come out of his mouth.  Generally, Rob has a pretty deep voice, very masculine, and a surprisingly nice bass intonation when singing.  That is, until Freddy arrived.

I guess if it were between hitchhiking while clinging for life on the side mirror, or hitchhiking in the comfort of the Explorer, I’d choose the Explorer as well; plush seats, air-conditioned, Sirius radio.  But I definitely would not like the driver screaming at me in a high-pitched voice, and I’m sure Freddy was just as putout.  After all, we make a nice home for this little guy, let him bring over his friends, encouraged him to make loud noises way late into the night, and obviously he was comfortable with us.  So comfortable, in fact, that he silently drove all the way to Orlando with us, and then at his stop he rang the bell to get off the bus – doing so by jumping onto Rob’s arm, then his leg (and as the uncontrollable shaking and dog-hearing-only-pitched noises started out of Rob), then onto the window.  Rob rolled down the window (still making noises) and Freddy hopped directly onto his original hitchhiking spot on the side mirror (probably thinking that may have been the better option in the first place), and off to his new digs in Orlando.

Ah, I’ll miss that little guy.

On the way home, then the rest of the night, and a few times yesterday, Rob would randomly get heebie-jeebie shivers and mention Freddy.  Of course, I’ve joked about making frog-legs for dinner and such, but it just doesn’t seem to be as funny to Rob as it is to me.  Oh well.

However, we have been eating some comfort foods that can only satisfy one while they are working hard and building things, namely pizza.  Is there anything better than pizza and a cold beer after a day of home improvements (and frog attacks)?  For a moment – just a moment – we deliberated over which pizza place to call, but then I remembered I had some of my favorite ingredients in the fridge, ready to make a pizza almost anyone would love.  We indulged that night on a BLT pizza, giving all the bacony, tomatoey, mayo-y goodness of a BLT sandwich, but the comfort that only a pizza can bring.  Rob brought up Freddy.  I laughed.

Hitchhiking frog or not, you must try this pizza – it’s a winner.  On to the next improvement, and maybe even more pizza!

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BLT Pizza

  • 2 beefsteak tomatoes, sliced into rounds
  • 4 slices thick-cut applewood smoked (my favorite) bacon, diced
  • 2 loose cups roughly chopped lettuce – we use a tender red oak lettuce, but whatever you like will work
  • 3 tbsp good mayo
  • zest and juice of 1 small lemon
  • ¼ c shredded parmesan cheese
  • pizza dough – make your own or store bought
  • cracked pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

First make the sauce – mix the mayo, lemon zest and juice, and cheese until smooth.  Set aside.

In a saucepan, render the diced bacon until just before crispy.  Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon and place on a plate lined with a towel, to soak up the extra grease.  Set aside.

To assemble the pizza, stretch out the dough to your favorite size (I like the traditional round), and use flour or cornmeal on your sheet tray or stone so the dough does not stick.  Lather the top of the dough with the mayo mixture.  Lay the tomato slices on top of the mayo, and sprinkle the bacon on top.  At this point, crack some good black pepper on top, to taste (the mayo, cheese, and bacon has quite a bit of salt, so I did not add extra salt).  Place in the oven, and remove when the dough is super crusty and the house smells like fresh pizza, about 12-15 minutes. 

Let cool for just a minute, and then sprinkle with the fresh cold lettuce on top. 

Slice, serve, and enjoy!

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And… We’re Back

5 Jun

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There are many reasons I can provide for my lack of stories, pictures, recipes, and overall blog-o-sphere absence.  Like:

  • My students took over the classroom and forced 5 hours of homework a night on me for retaliation of years of self-diagnosed assignment abuse.
  • The computer broke only when I tried to blog.  It was the weirdest thing.
  • I got a new camera and the user instructions were in Swahili.
  • My left foot hurt.
  • Oregon, just simply, ran out of food!
  • We won the lottery and spent the last 6 months in Tuscan wine caves (it was like the beer cask scene from the movie, “Strange Brew”)
  • My dog ate my computer.

Can you tell I work in a middle school?

While I could keep going (and going) with absurd excuses, to be perfectly honest, time, life, and my pre-teen educational environment have taken over.

Every morning, the baby robin’s nest next door croons beautiful give-me-worms melodies – sounding more like a scene from “Cinderella” than real-life nature – making it a struggle to put on clothes and shoes and make-up and face the day.  Even though Rob and I are generally in bed by 9:00 at night, we would much rather spend the next 2 ½ days lying in bed, listening to the birds, and enjoying the last gorgeous Spring the state of Oregon has to offer us.

That is right, as the Coast Guard’s bell tolls, we are leaving this emerald wonderland and are bound for the converse of cold and dampness: Jacksonville, Florida.  Thus, our days have been filled with house hunting, house buying, paperwork, paperwork, decorating, wondering, movers, packers, plans, plans, plans, and inventory.  All on top of our current respective daily careers, of course.

Let’s take a jaunt back 3 years ago, shall we?  The belly-aching was insurmountable moving from sunny Southern California to cold, gray Oregon.  But like moss on the north side of a tree, Oregon and stuck to me and engulfed me with a soft, squidgy, comforting – albeit a bit damp – hug.  I love this place!  Now we have to leave.  Remember the berries?  Oh, so many berries?  And the fish – the cold Pacific water fish is unbelievable.  And the greens.  Grassy, earthy greens that even the freshest grocery store products can’t prove justice.  While I might not miss 30 straight days of rain in March, I will miss almost everything else.

But on to the next challenge: life in Florida.  Jacksonville, Florida, no less, close to the border of Georgia and true to traditional Southern roots.  Can this Southwest, SoCal, Pacific Northwest, Scandi of a girl be transformed into a Southern Belle, AND find roots in new agriculture?  Well, even a blind hog finds an acorn every now and then.

But until then, we are going through our pantry, freezer, and fridge and coming up with some great use-them-all-up dishes.  One of which was my enchilada green salad.

After a week (yes, a week) of this year’s Cinco de Mayo celebrations (seriously. good. food.), one is, shall I say (in a polite and correct oration), no longer craving the heavy, cheesy, spicy goodness that is Mexican food.  But what to do with all the extra homemade enchilada sauce?  Sweet, tangy, smoky and real, to sit in the back of the fridge it was not its fortunes fate.

So to alleviate the too-many-beans bloat, and keep the fresh enchilada sauce alive and well, the Enchilada Green Salad was born.  Light, green, crunchy, fresh, with the hint of smoke and creaminess, combined with a subtly onion brightness.  It was simply divine.

As life will continue to keep me crazy at the moment, I found it best to return to my blog roots, deeply seeded in food, fun, and stories.  But for now, please be patient with me, and revisit the last few years of Oregon recipes – as we have.  Wish us luck on the long-haul (with Siglet in tow!).  Jacksonville – and a soon-to-be sweet southern accent – or BUST!

Enchilada Sauce
(makes 1 pt)

  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 10 oz tomato paste
  • 1 pint chicken stock
  • 1 ½ tbsp. Ancho chili powder
  • 1 ½ tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp crushed, dried oregano
  • s&p

Over medium heat melt butter and add the flour to create a roux.  Mix well, stirring until the flour is golden brown and smells like popcorn.  Add the tomato paste, chili powder, cumin, and oregano, and mix well.  Slowly add the chicken stock, whisking the whole time to ensure no lumps.  Bring mixture to a boil and then simmer for 15 minutes.  The sauce should be smooth and thickly coat the back of a spoon.  Season to taste with s&p.

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Enchilada Green Salad
(serves 2)

  • 1 head chopped romaine lettuce
  • 1 cup chopped, or julienned, baby spinach
  • 1 tbsp fresh cilantro, packed and roughly chopped
  • 3 green onions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp Queso Fresco cheese
  • 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • s&p
  • 2 tbsp Enchilada Sauce

In a large bowl, toss the romaine, spinach, cilantro, and green onions together, and set aside.  To make the dressing, mix 2 tbsp of the Enchilada Sauce with ½ tbsp of extra virgin olive oil.  The dressing should resemble the texture of a creamy dressing and have a silky feeling in the mouth.

Pour desired amount of dressing over salad, and top with a sprinkling of Queso Fresco, and a touch of s&p to taste.

Enjoy!

OuchyWowWow

11 Jan

Before I get to explaining said phrase, let’s recap the wonderful holiday season:

Healthy Holidays - Bacon, Bourbon, and Garlic Bruschetta

 

Black Truffle Butter Turkey - OMG.

 

I DID attempt cutting down our tree... unlike some people I know.

 

Braised Lamb Shank - one of our faves.

 

Italian Cookie making day.

 

Cherry Bourbon Truffles - Rob couldn't get enough!

 

Finnish Cookies and Maple Pepper Glazed Pretzels - assorted holiday gifts

 

Mom with Turner and Sig... which puppy looks like the chunk-a-lunk?

 

Christmas Eve Tamales - shredded pork or green chili and cheese. Despite the needed fat to masa ratio, these were fluffy as clouds.

 

Christmas Dinner - Beef Wellington. We skyped my mom for the carving!

 

Mom's Asparagus and French Bread Strata - fantastic with my dad's Split Pea Soup

 

What I see in the kitchen every time I start cooking.

 

Happy 2012!  Supposedly, according to Mayan Calendar beliefs, we are doomed for an end-times catastrophe this year, so huzzah!  Let’s make the best of it!

Due to my lack of picture taking (except for when the camera is right next to me in the kitchen), I didn’t get any footage of the surprise Rob and my parents planned for my 30th birthday.  After a quick hug and peck on the cheek from my parents, I was promptly blindfolded and then fugitive-like pushed into the back seat of their car.  All occurring in the loading zone of John Wayne Airport (come to think of it, where was TSA?!).

After a short car ride, I was lead through a bit of a walk, all the while being told to “DUCK!” and “Don’t step in the puddle!” (to save the inference, I’ll tell you there was nothing to duck from, and absolutely no puddle, and lots of laughs from my Dad and Rob).  After one giant – and invisible – “step up,” and a few muffled giggles, the blindfold was removed to reveal my friends from Irvine sitting in my favorite Mexican restaurant ready to toast my 30th.  It was fantastic and I am so thankful to have such thoughtful and generous people in my life!  Thank you for the celebration, family and friends!

During my visit back home, we climbed rocks on the beach, had a martini at the Yard House, shopped more than Rob would have preferred, held (and considered) a Remmington shotgun (20 gauge), ate ham (a rarity in my family, to both my Dad’s and Rob’s dismay), and down-right enjoyed ourselves.  The trip back to Oregon was capped with an overnight trip in a swanky suite room in Portland, and a slight dreaded sense of that thing called “life” creeping back in a few days.

Then comes the OuchyWowWow.  At this point, most of the students that have had me as a teacher are now saying this phrase, and maybe even extending its extreme expression: OuchyWowWow Muchamugonga.  Years and years ago, when my sister was young, this became her phrase for any sort of cut, scrape, bump, or “booboo.”  Personally, I think her phrase explains the angst of a stubbed toe much more than the usual strongly-and-specifically-chosen-adult word, and it fits here:

I cut my finger.  Badly.  Chopping cabbage for one of our favorite dishes: Apple and Bacon Braised Cabbage.  The nail was almost completely gone, and I went so deep the nailbed was revealed (which is white, by the way.  I originally thought I had cut to the bone, which sent me into shock.  Shock is no fun.  I digress).  After Rob bandaged me up, made me drink some water and eat some food, we decided going to the emergency room was the responsible thing to do.  After a soft-cast and a hard tetanus shot, I knew cooking (let alone showering with two hands) was not in the cards for a while.

Especially two days later when I had to remove the bandage.  I told my mom about what happened through email, and she almost threw up.  Rob was there helping me, and he did throw up.  So I’ll refrain from details on this food blog and just say that I’ve never screamed in pain before… it was hands-down-unarguably OuchyWowWow Muchamugonga pain.

Thus, Rob had to cook.  And get this – he didn’t make pasta, nor steak!  Rob pulled out a great Southwest-style appetizer salad that was perfectly fresh and filling, ideal for the New Years Resolution I’ve already broken with ice cream.  He described it as “learning how to fish,” as I taught him how to make salad dressing, which really gave this salad zip and zing.  As he should be, he’s very proud of cooking for his wife, the cook.  Props, hubby!

So in honor of my Irish husband stretching his comfort cooking roots and taking care of me, here’s his Southwestern Bean Salad with Chipotle Lime Dressing (hold the fingers).

Southwestern Bean Salad 

  • 1 head Romaine lettuce
  • 1/2 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tbsp grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 tbsp grated pepper jack cheese 
  • roughly chopped cilantro, as garnish

Chipotle Lime Dressing 

  • 2 tbsp mayonnaise
  • zest 1 lime
  • juice 1/2 lime
  • 1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, finely chopped 
  • 1/2 tsp raw agave 
  • s&p 

In a large salad bowl, mix the salad ingredients together (saving the cilantro garnish for the end).  

In another bowl, mix all of the dressing ingredients together, season with s&p to taste.  

When ready to serve, pour desired amount of dressing over salad, and garnish with cilantro.  

Enjoy!  

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