Thursday, August 30, 2007

Ecuadorian potato cakes with peanut sauce

I'm a little hesitant to disclose I subscribe to Gourmet magazine. I can tell from the publication's advertisers that most people who subscribe to the magazine (1.) have a large disposable income (2.) live in big cities where ethnic ingredients are plentiful (3.) know how to really cook. Please don't think I'm any of the above. I just really like to eat good food... or even imagine eating good food, which is what Gourmet allows me to do.

(Restoration House girls might notice this is what I was doing 2 minutes before I was supposed to be at O'Charley's.)

I've been getting this magazine for several months now (it was a birthday present from the huz) and this is the very first recipe I've ever actually attempted from it.
Having said all that, it didn't turn out quite as I imagined the image on that glossy page would taste. My version wasn't horrible... and I've never been very good at frying, so I can't expect it to be as good as I imagined it should have been. :-)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Sushi attempt

The last time I was in Chicago, I bought a bamboo sushi mat. The little mat was forgotten for about 3 months until this week when I decided to make some california rolls... They're not very pretty. Kind of squarish, right? I don't really have the hang of it yet, and the brown rice I used was most definitely not traditional. It was all that was in the cabinet and I decided the extra fiber probably wouldn't hurt. Joe and I enjoyed our ugly sushi with teriyaki sauce and toasted sesame seeds.

Pepper Jelly

Taylor Hayes, the New Era's publisher, made this kicked up condiment from a bounty of habenero peppers. My personal experience with jelly making is limited to one ninth-grade botany assignment that produced a jar of wild violet jelly. I think it was mainly my dad who made it though... I remember it was kind of a funny color, but very nice smelling.

Taylor had some trouble getting his pepper jelly to set... but after a couple tries he struck upon a delicious (and firmly gelled) spicy spread. I enjoyed some on triscuit and wheat saltines with lite laughing cow.

That lump of tuna-salad looking stuff is actually salmon with dill, spinach, orzo and lemon. A sort of weird salad I thought would turn out much differently. It was helped greatly by the pepper jelly.

Sunday, August 26, 2007


I always get the same dish at every Indian restaurant: Aloo Gobi. (Potatoes and Cauliflower in a spicy sauce)
Last night, Joe and I went on a double date with some friends from church, Nami and Tina Nahid. Nami is Iranian and Tina follows a strict diet that avoids starchy foods. Tandoor, and Indian restaurant in Clarksville, Tenn., is the restaurant they frequent most. I forgot to bring my camera, but Joe and I did check out Tandoor more than a year ago and I had the same dish both times. I think we even sat in the same low-tabled booth as we did before.

Tandoor has a very nice atmosphere-- The booths are made of dark wood lattice with colorful pillows and a curtain of beads that must vex the servers.

Their papadams were painfully hot from a generous amount crushed peppercorns...but I was still eating them because of an addictive toasty crunch and I liked the mint chutney a lot. Joe and I ordered some plain naan (a flatbread) to blot our tongues from the papad. It was very tender and slightly crisp with a drizzle of ghee (clarified butter) and sesame seeds on top. I liked my Aloo Gobi-- the flavors were more complex than the versions I've had at restaurants near the University of Illinois, where I first fell in love with Indian cooking. At first taste, the dish is all garlicky tomato, then cloves and cardamom and then chili and coriander. And probably a bunch of other stuff that I'm not keen enough to pick out. The rice was also very fluffy, but not in the Uncle Ben's sense of fluffy. Tina explained that they rinse and wash the basmati rice until most of the starch is taken out, which made for an extremely light and tender pilaf.

The meal was made nicer by a slow pace and plenty of fellowship as we shared our stories of salvation, meeting our mates and our future hopes.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Patio menagerie

This little orange moth and I are becoming fast friends. I've seen him several days in row on my zinnias. Today when I stepped outside to water my plants, the moth came flying at me in his zig-zagging way before landing abruptly on the edge of my white tank. I looked down at him; he was facing me. His long black proboscis uncoiled and prodded my shirt. Realizing it wasn't a flower, he flitted away.

Back to the task at hand: Watering my potted plants. The Kentucky sun was intense, so I thought I'd use my little watering blue can with the focused spout--to avoid covering the leaves in magnifying glass water drops. I filled it up at the spigot, then tried to pour into the zinnia pot. Water sloshed out from the top, but not the tip.

This has happened to me before. Last time the spout was clogged by a big yucky bug carcass, which I had to extricate with long twig. I started to carry the can over to the grass to dump out the water and begin my task, when I noticed water was coming out of the spout again. Back to watering I went. The heat was causing my glasses to slip down my nose. Just as I adjusted them I felt the presence... eyes of a pale grayish green being were peering up at me from the edge of the watering can. I quickly put it down and backed up ... (yes, I'm a 'fraidy-cat!) But once I realized the fear was mutual I decided to get up close and personal.

After a torturing the frightened amphibian with a photo shoot, I returned the can to the porch and let him hop back into his oasis from the heat wave. Good thing I have two watering cans.

This shot captures a feeling I can relate to... staring into the abyss, hoping for shelter, but unsure of what lurks in the future. Ha ha!

Last I left him, he had crawled back into the base of the spout. Only his tiny frog hieny was sticking out.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Po Boy

The Po Boy, recently moved to Main Street in downtown Hopkinsville, is home to some of my favorite local food. Unfortunately, it's not the kind of food you can eat everyday and still expect to fit into your skinny jeans. (Not to worry, I don't own any skinny jeans)

While Joe's folks were here, we ordered takeout. I got my regular: a "grilled" catfish Po Boy with lettuce, tomato and hot sauce. I usually eat one half for lunch and the second for dinner.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Food Quiz #?

OK, back by popular--er, absolutely no demand at all--- is the FOOD QUIZ! So, for those of you that are new to this, try to guess what this food is. And then be so kind as to leave a comment with your guess, which can be serious or goofy. Whatever you want.

Hints: My japanese neighbor, Saya, is the one who had this. It has a very strong flavor. A flavor that many people, including joe and my parents and probably others do not like.

(Edit 8.30.07: For the answer, click on the comments.)

Saya showed me how to minimize the strong flavor by stir frying it with soy sauce, an egg, tofu and miso. I wouldn't crave it, but I thought it was pretty good. Joe didn't like it, so I got to eat his portion too.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Tinters and airplane serenade

Our last night in Oregon was spent with Kevin, Becca and Carson Tinter. Kevin and Joe are childhood friends. The Tinters share another bond with us in that they lived in Asia for a time-- Kevin was stationed in Okinawa in the Marines. Carson is just a few months old, but watches his surrounding with bright, alert eyes. He also sleeps through the night with the help of a papoose-like swaddle that Kevin and Becca are adept at creating. Joe and I got a kick out of Carson in the swaddle. He looked like a little caterpillar. We enjoyed fellowship, cards and an awesome dinner (barbecue, baked potato chips and salad) and breakfast (egg casserole, cinnamon rolls) at their house. It was a great send off back to Kentucky.

You can tell Joe really likes Carson.
Another happy twist on our return was an impromptu bluegrass performance on the leg from Vegas to Nashville. The flight attendent at far left coerced these two to play a song in return for a free drink.

Tillamook and the Cheese Factory

I felt like I was watching traffic patterns from an aerial view, except the cars where blocks of cheddar cheese in various sizes. Cheese at Tillamook Cheese Factory rides a series of conveyor belts on its journey from becoming a naked slab to a neatly trimmed and vacuum-sealed product.

Cannon Beach, Pizza al Fetta

Powdery sand, icy waters, rugged formations and tide pool fauna made this beach an adventure.

Vivid blue hydrangeas (my favorite flower) seemed to be in every beach house's yard. I used this flower for my wedding bouquet. As soon as I have my own yard, these babies are going in.
Pizza a' Fetta was our last restuarant dinner in Oregon. We split a small pizza-- half Thai Chicken, half Artichoke with Goat cheese. (I'm a big fan of goat cheese) The Thai half tasted like a sweet curry sauce, the artichoke side more traditional. Pizza a Fetta's got great topping combinations and perfect crust. Somewhat limp in the middle, so the flavors of what's on top can shine, tender and crisp around the edge. Not greasy or tough.

Hiking Hood, huckleberry ducks at Trillium Lake

Wednesday morning, Joe and I hiked past the treeline up Mt. Hood. Here's a pretty handsome shot of my huz. The view of snow, rock and wildflowers was breath taking, as was the elevation. After a winded walk at 7,000 ft. above sea level, we drove down to Trillium Lake. That hike was equally gorgeous, but much greener. Near the end of the loop trail, we heard the soft whistle of a duck. She waddled toward us and looked at me from one eye. Joe pretended to give her something and she bobbed forward, hopeful, but confused. Huckleberry bushes lined the lake, and though Joe and I found them a little tart, I thought maybe the duck would appreciate them more than the imaginary food. I was right. Soon about five ducks gathered around me, edging closer and closer to snap up the round berries.

Mt. Hood eats

Joe and I felt a little too well-fed after our stay at City Bible College. I didn't think I was hungry so we decided to split this ravioli salad for dinner at the Hood River Hotel's restaurant, Cornerstone Cuisine. My appetite rallied once the server set the dish on the table. It was the first time I ever had a salad where crunchy ravioli served as croutons. Big slices of ripe avocado, chunks of goat cheese, lemon and oil covered a bed of arugula, one of my favorite salad greens.

The ravioli were filled with tomato and basil.

The region surrounding Mt. Hood is called "The Fruit Loop," home to many orchards and berry patches (and lavender farms and alpaca ranches.)
We enjoyed $0.99/lb rainier cherries and donut peaches.

I'll pack an Alpaca

-- Actually just some alpaca thread was packed in my luggage before returning back to Kentucky. But I think I've found a new favorite animal. Cats are still number one, but I don't think I'm allergic to the awkward, doe-eyed, humming alpaca.

We met these creatures at Foothills Yarn & Fiber.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Lavender heaven

Something I HAD to do while in Oregon was visit a lavender farm. Tuesday, after leaving Portland, Joe and I drove to the Hood River Valley to peruse part of what's called the "fruit loop." Our first was at the Lavender Valley... run, to our amazement, by a Taiwanese woman and her family. They grow, harvest and distill their own lavender oil to make a variety of products. I bought a small bottle of lavandula angustifolia, which is the English Lavender. It has a fruitier frangrance than some of the lavender varieties.
I was going crazy, but Joe had fun too. Honey bees buzzed and hovered everywhere. They were a little tricky to photograph because the plants bobbed in the breeze.
The sun was a little harsh... but we did our best to try to capture the fields of purple. Too bad there's no way for me to post smells.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Portland trip to be continued...

Just to summarize, Joe and I spent 10 days in Portland, Oregon. The first half of the trip was serving with a team of Christians, ministering to homeless on the streets. The posts below are just a tiny glimpse. (I'm still in the process of finishing this part).

In Leah's kitchen

I also want to take one post to sing the praises of the City Bible College's cook, Miss Leah. She prepared our breakfasts and lunches each day with love and creativity. Emaly Birdsong holds up a German pancake with apples. What a treat!

Garbage for dinner and the spaghetti vat

I've eaten a lot in my 29 years of existence. And I've eaten well. Maybe too well, I began to think Saturday when I saw a teenage boy lift the lid to a trash can at Pioneer Square and peer inside. The way he probed the container told me it was routine. A man tossed garbage into the can while he was still digging through it.
"Do you want some food?" I asked.
He did.
I asked him to wait while I crossed the square to our cooler, hours ago packed with sack lunches. It was nearly empty, but there was one sandwich left. I regretted eating my own lunch. I wasn't even hungry. I certainly didn't need the Fritos.
But I hurried back to the spot where I'd left him, ready to apologize that it was only half a lunch. He was sitting patiently beside the trash can, army green backpack still on his back. He seemed so thankful that I'd returned. I don't know why I didn't talk to him more. Maybe I felt the collective shame of the situation. Maybe I just wasn't thinking. I told him there was a spaghetti dinner Monday in the park.

Probably the most enjoyable part of the whole mission trip for me was serving up spaghetti in the park. Half the fun was scooping it out of this big cooler. The other half was looking into the faces of people from all walks of life and blessing them. I saw the homeless teen from the trash can, and he brought two friends.

I also met Will, a former volunteer firefighter who had difficulty getting his "mind and mind to work together" since an incident with a "flying tree" caused his brain damage. The accident left him with the mental capacity of the sucessful trial lawyer he once was, and the emotional capacity of a teenager. "I'm a highly-functional, mentally disabled person," he tells me. Then later he sighs, "I'm an orphan." The gray-haired man explains that his parents died ten years ago. I see the mind and the mind struggling to synch.

As Will got his hair cut, I found I had much in common with a man named Michael... He is scraggly, with a long gray beard and hair. He's wheelchair bound, one leg lost to gangrene. He's gay, but yielded to God. Michael, like me, loves Japanese food and likes art. And would like one day to open a shopping mall as a tool for the gospel. I could have talked to Michael the whole evening, but as I had to leave him to serve in the food line, he said he wanted to take Joe and I out to eat at an expensive seafood restaurant. But only after his welfare check comes.

I couldn't accept, God already invited me over to eat humble pie that night.

Will and Michael live in the same building, and though they aren't the best of friends, they ate our spaghetti dinner side by side. I got to savor the scene from the food line.

Mount St. Where-is-it? and plates of what-is-it?

The Restoration House crew took an incredibly long van ride to Johnston's Ridge at Mount St. Helens on Sunday after visiting the Foursquare church in Portland. This photo captures the essence of that trip. The fog was so dense we couldn't see more than a few yards in front of us, let alone the infamous volcano that vaporized a University of Illinois geologist, David Johnston, in the 1980 blast.
I did however get a nice shot of this scruffy rodent :-) Thanks to Emaly B. for spotting him.

After five hours of driving, and about 1 hour of exploring, our final challenge was to find dinner. We returned to Portland, determined to stop at the first Italian restaurant we found. The first restaurant, unfortunately, was a little too foo-foo. SO we started to look for the second Italian restaurant... We spotted a pizza place, next door to a place called Vita, with fettuccine and meatballs as the daily special.

The prices at Vita seemed right, so we slid into a U-shaped booth.

"What's seitan?" "Or tempeh?"

Vita was a vegan restaurant... Something I was giddy about... but others were scared about. Half our crew politely slid out of the U-shaped booth and down the street to the pizza place. Joe, Brad, Jeremy and I stayed put. Joe and I often ate at the Red Herring in Urbana... so we were used to animal-free food. I was very proud of Brad and Jeremy for sticking it out. :-)
Enjoying some of Joe's Tomato Basil soup.
The basil flavor really came through. This wasn't Campbell's!
Brad and I both ordered the vegan lasagna with pesto sauce. It was packed with veggies and flavor (probably salt too). Joe had the fettuccine with "meat"balls. They reminded me a little of Taiwan-style fried shrimp balls... kind of crunchy on the outside and light and springy on the inside. Very tasty.
The four of us also shared a slice of vegan carrot cake with killer frosting and a nice dense crumb.

Sara, Shirley, Blake and Emaly enjoyed their pizza.

Yuki Sushi, Portland

After a day of worship and meeting people at Pioneer Square, the Martins, the Lindseys and the Parrinos went to a sushi restaurant. It was a good meal for all of us... I think. Shirely found a "Kentucky Roll" that she really liked, Randy and Linda have a heart for Japan (and a stomach for Japanese food), and Joe and I haven't dug into some good sushi together for a long time. We shared a roll with softshell crab and another with salmon on the outside and inside.

The photos from Yuki Sushi were taken on Shirely's camera (Thanks, Shirley!), I'll also include a picture of Randy and Linda with their blackberry bucket taken on the last day of the the trip.

My taste buds were already revelling in their good fortune when we decided to scout out some dessert. We found "Alotta Gelato," a quirky little shop where they let us sample several different flavors of gelato and sorbetto. I liked the rose petal gelato, but opted for the blackberry sorbet. Jeremy tried cinnamon and rasberry, Joe had pistachio and he can't remember the second scoop. These pictures are also on the Martin's camera.

**Sorry the photos I chose are so soft... I like the warmth of photos without flash... and it's at the cost of everyone's vision. Just don't squint at them too long.***

Blackberries, banana slugs and sweetpeas

Rocky Butte, the hill on which the City Bible College sits, wears a mantle of wild blackberry bushes. I saw them on my morning walks to the lookout point and on a short but steep and sweaty hike to the reservoir with Shirley, my roomie on the trip.We didn't pick too many because some were on the sour side... the ones that were ripe were very good though.
Wild sweetpeas lined the road up to the top of Rocky Butte.
And I also saw several banana slugs on the wall... this one has a particularly terrified look in its little eye stalk. I guess I got a little close.