Archive for July, 2010

July 27, 2010

The weight of Glory

My mission this summer is, as most of you know, to grow.  This growth isn’t a growth of my mind only, although I am inclined toward academia/intellectualism; it isn’t a growth of just my experiences, although I am trying new things; it is NOT meant as a growth of my body, although I do cook with a lot of butter!  As a 23-year-old in an awkward in-between phase of life (post-marriage/pre-baby), I feel like I have a good handle on most of the things I do.  I haven’t yet experienced the utter shock of my ignorance in many areas, like parenting or managing a full household.  Instead, my identity is largely based on what I do know how to do.  Little slips of paper (aka diplomas) that I keep forgetting to put into their fancy holders tell me I’m pretty knowledgeable about writing and teaching.  I know some other things, too.  But the main focus of my growth is to grow into the image of my Lord and savior, Jesus.  I want to be like him and I want to be freed by him. Why take on new things?  So I can relearn the steps by which we start, and begin to get somewhere, all leaning on Christ’s strength to get me there.

This post is long.  It is meant as an encouragement. But be warned that those of you who aren’t “encouraged,” per se, might be offended. Please let yourself be offended for a moment — I love you and I think you’re worth offending. (Or you might think I’m crazy, or you might cluck your tongue at me for being so naive and unenlightened.)  Onward.

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July 24, 2010

Fledgling Foodie: Berry picking, pie, and scones

Last Monday, I went with our friends Wil and Kristen to Sauvie Island to pick fresh Oregon berries.  It was a perfect day to go, thanks to Kristen’s research:  it is the beginning of marionberry season and Sunday the farm was closed, which gave the almost-there berries a chance to ripen into the gorgeous thick black fruit we found, growing abundantly in the very back corner of the farm.  The blueberry crop was quite picked over, although I managed to bring home about a cup, and the raspberries were red and velvety and delicious.

Marionberries and raspberries

All in all, I brought home around 2 lbs of berries — mostly marionberries, because I adore them.  Here’s something you may not know about me:  I love to make pies.  Growing up we had a very sad little pie cherry tree in the backyard that eventually we gave up to the birds, but for a year or two we tried our very best to grow enough cherries for pies.  My sisters and I loved spending summer days making pies with our mama, and eventually she gave the job over to Lauren and me whenever we needed a dessert for company (or just for us!).  So where did my handpicked berries go?  Right into a handmade pie, of course.  I felt a little guilty for not doing something with them that would actually showcase their natural sweetness.  After all, you can make a lot of things taste good with enough sugar.  But Eric and I decided dessert was our berries’ fate and in they went.  I used the Joy of Cooking fresh berry pie recipe to put together the crust and filling, and my mad pie skillz to assemble the lattice top. (P.S. The gorgeous dish was a wedding present that came from Anthropologie.)

Mixed Berry Pie

After the pie, I had around 2 cups of marionberries and raspberries left, and I decided to attempt scones.  I’ve made biscuits and shortcakes, but never scones, so I set out to find a very berry-y recipe that would produce scones similar to those I had at the Coffee Cottage, a lovely little café in Newberg, OR.   I used a recipe from Cave Cibum, which was adapted from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book.  These scones turned out more springy than bread-y, less crumbly than I hoped. But assembling them was fun, they taste delicious, and my best friend Betsy loved them.  So…..

Marionberry raspberry scones

Mmmmm.

Do you have any favorite scone recipes?  Or any berry recipes at all for that matter?  I love berries and wouldn’t mind picking them and cooking with them alllll summer. <3

July 22, 2010

Gumshoe Gardening: Maybe I’ll have some tomatoes after all?

You know when you’re SOOO hungry, and then you try to find something to make, and all the really satisfying foods on every food blog and in every foodie magazine you’ve ever read bombard you and you decide to look for a recipe, but they all take too long and you’re SO beyond hungry and on the verge of going crazy that you decide to just have a bowl of lucky charms even though all you want is this and this and this?  Yeah, me too.

And here begins a long overdue GARDEN update.

Since I scarfed my bowl of lucky charms in 2.3 minutes and I’ve heard fullness doesn’t register for about 15, my focus is probably going to be on how much I want to eat these plants.  I want to eat tomatoes with basil and cilantro and spinach.  My fuchsia is still crazy/dying, but if I had to choose one plant to go, it would be the non-edible one… still, I keep watering it and hoping.

My tomato plant as of yesterday is starting to turn all yellow at the bottom.  It’s a mystery!  But it keeps getting taller and has little yellow flowers on it, so I feel like those, at least, are a good sign…

Spinach and herbs are doing ok, although I think all my plants (including tomatoes) may be outgrowing their containers a bit.  The little dried up yellow cilantro branches underneath the plant were my hint.  Here they were last week, before I cut off the coriander branches.  I hope the plant keeps producing even though I let them grow too long, I think…  (You can see the spinach peeking in on the left!)

Sorry about that totally weirdly-colored picture.  It makes me cringe, actually.

My fuchsia is truly sad-looking.  So truly sad-looking, in fact, that it seems I forgot to even take a picture of it.  Proof that only pretty things get attention…

Coming soon: Foodie post (obviously, since it’s all I can think about!) on chili-lime shrimp and fresh mixed berry pie!  And maybe on whatever I come up with tonight, since I’m feeling inspired…

July 19, 2010

Rookie Running: Week 9

I’ve officially arrived.  And the British lady on my running app said “Brilliant!” when I finished.  I ran for 30 minutes today!  But the program lied (it must not have accounted for slooowwww runners like me) and I cannot yet run an actual 5k.  My longest distance thus far is about 2.85 miles, and I’ve been running a fairly consistent 10-minute mile.  I run again on Wednesday and Friday for the same amount of time. Here’s my progress meter (starred run on Wednesday!):

After my one bad run, things picked up, although my running schedule became a little haphazard — a couple night runs, a couple skipped days and make-up days.  All in all, though, I only skipped that day, and I was able to move on to 28 minutes without it.  After all my disappointment, it was only one bad day. My first 30 minute run felt good — the only very hard part was a segment of running down a steep hill, during which I developed a terrible horrible side ache because I was so tense and almost holding my breath to keep my pace.  How does one run down a steep hill without going waytoofast and getting out of control?  I mean, without a side ache?  That’s the next running mystery I need to solve.  The one I seem to have solved is about eating — I can’t have an actual meal without waiting at least a few hours, but I used to think if I hadn’t eaten for too long, I needed to eat again and then wait again.  Instead, if I’m getting hungry, I have a handful of something sugary (nooo problem….) to give myself some simple carbs to burn.  A few raisins, a couple pecans, some candy, and I’m good to go!  The meal can wait until I get back, and it’s more satisfying then anyway, since I’m starving by then.

I’m not big on forced reflections.  That said, I really am quite proud of myself for sticking with this.   The obvious question, of course, is what’s next? Do I attempt to keep running 3 times a week knowing I don’t have a “goal,” or do I adopt a new goal and keep pushing harder?  For the sake of this series, at least, I suppose I should have another goal in mind.  MARATHON!  Just kidding.  My immediate goal is this: after this week, I will start measuring distance instead of time.  I’ll map a route before I go, and then I will complete it.  This should ensure that I can actually run a 5k before moving on to bigger and better goals.

One question, brought about by the 10k plans I have looked at, is how strength training fits with running.  Running is technically “cardio,” and many workout plans place it back to back with weight-bearing exercise; since I’m constantly progressing, though, I feel like my legs are getting the workout they need. I don’t want to tear my muscles lifting weights and then expect to be able to continue to run farther and faster the very next day.  My “rest” days so far have been just that.  On the 10k running plans I’ve seen, I’m expected to work on something every day — strength, endurance, sprinting, etc. How?

Time is also a concern with longer distances. It’s no wonder a lot of people don’t run very far.  Already my runs take 40 minutes from start to finish, not including getting ready, stretching, or showering afterward.  (With those added, it’s more like an hour and a half.)  The farther I run, the longer it will take.  I’m astonished that busy people can run long distances.  I’m worried that this fall, when I don’t have as much free time, my running will suffer and I won’t be able to keep my schedule or meet my goals consistently.

But that is really neither here nor there.  I am almost done with my Couch to 5k program, which is a huge accomplishment for me! What type of reward does one give oneself for completing a fitness goal?  Somehow indulgent foods don’t seem appropriate…

July 14, 2010

Is it Wednesday already?

I haven’t meant to be away.  Really, I’ve thought about this blog many, many times in my (yikes) 5 day absence!  Unfortunately, most of my thinking has gone along these lines:  I really should blog.  I really want to blog.  But I haven’t been very good at keeping at my blogging topics this week. It has also been very affected by my tendency to be anxious, which, in my heart, fuels depression.  This week has been stressful, despite the time I have.  Ah, the time.  Where does it go?  I haven’t talked about my job yet on here, partly because I like thinking about it about as much as I like thinking about things like serial killers.  And I don’t think I will venture into it (can. of. worms.), except to say it occupies a lot of my thought life.  Let’s just say I worry about work more than I actually work — it’s true, ask Eric.

So instead of detailing anything about the week itself, I will tell you all about the dinner I cooked tonight.  Unfortunately, it was a huge rushed mess and thus I did not take a single photo — I had all four burners and the broiler going in the last several minutes.  I decided to make a special dinner for Eric tonight because tomorrow will be busy with youth group, and then he’s going to be visiting his brother in Seattle this weekend.  The menu was:

Salad: arugula, red onion, apricots, pecans, and blue cheese with bacon red wine vinaigrette. [altered from the recipe at this link]
Main course: Wild sockeye salmon with roasted lemon beurre blanc (butter sauce)


Side: mushroom gratin with asiago cheese [link]
Dessert: French apple tart [link]

Now, that sounds fancy (and, okay, it was!), but I had plenty of snafus.  For instance, my French apple tart is actually currently in the oven because I accidentally put too much butter in the pate brisee and it turned into a brick in the fridge. I had to remake the whole thing.  It’s a tragedy to waste so much butter…  Also, I left my beurre blanc to rest too long while I was frantically finishing the gratin and salmon, and it separated, so I had to do a quick salvage job while the salmon started getting cold.  All in all, it ended up turning out well, though, and that tart smells delicious cooking!  Almost worth having a 400 degree oven on for an hour while we’re already sweating.  I’m pleased to say it has cooled down quite a bit since last week, however. 80’s instead of 90’s is fine with me!

Here is the recipe I used for the salmon, courtesy of Char Zyskowski at Apple Charlotte Cooking Company (Spokane).

Salmon with Roasted Lemon Beurre Blanc (serves 2, with extra sauce… because who doesn’t love butter?)

Two 4-oz. salmon fillets
Olive oil
salt and pepper
1 lemon
1/8 c. white wine vinegar
1/6 c. white wine (I know, I was halving… guesstimate.)
1 medium shallot, minced
1 1/2 tsp. heavy cream
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold butter, cut into small cubes and kept very cold! (I put mine on a paper towel in the refrigerator, which is close enough to my stove… if yours isn’t, Char suggests placing the butter on waxed paper over ice.

1. Place fork-poked lemon in the microwave for 45-60 seconds. Squeeze half the lemon juice into a medium-sized stainless steel pot. (I know, wasteful! Again, halving… you could try cutting the lemon in half before microwaving if you want.)

2. Add vinegar, wine, shallots, and a generous dash of salt and pepper to the pot.  Reduce the mixture to about 2-3 tablespoons of liquid.

3. Add 1 1/2 tsp of cream to stabilize the mixture (classically, this is not done; however, it’s a trick everyone uses as the beurre blanc is an emulsification, very fragile and can “break” easily).

4. Reduce the heat to very low.  Whisk the butter into the reduction one cube at a time, stirring constantly.  Continue until all the butter is mixed in.

5. Strain through a mesh sieve into a small stainless steel bowl or pot and place over a pan of hot water on very low heat to keep warm.  Don’t leave this for more than 15 minutes.

6. Saute the salmon fillets.  Place a small amount of olive oil and butter into a saute pan.  Place the fillets in the pan and season them with salt and pepper.  Saute until about 1/3 of the fish has turned opaque as you view it from the side.

7. Turn the fish over and cook until just a thin line of pink remains through the middle of the salmon.  The entire sauteing process takes about 7-10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish.

8.  Serve: Pour a small amount of the beurre blanc onto a warm plate, then place a fish fillet on top.  Top with parsley if you’d like.

*If your sauce separates, you can repair it by starting over with lemon juice.  Whisk your sauce into it a little at a time to re-emulsify.  Add a bit more cold butter (1-2 tbsp) to even out the butter/acid ratio.

July 9, 2010

Fledgling Foodie: Hot hot heat and two amazing summer salads

If you aren’t in Portland, perhaps you experienced a nice, slow, easy transition from spring into summer.  If you are in Portland, you experienced what we did:  a mild but dreary winter, and rainy, overcast spring that probed its wet, cold fingers all the way through June into July.  And then, out of nowhere, a 95-100 degree heat wave struck our city this week.  I’m not exaggerating — it was that drastic.  The leap  was even further accentuated by the fact that we spent the last weekend before this weather on the coast, where it is usually about 10-15 degrees cooler.  On Sunday night to watch the fireworks, I had on three different coats and was panicking about not having any socks or real shoes to wear.  Back in Portland, we’re sleeping on our couch bed so we can avoid going upstairs at all costs.  Oh yes, we have no air conditioner. I’ve been putting ice cubes in our poor, black, furry Kieran’s water bowl hoping he’ll drink them, or at the very least bat them around a bit and cool off his little pink paw skin.

The weather has called for as little cooking, specifically turning on the oven (can you imagine?), as possible.  It’s quite convenient that my newest Cooking Light arrived this week, totally pushing the salads!  All of them sounded heavenly with their combinations of summer fruits and meat.  During my grocery shopping trip at the beginning of the week, I looked for any of the ingredients that seemed affordable.  I found a great deal on…

  • arugula — a big, plastic, pre-washed bin of organic, inexplicably marked down from 5 to $2.00
  • grape tomatoes — also organic, half off!
  • bacon — the good stuff, priced at $1.99 to sell quickly
  • and shrimp — a 2 lb. bag for half off after using my club card and a coupon in the weekly

I did end up skipping a couple cheeses and a package of prosciutto (that stuff’s ridiculously expensive!). Still, I came away with the specific ingredients for one salad and a random assortment of other ingredients I hoped I could make something else out of.

On Tuesday night we enjoyed a delicious combination of steak, plums, and blue cheese on a bed of arugula.  Actually, it was called Flank Steak Salad with Plums and Blue Cheese (page 86), but I technically did not use flank steak, as the only packages my grocer had were a billion pounds and cost about as many dollars.  Instead I found a little tiny package of flat-looking steaks that was only about $4.00 and worked just fine:

One of the recipes that intrigued me was the Prosciutto, Peach, and Sweet Lettuce salad (page 139), but I didn’t buy prosciutto or sweet lettuce. So I picked up my peaches, opened the fridge and [after standing there for a while because it felt good] pulled out the bacon, because that’s kind of like prosciutto, right? I wish I could say I whipped up a totally amazing salad with no recipe, but I caved and did a google search.  I’m so glad I did.

Although I was still unenthused about turning on kitchen appliances, I managed to get through bringing a pot of water to boil and cooking some bacon to produce this amazing Bacon & Peach Pasta Salad.  Seriously.  Make it tonight. I’m begging you.  Unfortunately, I did not take pictures….  too busy EATING!  But it was incredible.  Beacuse I’ve been bad about posting food, here are two little dishes I made a week or two ago.

Whole wheat cheddar and chive muffins….

…and really really buttery pasta with lots of parsley and garlic, all coated with an egg yolk for added cholesterol. (Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures of this immediately, so here’s one of it reheated.  It looked even better fresh, I promise.)

Yes, that’s a huge wad of garlic.  Mmmm.  Tonight I’m hoping to cook some shrimp and pasta.  Next week I think I’ll start posting my weekly meal plan.

So far this week it’s been…

Monday: take-out teriyaki after getting back from the beach
Tuesday: steak/plum salad
Wednesday: bacon peach pasta salad
Thursday: a small salad with arugula, avocado, tomatoes, and blue cheese dressing as a light meal before youth group, where we were fed sandwiches and watermelon.
Friday:  possibly shrimp fettuccine something or other (with butter and garlic, of course)?
Saturday and Sunday:  Not sure. Taking it day by day this week with the heat!

What do you like to cook when it’s too hot to cook?

July 7, 2010

Rookies, gumshoes, and fledglings.

Isn’t it funny how things can start so perfectly, continue so earnestly, and still fail (or at least falter)?

There I was on Monday, triumphantly running up and down steep hills, mimicking the roll of the waves to my right as they beat against Haystack Rock on the gorgeous Oregon coast.  25 minutes, crazy elevation fluctuation, no problem.  When I finished I felt like I could have gone farther.

Today, I ran for slightly less than a mile before having to stop.  It’s the only run in my program thus far that I have failed to complete.  I was hot, tired, hungry, and dehydrated, and my body was telling me to stop.  I figured it would be better to stop and then try again later than to hurt myself or push too hard and set myself back further.

And then, there are my plants…  wilting tomatoes, shriveling peppers, bent-over fuchsia, and slug-salvaged spinach. (Then there’s the thriving basil and cilantro, which continues to baffle me.)

It’s so easy to become discouraged!  But I’ll keep pressing on with these perhaps silly little projects because they are what I must do.  They give me a little sense of responsibility and joy in the midst of a lonely time.  They are supposed to be my calm, and I make them my storm.  Baby steps.

Here are some pictures from my 4th of July weekend in Cannon Beach, OR….

That last one cracks me up!  Little Ana distracted by making X’s in the sand, is running to catch up with the family.

We had a fabulously fun time reuniting with Eric’s parents and sister Rebecca, and got to witness the beauty of two sensational little girls (Ela and Ana) on their first vacation with their brand new adoptive parents, Eric’s uncle Ken and aunt Trudi.

“…He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ…” (Philipians 1:6)

Overdue cooking posts tomorrow, small but faithful readership.

July 1, 2010

Thursday and half a song are all I brought with me…

This week, running seems to be the only consistently bloggable “series,” so I’m just giving a general update today.  I’m not very much a foodie this week, although I did make a few good treats last week (cobbler, heart-attack buttery pasta, cheese and chive muffins) that I could blog about.   The thing is, not only has it been winding down toward the end of the month, which this month has meant an already overspent food budget, but this weekend we are going to the beach, so I haven’t wanted to restock my fridge.  And as we know, fantastic foodie-worthy food requires fresh ingredients that we will most likely not finish, and that will go bad before we get to use them!  Last night’s dinner was the surprisingly rewarding result of scraping out the fridge and freezer.  Magically, I came across some frozen chicken (I thought we were out) and decided to stuff it with blue cheese leftover from burgers earlier this week.  It was my first experience with stuffed chicken, and I’m not quite sure how you are supposed to keep everything (especially gooey, melty cheese) from escaping!  I made it on our George Foreman grill, and a few minutes into cooking had to rearrange the chicken so the slits pointed up instead of down.  Also, my defrosting failed — I accidentally put the frozen half-breasts in the microwave for 5 minutes on high instead of defrost.  They turned out a little dry, but fine.  I whipped up some oven-roasted potatoes wedges (a favorite of mine — easy and always delicious) and cooked some frozen “Tuscan” vegetables from a bag.  I wasn’t too impressed with the veggies — frozen stir-fry vegetables are good because they’re just SO convenient — I’m not going to be buying water chestnuts and bok choy often, so it’s perfect to buy them prepackaged, even if they do get a bit soggier than I’d prefer.  The Tuscan mix, though, is not a winner.  Too many varying consistencies of vegetables, so it’s impossible to cook without overcooking something. And it didn’t contain anything I couldn’t buy and use easily.  Green beans, mushrooms, red peppers, onions… standard fare.  I far prefer crunchy/sauteed to soggy/steamed vegetables, so I will try to take advantage of good produce prices this summer!

As for gardening…. there’s another depressing topic.  Literally three hours after I posted my last triumphant Gumshoe Gardening post, I was driving home talking to Eric, and he told me my tomato plant was falling over.  After ruling out violence and wind (the stalk was curved over and nothing was broken), I staked the plant with a metal rod I found upstairs (part of a shoe rack we’re getting rid of).  Then I did some research.  I suspected, and still kind of suspect, over-watering. The pot the plant is in sits on the ground, and though it has holes under it, water might have been sitting inside unable to get out well.  However, I took the plant out of its pot to try to get at the problem and treat root rot, if necessary, and the soil did not seem over-damp at all.  The roots were white and smelled fine, and they were growing around the base of the pot but weren’t over-crowded.  So I put it back and am going to wait a little while before watering anyway.  In the mean time I will hope I didn’t needlessly traumatize my poor little plant.

Other than those things, here’s what’s been on my mind:

  • Looking forward to an Independence Day beach trip with Eric and his family, including uncle/aunt/cousins and newly adopted cousins!  It will be a great family get-together, as well as our 2-year engageaversary. <3
  • Trying to spruce up our budgeting system.  Perhaps a post on this next week?
  • Also trying to figure out a housework schedule that actually works for me…  so far there are several that do NOT work.  Being a homemaker + insert any line of work, hobby, etc. is confusing.
  • Anxiety, unfortunately.  There’s a reason this blog is about taking things one step at a time.  It’s been working for running, food, and gardening, but unfortunately there are plenty of other areas in my life that worry me silly.  Some are for good reasons, and some just aren’t at all.
  • Attending my parents’ (my home) church last week was such a blessing — a wonderful sermon on Rahab’s story in Joshua 2 that demonstrates God’s merciful pattern of salvation.

Happy 4th of July to everyone, if I don’t post before the weekend!

–Brynna