Friday, July 31, 2009

Summer squash

summer squash

These days, we're enjoying a bounty of summer squash. One of my favorite recipes also happens to be one of my simplest.

Simply sauté chunks of squash in a bit of olive oil. Add chopped, fresh rosemary, and sea salt to taste. Cook until the squash is a little soft (about 5 minutes). Remove from heat and add crumbled feta (we like sheep's milk).

This dish works well hot or cold and holds up well in the fridge for a few days.


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Taking advantage of the heat


You may have heard that Portland's been having a heat wave this week (uh, I just heard they're predicting 110 today!). Triple digit temperatures have not lead me to feel terribly inspired about much, but it has been a great opportunity to take advantage of our new retractable laundry lines.

Turns out, running the dryer is one of the biggest energy sucks in most homes. We have a few racks inside our house for hanging laundry, but have been wanting to capitalize on Portland's summer sun to do more for us.

Last week David attached this to the back of our house and strung it to our back fence. We now have 6 long lines on which to hang our wash. And, when we want it to disappear, we simply retract it back into it's case.

Yet another small thing we can do to save money and, more importantly, reduce our impact on the planet. Baby steps.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Rosé tasting


As I've mentioned before, my best mama-friend and I are fond of rosé. We happen to also be neighbors, so there's a lot of opportunity to get together for a glass while our girls eat dinner (yeah, I know, my life is good!).

As soon as the weather warms up, we start sampling the year's selection. We're trying to find that perfect rosé, with just the right balance of acidity, minerality, and fruit. To be clear, these are not sweet wines we're drinking. Sometime during the summer we get together with a small group of friends to do a blind tasting of some of our recent finds. In past years we've selected Italian, Californian, and Oregon wines as among our favorites for the year.

Last weekend we did this summer's tasting. We had five wines, three from France and two from Oregon. For the first time, we we're generally unimpressed. They were all decent wines, each with its own good qualities, but there was no standout.

So, for the benefit of all, we will have to hold another tasting (see how altruistic we are?)! Stay tuned for those results sometime in late August or early September.

Do you drink rosé? Come across anything special this summer?

Thursday, July 23, 2009


I'm now at the halfway point of my 21-day plan. I have exercised every day but one so far, and it's been great.

I found the perfect solution to my need-for-cardio but hate-for-gyms: the Matt Dishman Community Center. We've been taking Anna to Dishman for years (it's where she took her great French classes, and where she and David swim), but I never checked out their fitness center. Turns out, it was completely renovated in June with all new equipment, and it only costs $2.80 to drop in (with a punch-card). There are never more than a few people there, and everyone is focused on what they're doing (i.e. there's no “scene”). It also happens to be a 5-minute bike ride door-to-door, so it really couldn't be a better fit.

The non-diet diet has also been going well. I've limited myself to the occasional beer or glass of wine, and have really stuck to fruits, veggies, and protein for the bulk of my calories. And you know what? I'm not missing a thing! I'm really feeling good about what I'm doing and how I'm doing it.

One item that's been helping me is kombucha. Do you know about it? It's a fermented tea that has become very trendy around these parts. I particularly like the Synergy brand which is mixed with a bit of juice. Kombucha is a strange beverage — I can substitute it for most of my “vices" and feel satisfied. I've mostly been drinking it around 5pm, when I'd normally be having a glass of wine. There are claims that kombucha is really beneficial, with tons of probiotics and amino acids, but it's not without controversy, so drink it at your own discretion. Also, be advised that kombucha contains small amounts of alcohol (around .5%) which occurs naturally in the fermenting process.

As for weight-loss (or pant loosening, since that's what I'm really going for), I can't really say I see much difference yet. I think that the 21-day point is really when this thing will take hold and start to show. Honestly, I expect to be incorporating these changes into my lifestyle permanently. Do not despair though — there will always be room for baking in my life (and I will share, of course)!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Spicy sea kelp noodle salad

sea kelp salad

A few weeks back, my friend Ami took me raw food shopping. One of the things she said she loved was sea kelp noodles. Although I had no idea what one does with sea kelp noodles, they were packaged much like Asian noodles, so they seemed less intimidating than some of the other products I saw that day.

Because it was hot out, and because I had recently had an amazing meal at Pok Pok, I was craving green papaya salad. Although I had no papaya, nor had I ever made that dish, I got the idea to wing it using the sea kelp as a base.

I threw this together with ingredients on hand and I used a cheat ingredient, Annie Chun's Thai Peanut Sauce. The resulting dish was great, perfectly suited what I was craving, and came together in minutes. One of these days I plan to try making my own homemade peanut sauce, as I'm sure that'll be even better.

Here's a rough recipe:
1 package sea kelp noodles
handful each of chopped basil, cilantro, and mint
1-2 grated carrots
handful of bean sprouts
peanut sauce
red pepper flakes
juice of 1 lime, plus additional for garnish
chopped peanut for garnish

note: for the version in the photo, I added a package of Mixed Sea Veggies, but that's not necessary or even necessarily recommended for this dish.

Rinse the sea kelp noodles and soak in cold water for 15 minutes. Drain and toss with other ingredients. Garnish with lime wedges, peanuts, and cilantro sprigs. Serve immediately. (You can eat it later, but the noodles lose their crunch). Delish (if I do say so myself)!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Things I love about Portland: The air tram

Part of an ongoing photo series.


Last week David and I finally rode the Aerial Tram, a sky pod traveling 3,300 linear feet between OHSU's main campus and their Center for Health and Healing (which happens to be LEED Platinum Certified). I love pretty much everything about this: that it feels straight out of The Jetsons, that it's part of Portland's public transit system, the views of Portland it provides. But mostly I love the thinking that goes into a project like this. I love that Portland is willing to think out of the box and come up with a solution that solves problems and serves communities, and does so in an environmentally-friendly way. This is what our country needs more of.

The air tram reflected in the Center for Health and Healing's fitness center.


The view from the Center as the tram heads toward OHSU.


Coming in for a landing at OHSU's main campus.



A model during a photoshoot below the tram tower.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

21 days

I need to go on a diet. Despite the ambivalence I wrote about not long ago, I can't ignore the fact that my clothes are getting too tight. It doesn't help matters that I am a fairly petite person who gains weight primarily in my waistline (what waistline?!).

The thing is, I eat quite well and I do exercise regularly. I blame the 6-week chocolate, croissant, and cheese binge that was our house-swap last winter. Not quite sure how it's just finally settling around my middle now, but these are details I don't need to work out.

What I do need is to kick things up a notch here, since adults supposedly gain a pound a year just by doing everything exactly the same as we've been doing it (ah, the joys of the over-35 metabolism).

So, I have devised a plan. It goes like this:
  • Exercise every single day for an hour. This is through a combination of yoga and pilates classes during the week, and then things like family bike rides and home exercise on the weekends. Bonus for extras like going on a long walk on a day when I did a yoga class.

  • Eliminate the following from my diet: refined sugar, most flour, most alcohol. Why “most”? Because I'm human and as soon as you take away all the good stuff, I buck. I'm a baking fool, after all. So there will still be an occasional homemade pizza, or a glass of wine on a night when I'm likely to hurt someone without it! But mostly I'm enjoying fresh fruits and veggies, brown rice, eggs, tofu, seafood, and some dairy.

Why 21 days? Because that's when we leave for our vacation to U.C. Santa Barbara Family Camp(I'd be lying if I didn't mention that the thought of being surrounded by 18-year-old U.C. students was motivation enough!) 21 days seems manageable, and it seems long enough to see some results.

Why am I writing about it here, instead of giving you a lovely muffin recipe? Accountability, of course! And because, since misery loves company, I thought I'd see if anyone wanted to join me? If you're local, perhaps we could do some exercising together. If you're virtual, we could share recipes, successes, failures (it helps to plan ahead!), whatever.

Who's in?

P.S. I don't own a scale, so I'm not using weight as a measurement of success here. I just want my pants to fit comfortably around my waist again!

P.P.S. I started this plan on Monday, so I'm wrapping up day 2 now. 

Monday, July 13, 2009

Pajama time!





This right here? This is why I started sewing just over a year ago.

The pattern is from Weekend Sewing, which I also used to make the sweet sundress mentioned in this post. I'm happy to say the pj's were much simpler than the dress, and I'll definitely be making more as Anna grows.

The adorable fabric is Retro Rocket Rascals from Michael Miller Fabrics — perfect for a little girl currently obsessed with outer space!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Random Beauty

It's been a while since I posted some random photography. These have all been taken in the past month or so, and I like how they present a picture of life in Portland — well, my life in Portland anyway!

A parking strip along Fremont Avenue.

Not even sure what this is, but there were several of them lined up against the side of this house. Just loved the texture.

Saint Cupcake for dessert!

Beautiful mimes along Alberta Street on Last Thursday.

A perfect rose.

This dog is better dressed than half of Portland!

Living Room Theater bar
The bar at LivingRoom Theaters, where you can catch an art/foreign film while having dinner/drinks in comfy, leather chairs.

farmer's market
The simple beauty of farm-fresh, organic produce sold by the farmers who grew it.

My own organic beauty, wearing the dress I finally finished (with much swearing) from Weekend Sewing.

Portland is the only town I know of that has such a variety of (excellent) food carts all over town. Must try the potato cart soon!

berry season
Berry season! (need I say more?)

brew and theology
I don't practice religion, but if I did I'd be sorely tempted by a church offering "brew and theology" at 5:30!

I saw this boy on Alberta Street at Last Thursday and couldn't resist a picture. Such style!

And I leave you with the beautiful, blue eys of this alpaca, also seen at Last Thursday.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Lemons into lemonade (OR botched mozzarella into gnocchi, if you will)

Photos by David Wheeler

First of all, there are some things you should know about me:

1) I firmly believe that there are few problems in the kitchen that cannot be solved with extra virgin olive oil, garlic, and good cheese.

2) I'm paying way too damn much money of farm-fresh milk to throw out a messed-up batch of homemade mozzarella.

So, here's how I ended up making this fabulous, fresh ricotta gnocchi. I intended to make pizza with homemade mozzarella (as documented here and here), but I got confused and microwaved the whey too long and ended up with a melted cheese sauce instead of a lovely ball of mozzarella. After a bit of cursing and imaginary throwing of kitchen tools, I decided this was a perfect excuse to try the ricotta gnocchi recipe my friend and colleague, Alix, had sent over only a few days before. Now, what I was working with wasn't exactly fresh ricotta, but it was extremely similar. I figured I had nothing to lose.

As per her directions, I prepped the gnocchi and put it through a first boil. It then sat ready in my fridge for a couple of days while I decided what to do with it. Honestly, I was a little afraid. I thought it might be a bit like eating bowling balls, and my stomach just wasn't up to the task.

Imagine my surprise when I boiled the gnocchi for the second time and found they were light as air. Tossed with a fresh pesto and some of the first summer tomatoes and we were good to go. (Indulge me for a moment: you know the song Sex on Wheels* by My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult? That is what was brought to mind when cutting into the first summer tomato. I don't know if that makes me really sensual, culinarily speaking, or really pathetic, but there it is!)

Gnocchi with Pesto

Here, courtesy of Alix, is the recipe for the gnocchi. I've included a rough recipe for my pesto, but I don't actually measure when I make it.

Batali's ricotta gnocchi:
1.5 lb fresh goat's milk or regular ricotta
1 c unbleached all-purpose flour (plus more as needed)
2 large eggs, beaten
1 T chopped Italian parsley
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
olive oil

Put ricotta in a fine sieve set over a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and
refrigerate for at least 8 hours, or overnight, to drain.

In a medium bowl, combine the drained ricotta, flour, eggs, parsley, salt,
pepper and nutmeg and stir together gently until a soft dough forms. Add a
little more flour is the dough is sticky when poked with a fingertip. (I
would go easy on the extra flour--use a clean fingertip and don't poke
hard and it's not likely to feel sticky.)

Dust your hands with flour and shape the dough into balls, using about 2 T
dough for each one. Place gnocchi on a baking sheet lined with a lightly
floured kitchen towel.

Meanwhile, bring 6 QT of water to a boil in a large pot and add 2 T salt.
Set up an ice bath next to the stove.

Gently slip as many gnocchi at a time as will float freely into the
boiling water, stirring gently with a wooden spoon to separate them, and
cook until they rise to the surface, abt 7 min. Test one for doneness by
cutting into the center: it should be the same color and consistency all
the way through. Scoop them out of the pot with a wire skimmer as soon as
they are cooked and transfer into the ice bath.

When cool, drain them and transfer into an airtight container. Toss with
olive oil to coat and refrigerate until ready to cook.

When ready to cook and eat them, boil another 6 QTs of water with 2 T
salt, add gnocchi to boiling water and cook until they float to the top.

Julie's pesto
In the food processor, blend:
A large bunch fresh basil
2-3 cloves garlic
julice of 1/2 lemon
salt and pepper to taste
extra virgin olive oil
handful of pine nuts
small hunk of parmesan

Toss over gnocchi and add a bit more pepper and parmesan.

* Ok, really?! You don't know the song Sex on Wheels?? Allow me to educate you. ;-) Yet another example of how I'm just an 80s girl after all!

Farmer’s Market bags

farmer's market bags photoshoot
At the photoshoot. Photo by David Wheeler

Finally! Just in time for all those fabulous farmer's markets around town, the big bags are in the shop! Actually, these bags are great for so many things — travel, trips to the beach, carryalls for the kids from diaper age to entertainment stash in the car! Check them out here, at my Etsy shop.


Thursday, July 2, 2009


me and dad wings
Road-tripping, mid-1970s.

As a child, I spent summers and school holidays with my father. For three years during the mid 1970s, we spent summers driving cross-country in a tricked-out Dodge van, complete with wood paneling and an apartment piano in the back. My dad would pick a place to stop, we'd open the back doors and perform The Steven and Julie Show, singing the songs I grew up with: Fun, Fun, Fun by The Beach Boys, The Night Chicago Died by Paper Lace, Runaway by Del Shannon, and so many more. "Safe adventure," my dad liked to call it.

The only Fourth of July that stands out in my memory was from one of those vanning trips. I have no idea where we were — Kansas, maybe. We had made some new group of friends for the day or the week, and I remember sitting on the sidewalk lighting sparklers and those strange, snake-like things that just grew along the ground when you lit them. I do remember that we'd made sure to be in a state that allowed you to pick up fireworks at a stand along the road for the Fourth, since you couldn't do that everywhere.

The Fourth meant a lot to my dad. He was an unlikely patriot, in a way. A hippie musician, but also a civil-liberties lawyer who once explained to me that he would defend a Nazi's right to march (we are Jews) rather than see a person's civil rights taken away. He was mortified by what was happening to this country during the last years of the Bush Administration.

And then, in a way that seems oddly fitting, my dad died on the Fourth of July, 2007.

So during this holiday weekend, when everyone is celebrating and enjoying being with family, I am thinking of him.

I love you, Dad. I hope somewhere you're riding along in a tricked out van with a piano. And that this time you get to be the one who wrote Runaway.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Raspberry scones (and a new hack for food photos)

Raspberry Scone

A while back, I mentioned that I was excited to try a couple new scone recipes. I have dutifully done so. Many, many scones have been eaten in an attempt to deliver the best recipe to you (the sacrifices I make!).

The winning recipe is a variation on one from A Handmade Life, by Molly Wizenberg, with the addition of fresh raspberries from our garden.

I also want to call your attention to the lovely photo, courtesy of my über-geek husband, David. He read about this hack for creating a light box for just this sort of thing and, the next thing I knew, he was in the kitchen building me one. It took less than an hour and was put together with simple materials we had on hand.

David using Strobist lightbox

Raspberry scones (adapted from A Handmade LIfe)
2 cups flour
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
4T cold, unsalted butter cut into small pieces
3 T. sugar (plus more for sprinkling on top)
1 c. fresh raspberries
1/2 cup whole milk 1 large egg

Place dry ingredients in food processor and pulse a few times. Add in butter and pulse around 10 times (you want the butter pieces to be pea-sized). Mix egg and milk in a small bowl. Add to the food processor and pulse until just mixed. Turn out onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. The dough will be dry and powdery. Add raspberries and fold together with your hands, making a flattened mound. Do your best to incorporate everything but not to over knead. It's going to be messy. Once you've got a flattened circle of dough, cut into 8 wedges with a sharp knife. Sprinkle with a bit more sugar and bake at 425 degrees for 15-25 minutes (this varies due to the wetness of the berries. If you use currants instead, for example, it would only be 15 minutes).

Note: The food processor method here is not how she does it in the book — it's my own adaptation. One of the tricky things about scones is that the dough really can't be handled much, or the butter will soften too much and change the consistency. I really recommend experimenting with this. It may take a few tries before you find a method that works for you. If you've had success another way, please let me know!