Tuesday, December 29, 2009

This season's hit

It has been a chaotic December, with a road trip to California in the mix. Earlier this month I hosted a shindig at the ranch, and discovered a great recipe for lemon bars in the process. Due to their success, I made them again for my sister's birthday, and again, rave reviews. Therefore, it is my duty to share this recipe with you. I am a non-baker. These are truly easy to make, and delicious.

Luscious Lemon Squares

Ingredients
Crust:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, cut into small cubes

Filling:
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
For the crust: In a food processor, blend ingredients until they resemble coarse meal. Press mixture into the bottom of a 13 by 9-inch pan. Bake until set and golden, about 20 minutes. Cool.
For the filling: In a bowl, beat eggs, sugar and lemon juice together. Add flour and baking powder, blending only long enough to incorporate. Pour filling into baked crust and bake until set, about 25 minutes.
Cool. Dust with powdered sugar before cutting. Cut into squares (hint: cut the squares in half diagonally for better bite sizes and presentation. I found they were easier to cut if I put them in the freezer to firm for a few minutes just before cutting. - bf). Serves 20-24.

Found at The Food Network.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Shout out: Perfect gifts!

Welcome to the madness of the Christmas shopping season! Unfortunately, this year did not find me as crafty and productive as I should have been, and so I too find myself participating in the chaos that is the gift scramble. I happen to be of the disposition that I must find the PERFECT gift for everyone on my shopping list, adding to the pressure. Happily, I have come across the most adorable little online shop, The Pleated Poppy, by Lindsey Cheney. So if you, like me, are looking for handmade, personal gifts, shop shop shop away! I love the aprons and the tea towels!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Thankfulness

I have to admit, it's been a hard few weeks. I added another year to the tally sheet that is my life at the end of October, but I can't help but terribly miss the friend that has been subtracted this year. Today is her birthday. She would have been 28.

In spite of a heavy heart I am also thankful. I am thankful that I live in a place that I love, near friends and family, and that I have the things I need in life. I am thankful to all my dear friends who have been supportive this year--I can't speak enough for the love that my friends show me and each other. It's so great to be a part of an ever-extending family, to know that there is always someone there. I feel blessed to have such amazing people in my life.

I am thankful for Jill and the great times we had together, the things I learned from her carefree style, her love for the unknown, her amazing artistic abilities, her life lived as a daily adventure, and her honesty. Jill, you have enriched my life. You have made me a better person. And I will be eternally grateful. You are missed.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Vegetarian Lasagna

Justin and I just tried out a great recipe for eggplant and zucchini lasagna. Since it was the first time we tried the recipe, I didn't photograph the process, but it was really easy and really good.

Ingredients
1 large eggplant, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided (don't skip the salt. I did, and ended up needing to add it back in for more flavor)
2 teaspoons olive oil
3/4 cup chopped onion (about 1 medium onion)
3 garlic cloves, chopped
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano (I used dried oregano)
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 cup (8 ounces) part-skim ricotta cheese (I used large curd cottage cheese instead)
Cooking spray
1 (8-ounce) package precooked lasagna noodles
2 medium zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
2 1/2 cups (10 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

Preparation
1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. Arrange eggplant slices in a single layer on several layers of paper towels. Sprinkle evenly with 1/2 teaspoon salt; let stand 15 minutes.
3. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic to pan; sauté 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, oregano, red pepper, and tomatoes; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Combine basil, ricotta, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon black pepper in a small bowl. Spread 1/2 cup tomato mixture into the bottom of a 13 x 9–inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Arrange 4 noodles over tomato mixture; top with half of eggplant and half of zucchini. Spread ricotta mixture over vegetables; cover with 4 noodles. Spread 1 cup tomato mixture over noodles; layer with remaining eggplant and zucchini slices. Arrange remaining 4 noodles over vegetables, and spread remaining tomato mixture over noodles. Top evenly with mozzarella. Cover with foil coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 35 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 25 minutes or until browned. Cool for 5 minutes.

I froze a portion in tupperware to see how it saves. I'll let you know how it turns out, one desperate evening when there is nothing to eat.

Recipe from Cooking Light Aug 2008.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Shameless promotion

Justin's new website is up and running, and he has some great new items for sale. If there are ornaments, candle votives, jewelry items, wine glasses, and anything in between on your Christmas gift list, take a look and give a unique handmade gift. He also takes custom orders if you have something special in mind.

Check it out: www.justinbagley.com

Friday, October 23, 2009

Shout Out!

This dog was so cute, waiting outside of a local grocery store for his Person, I thought he deserved a post of his own. This IS Love Dog Ranch after all.



Happy Fall!

Vegetarian Chili (aka Taco Soup)

My friend Tiffany and I spent one summer in Seattle eating this chili approximately every day. That might be an exaggeration, but we really did eat it a lot. And we were excited every time. And it was delicious. One of the reason's I like this recipe is because it's quick, easy, and filling. Also, most of these ingredients regularly live in my cupboards or fridge so it's easy to throw together last minute. We had taken to calling this "taco soup", but it is not exactly taco or soup so much as it is chili... so no squabbling.

Taco Soup
(serves 6)
2 cans kidney beans (mostly drained)
2 cans black beans
2 cans chopped tomatoes
1 can corn (drained)
1 packet (or 2 to taste) Hot taco seasoning mix
small yellow onion (chopped)
chopped fresh jalapeno(s)
bunch green onion
bunch cilantro
shredded cheddar cheese
tortilla chips



I've come to realize that for most of my recipes I don't measure since I do everything to taste. In a large pot over low heat combine the drained kidney beans and corn, and the cans of black beans and stewed tomatoes. Throw in some chopped onion, chopped jalapeno (I use a lot, with seeds, because I like it hot), chopped green onion, some cilantro, and add the taco seasoning mix, stirring together. Put on the lid and allow to warm over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Serve in warmed bowls, garnished with chopped cilantro, green onion, cheddar, and tortilla chips. Enjoy!

Monday, October 19, 2009

I publicly declare my love for quiche

Yes, it's true. I love quiche. It's so easy to make, its great for any meal, and it keeps well for leftovers. Also, if you're having a dinner gathering you can make it in advance. I save time by using frozen pie shells because, honestly, I would rather pay $2 than take the time to make one myself and have to clean up that mess, and I like having them ready to go in the freezer any time. One of my favorites:

Spinach Quiche (serves six)
You will need:

4 eggs
1/2 cup milk (any will do and I have used soy in the past and that worked too)
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt (or regular salt, but I like garlic in almost everything)
black pepper
1 box frozen spinach (quick thaw and drain/squeeze out liquid)
1/3 cup chopped yellow onion
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 frozen deep dish pie shell

Preheat oven to 350. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl and pour into shell. Keep a little bit of cheddar to garnish (melt on top just before the quiche is done, or if you have shredded parmesan instead, that's a nice touch too). Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes. Seriously, could it get any easier than that? I can't wait to eat my lunch today! (its the little things in life...)

P.S. My dog is cute.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Adventures in Spokane


Yes, I know my title might sound like a contradiction, but I broadly define an adventure as any experience that deviates from the plan (which is why life itself is an adventure).

I did the solo drive over to the east side of the state on Saturday morning, and arrived to Aubrie and Garrett's in the afternoon. We got a short visit in with Grant, Kristol, and Atalie (and her precious cheeks) and then drove up to Walter's Fruit Ranch in Green Bluff where it's prime season for apples, apple cider, and pumpkins. I have many fond Green Bluff memories from my college years so it was fun to go up with my old college friend & her new baby. Sort of a time travel experience in both directions. We also stopped by Trezzi Farm to pick up some homemade Italian food to go. I haven't tried my pesto lasagna yet, but I have heard rave reviews from Aubrie.

I had planned to do the drive back to the west side Sunday afternoon, but due to a dust/wind storm and the closing of Interstate-90 my return trip was delayed until 6am this morning. Happily, stuck in Spokane did not mean stranded, thanks to the extended hospitality of Aubrie, Garrett, and Claire. Thanks for the delicious soup and apple pie!

My hospitable hosts:

Aubrie & me up at Green Bluff:

Claire!

Loving the role of "Auntie Brooklyn"

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Live it.

Hello friends. I have been remiss in posting, but I'm alive and well. This PNW summer has been amazing, the garden is still flourishing (endless tomatoes, squash, snap peas...), and I have baked two blackberry pies in the last two weeks. Justin has been catching his limit of salmon on the river and our freezer is now stocked with both salmon steaks and smoked salmon. Awesome.

We also recently returned from a trip to Arizona where we paddled the 15 mile stretch of canyon between Glen Canyon Dam and Lee's Ferry. We camped on the river, met some new friends, and were entirely in awe of our surroundings the whole trip. Absolutely stunning.

As Henry David Thoreau once said, "How vain is it to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live." So while lately I have been light on the writing, I have been rich in the living. I still want to get in one last climbing trip to Smith Rock, a mini road trip to Oregon, and a visit to Spokane. I know the nice weather won't last much longer, but by the time the ground is freezing, I think I will be ready to tackle the next big project and the new pile of cold-weather cozy-kitchen recipes. Thanks for reading, and stay tuned.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Shout out: Cool!

My friends Emily and John entered their video in a contest:

http://www.etsy.tv/video/A-Hairmade-Moment-2

Go check it out, and if you dig it, repost to your FB, Twitter, etc and help them win!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Aim for the stars...

Often I have the overwhelming desire to be better. "Better at what?" you might ask. Everything. An excellent chef, a kinder person, a tidier house, a more generous philanthropist, a brilliant writer, a fiddle player, a care-free attitude, a kick-ass rock climber, and damn smart. And instead of doing these things I end up making lists of what I need to do this week, because I can check those things off, and they take less time than becoming an expert at, really, anything. Lately I've begun to realize I'm on a time crunch since I am about a third of my way through life if I happen to have a long life, and about three thirds through if I die tomorrow. So this begs the question, what am I doing with my time, and what are the things that I will choose to excel at in the time that I have here in this world?

Material possessions are ephemeral and yet I am constantly spending (read wasting) time and money cleaning, organizing, and/or moving them. I have this sense that if I could move to the middle of nowhere, build an organic farm, and live off the land I would also become a delightful, relaxed sage who is excellent at cooking gourmet meals for the poor in my spotless yurt while playing the fiddle, discovering the cure for cancer, and conquering El Capitan. And what is to stop me from doing this very thing? Money, or the fear of poverty. I'm not sure which. Probably both. I have to be able to afford to be poor. Silly, I know, but who would pay the property taxes on the aforementioned organic farm? And who would pay the farmers, because you know I don't like weeding all that much and I'll be busy on my Pulitzer prize-winning book tour.

I'm suddenly reminded of that scene in Office Space:
Peter is asked what he would do if he had a million dollars. His response is: I would relax, I would sit on my ass all day, I would do nothing. To which Lawrence replies: Well you don't need a million dollars to do nothing, man. Just take a look at my cousin. He's broke, don't do s**t.

Sometimes I wish I had the guts to risk being broke. Turns out I need to be better at liking poverty too. I'll add that one to the list. The thing is, one of the reasons I am so married to my job is my health insurance (don't worry, I'm not educated enough on the issues to use this blog as a political platform). It just feels like something I absolutely need unless I am independently wealthy. I also live pretty comfortably right now. I don't have to worry about having enough to eat (and I don't have to eat Top Ramen), and I can afford to travel. I like that. On the other hand I also know I have more than I really need.

My need for insurance is the same as my need for assurances in life. I'm not a fly by the seat of your pants kind of girl. My g-calendar is booked through the end of September and I'm already planning out a vacation next June. I'm married to structure and order. It's a strength and a weakness. Well planned things usually go off well. My organic farm would run like clockwork. I just need someone to fund the purchase, or tell me its okay to move to Texas or Michigan where I could actually afford property. Also if we could move the Pacific Ocean, my friends, and my family there as well, that'd be greeeeat. So anyone want to go halvsies on a commune in Oregon? I'm serious.

Okay, back to work for me. I gots bills to pay...

P.S. I think its funny that spell check suggested pelvises for "halvsies".

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Slacker

This is one of those cop out posts where I have been sick and unable to cook anything delicious or make anything cool so I leave you with something amusing to look at and hope you don't stop loving me.

http://www.alexmaclean.com/

Click on "Portfolio". Freakin cool photographer. Enjoy.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Can you feel it?

Fall is beginning to settle in in the Pacific Northwest. It's a little early for fall but I can feel it. The leaves on our trees have reached maximum capacity and the blooms have come and gone. We may still have a few more sunny days to come, but I am looking forward to fall. It's the time of year when I seem to be most productive creatively. The days get shorter and as a result I hole up in the art room and spend the darker afternoon hours working on projects I thought up during the summer, or flipping through my binder of recipes to try. Our porch garden has officially been a success. I have bags of shredded zucchini in the freezer to make zucchini bread (or zucchini brownies!) when it gets cooler, and I'm getting ready to pull the rest of the carrots for carrot soup. The tomatoes have been bountiful (the Early Girls have been the best so far), and the cucumbers are finally getting big. It also happens to be the peak season for blackberries at Love Dog Ranch. Justin and I picked about 10 quarts which currently reside in our freezer (we're going to need a bigger freezer). I'm looking forward to making blackberry pies and blackberry liqueur, and I'm working on perfecting a blackberry scone recipe, which should be interesting since I know little to nothing about baking. Deliciousness forthcoming!

Just over 12 inches. I don't think you're supposed to let them get that big, but we were on vacation.

Jasper's favorite vegetable.

An Early Girl.


Our bountiful blackberries. This was only one of many bowls. Yum.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Tent trailer: Phase 1

Hello, hello, we're back at the ranch! We had a great adventure in the tent trailer, drove many miles, saw lots of friends, visited with the family, and took lots of pictures along the way. Speaking of pictures, as promised (oh so long ago), the photos of the tent trailer... I'm calling this Phase 1, instead of "After" since we've come up with a few more fix-its along the way.
In the before picture you can see a wooden storage box which we ripped out, and then extended the step to make more space. There were some holes on the wood surface so we had to fill them in, then primed and painted over the top. I plan to paint texture onto the dark brown surfaces so its not as glossy, and masks some of the surface blemishes. I took down all the fringe/skirt along the top of the tent trailer and made a new one. I also made new curtain ties and cushion covers.
Another view of the dining area:

The kitchen area was one of the more dramatic changes. As soon as we got the tent trailer I immediately removed all the doors, since it seemed impractical to have swinging doors in such a tight space. We added a new counter surface that could bear weight and that was easier to clean. I painted the rest of the surfaces and made curtains for the cupboard areas.
We swapped out the plastic drawer pulls with nickel and added a dish towel rack. We cleaned up the rust on the stove and repainted it with high temp paint (not pictured).

View of the other "bedroom". We added a new mattress pad from Ikea to make the bed a little softer and to cover some damage on the existing mattress.
Most of the materials for this project we either had already, or found for super cheap at Ikea. We still plan to add wood flooring (left over from another project--thanks Erin!) in place of the linoleum, but that might not be for a while with this heat wave we've been having. We also may replace the counter surface around the sink with some leftover material my dad offered up. Hooray for free stuff! I'll post a final picture when we finish the rest.
Project total to date: $65.oo
mattress pad: $5
fabric for fringe & seats: $5
velcro: $4
counter: $1
towel rail: $2
drawer pulls: $0
rug: $10
pillow: $15
sandpaper $0
white spray primer (2 cans) $7
white paint $0
white caulk $4
high temp paint $5
masking tape $3
drop cloth $0
roller brush $4
paint brush $0
espresso spray paint $0

Monday, July 20, 2009

Deadline schmeadline

So, I didn't make my deadline on the ol' fix-up-the-tent-trailer-by-Saturday, which is why there are no before and after pictures to share today... but we did have a pretty great party so we'll call it even, deal?

Tomorrow we are off for adventure on the open road with the new trailer. Wish us luck!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Shout out!

HAPPY HAPPY 30th Birthday to Justin!

Justin enjoys fishing, kayaking, glassblowing, talking about glassblowing, and Hales Cream Stout. He loves canadian bacon and pineapple pizza and his all time favorite dessert is Rice Krispies Treats. He's teaching himself to play the banjo and just built his first fence. When he grows up he wants to be: relaxed.


Justin's superpower: he ages backwards.

Monday, July 13, 2009

LoveDog Mobile


This just in: LoveDog Ranch hits the road in the new LoveDog Mobile! And by new, I mean 1989. But don't you worry. The plan is to gussy up this gem and hit the American highways and campgrounds.

I came up with the idea to buy a tent trailer after pondering the conundrum of living 16 hours from the California homestead; owning a dog, but hating the quality of dog friendly hotels; and wanting a comfortable place to stay without putting anybody out. I also had fond memories of my grandparents, who would roll up with their tent trailer and set up camp in our driveway for a visit. We're excited to use it this summer and even into the fall, because with a tent trailer, a little rain is nothing to fear. And with weather in the PNW being what it is, rain is always likely.

The grand makeover is currently in process so I will save the interior shots for the "before and after" reveal, but I'm hoping to have most of it done by Saturday. (I'm all about bold deadlines).

In unrelated news, the porch garden is looking great. We ate the first zucchini this weekend, and are still waiting for the tomatoes to turn red (we'll even take red-ish) but there are tons of them. Worst case scenario I am making fried green tomatoes. We had one of the jalapenos but it had little to no heat. Does anyone know what affects the heat of a jalapeno?
1) Zucchini. 2) Tomatoes in the corners, marigolds in the middle, cucumbers in front.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Makin moonshine

When life gives you lemons, make lemon liqueur! (and forget all about those problems...)

Make a simple syrup by bringing sugar and water to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly to prevent scorching. When clear, remove from heat and let stand until just warm. Pour into clean 2-quart jar with tight fitting lid. (I always sanitize mine in the dishwasher before use). Add lemon zest, lemon juice, vodka, and food coloring. Cover and let stand in a cool, dark place for 1 month. Rack or filter liqueur into final container such as wine bottle, jar, or decanter. Yield: Approx 1 quart.
Notes: Takes about 2 large lemons for enough zest and juice. Zest the whole lemon first--then cut and juice--it's easier to hold onto that way. You can use cheap vodka--it doesn't make much of a difference due to the sweet and rich lemon flavor. Double the recipe by making two batches separately and pouring into the same jar, rather than trying to make the simple sugar in a large batch. (Double batch in picture below). Recipe from "Cordials from Your Kitchen" by P. Vargas, R. Gulling.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Hello, Eugene...

While this blog is primarily based at the LoveDog Ranch, this weekend your usual suspects took a weekend jaunt to Eugene, Oregon. I had never really been there before, only driven through, so it was pretty fun to check out an entirely new place. We stayed at the Armitage Park campground, which is a very quiet park along the McKenzie River in Coburg, a couple of minutes from downtown Eugene. The campground hosts were helpful and friendly, the campground was clean and well kept, and there was an off-leash dog park a two minute walk from our campsite, so Jasper liked it too.


We drove around to get our bearings, and went to the Saturday Market in downtown Eugene. We parked at a meter but we found out later that there is free garage parking in the city lots in downtown on the weekends. We also learned that Eugene isn't a particularly dog-friendly town. We walked over to the bustling market but there were signs everywhere that said "No Dogs Allowed" so we split the duties and I grabbed some food at a couple of booths and met up with Justin who found some shade with Jasper. We walked around the downtown a bit trying to find a dog-friendly patio near the University campus, but near the campus we also encountered city signs posting "No dogs" so we returned to the car and drove to a pub that was dog friendly. Once we had some pub food and drinks we drove to Alton Baker Park which is along the Willamette River. Lots of open fields and foot and bike paths, an amphitheater, a community garden, and another nice off-leash dog park.
Next we drove to Skinner Butte park where I heard there was a climbing wall. There was indeed.
Then we returned to the campground and made some s'mores. Jasper is terrified of campfires so she hid in the tent.


On Sunday we drove to the Eugene Glass School to take a peek at their gallery. Not a real full size gallery, but some very nice pieces in the back gallery (not the shop up front). Its a working studio and more of interest to glassblowers (a.k.a. Justin) than your average joe (a.k.a. me). We took the Lorane Highway and drove towards Lorane and into wine country. We stopped at the King Estate Winery (pictured below) for lunch and wine and also tasted at Chateau Lorane. Then it was the long trek home. I definitely want to do more exploring in Oregon!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Porch garden update


The porch garden is growing like crazy, and it has been fun to see the progress every day. We now have 1 almost ready-to-use jalapeno, the early girls are big and green, the carrots are officially out of control (we didn't thin them), and the basil is delicious. Last Sunday we had some funky weather and it dropped down to 51 degrees, and then started hailing like crazy. I was a little worried about damage to the garden, but it didn't seem to show any ill response, although the storm brought out a million snails and slugs. Immediately I ran out there with my Sluggo and tried to protect my crops, but then I went for the easier route and had Justin go out there and pick them all off and throw them to faraway lands... We only ended up with a few holes in some of the leaves of the zucchini, so crisis averted for now.

(Pictured above starting front L-R: 2 cucumber plants, 2 basil. Back row: early girl tomato, orange and yellow marigolds, another tomato - can't remember what kind)



Leeks, onions, carrots.


(L) summer squash, cucumber, summer squash, watermelon. (R) eggplants.


(L) Cilantro. (R) Mesclun.


(L) Silver Thyme, in bloom. (R) Rosemary.

(See the first pictures here)
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