Hump Day

It’s no secret that I read a lot of blogs.

Like, a lot.

Like, opening Google Reader after a vacation is pretty scary.

I just like to learn! And I’m fascinated with other peoples’ lives. And people take extraordinary pictures.

One of my favorite blogs is dig this chick.  And some of my favorite posts of Nici’s are Hump Day Nuggets.  Little nuggets from the past week.  A lovely collection of photos and snippets of stories.

I’ve always wanted to copy this style, but never felt like it would be right for me to do so.  It’s so uniquely Nici’s voice!  Recently, though, she began encouraging other bloggers to adopt her crazy awesome Nuggets, and I may have squealed a little bit.  No big deal.

So, here are my nuggets from the past week or so…

Our garden is finally–finally–blooming!
Basil
Basil–used in homemade tomato sauce just last night

Garlic
Garlic, curing in the sun before I will eventually roast some in the oven

Baby Eggplant
Zucchini
Baby eggplant and zucchini peeking through the leaves

Green Tomatoes
I didn’t get pictures of the red tomatoes, because we eat them as fast as they ripen. Oh mama, they’re good!

Edible Broccoli Flowers
Have you ever eaten broccoli flowers? I hadn’t either, and now I’m contemplating letting all the broccoli go to bloom.  Eating flowers is fun.

Beer Can Chicken
Beer can chicken getting smoky and juicy next to corn on the grill.

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Oatmeal chocolate chip cookies that turned into ice cream sandwiches

Ice Cream Sandwich
Don’t worry, that post is coming soon

Coils & Feathers
I fell in love with my friend Jayann’s earrings. Fortunately, she sells them at the Farmers Market

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Did you catch the Oula Flash Mob on Saturday?! It’s one of my life’s goals to be part of a flash mob someday.

Lovely little nuggets. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to keep up with them every Wednesday, but I am pleased I get to share them with you today.

What are your favorite moments/memories from the past week?

humpdaynuggets

Spring Rolls and a Promise

So yesterday was my birthday.

I wish I could tell you that I made myself a cake.  Or cupcakes.  Or these!

But I didn’t.

Honestly?  I was feeling lazy.

Like, oatmeal for dinner lazy.

That’s ok, right?

I did win at ping pong, and I’m totally going to believe that I won legitimately, and that nobody let me win because it was my birthday.

That’s ok, right?

Let’s just pretend that I made these spring rolls for my birthday dinner.  And how about I promise to make the epic ice cream sandwiches again that I made for my birthday last year.  Deal?

Spring Rolls with Marinated Steak

Spring Roll Wrappers (we found these at the local health food store)
Quinoa, prepared according to package directions and allowed to cool slightly
Cucumber, sliced into matchsticks
Red Pepper, sliced into matchsticks
Onion, sliced into strips
Avocado, sliced very thinly
Cream Cheese (your favorite kind)
Sprouts
Steak, cut into strips, marinated in your favorite Asian style and seared
Reduced Sodium Soy Sauce

Start by soaking a wrapper in warm water for about 30 to 45 seconds
Carefully remove the wrapper to a plate. Spread a layer of cream cheese on the wrapper, followed by a scoop of Quinoa. Add the steak, and then the vegetables. Fold one side of the wrapper over, followed by the opposite side, and then roll the open ends. Like so:

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This one folded over in the water, but as long as you’re careful, it’s pretty easy to flatten them out without ripping.

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Nick likes to order his Spring Roll fillings differently. It all goes to the same place though 🙂

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There are two methods for serving with soy sauce…Option A, serve soy sauce for people to dip:
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Option B, take a bite and carefully pour the soy sauce directly into the roll:
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Either way, you will want to make these immediately before serving, as they dry out pretty quickly. It’s fun to make these and let people eat them as the are done, or let everyone customize their own roll.

And because you don’t have to cook anything (except the steak), these are perfect summer food.
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Have a lovely weekend!

Catch Up

Hello!

Oh my gosh, it’s been so long!

You *look* fantastic!
*I can’t really see you, but knowing you, I can assume.

What have I been up to?  Oh geez, where do I start?

Well, we’ve been moving.  And that’s seriously hectic.
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Have you ever moved?  I swear things start appearing.  Literally materializing out of thin air!  You think you know how much stuff you have until you try to move from one house to another.  Just as soon as I thought we were close to being done, I’d open a closet or a cupboard and have another carload of stuff.  Plus, if I ever have to scrub walls again, I may die.

And then of course, because moving isn’t epic enough, *my* babies all graduated.
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*In full disclosure, only one of those “babies” are mine. And one of them only graduated kindergarten this year.

*Also, Nick is rolling his eyes. I can feel it. It’s cool. 

And that’s been mixed in with working, rehearsing, performing yadda yadda yadda.

But it’s great.  All of it.  I can’t believe how lucky I am.  How awesome our friends and family are.  I’m never hesitant to say that I’m loving life, but there are times when it’s truer, more real.  This is definitely one of those times.

What about you?  What have you been up to lately?  I’d love to hear from you, and let’s promise to meet like this more often!

See you soon?

Poaching Victory!

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We all know I suck at presentation. It’s something I’ve learned to deal with, because for the most part, I can make it taste good.

I’ve made cheesecake without the top cracking.  I’ve made creme brulee the perfect shade of golden, caramel brown.  I’ve even made chicken pot pie without a pie dish!

But there was one thing that I’ve just never been able to achieve. I’m not talking “It didn’t look pretty, but it was edible” or “I made some mistakes but ended up with something almost as good.”

No, since I started this fun, laughable, delicious culinary journey, I have always wanted to poach an egg. Folks, it’s harder than it looks.

I’ve seen the tutorials. I’ve watched Julie & Julia more times than I’ll admit.

And I’ve wasted so. many. eggs. It saddened me. So I tucked it away in the back of my mind, in that place where I store things that nag me. Things I can’t admit to anyone else for fear of ridicule. What self respecting food blogger can’t even poach an egg?

Me.

Months after I had given up on my poached egg dreams, I got a call from my mother in law. She was visiting family, and someone brought up how delicious but difficult poached eggs are. In her sweetness, her blind faith, she said, “I know someone who can do it for sure!” And then she proceeded to call me.

I had to admit–out loud, no less–that I had never successfully poached an egg. The shame! It was too much. I knew I had to do it.

Ladies and gentlemen, I did it. On my very next try. I freaking did it!!

Start with hot water. Put it on the stove over medium/high heat.
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Crack an egg into a bowl. Cracking it right into the water isn’t going to cut it. You don’t want it hitting the bottom and then spreading out everywhere. Putting the egg into a bowl allows you to gently tip it in right at the surface of the water.
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When bubbles just start to form:
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Place the bowl right at the surface of the water and tip the egg in.
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And then leave it be!
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You don’t want to move the water around and break up the egg. After about 30 seconds, you can gently ever so gently start to lift the edges from the bottom of the pan.
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After awhile, you can gently ever so gently start to move the egg around.
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Then, after about 7-10ish minutes in the water, you can lift it out with a slotted spoon.
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I was so excited to try making a poached egg that I hadn’t really thought about how I’d serve it. Fortunately, I had some feta and an English muffin. Perfecto!
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I feel it is my duty to inform you that runny yolks can pose health risks. You’ll notice that my yolk wasn’t runny at all, but I didn’t know that until I had bitten into it. To be on the safe side, make sure you err on the side of more done, probably at least a 10 minute cooking time, depending on how hot your water stays. (It felt like it took foooooreverrrrrrrrrrrrr to cook, but I was really hungry at the time.)

Poached Eggs

Add about an inch and a half to two inches of hot water to a deep skillet, place on the stove over medium high heat. Crack each egg into its own bowl.
When the water starts to form bubbles on the bottom of the pan, turn the heat down slightly.
Place the edge of the bowl right at the surface of the water and let the egg slide into the water.
After about 30 seconds, use a wooden spoon to gently nudge the edge of the egg to loosen it from the bottom. If you get too overzealous with your nudging, the egg will separate and you’ll have a pan full of nastiness.
The more done the egg, the easier it will be to move around. Eventually it will “solidify” and you can take it out of the water.
***It’s important that you never actually allow the water to fully boil. Especially when the egg is in the water. You just want it right on the verge of bubbles.

Try this soon, and if it doesn’t work, give it a few months. Don’t give up!
Poached egg victory tastes so sweet.

Content

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That’s not me. But that’s how I felt all weekend.

You see, Farmer’s Market is back. And it was Brew Fest.

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I don’t drink beer (still. Shocking, I know), but I got to people watch,

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and dog watch,
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and kayak watch.
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I got to hear about everybody’s most/least favorite beers.
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And we stumbled upon a festival. Totally at random!
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In short, it’s that time of year in Missoula.

And I am happy.

Whole Wheat Bagels

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Remember awhile ago when I made bagels?

Yeah, those were delicious. I noticed something, though. They had the perfect hard on the outside, soft on the inside texture for the first few days, and then after that they became…chewy. And not in a good way.  They were rubbery! There’s no way these could be eaten without toasting them first, because you’d literally have to tear them apart with your teeth like a dog tearing a shoe apart. Even after toasting them by the end, they were a bit rough on the jaw.

I’ve made them a few times since then, but I wasn’t brave enough to swap out bread flour for whole wheat flour. I didn’t know how it would change the texture, and I was worried about making them any more dense.

I’ve been super lazy lately, too.  I think it’s the lingering cloudy/rainy/snowy/crappy weather around here. I know that seems like the perfect time to bake, but it’s supposed to be SPRING, and I’m just ready for some sunshine. Maybe I was just feeling a bit SAD.

But then last week, the sun came out, and it was glorious!  We played outside, we went for bike rides, I went running (outside!!), we sat on a patio and drank iced coffee.  I was suddenly inspired to try whole wheat bagels.

Oh my, these are good.  I mean, really, really good.  I love the texture of whole wheat baked goods, and the flavor was delicate enough that the blueberries really came through.  The texture didn’t change at all from the first day to the last day.  (Although I have to admit that these didn’t exactly last long.)

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I followed the same recipe as before, but swapped out two cups of bread flour for whole wheat. I’m never going back again! The only thing to try now is taking out all of the bread flour and using only whole wheat. Don’t worry, I’ll let you know how it goes.

Whole Wheat Blueberry Bagels
Makes 8 bagels

1 cup warm water
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 cup bread flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1 cup frozen (or fresh) blueberries

Combine all ingredients in a bread machine and turn on to the “Dough” setting. Once the machine is done, divide the dough into 8 equally sized sections. Gently roll them in your hands, and then push your thumbs through the middle to make a hole. Allow the bagels to rise for 30 minutes, covered, and in a warm spot.

After 30 minutes, preheat the oven to 400F and bring a large pot of water and 2 tbsp of sugar to a gentle boil. Add the bagels to the water, one or two at a time. Boil for 30 seconds on one side and then turn them over in the water to cook for another 30 seconds. Place the boiled bagels on a rack to dry off, and then place them on a baking stone.

When all the bagels have been boiled, bake them on a stone (or cookie sheet w/parchment paper) for about 25 minutes.
I didn’t use the egg wash and topping method for the blueberry bagels, but if you want to see what that’s all about, you can read the first epically long bagel tutorial.  Go ahead and just scroll to the bottom.  I won’t cry if you don’t want to look at my bruised toenail again.

My son adores bagels with cream cheese and honey.  But he actually adores anything with honey, so eat your bagels however you want.
Until next time, friends!
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Nara

I love sushi! There, I’ve said it. Now everyone knows.
Right now the vast majority of my family is cringing in disgust. If only they knew!

How on earth do I know about sushi, seeing as how I live in a land-locked state? Fortunately for us, Missoula has not one, but two excellent sushi joints. And each has not one, but two dollar nights–making dollar sushi possible four nights a week, if one is so inclined.

Of the two fine establishments, Nara Korean Barbecue & Sushi has us coming back again and again. It may have something to do with the amazing sushi:
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Or getting to watch very small people use chopsticks:
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Or getting to watch very small people not use chopsticks:
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Both of these photos were taken with a camera phone several years ago. Does that tell you how long we’ve been eating at Nara?

The staff is amazing, too. More often then not, Nick will ask the server to surprise him, rather than just ordering from the menu. They don’t get flustered or angry at him, they just smile and nod and bring something amazing from the kitchen. Now that’s service! I wouldn’t recommend doing this every time you go in, but when you’re feeling adventurous it’s definitely worth the mystery.

There are some places that, despite being a business or restaurant, make you feel like family. We walk in and we know we’re going to get an excellent meal, but we also know they won’t glare at us if we have a fussy kid–he might just get rice candy or a toy to borrow. We know that they won’t rush us out of our table, even if it’s a dollar night in July and there’s a line out the door. We know that after a hard day, nothing beats great sushi and a shot of warm sake.

Don’t feel bad if you’ve never tried sushi. Just go visit Nara out on Reserve.
Go ahead, I’ll wait. No really, go eat some sushi!

What food makes your family shudder?