Sunday, November 30, 2008

40 years, 1 day

Not such a bad day... traversed the state of Oregon, from Klamath Falls to Portland then climbed most of Washington on our way back home to Monroe, Wa. For almost eleven hours we ate too much fast food, listened to too much Sublime. This was a very long road trip!

Got an MP3 from my husband to listen to on the treadmill and the Herbfarm Cookbook from my mom and Clay so I can cook some healthy meals. Good health is just around the corner!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Happy Day After Thanksgiving!

Okay, so I was 12 minutes late with the blog....

We had a busy day, cooking and conversing and, of course, eating.

Simon and I checked into the Shiloh Inn. Very nice staff, older rooms. I was a little surprised to get an actual key for our room (they haven't upgraded to key cards yet) The room lay out is a little odd, but it is roomy and clean. It will do. Just need a bed to sleep in, and a little bit of quiet.

Looking forward to another nice day with the family tomorrow.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Tonight I came home after work instead of going to school as I had intended.

I had major difficulty leaving work this evening. Spent the entire day trying to get an Excel tool formatted for a report tomorrow. I am not going to be there (vacation, baby!), so I had to finish it before leaving - handed it off at 6pm with my cell number and decided that school would be half over by the time I got there, so drove home.

When I entered the house I was met with an aroma so wonderful I thought for a moment that I was back at the Herb Farm. Simon had made me a fabulous Pastrami Rueben sandwich and fries that were coated in rosemary and thyme....Delicious!

I kissed my husband and then sent off a school assignment. Now I am officially on vacation until Monday. I am so pleased I don't know what to do with myself.

OH...guess I should pack. Headed to Mom's house for T-Day. We are getting up tomorrow, early, with a plan of being on the road by 4am. It is an 8.5 hour drive to Klamath Falls. I am psyched.
Simon's Pastrami Rueben Sandwich

2 slices good bread (we used a 7-grain deli loaf). Butter one side and place in frying pan over medium heat.
Layer a slice of swiss cheese, then a pile of pastrami, a clump of sauerkraut and another slice of swiss cheese. Top with the other piece of bread and butter the top. By the time you do this, it will be time to flip the sandwich over and grill the other side. Grill until the cheese is melted and the sandwich is toasty brown.
Serve with thousand island dressing and don't forget to Kiss the Cook ( I did!)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Well, this is my last week of being 30-something...

We started off my last week as a 30-something with a bang yesterday. Simon took me to the Herb Farm in Woodinville for the most amazing dining experience I have ever experienced. I am serious when I say that I cried tears of joy at least 8 times before dessert!

The Herb Farm uses only seasonal PNW ingredients in their menu- they churn their own butter and make their own cheese. Their wine cellar has over 25,000 bottles, which represent 4,252 different wines. With a glass paired to each course, I have to say that I was quite intoxicated by the evening's end. We threw in a flight of Ports from Portugal- so for my 40th birthday I got to taste savor a wonderful 40 year old was very decadent.

My favorite courses were the fish course which was a tuna tartare with a sprinkling of fennel and a tuna presse which was thin sliced tuna pressed with black truffles. The Cheese & Coutcherie course with a fromage blanc in crout with chorizo and warm borscht. A fabulous dish of Oregon Bleu Cheese ice cream with curried apple and spiced nuts and of course, the dessert courses which were heavenly! Milk jam (like a custard), Chocolate mousse, Pumpkin Fritelle with chestnut honey, Warm nutmeg chocolate pudding and cinnamon truffles.

I am never going to forget last night! It was just spectacularl.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Forecast is RAIN.

For those of you who have not been saving for a Rainy Day- you should start.

My intent is not to panic you-the news media does quite enough of that. I do not advise panic at all, actually, but I do promote preparation-that is always a good idea- calculated consistent and calm preparation.

I attended an interesting lecture today at school. My economics teacher from Spring Quarter held a special session to talk to us about the current economy and what might be coming. The professor, Karma Hadjimichalikis (sounds just like it is spelled *lol) has been working and teaching in the field of economics since the early 70's. She co-authored our economic text book with her husband.

Last Spring we learned that there are 3 types of economic downturn:

  • A "V", where the economy takes a dive and then immediately recovers
  • A "U" where the economy dives and then stays down for a while before it recovers
  • An "L" where the economy dives and stays down for long, long time.

The goal of the Fed is to prevent an economic deflation. There are reliable methods that can be employed by the Fed to deal with recessions and inflation, but not deflation. She said that the current economic situation is unprecedented. Changes are taking place so rapidly that she is having trouble keeping her lectures up to date! Exciting times if you an Econ teacher.

That being said....our prof believes that the "U" scenario is most likely. We are down now and unofficially we are in a recession- (we have two consecutive quarters of downturn before it is officially declared a recession). This should not be a surprise to anyone! She does not believe that we have hit the bottom of the U yet though.

It is expected that we will be down for a while. We will not recover until we see the housing market reach its bottom. (Karma suggests that her sources expect 2 years of downturn!) Before we recover it is expected that unemployment will drop from 6% to 8%. It is expected that as money gets tighter people will continue to restrict spending, and some will find that they cannot cover monthly expenses. Many of these people will resort to credit cards and unfortunately this will be the next shock that our economy takes. If you can avoid this trap- I highly recommend that you do!

In April, Simon and I discovered Dave Ramsey- he is very down to earth, financial planner- he has a radio show and he is a strong advocate of living a debt free lifestyle. He has a lot of practical advise for managing personal finances that just makes sense to us. I especially admire his people skills. His ideas are not at all mainstream, and he has had a huge impact on our marriage and our money- we are on the same page with our goals and our spending. Last week we paid off our final bill, and we are now debt free except for our mortgages. Our next goal is to save up an emergency fund to cover 3-6 months of bills. We are also saving to pay cash for new windows.

Our debt free state is great timing because we are hearing rumors of layoffs at Boeing. I feel better about that prospect given our current debt free state. Ultimately debt = risk. We are determined to pay cash or do without in the future.

I plan to add an occaisional post on money saving tips and other financial wisdom that I come across. And I will also increase my posts of comfort foods!

If you are interested in learning more about Dave:

Friday, November 21, 2008

Fiesta Friday Fundraiser

Hosted a fiesta at work today to support our holiday adopt a child fundraiser. It looks to me like we have enough cash to supply Christmas presents for all 6 of our adopted children. We may be able to adopt a few more. I will be shopping for gifts on Sunday. Simon and I also adopted a little girl and boy. I want to get this activity complete before Thanksgiving.

The guys really stepped up to the plate for this one- several volunteered to bring food and we earned another $180.00 for a total of $620.00

I brought the taco beef and a bowl of guacamole to the fundraiser. I have found that adding a small jar of salsa and seasonings to the ground beef (cumin, chili powder, cayenne, garlic salt and pepper) works well. I don't buy the packets of taco seasoning because of the preservatives.
The guacamole is smashed avocados with sour cream, lemon juice, and some salsa for a little kick.

Friday, November 14, 2008

I think I will eat some...

Hi Mom!
Thank you for checking my blog today.

According to my follower list, you are my only follower. No one else is tuning in...I have just been writing every post since the beginning of October just for you.
I love you, Mom. Thank you for thinking of me.

Today I found this website. I think the recipes will come in handy (of course my favorite is the spaghetti one)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Engineers and Free Food

Woke up early this morning and made a pan of "Almost Candy Bars". (Yes- I just had so much time on my hands with mid-terms, work deadlines, chairing a holiday fundraiser, and a river flooding in my back yard!)

Every year our work group adopts foster children for the holidays. We have 6 kids this year and I have found that the best way to drum up donations is to supply free food.

As I stated previously, I work mostly with men. These are engineers -highly specialized and extremely well paid scientists. Their response to free food is something of a conundrum to me. Free food attracts engineers like flies to fly paper. These guys are very generous too when it comes to fundraisers- we had 30 employees last year donate $800.

So in the spirit of soliciting the same response this year, I made these Almost Candy Bars. They are so quick and easy to do, that even waterlogged, stressed out and overcommitted project managers in grad school can do it! Enjoy!!!

Almost Candy Bars

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Take a box of Pillsbury Super Moist Devils Food Cake mix. Cut in 1/2 cup of butter until crumbly. Press this mixture lightly into the bottom of a 15 x 9 inch baking dish.

Sprinkle 1 cup of each of these on top of the cake mix crust:
  • semi sweet chocolate chips
  • butterscotch chips
  • chopped walnuts
  • sweetened coconut
Pour one 14 oz can of Sweetened Condensed Milk evenly over the top. Bake in oven for 20-30 minutes or until light brown on top.

Flood update: Water is receding...didn't get as high as they predicted, only 19 feet. Baseball field was heavily flooded last night when the river crested- looked like a lake, but when I woke this morning it was greatly reduced- just a few huge puddles. Sunny days are planned through Monday!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Eyes on the "Sky"

The "Sky" is the Skykomish river that runs behind our home. It is expected to flood today and tomorrow. Flood stage is 15 feet...they are predicting 22 feet.

This happened in 2006 just after we added new retaining walls and the water came right up to the bottom stairs. That was almost 24 feet.

We are not expecting to be washed out of our home- our waterfront property will just be a little closer to the water- but leaving and returning to home might be a bit difficult with the road closures.

The pictures above are of the flooding from 2006. The one on the left looks like the river did this morning. I anticipate that we will see pictures similar to the one on the right by tomorrow.
When the weather is blustery and rainy like this I just like to be home with fuzzy socks on my feet, a cup of hot cocoa and a Martha Stewart magazine. (Unfortunately, I am at work...and I have to go to school tonight!)

Thank God I have this blog so I can at least dream out loud about what I would do if I was home!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Nancy Cooks Bleu Cheese Pancetta Burgers

Tonight for dinner I made Bleu Cheese Pancetta Burgers. I am slowly working toward perfecting these.

Here is what I have discovered:

A recent Cook's Illustrated magazine article showed that adding a splash of milk and some bread crumbs to the hamburger makes the burgers juicier. I used a splash of milk and about a 1/4 cup of crumbs.

Crumble bleu cheese and chopped pancetta into the mix...a dash of pepper, salt and onion powder....combine well.

Shaping the burgers is a critical step. The Cook's Illustrated article suggested making the hamburger patty into the shape of a mushroom top, so the underside is slightly indented. (I can't remember why- but the burgers just cook better this way)

Fry these on the grill (or in a pan on the stove). I cook these slow and low.

When the burgers are close to being done, I add a slice of pancetta to the pan - one for each burger. I am not sure if this is standard or not, but the pancetta that I buy is in rounds- perfect for topping a burger!

A slice of homegrown tomato and a few rings of red onion plus mayonaisse and these are heavenly.

For slight variation, I have mixed bleu cheese and mayonaise into a burger sauce, I have used stilton cheese instead of bleu cheese and I found this summer that a few leaves of basil add a great touch to these. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Sunday at the Cook House

I have decided that weekends are just too darn short! Especially since I am giving up one every other week for school. I can't seem to get everything done that I want to.

Today I slept in until 8:30. I did not intend to do this because I have so much to do today, but here I am 9am and nothing is done. I must have needed more sleep though.

Simon is making coffee. I picked up a new coffee press at Value Villiage for 9.99. We found the exact press at Starbucks for 40.00. (that deal makes the coffee taste even better!). Our favorite coffee is seasonal. It is called Ipanema Bourbon and it is made by Starbucks. I usually find it in February, although this year I picked up some in June- I was hoping this meant it would be more regularly available, but I have not seen it since. Our other coffee preference is Pete's coffee- Major Dickinson's blend. We usually only make coffee on weekends.

On Sundays I also try to make breakfast for my man and then a nice dinner. This morning we are having Smoked Salmon Scramble. This is basically Scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and cream cheese cut in. I add salt, pepper and fresh chives to this - it is very simple and heavenly. We will have pugliese toast with this. I picked up some wonderful orange and fig jam to top it off. (Discovered last night that this is great on gouda cheese, too!).

After breakfast I am going to call my mother in law, since I did not speak to her yesterday, then I am also going to get on the treadmill for 30 minutes.

Simon did a lot of the housework yesterday, but I will try and get into the bathrooms and give a quick clean (we need to get our housecleaner back!)

For the rest of the day I need to work on homework. I want to try and complete half of my cost accounting mid term (due next Saturday- prof says it is a 7 hour for me, that means 10!). I have an operations management case study to complete for Wednesday (2 hours), and I have a negotiations assignment that requires on-going negotiations until Nov 24. I am the Project Manager for our team this quarter and the chairperson for these negotiations as well, so school is my priority today.

At some point today I will be making treats for work tomorrow to drum up donations for the holiday "adopt a child" campaign. My work group adopted 6 kids and I am heading up the fund raising.

Got the suet, but the mincemeat will need to wait until next weekend.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Autumn Baking and Mincemeat

I really love fall. The changing leaves, pulling out my sweaters, burning candles, making dinner in the crock pot, Halloween, Thanksgiving....Autumn time is synonomous with home to me.

Every year about this time I start to think about baking...and I have a few standards. One is Mincemeat. I really never liked Mincemeat until I made it with my mom several years ago and actually saw what went into it. It is a fabulous concoction of apples, brown sugar, spices, walnuts , and raisins soaked in brandy. Served warm in a good pastry with a dollop of brandy butter and what is not to like about that?

During the past decade we have spent many Christmas holidays in England and small mincemeat pies are a staple there. I really cannot think of Christmas in England without thinking about these little pies, and vice versa.

To make mincemeat the traditional way, you need suet. This is a fat that is rendered from beef kidneys. It does not sound pleasant, but the benefit of using suet is that it melts slowly and that is key to making good mincemeat. When you ask the butcher at your local grocery store you will usually be sent to the garden department. This is a sign that the butcher is new and inexperienced and most likely not English. A good butcher knows that suet and holiday baking go together like mincepies and English Christmases.

Fred Meyer is the only store in town that carries suet and only during the holidays. I learned through my suet shopping that Safeway carries blocks of pig fat...and they store it out in the open freezer case- not sure if it is a hot seller or not....I have no idea what that would be used for, but it is not suet.
When I asked at Fred Meyer if they had it, the butcher asked me what I was going to use it maybe he wasn't going to give it to me if I came up with the wrong answer. I got the impression that this man doesn't give up suet to just anyone. I told him that I need it for mincemeat and apparently that was what he wanted to hear because he asked me how much I would need and told me he would have some in next week. So tomorrow I pick up my suet...shredded and ready for baking.

Here is a link to my favorite mincemeat recipe. Delia Smith is the Martha Stewart of England (although her expertise is limited to just good cooking)

You will need the mincemeat recipe to make this recipe for traditional mince pies:

And to top it all off... a link to a recipe for brandy butter.