Thursday, March 31, 2016

Recipe of the Week: Thinking about Belgium

When I first heard about the terrorist attacks in Belgium, my heart sank.  I just can't understand the hatred in the world.  It makes me so sad.    

I didn't know much about Belgium....I still don't.  But I Google searched a map and began pulling up some random facts about the country, people, history and culture.  They are best known for their chocolate, waffles, fries and beer.  Life expectancy at birth is 81. Their population is highly educated and despite its size, they are a big world exporter with more than 80 percent of their GDP heading overseas.

So, in honor of love, support and compassion, here is a traditional Belgian dish.  Mussels are a Belgian staple.  They are cheap and plentiful and once thought to be food for the poor.  After World War I, the dish boomed and slowly migrated to bistros and restaurants around the world.


MOULES FRITES (Steamed Mussels and Fries)


1 tsp Dijon Mustard
1 egg yolk
1 cup vegetable oil, plus more for frying
2 tsp white wine vinegar
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper
2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1/4 thick sticks
2 1/2 pounds mussels, de-bearded and scrubbed
2/3 cup white wine or sherry
2 tbsp butter cubed
3 ribs celery, chopped finely
1 1/2 leeks, light green and white parts cut into thin slices
1/2 large yellow onion


Make the mayonnaise:  In a food processor (or a large bowl), whisk the mustard and egg yolk.  Whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in the oil in a thin stream until it begins to emulsify; whisk in vinegar, lemon juice, salt and pepper.  Set aside.

Make Fries: Pour oil into a 6 qt Dutch oven to a depth of 2 inches, and heat over medium-high heat until a thermometer reads 375F.  Add potatoes in batches and cook until tender, about 8 minutes.  Using a slopped spoon, transfer fries to a rack set over a baking sheet; cool.

Increase oil temperature to 385F. Working in batches, add cooled potatoes and cook until golden brown and crisp, about 4 minutes.  using a slotted spoon, return fries to rack and season with salt.

Meanwhile, make the mussels: Heat a 12" high sided skillet over high heat. Add mussels, wine, butter, celery, leeks, and onions; season with salt and pepper, and cover skillet, until all mussels are opened, about 5 minutes. Divide mussels between 2 large bowls. Serve with fries and mayonnaise.

Variations: I like to add a bit of garlic, heavy cream and either a splash of Pernod or sherry if there is no wine at home.  Some Belgians prefer 2/3 cup of wheat beer and a bit of curry to their mussels.

Image courtesy of Google Images
Recipe adapted from Savuer

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

13/52: Easter Weekend

A fairly busy Spring weekend in West Seattle.  I drove up to Seattle on Friday night and arrived early enough to spend some quality time with Brian and Sammy while Brian prepared a wonderful spaghetti dinner.

Saturday was a mixed bag with Brian participating in the Washington State Caucus in the morning and then we ran some errands in the afternoon but not before taking a walk along Alki Beach where we spotted a bald eagle happily sitting in a large tree at the water's edge.

Easter Sunday I headed back to Portland early to prepare a pork roast dinner and exchange Easter baskets with Chick. The Easter bunny spoiled us rotten again this year. 

How as your Easter weekend?


Sunday, March 27, 2016

Menu Plan Monday: Last week of March 2016

Welcome Monday!  I hope everyone had a wonderful Easter weekend and enjoyed the first full week of Spring!

Days are getting longer quickly and now is the time to get your menu together for Spring and Summer.  Prepare your kitchen and pantry for the longer days ahead so that you can spend less time worrying about your meals and more time enjoying the things you love to do!

Here is our menu for the week and don't forget to check out Laura's site for more menu and planning ideas!


EASTER SUNDAY:  Pork Roast, Scalloped Potatoes and Creamy Cole Slaw
Monday: WW Blue Cheese Chicken Burgers
Tuesday: Loaded Mexican Potato Skillet with Salad
Wednesday: Groupon Night Out!  Orenco Station Grill
Thursday: WW Barbecued Pork Chops with Grilled Zucchini and Rice

Friday, March 25, 2016

Old Photo Friday: Happy Birthday, Lowell

WHO: Donald Lowell Crowe and Diamond Jim Brady
WHAT: My Pop's wedding day to Rosemary
WHERE: Backyard of E Street - Springfield, OR
WHEN: August 1985

Gone but never forgotten.  Happy Remembrance Birthday, Crowe.


Thursday, March 24, 2016

Recipe of the Week: Extra Creamy Scalloped Potatoes

Sunday is Easter and a dish that is always on my Easter menu is scalloped potatoes.

This dish is super easy to make, and can be prepared for the oven in 30 minutes or less which means more time with your friends and family and less time in the kitchen.

Enjoy and Happy Spring and Happy Easter!

Extra Creamy Scalloped Potatoes


Butter, softened to coat baking dish
2 pounds Yukon Gold Potatoes, sliced 1/8 inch thick (I keep the skins on)
3 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon flour
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup grated Swiss cheese, divided
1 cup grated sharp cheddar, divided
4 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup bread crumbs


Preheat oven to 350F.  Brush a shallow 2 1/2 quart baking dish with butter.  

Place sliced potatoes in a large pot.

Whisk the cream, flour, salt and pepper, nutmeg, 1/2 cup Swiss cheese, 1/2 cup cheddar cheese and 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese in a bowl.  Add bay leaf and then pour mixture over potatoes.  Cook over medium heat, carefully stirring occasionally, until the cream just comes to a simmer, about 15 minutes.

Continue to simmer, adjusting the heat if necessary and stirring to prevent the bottom from scorching, until the potatoes just begin to soften, about 20 minutes in total.

Transfer the potatoes to the baking dish and discard the bay leaf.  Add the remaining cheese and bread crumbs to the top of the potatoes.

Set the baking dish in a roasting pan and add enough water to come about halfway up the sides of the baking dish (creating a water bath for the potatoes).

Bake until the potatoes are tender and golden brown, about 45 minutes.

Remove the baking dish from the water bath and let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

12/52: Madness is my specialty!

Aside from Christmas, the first week of March Madness is the best time of the year!

For the past 18 years, my Pop has been coming for a visit for 7 days to watch basketball, eat good food and drink good wine.  We had a blast this past week!

Brian went back to Seattle on Friday morning and the next round of March Madness groupies, my uncle Steve arrived on Friday night.  Then on Saturday morning, Chick's bestie, Terri arrived and we had one heck of a day!

Sunday we set up the Bloody Mary bar and ordered a couple of pizzas and watched the last of the first weekends games.

SWEET 16!!


Thursday, March 17, 2016

Recipe of the Week: Filet Mignon with Merlot Mushroom Sauce

A few weeks ago, I came across a recipe/advertisement from Barefoot Wine.  The minute I saw it, I knew that I immediately had to make it...not to mention that we had some nice filet steaks in the freezer leftover from Christmas.

Normally, I am not one to mess with a filet.  Rarely does it need anything more than salt and pepper on the top, but this sauce was really great.


Filet Mignon in Mushroom Wine Sauce - Slightly Adapted from Barefoot Wines


1/2 cup Barefoot Merlot
4 (6oz) filet mignon steaks
5 tablespoons butter, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil
16 oz sliced mushrooms
1 small onion, finely diced
4 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup cup beef broth (add in 1/2 cup increments)
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream


Heat a large pan over medium heat and melt 2 tablespoons butter and 1 tablespoon oil. Add mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes until soft.  Stir in onion and cook for another 3 minutes, then add garlic and season with salt and pepper and 1 tablespoon thyme. Add 1 tablespoon flour and continue cooking for another minute until flour is cooked. 

Add 1/2 cup Merlot and 1/2 cup broth to mushroom mixture and cook until about 2/3 cup liquid remains and sauce thickens. Add cream and continue to cook sauce until desired consistency (I like my sauce a bit thick). Thin with remaining beef broth if needed. Reduce heat to low and cover pan.

Pat dry steaks and season with salt and pepper.  In a medium frying pan, heat 2 tablespoons butter and 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat.  When butter is hot and foaming, add steaks, and cook (turning once) about 3-5 minutes per side depending on thickness (I finished my steaks on a rack in the oven).

Once your steaks are done, add them to the pan with mushroom sauce and turn steaks a few times in the sauce to coat steaks in sauce.  Season sauce to taste.


* I think the recipe would be nice with a roast in the oven; adding the cream at the end or sliced sirloin (like a stroganoff) over noodles or rice
I added flour to my sauce in this recipe because the sauce never thickened up with just cream.  You really need a roux to accomplish.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

11/52: Marching back to Seattle

It's already the middle of March and I just spent my first March weekend back in Seattle. These last two months have been busy with travel adventures but my feet are going to be firmly planted for a while.

I spent most of the weekend with my boys and relaxing around the house.  Brian did a Skype session on Saturday, I got my toes painted and Sammy got lots of lap time.  A win-win for everyone!

On Sunday, we drove back to Portland where Brian is teaching for the week and we are hosting the March Madness group...with friends and family arriving at various times over this next week.

How did you celebrate the last weekend of winter!?


Sunday, March 13, 2016

Menu Plan Monday: It's all MADNESS!

Welcome to March Madness!

Are your brackets filled out for the BIG DANCE!?

If you have no idea what I am talking about, then perhaps you will at the very least enjoy this week's amazing menu!

Remember to check out Laura's site for more menu planning ideas.


2016 NCAA Basketball Week

Monday, March 14, 2016 
Hamburger Sliders with Assorted Chips
Bacon Cheddar Sliders
Lamb Sliders with Blue Cheese and Caramelized Onions

Slow Cooker Peach Cobbler with Ice Cream

Tuesday, March 15, 2016 
Chicken Enchilada CasseroleRe-fried Beans, Mexican Rice with Guacamole and Chips

Ice Cream and/or Leftover Cobbler

Wednesday, March 16, 2016 
Beef Stroganoff over Noodles

Lemon Bars

Thursday, March 17, 2016 - St. Patrick's Day
Biscuits and Gravy

Corned Beef, Cabbage, Mashed Potatoes and Roasted Carrots

Slow Cooker Red Velvet Cake

Friday, March 18, 2016 
Corned Beef Hash

BBQ Pork Ribs
Hominy Casserole
Cole Slaw

Leftover, ice cream, cake or cobbler

Saturday, March 19, 2016
French Toast/Bacon

Appetizer Bar
Grilled Stuffed Jalapeno Poppers
Veggie and Dip
Pigs in a blanket

Bacon Wrapped Steak
Grilled Tiger Prawns 

Sunday, March 20, 2016 
Breakfast Casserole


Friday, March 11, 2016

Old Photo Friday: Planting Flowers

WHO: Mom (Jennifer) and Chick (Sandra)
WHAT: Planting flowers
WHERE: Backyard of E Street in Springfield, OR
WHEN: Spring/early Summer 1969 

Our weather lately has me thinking about planting flowers and getting the outside ready for summer.  Mom and Sandra look like they were enjoying a nice sunny day and the opportunity to get some planting done.


Thursday, March 10, 2016

Stories and Pictures from New Orleans

I've been extremely fortunate to be part of an Advisory Committee for the past 5 years, volunteering my customer service ideas for train travel in the United States.

Last week, I traveled to New Orleans, LA on the Sunset Limited and spent two days networking, brain storming and sharing ideas with other rail enthusiasts.  It was an amazing experience!

The last 6 years I have had the opportunity to explore, Chicago, Los Angeles, Denver, Washington D.C. and New Orleans, traveling to each location via train.

I would urge anyone considering traveling by train to plan a trip.  The experience is magical!

New Orleans was my last committee destination.  At the end of September, my position on the committee will be filled with a new committee member as our service is set at a maximum of 6 years.

Thanks to Amtrak, Kate Warr, Sharon Slayton, Al Frankey, Jeff Snowden, Tom Hall and the WSDOT for the opportunity to serve. 

New Orleans was a dream!  I didn't have as much time as I would have liked to explore, but I took advantage of every opportunity to see, eat and drink up as much New Orleans as possible and it was extra special that Chick got to take the journey with me.

Three + days certainly is not enough time to explore this city, but we made the most of every opportunity and Monday was our day to explore the big easy and we had a blast!

Here are a few highlights and thoughts from New Orleans!

From Chick - take a city tour or a swamp tour (she did both).  They take you to places that you might not otherwise see in a short time.

The St. Charles Street Car is an amazing ride from Canal Street past the Zoo and Tulane University.  Get off and explore the Garden District.  The homes are incredible!

Wait in line at Cafe Du Monde!  The beignets and coffee are worth it and the line moves fast.

Eat, eat, eat!  The food in New Orleans is incredible and we honestly did not have a bad meal.  If you like seafood, this is your city.

Explore the French Quarter, NOT Bourbon Street.  Get away from the tourist trap and explore the architecture.

Go to Pat O'Brien's and have a hurricane!  One will do you!

Thanks, was nice getting to know you!


Wednesday, March 9, 2016

10/52: All Aboard - Sunset Limited from Los Angeles to New Orleans

Last week Chick and I rode Amtrak's Sunset Limited from Los Angeles, CA to New Orleans, LA.  The journey between the two cities is 1995 miles (or 47 hours).  It was our first train journey through the southwestern part of the U.S. and our first time in New Orleans.  

The train schedule was updated a few weeks before we left, which was frustrating....but in the end, leaving LA earlier in the day gave us the opportunity to get settled on the train and get our journey started in day light hours.

We flew into LAX Wednesday afternoon and went straight to Los Angeles Union Station. We boarded the train at 3:00 and headed east at 4 PM. 

Before sunset, we went through Pomona, Ontario and Palm Springs, CA and on into Arizona.  We had a nice bottle of wine in our sleeper car and a wonderful dinner before getting situated and going to sleep.

At daybreak we arrived in Lordsburg, NM before crossing into Texas. 

Situated along the Rio Grande River and across the border from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, El Paso was not considered part of Texas until 1848.

You have no idea how big Texas is until you travel through it on the train.  As the afternoon progressed, deeper towards the heart of the state we traveled. 

After El Paso, our next station stop was 5 hours later in Alpine, Texas and by then we had enjoyed lunch and settled into our room for an afternoon nap.

We arrived in San Antonio, Texas about bedtime.  As day broke on day two, the train pulled into Houston, TX, the fourth largest city in the U.S. and the largest in Texas.

The morning hours took us through Beaumont and into Orange, TX the easternmost city in Texas which lies on the Sabine River right on the boarder with Louisiana.

Lafayette, LA is situated at the center of Louisiana's "Acadiana" region consisting of low, gentle hills in the northern sections and marshes and bayous toward the south.  It's primarily inhabited by Francophones, descendants of French Cajuns exiled from Canada's Maritime Provinces, particularly Nova Scotia. Cajun culture is kept alive with bayou food, music and traditions.

As the afternoon continued on, we continued into Louisiana to New Iberia and nearby Avery Island home to the McIlhenry Company which manufactures the world famous Tabasco Sauce.

Unfortunately we had to bus from New Iberia to New Orleans due to track work, but it gave us time to see the scenery that we wouldn't see from the tracks. At 4 PM we arrived in New Orleans.....the Big Easy....the Crescent City. 

Founded in 1723, the city preserves the flavor of the Old South with a distinctively French accent.  It is famed for its filigree wrought iron balconied Vieux Carre (French Quarter) and festive Mardi Gras celebrations. It's also considered to be the birthplace of jazz.

Welcome to New Orleans!


Thursday, March 3, 2016

Recipe of the Week: Seafood Gumbo

Chick and I are well on our way to the Big Easy!  This week's recipe is all about the taste of New Orleans.

Gumbo is a stew that originated in southern Louisiana during the 18th century.  It consists primarily of a strongly-flavored stock, meat or shellfish, a thickener and the vegetables of the holy trinity (celery, bell peppers and onions).  There are several different varieties. Creole gumbo generally contains shellfish, tomatoes and a thickener and Cajun gumbo is generally based on a dark roux and is spicier with either shellfish or fowl.

Scholars and chefs have offered various explanations for the etymology of the word "gumbo".  This dish was likely named after one of its two main ingredients, okra or file. Gumbo is often used as a metaphor for the mix of cultures that exist in southern Louisiana and this dish combines the culinary practices of the French, Spaniards, indigenous tribes and Africans as well as Italians and Germans.

This recipe might be a bit complex but well worth the effort.  I can't wait to eat a big bowl!


Seafood Gumbo courtesy of Louisiana Cooking


1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup AP flour
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 cup chopped green pepper
1 cup chopped red pepper
1 cup chopped celery
3 tablespoons chopped garlic
3 cups chopped okra
1 1/2 cups beer (light amber ale)
6 cups seafood stock (or vegetable broth)
2 tablespoons file powder
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning
8 oz crab claw meat
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1 pound shrimp (medium, peeled and de-veined)
1 pound red snapper fillets, chopped
2 (8 oz) containers shucked oysters
1 (8 oz) container jumbo lump crab meat
1/4 cup fresh parsley
Hot cooked rice
Garnish: Green onion


In an 8 qt stockpot, heat oil over medium heat for about 5 minutes, add flour, and stir together to form a roux.  Cook stirring often, until roux is the color of peanut butter, about 20 minutes (one says that it is the length it takes to drink a cold beer).

Add onion, bell pepper, celery, garlic and okra.  Cook vegetables, stirring often, for about 5 minutes.  Add beer, stock, file powder, bay leaves, seasoning, crab claw meat, Worcestershire, salt and cayenne.  Bring mixture to a boil; reduce heat to medium and simmer for about 1 hour.

Add shrimp, fish, oysters, and lump crab meat to mixture.  Cook for 8-10 minutes or untl the seafood is cooked through; add parsley.

Serve with rice and garnish with green onions.

<iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

9/52: Hapa in Seattle and an Oscar Party Sunday

Often encapsulated as the "sound of Maui" or the "Soundtrack of Hawaii" the music and sound of the group Hapa evokes a place that many people have referred to as heavenly. We heard hypnotic, liquid guitar running through Hawaiian vocals and immaculate harmonies driven by poetic lyrics that capture the rapture of the Hawaiian landscape, history and mythology.

We celebrated friend Geoff''s birthday on Saturday night with dinner and margaritas...then down the street to the Edmonds Civic Center to see one of our favorite Hawaiian musical groups, Hapa.  I've seen Hapa before in Portland and it's always a treat when they come back around to the pacific northwest.  It's been too long!

On Sunday, I left Seattle early to head back to Portland to prepare for our Oscar Party. This year I prepared a 3 course meal with sparkling wine in honor of the nominees for this year's Academy Awards.

From the Red Carpet to the after parties, Chick and I loved all the fashion, winners, losers, music and acceptance speeches.  It's become a real tradition in our house!