Bellingham roasted potatoes

Okay, potatoes. When Dan and I were on our trip in Washington last month, my sister took us to Bellingham to visit her dear friends, their two cute kids and their adorable dog, Chester, aka ‘Butter.’ This was a fun adventure that included a ferry ride to Lummi Island, an extended happy hour on the beach, an encounter with a beavare, and, because we reveled too long on the beach, missing dinner on the island and ending up at a taco place/ bar in Bellingham where my sister, in a moment of brilliance, discovered that you could order a bowl of nacho cheese to accompany your burrito.

Whose cheese? Nacho cheese!

The next morning, our lovely hostess made an asparagus and egg frittata for breakfast and enlisted my help in making the roasted potatoes. I had been roasting cauliflower, broccoli and brussel sprouts all winter, but it had never occurred to me to roast potatoes. So while my sister nobley fumbled with the coffee maker, I had to ask for guidance in making the potatoes (I’d like to think that what sometimes comes off as our ditziness is really just a profound desire to ask questions and to make sure that we do things right!) Now, I can’t stop making these potatoes… It’s the easiest thing and they turn out oh so delectable.

Clean and dried organic potatoes

I’ll give you the same directions that were given to me. Pre-heat the oven to 375 or 400 degrees. Rinse off and dry organic potatoes (I’ve been using yellow ones from Willy Street Co-op and picking out the smallest ones I can find.) Place potatoes in a bowl and toss with olive oil, minced garlic and whatever savory spices or herbs that you have on hand. I have used oregano and Penzey’s country french vinagrette. My neighbor has been keeping me in the fresh basil the last few weeks, thanks to his indoor herb garden, and I have been using this too, but adding it after the potatoes come out of the oven. Transfer the potatoes to a baking sheet and place them in the oven and roast for 25-35 minutes, or until the skins just become golden brown crisp; you may want to give them a good shake a couple of times during the cooking process. Place the potatoes in a bowl and toss with freshly ground pepper and sea salt to taste. Serve these potatoes as a breakfast side dish, a light meal with a salad and bread, or any way you want, really… I don’t think you could go wrong. Enjoy.

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Fun with pets (West Coast version)

The following is a guest appearance on ‘Wisconsin Fun Next Exit’ by Dan Walkner

I own pets.  I love pets.  Pets are where it’s at.  Got a pet?  Sweet! No pets? Poor you!  Whenever I see a pet in the wild, I often talk to or scratch said pet.  I generally make up a new name for the pet.  For instance, in our neighborhood I have made up the following nicknames for a few of the cats: Ahman Green, Cruddy, Cinnabon, Orange Roughy, Sir Spicy Kickers, and many more.  When encountering a pet, if the owner is friendly, or not looking, I often pick up the pet to see how heavy it is and have Erica snap a picture for posterity’s sake.  I call this activity “Fun with Pets.”   I recently played FWP in Seattle, and here are some of the results!

This man trains cats. He was awesome, and had two friendly pets on display.
This is Happy Speckles. After talking to her, I warned a nearby Chihuahua about an eagle that I had recently seen in the vicinity. He heeded the warning.
Seriously? This fence hates pets for no reason!
This is Miguel. We became fast friends. If he ran for mayor, I pity the fool who runs against him. He’s that popular.
This dog was very friendly and alert. His breath, sadly, was appalling. Made up for it with moxie.
Although not pets themselves, these charitable cupcake saleswomen gave me the skinny on the neighborhood’s pets. Oddly enough, we saw these same kids at a Mariners game where I overheard one of them say to her friend,”He bought a cupcake from our bake sale. He really likes cats.” That really happened.
While lulling this pet into a false sense of security, I moved too quickly and it ran under a couch while his cat friend in the house looked longingly on while standing in close proximity to a disco ball.
Boldi the Corgi and Greta the Shepard were outside of a grocery store. Greta speaks fluent German, but if you scratch her, Boldi tries to either bite Greta’s face or your face. Lots of face biting with these two.
Poor Walter. He lives with a giant flailing dog named Josie, so, alas, he spends a lot of his time under stuff, like this couch.
The adorable Josie in a rare non-flailing moment. Lots of energy!
Sena and I participated in a chicken naming contest at a chic mercantile. They had pet chickens there. Note the extreme amount of thought being showcased by us. Naming pets is a serious endeavor not to be trifled with. I wanted the chick to be “Elka” if it was a girl or “Bjorn” for a male. Sena chose the name “Gordon Lightfoot” for the chick regardless of gender.In one of the world’s greatest miscarriages of justice, they opted not to select our names.
This dog runs his own knick knack store! Enterprising lad, this one! I bought a belt buckle from him.
This is Peter Tosh. He gets his name because he has dreads and is a little bit ornery. Very mellow when not being manhandled by strangers, though.
This is Nellie Mae (actual name on her necklace). She is surprisingly skinny for a cat that eats out of the dumpsters behind a Mediterranean restaurant. She ran away when she got spooked by the mail man crashing into a “No Parking” sign.
This is Martin (pronounced (Mar-teen). He gets his name because he walks gingerly like former NFL kicker Martin Grammatica. His hobbies (the cat not the kicker) include walking on sidewalks, being way fluffy, and allowing strangers to maul him. Sena looks on.
Look closely. No, closer. Ah, that’s better. Yes! A snail, but not just any snail. Oh no, this old boy was out for a walk. Why not? It was about 65 degrees and sunny! We were overjoyed to meet this pet.
Meet Mocha. We were having an intense argument about whether it was more fun to drink beer at the beach or chew on sticks at the beach. Lucky for us, we saw an otter and realized that life is too short to bicker about petty issues like sticks vs. beer. Thanks otter. We needed that.
You might think there are no pets in this picture. Wrong! That was a Beavare that we spotted on Lummi Island.   A puported mythical creature assumed to be a West Coast relative of the Hodag, we spotted this particular Beavare on the beach. Myth busted!
If Chester were a professional athlete, his scouting report would be “moves well for a big man.” Case in point, he has survived a bear attack and several beavare maulings. Ok, ok. The bear part is true, though. Well done Chester!
Another of the enterprising Seattle pet-set, this demure puppers owns a soap store. She is a pretty soft sell, though. Erica bought some soap and a soap dish with a whale on it for our “Nantucket Sleighride” themed bathroom.
Picked up this dicey dame at The Waterwheel Lounge. Her owner, although very creepy and reportedly on Mescaline (that’s what his even creepier sidekick told me), was one heckuva ping pong player.

Ah, pets.  Appreciate them.  Love them.  And if you see a friendly-looking man hoisting your pet in the air and a cute feisty brunette snappin’ a picture of it, rest assured that these people are not deranged weirdos bent on pet destruction.  They are uplifters of not only pets, but pet culture.  I.  Love.  Pets.

May Day

I love May. The magnolia trees are blossoming, summer is on its way and my birthday is in a couple of weeks.

When I woke up Sunday morning I looked outside, saw the sunshine and decided that I wanted to make dinner for some friends whom I hadn’t seen awhile. They said yes. I love improptu, Sunday night dinner parties. A couple of weeks ago when I was in Seattle (it feels like a lifetime ago already) I got to meet one of my writing idols, Ms Molly Wizenberg. I will save the details for a future post, but it was a magical moment that left me buzzing for awhile. In honor of this encounter, I decided to make a meal from her book, A Homeade Life.

There is this French yogurt cake that I had been wanting to make (and when I re-read the description on Sunday afternoon Molly wrote that it is the sort of cake that French grandmothers make on Sunday afternoons. Well, perfect…) and I flipped through the index for a main entree. A spring salad caught my eye. Radishes, check. Cilantro, check. Feta cheese, check. Molly mentioned that she likes to serve this as a light dinner along with a hunk of bread or roasted potatoes. Done.

May Day Dinner Party

First course: White wine, beer, green olives, crackers

Main course: Sliced spring salad with avocado and feta (pages 246-247), Bellingham roasted potatoes (look for this recipe tomorrow), wholewheat sourdough bread, beer

Dessert: French-style yogurt cake with lemon (pages 204-205)

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French-style Yogurt Cake with Lemon

From A Homeade Life, by Molly Wizenberg

For the cake:

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

pinch of salt

2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

1/2 cup well-stirred plain whole-milk yogurt

1 cup sugar

3 large eggs

1/2 cup vegetable oil, such as canola

For the syrup:

1/4 cup powered sugar, sifted

1/4 lemon juice

For the icing:

1 cup powdered sugar, sifted

3 tablespoons lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a large bowl, combine the yogurt, sugar, and eggs, stirring until well blended. Add the flour, baking powder, and zest, mixing to just combine. Add the oil and stir to incorporate. At first, it will look like a horrible, oily mess, but keep stirring, and it will come together into a smooth batter. Pour and scrape the batter into a buttered 9-inch round cake pan (after buttering, I sometimes line the bottom with a round of wax or parchment paper, and then I butter that too).

Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the cake feels springy to the touch and a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Do not overbake.

Cool cake on a rack for about 20 minutes; then turn it out of the pan. Combine the syrup ingedients in a small bowl and spoon it gently over the warm cake. The glaze will be thin and will soak in like a syrup. Cool completely.

Combine the icing ingredients. Whisk well to dissolve the sugar completely. Spoon the icing over the cooled cake.

Serve immediately- the icing will be soft and a bit juicy- or wait until the icing has firmed up, about 1 hour. Whichever way you like.

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Happy May.

It’s always sunny in Seattle

Hello Wisconsin.

Yesterday as I got out of my car in the cool, drizzly rain my neighbor welcomed me to Seattle. Ironically, I told him, I just got back from Seattle and it was warm and sunny every day. Not to brag. Our conversation ended in solidarity signs and promises to keep fighting the good fight. Before I left for Seattle I kept catching myself holding my breath. While driving, doing the dishes, sitting at my computer. I noticed that I was doing it again yesterday and it occurred to me that this did not happen to me once while I was visiting my sister in the Pacific Northwest. I believe that it has gotten hard to breath here in Wisconsin the last few months. My state, my values and my current chosen profession are under attack. For one magical week I got to forget about all of this and simply indulge. I got to see old friends and make new ones. I am a very lucky woman. As I write this my sister is riding a ferry to the location where she will be working for the day. I can’t help but feel a tad bit jealous. This summer when I am sitting at the Union terrace drinking a beer or eating dinner out on our screen porch listening to the crickets I know that she will feel a tad bit jealous of me. Should we explore and expand our life experiences by moving to a new place or should we stay home and cultivate our roots? This is what I’m thinking about this morning. After last week, don’t be surprised if the new title of this blog becomes “Seattle fun next exit.” I’m just kidding… sort of. While I loved being in Seattle last week, I’m home now and I’ve got a line on a used canoe for this summer. I will keep fighting the good fight and wait for the sun to come out. I will feel happy to be home.

In the meantime, I bring you my picks for the Best of Seattle, April 18-23, 2011:

Favorite Coffee Shop: Makeda Coffee, Phinney Ridge

I thought that it would be appropriate to start with coffee, considering that this is Seattle. My sister’s favorite (and now mine) hangout is Makeda Coffee. I loved the relaxed environment and friendly owner. They have delicious coffee, lattes and treats, including squash bread and gluten-free, organic doughnuts (I love Seattle). There are excellent tables for playing cribbage and I love that they will give you a dollar off wine or beer on Friday evenings if you play a board game. They also have live entertainment, and Dan could have played over the weekend, but we had to hit the road… Next time.

Oh delicious 2% latte
Makeda Coffee

Favorite Cupcake Stand: Those two girls sitting in their driveway, Phinney Ridge

When Dan and I had finished our cribbage game at Makeda Coffee we decided to leave my sister alone for a few minutes so that she could get some work done. It was a beautiful day so we took a walk around the ‘hood. We were playing the game that I invented while babysitting, Cats versus Dogs (you count the cats, you count the dogs), when we spotted the bake sale. Dan said, “Whatever those girls are selling, I’m buying one.” It turns out the girls were selling homeade and home-awesomely-decorated cupcakes and donating half of the proceeds to Japan. Dan bought one and donated a little extra. We chatted with them for a little while and they gave us some information on the neighborhood cats. We said our goodbyes, but as you will read later, this was not the last time we had the chance to see these sweet two girls who give you faith in humanity.

Bake sale
Cupcakes!

Favorite Cocktail Bar: Oliver’s Twist, Phinney Ridge

Not only does this bar have the widest selection of bitters that we have ever seen (lavender bitters?!), they also make the most sinful and rich garlic truffle popcorn that tastes like heaven during happy hour. And although I do not drink a lot of cocktails (I like beer), I think that if I lived near Oliver’s Twist, I might. My sister recommended the Bullseye- tequila, mint, lemon, ginger beer, and a couple of other things that I had to look up in the menu’s glossary. It was refreshing and oh so good. Dan tried the Presbyterian- bourbon, soda and ginger ale. Yum. We went back the next night like old regulars.

Bullseye
The Presbyterian
Upon our obvious intrigue, the bartender pulled out all of her bitters for us to see

Stay tuned for more of my favorites, including my favorite Major League Ballpark in Seattle, favorite bar to avoid getting into a brawl over ping pong and my most serendipitous moment of the trip.

I don’t think we’re in Wisconsin anymore, Toto

Hello from the Emerald City!

Too much to write right now, but this has been a magical trip to the Northwest. From everything from the beautiful (and tasty) lattes at my sister’s favorite coffee shop, Makeda Coffee, to getting to babble incoherently to my inspiration outside of Delancey last night (not to mention the mouth-watering pizza pies), I love everything Seattle this week. I’d love to tell you more, but for now I’m off for coffee and more Washington adventures.