Monday, June 29, 2015

Rewarding Dinner

N and I took a weekend off to spend time with my Dad & siblings, plus five additional days at Nehalem Bay State Park. We returned to an Oregon heat wave with (what seemed like) double chores to catch up on. Oi.

My treadmill (I'm happy to share it, but other family members aren't as interested) has been having issues over the past 4 months. First the main board burnt out. Thankfully it was covered by the warranty, even though Livestrong US has been bought out by Horizon. Then it became apparent that the board failure was due to friction issues with the walking belt.

Another walking belt was ordered and arrived during our absence. I was okay with waiting a little longer to get back to my exercise routine, but N dived right into the project. The six hour project. Made more difficult by the limited space to work in, a bolt that needed to be replaced and (of course) the heat. It wasn't as hot as the previous days, but hot enough to require N to pace himself.

I decided he deserved a special meal. One worthy of the effort put into the treadmill. I was so glad (even though I cooked without Fran's help) everything turned out well.

The recipe below came from One important note: I assumed the author meant 3 heads of garlic--cloves would turn to charcoal.

Mashed garlic sweet potatoes
From the pantry, you'll need: garlic, powdered ginger, ground coriander, butter, olive oil or canola oil.

Serves 4-6; can be doubled.

2 large sweet potatoes
3 heads garlic, skin on
1/4 tsp powdered ginger
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/8 tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp fresh black pepper
2-3 Tbsp heavy cream
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp olive oil or canola oil
10-12 tiny sage leaves (or 3-4 large ones, cut into pieces)

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Prick the sweet potatoes with a fork in a few places, and place on a rimmed baking sheet along with the whole garlic cloves. Bake for 1 hour. Remove from the oven and set aside until the potatoes are just cool enough to handle. Peel the potatoes and garlic, and add them to a mixing bowl.

Mash the potatoes together with the ginger, coriander, salt, pepper, cream and butter, until the potatoes are as smooth as you like them (I like them a little bit chunky).

Transfer the potatoes to a serving bowl; cover the bowl with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic directly on the surface of the potatoes, and set aside.

In a small frying pan, heat the olive (or canola) oil. When the oil is hot, fry the sage leaves until they are crisp but still green, 15-20 seconds. Remove from the pan and garnish the sweet potatoes.

Serve hot.

This next recipe comes from I only made a slight change--I didn't flip the cabbage wedges.

Roasted Cabbage with Bacon

Serves 4 to 6
1 head green or Savoy cabbage, outer leaves removed
Olive oil
Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 slices thick bacon, 6 to 8 ounces

Heat the oven to 450°F. Cut the cabbage into quarters and slice the bottom of each quarter at an angle to partially remove the stem core. Cut each quarter in half again so you have eight wedges. Lay these down on a large roasting pan or baking sheet and drizzle very lightly with olive oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.

Cut each slice of bacon into small strips and lay on top of the cabbage.

Roast for 30 minutes, flipping the cabbage wedges once halfway through. If the edges aren't browned enough for your taste after 30 minutes, put them back in for five-minute increments until they are.

Serve immediately; the wedges cool down fast.

Recipe Notes
Roasting Rack: Some cooks prefer to roast the cabbage on a rack, which helps the edges crisp up and brown more. But when you roast it flat in a pan more of the bacon and its drippings stay with the cabbage, which I prefer.
Types of Cabbage: You can use any sort of cabbage with this recipe. I've never used red cabbage but I am sure it would work beautifully. I also like roasting Savoy cabbage; it tends to give you smaller, more manageable wedges.

*The final item on the menu was less a recipe than something I've learned from Fran:
brined chicken breasts:
I added 1/4 c of kosher salt, approximately 1/4 tsp of each of the following--ground pepper, garlic, cumin seed and ground ginger to warmish water. Stir to dissolve. Add chicken breasts and brine--two hours is the optimal amount of time. Though a quick brine 15 minute brine does improve the flavor of the meat.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015


Here are a couple of our favorite 2015 re-purposed life helpers:

We heard about the first one via a relative. I have to admit, I don't always drink bottled wine. Sometimes I buy Bota Box. You know that awesome bladder in the box? The one that keeps (most) air from ruining the quality of the wine? If you take the time to thoroughly rinse the bladder, fill it with water and put it in the freezer, you'll always have an ice pack ready for a get away OR ice in the freezer in case the power goes out. An ice pack that won't leak, that can be laid flat, between items or up against the side of a cooler AND you won't feel guilty if you toss it out.

The second one happened after N and I were brainstorming over what to do for a dog tie-out when we're camping. We were frustrated over how the spiral tie-out stakes don't always perform as they should--due to the ground being too hard or too soft. When we tie the dogs up to the picnic table, they usually wind themselves into difficult to unwind situations.
Keep in mind, our two dogs are both under 20 lbs. After just one camping trip, I'm ready to give it a high five. We take an empty Kirkland laundry detergent bottle (170 fluid ounces), fill with water (once we arrive at our camping spot) and use the handle to loop the pup's cables through. The bottle is completely portable, if we discover the current location isn't working well or if we decide to move our lawn chairs.