Wednesday, July 28, 2010

White Bean and Artichoke Salad

I've been having a difficult time trying to carve out some time this week to write up the second recipe I tried over the weekend, but it's so worth the wait. I thought for sure Scoob would be beaned-out by now what with the 2 attempts at Green Bean Pesto Salad and this White Bean Salad, but he actually requested some of the leftovers with dinner last night.

White Bean and Artichoke Salad

White Bean and Artichoke Salad
Total time: 20 minutes

    3 cups white beans (2–15oz cans, drained and rinsed)
    1–14oz can quartered artichoke hearts (I sliced them once more for eighths.)
    ⅓ cup red bell pepper, diced
    ⅓ cup yellow bell pepper, diced
    ¼ cup onion, diced
    ½ cup celery, diced (1 stalk)
    ½ cup kalamata olives, sliced (15 or so whole olives)
    ⅓ cup packed parsley leaves, finely chopped
    1 Tbsp finely chopped mint
    1 cup packed basil leaves, finely chopped
    ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
    ⅓ cup red wine vinegar
    1 clove garlic, minced
    salt and pepper to taste

  1. Combine beans, artichoke hearts, red and yellow bell peppers, onion, celery, olives, and herbs in a large bowl. Place olive oil, vinegar, and garlic in a small sealable jar and shake to combine, then pour over the content of the bowl and mix well. Salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Refrigerate for several hours, or overnight, to let the flavors meld.

I used a combination of a couple recipes I found online as a jumping off point, but knew it wasn't going to be as good as what I got at the Pasta Shop. So I made a couple substitutions and additions and I really like how this turned out just as it is. I don't think I'll change a thing when I make this again.

Speaking of which, now that I've tasted it, I think I'll take this to tomorrow's barbeque instead of the Green Bean Salad. Though both are yummy. Actually, Scoob is a little resentful that I'll be taking the next batch to work. Maybe I'll have to make a double so we'll have some at home too. Either way, I'll need to stop at the store on my way home from work tonight.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Green Bean Pesto Salad

Yum. And I do mean YUM! I made this twice this past week and I still want more. Then again, I may be biased seeing as how green beans are my all-time favorite veggie. But even Scoob, who has repeatedly declared he does not like pesto, has given this the Scoob Seal of Approval.

I found I was able to make the pesto without busting out the food processor by using an immersion blender, which means not only is this painless to make, but clean up is a breeze as well. And other than bringing a pot of water to boil for blanching the beans, there's no cooking involved, so I'm filing this in the "It's Too Damn Hot to Cook" file.

I'm debating making this for a company barbeque on Thursday. What do you think?

Green Bean Pesto Salad

Green Bean Pesto Salad
Total time: 15 minutes

    1 pound of fresh green beans, stem ends trimmed
    1 small clove of garlic, peeled
    1½ cups packed basil leaves
    ½ cup packed flat parsley leaves
    juice and zest from 1 lemon
    6 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
    ¼–½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
    ⅓ cup sliced, toasted almonds
    salt and pepper to taste

  1. While bringing water to boil in a stockpot or large sauce pan, fill a large bowl with ice and cold water, trim the green beans, and place garlic, basil, parsley, lemon juice and zest, and olive oil in a food processor and blend for about 1 minute, or until pesto is smooth but slightly thick.
  2. Add Parmesan cheese and blend another 15–30 seconds. The pesto should be thick, but not stiff. If needed, add olive oil to thin it out
  3. Add green beans to boiling water and cook until bright green and crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Drain and transfer immediately to the ice bath for about 2 minutes, then drain again.
  4. Place green beans, pesto, and almonds in a large bowl and toss to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste. Can be served at room temperature or chilled.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Mad Libs

I spotted this sign while walking to my car after work:

 It makes an odd sort of sense just as it is, I mean of course any vehicle is going to be at the vehicle owner's expense. But it seems like something's missing.

My vote is for tickled. Unauthorized vehicles should be tickled at vehicle owners expense.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Thank you, everyone, for the prayers and general good vibes sent in our direction. I talked to dad again this morning and my uncle is doing pretty good. Dad said he was coherent and able to talk on the phone, but he got winded pretty fast. The doctors are now saying he does not have a punctured lung, which is a blessing.

Dad said the doctors aren't planning on surgery but will instead tape up my uncle's ribs and keep him in the hospital for a couple days to make sure the internal swelling from his injuries won't cause complications. After that, they'll bundle him off to convalesce at home.

I'm very relieved that his injuries seem so minor in comparison to what was going through my mind last night, especially considering the stretch of road he was on. It could have been so much worse. But I don't want to dwell on that. Instead, I'll concentrate on the blessings and send my prayers out for the friends and family of the other driver, who did not survive the collision.


Scoob treated me to dinner tonight and we decided to try a new sushi place near the grocery store since we needed to do the shopping too. The food was pretty good, and the prices just as reasonable as the sushi place we usually go to, but the atmosphere was just…odd. It felt like the guys behind the sushi bar were giving us the stink eye the whole time, well, at least until their friends came in. Then we were just ignored.

The 99¢ sake helped smooth my ruffled feathers, though. But I'm not sure it was a good idea to drink all that sake right before grocery shopping. I'm pretty sure I forgot something. I just don't know what it is. But, I did get everything I need to start experimenting with recipes to recreate the tasty lunches I had last week.

Unfortunately, there was bad news waiting for us when we got home. Dad had called and left a message that one of his brothers was in a head-on collision today. After the other vehicle hit him, my uncle's rig broke through the guardrail, overturned, and caught fire. The other driver was pronounced dead at the scene and my uncle is in the hospital with several broken ribs, a punctured lung, and lots of cuts and bruises.

Dad and his 3 brothers are all commercial truck drivers. Even though I know it's a dangerous occupation, none of them has ever been involved in a serious accident, at least not that I know of, and news of the wreck shook me quite a bit.

Scoob was in the shower when I spoke to dad. When he got out he found me somewhat preoccupied while putting away the groceries—apparently the milk does not belong in the pantry. Anyhow, still feeling a bit scatterbrained. I thought maybe if I put my thoughts down here and took a hot shower I could wind down enough to sleep. So, I'm off to do the second part of that plan.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

New Treats

I haven't been brown bagging it for work the last couple of days, which meant I had to leave the office and find food. I headed down the street to Pasta Shop both days and discovered some new things.

I picked up a bottle of HOTLIPS Boysenberry Soda on a whim Thursday and forgot to take a picture of the bottle before I recycled it, so I just had to go back on Friday to get another bottle. Had to I tell you.

Anyhow, the fact that it was boysenberry caught my attention because you just don't see a lot of boysenberry things outside the Pacific Northwest. When I looked into it a little more I discovered that HOTLIPS Soda is made by the same folks who run HOTLIPS Pizza in Portland, OR. Well, that explains it. It also explains why the HOTLIPS name sounded so familiar.

I also really liked the white bean and artichoke salad pictured here. It was another repeat for my Friday lunch. I also tried a green bean pesto salad, which was super yummy. It's perfect timing for me to try and recreate these at home since summer has finally arrived. It's been pretty hot here the last few days (hot by Bay Area standards, anyhow) and I'm loathe to turn on the stove or oven to cook.

Other than blanching green beans, I should be able to manage these without heating up the house. Now I just need to get to the store for some artichoke hearts and green beans; I think I have everything else I'll need on hand.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Green Chicken Masala

Mmmmmm. Mom made this dish when I was visiting back in June. My first reaction (before tasting it) was to take a quick inventory of her refrigerator to see what else I could subsist on for the next few days because I do not like Indian food. I did eat a small bowl of the marsala (because it would have been rude to refuse outright) and proceeded to have leftovers for breakfast, lunch, and dinner until it was gone. It seems my aversion to Indian food has more to do with the heavy-handed use of curry than anything else; and this recipe uses no curry.

After a little prodding, mom sent me the recipe the other day and I stopped at the store after work yesterday to pick up whatever ingredients I didn't have on hand. It's a long list of ingredients, but it's easy to assemble. I did spend a fair amount of time cursing my limited counter space as I barely have enough room to have the cutting board, ingredients, and a mini food processor out at the same time. This will be one of the recipes I'll run through in my head when we're house hunting again.

Green Chicken Masala

Green Chicken Masala

    2 cups cilantro leaves
    cup mint leaves
    3 jalapeño, coarsely chopped (plus 1 serrano)
    8 garlic cloves, crushed
    ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
    ½ cup water
    2 tablespoons canola oil
    2 large onions, finely chopped
    1 roasted chicken, cubed or shredded
    1½ teaspoons turmeric
    ½ teaspoon cinnamon
    ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
    ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
    1 cup unsweetened reduced fat coconut milk
    4 cups chicken broth
    Kosher salt
    Basmati rice, for serving

  1. In a blender, combine the cilantro, mint, jalapeño, garlic, lemon juice and water and puree until smooth.
  2. In a large, deep skillet, heat the oil. Add the onion and cook over moderately high heat, stirring frequently, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom and cloves and cook for 1 minute.
  3. Add the chicken, cilantro puree and coconut milk, chicken broth, season with salt and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat until the sauce is slightly reduced, about 15 minutes. Serve with basmati rice.

I left out the ½ cup of water while preparing the puree and, as a consession to Scoob's onion aversion, I only used 1½ onions instead of a full 2. I thought since I was using Walla Wallas he wouldn't object as much, but I did decide to puree them with an immersion blender once they'd finished cooking.

I've found he's much less likely to whine about the onions if he can't even find them. That, and I wouldn't have to watch him pick them out of his food. He really liked the meal and didn't even mention the onions until I specifically asked about it.

I had also seeded the jalapeño and serrano chiles before adding them to the food processor, mostly out of habit since the instructions don't call for it. When I make this again I'll probably keep some of the seeds in for a little more heat.

Now if you'll excuse me, it's time for lunch. Mmmmmm.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Zucchini Orzo Salad

I made this recipe a couple weeks ago with basil, and again when we got home from vacation with dill, and it was good both ways. Scoob has said this is his newest favorite dish, "Even better than macaroni salad." Which, for a Hawaiian, where nearly every meal is served with two scoops rice and macaroni salad, is saying a lot.

Either that, or it's his subtle way of telling me to quit trying to make macaroni salad, 'cause I jus' can' make da kine. You see, I've tried to make several variations of Hawaiian-style macaroni salad, but that right there is the problem—I'm trying to make a variation of it, not the real thing. The "real" thing consists of macaroni elbows, a butt load of Best Foods mayonnaise, and maybe 3 individual peas and 4 or 5 shreds of carrot. Seriously.

I like my macaroni salad to have a little zing. A little flavor. So I keep trying to find a macaroni middle ground that appeals to both of us. Even though he has liked several of the salads I've made, none of them is da kine.

Anyhow, enough about macaroni salad, on to the newest favorite, Zucchini Orzo Salad. It's super, super easy, and if you (or your neighbor) planted zucchini this year, you may want remember this one later when you've eaten all the zucchini bread you can manage and you're staring at a pile of summer squash wondering "What the hell am I going to do with all this zucchini squash?"

Zucchini Orzo Salad

Zucchini Orzo Salad
Total time: 25 minutes

    8 oz. orzo pasta (½ a box)
    3 Tbsp olive oil
    3 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
    1 tsp crushed red pepper
    Kosher salt and black pepper
    2–3 medium zucchini, cut into half-moons
    8 oz. Feta, crumbled
    ¼ cup fresh dill (or basil), chopped

  1. While waiting for water to boil for the orzo, combine the oil, vinegar, red pepper, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Add the zucchini and marinate, tossing occasionally, for 20 minutes—about the time it takes to boil the water and cook the orzo.
  2. Cook the orzo according to the package instructions, drain and run under cold water to cool.
  3. Add the orzo, Feta, and dill (or basil) to the zucchini mixture and toss to combine.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy Birthday, ‘Merica

I kept commenting on the huge dandelion puffs while we were on vacation and realized Scoob had no idea what I was talking about. We've eaten dandelion several times but apparently the man has never seen one in bloom or going to seed.

He'd never heard of using a dandelion (or buttercup, for that matter) to discover if someone liked butter. And he'd never used a dandelion puff to make a wish.

Since the dandelions were going to seed, we couldn't do anything about the first, but we did remedy his latter childhood deficiency.

When I was reviewing the photos I thought this looked a lot like a fireworks blossom. Happy Fourth!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Lassen and Lava Beds Vacation

We did a lot of driving the last few days and it was well worth the time behind the wheel. Scoob and I usually get cranky with each other on trips, but not this time. And that was really nice. This marks the third trip (first road trip, and second trip involving family) together where we didn't get irritable. Does this mean we're finally hitting a groove?

Anyhow, since we drive I-5 so regularly, I decided we would take Hwy. 99 north from Sacramento to Chico for a change of scenery before switching to Hwy. 32. There were a couple of interesting things along the way, like the gorgeous lavender farm, and kitschy things too, like a strange spherical industrial tank that someone had painted a cute face on, but there had been no shoulder to pull off onto to take pictures.

We had a brief delay in Yuba City where I got to languish in the car in the Central Valley heat while Scoob went into Target to buy flashlights we would need later in our trip. Luckily I was able to find a patch of shade in the parking lot and I munched on fresh cherries and read a book while I waited. Apparently the Target was huge and Scoob had a difficult time finding what he needed, and stopped at Starbucks for iced drinks before coming back to the car. At which point he had his snacks and realized he forgot to get something while he was in Target, so off he went again.

All in all, we were there about an hour and a half. I just had to keep telling myself we were on vacation and not to get worked up. We had nowhere that we needed to be that day and dawdling at Target wasn't going to make us late for anything. And it worked! When I would start to get irritated I'd would just think that sitting in the car reading was not all that different from sitting on the patio reading and the point was I was on vacation and relaxing. I seriously need to have these talks with myself more often.

We made it Susanville intact Friday night and went to the family reunion in Westwood on Saturday. We pitched horseshoes (my cousin and I were eliminated in the first round, though I did get two ringers! A first!) and played bingo. We played cow pasture golf, thankfully, cow pie frisbee was off the line up this year. I don't remember a spitting contest, though that's usually a regular event, too. The younguns had sack races, a balloon toss, and a hula hoop contest, and, of course, there was lots of food.

The one thing really missing this year was music. Grandpa always loved to strum his guitar and other family members would either play or sing along with him. Once he had his stroke, music sort of shifted to a group of cousins who had a band and the sing along aspect sort of tapered off. This year there was no music at all. I don't know why there was no music, but for me, the fact that Grumpy's not with us anymore made it all the more noticeable.

My immediate family headed out to Reno Saturday night to see Chelsea Handler, gamble, and whatnot, while Scoob and I headed to Lassen Volcanic National Park. I thought it would be a good idea to enter that park from the south and drive Hwy. 89 through the park to the north side since we were going to continue north. We were about 20 miles from the park entrance when I saw a sign stating Hwy. 89 was closed through the park due to snow.

Apparently they've had a late winter up there and got snow just a few weeks ago and the road is blocked by a 15' wall of snow. This is one of those reasons calling ahead is always recommended. It would have been nice if our guidebook had included contact information so we could have called, or even a note that the main road through the park was closed seasonally.

So we flipped the car around and backtracked to Westwood, then took Hwy. 44 along the north side of the park. Tough we did get some good shots of Lake Almanor and Mount Lassen as we doubled back.

Lake Almanor
Lake Almanor

Mount Lassen over Lake Almanor
Mount Lassen over Lake Almanor

It was almost 4 p.m. by the time we reached the northern entrance to the park, so we decided to skip it and just explore the forest and wind our way north to Burney where I'd planned to spend the night.

Lassen National Forest, landscape in the Hat Creek fire area
The burned out area near Hat Creek in Lassen National Forest

Life finds a foothold in wildfire area
I liked this little plant that found a foothold in a fissure of this fire-blackened boulder.

Snow Plant, Sarcodes sanguinea
I've seen this parasitic wildflower once before several years ago in Yosemite National Park.

Snow Plant, Sarcodes sanguinea
This time I got pictures. It's called a Snow Plant or Sarcodes sanguinea.

Lassen National Forest, Hat Creek running clean and clear
This section of Hat Creek looked so clear and inviting.

Lassen National Forest, on the banks of Hat Creek

Lassen National Forest, small waterfall on Hat Creek

But since we were checking in earlier than anticipated, we decided to use the time to get closer to our next destination, Lava Beds National Monument, rather than sit in a hotel room. So off we went to Alturas. Alturas turned out to be even less inviting than Burney so we grabbed a snack and headed for Klamath Falls, OR. K-Falls is only 45–60 minutes from Lava Beds whereas Alturas is 90 minutes and we knew we'd be able to find more comfortable lodgings there.

For those who don't know, I'm Modoc (among other nationalities) on my dad's side and Lava Beds was part of the tribe's traditional lands. I won't get into a history lesson here suffice it to say several points within the monument are important for various reasons. I've always meant to make the time to come here and I'm glad I finally did.

Lava Beds National Monument entrance

Lava Beds National Monument, Devil's Homestead
This is a section of the monument called Devil's Homestead.

Lava Beds National Monument, Captain Jack's Stronghold
This is part of Captain Jack's Stronghold. I had to restrain myself from punctuating the Park Service sign, which reads Captain Jacks Stronghold.

Lava Beds National Monument, hiking Captain Jack's Stronghold
Scoob and me hiking in the Stronghold, where ±55 Modoc fighters held off aprrox. 600 U.S. Army troops for 5 months.

Lava Beds National Monument, finding life in unexpected places in the Lava Beds
Finding life in unexpected places.

Lava Beds National Monument, dragonfly
This little guy was an excellent subject and kept returning to pose on this perch.

Lava Beds National Monument, Big Painted Cave trail
On the trail to the Big Painted Cave. That's Scoob schlepping back to the car to get water. He says he figured it was easier to go back and get water than pack my heat exhausted body out of there. Now that there is trust—giving him the keys to the car and letting him leave me behind in this blasted land.

Lava Beds National Monument, Indian Paintbrush, Castilleja applegatei
Indian paintbrush or Castilleja applegatei alongside the trail.

Lava Beds National Monument, purple salvia, Salvia Dorii, against black volcanic rocks
I think this is Salvia dorrii, but I thought it was striking with the black volcanic stones in the background.

Lava Beds National Monument, juniper skeleton
Juniper skeleton.

Lava Beds National Monument, crater leading to Big Painted Cave
Looking down into the crater where Big Painted Cave is located.

Lava Beds National Monument, narrow entrance to Big Painted Cave
That's the throat of the cave. Oh yeah, we went down there.

Lava Beds National Monument, icy floors inside Big Painted Cave
Inside Big Painted Cave. That's ice on the floor of the cave and it was cold in there.
A nice respite from the heat outside.

Lava Beds National Monument, exiting Big Painted Cave
Shimmying back out of the cave.

Lava Beds National Monument, climbing back out of the maw of Big Painted Cave
The maw leading out to the crater from the inside.

Before going to Big Painted Cave we went to Mushpot Cave which the Park Service has made much more user-friendly–installing stairs down into the cave, highlighting different lava tube formations with permanent lighting, and leveling and paving the cave floor with concrete. I wanted to try Mushpot first to make sure I could handle being underground in tight quarters before attempting an undeveloped cave.

After our adventures in spelunking we decided to go for a more standard hike to the top of Petroglyph Point. This is the location where, according to Modoc oral tradition, the land was created. Kamookumpts, the Creator, is said to be sleeping under this bluff.

Lava Beds National Monument, Petroglyph Bluff Trail
The trail up Petroglyph Bluff, or in my case Petrogrlyph Huff and Puff Bluff.
Scoob had no problem getting to the top except that he had to wait for me to catch my breath a few times.

Lava Beds National Monument, wind eroded volcanic rock at the top of Petroglyph Point
Beautiful wind eroded landscape at the top of Petroglyph Point.

Lava Beds National Monument, cliff swallows nesting at Petroglyph Point
Swallows were everywhere and we noticed the condominiums of nests in the crevasses.

Lava Beds National Monument, close up of nesting swallow at Petroglyph Point
Peeking out from an apartment.

Lava Beds National Monument, petroglyphs at Petroglyph Point
After hiking to the top and finding no petroglyphs, we realized they were at the bottom.
Oh well, it was good exercise.

Lava Beds National Monument, petroglyphs at Petroglyph Point
Nearly the entire side of the bluff had been carved with petroglyphs.

Lava Beds National Monument, petroglyphs at Petroglyph Point

unobstructed view of Mount Shasta
Lovely views of Mount Shasta on the drive home.

It was a great trip and even Scoob had a good time. I never thought I would go into a cave, even though I've always kind of wanted to. And if Scoob hadn't been with me, I probably would have stopped at the throat of the cave instead of going in.

But of all the things we experienced on this trip, the strangest had to be our trip to the grocery store in Klamath Falls. There we were, strolling the aisles, replenishing our road food when a young Native woman approached me saying she'd been moved by the Holy Spirit and wanted my permission to pray for Scoob and me as a couple–more for him than me she said. Two questions came to mind—since when do you need permission to pray for someone? and if she wanted to pray for Scoob, why wasn't she asking him?

Since there's no such thing as having too many prayers said on your behalf, I consented and she, Scoob, and I had a little prayer circle going in the bakery section.