What did Mommy do?

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I’ve come to the conclusion that I am destined to always have pets. Not just cats, not just a dog, but pets. When Jessie died I thought we would be dog-less for a long time. I didn’t think there would be another dog that I just loved as much or who would fit into the house as well. She is irreplaceable, but I’ve learned that there is enough love in our house for another dog.

I discovered this because I went to the local animal rescue to look at a dog whose eyes drew me in. She, however, is not good with cats, so I didn’t even meet her. I did decide to look around at the other dogs. They were cute, but they were not right for me. That is, until I came to one little guy in his run. He, unlike the other dogs, didn’t run, jump or bark when I walked by; he walked up to me, smelled my hand, licked once and laid his muzzle along my hand. My heart started to melt. I took a picture to show Bob because I was beginning to think a new dog would be just fine.

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Bob agreed to look at said dog the next day. He was a little concerned but we agreed that if either of us was uncertain we would not adopt him and be without a dog for a while longer. We didn’t take him home on that first visit together, but later that day, the dog who needed a home and a name was ours.

Welcome Arthas – the newest member of the household. He is a little under a year and a half and had a very rough beginning. He was rescued from a hoarding situation in February or March, was severely underweight and extremely timid. He has some scars from fighting for food, but they don’t detract from how adorable he is. The rescue did a phenomenal job with him and he is super friendly with people. He now needs to loose a little weight, but he walks well on a leash, and he likes to play, so that should help. He likes his walks and will go wherever you want him to go. He’s a little nervous around cars, but he’s getting there. He has also learned the dog door in a day and he uses it regularly!

He is also a little bit of a couch potato.

Arthas has very limited vision (so he fits well with the family) and is totally blind in one eye which means, in part, that he wants to sniff the cats. He’s not aggressive with them, but he is curious. Ms. Leia is not amused and right now we are working on helping her get along with him. She is getting better, but it will take time. Gracie and Tigger are fine unless he gets very playful, then they just go to our room and hang out where he can’t accidentally hurt them. I can’t say this is the smoothest transition ever, but we are getting there.

Jessie will always be my baby and will always hold a special place in my heart. But like the kittens didn’t replace Patches, Arthas isn’t replacing Jessie. He is just a puppy who needed a home and someone to love him. He was the right dog and has already wormed his way into our hearts.

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The Rest of Portland

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The stated purpose for the Portland trip was a beer festival. Val and Bill decided they wanted to see Portland and found a large beer festival to determine the timing. Since Portland has been on our list, and Bob loves beer, we decided to meet them out there.

So the beer festival. It’s big. There are a lot of beers and a lot of people. While beer is not my thing (see post on wine tour) I still had a good time watching everyone else enjoy their experience. And honestly, the people watching was pretty fascinating.

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In addition to the beer festival, we wandered around Portland and did a few of the things everyone says you should do when you go to Portland. We toured the Japanese Gardens, which were beautiful and serene. They are not as large as you might expect when looking at a map, but they do take you out of the city and transport you to a different place.

We had a number of recommendations to visit Powell’s Bookstore. This is the largest independent bookstore in the country and it is massive. Taking up an entire city block, and four or five stories, if you can’t find a book here, you aren’t trying. Or, if you are like me, you gave up because of the crowds and minor claustrophobia issue. Had there been a few less people, I could have wandered the aisles endlessly. But … I experienced and Bob found some books he wanted.

No trip could be complete without a good meal. Bob and I ate at Beast one night. This is one of the few restaurants that people tell you to try and you worry that it won’t live up to the hype. It lived up to the hype. The menu was light and refreshing and downright delicious. And for a restaurant called Beast, there was surprisingly little meat on the menu – yay! We also found a cute little place called Picnic House that had the best sandwiches. We also tried Higgins – a place not far from our hotel that several local’s recommended as a Portland experience. It was good, and the restaurant itself was very pretty on the inside, but it didn’t hold any magic for me. It could have been because it was our last night and I really just wanted to be home by this point. it could have been that I was tired from walked all day for several days. It could be that it was meat heavy and I had already had meat that week. It could have been any number of things, but it was good, not great.

So Portland … the city was interesting and I love the transit network and how walkable the whole city is. I’m not in a rush to get back to the city itself, but I really do want to explore the wine country more and some of the other natural areas outside the city. Maybe even check out the coast.

Wine Tour

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On our trip to Oregon the second thing I wanted to do was tour the wine country. I like a good Pino Noir and would love to dive deeper into wine, but Florida is not the place to do that. But, if we are going to be in Oregon where they do have a wine country, I want to take a day and explore. Despite this being a trip timed for a beer festival, Bob was in total agreement with the idea of a wine tour.

One of the first things I did was look around for a tour company. I knew I didn’t want to try to drive if I was going to be tasting wines, and I don’t know anything about where to go, or which wineries to avoid. I did a little research and decided to go with Backcountry Wine Tours. I liked that they kept all tours small and they specialized in wineries. A few other companies looked ok, but they did other types of tours, not just wineries and that made me nervous. I wanted to explore wine and the wine country so Backcountry it was.

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This was one of my better decisions. From the initial email exchanges to the tour itself, everything was perfect. We were able to let them know they types of wines we usually drink and what we wanted – which was really just a great day out. I know what I generally like, but both of us were up for trying anything. We ended up on a tour by ourselves (which was great, but I would not have minded other people either) so Jack – the owner of the company and our guide – was able to build the tour around us and what we wanted. After our first stop, he even changed where we went next based on the wine we liked at the first stop.

So the highlights of the day. I ended up liking a lot of wine which should not surprise anyone. But I found a pretty great white wine as well as some beautiful pinks and a few lovely Pino Noirs. But in addition to the wine, the scenery, the views, just watching the world go by as we drove around, was pretty specular. The highlight of the day, which I’m sure was planned by Jack, was Soter.

Soter takes the wine tasting experience to the next level. Rather than just popping in whenever and tasting a few wines, Soter schedules wine tastings. We were greeted with a glass of rose as we walked up to the main building. We had some time to wander around, see the gardens and appreciate the views before we were taken to one of the smaller buildings for a sit down wine tasting that also included some history of the region and the winery. And the wine was amazing. I could go on for several paragraphs about the wines themselves, but I will refrain. We loved this whole day, and Soter was an amazing way to end that day.

 

Stop and Smell the Roses

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A few months ago Val texted me and asked if Bob and I would like to join her and Bill in Portland for a beer festival. Portland has been on our travel list for a while, but when Val asked, we still had Jessie and were pretty uncertain about what we could do. I also had to look at my school stuff and figure out if I could make it work. Well, with Jessie no longer with us, we started talking about it and looking at it and decided, sure. We can make this work.

There were two things on my list that I absolutely wanted to do. One was a wine tour (more on that in another post) and one was the Rose Garden. I *love* flowers and roses, while not my favorite flower, remind me of dad and grandmom. I still remember dad pruning the tea roses out front of the first house we lived in and mom’s mom grew these bushes of roses that always just amazed me. On our first full day in Portland we walked to Washington Park and hit the rose garden first. I could have spent the whole day there.

The rose garden is probably not as huge as I imagine it, but there were several sections including test roses and gold medal roses. There were roses of every color, of every size and they were all in full bloom. I actually stopped and smelled the roses. And lingered and took pictures, but really, I just basked in the roses.

The Rose Garden alone made going to Portland worth it. And this is coming from someone who usually plans trips around food and history. But for Portland, it was the roses. And the wine, but again, that is another post all together.

 

Soba noodles

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Noodles.  How can anyone not like noodles? I fully admit, I’m a sucker for good noodle dishes, and once I stopped overcooking soba noodles, they have become a real favorite. I can make them a little like a stir fry – make a sauce, lightly cook up some vegetables, maybe add some nuts on top – and you have dinner. Or lunch, but usually dinner.


I looked around at a lot of recipes – I wanted something spicy but maybe a little sweet. I wanted peanut for some reason, but not a heavy peanut sauce. I read a lot of recipes, but when it came to making dinner, I decided to just wing it. After all, if it doesn’t work, we’ll just order pizza.

So I started with what I had in the fridge. Snow peas, bean sprouts (was going to make pad thai and I changed my mind), carrots, yellow pepper, scallions. Amounts … here is my best guess:

  • 2 carrots, cut into matchsticks
  • 3 scallions, white and light green parts
  • 1/4 yellow pepper
  • one handful bean sprouts
  • 2 handfuls snow peas

Ok, that works for the vegetables. Canola oil to cook them in – have that. Now for a sauce. Here is what I went with (Bob had me write it down as soon as we finished dinner – he really liked this one):

  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon chili garlic sauce
  • 1.5 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey

Cook the noodles slightly less than the package says – I went with 2 minutes. drain and run cold water over to stop the cooking.


While the water boiled I chopped and then quick sautéed the vegetables (not the bean sprouts) – about three minutes cooking. Once the noodles were done I added them to the pan and tossed everything in the sauce. Add the bean sprouts, toss again. Done.

Falafel Burger

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Every now and then I want a burger. It doesn’t have to be a hamburger, but just that patty on a bun thing. With fries.  Have to have the fries. It’s probably all about the fries and not really about the burger, but it might be a little bit about the burger.

The grocery stores have a good variety of veggie burgers these days, but there is something about making your own that appeals to me. And since I had a little bit of time I decided to try it.

found a recipe that looked pretty appealing. I still had leftover chipotle bbq sauce that I made the other week and this recipe called for BBQ sauce in the burger mix. I like bbq burgers, so why not. I did modify the recipe a little – in place of breadcrumbs I used oats. Not to make it gluten free but because I didn’t have breadcrumbs on hand. (Weird, I know) I also used less of some ingredients and more of others than the recipe called for – in other words I did exactly what I always do with recipes, I use them as a suggestion and basic guide.

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And because I was making burgers, I made fries – my favorite kind of fries, homemade sweet potato fries. These are stupidly simple to make – cut up sweet potato, coat in oil, salt and pepper and bake at 400 for about 20 minutes. Done. Slightly salty, slightly sweet and comfort food in its best form.

I froze the remaining burger mix as patties so I can just pop them in the oven and have a quick meal when needed. If I make them again, I will remember to not use the food processor on the vegetables – give the burger a little more texture. But overall, I really liked these and like that I have a simple home made burger base to work from. Bob liked them too, but to him they were more a variation on falafel than a burger, so we’ve dubbed these falafel burgers.

Catching Up

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It’s been busier than anticipated around here. I can’t pin point exactly why, but every time I think about making a post, the time gets away from me. Here it is – half way through July – and I’m still feeling like I have a thousand things to do. Part of this is school (cramming semester classes into eight weeks will do that).

I did manage to make a few delicious things over the weeks. I took leftover quinoa taco filling and made nachos. Oh my! I think in the few weeks since I discovered this, I’ve made these four or five times. Yes, they are that good.

It’s a simple concept, really. Chips – the kind we usually use for dipping with salsa – into a buttered pan. You probably don’t need to butter the pan, but I’m always afraid of things sticking and the burning, so buttered pan it is. On top of the chips I added roasted corn (or pan roasted if I’m being lazy) and the quinoa taco filling. To that I added regular queso and some shredded Gruyère because that is what I had on hand. A cheddar or cheese mix would work just as well here. I then repeated with a second layer of everything and tossed them in a 375 degree oven for ten minutes.

While the chips and cheese were melting, I made the salsa topping. I used the leftover tomato, red onion and lime salsa from the tacos, added a little more tomato and some scallion and tossed. I did add a little salt, but no more lime juice. Once the chips were out of the oven, I plated them and added the tomato mix on top. The results … perfection. I had these about 20 minutes before Bob got home for lunch, and the man is lucky I love him so much or I would not have saved him any. Seriously, it was almost the Truffle Mac & Cheese incident all over.

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It is also mango season and I had to get a mango at the farmer’s market the other week. I wasn’t sure exactly what to do with it, but I decided on Mango Panna Cotta. I love this stuff and it is stupidly simple to make. I started with half of David Leibovitz’s recipe and puree’d the mango that I had on hand. I did use regular gelatin in the recipe because I still had some in the cabinet, so these weren’t exactly vegetarian, but it works for now. If I can find Agar in my grocery, I’m swapping the next time I need a gelatin like ingredient. But I digress … I made the basic mixture then added about a half cup of pureed mango to it, poured into glasses, let it set for an hour and then added more to the top of each panna cotta. Dessert.

We also took the kitties to the vet last week. Yes, all three at once. They are all healthy and doing well and the vet was impressed with how well Ms. Leia was doing. It’s hard to believe they are all nine years old now!