Friday, August 28, 2015

Nectarine Shortcake

We had a ton of ripe nectarines to use up a few weeks ago.  Inspired by my friend's double-stacked strawberry shortcake from this post, I made a nectarine one.  I was baking my 4-year old's birthday cake anyway, and I didn't need the whole recipe of this pound cake.  With the leftover batter, I made a small cake in a loaf pan and used that.  I thought this combo might be weird but it was just divine! The whole fam loved it.  I did over-whip the cream, but oh well.  It still tasted great.

Nectarine Shortcake
(idea from googling "Nectarine Shortcake)

1 loaf pound cake, store-bought or homemade
4-6 medium nectarines, slice and cut each slice into 3-4 pieces
1/4 cup sugar (I used vanilla sugar)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, if not using vanilla sugar
whipped cream

1.  Toss the nectarines, sugar, and vanilla extract together in a bowl and let sit for at least 15 minutes.

2.  Sliced the pound cake into equal slices.  Place one slice on a plate.  Top with the nectarine mixture and whipped cream.  Top with another slice, and top that again with nectarines and whipped cream. Serve.

**This post and photos are property of**

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Sequim, WA (+ more)

In July, we spent a week in Sequim, WA.  During that trip, we also went to Neah Bay and Cape Flattery, and Victoria, Canada, but I'll post about that later.  Today I'll include some photos from Sequim and the surrounding areas.  (Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park, and Port Townsend). The above pic is a lavender field at Graymarsh Berry Farm.  Sequim is known for their lavender and they have a Lavender Festival, which we were there for! (Below.)  We bought a few lavender things, including lovely Lavender Caramel Sauce.

We went to Graymarsh Berry Farm and picked our own raspberries, above.  We also saw a bald eagle while we were there.  The next three pics are when our family hiked the Dungeness Spit; the longest sand spit in the US.  We didn't hike the whole thing.   

We enjoyed grilling some Sockeye Salmon and corn on the cob, above, and then enjoying the beautiful sunset from our little rental vacation cabin, below.

We met friends and had a lovely day at Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park.  Breathtaking views; just amazing.  I was too busy talking to take very many photos that day.

The three photos above are from Port Townsend.  We visited their farmer's market, which was full of organic produce and breads and other cool things.  My friend made the delicious strawberry shortcake.  I liked it so much I made a nectarine version when we got home (will post that sometime later).  Then, the last pic is delicious grilled salmon we ate while we were there.  Obviously, I forgot to take a pic until it was mostly devoured.  The pic below is of a sunset we enjoyed on a beach in Port Townsend.

**This post and photos are property of **

Monday, August 24, 2015

Pear Crostata

We have two pear trees in the yard (surprise! never saw them last year!) and although they are not producing a ton, they are producing more than we can eat, so I needed a way to use up more.  I've been giving some away too, which helps.  I have always wanted to try a crostata so I did just that.  In case someone doesn't know, a crostata is just fruit filling folded up free-form into a pastry or pie crust and baked. Less work and a lot more rustic than a usual pie.

Pear Crostata 
adapted from relish

1 recipe pastry for single-crust pie (recipe suggestion follows)
1 1/2 pounds firm-ripe pears, peeled, halved, cored and quartered, each quarter cut in 3 slices
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup plus 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar, divided
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 pinch freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1.  Take pastry or pie dough and roll out on a sheet of parchment paper to a 12-inch circle.  Slide parchment onto a baking sheet and chill 30 minutes in refrigerator. (optional... I forgot this and it was fine.)

2.  Preheat oven to 400F.  Toss pears with lemon juice in a medium bowl. Combine 1/2 cup sugar with flour, cinnamon and nutmeg in a small bowl. Sprinkle over pears; toss gently. Add vanilla; toss again.
3.  Arrange pear filling in center of pastry to within 1 1/2 inches of the edges. Working quickly, fold and pleat edges of dough up and over pears. Dot pears with butter and sprinkle remaining 1½ teaspoons sugar over top of pastry and pears.  Bake 40 minutes, or until pastry is golden and pears are tender. Let cool 10 minutes before slicing.

Mom's Pie Crust
from my Mom... obviously

1 cup vegetable shortening
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour, stirred and measured
1/4 cup cold water

1. Measure shortening into bowl. Add salt and half of flour. Stir with a spoon until ingredients cream together and mixture is smooth and satiny. Add water and remaining flour. Stir with spoon until mixture clings together in ball. Roll out as desired on a generously floured board. Don't be afraid to handle or overmix. Makes 2 (9-inch) pastry shells or enough for 1 double pie. (Will only use half for the pear crostata, unless you want to make two crostatas.)  

**This post and photos are property of **

Friday, August 21, 2015

Hoh Rain Forest, Washington

We visited Hoh Rain Forest in Washington State this summer.  Here are some pics from our quick hike there.  I'm glad we were able to take the kids here- it's a beautiful place and they loved exploring it.  It wasn't wet and drippy like it usually is, due to the drought in the Western US this summer.

**This post and photos are property of**

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Crunchy Black Bean Tacos

These tacos were quick, easy, and very tasty.  They're also meatless and gluten free, if you use corn tortillas.  They're kind of like quesadillas.  The grown-ups loved these but some of the kids didn't, for some reason.  They're weirdos, sometimes.  
Crunchy Black Bean Tacos
adapted from The Kitchn

2 cups cooked black beans
1/2 cup minced red onion
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
Pinch of salt
4 to 6 ounces (1 heaping cup) grated Pepper Jack or Cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
8 corn tortillas

Hot sauce
Sour cream

1.  In a medium bowl, add beans along with red onion, cilantro, cumin, and paprika. Add a pinch of salt and lightly mash all the ingredients together. Grate the cheese and have it ready.

2.  In a large, nonstick or cast-iron skillet, add the 2 tablespoons oil and heat over medium-high heat. Add one corn tortilla at a time and let each get hot in the oil for a few seconds. Then add about 1/4 cup of the bean filling to one half of the tortilla. Top with a sprinkle of grated cheese. Try not to overfill the tacos, or you might have issues flipping them without losing filling.

3.  Using a spatula, carefully fold the other half of the tortilla over to form a shell. Press down lightly on the tortilla so it holds its shape. It's ok if some cheese spills out.  As the first taco cooks, move it to the side and begin a second one. Depending on the size of your pan, you can cook two or three tacos at once. A griddle will hold even more.

4.  Cook each taco until they are nicely browned and crispy, about 3 minutes per side. When flipping the taco to cook on the other side, use a spatula and flip the taco toward the fold so the filling doesn’t fall out. If your pan is very dry between batches, add another drizzle of oil.

5.  If you wish, place the cooked tacos in a warm oven while you finish the rest. If the tacos are very greasy, blot them with a paper towel before moving them to the oven.  Serve tacos with toppings like hot sauce, salsa, avocados, and sour cream.
**This post and photos are property of**

Monday, August 17, 2015

Westport, Washington

For a week of our summer vacation we stayed in Westport, Washington.  We loved it!  It's a small fishing town on the WA coast.  We stayed within walking distance to the beach, and since Westport is small and non-touristy, we had it almost to ourselves some days.  It was awesome!  The beach is nice and flat and sandy and vast.  We went every day, even if it was raining.  Here are some pics from that week.  Above is a pic of some of the sand dollars we collected the very first day we were there. There were so many, even whole perfect ones, that we stopped collecting them after that first day. I've never seen a beach with so many!
This is the view off the porch at our rental house.  The street was quiet and peaceful, and the front yard was full of pine trees perfect for the kids to climb.  I ate breakfast out here every day.
My little guy walking to the beach the first day.  All of the kids loved going, even the walk there.
Horseback riders and their doggies on the beach.
The Westport Lighthouse.  Within easy walking distance of our vacation rental.  A great Greek restaurant is across the street!  ;)
Ready to follow the big kids on bikes on this awesome walking/biking path close to our vacation rental.  (The rental had bikes to borrow, as well!)  This walk provides an awesome view of the ocean the whole way, sometimes even surfers, and is well cared-for.
Dinner one night in our rental- we got fresh halibut and salmon from the docks.  We also had Caesar salad, corn on the cob (can't get that in Italy!), fresh watermelon, and Parmesan Orzo.
Cute little free library in a yard on "our" street.
Cranberry Bog!  One can't tour the Ocean Spray factory in Westport, so don't even try.  We learned the hard way, lol!
The last half of our stay was gorgeous and sunny.
All kinds of wild berries we found on a hike in the area.
One of many huge fishing boats at the docks in Westport.  Lots of good fish comes in through these docks!

**This post and photos are property of**

Friday, August 14, 2015

Sauteed Zucchini with Feta

I LOVED this dish!  Loved!  For some reason my pics turned out really dark and kind of un-appetizing, but don't let that turn you off to this recipe.  This recipe is super easy, cheap (using zucchini in season from the store or even better, using your own!) and so good.  Zucchini just needs to be seasoned enough, and it is, in this recipe.  If using zucchini from your garden, don't use the huge ones.  Harvest them while still very small for the best flavor and texture in this recipe.  I bought ones that were about six inches long and maybe the width of two fingers, so pretty small.  You can use smaller, as well.  (If you're lucky enough to buy tiny zucchinis with the flowers still attached, chop those up and throw them in too!)  The original recipe calls for zucchini and yellow summer squash, but I just used zucchini.
Sauteed Zucchini with Feta
adapted from the Kitchn

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 medium red onion, diced
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves (or 1/2 tsp dry)
2 cups diced zucchini, summer squash, or a mix (I used only zucchini; choose small ones)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup crumbled feta

1.  Warm a large skillet over high heat, then add the olive oil, red onion, and thyme. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until the onion is soft, then add the zucchini and squash. Season with 1/2 teaspoon of salt (or to taste!) and a couple grinds of black pepper, and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until the squash is tender and has a little color. Scoop the squash into a serving bowl and top with crumbled feta. Serve immediately.
**This post and photos are property of*