This holiday season has so far been fantastic! Except for maybe today, now that the Pineapple Express has made it this far north again, warming things up so much that it is raining here, melting away all of our festive and lovely snow. Yes, people, stranger things have happened: I said lovely and snow in the! same! sentence! I think I am finally getting into this whole winter thing again, as memories of the beach, crashing waves, warm nights, and cool mojitos recede farther back into the recesses of my brain. It’s a slippery slope, though, and I must be careful because lingering too long in thoughts of paradise and palm trees just might send me back into Anti-Winter mode.
But nevertheless, our little Arctic Blast and Abundant Snowfall was fun while it lasted. We played and played in the snow and drank hot drinks and in general were just really merry. Christmas Eve was a snowy fun-filled day that involved one creative and crazy sled building project (the product of what happens when you leave two full grown engineers alone with a huge shipping crate, a pair of old skis, and a retired snowboard), eating lots of snacks and sweets, and then feasting on a smoked turkey and other sumptuous goods. To burn it all off, we decided to take said shipping crate, or creatively, “The Box”, down Brian’s 1/4 mile long driveway, and onto Wnuk Road all the way to Snowden Road, a journey of about 1 mile of harrowing fun. It was dark and blizzarding, making navigating the unweildly beast a little dicey. Filled with 4 kids and 2 grown women, and one captain, this unassuming crate on skis was about as much fun as you can have in a plain old wooden box!
Having recovered from the Box, I finally got to entertain last night. A houseful of 7 bipeds and 7 quadrapeds made for a cozy evening in the Cabin. I roasted up the pork loin I had intended to cook for Christmas Dinner, but was too tired to deal with it after a day of skiing on Mt. Hood. With various sides and plenty of libations to wash it all down, it was a feast.
Many of my guests’ favorite, though, was the garlic bread, and this is what I want to talk to you about today. I have been making the bread I used for Friday’s garlic bread (or Crack Bread, as Ryan calls it) for about a year now. The recipe came from my friend Talia, sent in the mail as part of a care package, and written on a 4×6 notecard. In the top corner, she wrote *This is the best bread ever. Because it is so easy, simple, and tasty, I couldn’t agree more.
The Best Bread Ever is a country-style bread that technically requires No Kneading, and takes less than 5 minutes to mix up, making it just about as fast and easy as using a bread machine, but producing a far superior product. The resulting loaf is tender, has a good crust, and is versatile enough to be used for sandwiches and even french toast in a pinch.
Because it is so easy to make, I encourage everyone to make up a loaf for your New Year’s Dinner, maybe in the form of Crack Bread. Or just sliced and warmed and spread with butter. Either way, you won’t be disappointed, and might even resolve to bake all of your household bread in the coming New Year, retire your bread machine, and get back to basics by using a good old wooden spoon and some elbow grease instead.
Country Bread, adapted from Talia’s Recipe
Yield 1 large free-form loaf
2 cups hot tap water (110 F)
2 T. active dry yeast
2 t. sugar or honey
1 T. table salt
4-1/2-5 cups unbleached all-purpose, or bread, flour
1. Pour water into a large bowl. Sprinkle yeast on top, then add sugar or honey. Let stand until dissolved and starting to foam, about 5 minutes.
2. Add salt and about 4-1/2 cups flour, one cup at a time, stirring well with a wooden spoon after each addition. Dough will be sticky, but should pull away from sides of the bowl.
3. With floured hands, knead dough briefly (about 1 minute) in bowl. Cover bowl with a clean kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place for 45 minutes.
4. Punch down, and let rise again for 1 hour.
5. Lightly oil a large baking sheet. Form dough into a loaf, about 4×14” and place on baking sheet. Cover loaf lightly with flour, then cover with towel and let rise on pan for 45 min.
6. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 and place a small pan of water on the upper rack, in a back corner. Bake bread for about 20-25 minutes, or until crust is lightly golden.
7. Remove loaf from pan and cool on a wire rack.
Crack Bread, adapted from “Parmesan Cheese Toasts”, The New Vegetarian Epicure by Anna Thomas
Yield varies depending on size of slices
1/2 stick salted butter, room temperature
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
Salt and Pepper
Small handful of grated Parmesan (preferably grated on a Microplane grater)
1. Preheat broiler with top rack at it’s highest position.
2. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl, stirring well.
3. Spread slices of a baguette or Country Bread generously with the cheesy butter, taking care to cover all the way to the edges of the bread so they do not burn.
4. Place slices on a broiler pan, or baking sheet and broil until golden and bubbly—watching closely, because they burn fast!
Ten days ago, I was begrudgingly hanging red lights to liven up our porch, and stringing these unconventional yellow lights (with a tan cord!) on our jade plant that is doubling as a Christmas tree, having literally to force the Fa La La La La La around here. I was feeling just sort of bleh about the holidays, and couldn’t even get into the mood to bake cookies. With temperatures in the 60’s, and mountain bike rides at 4500’, who could even dream of skiing, eggnog, snow tires and all that Wintry business? I was convinced that we would be living in eternal fall, in this dream world of perfect trail conditions, crisp, fresh air, and days filled with raking the last batches of poplar leaves that finally made it to the ground, until, well, Spring when we would live warmer, longer days filled with mowing grass and biking through fields of wildflowers, until, well, Fall. You get the picture, I can guess, that I am a fan of mild weather.
But Winter’s icy fingers finally waved hello—literally overnight—and we got cold, cold temperatures and little dusting of snow. Then its icy palm gripped us tightly and still hasn’t let go, with 3 feet of snow falling just like that, kissing Autumn goodnight and sending her right into hibernation. And it’s still snowing; the closure of most of our major highways leading out of the Columbia Gorge makes it very tempting to retreat to hibernation ourselves.
This change in the weather—which I, to my own surprise even, have welcomed completely—has brought many consecutive days of cross-country skiing!, and jump-started Round One of the Annual Holiday Baking Extravaganza. It was just the kick in the pants that I needed to execute the plans I started making around Halloween (seriously, Extravaganzas of this magnitude don’t just happen on their own!). With the help of a little homemade eggnog, lots of good things are going down in my kitchen while the snow flies outside.
This year I made some new things, and some old classics. I can’t reveal too much; I don’t want to spoil the surprise for the dear friends who haven’t yet received their goodies!
It is simple to make, but does have a few steps. Most of the time is spent waiting for things to harden in the fridge. The only thing I struggled with in the original recipe was the crushing of the Starlight Mints. Perhaps mine were particularly hard candies, but I had a really hard time crushing them as the recipe instructed. In the end, I had chunks that I thought were too coarse, so I chopped them a bit more with a heavy knife (carefully, though, these babies will go flying!) into more manageable sized pieces.
This Bark—like our winter so far—is every bit as big as its bite. It is cool and refreshing, with just enough sweetness to complement to minty crunchiness of the crushed candies. Plus, it’s pretty and would make a perfect gift, boxed up in a cute tin.
You will love every bite, I guarantee.
Considering the title to this post, and the titles of my previous two, you all must think I am some kind of lush. Only one actually had to do with alcohol; the others, are unfortunate victims of my feeble attempts to be witty.
What I wanted to talk about today, though, is the sauce that ever-s0-lightly bathes the eggplant–not the kind you all think I should probably lay off of– in this lovely Eggplant Parmesan I made this week.
Now, I know that Eggplant is not in season. Nor are tomatoes. Or basil. I regret to report that none of the ingredients are actually in season, and for this, I apologize in advance. But, like many of us, I needed something to cheer me up, and these elegant, dark purple specimens called to me in the produce aisle the other day. I tried to resist, hearing the socially-conscious angel shopper on my shoulder, telling me to wait until next August when they are fresh! But their skin was so soft and velvety smooth, cold and heavy in my hands and oddly soothing. And so, I momentarily ‘forgot’ the words of Barbara Kingsolver and Michael Pollan and all the other Locavores, and bought one anyway, with every intention of slicing it up for Eggplant Parmesan.
I have been making this recipe for years, and I tell you, people, it is definitely worth the effort. The best part about this particular version is you don’t have to fry the eggplant in oil; you bake it instead. And it is crispy and nice, without being quite so heavy.
There are a few key things to the success of this recipe. One, use fresh breadcrumbs. No shortcuts here, please. Two, use the best quality canned tomatoes you can get; if you are lucky enough to have canned ones lying around from your summer bounty, bust them out now. Three, easy on the sauce! Unlike the recipe for Hippie Enchiladas, where the rolled tortillas must be fully swimming in sauce, these crispy rounds of purple deliciousness have to stay in the shallow end. Otherwise, the eggplant will become soupy and unidentifiable.
The recipe also halves nicely, if you don’t have a crowd. In that case, use about a 9×9 pan, or a medium sized oval casserole dish.
Eggplant Parmesan, adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, Jan/Feb 2004
2 pounds globe eggplant (about 2 medium), sliced crosswise into 1/4” rounds
1 T. Kosher salt
8 slices high quality white bread, torn into pieces
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (about 2 oz.)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
6 large eggs
6 T. canola oil
3 14.5 oz cans diced tomatoes, or about 1 quart plus a half-pint of home-canned. If you are using purchased, go for the Muir Glen Organic (but not the No Salt version)
2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
4 large garlic cloves pressed or finely minced
1/4 t. red pepper flakes
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces whole milk or part-skim mozzarella, shredded (2 cups)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
10 fresh basil leaves, torn, for garnish
1. For the Eggplant: Cover bottom of a large colander with Eggplant slices, lightly sprinkle Kosher salt over it, and layer in this fashion with the remaining slices. Place colander over a large bowl, then weight with a one-gallon Ziploc bag filled with later. Let drain until eggplant releases at least one tablespoon of liquid, about 30-45 min. Wipe off excess salt, then arrange slices on a triple layer of paper towels, and cover with another triple layer of paper towels.
2. While eggplant is draining, adjust oven racks to upper- and lower-middle positions, place rimmed baking sheet on each rack, and heat oven to 425 degrees. Pulse bread in food processor to fine even, crumbs, about fifteen 1-second pulses. Transfer crumbs to a pie plate and stir in 1 cup parmesan, 1/4 t. salt, and 1/2 t. pepper, set aside. Wipe out bowl of food processor—do not wash—and set aside.
3. Combine flour and 1 t. pepper in another pie plate. Beat eggs in a third pie plate. Coat each eggplant slice in flour, then dip in egg, and finish with a coating of the crumbs. Place on a wire rack set over a baking sheet. Repeat with remaining eggplant.
4. Remove preheated baking sheets from oven; add 3 T. oil to each sheet, tilting to coat evenly with oil. Place half of the bread eggplant on each sheet in a single layer; bake until eggplant is well browned and crisp, about 30 min., switching and rotating sheets after 10 min, and flipping slices after 20 min. Remove slices to wire baking racks—so they don’t get soggy—and leave oven on.
5. For the sauce: While eggplant bakes, process 2/3 of the canned or jarred tomatoes in food processor until almost smooth, about 5 seconds. Heat olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes in a large, heave-bottomed saucepan over med-high heat, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and garlic is light golden, about 3 minutes; stir in processed and then remaining 1/3 of canned tomatoes. Bring sauce to a boil, then reduce heat to med-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened and reduced, about 15 min. Stir in basil and season to taste with salt and pepper.
6. To assemble: Spread 1-cup tomato sauce in bottom of a 13×9 glass or ceramic baking dish. Layer in half the eggplant, overlapping slices to fit; distribute 1 cup sauce over eggplant; sprinkle with half the mozzarella. Layer in the remaining eggplant and dot with 1-cup sauce, leaving majority of eggplant exposed so it will remain crisp; sprinkle with 1/2 cup Parmesan and remaining mozzarella. Bake until bubbling and cheese is browned, about 13-15 minutes. Cool 10 minutes, scatter basil over top and serve, with remaining sauce passed separately.
A couple of weeks ago a group of my friends and colleagues got together for the first–of hopefully many more–Self-Employed Evening (SEE).
The idea was for all of the self-employed folks that seem to be coming out of the woodwork lately to get together and share ideas, vent, inspire, motivate, network, what have you, and have a beer or two. Many of us, including myself, wondered if we would actually get anything accomplished, fearing that it might turn into a gab session instead. It did, naturally, at times, but all-in-all, we covered a lot of relevant topics and it’s probably safe to say that every one of us learned something new.
We started the evening by sitting around Phil’s dining room table and one by one we introduced ourselves, and gave a short summary of what it is exactly that we do to pay the bills. Even though most of us knew each other, it was oddly nerve-wracking to ‘introduce’ ourselves to our own friends in that context. Perhaps it was just shyness or modesty or not wanting to be in the spotlight. I tend to think, however, that it maybe for some of us had more to do with individual insecurities about the nature of our employment, especially the newcomers to the World of Freelance. Ok, maybe that was just me who felt that way.
Anyway, there were two Serial Entrepreneurs of the group, myself included. It was funny that I somehow missed one of my jobs when I listed off all of the things I am currently working on–how embarrassing! Just forgot it even existed, even though it takes up about half of my time right now. I can’t decide if this is a good thing or a bad thing; maybe it’s a little of both. It made me think that perhaps I am a little too scattered and should consider focusing on one or two things. But that prospect makes me feel anxious about getting bored, not having enough variety to keep me inspired. I did, however, make a silent promise to myself not to add any more occupations to my repertoire, until I am at least able to list them all by rote and not leave any out.
Popular topics of the evening included–but were not limited to: Taxes (of course), Motivation, Discipline, How To Get Out of Your Pajamas (introduced by me), Time Management, Taxes, and Taxes. We learned of a savvy accountant, and shared bookkeeping tips.
We had pizza and it was B.Y.O.B, so there were several bottles of wine and some beer and I musn’t forget these AMAZING ginger vodka drinks that Tara made. I translated this acronym as Bring Your Own Brownies, so that’s what I did.
To stray from the topic of Self-Employment for a moment, I would like to share with you all a new and fantastic brownie recipe that I found on the Smitten Kitchen site. Deb over there in Manhattan is a genius; if you haven’t checked out her site yet, drop everything and do it now! If you aren’t inspired to cook something–anything–after looking at her terrific photos, well, I hate to say it, there may be no hope for you. Just kidding, of course, but this woman is idol-worthy. Oh, and she is self-employed too, so this digression is still relevant to SEE.
The brownies come from Cook’s Illustrated, the all-time best Test Kitchen out there. They go to great lengths to work out all of the kinks so you don’t have to, trying every possible permutation of the recipe to get the best results, sometimes making things up to 150 times. There have been only a handful of the gazillion times I’ve made something from their magazine where I have had to tweak something because it didn’t work.The other thing I like about their process, besides the copious and anal testing they do, is that their approach is scientific and somewhat nerdy. At the end of the day, nerdiness can get you pretty far in the kitchen, especially when it comes to baking.
Unlike many brownie recipes that I have used in the past, this one employs a leavener, which gives it a lightness not to be confused at all with cakiness. What it does is just makes it a little eensy-teensy bit more airy that the super dense style of brownie you might be used to. Without being cakey. At all, because, well, that just wouldn’t be acceptable because brownies are never supposed to be cakey. The baking powder just allows for enough of a rise to lighten up the texture a bit.
Since I followed the recipe posted on Smitten’s site word-for-word without changing anything, I am going to be lazy and just give you the link. That way I can get back to work and spare you the pain of suffering through my pathetic photography and drool over her delicious images instead.
So, enjoy reading Deb’s great writing and eat every last morsel of these Classic Brownies.
Let me know how they turn out!
I uttered a sentence tonight that may have to go down in History. Most people who know me will gasp at the following verbiage the flowed from my lips:
“I love this Beer.”
Now, maybe it was the Bloody Marys speaking on my behalf, or maybe it was the lonely solitude this Saturday night, but WOW. I love this Beer.
It’s not that I don’t like beer. I really do, and furthermore, I have a very high regard for the brewing craft. It’s right up there with cooking! And winemaking. And fine, artisan cheese made from local milk. It’s really quite an art and I respect that. Heck, my one and only claim to the Fame of Publication on the writing front is an article about Brewpubs!
But my dirty little secret (ok, one of them) is that I seem to have a slight allergy to hops. I discovered this in college, back in Missoula, MT, trying to slam back as many pints at Charlie B‘s as humanly possible (for a 5’4″ lightweight) and feeling a terrible burn in the back of my throat with each swig. Finally I gave up on the brewsky and that’s when wine saved the day.
I took a beer hiatus for a very long time, until I went to Mexico and fell in love all over again with beer: Coronas at sunset, late afternoon…whenever, really. I didn’t have that acid reflux feeling anymore! I could drink beer again, and I was stoked, muyyyyy feliz. I eventually branched out and found that most Cervezas Mexicanas did not give me the familiar burn, so I went on a bit of a bender and had, wow, at least one per day, setting a record for most of my adult life.
I thought I was in the clear for beer in general, that my “disease” had been miraculously cured (like so many other things) by Mexico, Zicatela Beach, and the Mexican Pipeline. Until I arrived home, that is. Now, it’s probably clear by now that after this little 4 month skydiving-partying down-on-the-beach extravaganza that I did not need any more beer, but once I got back to the states, I was, for the first time in years, excited to drink Microbrews! At home, in Oregon, one of the Microbrew Capitols of the World! Yes, I was. And so, there I was, belly up to the bar, waiting to sample the latest offerings from a local pub. One sip in, it felt a little strong. Whoa, nelly. Two sips in, there it was, the darned acid gurgling in my throat.
And so it was. Like so many other things–skydiving, mezcal, love–beer was, in fact better at the beach. Apparently, I had not been cured.
Some time later, I found myself back in Mexico. Again–miraculously–I could drink the beer (and seriously, can you really hold a candle to a cold beer on a hot afternoon? I, to this day, think not.), skydive the skies, shoot the mezcal, love the latinos (wow, this is starting to sound like Girls Gone Wild: Spring Break, Mexico…really, there was more substance to my trip than that, I swear), and have the time of my life on Playa Zicatela.
And yet again, back in the states, I could not drink the beer. I determined some time later that I probably had a hop allergy, which would explain why so many micro-brews bothered me. They tend to be higher in hops than your run-of-the-mill Chela Mexicana. Since microbrews are about all I would dare to sample in my little NW neck of the woods, it makes sense that any beer I drank in the US would adversely affect me. So, I steered clear.
Then, casually, Anna and her mom Wendy offered me a Kona Coffee Porter “chaser” with my Bloody Mary at a Happy Hour back in September. Why not?, I said, apparently feeling adventurous enough to double-fist and try a beer. The contrast of the coffee undertones with the sweet-tart-tomatoey-ness of the Bloody was, well, perfect. I sat, and I waited for the familiar burn, tingle to hit the back of my throat. And I waited. One more sip of the BM, and I waited.
Nothing. It never came.
There was a Gringo Beer I could drink! And it isn’t just any beer, either, let me tell ya. It is dark and rich and dreamy. It tastes of coffee. Good coffee. It is hearty and perfect enough for a crisp, chilly day, with no lingering, heavy aftertaste. It is Pipeline Porter from Kona Brewing Co. in Hawaii. The review from the United Nations of Beer calls it a “beginner’s beer”; whatever, I call it a Small Miracle.
For whatever reason, this epiphany slipped my mind and I forgot about the Pipeline Porter, until today, that is. After a snowy hike near Mt. Hood, I somehow remembered the wonderfulness of the wowie from Maui and told Ryan that we MUST go buy some now. And so we did. Then I remembered that it sure did taste good with a Bloody Mary, so we had those too, then listened to old rap, felt pretty old, and drank another Pipeline without the Bloody. It was just as good on it’s own and as it turns out, has a low level of hops and isn’t too carbonated…which lets me indulge. And I do say indulge, because this stuff is like dessert, almost.
And coming from me, as you know, that’s a compliment. It’s that good.
Without Mexico, it turns out, I can still have my Pipeline. And drink it too.
My new favorite place in Hood River is the Good News Gardening Cafe. It actually has baked goods! A nice, large selection, more than just appallingly dry, blah scones and run-of-the-mill muffins (typical coffeehouse fare here), and I discovered today that they also make a pretty wonderful quiche too.
Now, normally I am not drawn to quiche. It always seems to disappoint, with raw-tasting shortening-laced crust and rubbery eggs, peppered with overcooked, watery vegetables. Today, however, I saw the most beautiful specimens displayed in the pastry case. There they were, innocently waiting next to their sweeter compadres on one of those iron display racks that gave these unassuming savory pies the appearance of levitation. I could see through the Pyrex baking dish that the crust look browned! And maybe flaky! And there were four different kinds! One with Turkey and Bacon–Lordy me–and one with Roasted Vegetables and leeks, and that version with Bacon…I didn’t even bother to ask about the fourth. I mean, Roasted Vegetables and Bacon? Please, say no more.
I went for it, and ordered quiche for the first time in I don’t-know-how-long for my late breakfast/early lunch, the Roasted Vegetable with Bacon, and it was incredible. Those quiches, in my opinion, do not need that rack to levitate–I’m pretty sure that their celestial qualities alone would do the job just fine.
Since I do not have a quiche recipe in my repetoire that could measure up to this Crusted Wonder–not yet anyway–I am going to share with you today my favorite breakfast, The Crustless Wonder, otherwise known as Frittata.
The Frittata is essentially a pastry deficient quiche. You start it in the pan, saute all of the veggies and meat if you are using, and then add the beaten eggs and let it cook for a few minutes.Then, you put it in the oven and finish it off. It really couldn’t be easier. It is my go-to recipe when I can’t be arsed to make individual omelets or fried eggs, and have a crowd to feed. And the best part? The leftovers taste really good for several days, unlike most egg dishes that don’t fare well in the fridge, so if you don’t have a crowd you can eat it the next day wrapped in a tortilla.
Frittata, Master Recipe
You need to use a cast iron or other oven-proof skillet; the oven finish is critical to the Frittata’s success. The beauty of the frittata is that you can put anything you want in it–veggies of all kinds, sausage, ham, turkey, tofu…the combinations are infinite, really. I once used leftover mashed potatoes and it was surprisingly good.
2-3 T. butter
1/2 small yellow or red onion, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 small red or yukon gold potato, holes poked and microwaved until just soft, halved and then sliced crosswise
About 1 c. chopped veggies,etc: red pepper, sundried tomatoes, green olives, kalamata olives, broccoli…whatever you have
Fresh herbs, just a small handful. Please, I beg you…No dried herbs. Except dill, that one is ok.
Cooked bacon, sausage, chicken, turkey…again, whatever you have. Or go meatless.
Cheese…sense a theme here? Yes, whatever you have. (cream cheese in chunks is one of my favorites)
6 large eggs, beaten with about 2 T. milk. Or half-n-half. I once used soy creamer because that’s what I had…and it worked.
Preheat oven to 350, rack in the center. Melt butter over medium heat in an Ovenproof skillet (cast iron is my personal favorite), then add onion and garlic, sauteeing until soft. Throw in your veggies and herbs if you have any, and cook until tender, about 5-10 minutes. Then add the meat and stir to combine. Turn up the heat a little, and then add the eggs all at once and DO NOT STIR. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and then the cheeses, and cook until the edges are starting to get puffy and pull away from the sides. At this point, put it in the oven and let it cook until nice and puffy and lightly browned, about 20-25 minutes.
Remove from oven. Now, you can leave it in the pan and slice into wedges, serving with Chimichurri, salsa, sour cream, whatever. This is perfectly fine. OR, you can take a knife, run it around the Frittata to loosen it, then place a cutting board on the pan and flip it over. Then, take another cutting board or large plate, and place it on the bottom of the Frittata and flip it again, making it right-side-up once more, giving it some presentation pizazz.
My stepmom was a genuine Hippie, no one could argue that. I met her when I was an impressionable 20 year old, the first year she and my Dad started dating. We became fast friends, and I have to say, she became one of the Great Influencers of my life. She also became–over time–one of the ties that bound our family together, working what I called her Social Services Superpowers on us, a highly receptive audience.
Doris was a bona fide Hippie. She had all one length salt and pepper hair, parted down the middle with no bangs. She wore full on hippie skirts, tie-dye, and smelled of patchouli. But the physicality of her being is not at all what made her a hippie. It was just who she was, way deep down.
She was the kind of person that believed in and listened to her dreams (and yours if you wanted to talk; she might also do a quick Tarot Card reading on you, but that’s another post altogether) and followed her heart up to last day of her life. She came out west with her 3 young kids because a dream told her to. The dream told her to live near Mt. Baker in Washington State. As a girl from Cleveland unfamiliar with the Pacific Northwest, she had never heard of Mt. Baker but knew she needed to live there.
And so she ended up living on a Commune in the 1970′s in the Okanagon Valley in Washington, where she was known as Sun Woman. Later she would be one of the organizers and Camp Cook at the first Rainbow Gathering.
She eventually moved the family to Seattle, where her kids came of age in the Grunge Era (Alice in Chains played at my stepsister’s 16th birthday party–in their basement!) and were definitely non-Hippies despite having grown up on a Commune. She still went to Barter Fairs, was a gifted musician (that’s how she met my Dad), bought organic food long before it was cool or mainstream, and got my whole family hooked on good, strong coffee. I could go on and on, but I think you get the picture.
In so many ways, Doris inspired. She was ecclectic, eccentric, and a little crazy. Many times when at her house, you would have to double check if it was a Beethoven CD playing, or if she was sitting at the piano herself; she was a concert pianist and in her day at age 16 was the youngest member of the Cleveland Symphony. She was also an amazing cook, and some of my favorite recipes of all time are adapted from hers.
In the last years of her life, before she knew she was sick, she and my Dad bought the quintessential hippie mobile–a big yellow school bus–and hit the road. They ended up in the Southwest, living at a hot springs resort in New Mexico in their big bus, that eventually ended up with a blue and purple paint job.
This recipe is dear to my heart, and not just for nostalgic reasons alone. These are some of the best enchiladas ever. My brother and I fondly termed them “Hippie Enchiladas”. (Someday I’ll share the recipe for Hippie Ham with you as well. But for now, enjoy this classic from the Hippie Archives).
Hippie Enchiladas, adapted from Doris ‘Sun Woman’ Vanderpool’s recipe.
Note: The key to these Enchiladas is that they must be “Swimming in sauce”. And that is straight from the Hippie’s mouth. Do not be tempted to cheat or skimp on the sauce! Unless you can find a good quality canned authentic Mexican enchilada sauce, make it from scratch. It’s easy!
For easiest assembly have everything ready to go– Mise en Place–and it will all go a little more smoothly.
For the Sauce:
3 T. butter
1 medium yellow onion, medium dice
4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
2-3 T. chili powder, depending on the spiciness/flavor of yours (don’t be scared!)
1 T. ground cumin
1 t. ground coriander
1 T. good quality dried oregano, preferably Mexican (shop locally, buy Juanita’s!)
dash of cayenne pepper
2 T. flour
1 c. chicken stock
1.5 14-oz cans tomato sauce (Muir Glen lined cans are the best; can also use their Chunky Tomato Sauce)
Salt and pepper to taste.
Heat butter in a saute pan or medium skillet; add onions and garlic and cook until fragrant. Add the spices and oregano, stirring for 30 seconds. Add the flour and stir for another 30 seconds (you are making a roux, Mexi-style) and then add the chicken stock, stirring constantly to combine. Once it looks bubbly, add the tomato sauce. Cook for about 15 minutes until thickened. If it seems too thick–you don’t want it to be pasta sauce-ish– add a bit more stock. Adjust seasonings, then set aside. I tend to like mine on the spicy side, but that’s just me.
For the Enchiladas:
6-8 flour tortillas, NOT the ginormous ones. I’ve also used the corn/flour blend (Diane’s), but if you want to shop locally, use La Rosa’s Spelt Tortillas, made in Gresham.
6-10 canned green chiles. If you can get a big 28-oz can, it’s a better deal.
1 large bunch green onions, chopped, green parts and all
1 large bunch cilantro, chopped, stems and all (but not the whole stem, only down to where the leaves end)
8-oz grated sharp cheddar, or monterey jack.
Crumbled Feta or Mexican Cotija
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Ladle about 1 cup of reserved sauce into the bottom of a 9×13 Pyrex baking dish (do not use metal!). Spoon about 2 T. of sauce (very, very important…remember the ‘swimming’?) in the center of the a tortilla (holding it in a flat hand). Place a whole green chile on top of the sauce, then top with a handful of cilantro (don’t skimp), green onions, cheddar and feta. Carefully roll up into an open-ended burrito–it will be full! Place seam-side down in pan, scrunching it up tightly to one end. Repeat with as many tortillas as will fit, with a moderate amount of scrunching; depending on how big your rolls are, you will get 6-8. I once got 9, but it was way too crowded.
Top with all of the sauce you have leftover, taking care to cover all of the tortillas with at least a thin layer so they don’t dry out. Sprinkle a handful of grated cheese, then all of the leftover cilantro and green onions as a lovely garnish. Cover with foil, and bake for about 20 minutes or until starting to bubble. Remove foil and bake for another 10 minutes until top cheese is melted and slightly browned.
Serve hot, with sour cream, hot sauce, green salsa, whatever you fancy. And of course, a Margarita is always in order with enchiladas. Or a Dos Equis.
This photo was taken on my own private ‘Latin Night’ at Sheep Hill Lookout in September 2006. I had an airline-sized bottle of Tequila–the inspiration for the theme of the evening; that and the Latin music serendipitously playing on the radio–so I made a margarita and these enchiladas. Everything somehow tastes better when you have limited resources (i.e. no electricity, limited amounts of cheese)! I did use a cast-iron skillet because that is all I had. I am sure at that point the extra iron in my veins was probably welcome.
I’m having a hard time believing that it’s mid-November. Not only because the past year just flew by, but also because of the weather. I was just outside in a t-shirt. And the forecast is sun, sun, sun all week. Now, we all know that I am not a big fan of winter, so the fact that it is uncharacteristically not Winterly here yet is practically a dream come true for me!
So, these days call for the following activities that will be but a distant memory once we are enveloped in snow:
1) Raking leaves
2) Mountain biking at 4,000′
3) Sitting at a picnic table with a good book and a cup of cocoa, wrapped in a warm sweater.
4) Firing up the grill
5) Outdoor Happy Hour with Anna, which can include a Blood Mary, or Lemon Drop maybe, and watching chickens run around the yard.
I am sure there are many more fun Fall things to do, but that’s all I can think of for now. Sure, winter will come, and these things will be replaced by other activities, but for now, I am enjoying these crunchy leaves, crisp apples, and warm drinks.
The thing about inspiration is that you never know where you are going to find it. Or if.
For me, inspiration has always been something free and easy to come by, often found on the surface of the most ordinary things. That is, until last year.
Maybe I should have seen it coming, maybe signs were glaringly obvious and staring me right in the face. For someone whose words have always flowed out of them like a river in flood, not having the words or the ideas was implausible. Of course they would come. Of course I would wake up one day with the script already half written, events recorded and memorialized. Life, documented and journaled, just how I like it to be.
That day never came, and neither did the words. It’s not that the events did not take place, and it’s not that they didn’t need carefully chosen adjectives to justify their existence. They did, and still do. Life goes on, whether we chronicle it or not.
As I sit here, in the Little Log Cabin on this November day, I wait for those words. I wait for the satisfaction of not just thinking of events in terms of how I would write about them, but I am holding out for the feeling of being inspired. Of being consumed by the need to express that feeling–so much so that the words come faster than the thoughts, that the keys can’t keep up and I am left slightly dizzy from the effort.
I am true believer in new beginnings. There is so much inspiration outside my window, within these walls, inside myself. Finding it isn’t what is difficult. Truly seeing it for what it is is the hard part.