Sunday, February 27, 2011



I made another quick trip to Portland last weekend to visit my girlfriends and hang out. I probably didn’t really have time to do it, considering all the homework I have right now, but it was worth it! There was winter weather threatening, but I had no problems. Trips like this make me love my Suburban! Yes, it is huge and impractical for just me, but I love it anyway.

My trip was very mellow…just a chance for me to spend some quality alone time, one on one, with a couple of my best girlfriends.

One interesting and fun thing I did was take my friend Heidi on a Portland Walking Tour ( We opted for the Chocolate Decadence tour. It was really interesting and SUPER yummy!

We tasted all different kinds of chocolates, truffles, melted warm chocolate (like hot chocolate but soo much better!) and even some chocolate infused balsamic vinegar! (It was really tasty!)

We did learn quite a bit about chocolate, where it grows, how it grows, the fermenting process and that chocolate from different places has distinctly different tastes. Did you know that chocolate (cacao beans) only grow within 20 degrees of the equator? How about that the pod grows on the trunk of the tree?

Cacao pods are large, and multi-colored, almost looking like a gourd.

Heidi and I both enjoyed the chocolate from Ecuador, but had a strong dislike for the chocolate from the Dominican Republic. We enjoyed the Swiss Truffles but the Belgium Truffles were a little flat. We also both enjoyed Portland’s own Moonstruck chocolates.

Heidi has never enjoyed Godiva chocolates. After the tour she stopped at the Godiva chocolate store and found out that their chocolate comes from the Dominican Republic! Interesting!

There are several other tours available, including the Epicurean Excursion, which is another foodie based tour, where participants are able to taste a variety of items from local eateries.

The tour lasted about 2.5 hours; our tour guide was very good, friendly and knowledgeable. Of course, it is Portland, so it was grey, cold and rainy for most of the walk, especially the last half hour or so. I am really thankful we had an umbrella with us, because otherwise I would have stopped having a good time.

If you ever get the opportunity, I would recommend the Portland Walking Tour...any of them, as a great way to see the city and learn interesting facts. Many years ago Chris and I went with a group of friends on the Halloween Spooky Underground Tour, and even though we didn’t find it “spooky”, more silly, it was really interesting to walk around under the city buildings and sidewalks. Who knew that all of those labyrinths were under there? Portland Walking Tours are worth the time and check them out!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Hominy Chili

Hominy Chili

After making Posole (a Mexican pork/hominy soup that is DELICIOUS) a handful of times, I started looking around to see what else I could do with hominy. Hominy is dried corn kernels from which the hulls and kernels have been removed. It has a distinctive flavor and texture that Chris and I both really like.

I came across a few recipes for various soups and chili’s that all looked pretty good, but didn’t seem to have enough pep in them for me. So, I used them as inspiration and tonight created my own version of hominy chili!

For your enjoyment:

Hominy Chili

1 small can fire roasted chilies, undrained
2 teaspoons minced garlic (jarred is fine)
¼ - ½ cup chopped red onion
1 Tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 15.5 oz can white hominy, drained
1 15.5 oz can red beans (kidney), rinsed and drained
1 15.5 oz can diced tomatoes (low/no salt), undrained
1 15.5 oz can fire roasted stewed tomatoes, undrained
shredded mozzarella cheese (garnish)
sliced radishes (garnish)
chopped cilantro (garnish)

Heat a large saucepan over medium high heat. Add the chilies, garlic and onions to pan. Sauté in the chile juices until the onions are soft. Add the chili powder and next 5 ingredients (through stewed tomatoes) to the pan. Mix well. Heat to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer 15-20 minutes (longer for thicker chili) or until well heated.

Spoon 1.5 cups chili into bowl, top with raw sliced radish, chopped cilantro and a tablespoon of cheese.


Of course, you can make this your own by choosing cheddar cheese, or using sour cream as a topping instead of the mozzarella, etc. This chili is tasty and filling. Next time I will likely add a bit more heat to it with either some fresh jalapeño or poblano, or perhaps add a little chipotle powder in addition to the chili and cumin. I served this with a side salad and was quite satisfied.

If you are a beer drinker a nice Mexican beer like Corona would be tasty!


What else did we do today you ask?

Well, a looong time ago I started telling you about Mead, which we have continued to ferment. In fact, we have actually started several other batches since our first foray into mead-making. The first mead was “traditional” mead that we flavored with lemon and ginger. The next mead was prickly pear cactus mead. The third, and most recent, is blackberry mead that we are making with some of the fresh blackberries we picked last summer. It SMELLS so GOOD!

In the fall we also made a batch of hard apple cider.

Today, after about 9 months, we bottled the traditional mead into wine bottles and are going to let it continue to ferment and age in the bottles for another several months or year even.

In January we bottled the prickly pear mead into wine and beer bottles. We bottled that first, even though we made it second, because we used a different process for the fermentation, so it processed faster than the traditional mead. We are hoping to be able to start drinking the prickly pear mead this summer at some point.

With mead, the longer it sits the more the flavors mellow and blend, so sometimes one batch can have several different outcomes, depending on how long it sits in the bottle.


Chris and I also went for a hike yesterday. I have told you before about Roxy Ann, the mountain behind our house. Well we have hiked up there several times. Our hikes have been varying lengths. One time we hiked up to the summit, but that only took us around about half of the mountain. Yesterday we went to go for a “short” hike and ended up doing the entire loop around the top of the mountain!

We hiked for about an hour and a half. The loop road around the summit is about 2.9 miles and the access road up to the start of the loop is between 0.5 and 0.8 miles (depending on which resource I look at). Either way, we ended up going for about a 4 mile hike! It was totally gorgeous here. Sunshine, blue skies as far as the eye could see. The temperature was in the mid 60’s. Chris was plenty warm in a t-shirt and shorts. It was really wonderful. It felt very much like spring!!

One more little recipe before I leave you for today.

This doesn’t really have a name. You can call it shredded crock-pot beef.

Shredded Crock-Pot Beef

1 cup chopped onion
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1-2 lb London broil (top round) steak
1 15.5 oz can diced tomatoes
½ can light beer (coors light)

Turn on 3-4 qt crock-pot to high. Chop onions, garlic and chipotle chili. Add to heated crock-pot. Add basil, oregano and thyme. Put lid on to let onion mixture steam lightly. Heat a medium skillet over medium high heat. Add olive oil to heated pan. Cook London broil 3-4 minutes, or until browned, on each side. Add seared steak to crock-pot. Add tomatoes and beer. Cover and cook on high for 2 hours, then turn to low for 3-6 more hours. Shred the beef with two forks. Serve over brown rice or couscous.

* I would not suggest serving over mashed potatoes. The potatoes suck all of the flavor out of the meat. Instead, serve it over rice or couscous or some other grain that will add to the dish.

I added a nice side salad. This is a hearty and flavorful crock-pot meal. It is great to use with the cheaper, tougher cut of meat like the top round or other inexpensive cut.

Have a happy week!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Shrimp Stuffed Poblano or "Curry"

Shrimp Stuffed Poblano Recipe

Well, back in August 2010 I posted a picture of some shrimp stuffed Poblano that I had made, but didn’t post the recipe. It is a very tasty meal that we have had again since the original post. I didn’t post the recipe originally because I thought it needed a little tweaking. Well, I have since done some tweaking and am going to give you the revised, non-stuffed recipe.

Actually, it can be done two ways and I’ll give you both.

Revised: Shrimp Poblano “curry” (This recipe is enough for two with some leftovers)

1 red bell pepper
3 large poblano peppers
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 pound peeled, deveined shrimp
½ teaspoon salt
5 teaspoons minced jar garlic or 5 fresh garlic cloves, minced
1 ½ Tablespoons flour
¼ teaspoon ground red pepper (cayenne)
½ cup half and half
¾ cup milk, divided
¾-1 cup shredded cheese (I have used queso fresco and cheddar-get something that melts well)
fresh chopped cilantro
lime juice

Cut bell pepper in half, and seed it. Broil bell pepper and poblanos until skin is blackened. Place in plastic zip top bag for 5 – 10 minutes to help steam the skins off. Be careful, they will still be VERY hot. Finely chop bell peppers. Remove top and seeds from poblanos, dice.

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add ½ of olive oil to pan; add shrimp and cook until pink. Remove shrimp. Add remaining olive oil to pan. Add garlic and sauté for 30 seconds stirring constantly to keep from browning. Sprinkle flour over the top of the garlic along with the ground red pepper. Let cook for one minute. Slowly whisk in half and half and then ½ cup of the milk. It will look kind of chunky but break up the flour/garlic chunks with the whisk. Whisk constantly for one minute. Reduce heat to medium low, allow to cool slightly; add cheese. Allow the cheese to melt well, stirring to blend. Add the shrimp, diced red bell pepper, and diced poblanos back to the pan, stirring well to mix. Add salt to taste. If needed, increase heat to heat through. You may want to add the remaining ½ cup milk at this point, depending on how thick your sauce is. You want it moderately thick, but still saucy. Once heated through add optional chopped cilantro and squeeze of lime juice.

Once heated through and the cheese is all melty, it’s ready to eat! Serve over brown rice.

Stuffed Peppers Recipe

The ingredients are the same, and the process is nearly the same for the stuffed peppers, except that you don’t dice the poblanos up. You leave them whole, removing the tops and seeds. You also chop the shrimp up before adding it back to the cheesy mixture. The shrimp, bell pepper, cheese mixture gets stuffed into the whole poblano. Everything tends to cool off during this process, so I recommend keeping your oven hot after the broiling of the peppers originally, and placing the stuffed peppers onto a cookie sheet, so once the poblanos are stuffed, you can quickly put them back into the oven for a quick warm through.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Jamaican Vacation


Well, it is kind of a cloudy and cold day today, and I know many of my friends have been dealing with massive amount of snow and below freezing temperatures. Almost 20 inches in Chicago! Cripes!

So, in order to combat the mid-winter blahs I thought I would, finally, write a little bit about our December trip to Jamaica! Yah, Jamaicamon! No problem mon. <--- The national motto!

Getting to Jamaica from Medford turned out to be a long, two day, process. We left Medford early Friday morning and drove about 4 hours south to Sacramento, where we flew out to Dallas, Tx. We stayed in Dallas Friday night and flew to Montego Bay, Jamaica Saturday, arriving in the mid-afternoon. We stayed at the Sandals Royal Caribbean Resort in Montego Bay. It is a fairly small resort, but it is a couples only (no kids!) all-inclusive.

We stayed for a week. The biggest part of our trip turned out to be that Chris got certified as a Scuba Diver! It was a pretty time intensive process, starting out with a basic pool session, followed by a “shallow” dive to about 30’. He then progressed through another pool session and then started doing deeper dives. The deeper dives also include additional training aspects, like actually taking your mask off UNDER WATER and learning how to breath the bubbles from the regulator, how to get your regulator (the piece that goes in your mouth) back if it comes out of your mouth, etc. CRAZY!

Chris really loved it and he said it was just an amazing feeling to be underneath the Ocean. He saw some cool fish, of course, and a sting ray, a water snake, and of course lots of sea urchins and seaweed stuff. His deepest dives were to about 60’. Of course it is very quiet underneath the ocean. So after several different dives and training sessions, each taking about a half a day or more, Chris is now an officially certified PADI open water scuba diver! He can now Scuba Dive anywhere in the world! This will be exciting for future travels, for sure! Plus a really cool thing about Sandals resorts is that now that he is certified, he can dive at any of their resorts for free!

As for me, I spent most of my time relaxing by the pool or on the beach, reading and people watching, and drinking rum. I did meet an interesting couple from Maine that I spent quite a bit of time hanging out and chatting with.

The weather was…interesting. Many days it was quite windy. The days would usually start out clear and sunny, but then by mid-afternoon there were crazy tropical rainstorms. I felt bad for the several couples that were getting married that week…

We only left the resort once, because as it turns out, Jamaicans aren’t really all that excited to have tourists there. The cities are not exactly welcoming and safe feeling. Plus, it is ridiculously expensive to get around. It cost $40 US dollars to get from our resort into the town just a few miles away. We were advised NOT to attempt to walk across the street a few blocks to another shopping center. We were also advised NOT to try to find our own cab, as they could not be counted on to take you where you actually want to go. Our cab driver offered to take us to another town, Negril, which was said to be about an hour or so drive from Montego Bay. It would cost about $140 dollars. Uhm, no thank you.

The “town” was literally one little souvenir shop after another, all with the same stuff. There was also the “craft market” which is NOTHING like what you think when you hear “craft market”. The craft market should have really been called “crack” market where the druggies try to sell you “handmade” bracelets, etc in the colors of Jamaica (red, black, green, gold). It was scary. I was pretty sure we were going to get mugged. Their craft “stalls” were more like little wooden and corrugated metal shanties.

We did enjoy the fact that we were away from home, relaxing on a beach in the Caribbean, drinking rum. (Pirate aficionados will recognize that line!) We enjoyed the heat, the beach, and the pretty tropical surroundings. There were kittens playing at the resort that were quite entertaining. We took a little sit on top kayak out and paddled around in the bay. We listened to some incredible music and just generally relaxed and forgot about home, hospitals and jobs.

We flew home the following Saturday, getting into Sacramento around 11pm. We then, because we are crazy, hopped in the Suburban and drove home, arriving around 4:00 AM Sunday morning. Crazies! I was SO exhausted, but it was good to be home. Ashley missed us and was very clingy, after she got done being mad.

It was great to get away, but, in reality, I find it unlikely that I will be travelling to Jamaica again. I look forward to exploring other islands and locales where it is a bit cleaner, safer and the people are friendlier.

To end on a positive note: we did truly enjoy the Jamaican Rum Cream (like Bailey’s except with RUM!) and the wonderful Blue Mountain Coffee. :) Yah mon!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


Well, I said I would be here more, and I want to be, but …. two things: one, I am super busy with school and two, I haven’t had anything really interesting or earth shattering to talk about lately. So I haven’t said anything.

This term I am taking 5 classes, which equals 20 credits. Comparatively, most full-time college students take 12-16 credits per term. I am, apparently, insane. :) Actually, it is going okay. I am taking two communications classes (a good thing since eventually my major will be communications) and a science class, Spanish and a statistics class. There is a lot of reading, which is okay, except much of it is like reading a list. Not necessarily all that interesting. I appear to be doing well overall, so I will just continue to take it one day and assignment at a time.

One of my “goals” for this year is to try and take better care of myself. So, in that vein, I have started getting regular manicures, have gotten my hair cut and highlighted twice (since November-which is A LOT for me) and have gone back to regular bubble baths during the week. I usually read while I’m in there…sometimes for fun, sometimes for school.

Speaking of reading for fun, I recently re-read the entire Harlequin series about the town of Tyler Wisconsin. There is something like 13 stories, all with an intertwining story throughout. They are a fun read and relatively quick. I am also re-reading the Twilight series, just for fun. I am looking for some new books to read, so any suggestions are appreciated. I’m not into science fiction, but I love a good romance, many fiction stories, mysteries and non-fiction as well. I am not necessarily into politics, but I do like to read about food. Of course!

Speaking of food, I’m going to wrap this up with a recipe that I created recently. It is a great comforting dish, with lots of flavor, and low calories. It has a little over 200 calories per cup of soup. Add a side salad and a slice of hearty bread and you have a reasonable, delicious meal!

Hearty Turkey & Wild Rice Soup/Stoup (Stoup because it gets nice and thick the next day so it is like a stew/soup)

1 Tablespoon butter
1 Cup chopped onion
1 Cup chopped green onion
1 Cup roughly chopped Crimini mushrooms
1 Cup chopped carrot
1 Cup chopped celery
1 small can fire roasted Chilies
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
Cracked black pepper (to taste)
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
1 45 oz can (large!) reduced sodium chicken broth
2-3 Cups diced, cooked turkey (or chicken)
1 ¾ Cups long grain wild rice, uncooked
4 Cups water (or more chicken broth) if needed
2 Cups 2%, reduced fat milk
1/3 Cup flour
2 Tablespoons sherry (optional)
Salt to taste

Melt butter in large stock/soup pot over medium high heat. Add onion and next 9 ingredients (through garlic). Sauté 8- 10 minutes until onions are softened and mixture is starting to cook down. Add broth, turkey and rice. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for at least an hour, or until the rice is tender.

You may want or need to add the extra water or chicken broth at this point, depending on how thick or soupy you want your final result to be. If you add more water/broth, be sure to bring it all back up to temperature.

Combine flour and milk in a measuring cup or small bowl and whisk together. Add mixture to soup, cooking over medium heat, stirring frequently until thickened (about 5-8 minutes). Add sherry and salt to taste.

Serve with a nice green salad and some crusty French bread.

The most important ingredient: enjoyment!