Cheers to cyber friendships and Twit-pals!  2011 marked the year of becoming great friends with intangible people all across the country (and perhaps world!).  Although my blog sometimes falls by the wayside and lacks some visual interest (forgive me, but I’m not very good at html or formatting. oh well!) I’ve been more than affirmed and encouraged by some wonderful ladies with some serious blog caliber.  (thankyouthankyouthankyou!)

It all started when I joined the Vintage Recipe Swap with Christianna from Burwell General Store and my bona fide friend Lindsay from Rosemarried.  From there, I was introduced to dozens of amazing bloggers and straight-up awesome people that I would fly across the country to have a meal and a glass or 3 of wine with.  Oh how glorious it will be one day when we get to enjoy each other’s company.

A couple of my favorite blogger ladies have revealed themselves a bit on their blogs recently and have invited their wannabe dinner guests to do the same.  So, I guess it’s my turn to spill the beans about me, and invite my favorites to gather around the virtual dinner table and do the same.

What or who inspired you to start your blog?
This blog actually started as an outlet for the lessons I was learning in life after my dear friend Anthony died in a mountain climbing accident on Mt. Hood just over two years ago.  Losing him was unexpected, but in the grief, sadness, tears, and pain, it was like there was this rapid growth in my heart and my faith that needed to be harvested and written down.  Grief is a lost art but I was determined to walk through it and do it well and share it with others.  Slowly but surely (still not really sure how), I started posting recipes and The Unexpected Harvest turned into a food blog.

Who is your foodie inspiration?
Truth be told, Mrs. Rosemarried herself, Lindsay Strannigan.  It might seem cliche since we’re practically besties in real life, but this woman is amazing.  She has a full time job, a full time husband, is on the board of her local farmers market, contributes to several different blogs, volunteers her time to do local PR and wedding planning, keeps up with our boys; the Portland Trail Blazers, AND has time to come up with and make delicious seasonal recipes.  She’s the queen of balancing everything in her life and producing really good products.

Your greasiest most batter splattered cook book is?
Cookbook?  Who uses those archaic brick-like things anymore?  Food blogs FTW!  Juuuuust kidding.  Ironically, my “greasiest, most batter-splattered” cook book is Farmers John’s Cookbook: The Real Dirt on Vegetables. He runs a CSA in Illinois and his cookbook is chock-full of seasonal recipes with every vegetable you can imagine.  Not much grease or batter in his recipes.  The second most dog-eared cookbook I have is the Cook’s Illustrated New Best Recipe.

The best thing you have ever eaten in another country, where was it and what was it?
It’s truly nothing fancy.  When I was in Germany in 2010, I hopped on a train and took a solo day trip up to the town of Trier.  This historic town is nestled into the Mosel wine region of western Germany and has a glorious fruit stand in the center square of town.  I bought a couple pieces of fruit while I was there, but the best by far was a simple peach.  It was August and this peach was perfectly ripe, juicy, and tasted exactly like a peachie-o gummy candy.  I’ve never tasted anything so perfect in my life.

Another Food Blogger’s table you would like to eat at?
So many!  For food alone, I would pick Coco from Roost.  Her recipes are mostly grain, dairy, and sugar free but so creative, DELICIOUS, and beautifully photographed.  For conversation and food, just you wait…

What one kitchen gadget would you like Santa to bring you? (if money were no object)
I want a set of Le Crueset dishes: dutch over, skillet, morter and pestle, you name it.  I want it all.

Who taught you how to cook?
My love of cooking started with my old roommate, Amy Boles.  She’s brilliant in the kitchen.  When I lived with her, she would always come up with something amazing to make for dinner and we would always host dinner parties.  She taught me that I actually could cook.  Then I just started following recipes and food blogs and teaching myself.

I’m coming to you for dinner, what is your signature dish?
Id’ say that my signature isn’t actually a dish, it’s a bottle–of Oregon Pinot Noir!

What is your guilty food pleasure?
Truth be told, the only thing I need for dessert is a spoonful of nut butter topped with dark chocolate chips.  That’s the most decedent and satisfying end of any meal. And lately, chocolate almond milk.

Reveal something about yourself that others would be surprised to learn?
I ate my fair share of Lil’ Debbie snack cakes growing up.  Not saying I was a chubby kid, because I wasn’t.  I’m just saying that times have changed and I would never dream of eating one of those now or letting my future kids eat them.

My ideal dinner party (please ladies, let’s all rendezvous in real life soon!):

Toni Dash of the Boulder Locavore: Toni is the cocktail queen.  I met her through the vintage recipe swap and have the biggest blog crush on her.  She’s so classy, creative, NICE, and always makes me drool over her cocktail creations.  The party would get started way before the meal if this woman was shaking up some drinks.

Jacqueline Raposo of The Dusty Baker: Another recipe swapper.  My crush on Jacqueline started when she commented on my about me section and said she wanted to jump through the computer and give me a hug.  She’s another gluten free gal who has mastered the art of baking just 6 cookies, as to not go overboard and eat all the cookie dough.  She’ll be the dessert queen at our dinner party.

Sabrina Modelle of The Tomato Tart: Oh Sabrina.  Where do I start?  Although not entirely vegan, she whips up meat-free recipes that would make me forget that I wasn’t even eating meat.  She’s the queen of the SF Bay area and we were thiiiiiis close to meeting up for a cocktail when I was down there in October, but to our dismays, I didn’t plan the trip very well and we missed each other.  Someday, Sabrina!

Christianna Reinhardt of Burwell General Store: Safe to say, I owe many of my cyber-friendship to CM.  She started the recipe swap which essentially gave birth to all these connections.  She’s our small-town girl turned LA foodie queen and is always on some new adventure.  I’m hoping to take her wine tasting in Oregon one of these days.

And last but certainly not least: Lindsay Strannigan of Rosemarried: Although we’re not cyber-friends, but real-life friends, I don’t ever want to be at a dinner party without Linds.  She’ll never buy a piece of produce from Mexico or Chile, or a chicken breast from Iowa.  I just love this lady to pieces.  We can eat eggs in a nest and drink bubbles while watching a Blazers game, or take 4 hours to eat a 5 course meal with some of our closest friends.


 

It’s good ol’ recipe swap time.  For those of you who are new, the basic premise is that Christianna from Burwell General Store picks a recipe from her vintage cookbook/hymnal she found at a recipe swap and everyone involved has to change at least 3 ingredients/quantities in the recipe to make it their own.  They we all post on the same day and see what kind of magic was made in our kitchens.  More on that on her website.  Be sure to check out all the other food bloggers involved!   They are truly inspiring and some have even become good friends (virtual friends, but friends indeed!)

Ready for this months recipe reveal?  If you haven’t already figured it out from the title of this post, here you have it:

That’s right, potato donuts.  Who doesn’t love a donut?  I love donuts because that’s what kept me and brother going to church when we were younger–the promise of a maple bar during Sunday school.  It worked hook, line, and sinker on me.

I have to admit; the thought of making a donut has frightened me a bit in the past.  Deep frying hasn’t ever been my bag, but then again, I’ve never really tried it.  My old roommate Tiffani, whose father is Middle Eastern, bought a deep fryer just to maker her dad’s falafel recipe.  I don’t have a deep fryer, but I do have a pretty red dutch oven that I bought a couple months ago.  (I tell you, you can do just about anything with a dutch oven!  Best kitchen investment I’ve made yet.)  To add to my deterred state, the wheat and sugar content of a donut made me a bit uneasy.  Being a diabetic and a gluten loser and eating doesn’t bode well for my blood sugar or body, so creativity is a must on this one.

I decided to run with the deep fried potato theme.  Of course my mind went straight to sweet potatoes since they’re probably the best vegetable to come out of the ground.  I wanted to be a little more out of the box than a basic donut so I thought, “hmmmm….what else is deep fried and delicious?”  CHURROS!  Remember as a kid, going to Disneyland and getting those 18 inch long churros from the cart on the way to Thunder Mountain Railroad?  That was the best part of Disneyland.  Better than meeting Belle and Minnie Mouse, even.

Of course I took the gluten free route, and stayed away from using plain white granulated sugar.  These puppies might be calorie dense, but at least they have a few more nutrients than your basic maple bar.

Gluten Free Sweet Potato Churros, adapted from James Beard Foundation Recipes

Yields about 2 dozen churros

Ingredients:
1 pound sweet potatoes
1/2 cup milk (either whole, oat, or hazelnut)
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cayanne pepper
3/4 cup oat/brown rice flour blend (50/50)
1 medium egg
3 egg yolks
Vegetable oil for frying
Approx. 1 cup cinnamon and sugar mixture for coating (I used organic evaporated cane sugar)

Method:
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Poke holes in the sweet potatoes and bake in a covered baking dish until very tender, about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside. Once they are cool enough to handle, peel and roughly chop. Mash with a fork or run through a food mill or ricer to make smooth mixture, free of chunks.  You’ll want this to go through a pastry bag later.

Place the milk in a small pot and season with the salt, nutmeg, and cayenne. Heat the milk to a near boil, then add the flour and reduce the heat to medium. Stir the mixture with a wooden spoon until the flour and milk form a ball. Transfer to a stand mixer   fitted with a paddle attachment (VERY IMPORTANT!  I tried putting some elbow grease in there and use the old wooden spoon method.  Let’s just say it was a good thing my neighbors were home and let me borrow their Kitchen Aid) and beat on medium speed for 10 seconds to release some of the heat. Add the egg and mix on medium speed to incorporate. Add the yolks one at a time, then continue to mix until the dough forms a stiff mass. Mix in the milled sweet potatoes, then transfer the dough to a pastry bag fitted with a star tip (or a Zip-loc bag with the corner snipped off.  That’s all I had, hence the unflattering shape of my churros).

In a shallow dish, make up cinnamon and sugar mixture and put near fry area.

Heat about 6 inches of oil to 350ºF in a large pot. Carefully pipe five to six 3-inch lengths of dough into the pot. Fry until golden brown, flipping churros over half way through so both sides get a nice golden brown color, about 7 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to cinnamon and sugar dish and give them a nice coat.  Continue piping and frying in batches until all of the dough is used, making sure the temperature of the oil returns to 350ºF before frying a new batch.

Behold the goodness of the sweet potato goodness and simple embrace the fact that you’re eating fried food.  It’s home-made so you shouldn’t feel so bad.

Epilogue:
Famous last words: what else can we deep fry?!
My friend Allison and I had a fry day and felt so incredible greasy and bloated afterwards.  We took an onion and sliced it thick, made a gf batter and made hands down the most delicious onion rings we’ve ever had.  Don’t ask for the recipe because there isn’t one.  We just threw some things in a bowl, dredged the onions, and drown them in the oil.  Don’t they look gooooooood??

All fried out and GREEEEAAAZZZZYYYY….

Recipe Swap #3: Completed.  Didn’t think I had it in me for this one, but I’m proud to say I completed another recipe swap and I’m proud of my finished product.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with a recipe swap, you should check out the Burwell General Store blog for details.  Basically, the fabulous Christianna picks a basic recipe out of this vintage cookbook she found at a swap meet and everyone involved takes a couple weeks to recreate the recipe by changing at least 3 ingredients or quantities from the original recipe, then post our new recipes on our blogs on the same day with a link to all the other swappers sites.  It’s so fun and so challenging, not to mention an honor to be in cahoots with such respectable and talented food bloggers.

Ready for the #3 reveal?  Ok, here you go:

“Busy Day” Wacky Cake.  Looks like a science experiment huh?  Soda and vinegar?  In a cake?  Is it going to explode in my tummy and leave me feeling ill and bloated?  Well, I doubt that but it still seems odd.  How can I be creative with such a scientific cake?  Hmmm…soda and vinegar, chemical reactions, fizz, bubbles…BUBBLES!  Champagne cake!  Who doesn’t love cake and who doesn’t love bubbles?  And who doesn’t love champagne cake?!  I, for one, have only had champagne cake once and it was pink and it was homemade by my friend Steve who was making a bunch of wedding cake samples (make sure you check out his site!) and it was delicious.  But wait!  There’s a cherry on top: I’m not going to stop at cake, I’m making cupcakes.

The sun was shining magnificently in my windows the day I baked these.  I was happy as a clam.

So ladies and gentlemen, I present to you…
Gluten Free Champagne Cupcakes with Vegan Coconut Fudge Frosting
Yields approx 35 mini cupcakes or 12 standard size cupcakes

Cake: adapted from Wasabimon

1 1/2 c. Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free baking mix*
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp xantham gum
1 c coconut palm sugar
2 large eggs (room temp.)
1/2 c coconut oil
1/2 c Brut Bubbly (at room temp.  make sure to have a glass while you’re baking)
1 tbsp milk (I used hazelnut milk)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350° and position rack in the center.  Line cupcake trays with liners.

In a medium size bowl, mix together dry ingredients and set aside.

In mixer, beat together eggs and sugar on medium speed for about 1 minute.

Reduce to medium-low speed and mix in oil, bubbles, milk, and vanilla until ingredients are incorporated and mixture is creamy.

Increase speed to medium and slowly add in dry mixture, spoonful at a time, until ingredients are blended and you have a cake batter consistency.

Spoon batter into cupcake liners, filling 1/2 full for mini cupcakes, and 2/3 full for standard cupcakes.

Place trays on center rack in oven and bake for 10 minutes for mini cupcakes, and 15-18 minutes for standard cupcakes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Place on rack and allow to cool completely before icing.

*If Bob’s mix isn’t available near you, use 1 1/4 c of your own mix (2 parts brown rice flour, 2/3 part potato starch, 1/3 part tapioca starch) and 1/4 c almond flour.

 

Frosting: adapted from Grist
Yields approx 1 1/2 cups frosting
1/4 c coconut oil
1 1/4 c organic evaporated cane juice
1/4 c unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 c coconut milk, well shaken
1 tsp vanilla

In medium sauce pan, melt coconut oil over medium heat.  Stir in cocoa, sugar, and salt.

Add coconut milk and stir well while bringing to a boil.  Gently boil for 5 minutes stirring often.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.

Cool in refrigerator for 20-30 minutes.  Remove from fridge, and stir with wooden spoon until mixture thickens and has a fudgy frosting like consistency.

Spread over the top of the cupcakes, and dig in!

*Added bonus, spread remaining frosting on a piece of wax paper, let cool, then cut into squares and enjoy some homemade fudge.

I gave some of these to Nadine to share with her boyfriend Jon, who is gluten free.  Her comment: Jon ate all of them.  Before dinner.

 

Now, do yourself a favor and see what my fellow recipe swappers are up to with this cake.  You won’t be sorry.  Chef Dennis, Toni at Boulder Locavore, my dearest Rosemarried, Jennifer in her Adventuresome Kitchen, Christianna at the Burwell General Store never cease to amaze me, but everyone involved is definitely worth checking out.

Boy oh boy, how we’ve grown!  The last recipe swap had 7 brilliant culinary minds, but I’ve officially lost count on this one.  Maybe a dozen or so?  We’ve got some locavores, a real chef, some gluten free gals, even one swapper from Down Under!  Be SURE to check them all out (link to recipe swap page below).

We shifted from a sweet recipe and chose a savory, hearty, classic recipe as a final ode to the cold weather.  Our inspiration and jumping-off point for this swap is none other than Grandma’s Chicken Pot Pie with Drop Biscuits.  Can’t go wrong with anything that has “grandma” in the title, right?

At first, I thought about putting a bread component on the bottom instead of on the top and making some sort of chicken pizza, but I didn’t want to stray too far from the original recipe (although, I’ve had pizza on my mind every since).  I knew I wanted to make a stew with shredded chicken, because shredded meat is my absolute favorite.  Chicken Chili Verde crossed my mind but didn’t excite me because I make that all the time.  I could make something ethic…maybe with coconut milk…and peanuts…and an aromatic Oregon wine. Oooooh the juices were flowing.  I always have to have something green with my meal so maybe I’ll add some red chard.  The bread part always stretches my mind in an effort to stay gluten free.  I think I found the perfect “drop biscuits” for this stew I’ve been thinking up.  I tweaked one of my new favorite recipes to give it some Asian/Middle Eastern fushion and voila!  A whole new recipe swap recreation.

Alright readers, get cookin’:

Curried Sweet Potato Falafel (adapted from 101 Cookbooks)
2-3 medium sweet potatoes (about 1.5 lbs)
1 cup cilantro, chopped
2 tsp yellow curry powder
1/2 tsp ground coriander
2 small garlic cloves, minced
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 cup chickpea flour (add more depending on moisture in potatoes)
splash olive oil
sesame seeds
s/p

Method:
Preheat oven to 425° and roast sweet potatoes on a cookie sheet for 45-60 minutes until they are soft and mushy through and through.  The mushier the better.

When soft, remove skin and mix with all other ingredients except sesame seeds and olive oil.  Chill until firm: 1 hour in fridge, 20-30 minutes in freezer.

Heat over to 375°.  Take cooled sweet potato mixture and roll into balls the size of ping pong balls.  Place on oiled cookie sheet and sprinkle with sesame seeds.  Bake for 18-20 minutes, until bottoms are golden brown.

(These bad boys are killer dipped in the peanutty stew or with some peanut sauce

Stew (adapted from The Recovering Vegetarian):
1.5 tbsp coconut oil
4 chicken thighs
1/2 cup dry, aromatic white wine (such as a riesling or gewurztraminer)*
1 medium yellow onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
4 cups chicken or veggie broth
1 can coconut milk
1/3 cup natural peanut butter
2-3 tbsp panang or red curry paste
zest and juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp brown sugar
couple slashes of fish sauce
1 can dark kidney beans, rinsed and drained
handful cilantro, chopped (save some for garnish)
1 bunch red chard, washed and cut into strips
s/p
1/3 cup chopped roasted peanuts

Method:
In  a dutch oven or soup pot, head coconut oil over medium-high heat.  Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper and brown on each side and set aside.  Deglaze the pan by splashing a couple tbsp of wine in pan and scrape the bottom.  Add onions and garlic and saute until soft.

Add chicken broth, coconut milk, peanut butter, remaining wine, lime, kidney beans, curry paste, brown sugar, and most of the cilantro.  Reduce heat and gentle simmer for 1 hour (emphasis on gentle, as coconut milk can curdle…I learned that the hard way) stirring occasionally.

After the hour, take a fork and shred the chicken, then add chard and fish sauce and simmer for 10-15 more minutes until chard is wilted but not turning brown.

Salt and pepper to taste and serve with cilantro and crushed peanut on top as a garnish.

Wine pairing: 2009 Anne Amie Cuvee A Amrita

And as always, I was in the throws of this food challenge with the most amazing, creative, lauded food bloggers.  You’ll be missing out BIG TIME if you don’t visit their blogs and see their recipe swap dishes.

(Photo taked by the lovely Kari Ray)

A couple weeks ago I somehow managed to finagle my way into a recipe swap with some fantastic food bloggers.   For those of your who are unfamiliar with what a recipe swap it, it’s nothing like a clothing swap, because we aren’t actually trading old recipes.  This recipe swap is all about reinventing and recreating.  Let me explain: CM from Burwell General Store found a great old cookbook at a swap meet in LA with some classic old recipes in it.  She had an idea to reinterpret some of these recipes and got a couple other food bloggers on board.  It started with Miss Rosemarried herself, Lindsay, then Toni of Boulder Locavore hopped on board, and now it’s grown to 7.  Our job is to recreate the recipe, changing at least 3 key components of the original, but still keeping with the essence of it.  We have 3 weeks or so to think, dream, test, taste, photograph, and write about our recreations. At first, I felt like a very little fish swimming in a very large pond.  But with determination, I puffed up my gills and decided to swim strong with the big fish.  Challenges are scary and I wasn’t sure I had it in me, but if I want to become a better cook, I have to step up to plate and take a risk.  So here I go!

In honor of Valentine’s Day, Miss CM picked a pastry recipe:
“Company Time” Lemon Cake:

Oooooh boy…baking.  Haven’t done much of it since I got diagnosed with type 1 diabetes nearly 3 years ago.  I’ve done even less since finding out I have a gluten and dairy allergy.  That’s a one/two punch if you ask me.  But lo and behold, there are ways to get around the blood sugar spikes and sluggishness that come along with white sugar and wheat flour.  I just had to find out how.

This challenge kept me up one night because I had so many ideas.  I wanted to keep it gluten free and use some sort of white sugar alternative (read: NATURAL sugar substitute.  Just say no to Splenda, etc).  I also wanted to add an Oregon wine component to it.  All seven of us have a unique stamp on our cooking: Toni isn’t call Boulder Locavore for nothing.  Nay and Lindsay are seasonal, local, farmers market going gals.  Dennis is Mr. Italiano.  Christianna is butter and sugar and French inspired all the time.  So  with some help from my fellow recipe swappers and (BIG shout out to) Karen from Dessert Labs gluten free bakery here in Portland (she started following me on Twitter right when we started this recipe swap. It was meant to be), I narrowed it down and here you have it:

Gluten Free Lemon Poppy Seed Angel Food Cake with an Oregon Pinot Gris Glaze

Ingredients (mostly in gram measurements for precision.  Best to use an electronic food scale.  I’ll give you some approximations):

Cake:

400g (≈13) egg whites
200g (≈1.5 cups) Coconut Palm Sugar*
75g (≈3/4 c) brown rice flour
25g millet flour
22g potato starch
22g tapioca starch
100g Coconut Sugar/Corn Starch blend**
½ tsp guar gum
Pinch cream of tartar
Pinch salt
3 tbsp poppy seeds
zest of 2 lemons

*Available at Whole Foods
**50g coconut sugar and 50g corn starch blended in food processor until texture of powdered sugar.  Or you can just use 100g powdered sugar if you prefer.
(If you live in the Portland area, I highly recommend Bob’s Red Mill for bulk spices and baking needs.)

Glaze:

1 stick unsalted butter cut into chunks
¾ c coconut palm sugar
½ c Oregon Pinot Gris*
zest from 1 lemon
1 tsp vanilla extract

*I used Erath Pinot Gris.  You can find this all over the country in your supermarket or liquor store.

Method:

Preheat oven to 400°

In mixing bowl, combine brown rice flour, millet flour, tapioca starch, potato starch, guar gum, salt, and coconut sugar/corn starch blend.  Set aside.

In electric mixer, whip egg whites and cream of tarter until foamy.  Add coconut sugar spoonful at a time until you get stiff peaks (be sure to taste it…it’ll taste like a toasted marshmallow!).

Fold in dry mix in 4-5 additions until incorporated, then fold in lemon zest and poppy seeds.  Do not over stir and deflate the egg white mixture.

Pour into ungreased 10-inch angel food cake pan.  Bake at 400° for 15 minutes.  Reduce to 375º and bake for another 25 minutes, or until golden brown and toothpick comes out clean.  Let cool, then remove from pan and place on large plate.

In the meantime, make glaze.  In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine wine, vanilla and butter until melted.  Add sugar and lemon and stir until dissolved.  Bring to a boil, then reduce and simmer until thick.  Drizzle generously over cake and let glaze soak in.

Now comes the fun part: eat until your hearts content…and of course share it with you friends!  Lindsay and I spent a lovely Sunday afternoon in her kitchen cooking and baking up a storm which was great since we were the first to taste each others delights.  My one wish is that I lived in the same place as my other recipe swappers.  The treats these brillant minds baked up are nothing short of inspiring:

  • Christianna (Burwell General Store) Meyer Lemon Curd Shortcakes with Orange Flower Water Glaze
  • Chef Dennis (More Than a Mountfull) Italian Lemon Pear Cake
  • Lindsay (Rosemarried) Grapefruit Cupckaes with Grapefruit Curd and Whipped Cream Frosting with Candied Grapefruit Peel
  • Toni (Boulder Locavore) Gluten Free Orange-Cardamom 3 Layer Cake and The Bronx Cocktail
  • Nay (Spicy Living) Lemon Lavender Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
  • Sabrina (The Tomato Tart) Brown Sugar Lemon Rosemary Cake with Rosemary Caramel

This challenge was so much fun for me.  I didn’t know I had it in me, but now I cannot wait until the next recipe swap.  Stayed tuned :)

(I am humbled to admit that the Food Lovers Cleanse became an afterthought last week.  I didn’t have the time, energy, or money to keep up so I just put the kibosh on it.  So much for all the hype, huh?)

Let me paint a picture for you:

January.  Grey.  Wet.  Dark. MISERABLE.  Depressing.  Cold.  Least favorite month of the year.  I’ve been working on weekends, commuting into Portland 6 days a week, trying to find any reprieve I can and rest in the meantime.  Everyone in Oregon feels the weight on January and it shows.  I blame January for every Trail Blazers loss too.

Let me paint you another picture:

I live 10 minutes from the Dundee Hills of Oregon wine country.  It usually looks like this in January:

But on Saturday, it looked more like this:

It was just the sunny day we needed.  I had the south-facing windows open in my apartment with Amos Lee’s new song “Windows Are Rolled Down” stuck in my head and a smile on my face (that smile was partially due to the fact that I was vacuuming the baseboards and being instantly gratified.  I am SO my mother’s daughter).  I decided to take a short drive up to Erath Winery to pick up some Pinot Gris (for my recipe swap) and some Pinot Blanc (for my own enjoyment).  As I was driving through these hills, I turned on the radio and Amos Lee’s song went from being just a song stuck in my head to actually playing on the radio.  It was the perfect moment with the windows indeed rolled down driving through my Heaven on Earth.  If you live in the Portland area and have never been out to Dundee, get in your car this weekend and go up to Erath, visit my friends who work in the tasting room, enjoy the view, and drink damn good wine.  You’ll thank me…and yourself.

The rest of the day was filled with a cat nap in my big cozy chair with the sun on my face, two of my favorite girlfriends, Michelle and Julia , wine flights at R.Stuart on 3rd Street in McMinnville, flirting with the cute cook at Thistle, and a lovely dinner with them at my place.  I need to have more Saturday’s off.

Sunday was just as pleasant.  I love my day of rest and wish everyday were as great as Sundays.  Usually, it’s church, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Fred Meyer, then back home to cook and rest for the day.  But yesterday, I spend the bulk of my day in Lindsay’s kitchen.  We drank mimosas, ate beet and quinoa pancakes (I’m sure she’ll post those on her blog, but you can follow that link in the meantime), watched the E! red carpet interviews for the SAG Awards, and baked to our little heart’s content.  I can’t reveal too much of what we baked since it’s for our recipe swap that we’ll all post next Monday, but I can give you a little teaser:

And I have to show your our beet pancakes…since they were bright pink!

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