January – Planes, Trains, Automobiles…and much more

January – Planes, Trains, Automobiles…and much more

After three years of isolation, we are finally traveling again. But, I am definitely out of practice. Packing is a laborious event, when before it was automatic. Thoughts of airport check-ins, security lines, passport control, and crowded terminals fill me with dread.

In the last 4 months, I have been to Dallas, Texas for a funeral and reunion with cousins in November. And in early December I spent a week in Hawaii with a friend to celebrate her retirement.

Together with my husband and another couple, we explored and hiked the redwood parks just north of here in late October.

The redwood burls look like creatures from “Lord of the Rings”, otherworldly.

And finally, the two of us took a trip to the west coast of Vancouver Island in B.C., Canada to visit the ‘storm hotels’.

All of the above is why you have not heard from me lately.

Following are some details of our trip to Canada. It’s a tale of trains, planes, and automobiles; plus the ferry and a bus. They say life is about the journey, this vacation was certainly to a large extent about the adventure of travel.

Throughout the last few years of drought in California we (my husband and myself) have watched the storms hit the west coast of Vancouver Island in Canada with envy. The low-pressure systems would sit just off their coast bringing a generous amount of rain. At the same time, a high-pressure system just off our northern California coast kept the rain away from us. The town of Tofino (at the end of the road in western Vancouver Island) has an average of 128 inches of rain annually! It’s a popular place for nature lovers and is crowded in the summer with surfers, kayakers, beachgoers, campers, fishers, and whale watchers. In the winter the visitors come for storm watching.

We planned this trip six months ago. We couldn’t have known that, ironically, the storms would hit our little coastal town with 30-foot waves and a deluge of rain while it was mostly rain-free in Canada. Sure, the sky was grey while we visited but very little precipitation fell to spoil our beach walks and hikes. At the same time, Fort Bragg had flooding and power outages.

Below is a picture of the sky as we drove into Oakland to catch our train.

Leaving the Bay Area the clouds looked like a second city floating above the buildings of San Francisco below

 

Amtrack Coastal Starlight

Both my husband and I love trains, so we started our little holiday with a 23-hour train ride from Oakland to Seattle on the Amtrak Coastal Starlight. The train originates in Los Angeles, traveling up the coast before it reaches its final destination in Seattle. We had a private room with a small bathroom, the seats converted into 2 generous bunks for sleeping. By day we had a comfortable chair, couch, and large picture window for watching the world flow by.

 

The beginning of the trip was in darkness, we boarded the train at 9:30 pm and the room was set up for sleep. Leaving Oakland the train traveled through the delta. Regarding the water below with weariness, the tracks seemed to be barely above the water. We heard that this same train, scheduled to leave the following day, had been canceled due to anticipated flooding.

The sound of the clicking and clacking of wheels and the gentle rocking of the train lulled us to sleep that night. We woke in the morning to a snowy landscape in Southern Oregon.

While we breakfasted on cheese omelets, our room was converted back into a sitting room. We arrived in Seattle on schedule that evening. Since our next train (to Vancouver B.C.) left early the next morning we booked a hotel near the train station. I was impressed by the Embassy Suites hotel, only a block away, where we visited the bar in the restaurant for a snack of fried artichoke hearts and a glass of wine before retiring for the night.

Early the next morning we boarded another train to Vancouver in B.C. Canada. It was an easy crossing of the border, two passport checks were the only red tape. From Vancouver, we took a taxi to the ferry terminal for the trip to Victoria on Vancouver Island.

We spent one very pleasant afternoon and evening in Victoria at the Victoria Regent Waterfront Hotel, which is centrally located in downtown Victoria.

City view from our hotel room in Victoria

On our ‘to-do’ list was a visit to the Irish Times pub where we had spent a pleasant blustery evening several years ago when we last visited Victoria.

Irish Times Pub in Victoria

Shepherd’s pie and a pint were a must.

Shepherd’s Pie at Irish Times

The next morning we picked up our rental car for the 4-hour drive to Tofino. So far we hadn’t seen any rain although our daughter, who was house and dog sitting back home, reported a power outage due to strong winds associated with the storms hitting the coast of California.

In Tofino, we stayed at the Pacific Sands Hotel where we had a small studio apartment overlooking the beach.

Beach off the Pacific Sands Hotel in Tofino

We did find a few places to watch the waves crashing on the shore. The sky was grey and gloomy but it didn’t stop us from long beach walks.

Tofino Beach

We had one memorable hike through the rainforest on an elevated walkway. About a mile in length, the wooden walkway took us up high on a ridge and then down into a ravine with a stream where salmon spawned. The richness of the moss, ferns, and trees in the forest felt ancient and primordial.

Although Tofino is a small town of just over 2,000 permanent residents, several accomplished chefs have settled there and opened restaurants. A few of them were closed because it was just after the busy holidays but we had no difficulties finding wonderful places to eat.

Although the restaurant Roar is in a hotel that looks to be something straight out of the ’60s, the food was excellent. We sat near the kitchen where we could watch them cooking over an actual roaring fire. It reminded me of the TV show Bear, which I recommend.

We had breakfast one morning at the Savory Island Pie Company. The menu did not limit itself to pies and we had excellent croissants and scones to take away for another morning.

After four amazingly cozy days in Tofino, we drove back to Victoria for 3 more days at the Victoria Regent. This time we had a small apartment with a full kitchen. We were surprised to learn that the hotel had originally been condos and there were some full-time residents. Our room overlooked the harbor, and we could watch seaplanes land and take off from the balcony.

Victoria Harbor

Then it was time to take the ferry back to Vancouver, a bus (no I didn’t forget it) to the airport, and a plane back to Oakland.

After hearing horror stories of travel experiences over the holidays, we felt lucky that everything went smoothly. We arrived home to mostly clear skies as the storms had moved north to Vancouver Island.

 

 

November – Roast Vegetable Salad with Horseradish Goat Cheese

November – Roast Vegetable Salad with Horseradish Goat Cheese

Roasted Vegetable Salad

Roasted Vegetable Salad

This is another recipe from salad freak.

salad freak

Salad Freak by Jess Damuck

I have found this book very inspiring, especially useful because I am not feeling very inspired in the kitchen these days. I seem to be there way too often since Covid hit. I served the salad as a side with a juicy steak off the grill, the horseradish goat cheese was a perfect match. This was also useful as a ‘clean out the fridge’ salad, you can use whatever is hanging out and needs to be roasted before the new week’s shopping. I found a small head of Romanesco cauliflower (or is it broccoli Romanesco?), some Brussels sprouts and carrots. With shallots and garlic cloves from the pantry it was a go. The original recipe adds fingerling potatoes. If you have some in your pantry or fridge, by all means add them. Just wash and cut them in half, no need to peel.

The important thing is to check the timing on the vegetables as some items may need longer or shorter times in the oven.

Broccoli Romanesco

Broccoli Romanesco

If you want some extra crunch, add toasted torn croutons. I find torn ones are much more interesting than ones cut into little squares. The craggy bits become that much more toasty.

Roasted Vegetable Salad with Horseradish Goat Cheese

Ingredients:

  • 2 bunches of small carrots, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut in half (quartered if very large)
  • 1 small head of Romanesco cauliflower or regular, separated into florets
  • 4 shallots, peeled and cut in half
  • 1 head of garlic, cloves separated and peeled
  • 1 tablespoon of jarred horseradish
  • 2 lemons
  • 5 ounces of fresh goat cheese at room temperature
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups of fresh chopped parsley or arugula

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F
  2. On a rimmed parchment lined baking sheet, toss the carrots with 2 tablespoon of oil and season with salt and pepper. Separate them so they are not touching.
  3. On a second parchment lined baking sheet, toss the Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, shallots, garlic and potatoes (if using) with another 2 tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. They will roast to a toastier brown if cut side down.
  4. Roast the vegetables for about 25 minutes, then give them a toss. Roast for another 10 minutes until they are brown and crispy.
  5. Remove them from the oven and allow them to cool a bit.
  6. Make the horseradish goat cheese. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the horseradish with the goat cheese, the zest and juice of 1 lemon, salt and pepper. Blend until whipped and smooth.
  7. Spread the roasted vegetables on a platter, squeeze the other lemon over and taste. Add more olive oil, salt and pepper as needed. Scatter the parsley or arugula on top and dollop with the horseradish goat cheese. Alternately you can first spread the horseradish goat cheese on the platter and arrange the salad on top.
Roast Vegetable Salad with Horseradish Goat Cheese

Roast Vegetable Salad with Horseradish Goat Cheese

Roast Vegetable Salad with Horseradish Goat Cheese

Roast Vegetable Salad with Horseradish Goat Cheese

In My Kitchen – November 2022

In My Kitchen – November 2022

Is it November already and time for In My Kitchen? This post is part of a compilation of records of kitchen events from the last month. Here’s the fun part, the kitchens are all over the world. Bloggers from both the northern and southern hemispheres take part. You can read the other posts at Sherry’s Pickings, the link is here. You will learn about new kitchen gadgets, recipes, unusual ingredients, wine, cheese, and chocolate…need I say more?

The holidays are approaching way too quickly. I am starting to think about my contribution to Thanksgiving dinner. It’s a day that celebrates friendship and family, one that has more meaning to me than Christmas these days. After the last three years, I value and appreciate my close connections to other people (and furry friends) even more. Thanksgiving is less commercialized (unless you count the frenzy of Black Friday). For years I hosted Thanksgiving, but as my friend’s families have grown with grandchildren and in-laws, I surrendered the honor. Now our little family is a happy participant.

This year I am planning to make sous vide turkey roulade, plus a large casserole of vegetarian raisin stuffing. Vegetarian sausage products have improved so much over the past few years that there is no compromise using it rather than regular sausage. I will post the recipe for the roulade, there are several on this site for turkey but I haven’t tried this particular one before. Sous vide has turned out to be the all-around best technique for turning out tender, moist turkey.

And, I am writing this post on election night in the U.S. because I am filled with anxiety. It’s a case of avoidance. I cannot bear to watch the minute-by-minute news programs. I cannot change things. I try to cultivate a long-range view, things have been this bad before. But, here and now, I despair.

But, on to what is new In My Kitchen over the past month.

I purchased this padded mat for the kitchen. It’s easy to clean and comfortable when I am standing in front of the sink and prep area.

Padded Kitchen Mat

Padded Kitchen Mat

I’ve been trying a lot of recipes from a new cookbook. I’ve found the fall recipe section especially inspiring.

salad freak

Salad Freak by Jess Damuck

So far I have made (all slightly adjusted to what I had in the fridge and on hand):

Shredded Kale and Brussels Sprouts with Roasted Squash and Walnuts

Health Food Salad

And a roasted vegetable salad (recipe to be posted soon).

Roasted Vegetable Salad

Roasted Vegetable Salad

A cookbook rarely inspires me this way.

It’s the season for soups and this one was welcome on a cool evening.

Friends have a dog (no longer a puppy) only a couple of days older than our Shanna. We have been scheduling ‘puppy play dates’ over the past 12 months, ever since they were fully vaccinated. Of course, it’s only an excuse for wine and snacks (sometimes a full dinner) on our deck as we laugh at puppy craziness. For our last meeting, we decided on a Greek tapas theme. I made this roasted eggplant with tomatoes and a miso-tahini sauce dish. It was a hit.

Eggplant is usually not one of my favorites, but this time it was roasted to a wonderfully charred deliciousness. It changed my mind.

And that is most of the notable events in the kitchen over the past month. We took a 4 day trip up the coast for a long weekend with hikes over to the lost coast and through the redwoods. It’s on my schedule to write a post detailing our adventures and some of the pictures. Walking through the redwoods feels like entering a cathedral. If you haven’t had an opportunity to visit, I highly recommend the experience. The burls look like creatures out of Lord of the Rings. Here is one:

Looks like a ghoul to me, pulling itself out of the tree.

I wish all of you in the U.S. a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with friendship and love. And, I love comments. Please let me know what’s new in your kitchen over the past month.

November – Curried Red Lentil Soup

November – Curried Red Lentil Soup

Fall is here and this soup has the color and flavor of October, perfect for cooler weather. Make it ahead, it is even better after standing overnight. It will, however, thicken. Thin it as needed with additonal water and check the seasonings to see if you need to add more.

Curried Red Lentil Soup

Curried Red Lentil Soup

The crunchy topping is a perfect contrast to the creamy soup.

Curried Red Lentil Soup

Serves 6

Soup ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 (1″) piece of fresh ginger, grated
  • 6 cloves of garlic, smashed, peeled and diced
  • 1 russet potato, peeled and diced
  • 3 cups of stemmed and torn kale leaves
  • 5 tablespoons of curry powder (mine was mild, you may want to use less if your own is spicy)
  • 2 teaspoons of kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons of gochugaru (or none if your curry powder is hot)
  • 1 teaspoon of freshly ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cumin
  • 2 cups of red lentils, rinsed and examined for small stones
  • 1 14.5 oz can of coconut milk (I used full fat)

Spiced cashew topping:

  • 1 tablespoon of coconut oil
  • 3/4 cup of cashews
  • 1/4 cup of pumpkin seeds
  • 2 tablespoons of sesame seeds
  • 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground pepper

For serving: fresh mint leaves, fresh thyme leaves and lemon zest

Method:

  1. In a large pot over medium heat, heat the oil. Add the onion, garlic and ginger, stirring occasionally, until the onions are softened. Add the carrots, potato, kale, curry powder, salt, gochugaru (if using), and pepper. Cook stirring until the kale wilts.
  2. Add 6 cups of water, lentils, and coconut milk. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low and cover the pot. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are creamy and the potato is tender…about 30 minutes.
  3. Use an immersion blender to partially puree the soup, leaving some small chunks for texture. Or cool and puree part of the soup in a regular blender. Make sure the soup is cool or you will have an volcano of hot soup spouting out the top. (It has happened to me and is not a pleasant clean up not to mention a potential scalding.)
  4. To serve, top with the spiced cashews, torn mint leaves, thyme and grated lemon zest.

Spiced Cashews:

  1. In a medium skillet over medium low heat, heat the oil. Add the cashews and pepitas,stirring, until golden. Add the sesame seeds, sugar, coriander, cumin seeds, red pepper flakes, salt and black pepper. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes more.
Curried Red Lentil Soup

Curried Red Lentil Soup

This soup can thicken on standing, if needed add more water to thin. Check the seasoning before serving to see if you need to add more salt or spices.

Any extra topping is delicous used with other soups, roasted sweet potatoes or butternut squash…even on a salad.

October – Health Food Salad

October – Health Food Salad

Health Food Salad

Health Food Salad

I am giving you a post Thanksgiving recipe today, a salad you may want to eat after the glorious overindulgence in traditional Thanksgiving sides and desserts. I know I will be serving it. You could even toss in some leftover turkey to make it a whole meal. I think the folks over at Fiesta Friday may want to tag it. Fiesta Friday is hosted by Angie, it’s Fiesta Friday #458 this week. Come on over and plan your menus for the holidays, decorate your home, or keep the kids busy with activities or baking.

This is another recipe from salad freak. You are going to be seeing more great recipes from this book. My version, as usual, has some changes as not all the ingredients were available. But it is definitely true to the spirit of the recipe. I added a small handful of shredded pecorino which was not in the book, leave it out for a vegan version.

Adding the cheese was inspired by a recipe in Molly Wizenberg’s book A Homemade Life. She has a very simple but delicious Red Cabbage Salad with Lemon and Black Pepper which couldn’t be easier. Here it is:

In a small bowl whisk together 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon of grated garlic, 1/8 teaspoon of kosher salt. Very finely (essential) shred about 1-1/2 lbs of cored red cabbage. Discard any with white cores. Toss the cabbage in a bowl with a large spoonful or two of the dressing. Add the Parmesan and toss again. Add a generous grind of fresh pepper. Taste and add more dressing or salt and pepper.

Anyway, on to the current version of this cabbage salad.

I used the fine blade of my food processor to shredd the cored cabbage, and the shredding blade for the carrots. You could certainly do this with a knife (a bread knife might be easier for the cabbage) and the large shredding side of a box grater.

Feel free to improvise here with whatever is in your fridge. Thinly sliced fennel would be good, celery as well.

Health Food Salad

Health Food Salad

Health Food Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 small head of red cabbage
  • 4 carrots, peeled
  • 2 large handfuls of sprouts, any kind you find. I used sunflower and pea shoots, but radish, lentils or alfalfa would all be fine.
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 cup of raisins (I used a mix of golden and black currents because of was out of the dark ones…much to my last minute surprise)
  • 1 cup of roasted shelled sunflower seeds (I think pumpkin seeds would also be delicious)
  • 1/4 cup of hemp seeds (I didn’t have any and left them out)
  • 1 tablespoon of poppy seeds
  • 1/2 cup of shredded Parmesan (leave out for a vegan version)
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt

Method:

  1. Core the cabbage and shave it thinly into a large bowl. Grate the carrots into the same bowl.
  2. Toss in the sprouts, raisins, sunflower seeds, poppy seeds and hemp seeds, if using. Mix it all up and then add a large pinch of salt, a glug of olive oil and the juice of half the lemon. Taste and add more lemon juice, salt, Parmesan or olive oil if needed.

This salad keeps incredibly well and was still delicious the next night for dinner with some added rotisserie chicken.

Health Food Salad

Health Food Salad

From:

salad freak

Salad Freak by Jess Damuck