Sunday, September 20, 2009

Greek Salad

Well for those of you who don't know, I'm Italian, and there's this great line from a book called "Animal Vegetable Miracle" where the author is talking about her husband's Italian heritage and she says "It's my observation that when Italian genes are present, all others take cover." That would be my observation as well, unless ofcourse you meet a Greek. Now that my Mom dates a big Greek man, Mike, I joke that we have all become a little Greek. I'm sure all of you have someone like this in your life, and if not, you'd better get one because it's a whole lot of food and love. So this recipe comes from the newest member of our family, Mike. Thanks for all the food and love, you fit right in and then some. My poor quiet husband had know idea what he was in for when he married me, first the Italian crazyiness and food and now the Greek fun and fare, but he's loving every minute of it, and the food isn't too bad either.

-Greek Salad-

16 oz baby spinach
1 lb cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1 large onion, thinly sliced (I use purple onion, Mike likes white onion)
1/4 lb good feta, cut into bite size pieces (I get mine at the farmer's market from Rockhill Creamery, it's called Desert Red and the flavor is salty and rich.)
pepper to taste
(I don't use salt because the feta is so salty, it doesn't really need more.)

1. I layer all of the ingredients in a huge bowl staring with the spinach, then the tomatoes, onion, and feta sprinkle some pepper and then layer one more time starting with the spinach and so on.
2. I like to dress each serving individually but you can certainly dress the whole salad when ready to serve.


Here's the thing, the dressing is a mixture of balsamic vinegar and homemade ranch from Mike's restaurant, The International Pantry. We just mix the two according to taste, so if you can't get your hands on Mike's ranch use you favorite and mix with the balsamic for this truly original salad delight. ENJOY!

*Spinach historically was regarded as a plant with remarkable abilities to restore energy, increase vitality, and improve the quality of the blood. Spinach contains twice as much iron as most other greens. Spinach is also one of the most alkaline-producing foods making it useful in helping regulate body pH. It is also one of the richest dietary sources of lutein making it an especially important food for promoting healthy eyesight and preventing muscular degeneration and cataracts. Spinach, like other chlorophyll and carotene containing vegetables, is a strong protector against cancer. Researchers have identified at least thirteen different flavonoid compounds in spinach that function as antioxidants and as anticancer agents.

Garlic Broth

This recipe came from the cook book I found in our second cabin in Manzanita. It's called 'Sweet Basil, Garlic, Tomatoes and Chive's' (Shaw 1992), I ordered it the second we got home because I made this soup twice while in Manzanita and once since we've been home. This one is sure to be a staple in our house when it gets cold and the benefits of garlic are a mile long, I'll share some of those benefits at the bottom of the recipe.

-Garlic Broth-

(I double this recipe when making it for two)

2 c. water (I use vegetable stock or broth)
6 cloves of garlic
2 fresh sage leaves, minced
2 t. good olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

*optional* I use fresh tomatoes pureed (equaling about a cup or more), and then add to the mixture.

1. Bring the water (or broth) to a boil along with the garlic, and simmer until the garlic is soft, about another 20 minutes. Add the sage and keep simmering about another 20 minutes.
2. Turn off heat, spoon out the garlic and smash on cutting board with the back of a knife, if you have a mortar and pestle that would work great. Mash the garlic with the olive oil, grinding it into a paste.
3. Stir the garlic paste back into the broth. Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot.

*Variations* For a richer soup grind 2 T. of grated Parmesan cheese into the mashed garlic along with the olive oil in step 2. And/or grind a raw egg yolk into the garlic along with the olive oil. And/or at step 3 add 2 ounces angel hair pasta (I used quinoa pasta in mine) with the garlic paste, and cook until done. ENJOY!

*GARLIC, has a long history of use as an infection fighter. In fact it has been referred to as the 'Russian Penicillin' to denote it's antibacterial properties. It's antimicrobial activity is due to allicin. Allicin has been shown to be affective not only against common infections, such as colds, flu, stomach viruses and Candida yeast, but also against powerful pathogenic microbes, including tuberculosis and botulism. The beneficial effects of garlic are clearly quite extensive. Its use as a food should be encouraged, despite its odor, especially by those with elevated cholesterol levels, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, Candida infections, asthma, infections (particularly respiratory infections), and gastrointestinal complaints. For best flavor and health benefits, buy fresh garlic.

Recipes PLEASE!- Roasted Vegetable Orzo w/Basil Parmesan Vinaigrette

I know, I know it's been forever since I've posted some new recipes and I apologize. I think I've probably mentioned a few thousand times how busy this summer has been for me, but lucky for me it's Sunday morning and I'm sitting in bed blogging while my sweet husband makes me breakfast in bed. This is his way of giving me some time to just watch my favorite cooking shows or catch up on the blogging. We are having our famous hot cereal with fresh orange/grapefruit/carrot juice, I can't wait!
On with the recipes: This first one is actually a dish I took to a local Public Pot Luck Picnic that was held in order to raise awareness for Congress to improve the Child Nutrition Act, which supports the need for better food in our schools. This dish is healthy, light, refreshing and very addictive if I do say so myself. It works great as a side dish for a get together and this time of year you can pick up most of the ingredients at the farmers market.

-Roasted Vegetable Orzo with a Basil Lemon Parmesan Vinaigrette-

1 package orzo pasta ( I was lucky enough to find whole wheat orzo, yeah! ) cook according to directions, drain and let cool
6 medium size bell peppers ( I like to use yellow, red and orange peppers for the sweetness and color ) cut into bite size pieces
1 large or 2 medium purple onions, cut into bite size pieces
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 large heirloom tomatoes
olive oil
salt and pepper
*optional* 1 package baby portabello mushrooms, chopped

1. Cook pasta according to directions and set aside to cool, if your in a pinch you can rinse the cooked pasta under cold water to help the cooling time.
2. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees, on a large cookie or two if you need it toss together the peppers, onion, garlic and mushrooms if using with olive oil and salt and pepper.
3. Place the cookie sheets in the oven and roast for 30- 40 minutes, just until the edges are charred a little. I rotate the cookie sheets half way through the cooking time.
4. When the veggies are cooked to perfection take them out and let them cool a bit, when they have cooled toss the pasta and cooked vegetables all together in a large bowl and toss with the vinaigrette. And when this is all tossed together I cut the heirloom tomatoes in wedges and top the orzo with these beauties.

-Lemon Basil Parmesan Vinaigrette-

2/3 c. olive oil
2/3 c. fresh lemon juice, also the zest of those lemons
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/3 c. chopped fresh basil
1/3 c. fresh grated Parmesan cheese
2 cloves garlic, minced

1. Mix olive oil, lemon juice, zest, salt, pepper, garlic and basil in a container with a lid. Place the lid on container and shake. Add the cheese just before tossing over the pasta and vegetables.

*Vinaigrette can be made ahead. Pasta and vegetables can be made a day ahead, toss all together at the last minute. Also add tomatoes very last. ENJOY!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Manzanita, Oregon Coast

I'm not even sure where to begin, we had a feeling that this leg of the trip would really affect us in a way that we didn't fully anticipate and I have to say we haven't been the same since. Manzanita, Oregon is one of the most incredible places that either one of us have ever been so fortunate enough to visit. It reminded us very much of the relaxed atmosphere of a little town called Hanalei on the island of Kauai. (Kauai is where my husband and I got married and is very special to our hearts) The amazing thing about Manzanita is that it has the easy going connected to nature attitude of Hanalei and the yet also has the rugged beauty of the mountains here in Utah, which really made us feel right at home.

The Coast Cabins is the name of the place where we stayed in Manzanita. Two weeks before we were getting ready to leave we still had no idea where we'd stay when we got to the coast. Our friends Nate and Alisa showed us a magazine clipping of this place, I checked it out online and is was perfect. Luckily they had those days available, woo hoo!
We ran into a one hour road delay on the way to the coast, which although was somewhat annoying was actually somewhat peaceful being in the middle of an amazing forested mountainside, but the suspense was getting to us and we couldn't wait to see this coastal hideaway. We finally arrived and when we walked into our little studio cabin, I just started crying. This totally took my husband by surprise, and myself too actually. I think I'm a bit of a tender heart I cry at silly things, but walking into this room with the sunlight and the foilage piercing through the windows of this incredibly adorable cabin it was just breath taking and I couldn't hold it in. It was just so warm and inviting, and after all the hours of driving to get here I just couldn't believe the reward of what I had just layed my eyes on. Not only the cabin itself but the stunning grounds of the development just felt like we had stepped into this amazing space that we never could have imagined. We stayed in the smallest cabin the first night and then we moved to the biggest cabin for the next couple nights this was the only way they could accommodate us at such a late date. We didn't mind having to pay more for the larger unit, after all it was my 30th birthday. The people who ran this place were like family, you got the sense from them and the cabins that this was your place, enjoy, relax and feel the love. Billy is convinced that nothing will be able to compare to this place and the way we felt there, although we did say the same thing about Kauai. The gentleman Gary (and I do mean gentleman, he had such a feeling about him) who is one of the owners, showed Billy and I one of the other cabins and told us a bit about the property, Billy loves finding out the history of the places we stay at and Gary gave us the full run down. Also Gary knew it was my birthday and when Billy and I went for a walk on the beach we came back and there was two bottles of wine and some chocolate and a little note that said Happy Birthday. One of the unique things about the Coast Cabins is they had a fire pit that they would get going every night. One night they had all the makings for smores out by the fire, shut up! Who are these sweet thoughtful host?! The funny thing is that the whole time we were there no one but us sat by that roaring fire. Can you believe that? Even when it was raining I kept that fire going, one night I sat out there with a towel and an umbrella.

For the most part while in Manzanita we ate in our cabin, however we did eat at this little bakery called The Bread and Ocean that's only open a few nights a week for dinner and we were lucky enough to catch them for dinner the first night we got into town. Gourmet, healthy, and made with locally produced food, it was a wonderful treat for my romantic birthday dinner. I think we ordered one of everything on the menu. (It was a small menu, I promise.) Also during the week we had breakfast there and took advantage of the fresh baked daily bread specials. Another little place we visited while in town was this tiny, yet charming little wine bar called Vino, where we enjoyed an tasty cheese and cracker app and some beautiful local wines (not to mention the $12 glass of port that my husband spilled all over me....he took a picture of it first though, so at least we had that). Like I said we mostly ate in our Cabin a handful of yummy meals that I made with the produce that I picked up at the Portland farmers market and other items from this awesome Natural Foods market called Mother's in Manzanita. I was able to get a few things there. It's fun when you have to be creative about dinner if your only able to use a few ingredients. In the second cabin (which amazingly enough blew away the first cabin that made me cry) had this wonderful cook book sitting on the coffee table called Sweet Basil, Garlic, Tomatoes, and Chives (Shaw, 1992) it inspired me to cook two yummy healthy dinners. I loved the cook book so much that I immediately ordered myself a copy when I got home.

Manzanita is the kind of small coastal town where all the little shops close down for business at around six o'clock every night, which made for a charming yet somewhat spooky feeling as you walked through town at night. We loved to walk down to the beach at night(especially if it was raining) and it was really peaceful and yet eerily quite at the same time walking down their quite little main street to go and see the sunset on the beech. It was though we had the town to ourselves and we loved it. Manzanita will have a little piece of our hearts and we can't wait to go back.

Thanx Manzanita, until we meet again.


Wow, who knew I would have such fun on our road trip and after enjoying Boise we were so excited to get to Portland. We had driven a long way that day along the Columbia River Gorge, Billy and I have never been to this part of the country and it was beautiful. It was rainy and windy but when we hit the gorge the sun came out and we couldn't have been happier to experience the water and all the windmills with a little sunshine along this truly scenic drive into Portland.

Well we've arrived in Portland and I am so happy to get out of the car. We stayed at Hotel Monaco which was located in the heart of downtown, which I thought was perfect because the best way to see a new city is by walking it. So we parked the Prius and headed out. It's Friday night and we are starving but first we wanted to walk around to get the lay of the land. There was this huge plaza where all these people were sitting in lawn chairs and eating picnic food they had brought with them. Come to find out this outdoor plaza was showing an outdoor movie on a big screen, which is apparently a weekly gig on Friday nights in the summer, pretty cool. What a great way to spent a evening down town there was so much energy.

Dinner: The staff at our hotel was so helpful and one of the places they recommended was Pazzo, Italian food, perfect. I have to say the whole meal was awesome but my starters were the best thing I think I ate in Portland. It was a plate of local heirloom tomatoes and garlic sauted spinach. The great thing about Portland is that all the restaurant's are doing the locally grown organic thing, awesome! Oh a slight mention to the homemade hazelnut carmel gelato we had for dessert. This and my starters were the highlight of this meal, so good we went back the next night for a repeat of those two dishes, even after we had already had dinner at another location.

The next morning we headed to the Farmers Market, I mean come on I have to check out other cities markets right? Prior to the market we went to breakfast at local favorite called Mother's, this place came highly recommended and it didn't disappoint, we split some warm wholesome oatmeal and a lox and bagel plate. My favorite part of this meal however was the mint tea, it came in a tea pot that had fresh mint leaves along with a peppermint tea bag, it was just so warm and comforting that I'm making it at home now all the time. (lucky for me I can get fresh mint at the farmer's market) Now, on to the Market. The Portland Farmer's Market on Saturday's is held on the Portland University campus. It was shaded by all the wonderful trees and the smells and sounds are familiar to any farmer's market, but it was fun to see how they do some things differently from ours here in Salt Lake. They only sell food, meaning they didn't have of the arts and jewelry booths like they do here at our market, and oh did I mention, they had one thing we don't have here, wine booths! Hello, AWESOME, I bought two bottles from an local area winery to take up to the coast with us. I also grabbed some tomatoes, artichokes, basil and green beans in order to stock up for the next leg of the trip. The other note worthy thing we did that day was we went to a charity jean sale. I know WHAT? There's an organization called Denim for Charity, and they sell designer jeans at the fraction of the cost for charity. Ofcourse I had to help and do my part, I got a great pair of jeans and was happy to get a great deal. Denim for Charity is actually based here in Utah.

The rest of the day we spent in the Pearl District, it's a fun and hip area of downtown with lots of great shops, awesome restaurants, design studios, etc. etc, all in a previosly industrial area that's been revitalized into a trendy upscale part of tow. There are a ton of really nicely done condo developments and great outdoor green spaces, including a natural wet lands park right off of the river front walk, just a really energized part of town that we loved spending the day in.
After walking and exploring all day we were starving so we ate at a place called Henry's Tavern, I had the best veggie burger of my life there. We sat, relaxed, had a few drinks and just soaked up the city night life, what a great town.

Thanx Portland you were awesome, see you next time.

Up next Manzanita.