Showing posts with label Tacoma. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tacoma. Show all posts

Monday, February 20, 2012

Gritty Eateries With Hearts of Gold

I have a special place in my heart for places that look all gritty on the outside, but their heart of awesome shines through when you get inside and order some grub.

Here are some of my T-town "Gritty With a Heart of Gold" favs:

Dirty Oscar's Annex
http://m.yelp.com/biz/dirty-oscars-annex-tacoma
Seriously. This 6th Ave establishment has a banner for a sign, you can't really see inside, and for goodness sake it's called DIRTY OSCAR'S ANNEX. But I'm in love. The first time I went here was late night out with some girlfriends and the drinks were amazing. More recently the Other Half and I snuck out to try one of their breakfasts, and WOW! I took a risky and tried the Habenero Shrimp and Sausage Eggs Benedict, which had definite kick without making me cry. The waitress was awesome and kept refilling my Irish Coffee with coffee, so I got the kick of the whiskey drawn out without needing to sleep the day away. The other half's gluten-free needs were made happy by one of their breakfast hashes. *bliss*

Gari Sushi
http://gariofsushi.net/
Hidden away on South 38th Street between I-5 and the Lincoln District is this little treasure. On the outside it looks kind of like a shuttered strip club. Subtle signage and window you can't see through. Inside is quite delightful ... nice and airy, plenty of seating, great and fast service (you can get in and out on a lunch hour!) and scrumptious eats! Plenty for the teriyaki-leaning crowd, and a sushi combo plate I just can't say no to. Their lunch sushi roll special is pretty great too... you get to pick a roll or two of choice I believe, and it comes with YAM ROLLS ... which is like the dessert of the sushi roll. The other half adores the Chirashi lunch, which is basically a bunch of fish meats on top of sushi rice ... Kind I like a teriyaki bowl, but with yummy sushi cuts instead of chicken and sauce.

Marcia's Silver Spoon
http://m.yelp.com/biz/marcias-silver-spoon-cafe-tacoma
All I can say is OH! EM! GEE! Totally greasy spoon-style diner hidden on South Tacoma Way, but the food is beyond basic comfort diner food ... it is amazingly melts-in-your-mouth French toast, hand pressed sausage parties rather than pre-formed, and all kinds of other goodness. (I just haven't been able to pry myself away from the French toast yet.) The gluten-free hubby sticks with the eggs and bacon and is a happy man, but admits to nom-ing lustfully on their to-die-for Eggs Benedict back before he made the switch. Ok, they serve lunch and dinner food, too, but their breakfasts are so fabulous they now offer them 7 days a week. Yay!

What's your favorite "Gritty Eatery With a Heart of Gold?"

Sunday, March 14, 2010

For those of us with a certain craving: "Tastes Like a Burgerville Cheeseburger Mac N Cheese"

For those of us who are ancy for the the Burgerville Nomad to announce its first Tacoma stop, here is a made-up-in-my-head mac n cheese recipe that makes my daughter smile and say ...

"Tastes Like a Burgerville Cheeseburger!"

This has been a big hit with the kids, and was even requested by the Diva for lunch on her birthday. I make it a little diff every time, and you can adjust to taste ... but basically, I add the following to a big pot in the below order (some prep work - cheese shredding and meat browning) required.

1 lb macaroni noodles - boiled 6-7 min

Drain, return to pot and then return to hot burner, but turn heat down to low ... just enough to help melt the cheese)

Stir in butter (1/2 to 1 stick, depending on your preferred taste)

Some milk as needed to keep it stirrable and from burning (prob a 1/4-1/2 cup depending)

1-4 scoops of mayo (to taste) -- scoop = a heaping scoop with a normal or large table spoon (not a serving spoon) ...

3-4 scoops of Grey Poupon (to taste) -- this one is more important than you might think!!!!

****If you are cautious on the mayo or Grey Poupon, you can always add more to taste while you're stirring in the cheese. They add extra "zing" ... especially the mustard!

Stir

A mixture of ideally 3 different cheeses, ideally one being swiss (I use Swiss -- jarslburg or even cheap stuff, Tillamook cheddar, and low-moisture or cheap mozzerella ... and whatever leftover cheese is around) ... add by the handful to taste (I usually prep a small mixing bowl full ... if you don't use it all, that's what Tupperware is for!)

Keep stirring - this is really where you must start tasting if you haven't already ... you may need more mustard, more cheese ... once it starts getting cheese webs while stirring you're probably good ... all depends on how you like it. And you an always add milk if it's getting a little stiff.

OPTIONAL: stir in 1 pound of browned ground beef (I like to season mine with Greek seasoning)

Eat!!! :)

Tacoma music: Waking me up from a long winter's nap

Spring must be here (or maybe I finally got some sleep)! Either way, my love for T-Town has hardly faded, but recent exposure to some fabulous songbirds and crooners have me twitterpated about Tacoma all over again, and twitching to get out to more local music shows ... especially now that the kids are getting older. So, in no particular order, some luscious local vocals to check out (listed in no particular order) ...

Goldfinch
I'd been hearing about Goldfinch and hearing about Goldfinch and hearing about Goldfinch ... and last night I actually got to HEAR GOLDFINCH! And now I can love Goldfinch honestly. Last night this fab five serenaded the MLK Ballet company dancers three times at Tacoma's School of the Arts for MOVE! #16 (a fundraiser for MLK Ballet's tuition-free ballet school, where my Diva is a student). Love them! I'm going to have to seek them locally more often.

Goldfinch "Yellow Wings" from goldfinchstatebird on Vimeo.



Handful of Lovin'

This is a band who, until this last month, I'd only heard on Adam The Alien's video of First Night festivities from two years ago. (And technically not sure if they're "Tacoma", but I haven only heard them in Tacoma, and I believe they used to be the house band at Masa.) Fun, fun bad. And I finally got to hear them myself at a CD release show at Jazzbones a couple weeks ago. Even more fun, fun, fun! In trying to describe their sound, I can only say that the vocals frequently remind me of Dave Matthews, the energy is ska without the horns, and the rest is a definite Celtic influence and they know how to rock a crowd. Their description: A rock quartet featuring a rocking classically trained violinist, Handful refers to their music as "fiddle driven roots rock," and their cheerful blend of folk-rock, reggae and world rhythms, plus secondhand baroque and Celtic influences with catchy pop hooks, strongly recalls the vintage sound of Actual Tigers, the madness of Flogging Molly, and the moodier, more experimental side of Wilco. At Jazzbones, Handful of Lovin' (put your hands together, that's how you show your love -- CLAP!) was playin' a little overtime as a late-night DJ/dance crowd began to gather ... and even they were getting into it. You can't help but move when these folks are on stage ... whether it's on the dance floor or in your seat. Sitting still is impossible ... I left the show in a happy daze from all the energy. And while some of the songs are basically fun drinking songs, others have lyrics that if you pay attention to, make you think a little harder. Good times.

The Fun Police
I had no idea what to think about this band when I first heard of them ... but finally got to see them open recently for Handful of Lovin', and I can confirm: They are fun. They should be cited! I hope to see them again sometime soon. :)

Deborah Page
Love, love, love Deborah Page. This duo, consisting of Deborah Page & Paul Uhl, always reminds me of Annie Lennox/Eurythmics. Haunting vocals, meaningful lyrics, presence on stage, artful visuals, pushing the envelope in an inviting fashion ... and I don't know about the Eurythmics, but Deborah and Paul are two of the sweetest, most fun people. I feel silly for ever being intimidated by their talent. I first discovered them at First Night, followed them to their Third Thursday Artwalk stage at Sanford & Son, and even hired them to surprise my dad for his 60th birthday (and then infected the rest of my extended family with their fabulousness). Deborah and Paul know how to rock out, sound great, and have fun. I so want to see them on a really big stage someday ... something big enough to match their talent and personalities. :)

The F***ing Eagles
Ok ... I haven't heard these folks in person yet, but enjoyed their CD and many friends are fans ... and I plan on going with friends to their April show at the Swiss. And I'm sure I will enjoy.

And, if you haven't already heard her stuff, you need to check out Tacoma legend Neko Case ... who finally made it back to her hometown to sing last year at the Pantages, who asked when the f*** someone was going to do something about the Elks hall ... and then magically, the McMenamins stepped up. Coincidence? Perhaps. But I was happy to hear a Prairie Home Companion rerun this weekend where Neko Case and non-Tacomans (but still fabulous) Wilco rocked the stage and, while she's more widely known to be living in Virginia, she did declare that Tacoma is where she's from. There's the love. And I'm loving her newest album, Middle Cyclone.

Happy Spring, Tacoma. I plan to get out and enjoy you more ...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The question is not why the fish crossed the street, but HOW ...

Have you been to the WSU Puyallup Research & Extension Center?

Until today, I had not.

After today, I'll be back.

I'd heard about the extension ... that this is where the Master Gardeners train and this is where there's a demonstration garden and some cool research. Soil studies, rain gardens, permeable pavement, low-impact development, agriculture research and so much more. It's really quite incredible, this amazing resource that is just around the corner.

But I'd never been. Today was meant to be merely a meeting (a looooooooong meeting). At lunch one of the staffers offered to take us on a little walking tour to see a man-made pond. I wasn't going to go, but I did. Apparently a bunch of my friends finally did a few sun dances, and thus: sunshine ... GLORIOUS sunshine. A walk was required.

And wow.

I don't remember all the details, but the below photo is the pond. Apparently the fish and salamanders and frogs inside it ... got there on their own! Nature is amazing. No wildlife was planted by man, nor by woman. But birds or other wildlife that come in from the pond across the street or other places brought in fish eggs and frog eggs (apparently they don't own feather or hair brushes ... go figure) ... and wa-lah! Sticky eggs get from Point A to Point B. (And I thought this only happened with plant seeds.) Oh, and this pond has salamanders ... but the one across the street doesn't. So weird. And so awesome. And so beautiful.



And here is the view across the street.



It was a glorious, if short, lunchtime walk in the sun.

Educational, too!


From the website:

An Urban Center Committed to Sustainable Communities

"Bridging the past to the future, providing research, instruction and outreach services through an interdisciplinary approach for the development of ecologically sound, socially responsible, and economically viable communities.

The Washington State University Puyallup Research and Extension Center unites a rich past of education and research with a critical and important need: the ability for institutions of higher education to develop sound science, instruction and outreach to meet the needs of future urban communities and their residents.

"Washington State University seeks to provide an exemplary teaching, research, and outreach environment that fosters the conservation of natural resources, supports and enhances social responsibility, addresses community and economic development, and follows environmental, social, and economic practices.

"The Puyallup Center connects the region to a world of possibilities creating sustainable social, economic, and ecological interdependencies through the community of Washington State University."

I like science ...

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Time for some spring reading!

It might no longer been cuddle-up-with-a-good-book-in-front-of-the-fire season, but that just means it's about to be bask-in-the-sun-with-a-good-book season! Woo hoo!

For those folks who'd like to chat about their good reads, the good folks at King's Books have not one, not two, but THREE different reading groups for grownups that might pique your imagination ...

Ravenous Readers Book Club
"Join this community book group reading books on food and sustainability." Meets the first Thursday of every month at King's Books.
Next meets: 7 p.m. Thursday, April 2, at King's Books, 218 St. Helens
This month's book: "Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World" by Kurlansky

Graphic Novel Book Club
"Join this new book club reading graphic novels! Perfect for people just starting to read graphic novels, or confirmed geeks." Meets the second Monday of every month at 1022 South, Hilltop's new book-themed cocktail lounge. (Must be 21.)
Next meets: 7-9 p.m. Monday, April 13 (first meeting!), at 1022 South, 1022 S. J St., Tacoma
This month's book: "Fun Home" by Alison Bechdel

Banned Book Club
"Join this profane book group reading books that have been banned or challenged."
Meets the third Tuesday of every month at Tempest Lounge. (Must be 21.)
Next meets: 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 21, Tempest Lounge, 913 MLK Way, Tacoma
This month's book: "Ceremony" by Leslie Marmon Silko.

Books for all of these groups are available at King's Books, 218 St. Helens Ave.

For more information about any of these groups:
Call 272-8801 or e-mail sweet pea.

So if you're taking a few days off for spring break this week, consider some quality time with a good book ... And if one of these book groups doesn't suit you, there's always getting your friends together and starting your own. Even if you just use it as an excuse to get together with good friends for dinner ... :)

Happy Spring Reading!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

I think I have a minor league crush on minor league baseball ...

Until May of 2007, I'd never been to a Tacoma Rainiers game (or any other minor league game, for that matter). I had been in or around Tacoma for more than 12 years at the time, had even lived in Aberdeen for a bit while the Gulls were still there, and had still never been to a game.

And then ... I went.

It was May 2007. The Diva Daughter was in kindergarten. An age in which we began to realize the beginning of the end of our own agenda, the beginning of just how busy we were about to be with the lives and itineraries of our three little ones. The daughter's elementary school was selling tickets for a "let's all go to the Rainiers" school event ... and she wanted to go. And so we did.

And I liked it.

The small-scale venue, the fact that you could see the field, the smell of the grass, the taste of the hot dogs, the crowed ... the ... I just can't fully describe it. We took the neighbors. The kids cheered. I even cheered. The Boy declared his desire to become a batter someday ... and just last week he started his first T-ball practice. The Baby Girl, then 2, was an insta 2-year-old cheerleader ... jumping up and down on my lap and screaming "go Rainiers." They had fun watching for Rhubarb, and they danced between innings. The only complaint at the time was the Diva not liking the loud fireworks ... but we've been back a few times, and she's over that now.

And now, according to the calendar, it is Spring. As the rain poured down right on schedule for this morning's Junior Daffodil Parade in the Proctor District, it seemed hard to believe.

But the Baby Girl's preschool picked a baseball theme this year and she's been running around the house in her cap and long-sleeve tee singing "Take me out to the ballgame" ... and it got me thinking: When DOES baseball start? More to the point, when's the first Rainiers home game?

I NEEDED to know.

Turns out the first home game is coming up quick ... Friday, April 17 ... just three days after the Baby Girl turns 4. Guess who now wants a baseball themed birthday party? A baseball cake. To go to the baseball game. Baby Girl.

And you know what? I'm excited! It's my first true sign of spring -- one of my favorite seasons -- and all of the sudden I'm itching to see a game. It's a little thrilling.

I really did not expect to get this hooked. It kinda snuck up on me.

And now ... well, I don't know how I'd get through spring without at least one ball game. And it's not the peanuts or cracker jacks.

I'm a little discombobulated.

But batter up nonetheless ... let me root, root, root for the home team ...

:)

Monday, March 02, 2009

Scrabble fans: Unite for a good cause!



I've mentioned to a few of my fellow Scrabble geeks (at least a few times) my grand desire to start up some sort of Scrabble club/meet-up/fun night. And while I've failed thus far to follow through, I recently tripped upon an awesome opportunity for T-Town-area Scrabble fans to have some fun and do a little good all at the same time: SCRABBLE ROUSERS! Brought to you by the Tacoma Community House (and sweet pea's ever-mischievous brain).

From the TCH website: "Inside each of us is a mischievous child who seeks to unravel social norms and challenge traditional order. This impulse, at a mature age, is often repressed and controlled for the sake of personal growth. As Scrabble Rousers, we seek to free our mischievous child through traditional and nontraditional Scrabble games. Our aim is to bring to light the importance of words in your life and in the lives of others."

Sign me up! Ok, if I can get a babysitter ...

For the ticket price of $10, Scrabble fans of all ages an abilities are invited to come together from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 11, at the University of Puget Sound's Rotunda. There will be three levels of play you can sign up for. It's a creative fundraiser, so they will let you buy dictionary peeks or even a list of two-letter and obnoxious Q words. (Those of you who *cough* have been playing too much Facebook Scrabble lately might be hit to that.)

Money raised at the event goes to benefit the Tacoma Community House's Student Scholarship Fund, which assists students as they transfer from TCH to community college.

What is the Tacoma Community House? "A nonprofit organization that for decades has provided services to refugees, immigrants, and English speaking adults and youth."

Click here to read more about the event, and the Tacoma Community House.


Note: Yes, I posted this on Sunday night. But it was having trouble loading a couple places, and I'm hoping I fixed the problem ... and want to make sure people know about the event!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A simple gift

Today is a simple gift.


No matter your politics. Today, is a gift.

A simple gift.

And simply, a gift.

And so is tomorrow. And the day after that. And the day after that. Heck, yesterday was a gift (and that was a previous administration!)

Every day is a gift.

Every day that we have to share with loved ones. Every day that we have to make a difference in the lives around us. Every day that we have to make the world better. Every day that we have to breathe fresh air, eat good food, kiss our loves ones, hug our friends, read good writing, listen to music, appreciate art, dance because we want to, dig in the earth, make a choice ...

Every day is a gift.

It's a message that's been driven home for me, recently. From the loved ones I've mourned the past two years to the strange local events of the past week ...

Every day is a gift.

And thus, during today's inauguration of President Barack Obama, the performance of Air & Simple Gift gave me pause ...



The lyrics to the original, a 1848 Shaker tune:
'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free,
'Tis the gift to come down where you ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gain'd,
To bow and to bend we shan't be asham'd,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come round right.

Every day is a gift.

And every day, I will seek to find what gift I can give to my loved ones, my community, and the world ...

Every day is a gift.

Enjoy.



Wednesday, December 31, 2008

VIDEO: See you at First Night

So much fun, so much to do.

Here's a video that shows a bit about what last year was like.



My favorite discovery last year: Local band Deborah Page. Last year Deborah and her partner Paul Uhl played Sanford & Son and the Pythian Temple, this year you can catch them on the main stage (outdoors on Broadway, across from LeRoy's Jeweler) at 6 p.m. Deborah's lyrics and vocals are haunting and range from heartfelt ballad to total rockout and a bit o' fun with the children's rhyme "Mary Mack."

Here's a few clips of one of their last year's First Night performances.



Of course, that's just the beginning. There's Valentine's Performing Pigs, Motopony, Girltrouble, Steve the Good Enough, firedancers, pipe bands, ethnic bands, art, Lynn DiNino's "Hi Jack" art experience at 8 p.m. at 9th & Broadway and so much more.

Come out, come about and enjoy!

WHAT: First Night Tacoma-Pierce County
WHERE: Downtown Tacoma's Theater District (along Broadway, approx. between S. 7th & S. 11th)
WHEN: Dec. 31, 2008 (downtown fun begins at 6 p.m., museums free to button holders all day)
HOW MUCH: $10 gets you into museums all day, all the stages and more. 7 & younger are free.
MORE INFO: www.firstnighttacoma.org

Saturday, December 06, 2008

It's a Triple Threat of Poster Fabulousness: Beautiful Angle, Pearl Jam and Victory Gardens ... oh my!

If you enjoy interesting and artsy posters, this is your week! See some greats, get some goods, and enjoy an art form that seems so simple -- until you see the pros in action ....

1. Pearl Jam vs. Ames Brothers: 13 years of Tour Posters. The Tacoma Public Library kicks off this exhibition at 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 11, at the Main Library's Handforth Gallery. The show features 82 posters designed by the Ames Bros, Barry Ament and Coby Schultz, who will be onhand to sign copies of their book, a compendium of the band's 1995-2007 gig posters by the two artists and Brad Klausen, Pearl Jam's exclusive print-designers.



2. Beautiful Angle Holiday Party & Benefit Poster Sale: Come join the fun at 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 12, at Black Water Cafe. Tacoma's underground postermakers combine words and images as they challenge notions about Tacoma, religion, and the way we think. Get to see all the lovely letterpess in one place, sit back and listen to the music -- and if you're one of the first 50 folks to bring in a cash donation of at least $5, you'll get a commemorative Beautiful Angle poster. (Donations benefit the Layla House, an orphanage in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.)



3. "Victory Garden," featuring Eleanor Roosevelt. The gals behind Anagram Press and Springtide Press team up again for a second poster, which they're half-jokingly referring to as part of their "Dead Feminists Set." This broadside poster is in honor of the recent election and the timeliness of sustainability issues, and features a quote by Eleanor Roosevelt: "The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams." Get 'em while they're here! Only 76 were printed, and they're already half gone. The duo's first collaboration, "Come, My Conservative Friend" are already sold out.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Tis the season of sweaters and scarves -- and grilled cheese

Grilled cheese is great for when you're in the "curl up with good book and cocoa" mood, or even for when there are 10 children running around the house and you just want to throw down a big tray of sandwiches in front of them and say "Eat!" In our house, the magic of the gooey deliciousness is in the cheese. I grew up on Tillamook cheddar, and no other cheddar will do. The bread may vary, but the cheese is a given. Pair it with some Campell's tomato soup (adding water, not milk) ... and all the generations are happy and smiling.

But I'm no snob. I'm a grilled cheese fan! Wait, grilled cheese connoisieur! And I'm happy to report that Tacoma is a great place to love grilled cheese. I have three go-to places right now for when I'm not at home and craving cheese, and can't wait to find more.

Capers Downtown, 701 Pacific Ave.
This three-cheese grilled goodness is toasted to perfectly browned perfection. The cheesey magic does not get lost or overly dominate from its place between not-too-thick-not-too-thin slices of rustic bread, the perfect amount of toastedness, and a subtle smothering of some sort of herbed buttery yumminess that has me dreamily licking my lips for hours after lunch. It's a grilled cheese that comes closest to my own but with that "I don't regret paying someone money for this" flair. The sandwich can come with Capers' oh-so-cozy tomato basil soup, one of their several tasty side salads, or a smattering of other sides. I'm rather partial to the side Caesar salad. A light layer of dressing that gives the lettuce enough zing to make it interesting, but doesn't overwhelm you with thoughts of "and how many calories are in this?" A few slivers of a hard sharp cheese (I assume Parmaesan?) throughout the salad always make me smile, and I can never leave even one of their croutons on the plate. Capers has subtle fabulousness down to a T!!!

Paddy Coynes, 815 Pacific Ave.
The Ultimate Cheese Sandwich here is definitely worthy, and in an atmosphere that definitely facilitates the gift of gab without having to kiss a gross Blarney stone. (If you don't know why it's gross, you'll have to ask ... I'm not mucking up a post about grilled cheese with that gory detail.) The Ultimate Grilled Cheese is like none other I've encountered in T-town. I'm guessing it contains some sort of Irish cheddar ... it's sharper, cheddary-ier, and comes topped with bacon and tomato. Yum. The bacon was a new concept for me, but the tomato in the grilled cheese was a scrumptious trick I learned while living in Cork, Ireland, for a few months. Though I did learn it from an American. But hey! You like tomato soup with your grilled cheese? Then why not just stick a tomato in the sandwich to start with? Awesome. The sandwich also comes with Paddy Coynes' signature shoestring fries. And while they're great fries, the cumulative amount of salt between the cheese, bacon and then the fries usually has me leaving most of the thinly sliced potatoes on the plate. It might be worth the extra buck or two or whatnot to sub a salad -- or maybe I'll just ask for no fries next time.

Over the Moon Cafe, 709 Opera Alley (Court C)
This gooey goodness (appropriately named "Not your ordinary grilled cheese sandwich") was my first foray into downtown T-Town grilled cheese splendidness. They're pretty proud of this cheesy baby at Over the Moon. It is a French recipe, a "Croutes de Fromage" "from the mountains of Bura, France, and includes thick slices of freshly baked sourdough bread and Gruyere cheese and mellow and moist Swiss cheese that has been soaked in a sweet white wine sauce before grilling," according to the Volcano's 2007 grilled cheese review. While tradition would have me pairing this baby with their tomato basil, I actually prefer their crab bisque. It's not always on the menu, but if it is -- and you can handle both dairy and seafood -- the very not ordinary grilled cheese with crab bisque will easily make your comfort food list. Add the cozy, friendly conversation space and the little London-like alley for ambiance ... and Over the Moon is the perfect place to find a little slice of gooey gladness even in the dark of a drizzly winter.

Where else? In Tacoma or out ... where does one find grilled cheesey greatness!?!?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Barefoot in the kitchen, part VI: Clam chowder

Wandered into the Proctor Farmers Market this last Saturday (still going until November 22) and tripped across my favorite weekend sustainable seafood purveyer: QuilBay Seafoods. Fresh oysters! And this week: clams! Never dealt with clams. But the woman standing next to me mentioned making clam chowder, which sounded good. Sold!

But mind you: I've never made shellfish before. It didn't quite occur to me that the clams might be ... um ... alive. Not until I had them in the strainer and was rinsing them off. And they were moving. And opening. And closing. Ewww! (And I totally realize how ridiculous this is. Once upon a time pioneers raised their own meat, killed their own meat, cooked it and ate it -- sans problemo. But let's just say I came really close to becoming a vegetarian this weekend.)

I survived, however. And despite my paranoia that I must have cooked it wrong and poisoned it, my husband and son both had multiple bowl fulls and LOVED it. Yay! (My girls? Nope. Wouldn't touch it. Thanks, kids. Thanks a lot.)

Anyhow, the recipe ... inspired by the one the seafood folks gave me, but I embellished. You heard me ... my FIRST TIME making chowder and I EMBELLISHED. This whole temporary husband-not-being-around-to-cook-dinner thing might be turning into a good thing. For him. (I'm learning I can make something beyond casseroles, spaghetti and sandwiches ... and baked goods ...)

TC's Homemade Clam Chowder

18 large littleneck clams, scrubbed (or, for me, a bag o' teeny tiny Manila clams that were already clean)
3 slices of bacon, chopped (ok, I used 5)
1 medium onion, chopped (shhh ... I put in 2)
(I also put in a leek that was in the fridge)
1 tbsp. all purpose flour (heaping)
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper (or whatever I happened to grind out of the grinder)
1 pound all-purpose potatoes, pelled and chopped (about 5 or 6)
(I also added a bunch of rainbow carrots -- 6 to 8, washed and chopped)
2 cups half-and-half (I added a bit more)
1 cup of milk
3/4 tsp. salt, or to taste
(I also added a bunch of Chardonnay ... that totally made it better)

Directions:
In a 5- to 6-quart saucepot, heat water to boiling over high heat. Add clams, heat to boiling. Reduce heat slightly; cover and simmer until clams open, 5 to 10 minutes. Transfer clams to a bowl as they open. Discad andy clams that have not opened. ... When cool enough to handle, remove clams from their shells and coarsely chop. Discard shells. strain clam broth through sieve lined with paper towels into measuring cup; if necessary add eough water to equal 2 cups. ... In same clean saucepot, cook bacon over medium heat until lightly browned. With slotted spoon, remove bacon to paper towels. Add onion (and leek) to drippings in pot; cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in flour and pepper until blended; cook 1 minute. Gradually stir in clam brother until smooth. Add potatoes (and carrots); heat to boiling. Reduce heat; cover and simmer until potatoes (and carrots) are tender, about 15 minutes. ... Stir in half-and-half, milk, and chopped clams; heat through (do not boil). Stir in bacon. Tste for seasoning; add salt as needed. Add chardonnay as needed. Makes about 6 cups. (A bit more with my additions.)

Barefoot in the kitchen, part V: Veggie Pasta Toss

My weekly box of organic produce from Tacoma's Terra Organics "Pacific Northwest box" arrived this last week with the most wonderful of recipes -- "Sweet Pepper Pasta Toss with Kale." So good for you. So, so yummy. So, so, so, simple. And such an easy way to use one of my big bunches of nutrition-packed dark greens.

Sweet Pepper Pasta Toss with Kale

1 8 oz. package of bow tie pasta (I used sea shell pasta -- what a rebel am I)
1 tbsp. olive oil
1-2 red bell peppers, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped (or more)
1 pinch dried basil (I used several leaves of fresh basil)
1 pinch ground cayenne pepper (I did skip this one)
salt and ground black pepper to taste
8 oz. feta cheese, crumbled (I probably used more)
Kalamata or black olives

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in red pepper (and/or yellow pepper), kale and garlic. Season with basil, cayenne pepper, salt and black pepper. Cook until vegetables are tender. In a large bowl, toss cooked pasta with skillet mixture. Mix in olives, if desired. Sprinkle with feta cheese to serve.

* Could also add Italian sausage or grilled chicken to make this dish a little heartier.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Barefoot in the kitchen, part IV: Tequila salsa

Yet again, it's a tale of me using up my many harvested tomatoes, my backyard jalapeno plant and my weekly treasure trove of veggie-delivery-goodness from Terra Organics. This week it's my own version of Tomatillo Salsa Verde.

So, I seriously thought that after more than five years of produce home delivery that I'd seen it all. I'd learned how to use eggplant, bok choy, fresh ginger, chard, blood tomatoes, fava beans, squashes of many makes and models, fresh beets and leeks, and so much more. But then this week's delivery appeared on my doorstep: tomatillos. What the heck? Apparently the kids and the babysitter had played "guess what this is" with this piece of produce. A small, green, round goodie encapsulated in a leaf-like shell that leaves a slightly sticky residue upon the fruit. What the heck? They did trial and error ... and guessed that it must be a plum of sorts. But nope: A tomatillo, the Mexican cousin of the tomato. And oh so made for salsa. And so it began ...

We decided to make fajitas for dinner ... using some steak and eggplant for the "meat" of the fajita, and a corn and black bean mix, the kids grated the cheese, a bit o' sour cream, and some "experimental" salsa by yours truly. As mentioned in the headline to this post, it's "Tequila salsa" ... because I did not have any limes or lemons, or lime or lemon juice, I had to ponder: what liquid should I add? It's salsa. Mexican in nature. So what the heck: I substituted tequila. That and a few other subsitutes and adjustments in this recipe based on a few internet finds for "tomatillo salsa verde" and I bring you my very own, and very yummy, recipe for Tequila salsa verde ... which I consider very sentimental seeing as tequila was basically the first alcohol I ever tasted, in Mexico no less. Here you go ...

TC's Tequila Salsa (chunky - if you prefer otherwise, blend the sucker)
And as is my mantra, the exact quantities are up to you or what's in your cupboard. Chop it up, mix it up, and you should be good ...

3-6 tomatillos, roasted (remove husks, cut in half, stick under the broiler for 5-10 minutes -- untill skin is slightly blackened)
2-3 roasted tomatoes (can be green or less than ripe ... see above for roasting instructions)
1/2 a chopped-up small to medium onion, preferrably red
1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves
2 splashes of tequila
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. of sugar
salt to taste

Chop onions and cilantro. Add sugar, tequila and salt; stir. Add freshly roasted tomatillos and tomatoes, squish with a potato masher until desired texuture is achieved. (Or put through food processor.) Enjoy with chips, or use wth burritos or fajitas. Yummers!

* This might be an appetizer for the over-21 crowd only ...
1 jalepano pepper

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Barefoot in the kitchen, part III: Lovely lasagna

So, once you have a bunch of spaghetti sauce, what do you do with it? In my world, you make lasagna. Perhaps one of the most perfect foods as it includes my favorite ingredient: cheese. And then there's the fact that you can make it in advance, freeze or refrigerate it, and it only tastes yummier when you finally take it out and cook it. And it can easily be vegetarian or meatatarian. I'm a big fan of preparing food beforehand and then getting to relax and socialize while an amazing meal bakes to perfection in the oven.

And then there's the sappy quotient: It's a food my now-hubby taught me how to make once upon a time, a long time ago. Fourteen years ago, he was a much more adventurous chef than I. I could rule the kitchen when it came to making, and had a few "other" dishes, but lasagna was one of those things I considered "too complicated." No longer.

Today's inspiration for lasagna? Perhaps it's an unconscious nod to hubby's and my first date 14 years ago, to the Pacific Lutheran University Homecoming. Today? We're playing hooky from our 10-year homecoming festivities (there isn't much actually going on for the reunion specifically, so I don't feel bad) and going up to Seattle to see Weezer perform live. The kids are jealous. They sing Weezer songs day and night, and so I made them pork and beans for breakfast. Only Baby Girl was excited, but by lunch they'd woken up enough to appreciate the humor.

Back to the food ... so, really, there was beef that needed to be cooked in the refrigerator, and I finally harvested my six tomato plants the other day and had sauce coming out of my ears. This version was a little different than the last couple batches ... no bacon in this round, and no added nutrition in the form of blended up chard and carrots.

This week's base sauce ... consists of about nine different kinds of tomatoes (from my six plants, plus the tomatoes that came in my weekly Terra Organics produce order), a green peppers, onions, a jalepeno, some red wine and olive oil, a bit of salt, a ton of garlic, all cooked for about two hours until it got a more sauce-like consistency. It was fun watching my rainbow of yellow, green, orange and many different reds tomatoes cook down into a deep red sauce. I didn't use fresh herbs this time around because it was dark out, and I just wanted to cook the darn tomatoes.

Plus I figured making some food in advance for this week might be a good idea. Especially food that has my Basement Brother and Hubby drooling for more. The kids still look at it suspiciously (they don't like their food touching food -- so lasagna still elicits skepticism), but we'll try again ...

Anyhow, enough chit-chat, here's my recipe for this week's lasagna ...

TC's Easy Lasagna (2 batches)
based off of Ronzoni's Healthy Harvest Easy Lasagna recipe

2 lb. ground beef
2 tbsp. Yaya (or Johnny's) seasoning
1 tsp. oregano
3-4 cups of homemade tomato sauce (or 1 26 oz. jar of spaghetti sauce)
1 (28 oz.) can of stewed, peeled whole tomatoes
2 (15 oz.) cans of tomato sauce
1 large container (32 oz.) of ricotta cheese (or small curd cottage cheese)
4 cups (16 oz.) o shredded mozzarella (or other favorite cheese)
4 eggs
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
18 pieces (generally one package) of lasagna noodles, uncooked

In a large cast-iron pot, brown the meat. Sprinkle seasoning on it while it cooks. Drain the grease. Add spaghetti sauce, whole tomatoes, tomato sauce and oregano (or any spices you like), simmer for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, stir together ricotta cheese, one-half of the mozzarella cheese, eggs, salt and pepper. Pour about 1 cup of sauce on the bottom of each of two 13x9-inch baking dishes. Arrange 3 UNCOOKED pasta pieces lengthwise over the sauce in each dish; cover with 1 cup of sauce. Spread one-fourth of the cheese filling over the sauce in the first dish, then spread one-fourt of the cheese filling over the sauce in the second dish. Repeat layers of lasagna, sauce and cheese filling. Then top with a layer of lasagna and remaining sauce; sprinking remaining mozzarella cheese over the top of the pans of lasagna. Cover with foil.

Now's your choice ... you can refrigerate, freeze, or stick one or both in the oven for 45 minutes (with foil on) in a preheated 350 degree oven, then remove the foil and bake for another 10 minutes, or until hot and bubbly. Let satnd 10 minutes before cutting. Each pan makes about 12 servings.

NOTE: If you freeze it, remember to give it time to thaw, and you might need to cook it a little extra. Luckily with lasanga, you can generally over cook and it should be fine.

Enjoy!

Barefoot in the kitchen, part II: Bacon chocolate

Just several months ago, I'd never heard of bacon as anything but a part of breakfast or as the proverbial icing on the cake for a sandwich or burger. But then came the bacon bonanza.

Some gal pals got together for some girl time, and the boys went bacon crazy. Someone even brought little smokies wrapped in bacon. Then, at future events and gatherings came jalepeƱo and cream cheese poppers -- wrapped in bacon and BBQ'd on the grill. There was bacon guacamole. Brown-sugared bacon. Many salads with bacon in it.

And then came the talk of bacon candy.

A girlfriend who makes lusti-licious truffles once or twice a year as an adoption fundraiser was talking about flavors, and the menfolk began to bring up bacon. "Bacon truffles!" they declared. Again and again and again. And again and again and again. And again and again.

You get the picture.

So I decided to start experimenting. Husband found a Peanut Butter Bacon Chocolate Truffle recipe awhile back thanks to NPR's Splendid Table show. And I located a super-easy Chocolate Bacon Bark recipe. The results? Happy hubby. Happy children. And many other happy people.

And while I enjoyed the results as well, I'm quite content that it's not MY obsession goodie. This is something I can make, taste, and set aside ... to others' delight.

TC's version of Bacon Chocolate Bark
-- 1 bag chocolate chips of choice (semi-sweet is basic, I used 60% cacao last night -- yum!)
-- 7 strips of bacon, cooked crispy and chopped to bits (Some say the thicker, meatier strips are better -- but if you use thinner ones, just toss in a couple extra strips. Or heck, toss in extra just for fun.)

Melt the chocolate chips in the microwave, 1 minute at a time (stirring in between) until melted. Stir half the bacon in, then pour mixture onto a cookie sheet covered in foil and spread to desired thickness. Next, sprinkle remaining "bacon bits" on top, and refrigerate. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Barefoot (and not pregnant) in the kitchen, part 1: Homemade spaghetti sauce

I had a bonus day at home today since Diva Daughter was not feeling well and needed to stay home from school. So I watered the garden (it was pretty dry since I was gone the week it actually got hot), straightened up a bit, and then decided to partake in some kitchen chemistry.

Since I'd been gone for a week, several of my tomatoes had ripened, and I was on the verge of being overtaken by ripe tomatoes. I've been giving them away like crazy, but between the vines and my weekly box from Terra Organics, my cup had runneth over. But before he left in the morning, the hubby made a good suggestion: We can always make tomato sauce.

Why yes, yes we can. And yes I did. I'd never made tomato sauce from scratch. I've made my own spaghetti sauce, but from canned tomatoes. Never actually started with tomatoes. But today I did, and it was yummy scrumptious. Even the Boy enjoyed it. Here's the approximate recipe:

TC's Homemade Spaghetti Sauce -- with BACON
Approx. 3 quarts of diced tomatoes, several varieties Several leaves of fresh basil, chopped A couple branches of fresh rosemary A couple branches of fresh oregano Red wine, approx. 1/2 cup Several cloves of garlic, chopped 1 onion, chopped A couple pinches of kosher salt 1 pound bacon, cooked and chopped

I know, I know ... real exact. But, basically, put all the tomatoes in a large pan on the stove and cook over medium heat at a low boil for about 1-1/2 to 2 hours. As it simmers, add in the above ingredients as they're ready. It ends up to be a lovely and chunky and very, very fresh (esp. if you have the herbs in your garden) tomato sauce. Serve over your favorite noodles. Smile a lot more.*

*To some, cooking is an art or a means to feed. To me, cooking is one of the best kinds of therapy.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Overdue: Showcase Tacoma chalkwork

Once upon a time, there was this thing called Showcase Tacoma where newcomers and chalking fanatics alike got together amid the fun to lay down some color on the gray streetscape. Let me start out with the hands down best piece in the place ...

by unknown fabulous chalker


I don't know who he was, but this guy knew what he was doing. He had gloves and sponges for spreading. He laid down that color thick, and he had The Boy entranced. We could have stood there for hours watching. Even in the rain. Yes, sadly, the day the Frost Park Chalkers & Friends came over to the Tollefson Plaza to participate in Showcase Tacoma -- it rained. Not the best for chalking, but some impressive pieces came out nonetheless. Though not all my pictures turned out -- sigh. But here's a few!

by The Boy (who delighted in showing off his piece to the above fabulous chalker -- especially since they both use similar strategies of randomness and deep color)


By Adam The Alien (duh)


Diva Daughter in action (note she bravely uses her hands to make special chalk-effects)


Diva Daughter's final solo piece


Mostly this is the boy's picture again, but it caught pieces of some of the other fun that my camera did not apparently capture -- including the Mt. Fuji on the left, and KF's amoeba toward the top.


By Joel413 (guess where he works)


And in honor of the rain, Team Chickadee decided to have fun and sketch out this ray of sunshine ...


For more chalking fun, check out Frost Park Friday action from 12-1 every Friday. Click here for this week's details!

Friday, September 05, 2008

A farm is gone, but the future is still to come ...

George Richter's Fife farmland is gone. Another piece of land sold to a developer; and being developed. A crop bulldozed. And rightfully, yet sadly, tragically, so. (Don't know what I'm talking about? Click here.) As a former farm/forest girl ... I mourn the loss of farms. The loss of nature. The loss of open space. The loss of rural. The increase of impervious surface and concrete jungles. But I also have faith in the human race's ability to adapt and learn from its mistakes. I do worry what will happy if the bulldozing trend continues. More people on the globe means less land to be farmed, and yet more need for food. How do we deal with this conundrum? I can tell you what we don't do. We don't throw up our hands in despair that there is no answer, so why try? We don't sit down and take it. We talk about it, debate about it, wring our hands about it, lobby about it, and work, work, work, work, work toward a solution. One thing we for sure don't do: We don't shut up.

Friday, August 29, 2008

VIDEOS: The wayback machine and memories of a firestarter

Time for a little trek in the wayback machine as I celebrate the signs of summer's end and school's start. Time to reminisce about the summer of 1996 when I bought my first concert tickets to something called "The End Fest" ... something that just celebrated its 16th year. Sweet, sweet 16. Anyhow, back to the wayback machine ...

In 1996, EndFest was at the Kitsap County Fairgrounds in Bremerton. I'd gotten tickets for myself and pals, and even bought one for my brother. Acts included: Tracy Bonham, Dishwalla, the Verve Pipe, Goldfinger, No Doubt, Everclear, Prodigy, Beck, Filter, Ice-T, the Posies, 7 Mary 3, Super Deluxe, the Deftones and Gus, among others. I think Radiohead might have even been there ...

In 2008, EndFest is at the White River Amphitheatre with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Modest Mouse, Snow Patrol, Wolfmother, Eagles of Death Metal, Rock Kills Kid, Nine Black Alps, The Subwaysm, The Gossip and others. I did not buy tickets. But this IS the year I bought my first tickets to a major rock concert since college ... but it's not until October 11. (Guess who ...)

In memory of Endfest's 1996 location ...

Move to Bremerton by MxPx


And a shout-out to the yesterday and today of the band I'm about to see live ...

El Scorcho by Weezer (1996)


Automatic by Weezer (2008)


And back to the wayback machine ...

In 1996, I remember seeing No Doubt on the big stage (one of the reasons I snagged tickets), and my YOUNGER brother, who had just graduated high school, was reminiscing about how the previous year or two he had followed them on the small stages of smaller concerts.

In 2008 ... his skater ska girl has gone glam and my wee brother is playing underground music of his own to a cult following who may someday also reminisce about the day they saw him on small stages. And Beck is off the small stage and a Big Name at Bumbershoot.

Just a Girl by No Doubt


Hollaback Girl by Gwen Stefani


Where It's At by Beck (1996)


Gamma Ray by Beck (2008)


And an oldie by goodie by the bro for good measure ...


And back to the wayback machine ...

In 1996, I remember at the end of the Fest, people began to empty out a bit early before this odd Scottish band hit the main stage. This unknown who'd been flown in was Prodigy. Not many had heard of them yet, but those who stayed enjoyed the show. We got to get up closer ... and I thought the fact that their band was made up of a dancer as well as musicians was pretty cool. And soon many had Prodigy fever, and I'm sure some regretted the fact they left the concert early.

In 2008, Goldfinger has been replaced by Goldfrapp. And the Flobots are the new kids on the block who are stealing the summer, and even played at the Democratic National Convention. Speaking of which, this is also the summer that the NKOTB were out and about again. Scary. I don't regret skipping that concert, though I know several we enjoyed it.

Firestarter by Prodigy (approx 1996)


No Handlebars by Flobots (approx 2008)


And that's all folks ...