News and a Restaurant Review

Hi everybody! Well, it’s been a busy couple of months for me. Lots of changes and things happening. Some of it was good, some bad, some sad, and some of it just is what it is. Anyway, I’m back and beginning to love life again (at least at this moment). ๐Ÿ™‚ Today is a lovely day here in my neck of the woods. Oh, and those woods have changed a little! I’m no longer in southwest Washington state; I’m in northwest Oregon. This is only a move of about thirteen miles, so I still get the same weather I did at my old house, and the terrain looks about the same. Now, though, I live up in the hills a little (about one-thousand feet elevation). I’ve heard that this spot is almost in the Coast Range, and that if one knew where to look, one could probably see the official beginning of that range from here. My old house was at the bottom of the valley floor, in Kelso Washington. I think that Kelso is sometimes considered to be in the very northern end of the Willamette Valley. It’s definitely in a valley, though! My old neighborhood was the lowest spot in the area. Once, when it rained a lot in the early Spring, we had to evacuate because of flood risk. No rain today, though! It is about seventy-two degrees Fahrenheit, with blue sky and almost no clouds. Wow, it is so nice: just the perfect temperature and a little whisp of breeze. The only thing I could complain about is that the breeze coming in the window is a little smokey, but since I am the one who decided to burn trash earlier, I can’t really complain to anyone but myself!

What’s been going on in the craft, cooking and general week-end activity realm? I got Thai take-out from Hart C’s Thai in Longview Washington last night, and it was pretty good. I got the Pad See Ew with Shrimp, and two Egg Rolls to share with my mom. The noodles had kind of congealed by the time I got them home, but they still tasted pretty good. Pad See Ew is a stir-fried rice noodle dish with broccoli and scrambled egg, and it has a sweet and salty sauce flavored with soy sauce and a little sugar. The shrimp tasted fine to me, but my mom said she got a couple that tasted a little like iodine. The egg rolls were fine, but a little on the over-cooked side. Still though, we were pretty happy to eat it last night, and I think the noodles were even better today after being microwaved with a couple spoons of water mixed in (it kind of loosened them up so they didn’t stick together so much). I think Hart C’s food was suffering a little last night because they were busier than usual. They are the only Thai restaurant in town, as far as I know, so even though they are not always the best Thai I’ve eaten (that honor would have to go to the Thai Orchid restaurants on Burnside and Barbur in Portland), they are definitely not the worst. For a Thai craving in this area, they are the best option I know of. Unless one makes their own. That’s something I want to practice. Making yummy noodles until I get them just right? Oh, that sounds like a project I could get enthusiastic about. ๐Ÿ™‚

Here’s the contact information for Hart C’s: 3171 Ocean Beach Hwy., Longview, WA 98632. (360) 425-6292.

And Thai Orchid: 2231 W Burnside St. Portland, OR 97210. (503) 226-4542.

10075 SW Barbur Blvd; Portland, OR 97219. (503) 452-2544.

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A Little Note

Not a lotta blogin’ goin’ on today…I’m busy with work and trying not to catch a cold (we’ll see how that goes…haha). I added a paragraph to my “About the Illustrious Blogger” page, and now I’m going to start on the second season of “True Blood.” Can’t wait! I’ll tell you about it soon. ๐Ÿ™‚

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A Movie Review!

Woo-hoo! We went to the theater to see “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters,” and it was good! It was also nice to go to a theater and get nice buttery salty popcorn while watching an exciting movie on the big screen. Plus, it was in 3-D, and, the 3-D looked good! At first, I wasn’t sure I wanted to go out to a movie. I complained that admission is too high, the popcorn’s too expensive, and the theaters are too cold. But, my guy wanted to go, so I let him talk me into it. I’m glad I did. It was fun.

“Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters” is a retelling of the classic fairy tale, but instead of ending with the kids killing the witch, that’s just the beginning. Most of the story takes place with Hansel and Gretel all grown up and working together as a brother and sister witch hunting team. And these aren’t some wishy-washy witches! They are scary, ugly, mean, dangerous creatures! Neither they, nor Hansel and Gretel, hold back when they fight. There’s plenty of punches, blood, guts and flying objects to keep you interested. They didn’t over do the fight scenes though…I never had a chance to get board with them like I do in some movies. Also, I liked it that while Hansel and Gretel aren’t subject to witch’s magic, they’re definitely not super human. When witches punch them it makes a painful thud, and they do feel pain and bleed. They are pretty smart though, and they have some neat weapons and team work.

Hansel and Gretel’s most recent witch hunting job takes them to a village where children keep getting kidnapped by witches. Without wanting to spoil anything, I’ll just say that they have a good adventure with plenty of fun, scary, and exciting events…some of which make them question Hansel’s early proclamation that “The only good witch is a dead witch,” and shed new light on the events of their childhoods. Along the way they meet some interesting characters: a bad sheriff, a big, mean, ugly troll (sort of), a love interest for Hansel, and a whole passel of witch baddies. I enjoyed the fun story, the humor, the special effects (the troll looked neat, the candy house was well-done, and that passel of witches had a great variety of bad apples), and the actor’s performances. Famke Janssen (Jean Grey in the X-Men movies) does a good job as the scary witch Muriel, Gemma Arterton is perky, cute and likeable as Gretel, and Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye in “The Avengers”) is heroic and handsome as Hansel. I think I might be developing a little crush on him.

So, “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters” is a fun movie, and seeing it in 3-D in the theater is probably even worth the price. And, it’ll be a good “make some popcorn and watch it again on DVD” movie later. ๐Ÿ™‚

Links: Fandango (for movie and theater info, showtimes and ticket purchases), IMDB for all things movie related, and IMDB pages for: “Hansel and Gretel”, “X-Men,” and “The Avengers” (each X-Men movie has a page, this just links to the first one to get you started). Also, here’s the Official Hansel & Gretel Movie Page.

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Scrambled Eggs

Monday, I tried a new scrambled egg method. I think the first time I heard about it was a long time ago on the “America’s Test Kitchen” T.V. show on PBS. They had one of the ladies (I think it was Bridget) demonstrate this method (if I remember right, they called it the French Method) in one pan, while Chris made their favorite scrambled eggs in another pan. Bridget stirred and stirred over low heat, while Chris stirred his eggs for a short time over much higher heat. His came out in large just-firm curds which they happily ate after she had given up on her’s (which they said still weren’t done yet). They were big fans of the hot and quick method, and I’ve always had good results with it too, so I never felt the need to try the other way.

Then, about a week ago, I read about Russian scrambled eggs on the Global Table Adventure website. If you’re a foodie and you haven’t checked out this website, it’s definitely worth a look (link to it here). The author, Sasha Martin, is blogging about her Global Table Adventure where she cooks one meal from each country in the world. She does one country per week and includes a little information and pictures of each. I love it! I think it’s an awesome idea, and I sort of wish I had the guts and time cook each and every country too. For now though, I’m addicted to the website, and starting to pick some of her recipes to try.

The Russian menu looks really good (link here). First, I decided to try the eggs (link here). Actually, mine were closer to the ones Gordon Ramsay does on the video on the egg recipe page (direct link to Ramsay’s video here), since I didn’t have caviar and didn’t want to put the eggs back in the shells.

Here’s what I made:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into at least 2 pieces
  • about 1 teaspoon light sour cream (maybe a little more)
  • little pinch of garlic powder (this works great, but if you have fresh chives or green onions, by all means, use one of those)
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put the eggs and butter in a small pot, then start heating the pot over medium to medium-high heat while whisking and stirring the eggs. Continue whisking and cooking, turning down the heat to medium and occasionally moving the pot off the heat so that the eggs cook slowly and remain creamy. This takes a few minutes, but not too long. If cooked egg builds up on the spatula, tap it on the side of the pot so it’ll go back in the eggs. Once they are cooked, but still creamy and not dry, add the sour cream and sprinkle in the garlic powder. Stir some more, then sprinkle with the salt and pepper and serve on top of toast. Or by themselves on a plate. Yum. They are soft and moist, but not raw, with a great flavor and texture.

Be sure to watch the video of Ramsay doing them. It’s fun and helpful.

Link to the America’s Test Kitchen website here. (I enjoy the America’s Test Kitchen T.V. show, radio show, and magazine, but I don’t know much about their website. I’ve always been put off by the fact that you have to pay to see much of it. It does look interesting though).

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A Restaurant Review and More About Cookies

First, a follow-up on yesterday’s post (read the whole post here):

I mentioned La Hacienda Real Grill in Longview Washington. They deserve more than that little mention. We go out for Mexican food in this area more often than I’d like to admit, but Hacienda is a consistent favorite. We’ve tried a lot of places (I’ll talk about other good ones another time), but they are one of the best. The food is consistently fresh, high quality, hot, delicious and tastes as if it was made with care. When it’s Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, someone’s birthday, or any day we want great, special Mexican food, Hacienda is the place.

Some of my favorite dishes there are tamales, chili rellenos, taco salads, Enchiladas Jalisco, veggie burrito, and spinach enchiladas. My boyfriend likes the fajitas, Macho Burrito…and pretty much everything he’s tried there. My mom likes the Macho Burrito, chili rellenos…and ditto on the “pretty much everything.” Friday, I tried the Carnitas de Res, which was on the dinner special. It was really good! It had nice pieces of beef, grilled with onions and green peppers. It was grilled just to that perfect stage where the meat is a little seared around the edges, the onions are a little browned and almost a little caramelized in spots, and the pepper is just beginning to char. Oh, wow. With rice, beans, guacamole, and homemade tortillas; I was in heaven! That brings me to the other thing I have to mention about Hacienda: if you order something with tortillas on the side, and they ask if you want flour or corn, know that the flour ones are homemade and awesome! Sometimes I still get the corn tortillas because they are good too, but the flour ones are always deliciously soft, buttery and delectable. They are hard to say no to. Also, the dinner was a lot of food, so I took half home with me. Everything reheated beautifully for lunch the next day, even those nice tortillas.

So, enough gushing about my favorite Mexican restaurant. Here’s their information:

La Hacienda Real Grill, 1124 Washington Way, Longview, WA 98632. Phone: (360) 636-3031. As far as I know, they don’t have a web site.

Oh, on price range I’d say they’re kind of in the middle: if you go for lunch or order a taco salad or small combination, you can eat for $7 – $10 per person, if you go for one of the fanciest dinners, they might be as much as $18. I don’t order alcohol, so drinks aren’t factored into these prices, nor is the fact the you may be able to take half of most dinners home.

A second note on yesterday’s post:

I mentioned substituting canola oil for half the butter measure in the chocolate chip cookies. In case anyone’s wondering, I do that because canola oil has less unhealthy saturated fat, and more healthy monounsaturated fat than butter. Cookies wouldn’t be cookies without some butter, but, as I learned from Cooking Light Magazine (link to their website here), in drop cookies, you can substitute canola oil for half the butter without sacrificing taste. You get a cooky with a little bit higher ratio of healthy fats, and no noticeable difference (except maybe a little more crunch, as I mentioned yesterday).

Hopefully that will help balance out those buttery tortillas from Hacienda Real! ๐Ÿ™‚ If you’d like to read more about different types of fat, Cooking Light has a good article here.

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Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookies

We decided we needed to make chocolate chip cookies. Sometimes, need is not too strong of a word for cookies. It was Friday night and we had been out to a nice dinner at Hacienda Real Grill in Longview. After dinner, we were doing some grocery shopping when it hit my boyfriend that he really could use a chocolate chip cookie. Not one from the bakery, but one of my homemade cookies. How could I resist such a compliment? We got some ingredients and planned to make cookies that night. Well, by the time the shopping was finished and I’d driven my mom home, it was too late to bake, so we put it off until Saturday. That was fine though, because I can’t think of a better way to spend a cold, rainy Saturday afternoon than baking yummy cookies in a cozy kitchen with someone you love.

We used the Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe with just a couple of changes: First, we did a half recipe because five dozen cookies sounded like a bit much. Second, we replaced half of the butter with canola oil. Third, instead of the cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips the half recipe called for, we did 1/2 cup semi-sweet chips and a rounded 1/4 cup of dark chocolate chips. Fourth, because we used unsalted butter and canola oil has no salt, I added a couple of extra pinches of salt to the dry ingredients.

Here’s the half recipe with our changes in parentheses:

  • 1 and 1/8 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (plus a couple of little pinches extra)
  • 8 tablespoons of butter, softened (or 4 tablespoons softened unsalted butter plus 4 tablespoons canola oil)
  • 3/8 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/8 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup Nestle Toll House Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips (or 1/2 cup generic semi-sweet chocolate chips plus a rounded 1/4 cup generic dark chocolate chips)
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional) (we left them out)
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  • Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl. Beat butter, (oil), granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in a large bowl. Add egg, beating well. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and nuts (if using). Drop by rounded tablespoons onto ungreased baking sheets.
  • Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Let stand for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely. Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

They are great: buttery, chocolaty, and sweet, but with just enough dark chocolate and salt to offset the sugar perfectly. They’re also nice and crunchy. I think the canola oil might be the reason for that, since I don’t remember the original recipe coming out that crunchy. I wonder if they would be softer if I baked them a shorter time…I might try that next time. They are really good crunchy though.

Chocolate Chip Cookies 2

By the way, here’s the website for the Nestle Toll House Cookie recipe, just in case my link above acts weird:

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Maple Cinnamon French Toast

Ah, wow. The holidays are over and life is sort of calming down and getting back to normal. At last! Don’t misunderstand me; I love Christmas, and Thanksgiving and Halloween are pretty great too. But, it is sort of a relief when it’s over and we all go back to exercising, eating healthier, and making shorter To Do Lists. Also, some of my friends and family were sick or had medical procedures done recently. They are all healing and getting back to normal too, so that adds to my feelings of relief and contentment.

Today was the first day, in what felt like a long time, that I could just stay home. It’s been great. We’ve been catching up on the housework and just relaxing. The morning started out nice when I got up and made French Toast for breakfast. As you could probably guess, most mornings I make oatmeal, or we eat cold cereal if we’re pressed for time. Once in a while though, on a nice stay at home morning, I like to make something more interesting. Today it was Maple Cinnamon French Toast.

It’s actually not too unhealthy, if you choose healthy ingredients…and have some restraint with the maple syrup! Here’s the recipe:

  • 4 pieces whole grain bread (okay if a little stale, but it should still smell appealing)
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 2 egg whites
  • 2 tablespoons 2 percent milk
  • 2 tablespoons medium amber real maple syrup
  • cinnamon for sprinkling (other spices could be added along with, or instead of the cinnamon: nutmeg, coriander or cardamom are good options).
  • Canola oil for the frying pan

Combine the eggs, egg whites, milk and syrup in a shallow dish. Put the bread in, letting each slice soak enough to absorb some of the egg mixture. Turn it over a time or two so it gets egg from both sides.

Heatย  a little oil in a frying pan on medium-high heat and transfer the slices, one at a time, to the pan. Sprinkle each slice with cinnamon and other spices if using. If necessary, turn down the heat to medium so the bread doesn’t brown too quickly. When it is starting to get a little cooked and brown on the first side, turn the slices. Cook until done to your liking. Watch these closely because the syrup in the batter will make them burn easily.

Serve. If desired, you can add more butter and/or syrup, but they are really good as is.

Sorry there’s no photos…we ate them up before we thought to get out the camera!

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