Monthly Archives: April 2014

Places I love: Discovery Park beach

I’m going to start posting occasional pictures of places I love. Most will be sites I regularly frequent around the Pacific Northwest, but some will highlight previous places I’ve lived or visited, including The Netherlands and Siberia.

I’m starting off with my favorite park and beach in Seattle, Discovery Park. Looking back at our pictures taken here over the years reminds me that the best outdoor toys my boys ever received were shovels.

Discovery Park

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Looking northwest across Puget Sound towards Bainbridge Island’s north end.

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Driftwood lines the beach towards West Point Lighthouse, Olympic Mountains provide the backdrop.

 

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A busy boating channel- freight ships, fishing boats and pleasure boats abound.

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The splinters are worth it.

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One of us looks for porpoises, orcas, eagles, osprey and harbor seals using these.

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If you squint hard you might notice the Space Needle, as well as Mt. Rainier’s ghost rising above where the land hits the water. Both are visible on clear days.

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Salted Chocolate Rye Cookies

I have an overdue cookbook because I couldn’t let it go before getting this recipe archived. When you discover one of your favorite cookie recipes ever, the fines are definitely worth it.

I checked out the latest Tartine cookbook because I was excited that it focused on whole grains. Plus, I keep convincing myself that if I read about the process of making naturally leavened breads just one more time I’ll actually try. That has yet to happen. I remain intimidated, but increasingly intrigued. I think I’ll get there. Maybe I’ll cross that bridge after I visit the bakery in a few weeks on my birthday (!!!) (I’m going to San Francisco! To visit a dear friend! I danced around the house for days after my tickets were finalized. I also quickly inquired to see if a trip to Tartine could be fit in. She assured me that we can walk there every day if need be. I’m fairly certain there will be need.)

IMG_4078While I may hesitate to make and feed a starter, I never hesitate to melt butter and chocolate together. Whenever I see a recipe starting out that way, I’m willing to keep reading. This one lured me in completely with the additions of rye flour and sea salt flakes.

What results are basically truffles in cookie form. Or the best fudgy-brownie-cookie I’ve ever tasted. The outside provides a little chew, while the inside melts in your mouth. The salt makes it all sing. I might have even danced a little jig while singing hallelujahs after trying my first. (There’s been a lot of dancing lately.)

IMG_8113I highly recommend not skimping on chocolate quality because it will heavily influence the flavor. In fact, if you only have chocolate chips or some sort of chocolate look alike, I would hold off. These cookies are divine because of the high quality chocolate in them. It makes them more expensive than your average homemade cookie, but not your average truffle. (Such a bargain!) You do get a lot for your money, though. Plus, my husband said they’re his second favorite cookie ever. (This is both of our first, in case you’re wondering.) Are you convinced yet?

If you’ve never dove into the melting chocolate world before, my recommendations include Valrhona, Theo, Green & Black, Guittard, Scharffenberger, and Callebaut. All of these will be far better choices than Baker’s or Hershey’s. Ghirardelli is a step up from those, too.

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Tartine’s Salted Chocolate Rye Cookies

Yield: Four dozen small cookies

  • 454 g / 2 2/3 cups chopped bittersweet chocolate (70%)
  • 57 g / 4 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 85 g / 3/4 cup whole-grain dark rye flour (I used Bob’s)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (I used Diamond Crystal kosher)
  • 200 g / 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 340 g / 1 1/2 cups muscovado sugar (I used a combination of turbinado and brown- using a scale to pay careful attention to their combined weight, not volume)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon, for topping

Fill the base of a double boiler with an inch or two of water (or use a saucepan and place a heatproof bowl above it, making sure that the bottom of the bowl isn’t touching the water). Bring to a simmer. Melt the chocolate and butter together, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat to cool slightly once it’s melted.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

Using a standing mixer and whisk attachment, whip the eggs on medium-high speed, adding the sugar a little bit at a time until it’s all incorporated. Turn the mixer to high and whip the eggs until they’ve nearly tripled in volume, about 6-minutes.

Reduce the speed to low and add the vanilla and melted chocolate-butter mixture. Mix to combine, scraping down the bowl sides as needed. Mix in the flour mixture until just combined. (I did this gently by hand with a spatula.) The dough resembles a cake batter, very soft and loose. Don’t fret, it hardens as it chills.

Refrigerate the dough in the mixing bowl about 30-minutes, until it is firm to the touch. If you chill it longer, bring it to room temperature prior to scooping.

Preheat the oven to 350℉ / 180℃ and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Scoop the dough with a rounded tablespoon onto the baking sheets (I used a small ice cream scoop with a nifty release mechanism- my favorite cookie dough dispenser). Space the balls about 2 inches apart. (I fit 12 on each sheet.) Sprinkle a few flakes of sea salt on each ball, pressing them in gently so they stick. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until the cookies have puffed up, have smooth bottoms and rounded tops. Let the cookies cool a minute or two on the sheets before transferring them to wire racks to cool completely.

The cookies remain very moist and chewy for several days if you keep them in an airtight container. Speaking from experience, they pair nicely with coffee in the morning, milk in the afternoon and red wine at night.

 

Birth

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In a bit over a week my youngest son turns four. He understands enough about time to realize April is his birthday month, but not enough to comprehend that waiting NINE MORE DAYS means it’s also not his birthday tomorrow, or the next day, or the next. He knows it’s coming, but he can’t track it day to day. So, every morning we’re hearing these excited statements laced with doubt. “It’s my birthday!…?” “Today’s my party!?”  It’s all he’s thinking about, besides Legos and food.

The sentences flying out of his mouth these days could land him on Ellen’s couch or Bill Cosby’s lap. (Also, the principal’s office, but for different reasons.) Today he told one of Charlie’s classmates how old he was: “I’m three and three quarters. When I’m four I’ll be four and three nickels!” He is at that sweet spot of language development in which spoken vocabulary is incredibly diverse, but most multiple meanings remain confusing and misused. I hope I get to hear that one again since Charlie didn’t catch him and correct it. (What is it with first graders correcting EVERYTHING? And they’re so often wrong! Then I wonder, if I correct Charlie for incorrectly correcting Miles, does that make me as equally annoying to Charlie as Charlie is to Miles? Sheesh.)

Yesterday, Miles tried to playfully spit at me. Not real spitting, more like a directed air-zerbert. He explained, “I’m spitting sunscreen on you! My sa-li-va mixes with chocolate in my mouth and becomes sunscreen!” Spit, spit, spit. It was sunny, so the protection was quite appreciated.

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I began labor at 2am and continued slow and steady enough through the bluebird morning to walk the historic Queen Anne streets surrounding our previous rental. Under giant magnolia trees and alongside tulips, I chatted with Harry and my friend/doula between contractions. One of my elderly neighbors watched me leaning against a wall during one and offered to take me to the hospital. Very kind, but I didn’t mind laboring in public. We even strolled to the Macrina bakery, where I stood outside the store window having a contraction, while Kari and Harry got coffee and pastries. We sat for a bit, waved goodbye to my favorite workers with promises to bring a baby by next visit, and moved on to enjoy the beautiful day as much as possible until the real work commenced.

My memories of his birthdays are bound together with my favorite images from Seattle spring. Our ornamental cherry tree proudly wearing it’s light pink tutu, the skirt of little ballerina dreams. Our pear tree blossoms dripping with rain, sparkling in the bits of light that peek through the clouds. Our delicate plum tree flowers, whose sight always prompts me to yearn for a huge harvest.

Petals carpeting the sidewalks and streets, trees dressed to the nines in fancy blossoms and moss accessories, baby leaves emerging, pea vines popping out of the ground, little boys pleading for their birthday to arrive. Springtime and birth, woven together.

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Moody food

Happy April, friends! Have you had anyone fool you today? I haven’t tried to pull off anything lately, but I cringe with embarrassment thinking of all the pranks I did to my mom. When I was sixteen, I told her I was pregnant. Now that I’m a mom, I realize I might’ve crossed the line with that one. I pulled off my favorite pranks on days other than April first, though. Youth group camps and trips were my ideal playgrounds. At a muggy, Mississippi KOA campground while daylight faded, my friend and I filled a boy’s tent with frogs from a nearby ditch. He entered after dark, without a flashlight. Screaming commenced. I could have peed my pants from laughing so hard. (I felt bad, too, and fessed up.) He sought revenge the rest of high school. On a different trip I called the motel front desk and pretended I was on staff. I gave all the boys’ rooms a 4am wake-up call. One unlucky chap without a watch showered before he realized the time.

The fact that Miles has an extremely mischievous side should give my victims some comfort. Payback arrived through my own womb. His adorable naughty giggle begins anytime he’s trying to be sneaky. He frequently hides Charlie’s toys in our shoes, under our pillows, and in drawers. One of his favorite things to do while I’m seated is take my slippers off my feet, run away giggling, and hide them somewhere. His eyes twinkle the whole time, too.

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Stuck in a swing, unable to cause mischief

So yes, I know it’s April Fool’s Day, but trust me here. Prankster and all, I’m not so mean as to intentionally post a recipe that won’t turn out. This chili struck a note with Harry and me last week and I just happen to be getting around to sharing it today.

Weather in March in Seattle is notoriously moody. Dark gray skies and thunderstorms quickly trample our crystal blue skies. Only the flowering trees still shine in that darkness. This year the exceedingly heavy rainfall led to the horrendously tragic mudslide just north of Seattle, too. There’s been a lot of contrast. A lot of grief and sadness. A lot of joy and beauty.

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$200+ worth of cookbooks for free. God bless Seattle Public Library.

I picked chili during a rainstorm. Consulting cookbooks I checked out from the library, I searched for a recipe that would feed my family and a friend’s. (I try to drop off more meals than frogs these days.) The recipe needed to improve with time, too, in case I delivered it the next day. It comes from the yet-to-fail-me Melissa Clark, via In the Kitchen with A Good Appetite. I don’t make chili often because I find many of the recipes to be a little boring. My interest was piqued by this one because 1) BEER, 2) the pepper variety encouraged me, and 3) she recommended changing up the chili powder. Chipotle, guajillo, New Mexican and ding, ding, ding! I thought of my leftover ancho chili powder from making mole and began to salivate.

Just like that, this chili became my go-to recipe. I like the slight heat of the jalapeño, the hominy’s chew, the ancho chile powder’s nod to mole. Whenever that happens, I will share it here. Both so you can try it and so I can reference the recipe after the cookbook has returned to the library.

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A quick iPhone shot. I’m not sure it’s possible to make chili look really great in a photograph, but I didn’t really try. I will probably never become a stellar food photographer because I like to eat more than I like to shoot. How do these people take pictures and let their food get cold? They are devoted to the craft, my friends. I’m not there yet. My devotion lies with the food.

Beef, Bean and Hominy Chili with Cilantro Sour Cream from Melissa Clark

Serves 8

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 lbs ground beef (I used 1 lb beef, 1 lb bison)
  • 3 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large Spanish onion, chopped (I used a white onion on my counter)
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 poblano pepper, seeded & chopped
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded & finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup chili powder (I used ~80% ancho chili powder and 20% regular chili powder- any powder will work, but a mix of special ones will add to the depth of flavors)
  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 12-ounce bottle dark beer (I used an oatmeal stout)
  • 1 30-ounce can hominy, drained
  • 1 15-ounce can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican (I used normal)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro or chives

1) Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large pot over high heat. Brown half the beef until it is cooked through. Break it up with a fork to help it cook evenly. Transfer it to a large plate or bowl using slotted spoon, and season it with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Drain the fat from the pan and repeat this step with the other half of the meat.

2) Return the pot to the stove (after most of the fat has been drained) and add the remaining oil. Stir in the onion and peppers and cook until softened, about five minutes. Stir in the garlic and chili powder and cook until fragrant, about two minutes. Add the tomatoes, cooked beef, stock, beer, hominy, beans, oregano, bay leaf, and remaining 2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Bring to a simmer and reduce the heat to medium-low, simmering until thickened. This will take anywhere from one to two hours. Try not to rush it, though. The length only helps the flavors meld.

3) Stir together the sour cream and cilantro or chives prior to serving. To serve, top off a bowl of the chili with a spoonful of the sour cream! And don’t forget the cornbread!*

*I served my all-time favorite cornbread recipe in muffin form. This cornbread is wonderfully moist, a little tangy, buttery and slightly sweet. It offset the slight heat of the chili perfectly. If you’ve never browned butter before, Michael Natkin has a lovely video tutorial that should help you feel more comfortable. It’s a great thing to learn–it makes almost everything with butter in it taste better. (Cookies, rice crispy treats, scones, you name it.)