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Recipe Test: Spiral Veggie Tart

So, I first saw a variation of this recipe on facebook, and then a different one on pinterest. It seemed ambitious, but involved cheese, so of course I had to try it. My version at least looked good.

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If I were to do it again, I would really appreciate having a mandolin to do so. I spent a ridiculous amount of time slicing these veggies, and in the end had WAY more than I needed for this tart. I ended up using the second recipe linked above, as it didn’t use mustard, which I appreciated. I could not for the life of me get the spiral to stay put doing it on my cutting board… so I did it the “wrong” way by creating the spiral right on top of the cheese spread on the crust. This meant my spiral wasn’t as tight, and there were ultimately less veggies used as an outcome, but I was fine with that.

Honestly, I could’ve done without the eggplant. I’m not a big eggplant fan, and I think it just added more liquid/sliminess than necessary in this dish. It was the one veggie that disagreed with being cut into slices. In the end, the time to cook vs. enjoyment of the dish was too far off for me. I’d maybe cook this again if it was to impress friends, but not for a dinner for myself. Since the crust was from scratch, I had to grate a brick of cheese, and slice all the veggies, I got done super late at night and was starving at the end. It did make for a nice lunch the following day at work though:

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Also pictured above is a salad I found on pinterest, that is basically shaved radishes, fennel, parmesan, and then a dressing of lemon juice, olive oil, and ground black pepper. It was really refreshing and summery. I’ve never bought fennel before, and it was a hilarious experience at Fred Meyer trying to convince the cashier that it was in fact fennel, and not bok choy. She couldn’t find the PLU in her booklet and had to ask a manager. Anyway, I’m glad to be trying new dishes, and this vegetarianism thing really isn’t all that hard this time around.

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2015 Tulip Fest @ Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm

This weekend’s adventure: Tulip Festival! Coming from the midwest, something like this happening in early April is pretty amazing, and I’ve seen a friend’s photos from a tulip festival she visited near Seattle, so I knew this was something I wanted to see this year.

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Of the tulip festivals/farms available in driving distance (that’s right, there’s more than one!), I chose the Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm in Woodburn, OR. It was about a 40 minute drive, about halfway to Salem.

You pay for parking/admission as you enter, and they had us parked in rows on a grassy field. This was interesting, as it had rained the night before, so it was pretty soggy, and some of the other sedans couldn’t handle it as well as my trusty Forester.

My initial impression was: This place is gorgeous.

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They have rows of each color of tulip, for those of us that like order and organization in the world, and then there’s a section that’s just full of chaos/mixed tulips.

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My second thought: Good god there’s a lot of people here. As you can see, I had a heck of a time getting landscape views without humans in them. Maybe you wouldn’t have noticed the human blobs in the photo above if I hadn’t pointed them out… but I noticed. I noticed a lot.

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It meant I took a lot of closeup photos that looked very similar.

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Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm has a pretty cool setup for photographers/hobbyists, and they even allow you to pay $20 to access the farm before opening hours, to avoid this crowding problem. I wouldn’t mind going back and doing this, except I’m really not a morning person, and getting up that early (+40 minutes for the drive) would require a lot of coffee. Plus I feel like I was able to work around it and get some decent shots.

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A note for visiting vegetarians: They had some food carts, but you’re not going to find anything healthy, or any filling ‘entrees’ that don’t have meat in them. They had funnel cakes, hamburgers and hotdogs, french fries and the like. I was extremely hungry after we’d walked around for a little while, but found none of the food to be appetizing. I did however shell out $4 for a giant Lemonade, and it was well worth it after trekking around in the sun with my camera gear. Next time, I’ll be smart enough to bring some snacks.

 

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Recipe Test: Minecraft Mushroom Stew

So some late night YouTube-ing lead to me finding Feast of Fiction, and this recipe for Minecraft Mushroom Stew.

 

I decided not to make the dumplings, as they’re not really my thing. I didn’t take any ‘during’ or cooking photos, as I didn’t think it was necessary to reinvent the wheel here. If you want to know how to make it, simply watch the video above. I had a heaping bowl (okay, two bowls ya got me) for dinner and then brought it to work for lunch the next day.

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It reheated wonderfully. The only alterations I made to this was I did not salt to taste when frying the onion and rosemary, I sautéed the garlic at the very end of frying the onions rather than adding to the soup near the end (why would they tell you to do that?! You’re just asking to have raw garlic in your soup…), and I used low sodium vegetable stock instead of water (why I avoided adding salt from the beginning even low sodium has enough for me).

The thing about this soup though, is I think I’d consider it more a “cream of mushroom” than a stew. I think to make it a little more hearty, it could use some potato, and more umami flavor. It has been almost a month since I went vegetarian, so I’m not really craving beef yet. It stands well on it’s own as a mushroom soup, no need to pretend I’m aiming for beef stew. The other note I’d make is if you’re sensitive to paprika, this soup has far too much. It did make my stomach *super* upset to have it two days in a row. Maybe worth the pain though, it was very tasty.

Blaze
Tunnel Trail
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The tunnel
Green Forest Park
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Hiking at Forest Park

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Today we hiked a short portion of trail at Forest Park, with Blaze. Since it’s a popular location, it was best to just bring one dog, and Blaze is by far the best behaved on a leash on rough terrain around other humans.

Tunnel Trail trailhead

We started on Tunnel trail. I tried to do some research online before we went, since our goal was to see the “witch’s castle” or the “stone house” which is actually a retired park bathroom but it looks cool because the roof is gone and it’s all stone and covered in moss. Alas, we didn’t find it. There’s something like 80+ miles of trail in this park, which is pretty impressive for a place so close to downtown Portland. There were tons of runners on trail, which I thought was nuts, considering parts of the trail were slick with mud and super steep incline. Those people are more hardcore runners than I am, for sure.

It would appear this section is named Tunnel Trail not because there is a tunnel *on* trail, but because the trailhead parking is right next to a tunnel.

The tunnel

 

After getting a good drink of water and our bearings, we headed onto trail.

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I’ve lived here a while now, and I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to how overwhelmingly green parts of this place can be. Super dense forest with moss covered trees.

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We also saw lots of Trillium flowers on trail, which reminded me of home.

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I think it might’ve rained a decent amount in the morning, because the trail was pretty muddy. Blaze didn’t seem to mind, and it made for an interesting workout, trying not to fall on my face. There were also a few of these cute little streams going down the side of the hill:

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Tunnel trail was pretty short (maybe half a mile or less?), and at the top of this hill we chose to continue on Cumberland Trail. The other direction seemed like it led to private property.

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I didn’t realize we had gained much elevation (other than the fact that my lungs had a mini spasm asthma attack and we found a bench to break at) until we came to a clearing where I could see the road below.

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As the cloud cover receded, and the sun came out, it got pretty warm. For a midwestern gal in march, anyhow.

Sunlight in the trees

You know how you have an image of a new place in your mind before you go, and once you get there it’s totally different? (Or maybe sometimes exactly the same, I suppose.) Well, this place was way better in person than in my mind’s eye. I’d love to visit again, when my allergies are a little better under control, and maybe after I’m not so out of shape. There’s a lot to explore here, and we only saw the tip of the iceberg. Ultimately, I think we were very close to the witch’s house, but I was confused by signs for Pittock Mansion, as I had read it was “just after” the mansion on trail. So we followed signs towards the mansion, but alas, we were going the wrong way for the witch’s house. Next time, I’ll find it I swear!

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2015 Rose City Yarn Crawl

This year, I didn’t have the funds to travel to Wisconsin for Weetacon, so instead we drove all around Portland and the surrounding suburbs with a friend/coworker to visit every shop in the Rose City Yarn Crawl!

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I didn’t realize there were so many shops in portland that I could get my yarn fix from! In all, we visited 15 shops in just three days. I overheard one or two people saying last year it was 23 shops! The idea was to sign-in at every shop, and then they did raffles for goodies and gift cards at each shop, as well as a grand prize raffle. Of course with so many shops, I had to nerd out a little and create a google spreadsheet to plan out our stops. We skipped Friday, and just went crawling Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday.

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It was a lot of driving, since some of them are very spread out. This cute shop dressed their flamingos in knit items and party hats:

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They also had sheep in a little pen next to the building, and I’m kicking myself for not going back to take a picture/pet the sheepsies.

Overall, I’m pretty proud of my willpower to avoid buying *all the things*. Here’s my single purchase from day one:

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Knitted Wit is a local yarn maker, they were having a trunk show at Wool ‘n Wares while we were there and I probably touched every skein of yarn before deciding which one to get. I’m planning to get some black yarn of the same weight, and make socks with this lovely purple skein of yarn. I’m thinking black for the toes, heel, and ribbing, and the purple for the rest of the sock. The little tin is a stitch marker holder. They included a free stitch marker on their business card and a little mini soap with the purchase.

I didn’t photograph the other days’ purchases, as the remaining yarn is meant for gifts, and I don’t what to jinx myself into never finishing the items by posting them here. I bet I already jinxed myself into never actually finishing the socks by talking about it in this post… My to-do list is always so long for knitted items, and I rarely make anything for myself, so I can see the sock project being put to the back burner very easily.

 

For now, I’m just keeping my fingers and toes crossed that I won something from one of the raffles. There were a ton of ladies doing the yarn crawl though, so I don’t know how great my odds are.

 

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Cannon Beach looking South
Cannon Beach looking North
Haystack Rock

Cannon Beach

Today on a whim, we drove to Cannon Beach to see the iconic Haystack Rock (as seen in the Goonies). It was a gorgeous day out, and the drive is only an hour and forty minutes, so I grabbed the camera and we hit the road. The drive is very scenic, and since we’ve been here almost a month it’s nice to get out and explore a little.

Driving into town it almost instantly reminded me of Grand Marais, MN. A small cute tourist town on the water. After driving around a bit to figure out which area would be best to park in, we found a spot and walked through an area to get to the beach, where there was a yarn store. Of course, I had to go in. It was a typical tourist town shop though, everything extremely overpriced, and nothing I couldn’t find someplace else, so I saved my money and managed to walk out of the store without buying anything.

We had to cross a small bridge over a runoff pipe at the beach, which I thought was a little weird. Once on the beach, I took my keens off and enjoyed the sand beneath my toes.

Ahh, Pacific Ocean, we meet again.
Ahh, Pacific Ocean, we meet again.

The beach must be at least a mile long, and there were plenty of people there for a chilly day. Nobody was swimming, as the water was pretty cold. That wasn’t going to stop me from getting my feet wet though. I grew up on cold lakes.

Cannon Beach looking North

Cannon Beach looking South

As for timing, if we go again, I’d like to get there early in the morning, and this sounds weird but… on a misty or cloudy day. The sun just turns the shadows to black, and since the sun was setting while we were there most of my shots of the rock formation are silhouettes.
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After the sun had set, we walked through town in search of a place to eat. I had some questionable fried fish (the menu said it was cod, but each filet tasted different…), and I didn’t feel great afterwards. I’m thinking about going fully vegetarian, it seems most animal proteins just haven’t been sitting well with me lately. Portland is the perfect place to do it too, there’s a ton of vegetarian and even vegan options here.

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Portland Arrival

We arrived at our new home in Portland on Friday. In a short three days, we drove across the country with three dogs in the car through blizzards and icy roads. Idaho was especially terrifying for a little while with the semi trucks and terrible road conditions. The last night of the trip, we stayed at my cousin’s home in Spokane, WA. There, we were able to have a little husky party, as he also has a husky named Meeko.

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We also kept Chuck occupied, they shared their little rubber ducky collection with him, and he surprisingly really liked them! I’ll have to find some for him later.

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I have a horrid cold and also lost my voice in the process of traveling across the country, and decided to go to Urgent Care to make sure I don’t have strep. Turns out I just have a really bad case of laryngitis, and need to keep from talking the next few days. Great timing, I start work at my new job tomorrow.

 

It was a pretty mild winter so far in Minnesota, so I don’t get to really rub it into my friends’ faces of our grand escape from winter, but we did move in to a fresh green backyard which is nice. The dogs are pretty pumped, or at least Chuck is, since he doesn’t care for snow but the huskies do. So far the weather has been pretty mild here, and it’s even been sunny during the day most days with a light “mist” more than a rain in the evening.

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Moving to Portland, OR

At the beginning of December, I semi-secretly (I didn’t update social media or anything of my whereabouts) travelled to Portland, OR for an interview at a tech company. For the rest of the month I kept my fingers and toes crossed, not expecting to get a response quickly with people being out for the holidays. On New Year’s Day, I got a phone call from the recruiter at the company, and she offered me the job!

So, we’re packing up everything and the hunt is on for a house to rent, and someone to take care of renting my house here in Minnesota, and pack all the things, and just so many tasks I’m a little overwhelmed thinking about it. I don’t know if this will be a permanent move, I’m treating it as though it’s not. There are a few reasons not to sell the house in Minnesota, and one of them being I might just want to move back here someday, and damn is it hard to find a place to rent with three dogs.

Someone asked me if I’ll be changing the name of the blog, as I’ll no longer be living “in the tundra” any longer. I’ve grown attached to the name, so I’ll likely keep it. And hopefully when we’re settled in Portland, I’ll even post some of my adventures of cooking and exploring new places in the city.

Anyway, I’ve been rummaging through boxes all day trying to condense things and plan for the eventual moving truck. I came across this rain jacket I bought Chuck a while back. He doesn’t care for it, I think the hood confuses him. He’ll just have to learn to deal with the rainy Pacific Northwest!

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Chocolate Nutella Cookies

Every time I make a batch of these Nutella cookies they don’t last long. I made a double batch this weekend to bring to my knitting group. They disappeared rather quickly!

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The cookie itself is a chocolate cookie with a hint of coffee and almond flavor, and each is pressed with your thumb to make a divot for the Nutella to sit in.

Here’s my modified recipe of one I found somewhere on Pinterest:

Ingredients:

1 cup flour
1 cup powdered sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon instant espresso or coffee (I found little packets, and usually add two)
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/3 cup nutella

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; do not pack. Level with a knife. Mix dry ingredients thoroughly to evenly distribute salt and espresso.  Stir egg yolks, butter, and almond extract with a whisk, beat well. Add wet to dry, beat at low speed just until combined. Don’t freak out, it may seem dry at first, but the butter will soak into the dry ingredients as you work with the dough more. At this point I use the back of a spoon, or my hands to knead the dough until it is smooth and shiny.

Take a spoonful of dough at a time and form 1″ balls. Spread about 1″ apart on a cooking sheet. Press thumb or back of spoon into the center of the cookie to squash them down and leave an indentation.

Bake one sheet at a time for 10 minutes each. Wait for the cookies to cool completely on a wire rack. Put 2 tablespoons of Nutella at a time in one corner of a zipoc baggy. Snip a small amount from the corner of the bag with a scissors, and tube out a little Nutella into the divot of each cookie. The first time I did this, I burst my ziploc bag. So if you buy the cheapo brand like me, try warming the bag with nutella in your hands a little first so that it is easier to pipe onto the cookies. Alternatively, if you’re fancier than me you might have proper piping/frosting materials and you should feel free to use those.

 

Medi Meal

Medi Meal

This Mediterranean meal was a lot to cook all at once, but it was really tasty. It was actually comprised of a few Budget Bytes recipes.

Medi Meal

I was craving falafel, and had told one of my coworkers this, she brought me a jar of chickpea flour so I could make it super authentic! The roasted vegetables might have been my favorite, which was a great surprise considering I don’t really care for eggplant and they were super easy. I essentially chopped up a bunch of stuff, covered it in olive oil, balsamic vinegar and oregano and roasted. I wouldn’t miss the eggplants if they weren’t in the dish though.

The falafel were way too large, and ended up not done quite right in the middle. The pita are also homemade. I think I rushed the dough a little, so they came out small and the falafel definitely over-filled them. Oh, and that’s also fresh home made tzatziki. This took me something dumb like three and a half hours to make. So if I did it again, I’d make the pita and the tzatziki the night before. I think the falafel really needs to be fried the same night you mix it up or they end up dry. The falafel also seemed concerningly green, from the fresh cilantro. It didn’t seem like the flavor was off though.