Well, We’ve finally, officially gotten ourselves a wedding date. A few weeks ago, my future mother-in-law told me about this beautiful koi pond place that one of the mothers at the school she works at just bought. I contacted her and we spoke about pricing. It turns out it was about 4 times more than I wanted/expected to spend on a venue. But after my conversation with her, I realized that I had just over 8 months to find a place for, and plan my wedding. Not that Craig hasn’t been mentioning it on and off for the last 2 months. The wedding is “my thing.”
My initial plan for the wedding was to have just our immediate family come with us, and a justice of the peace to a remote area of a beautiful park somewhere and have the ceremony, then have a big reception afterwards at our house with lots of tasty food, drink, and wonderful music. Then Craig told me that he didn’t want to have the reception at our house because parking is horrible and the inside needs some renovating. As a result of now needing a site, I hadn’t bothered to pin down one specific date that I’d like to have the wedding, as I didn’t know what would be available once I found a venue that I liked.
Keeping in thinking of my initial plan, I began searching parks in the area, and found that St. Edwards State Park, in nearby Kenmore has the PERFECT place for weddings. And it costs 1/4 of what the koi place wanted to charge me. After leaving a voicemail late one friday night, I got a call back the next day (on a saturday!?) from one of the employees there telling me that the area was in fact available to reserve on the day that I was mulling around in my head, August 28th.
The park is an old abbey, built in the 30’s and it operated until the 1970’s when there weren’t enough monks to maintain it, so it was sold to Washington state as a park. This is the main abbey building.
The name of the area is The Grotto. It’s an area that priests went to meditate while the abbey was running, and based on a plaque that I found hidden behind a tree branch, it seems that a boyscout troop fixed it up in the mid nineties.
It is very private, you can’t really see anything from the rest of the park.
You walk down one of the two staircases down into the grotto area
Here’s the altar area where we’ll be married
This is the view from the far back end
Anyway, that’s the space, and the date.
Man. I came up with this sauce a few weeks ago on a whim because I had a 1/2 gallon of cream and 4 lbs of mushrooms in my refrigerator. I couldn’t be happier with it. Here’s the formula – a bunch of crimini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced (you could use white button mushrooms, but costco has criminis for like $.50 more, and they’re way better), sauté in some butter with a little thyme, sage, or rosemary and a pressed or finely minced garlic clove.
Once the mushrooms have browned, deglaze the pan with 1/2 cup of red wine
When most of that is reduced, add in 1/2 cup of cream and stir it in.
Let it simmer and reduce
When the sauce has reduced to the point that you can leave trails with your spoon, pull it off the heat, it’s done. Taste and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
I also had a bunch of rainbow potatoes in my pantry, from a recent trip to costco. They were all new potatoes, red skinned with white flash, brown skinned with yellow flesh, and purple skinned with purple flesh. I washed then chopped them up into small chunks and sautéed them in some bacon grease. Yes, I have a jar of bacon grease that I keep in the fridge. That shit is TASTY!
I like to try to include a protein with all of our meals, and chicken strips were on sale at the grocery store, so I seared up some of those with some salt and pepper.
Everything plated up – so tasty.
It seems that every time I get really smug or cocky about something, it bites me in the ass. And it’s always as a result of my cockiness on the issue. Oh, I made a really tasty pie crust (out of sheer luck. Pastry and me have big time relationship problems), now I’m going to make a beautiful tart shell. What? No, you’re not allowed to burn. Shit, I didn’t think that putting the flimsy tart pan onto my 380º pizza stone would result in blackened pastry quite so quickly. Had I not been so confident in my [nonexistent] pastry dough skills, I’d have checked on it every 2 minutes or maybe even camped out in front of the oven window and watched it as it baked. Instead, I let it go as I do with many other items, and that puppy burned the second my back was turned. As is my life.
A few months ago I was watching Julia Childs episodes while I made French Onion Soup, and she was ranting about how important a sharp knife is. My dad hadn’t been over recently to sharpen my knives so I pulled my Chef’s knife through my dinky little pull-through sharpener, then ran it over the sharpening steel a few times based on Julia’s recommendation. Then I was feeling smug about how sharp my knife was. Really smug. Then as I was sliding some sliced onions off of my knife into the bowl that they were collecting in, I accidentally lightly slid my pinkie over the edge of the blade and got a big cut. If I hadn’t sharpened the knife, my finger would have just slid right down the blade and I wouldn’t have been cut.
Yesterday – I was feeling pretty smug about how sharp my knifes have been as of late. I got a Spyderco Sharpmaker for Christmas and I’ve become a bit of a fanatic. My knives are all quite sharp, and I’ve been giving them tune-ups every weekend to keep them in tip-top shape. I had just finished telling Craig’s dad, Joe, how sharp my knives were and how awesome I am for keeping them that sharp, and how I also walk on water in my off time. I was making some olive tapenade, and had just finished chopping my olives up finely, and had run a clove of garlic through my garlic press. I grabbed my 9″ chef’s knife to scrape the garlic off the press with the back of the blade, and due to my amazing clumsiness, managed to throw it into the air. Knowing the supreme level of sharpness that this particular knife possessed, I did my best to get clear and let the knife fall to the floor. I didn’t do as well as I envisioned I’d do, and ended up brushing the blade on it’s way down with my wrist, which promptly began bleeding. If the knife hadn’t been so sharp (I really hardly even felt the knife touch me) I’d have had a small scratch. Instead, I got out the first aid kit that my mother put together for me and tried to tape the two sides of the cut back together and stop the bleeding. I was VERY lucky that my wrist wasn’t turned 20º the other way or it may have been an emergency room situation. After 3 bandage changes, I finally managed to stem the bleeding. But now I’m going to have a nice big cut mark right on my wrist, I tend to scar easily. You’d be amazed by the number of scars I have on my hands and forearms from cooking.
There’s this store down in South Seattle that I’ve been reading about for over a year now. I’ve meant to make it down there, but I really hate driving to/in Seattle, plus I never had a really good reason to go. So I didn’t. But then in the last week I’ve been on a fairly big wedding kick and after finding my venue, have really begun to put some plans together. Part of those plans is trying to figure out what the heck we’ll be eating, and how much it’s going to cost. I decided on lots of hors d’oeuvres, and to keep costs down, I plan to put it all together myself, with the help of baking things off, and storage laid at the hands of family and friends. Shhhh! They don’t know about that part yet!
Regardless, one of the things that I want to have is a meat and cheese plate, which will require me to buy meats and cheese for 75-100 people. It also means that I better find a place to get really good stuff for a reasonable price. Que PFI, it’s an Italian/Mediterranean food importer that specializes in olives, cured meats, and cheese. They have like 50 different types of cheese. They also have aisle after aisle of bulk spices, frozen mini-tart shells, sauces from all over the world, gnocchi, and pasta. Oh, the pasta. Beautiful, interesting, stuff you wouldn’t find anywhere outside of a specialty shop. I ended up with large shells, but instead of clamshells, they’re conchs, so they kinda curl up. I’m going to stuff then with ricotta (ri-gOt) and top those puppies with some of Diane’s Pomodoro. They also had extruded sun-shaped pasta. I’ll be sure to take photos when I decide to cook that. I couldn’t pass it up. The best part, they were only $3.49 for pretty large bags. AWESOME!
Anyway, we went there, got some tasty stuff, then I hit the cheese counter. They had 5 types of Manchego. I tried the 3 types of raw-milk manchego, a 1 year aged, and 2 18 month aged, with different price points. After spending $22/lb (with a 1lb minimum) on the middle of the pack, an 18 month one with a nice flavor, I decided not to get more cheese, and instead just buy a hunk of meat. We got a pound of dry salami, cured in red wine. YUM.
After PFI, we headed back up to good old Bothell and hit QFC for some crackers, bread, and beer. Then I made some Kalamata olive tapenade, one of my favorite spreads to help round out the “meal.” We also had some pitted Kalamatas to snack on.
I also picked up a chunk of very high quality milk chocolate for $2.83. We chipped chunks of it off with a bread knife and snacked on them. It was truly out of this world amazing.
As I’ve mentioned before, I have a penchant for foreign snack foods with exciting labels, and the bug bit me again. I ended up coming home with some Israeli (Kosher) chocolate cookies with smiley faces on them, and Russian lemon creme cookies with Russian lettering on them. The chocolate ones were kinda weird and dry, but the lemon cookies were really good! Plus a sleeve was only $1.90. I’ll certainly make another trip down there and get lots more.
Ok, I made these like 2 months ago and never bothered posting about them. Not all of the photos turned out even slightly appetizing, I was HUNGRY and couldn’t bring myself to set up a pretty plate and photograph it, instead opting to take pictures as Roy happily dished up his meal.
I basically just slice up washed bell peppers, maybe a poblano or 2, peeled onions, and chicken. Then I throw everything in a smoking hot cast iron pan and let it begin to blacken. Then when the chicken appears to be almost done, I put a little water mixed with taco seasoning and let it reduce.
I serve this with warmed tortillas, my amazing guacamole (that I will eventually post a recipe for that when I bother to figure out what my measurements are), and sour cream.
Try this! It’s amazing, and SO FAST to make. It’s a great way to get in extra vitamin C and use up those extra tortillas that are starting to get dry in the back of the fridge.
Truly. I’ve NEVER been a fan of molasses cookies. Or ginger snaps. Or molasses. I don’t even know why I made this recipe save for the adorable picture on Martha Stewart’s website, and my need to make even more types of Christmas cookies this year. I’m freaking glad I tried these because I almost fainted when I took my first bite. And that’s saying a lot, I was on a sugar high after spending my entire afternoon and evening baking cookies.
I’d also like you to know, that I really hate molasses. Yes, I know, repetitive. I’d even like you to know that I gagged a little when I opened up my jar of it to measure some out for the cookies. I considered tossing the butter-sugar-egg mixture and canceling my plan to bake those particular cookies. Luckily for you (and not so luckily for my thighs), I soldiered through and made the dough, half expecting to throw the entire batch out.
They are rolled in sugar, similar to the method used for snickerdoodles, to create a crinkly, crusty finish. This seemed like a DELICIOUS plan, the outside is my favorite part of snickerdoodles.
The way these bake up is magical. They are mostly butter, so as soon as it melts, they instantly spread out and puff just a tiny bit. Then when they come out of the oven, they instantly deflate and turn into large, super flat discs that one would expect to be remarkably similar to crackers. But they’re not. Oh no they’re not! They have the crinkly crusty exterior that snickerdoodles boast, but the molasses keeps them pliable and chewy. Certainly the most amazing texture I’ve ever experienced.
Plus they store wonderfully too. A week is cake for them. Just put them in an airtight container, which is super easy to do with economy of space because they’re flatter than pancakes and you’re good to go. Last weekend I used some vanilla bean ice cream and made mind-blowing ice cream sandwiches with them. I feel like 2009 was the year of the cookie, with my discovery of not one, but two perfect cookie recipes.
Recipe (stolen and modified from the domestic goddess herself, Martha Stewart)
2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg
1/4 cup molasses
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and salt.
With an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until combined. Beat in egg and then molasses until combined. Reduce speed to low; gradually mix in dry ingredients, just until a dough forms.
Pinch off and roll dough into balls, each equal to 1 tablespoon. Roll balls in some spare sugar to coat.
Arrange balls on baking sheets, about 3 inches apart. Bake, one sheet at a time, until edges of cookies are just firm, 10 to 15 minutes (cookies can be baked two sheets at a time, but they will not crackle uniformly). Cool 1 minute on baking sheets; transfer to racks to cool completely. Store in an airtight container up to 1 week.
Boris also found out that he loves licking the flour that my kitchenaid throws out of the bowl off of the floor.