Meghan

Cook the Collection #10: The Fondue Cookbook

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Sep 072015
 

Header illustration for cook the collection projectThis project is well-intentioned but boy is it slow. All this time and I’m just on the tenth book – that’s kind of ridiculous. I’ve got this dead wood of not-great cookbooks hanging over me that I would like to pare from my collection, but I feel I should cook at least one thing from each before I do.

The Fondue CookbookThe thing is, there are cookbooks that have great, accessible recipes, and there are cookbooks that have luscious, aspirational photographs and head notes, and a few treasured cookbooks have both. Then there are the cookbooks that might not be so great but they’re meaningful in some way (for instance I like to bring back a cookbook as a souvenir when I travel), and the books that are family heirlooms. Another group of cookbooks are the workhorses of the collection – the reference and technique books and the general books that get turned to over and over again. Finally, there’s a large group of books that have marginal recipes, poor illustrations and uninspired writing. These are my bane! These are the books that I want to toss into the recycle bin (or at least the donation box at the local library).recipe page from The Fondue Cookbook

The Fondue Cookbook, however, is not one of those dreary books. This book is a specialty book for sure – we got it as a wedding gift along with a fondue pot (and no I was not married in the 70’s, surprisingly) – and it is full of fondue recipes and nothing else. The very first recipe, for traditional cheese fondue, is a solid recipe that gives great results. This is my go-to cheese fondue recipe, and when my daughter asked if we could have fondue the other day, it’s the one I turned to. Later this month I’ve promised the kids we’ll make chocolate fondue, and I’m sure I’ll turn to this book again.

Recapping the First Half of 52 in 2015

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Jul 082015
 
I don't feel comfortable unless I've got a book backlog - these books are waiting on my night table, and I've got another virtual stack in my kindle

I don’t feel comfortable unless I’ve got a book backlog – these books are waiting on my night table, and I’ve got another virtual stack in my kindle

So half the year is done (wha. . . ?) and I’m taking a look back at how I did towards my goal of reading 52 books in 2015 (one a week on average). I managed to read 20 books, which is respectable but puts me behind for the second half of the year – I’ll have to average 1.2 books per week for the rest of the year in order to make my goal. I made more of an effort to read than I might have without trying to hit 52 so that’s positive. I also helped start a book club and we had our first meeting after reading Visiting Hours: A Memoir of Friendship and Murder. I have to say I didn’t love the book but I really enjoyed the discussion we had about it, and I’m looking forward to hosting our next meeting this month!

Looking over my list, I’ve managed quite a mix of genres from both fiction (14 books) and non-fiction (6 books). The fiction books were almost entirely sci-fi and thrillers, although one of my favorite reads was decidedly chick-lit. The non-fiction was more of a mix of memoir and historical novels. I decided to come up with a top 5 list from the first half of the year, which was harder than I thought it might be since I really liked a lot of these books.

1.The Girl on the Train: A Novel by Paula Hawkins. Wow this was a great thriller – I really didn’t guess any of the twists beforehand which is totally satisfying. One of those books that pulls you right along and is almost impossible to put down – sorry family!

2.The Royal We by Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan. This chick-lit novel is written by the Fug Girls and has just the right mix of flirty gossip, fun fashion and a kicky storyline. It’s nothing deep but it was a great summer read for sure.

3.The Martian: A Novel by Andy Weir. Anything that’s soon to be a major motion picture starring Matt Damon is probably pretty good, and The Martian is no exception. It’s a fun read, full of great inner dialogue as the main character figures out how to save himself from quite a jam. I think it’ll be a great movie – in fact as soon as I finished the book I went online to see if it would be made.

4.The Book of Strange New Things: A Novel by Michel Faber. This novel seems at first to be a straightforward sci-fi story about colonists on a distant planet, but I soon realized it was more the story of a husband and wife negotiating the shifting terrain of their marriage, and its conclusion is devastating yet hopeful. I was deeply surprised by this book – it was much more than I thought it would be.

5.Pretty Good Number One: An American Family Eats Tokyo by Matthew Amster-Burton. I’ve always enjoyed the author’s writing, especially his first book “Hungry Monkey” about cooking for and with his young daughter. They’re from Seattle and his daughter is just about V’s age so that adds a layer of interest for me, and I love traveling with my kids, so reading about his travels with his daughter was great. This book is part travel memoir and part travel guide with a lot of Japanese food history thrown in as well. I was ready to book a trip to Tokyo when I finished!

Now it’s on to the next half of the year – got any suggestions for a book I’ve just got to read? I’d love to hear it!

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May 292015
 
Seattle Art Museum - photo by David Herrera

Seattle Art Museum – photo by David Herrera

Summer is almost here, and with it comes the chance to visit some of our region’s many great museums. The Seattle area is full of museums, from big to small, covering a wide range of subjects or just one in great detail. Take some time to check out this list – maybe you’ll be reminded of an old favorite or find somewhere new to explore! Something to remember is many of these museums offer free admission on the first Thursday of each month – check the websites for details, but do know they’ll be much busier on these free days.

Transportation Museums

Museum of Flight | Seattle

Future of Flight Museum and Boeing Factory Tour | Mukilteo

Flying Heritage Collection | Everett

McChord Air Museum at Joint Base Lewis-McChord | Tacoma

Olympic Flight Museum | Olympia

LeMay America’s Car Museum | Tacoma

Northwest Railway Museum | Snoqualmie

Bellingham Railway Museum | Bellingham

Northwest Seaport Maritime Heritage Center | Seattle

Bellingham Maritime Museum | Bellingham

Hydroplane & Raceboat Museum | Kent

Foss Waterway Seaport | Tacoma

Puget Sound Navy Museum | Bremerton

Naval Undersea Museum | Keyport

Children’s Museums

Seattle Children’s Museum | Seattle

KidsQuest Museum | Bellevue

Imagine Children’s Museum | Everett

Children’s Museum of Tacoma | Tacoma

Children’s Museum of Skagit County | Burlington

Kids Discovery Museum | Bainbridge Island

Hands On Children’s Museum | Olympia

Discovery Village | Gig Harbor

Art Museums

Seattle Art Museum | Seattle

Henry Art Gallery | Seattle

Frye Art Museum | Seattle

Bellevue Arts Museum | Bellevue

Museum of Glass | Tacoma

Tacoma Art Museum | Tacoma

Chihuly Garden and Glass | Seattle

Whatcom Museum | Bellingham

Science & History Museums

Pacific Science Center | Seattle

Burke Museum | Seattle

Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) | Seattle

Experience Music Project Museum | Seattle

Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park | Seattle

Last Resort Fire Department Museum | Seattle

Washington State History Museum | Tacoma

SPARK Museum of Electrical Invention | Bellingham

Camlann Medieval Village | Carnation

Pioneer Farm Museum | Eatonville

Cultural Museums

Hibulb Cultural Center | Tulalip

Native American Cultural Center for Indians of All Tribes (Daybreak Star Center) | Seattle

Nordic Heritage Museum | Seattle

Northwest African American Museum | Seattle

Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience | Seattle

 

I’m always looking for somewhere new to explore, so if I’ve missed one of your favorite museums, drop me a comment and let me know!

 Posted by at 11:21 pm

Lean and Clean Turkey Burger {Recipe}

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Mar 262015
 

lean and clean turkey burger with recipe

These lean and clean turkey burgers and heavy in our dinner rotation lately. Right now my kids are obsessed with “make your own” dinners. Make your own tacos, make your own pizza, and make your own burgers – basically anything that they get to assemble on their own is a hit. We have “make your own ” burgers just about weekly, and like to rotate between beef burgers, salmon burgers and ‘clean’ turkey burgers.

This recipe is quick and simple to prepare, and fits in with the kind of healthful eating we try and stick with. We like to fix oven roasted potatoes instead of french fries, and usually serve peppers, carrots, or cucumbers alongside as well.

Lean and Clean Turkey Burger
(Serves 4)

Ingredients

  • 1 lb lean ground turkey breast
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup old fashioned oats (uncooked)
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (for frying burgers)

1. Combine all the ingredients and mix well. The mixture will be really soft and sticky. Wet your hands with a bit of water before you form the patties to keep the meat from sticking to your fingers. At this point you can put the mixture in the fridge to chill if you’re not ready to cook yet, otherwise proceed to the next step.

2. Heat a cast iron skillet over medium high heat while you begin to form the patties. Once it’s hot add about a tablespoon of vegetable oil and then as you make a burger set it right into the hot pan and pat it down a bit, then move onto the next one.

3. Cook the burgers for about 7 minutes per side, until the patty is entirely cooked through. If you want to add cheese, top the burgers with a slice once you’ve flipped them and they have about 3 minutes left to cook. Pepper Jack cheese is delicious on these!

4. Serve on hamburger buns with your favorite toppings. Some of our favorites to choose from are bread & butter pickles, salsa criolla, lettuce, tomatoes, avocados or guacamole, and ranch dressing.

lean and clean turkey burger

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Mar 202015
 

make your own canvas beach windbreak

Last summer we had a marvelous two week beach vacation planned at one of my very favorite spots to visit – Cannon Beach, Oregon. It’s a dreamy beach, miles long and extra wide so there’s plenty of room for walking, running, flying kites or building sandcastles. The only drawback is that it can get windy like most beaches, so before we went I made a large canvas beach windbreak to use while we were there. It worked great at blocking the wind, and also helped to add a boundary and a bit of flair to our beach ‘compound’ (we were there with lots of family members for a reunion and had a lot of chairs and gear that we actually left on the beach each evening – well above the high-tide line of course).

It might seem like summer is ages away, but spring is a great time to get a few projects done to help you have a great time at the beach this year. It’s a perfect project for the lull between Easter and Memorial Day. The whole project cost about $20 – much lower than the average beach windbreak costs retail (here’s one on Amazon) and I got to customize it myself.

canvas beach windbreak using canvas dropcloth To start, I purchased a canvas dropcloth from my local hardware store – look for the hallway runner size (mine was 4′ x 15′). The beauty of a hallway runner is that the edges are already hemmed so that saves a few steps. You could wash and dry it first, but since I knew I wasn’t planning on washing my completed windbreak I skipped that step. If you do think you’ll wash it sometime you’ll need to preshrink it now to prevent problems later.

Next I laid out the dropcloth on my front lawn so I’d have plenty of room to work (and because it was a beautiful sunny day) and figured out where the pockets for the posts would go. I decided on a post at each end of the windbreak and three in between for support.

make your own canvas beach windbreak

clockwise from left: (1) Lay out all of your support posts on the canvas, (2) Fold the edge over to make a pocket, (3) Pin the pocket closed with safety pins and then stitch the pocket closed for a durable finish.

I folded over each end and pinned it shut along the length to make a pocket to slide the post in, and folded over three more pockets equally spaced along the windbreak. I pinned the canvas using large safety pins just to make sure the pins wouldn’t slide out as I was moving the windbreak around and stitching up the seams. Make sure when you do this that the pockets are wide enough to hold whichever size post you use. I was using thick bamboo stalks because they were free from my yard (and because black bamboo just looks cool too) but you could use heavy dowels or lathe pieces from the hardware store as well.

A note about your supports: make sure they are long enough to fully support the windbreak PLUS have enough extra to go deep into the sand. For my 4′ high windbreak I used bamboo that was about 6′ long.

Next I stitched up each pocket using a sewing machine with a heavy-duty needle and heavy-duty thread designed for sewing canvas. You could probably skip the sewing portion if you used enough strong safety pins but I wanted to make sure that my windbreak was durable. I also stitched across the top of each pocket to make sure the beach windbreak didn’t slide down along the supports. Once the canvas is sewn, the windbreak is ready to use.

canvas beach windbreak with hand painted stripes

After I finished I wanted to add some paint detailing to mine.  I picked out a few paint colors and had samples of exterior house paint mixed up to paint some horizontal stripes.

Confession time: I can never get masking tape to work correctly when I’m painting straight lines (it always gets under the tape or smears) so I just traced lines in pencil using a 2’x4′ as a guide and then carefully filled in the lines freehand. There were a few mistakes but that just added to the charm I say.

make your own canvas beach windbreak

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Happy Super Pi Day

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Mar 142015
 
Happy Super Pi Day!

Happy Super Pi Day!

I think it’s fun to mark the occasion of certain silly ‘holidays’, don’t you? Who can resist giving an “Aarrgh” on Talk Like a Pirate Day? Pi Day is the same way – you must eat pie on March 14th! Here’s our Pi Day pie – individual chicken pot pies with a creamy chicken filling and a puff pastry crust.

 Posted by at 9:26 am

Manila Clams with Wine, Butter and Garlic

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Jan 152015
 

manila clams with wine garlic and butter

Yum, one of my favorite simple suppers is steamed Manila clams with white wine, butter, garlic and shallots. It’s so easy you don’t even really need a recipe, although I’ve got one for you. This meal manages to be unfussy yet elegant at the same time, which is often just what we need at our house after a stretch of burgers, tacos and pasta.

One of the best parts of this dish is that it’s a one pot meal – just add a loaf of crusty bread to soak up the sauce and you’re good. If we’re feeling really motivated we sometimes also add a green salad.

Steamed Manila Clams in White Wine
serves 4

  • 3 lbs Manila clams, live
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups white wine
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

1. Rinse off the clams and inspect them – discard any clams that are open and don’t close up when they are knocked together. Most clams you purchase these days are farmed clams and are quite clean so they just need a rinse – if you’ve harvested them yourself or suspect they might be sandy you can leave them in the fridge in a bowl of clean water for 30 minutes so they can flush the sand through their system.

2. In a large stockpot or dutch oven melt the butter over medium heat – when the foam subsides add the shallot and onion and saute until they’ve softened but not browned.

3. Add the drained clams to the pot and stir to coat with the butter, shallots and garlic. Pour in the wine and stir again briefly, then cover the pot and simmer for about 10 minutes.

4. Check the clams – make sure they’re all opened and discard any that haven’t. Add the chopped parsley, stir and cook for a minute more.

5. Serve the clams in bowls with their sauce and good bread on the side.

manila clams wine garlic butter

Jan 072015
 

sweet new years treats

I made homemade caramels and marshmallows for holiday gifts and they turned out so delicious that I really needed to come up with some pretty packaging to compliment them. I started out with some cardboard boxes that are usually used as disposable baking pans. Next I added some decorative cupcake liners and nestled the caramels and marshmallows into them.

super sweet new years treats

I happened to have some pre-cut parchment paper (which is the best thing ever by the way) which I folded down so that it fit the size of the box and had a decorative band in the middle, and I trimmed the edges with pinking shears for a cute little touch.

super sweet new years treats

Next I used a long strand of bakers twine to wrap around the package and tie off to secure it. Finally the boxes needed a something else – a label! I made up a label using PicMonkey, printed out a bunch on cardstock, cut them out and slipped them under the baker’s twine.

super sweet new years treats

 

Happy New Year!

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Jan 012015
 

happy new year 2015

Wishing for you the best year yet! We spent last night with the kids and a 2015 countdown – they had envelopes to open at certain times with fun activities – we went out to dinner, had a sundae bar, played party games and board games, and everyone still managed to fall asleep by 11:30pm! Ah well, at least we’re rested today. Happy New Year!

 Posted by at 1:50 pm
Dec 272014
 

I love making homemade gifts for Christmas – some years almost everything I gift is homemade and some years it’s only a little token. This year I’ve got a serious sweet tooth going on so I had to try my hand at marshmallows and caramels.

homemade marshmallow

First up were the marshmallows – I have had the cookbook “Marshmallow Madness” for a few years now and for some reason I was too intimidated to try them before now. Even though the author is completely reassuring and the recipes are straightforward I just thought it couldn’t be simple to make marshmallows. How wrong I was! It’s so easy to do! I kind of felt like it was life-altering to make homemade marshmallows and I also kind of can’t wait for the summer so I can try out s’mores with my own marshmallows. I also kind of can’t wait to make some of the other flavored varieties – I just need an upcoming holiday or other reason to gift them so I don’t eat the whole pan. Maybe Valentine’s Day?

homemade apple cider caramels

I’ve also wanted to make caramels for a long time. We made them once when I was a girl and we must have overcooked them, because they ended up hard as a rock (like break your tooth hard) and so I’ve been scared to tackle those again too. The lure of making Apple Cider Caramels was too much though, so I finally overcame this other candy fear and got to work.

Months ago, in anticipation of making these caramels I made Boiled Cider, using the homemade apple cider that our family made earlier this fall. Then, armed only with a candy thermometer, I set out to tame the caramels. And guess what? They also weren’t all that hard, and they were absolutely amazing! I could have eaten the whole batch but I’m glad I didn’t – instead I wrapped them up for gifts as well. I definitely sense more candy-making in my future!

homemade caramels sheet