Sweetness: Vancouver Island Adventure

 

The Entrance to the Soule Creek Lodge

I had a panic attack on the way to Soule Creek Lodge. The road to the lodge goes up a steep slope—one that, during the course of my trip research, literally every TripAdvisor review had mentioned. Most of the roads we’d taken on the 2 hour drive from Victoria to rural Vancouver Island gave the impression that they were created after man had waged a lengthy battle with Mother Nature, where Mother Nature had ceded just enough space for humans to painstakingly create narrow, snaking, two-lane roads. And the road to Soule Creek Lodge was no different. My then boyfriend (and now fiancé) would later tell me that he felt the wheels of our rental car slip beneath us on the uneven, gravel road as we inched our way to the top of the ridge where the lodge and assorted outbuildings are nestled together above the tree line. I was white knuckling the car’s console as we rounded the corner that dropped us in front of a cozy, cedar building turned lodge. A sign next to the screen door instructed us to ring the doorbell for service. The co-owner of the lodge, greeted us, bearing only a clipboard—no iPad or other electronic device to check us in. I was taken aback at first because it’s so rare to use pen and paper for anything in 2017. We were checked in and then given directions to our yurt, and continued the next leg of our adventure.

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Sweetness: Pie Bar

Way back in January, when I kicked off my lifestyle change, I knew the biggest battle for me would be bidding adieu to dessert. For the first month, I skipped all sweets entirely, and then, afterwards, I made them a special occasion type deal—I wouldn’t eat dessert through sheer force of habit, and only when I really, really wanted something and when that something was extra special.

That something special has presented itself in the form of Pie Bar. I Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetlearned about Pie Bar during my now regular nightly “Evening Magazine” viewing. The bar, located in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, is just what it sounds like; pie. And booze. Opened last May by twin sisters, Pie Bar serves as a tribute to the duo’s recently passed father. I don’t know their father, but the bar is a fitting tribute to anyone who appreciates pastry and delicious adult beverages.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetThe location itself is cozy (read: super small, but still comfortable), tucked away on the western slope of Capitol Hill, away from the maddening crowds of Broadway. Despite how filled the little room was, it was actually pretty quiet–easy to hear my friend’s dating stories and to discuss the pros and cons of Tinder. Décor is a mixture of rustic Pacific Northwest glory and classic glamour—I was entranced by a row of miniature crystal chandeliers that hung from the ceiling. The bar itself is 21 and up, but pie fans who aren’t of legal age, or those who just want a slice to go, can take advantage of a walk up window. Our first server was warm and friendly, and the pie? Well, that was spectacular.

The menu offers up a la carte pie, both sweet and savory, a full list of alcoholic beverages, Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetas well as the choice to pie/drink pairings. My friend chose strawberry rhubarb pie and the Old Fashioned, a chocolate stout beer served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, like an adult root beer float. I chose banana cream pie paired with a pecan pie martini–which was served with crumbled pie crust on the rim of the glass. Both choices were divine, and though it would be incredibly easy for two sweet drinks to kick you into a sugar coma, both were incredibly balanced—and the topping on my pie tasted like fancy Cool Whip.

And to make you feel even better about a healthy dose of alcohol and sugar, the restaurant is holding a fundraiser to benefit the victims of the recent landslide in Oso, Washington.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetWhile my lifestyle change means I can’t indulge in coconut cream pie every day, it doesn’t mean I can’t have a little cheat day every now and then—especially when it involves pie and booze, and a slight hike to and from my new favorite sweet escape.

Pie Bar
1361 E. Olive Way
Seattle, Washington 98122
(206) 257-1459
Monday – Sunday: 5 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Recipe For Inspiration: Get Healthy

flywheel seattle, shoes, fitness
Hideous shoes at Flywheel

Like basically every other woman in the United States, I have battled my weight for most of my life. There were two marvelous years in high school where my body, freshly released from a casing of baby fat, was actually something I was proud of. I worked out/took dance/tumbling classes once or twice a day, five days a week, and also, because I had the metabolism of a 14, 15, 16-year-old, chased those workouts with Otis Spunkmeyer cookies and Cheetos.

A serious battle with depression my junior year of high school left me with an extra 50 pounds, 50 pounds that I still haven’t shifted (in its entirety) in the past 13 years. I have tried diets, spent lots of money on gym memberships, attempted to re-introduce my body to dance via Zumba– but nothing stuck. About two years ago, after seeing a few horrifying pictures of myself from vacation, I decided to go on a diet, joined a gym, and after about 3 months, I’d lost 12 pounds. The first 12 pounds seemed magical enough for me to quit dieting all together, and so I decided just to self-regulate–I’d eat what I wanted and diet when the scale got too close to the danger zone.

Unfortunately, this plan did not account for a multitude of life changes in the ensuing years, and so I gained most of that weight back–a full six pounds of which I packed on between Thanksgiving and Christmas OF THIS YEAR (In the words of my spirit animal, Dr. Mindy Lahiri: “Guys, over the holidays, I had like five hams and a goose. I am a wolf in a children’s story.”)

I love to cook, I love to eat, and the idea of denying myself the simple pleasures afforded me by a job well-done in the kitchen seemed too much. But I also come from a family with a history of high blood pressure and heart problems, and I know that keeping fit and healthy will help me along toward a long and happy life.

Spurred on by everyone else’s favorite reason to make major life changes, the brand new year, I decided to take stock of my diet and increasingly sedentary lifestyle. With the help of the My Fitness Pal app, I recorded the calorie count for what I eat on a normal day. And it was SHOCKING. Grazing in the office, unregulated happy hour, and a Coke here and there really and truly add up. I mean, I knew I wasn’t eating well, but I didn’t realize just how poorly I was eating until the thousands of calories were staring me in the face.

So, I made a pledge to cook five nights a week, to replace my beloved Haagen Dazs and Ben & Jerry’s with an ounce of dark chocolate (I have a sweet tooth!), to stop drinking Coke (sniff, sniff), to eat a real breakfast, pack a healthy lunch/snacks for work. I enrolled in Flywheel classes. I am currently following Bon Appetit’s Food Lover’s Cleanse. I have realistic expectations: I do not think I will ever get back to the size I was at 14–I mean, I am not 14 anymore. But I want to teach myself how to make healthier food choices and reintegrate fitness into my life (also one of my 30 Before 30 goals is to lose 30 pounds).

As adults, we quickly fall into routines that we think are unchangeable–habits that may not be great, but seem to just be. But I realized that if I approached my job the way I approach my health, with a lack of motivation rooted in the thought that “this is how it has to be,” I wouldn’t have a job. To be healthy and happy with my body, I have to put in effort and I have to make changes.

My scale hasn’t moved much, and truthfully, I’m trying to ignore it lest it give me too much or too little encouragement, but I feel a little bit better, there’s a little bit more spring in my step. And most importantly, I don’t feel like I’m punishing myself with these changes–I feel like I’m improving my life and taking a more measured approach to the things I choose to put into this one body I was given for my limited time only trip around the sun.

How do you keep motivated to make healthy choices?

Recipe for Inspiration: The Lazy Girl’s Peanut Butter Chicken

There are a couple of things about me that generally shock people once they truly get to know me:

1. I am an insanely picky eater. It’s shocking because when you look at me, it’s pretty obvious that I haven’t missed many meals. Though I can generally find things to eat on most menus without asking for special additions or removals (this is a pet peeve of mine), I don’t eat most dairy products (this includes cheese*, sour cream, eggs, cream cheese, etc.), deli meat, non-homemade noodles, hamburger meat that I haven’t watched the preparation of…this list goes on (I will eat any vegetable you put in front of me, though). My refrigerator is essentially a collection of tomato-based condiments.

2. Once I’m home, I am basically the laziest person on Earth. I once tried to order takeout from a Thai restaurant two blocks away. There’s a pizza place (okay, I like some cheese*. Only the kind that doesn’t smell like feet, though. So basically, mozzarella.) I really like–about six blocks from my apartment, and when I call, the dispatcher will repeat my address back to me and say “Is this for carryout, then?” and I’ll say “NOPE. DELIVERY.”  If it’s a weekend, and I don’t have plans to booze with friends, I generally only leave my apartment so that I can walk Mr. Nigel Barker.

This means that I occasionally have to get pretty creative with the limited selection of food that makes its way onto the vaunted shelves of my refrigerator, and that’s where my Peanut Butter Chicken was born. One weekend afternoon, many years ago, I was left with a bottle of Sriracha, some soy sauce packets, a half a jar of peanut butter, a half carton of rice, and some leftover grilled chicken. Out of a combination of sheer desperation and laziness, I mixed the PB with some Sriracha and Soy Sauce and discovered that it is the Holy Grail of Lazy Girl eating. I won’t lie, I’ve had times where I just heated up the mixture in a sauce pan and poured the PB sauce over some cooked rice and called it good (and it really, really was).

In the years since the culinary discovery of my lifetime, I’ve fancied the recipe up a little–adding a dash of sesame seed oil, and even advance prep time/marinating. I always have PB, soy sauce, and Sriracha, and even on days when I feel like I need someone to carry me from the bus stop to my front door after work, I can be prevailed upon to stop at the grocery store on my way home from work and pick up some chicken. This is an easy recipe and something you can make in advance or whip up after work.

You will need:

SRIRACHA
These are a few of my favorite things.

3 tbsp of your favorite peanut utter (I prefer Justin’s, or, if you’re feeling really fancy, the PB you make yourself at stores like Whole Foods–but nothing too sweet)
1 tbsp of low sodium soy sauce
2 tsp of Sriracha)
1 tsp of sesame seed oil

1/4 Cup of Water

Salt
Pepper
A clove of garlic, minced
Uncooked chicken of some sort (I usually use drumettes/party wings)

Optional:
Green Onions

Directions:

Wash/pat dry your chicken wings, place in a freezer bag, season with salt, pepper, and minced garlic clove. Set aside.

Mixture, without water
Mixture, without water

In a small bowl, combine PB, soy sauce, Sriracha, sesame seed oil. Mix until well combined.

Then slowly add water–depending on the type of PB you use, you

might not need the whole 1/4 cup, but I like to thin out the PB mixture to the consistency of a thick soup. Taste the marinade–it generally will not need more salt, but I almost always add more magic sauce, AKA Sriracha. Pour the marinade over your seasoned chicken wings, and smoosh (very scientific term) the bag around so that the marinade coats the

Mixture, with water
Mixture, with water

chicken. Seal the bag and let sit in the refrigerator for at least 20-30 minutes, but the chicken will taste best after an over night soak in the PB mixture.

When you’re ready to cook: Preheat your oven to 400, arrange chicken wings on a baking sheet, bake for 40 minutes. They will be crispy and delicious. If I’m feeling fancy (which generally, I am not, but sometimes I invite other humans to my home to consume food with me and this will require me to attempt to make my food both delicious AND have visually appealing plating, which more often than not are mutually exclusive in my home), I garnish the wings with chopped green onions. Serve with rice and your favorite vegetable.

Bon Lazy Girl Appetit!

Peanut-y goodness.
Peanut-y goodness.

Get Up & Go: The Circus Hotel

Junior Suite at The Circus Hotel
Junior Suite at The Circus Hotel

My recent trip to Europe was my first real, grown-up trip to Europe. Previous trips involved rushed planning, occasional reluctant couch surfing, and lots of stays in hostels. But at 28, my days of successfully sharing a room with a half dozen other people or happily falling asleep on an IKEA bunk bed are a thing of the past. The prospect of staying in a hotel was great, but the task of sorting through the word vomit that often qualifies as reviews on various travel sites proved to be a daunting task.

The easiest (and best) hotel choice I made during Eurotrip 2013 was The Circus Hotel in Berlin. It is a centrally located sibling of the popular Circus Hostel (my taxi driver told me people frequently get confused about which place they’re staying, since they’re quite close to each other). I was feeling fancy, so I booked a Junior Suite for 110 Euros a night. The room was pretty big, especially by European standards (and it was exactly the same price per night as my closet-sized hotel room in Paris).

I didn’t spend too much time in my room because Berlin beckoned, but the time I did spend in my room was wonderful. My room faced the courtyard portion of the in-house restaurant, and there were a couple of nights during my stay that were especially warm and so I kept the windows open but wasn’t disturbed at all by my fellow guests.

The restaurant itself was absolutely fantastic. On my first night, I somehow managed to lug my extremely jet lagged body to the bar/restaurant for dinner and to listen to a

local jazz trio. The food was delicious, the atmosphere calm and relaxing, and the drinks stiff.

Beer and Schnitzel at Fabisch
Beer and Schnitzel

The front desk staff was extremely helpful, offering tips of places to eat and drink in other neighborhoods, helping me print out a pass to the Reichstag, and assisting me in booking a taxi to the train station on my last day in Berlin.

My fellow guests ranged in age from late 20s to late 50s, an age range which means that the hallways were quiet at night, and the bar and restaurant were filled with the gentle murmur of conversation rather than the bubbly almost delirious conversation of students on their first trip abroad (for that experience, visit The Circus Hostel).

When I go back to Berlin (because I absolutely will), I plan on booking at The Circus Hotel. It was an excellent start to my Eurotrip, and I only wish I’d had the same luck when booking my hotel in Paris.

The Circus Hotel Berlin

Snark: Storming the Bastille

On Sunday afternoon, I joined two friends at Ballard’s Bastille Cafe and Bar. It is a restaurant I’ve wanted to try for a while, but for whatever reason haven’t been able to swing it. The brunch menu is the sort of deal that sets my Francophile in Seattle heart a flutter–French Toast and French 75s.

An image of the menu at Bastille
Wise Words from Julia Child

When we arrived, it was like we’d walked into the episode of Portlandia where a new brunch spot has opened and all the local Portlandians have set up beach chairs outside the doors in order to score a table. As we joined the long line of quietly impatient yuppies, I wondered if maybe the beach chair idea might not have been half bad. And as much as I love brunch, I’m always somewhat leery of places where the lines are crazy long. There’s a restaurant in my neighborhood called Toulouse Petit, and while I love, love, love their happy hour and dinner, Toulouse Petit doesn’t take brunch reservations and you have to wait in almost comically long lines to nab a seat. I love mimosas as much as the next person, but at the end of the day, it’s just brunch, right? What on earth could be so special about it?

Turns out–everything, quite a lot.

French Toast at Bastille
The Holy Grail of French Toast

For reasons I don’t really understand, I cannot make French Toast on my own. It turns out burnt or underdone, and almost always totally hideous and slightly inedible. I can make souffles, gumbo, madeleines…almost anything else. Just not French Toast. And I order it any time I am given the option to do so. I’ve had every version possible–cinnamon bread, brioche, baguettes, etc. Bastille’s version was Baklava stuffed Challah French Toast served with a Cherry and Cognac syrup and dusted with cocoa nib powdered sugar. I also ordered a side of bacon because, why not. It was sinfully good, the kind of dish you wish you could make at home but know that it would only be a sad ghost of the original. I washed the decadent breakfast dish down with not one, but two French 75s. If you know me, you know that my love for French 75s is almost as boundless as my love for French Toast. On the occasion that I find a restaurant or bar that has one on the menu, they’re either too Gin-y or too Champers-y. Bastille’s was neither. It was perfect. It didn’t taste like booze at all and was light and refreshing and basically perfect.

Bastille itself pays quiet but not too kitschy homage to all things Parisian–it’s got dark wood, frosted glass panels between booths, subway tiles, and exposed iron beams like the ones you see inside the Metro in Paris. Though we had brunch, I took a peak at the whole menu online when I got home–it’s a delightful mixture of French standbys (moules-frites) made with locally sourced ingredients (Taylor Shellfish Farms). It was very, very good. The crowd was a mixture of yuppies, hipsters, families, and original Ballard residents. Despite my initial snark about yuppies in line, it was one of the most diverse crowds I’ve ever seen in Seattle.

So next time someone suggests brunch, maybe I won’t frown so hard and will instead get my beach chair (and checkbook) ready.
Bastille Seattle
5307 Ballard Avenue Northwest
Seattle, WA 98107
206-453-5014

French 75 (Gin, Sparkling Wine, Lemon)
French 75 (Gin, Sparkling Wine, Lemon)

Julia Child for the 9-to-5er: Coq Au Vin

I have lived in Seattle off and on for the past 15 years, but this winter has really gotten to me. I’m not sure if it was the fact that my doctor told me I was seriously Vitamin D deficient or if the taste of sunshine I got in California during my family vacation to Disneyland in January simply made me acutely aware of just how much I missed the sun. Either way, I really, really miss it. And I know Punxsutawney Phil claims that spring is just around the corner, but I’m not totally convinced. So I’ve decided to try to embrace the unyielding grey Seattleness and indulge in a few dishes that I won’t be able to make in the summer simply because my air conditioning-free apartment is not the place for adventures with my oven.

Coq Au Vin
Cooking with Vino

One of my favorite comfort foods is coq au vin. Don’t let the name or the fact that it’s French fool you into believing that it’s something fancy and difficult to make. It’s not. It’s a stew of chicken, mushrooms, onions, and red wine (vin). And it is damn good.  Depending on how long your commute is or what time you’re comfortable with eating dinner, the adapted recipe below could work as a weeknight meal. Or, if you have some extra time on a Sunday for some serious mise-en-place, try the full recipe from Julia Child.

While I countdown the days until I might catch a glimpse of that giant yellow orb in the sky once more, I’ll be devouring a few servings of this hearty French classic. Because if I can’t get warmth from outside, I’ll do a little warming from within.

Coq Au Vin

PBS Fresh Tastes Blog

Ingredients

  • 4 slices thick cut bacon
  • 3 lbs chicken breasts and legs, skin on (two breasts and two drumsticks)
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary, minced
  • 2 cups red wine
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 10 oz sliced mushrooms
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • ½ tsp salt (or, to taste)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
  2. Fry the bacon over medium heat in a dutch oven or large heavy-bottomed pot. After it’s fried, remove the bacon and place on paper towels to drain. Once cool, chop bacon and set aside. Keep the bacon grease in the pot.
  3. Turn heat to high and place chicken, skin-side down in the pot. Sear chicken until golden brown on both sides, about eight minutes. Then, add the onions, garlic, bay leaves and rosemary. Continue sautéing until the onions begin to soften, about six minutes.
  4. Add the chicken broth and red wine. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and let simmer for 30 minutes.
  5. After 30 minutes, carefully remove the chicken from the pot and place in an oven-safe dish. Keep chicken warm in the oven while you work on the sauce.
  6. Stir the flour and butter (butter should melt instantly in the pot) into the red wine sauce. Bring back up to a boil and stir constantly—-sauce should be begin to thicken. Add mushrooms, chopped bacon, salt and pepper and continue cooking for 10-12 minutes. Keep in mind that the sauce will also thicken up a bit when it cools.
  7. Place chicken back in sauce and serve with roasted potatoes, noodles or a big green salad.

Yield: 4 servings

Julia Child for the 9-to-5er: Sole Meuniere

Last week, I had a box of Moose Munch and a handful of Haribo gummy colas for dinner. I’d had a long day at work and delivery pizza was out of the question (I’m pretty sure all of the delivery dudes know me by now and this is a problem), and there was very little in my kitchen that could make a square meal. As I watched The Bachelor and wondered just how many people Tierra almost murdered before she was cast as this season’s villain, I made a belated New Year’s resolution: cook more.

Sole meuniere ingredients
Mise-en-place is tres important, mes amies.

I love to cook. My kitchen is filled with encyclopedic cookbooks, I have a stand mixer, a deep fat fryer, a crock pot, and a small army of Le Creuset cookware. But between the holidays and travel, I got out of the habit of buying actual groceries and fell back into some bad culinary ways. The simple act of cooking usually makes my days a bit brighter–as a child, I wasn’t allowed to watch any Saturday morning cartoons (this is a topic for another post), so I subsisted on a steady diet of Julia Child and Jacques Pepin, with the occasional episode of “Yan Can Cook” thrown in. From my first disastrous attempt at cooking rice (I was 8, my mom was sick, and I decided to throw rice in a pot with some water and turn it on high. Guess how that turned out.) to my very successful chocolate souffles, I find solace in the fact that unlike many areas of life, if I stick to a recipe, I’ll get an amazing result in the end.

But if work is busy, I easily fall into a not so great habit of not cooking, and relying heavily upon takeout and delivery. This isn’t great for my waistline or my pocketbook, nor is it great for the spirit. Cooking is a great creative outlet that also yields immediate results…and I know that’s the kind of thing we all need after a tough day at work. So, as I try to get back to cooking regularly, I’ve been leaning heavily on a series of recipes that require minimal prep time or that feature ingredients easily picked up on your way home from work.

My first is a quick and easy adaptation of sole meuniere. Sole meuniere, oyster, and a good wine were the first things Julia Child consumed upon arrival in France, and in a New York Times interview, she described that meal as “an opening up of the soul and spirit for me.” It may sound silly, and a little trite, but this brightly flavored, easily prepared, and slightly decadent dish might just do a little opening of the soul and spirit in your kitchen.

Bon appetit!

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The Friday Five: Getting Through the Work Week Edition

I’m not gonna lie, I’m still kind of getting used to the post-holiday schedule (I mean, everyone in America is basically on some kind of reduced schedule from Thanksgiving until the week after New Year’s), and work has been a bit stressful this week. So these are the things that kept me calm(ish), sane(ish), and happy this week!

5. Buzzfeed’s “23 Songs That Make The World Your Personal Catwalk”

Last week, Buzzfeed published this amazing playlist of songs that make you feel like you’re walking down a catwalk. And even though stomping my way up a rain slick aisle on a Seattle city bus is pretty far from a catwalk at fashion week in Paris, I’ve got my commute version of Coco Rocha going strong. You better werq.

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Sweetness: Adult Beverages

I was late to the Harry Potter phenomenon. How late? Late enough that third to last movie was in dollar theaters by the time I laid my 25-year-old mitts on the final book. But I devoured the books with the intensity of every other self-respecting person in the Western world and enjoyed every moment of them.

Any of my friends will tell you that I am a tough sell on fantasy and science fiction–I need books that take flights of fancy but are ultimately grounded in the world around me. So, J.K. Rowling’s mix of muggles and magic appealed to me on many levels. And I was positive that the inspiration for butterbeer had to be rooted in a real life drink.

In the past several years, I’ve made more than a few sickeningly sweet and borderline disgusting (nope, not even borderline, just flat out gross) variations of butterbeer…always so, so disappointed. Until last night.

A couple of friends and I popped into Hot Cakes Molten Chocolate Cakery in Ballard. It’s a tiny, dimly lit shop that smells like sugar and butter and chocolate. It’s the kind of place that seems tailor made for the cold, bleak, gray days that span the months of November through July in Seattle. And they serve butterbeer. Theirs is a heady mixture of Butterscotch, apple cider, ginger, and sparkling wine. It was warm and frothy, and delicious. And for this adult Harry Potter fan? A downright magical concoction.

Image