Friday, June 24, 2016

Taste of Tacoma 2016

Ah, yes... it's food festival season again. One of my favorite times of year! This summer in particular promises to be filled with many of these gatherings, both large and small. Kicking off the festivities is the Taste of Tacoma, held in Point Defiance Park. For one reason or another we hadn't gone in several years, but the stars seemed to align today and we made the pilgrimage to the local food mecca. Being a Friday with somewhat cool weather, the crowds were light and there were virtually no lines. 

The best piece of advice I can give you for going here on ANY day is to use the shuttle service from Tacoma Community College on S. 19th and Mildred. There is almost no parking near the venue, and the shuttles leave every few minutes. We didn't have to wait at all on the trips either way. It's about a 15 minute ride each way, but it saves you all the time, gas, and frustration of trying to find parking anywhere even near the park... and it's free!!

The first food stall you're likely to hit is New Orleans Cookery. All of the smells coming out of there were enticing, but I had to go with my Taste of Tacoma favorite... Alligator on a Stick. Even at $10.00 a pop, it definitely did not disappoint! I've had alligator in my travels to South Carolina and Georgia, and this was right up there with them. 

From there, we just wandered from stall to stall, stopping at whatever sounded good.

Oh yes we did... with only a little regret... maybe.

After all that, we needed a bit of a break, so we wandered down to the Bowl Stage to listen to a U2 cover band called U253. Our area code is 253. See what they did there? Just to the side of the stage is a strategically placed beer garden, serving... could it be?... somewhat reasonably priced beers! We each had a Goose IPA by Goose Island Brewing Co. while watching the band.

After that, we decided it was time to head home, but one more thing caught our attention on the way out...

Who can resist freshly-dipped chocolate covered strawberries... ON A STICK?? We couldn't.

So, if you're wandering around Tacoma this weekend with nothing better to do, head on down to The Point and get some interesting food in your face.

For more information, visit the event website-

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Duck... duck... DUCK EGGS!!

My love affair with duck eggs started five years ago with this little number, served at Marrow Kitchen + Bar, here in Tacoma, WA -

It was a fat-basted vision of loveliness, topping a cake of unctuous shredded oxtail in demi glace. 

My heart had found true love.

In the years since my first encounter, I have had duck eggs in restaurants whenever they were available. I didn't really have access to them on a regular basis, so I never tried doing them at home... until recently.  

A woman who lives near my husband's work has been duck-sitting (apparently that's a thing), and the ducks have been a-laying. When he told her I have a minor obsession them, she brought in a couple for him to bring home.

Then she brought a few more...

I have been having more fun than anyone should be allowed, coming up with ways to showcase these delicious gifts.

If you're into te phenomenal sensation of breaking open a perfectly runny yolk, forget the chicken eggs and go duck hunting... duck egg hunting, that is. You'll wonder why you never tried them before.

The gracious ladies, without whom none of this would be possible...

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Homemade Gorgonzola Salad Dressing

Have you ever made a salad dressing that was so good, it makes you look forward to the salad even more than whatever main dish you're serving?

Have you ever made a salad dressing from scratch? You really should.

I love blue cheese dressing, but for some reason I always end up buying the bottled stuff. NEVER AGAIN!! I swear this is the best blue cheese dressing I have ever tasted. I'm not ashamed to admit I licked the whisk clean. And the spatula. And as much of the bowl as I could get to. It's that good.

You can, of course, use any blue cheese you prefer. I just happened to have Gorgonzola on hand.

1/2 C mayo
1/4 C sour cream
2 T milk
1 T white vinegar
1/2 t sugar
1/2 t kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper to taste
few good dashes Worcestershire sauce
1 clove minced garlic
1/3 C crumbled Gorgonzola cheese

Whisk together all ingredients (except cheese) until smooth. Stir in cheese. Cover and refrigerate for about an hour before dressing salad.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

New Grill - Nexgrill Evolution Infrared Plus

Brian and I have been talking about getting a new grill for several months now. Even though our BHG grill is only two years old, the burner brackets have already completely rusted out and the diffusion plates are about to disintegrate. It is borderline dangerous to use, which really annoys me considering how much we paid for it. Rather than throw good money after bad by replacing the ruined parts, we decided to buy a completely new grill. After talking to friends who had also bought new grills recently, we decided on the Nexgrill Evolution Infrared Plus. It's a multi-configuration 5 burner (plus one on the side) model that I think I'm going to have a lot of fun with.

I had already invited some family and friends for dinner over the weekend, and in a fortunate turn of events, the new grill arrived just in time. I was more than happy to take it for a test drive!

Who wants to use the oven when we can use the grill! Cheese and artichoke stuffed mushrooms, anyone?

Trader Joe's Carolina Gold BBQ sauce is DA BOMB, by the way!

Everything was DEEEEEEELICIOUS, of course!

Monday, May 30, 2016

Apple Ale Quick Bread

Hot on the heels of last nights success with the cheddar beer bread, I woke up with the idea of an apple ale bread, since I knew we had some. Using my basic quick bread recipe, I came up with this. It was fantastic!

3 C. all-purpose flour
1 T. baking powder
1 t. kosher salt
1/4 C. brown sugar
1 t. cinnamon
1 apple, diced (about 2 C)
1/4 C. vegetable oil
1 - 12 oz. apple ale (you can use hard cider, but you might want to reduce the sugar in the rest of the recipe. I used Redd's Apple Ale)


1/4 C. brown sugar
1 t. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375° and grease loaf pan.

In a small bowl, combine sugar and cinnamon for topping; set aside.

In a large bowl, thoroughly combine first five ingredients. Add apples and toss until evenly distributed. Add oil and ale; stir until no dry flour is visible (lumps are okay). Spread dough into loaf pan. Sprinkle topping mixture evenly over the dough. Bake for 50 minutes or until pick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven; cool in pan for 10 minutes. Remove from pan; cool completely on rack (about 1 hour). Slice and serve.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Cheddar Beer Bread with Scallions and Rosemary

"Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy"

Although it has been proven that Benjamin Franklin never actually said this, I believe it is nonetheless true. Beer is one of my favorite things to drink, cook, and bake with, and tonight's dinner involved two out of the three (we went out last night, so I'm giving my liver a break today). I decided to make beef stew, so naturally I dumped a bottle of Sierra Nevada Torpedo IPA into the cooking liquid. Then, I thought we should have some sort of bread-like thing to sop up the lovely gravy. Did I mention we went out last night and I'm feeling particularly lazy today? At first I thought dumplings... then drop biscuits... but even those seemed like too much work. Then it hit me... why not a loaf of savory quick bread? Perfect!! I whipped this up while the stew was stewing and all was right with the world.

Cheddar Beer Bread with Scallions and Rosemary
(because scallions sound fancier than green onions, right?)

3 C. all-purpose flour
1 t. kosher salt
1 T. baking powder
1 1/4 C. shredded sharp cheddar, divided 
1/4 C. chopped scallions
1 t. finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 T. honey
1 bottle (12 oz) beer... pretty much anything you have on hand, although a super hoppy IPA might be a little bitter for this. I used Riding Solo single hop pale ale by 10 Barrels Brewing. I think a stout or amber would be good also. I'd save the Bud or Coors for doing beer can chicken though (we never have that in the house anyway... lol!).

Preheat oven to 375° and grease a loaf pan.

In a large bowl, combine flour, salt, and baking powder. Add 1 C. of cheese (reserving 1/4 C.), scallions, and rosemary, tossing well until evenly distributed. Add honey and beer, stirring until no dry flour is visible (lumps are okay).

Spread dough into loaf pan, smoothing the top until dough fills pan to the edges. Bake for 25 minutes, then top with reserved 1/4 C. of cheese. Return to oven for another 20-25 minutes, or until pick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then remove to rack to cool completely. Slice and serve.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Great Summer Potluck Salads

With Memorial Day weekend upon us, I thought it would be a good time to post some of my favorite summer salad recipes. Some are old family favorites... some are recipes I have adapted over the years... all of them are perfect to take along to your next potluck or picnic!

Aunt Lotus's Bean Salad 

1 (24 oz.) can pork and beans, salt pork removed 
1 (15 oz. ) can kidney beans, drained 
1 bunch (about 8) radishes, sliced 
1 bunch (about 8) green onions, sliced 
1-2 T. red wine vinegar 

Combine all ingredients, adding vinegar to taste. Cover and chill about 1 hour. Yeah I know this SOUNDS gross, but it's really wonderful. Just try it. 

Couscous and Bean Salad 

1 (6 1/2 oz.) box plain couscous, prepared as package directs and cooled for 20 min. 
1 small cucumber, coarsley chopped 
3/4 C. green or yellow bell pepper, coarsley chopped 
1/4 C. green onions, sliced 
1 medium tomato, seeded and chopped 
1 (15 oz.) can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed 
1/3 C. feta cheese, crumbled 

1 T. chopped fresh basil 
1 t. chopped fresh oregano 
1 clove garlic, mashed 
1/4 t. salt 
2 T. balsamic vinegar 
2 T. extra virgin olive oil 

In small bowl, combine all dressing ingredients. Blend well, and set aside. In large bowl, combine couscous with all salad ingredients except cheese. Pour dressing over salad; toss gently to coat. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes to blend flavors. Just before serving, sprinkle with cheese. 

Favorite Fruit Salad 

1 (15 1/2 oz.) can pineapple chunks 
1 small package vanilla instant pudding mix 
assorted fresh fruit of your choice 

In large bowl, combine prepared fruit. Drain juice from pineapple into small bowl; add pineapple to other fruit. Combine pudding mix and juice; whisk until smooth and very thick. Pour over fruit and mix very well. Cover and chill, stirring occasionally, until dressing is saucy consistency, about 2 hours. 

Garbanzo Bean Salad with Olives and Herbs 

1 C. dried garbanzo beans 
4 T. red wine vinegar 
6 T. extra-virgin olive oil 
4 cloves garlic, mashed 
3 t. minced fresh mint 
3 t. minced fresh basil 
1 t. minced fresh thyme 
1 t. minced fresh rosemary 
1 t. minced fresh oregano 
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste 
4 T. Nicoise or Kalamata olives, pitted and coarsely chopped 
4 T. green olives, pitted and coarsely chopped 
1/2 C. thinly sliced green onions, including tops 

Sort and rinse garbanzo beans. In large saucepan or Dutch oven, cover with cold water by 1". Bring to full boil. Boil for 2 minutes; cover and remove from heat. Let stand for 1 hour; drain. Return to pan and cover with fresh water by 2". Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until tender, 60-75 minutes. Drain and let cool. In a large bowl, whisk together the vinegar, oil, garlic, all the herbs, and salt and pepper. Add the cooled beans, olives, and onions; mix well. Serve at room temperature. 

German Potato Salad 

1/2 pound bacon 
1/2 cup chopped onion 
1/2 cup chopped celery 
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour 
2 tablespoons sugar 
1 1/2 teaspoons salt 
1/2 cup vinegar 
6 cups sliced cooked potatoes 
2 hard-cooked eggs, sliced 
Chopped parsley, pimento, and bacon bits 

Cook bacon till crisp; drain and crumble, reserving 1/4 cup fat. Cook onion and celery in reserved fat until tender. Blend in flour, sugar, salt, and dash of pepper; add vinegar and 1 cup water; cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Add bacon, potatoes and eggs; heat thoroughly, tossing lightly. Garnish with parsley, pimiento, and bacon bits. Serve warm.

Ranch Tortellini Salad 

2 (16-19 oz.) packages frozen cheese tortellini 
2 C. ranch dressing 
1 1/2 C. julienned ham 
1 1/2 C. frozen peas 
8 oz. Swiss cheese, cubed 
1/4 C. green onions, chopped 
1 T. dried parsley or 2 T. fresh snipped 

Place frozen peas in colander you will be draining pasta in. Cook tortellini according to package directions. Pour over peas and drain both; rinse with cold water and drain well. Combine tortellini and peas with remaining ingredients; toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Stir well before serving, adding more ranch, if necessary. 

(just noticed I forgot to put the parsley in before I took the photo. whoops)

Red Potato Salad 

3 lbs. red potatoes, cooked and cut into chunks 
1/2 C. bottled Italian salad dressing 
1 C. mayonnaise 
1/2 C. green onions, sliced 
1 t. dried dill 
1 T Dijon mustard 

In large bowl, thoroughly combine all ingredients except potatoes. Toss with warm potatoes. Refrigerate uncovered, stirring occasionally until thoroughly chilled. Cover until serving.

Wild Chicken Salad 

4 1/4 C. chicken broth 
2 (6 oz.) boxes long grain and wild rice mix 
3 C. cubed cooked chicken 
4 green onions, bias cut about 1/4" 
1/2 C. sliced almonds 
1 small can water chestnuts, drained and coarsely chopped 
1 stalk celery, chopped 
1/2 C. mayonnaise 
1 T. soy sauce 
1 (11 oz.) can mandarin oranges, drained 

In large saucepan, combine chicken broth, rice mix, and ONE seasoning packet from rice mix. Bring to boil, cover, and simmer for 25 minutes (or time recommended on package). In large bowl, combine next five ingredients; mix well. In small bowl, combine mayonnaise and soy sauce until well blended. Add hot rice mix to large bowl. Add dressing and mix well. Add mandarin oranges and toss lightly. Serve warm as main dish or chill and serve on lettuce leaves as salad.