Friday, January 29, 2010

Sunrises and rainbows!

This week what makes me happy (and has since we moved here to Oregon!) are the amazing views we have surrounding us.

We live in an apartment building which backs up to Devil's Lake State Park. The view from our balcony is astonishing! (There must be people who pay millions for houses with lake views like ours!) We very rarely go a day without saying something about how pretty our view is!

Yesterday morning, there was an amazing sunrise over the lake!

A week or so ago, we had views of an amazing rainbow over the lake late in the afternoon! The rainbow lasted a long time - coming and going in intensity, and even having a double sometimes. We were able to get some pretty good photos of it, too!

I think maybe people get tired of me posting our lovely views! I know I would be jealous of someone else's view like this! :) We will be hard-pressed to find a prettier place to live. I don't dislike our apartment, but I do wish it was bigger (and the appliances leave a lot to be desired!) At some point, when Mike is employed again, we will very likely try to make this a permanent residence by purchasing a home. But... we will forever love our lake view apartment! (See more photos at Flickr!)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Happy Friday!

It's Friday and I'm going to post my happy ON the day this week! :) (For The Next Chapter - Happy Book!)

This week, my happy Friday is about cooking. I love to cook, and I've done some fun experimenting recently. Right before Thanksgiving (the day before, in fact) I took a class at our local culinary center. It was to make pies. I've never made pies before! I've actually never done much in the way of baking, and pie crust always seemed scary.

The class was SO much fun, and I came home with a great pumpkin pie, and a hazelnut chocolate pie. So decadent. The better news was that I learned how to make wonderful, flaky pie crust. And it's just not that hard!!

Since Thanksgiving, I've made my crust recipe a couple times. My husband's birthday was December 15, and he requested a pie. He even found the recipe he wanted me to use. It was a Paula Deen recipe for Grits Pie... Hmmm... It sounded odd, but it turned out SO yummy! It was a custardy sort of pie - we ate the first pieces warm, with *real* whipped cream. The next pieces, we ate cold - and it was even better that way!

The next experiment was a savory pie. Mike requested a chicken pot pie. Let me tell you - that was YUM! I found a recipe online for the filling, and of course, I experimented with my own additions/changes. The filling was a little soupy, but man, this was a tasty pot pie.

I made this again just this week, and it turned out even better! The filling wasn't as soupy, and the crust was super flaky! Yummy! Mike told me it was the best pot pie ever. :)

Here is the recipe with my modifications:

Chicken Pot Pie Filling
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast halves - cubed
1 cup sliced carrots (about three carrots, coins)
1 cup frozen green peas

1 yukon gold potato, diced (skin on)
1 portabello mushroom sliced
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Fresh rosemary, thyme, sage - chopped fine. (Don't know quantity - whatever looks good to you! I only had rosemary the second time. It was better with all three!)
1 3/4 cups chicken broth
2/3 cup milk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C.)
In a saucepan, combine chicken, carrots, and potato. Add water to cover and boil for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, drain and set aside. (I also put in a whole sprig of rosemary at this point, and tossed it once the mix was done.)
In the saucepan over medium heat, cook onions in butter until soft and translucent, along with portabello. Stir in flour, salt, pepper, and herbs. Slowly stir in chicken broth and milk. Simmer over medium-low heat until thick. Remove from heat and set aside.
Mix the broth mixture with the chicken and veggies. Place into par-baked bottom pie crust. Cover with top crust, seal edges, and cut away excess dough. Make several small slits in the top to allow steam to escape.
Bake in the preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until pastry is golden brown and filling is bubbly. Cool for 10 minutes before serving.
Crust Recipe (that I learned in my class!)
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour (plus more for dusting)
6 1/2 oz. (13 Tbsp.) Unsalted butter, cold - cubes
2 1/2 oz. (5 Tbsp.) vegetable shortening, cold
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. sugar
4-5 oz. cold water
I use a food processor, but this can be done with your hands too.
Put dry ingredients in the processor bowl. Add the butter and shortening. Pulse the machine 4-5 times. Pour in 4 oz. water all at once and immediately pulse several more times. The dough should begin to form a ball on the blade. If not, drizzle a little more water and repeat. It is done when it begins to come together. Don't over mix.
After the dough is mixed in the processor, do Fraisage - final blending. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface. With the heel of one hand (not the palm, it is too warm) rapidly press the pastry by 2 spoonful bits down on the board and away from you in a firm, quick smear of about 6". With a scraper gather the dough into a mass, knead briefly into 2 fairly smooth round balls. Sprinkly lightly with flour and wrap separately in plastic wrap.
Place in the freezer for 1 hour or the refrigerator for 2 hours (or overnight).
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Rolling out the dough - place the dough on a lightly floured surface. If it is hard, beat it with the rolling pin to soften it. Knead it briefly into a fairly flat circle. Lightly flour the top of the dough. Starting from the center, roll away from you. Lift the dough and turn, repeating the rolling. Flour as necessary. Roll until it is 1/8" thick and 2" bigger than your pan.
Place the dough in the pan (I fold the dough in half and then again - and move the center point to the center of the pan and unfold.) Fit it into the pan. Trim excess dough, leaving a 1/2" overhang, then fold under pastry and press into pan to reinforce edge. Decoratively crimp (I skip this!) the edge and lightly prick the bottom and side of shell with a fork. Line shell with foil and fill with pie weights (I use foil filled with dry rice)
Bake until set - 8-9 minutes. Remove weights and foil and prick bottom with a fork to keep from rising. Return to oven for 2-3 more minutes. When shell is starting to color... Then fill as you plan and cook according to those directions. Enjoy!
Good food does make me happy. And cooking that good food makes me even happier. I am waiting impatiently for our local farmer's markets to open again for our yummy fresh produce.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Happy Book

I'm a little behind in posting about this, but only a week or so! :)

I'm very excited to be participating in The Happy Book Mail-Around. The amazing, wonderful Jamie is sponsoring this as part of her "The Next Chapter" book club. This is a bit different in that there are four groups of about 26 people and one copy of this fun book is being mailed around from person to person in the groups! We will each get the book for one week to add our own personal touches, and then we pass it along to the next person.

For this, you didn't have to buy a copy of the book as we're passing along just one copy within each group, but I wanted my own! So, it arrived in the mail last week. Wow, is it ever fun?! I haven't played yet, but just in leafing through - there are so many ideas, ways to express what makes you happy!

Each Friday, I'm going to try and post something here that makes me happy. I missed Friday last week, so there will be TWO this week (I hope!) :)

This week is a no brainer. It's simply - THE OCEAN. It never fails to make me happy when we make the trip to the beach, whether it is the 1/2 mile walk, or a drive to one of our favorite spots. I love living by the water. We've been here for six months, and I know it was the right move for us. That draw to the ocean is still there - it's just easier to get to the ocean now!

Friday, January 8, 2010


I think about writing a blog post often... but, obviously, I don't get it done!

I have lots to share. So, I'm going to see how I do in the new year and try blogging a little bit more regularly!
We love it here in Oregon! The winter weather is interesting - we love that we are not in the icebox like Colorado, and NO snow! I visited Colorado in early December for a week (to catch up with friends, and work in my office there). It was negative zero degrees all week! Yikes! It felt downright balmy in Portland when Mike picked me up!
The rain all the time is wonderful to both of us. We haven't been affected by any problems with being depressed because of the grey (at least not so far). Some of the storms have been quite impressive. The wind is actually pretty scary during a big storm! We've lost power a couple times, but not for any length of time. We really enjoy seeing the waves after a big storm passes through! It's truly stunning how big they get! (Photos below are from a storm in early November - our first big storm - we spent hours watching the ocean! You can see all of my photos at my Flickr page.)

We celebrated our first Christmas in Oregon with Mike's brother, Jeff and his wife, Geeta. They stayed with us for about a week. We drove all over the coast and saw the sights with them. It was a little cramped in our tiny place, but overall a good visit. (I got sick on Christmas day, so they went around without me after that. I missed out on some pretty cool coastline that Mike will bring me back to see soon!) They are vegetarians (Mike and I are not) so I was a bit worried about the food situation. They took over and did quite a bit of cooking while they were here! Geeta made saag paneer for us, which was wonderful!

Mike is still looking for a job - and we're doing OK on just my salary. We're hoping he can find something nearby in the next six months. If not, we'll have to reevaluate before we sign another lease on our apartment. We may have to move into a larger town for him to find something. Our little Lincoln City doesn't have much in the way of jobs to offer, but we sure do love it! I'm hoping something will come through so we can stay here. I don't want to leave our coast if we don't have to. Salem would be the closest big town, and it's about 2 hours away - inland. Blah!

That's what has been happening in our little world! :)