Aug 21, 2010 - File Icon Dinners With Friends, Drinks, Restaurant, Reviews, Tea   Comment Icon Comments Off on Chinese Garden and Tea House

Chinese Garden and Tea House

My new friend, Terri, decided to surprise me with an invite to head out with her and a friend to the Chinese Garden in Portland OR. I love surprise outings.

Because I’m a hermit and don’t do well with other people at times, I thought about not going. Then I also thought about my recent goals to meet more people and to try new things. So I went.

I have to say it was a glorious trip. Not only was the day beautiful, but the garden was really nice as well. It was quite a shocker to me that this little oasis existed in the middle of a bustling city, surrounded by tall office and apartment buildings. I took tons of pictures and got to know my new friends better over the beautiful landscape as well as a good few hours in the tea house.

I almost tried to convince them not to go in the tea house since I stopped drinking tea for the last few years due to caffeine inducing my killer migraines, but they wanted to go and I gave in.

I’m such a sucker for a pretty face.

I am really glad I went though. I thought I would be just sipping ice water until I found the selection of herbal teas. It’s almost like I forgot that herbal teas existed! How silly is that.

I went with hibiscus tea, Terri had tea flowers (as in the flowers that bloom on the tea plant) and her friend Kelly had black ginger peach tea. I didn’t try their teas but I was in heaven with the hibiscus. It was nice and strong, tangy and almost citrusy. Plus it was a beautiful red color. I love strong flavored teas.

We also ordered some snacks go to with them, some vegetable dumplings as well as a red bean cake.

Red bean cake? Really? To the uninformed, silly, sheltered American this sounded really odd and not too tasty.

I was proven wrong, yet again. If you’ve never had it, try it. It’s sweet, rich and almost has undertones of a fruity chocolate. It was baked in a really beautiful pastry crust and was really moist and delicious. It went beautifully with my dark red hibiscus tea.

The dumplings were pretty awesome also. I’m not really sure what was in them but they were pretty tasty.

We each got our own little teapots and little (and I mean LITTLE) cups for our teas, which I found just charming.

All in all it was a great day, meeting a new friend and growing closer to my other friend, plus the “reintroduction” to tea for me.

I highly suggest going there if you are in the area or plan to visit. It’s small but a wonderful experience. And don’t miss out on the tea house, it is quite lovely.

Aug 17, 2010 - File Icon Drinks, Tea   Comment Icon Comments Off on Tea


Sometimes through life to tend to give up things for a big reason (example, smoking will kill me) or for no reason at all. I gave up soda about 2 years ago. I really wanted to cut down on my caffeine intake as well as I knew that drinking all that Diet Coke with its artificial ingredients, carbonation, and fake sugar really wasn’t very good for me.

Plus for some strange reason it started giving me horrendous heart burn. I’m partly convinced that the heartburn thing is really my body’s way of saying “You want to stop? Ok, I make you stop!”

I have to say, that really sucked. But it was also good in a way since I started to associate soda with pain, therefore I really didn’t want it anymore. I still craved it, and the sound of opening a can of soda? Holy crap, I could smell soda across the room. I went from 2-4 cans of Diet Coke a day, to none.

I tempered the bad reaction of losing a main source of caffeine with drinking tea. I liked black tea, flavored or with some home made vanilla sugar and milk. And chai. I loved chai tea.

I say loved because after a while I just stopped drinking tea. No real reason why, it just happened. Then when I tried to start drinking it again it started to trigger migraines.

That made me very unhappy.

Recently my friends took me out for a day trip to the Chinese Garden in Portland, OR and we had a drink in the tea house. It was lovely. I forgot how much I love tea. Granted its herbal, but it’s just delicious!

So be prepared, there will be more talk of tea in our future.

Aug 3, 2010 - File Icon Rants/Ramblings   Comment Icon Comments Off on New Directions in Life

New Directions in Life

Lately life has been really scattered for me. I’ve been very annoyed with the job, myself, my body, my relationships… Just everything seems to be annoying to me.

It could also be the hormones.

For so long I’ve been taking the “easy” path of just doing a job that I happen to be good at and not something I actually want to get up and do on a daily basis. Or eating foods out of convenience (fast food, pre-packaged foods) rather than spending the time to take a minute or two for myself to throw something together.

I mean really, how long does it actually take to throw together a quick dinner of an easy sandwich or something similar? Not long. It probably takes longer to get to a fast food place to get the food than it does to make it yourself.

Plus it doesn’t taste nearly as good as homemade and it generally makes me feel like crap.

So I need a change in my life.

I’ve wanted to try and go through life “unpackaged” with using as few foods that are prepackaged or processed as possible. I’ve gotten pretty close to it lately with all of the wonderful fresh fruits and vegetables that are now in season and boy are they delicious!

I like the idea of knowing exactly what it is that I’m eating and what I’m putting in my body, especially with all my interesting reactions to food (some allergies).

I know I’m eventually going to change my job into something else, but I have to find out whether or not the field I’m thinking about is even something I want to do every day. I’m not a person who likes change but I really need to change something.

I’ll get there eventually. Who knows, maybe I’ll become a professional blogger. Ha.

Jul 31, 2010 - File Icon Rants/Ramblings   Comment Icon Comments Off on Trying New Things – Cherries

Trying New Things – Cherries

As a child, I was a picky eater.

I can tell you right now that statement is an understatement. A huge, massive, epic understatement. And I know most kids go through stages when they wouldn’t eat things because… they’re kids and just don’t. But man, I was a pain in the ass.


I think I went through a phase where I wouldn’t eat spaghetti.

Then there was the phase where the only thing I would eat was spaghetti.

I’m still difficult. To me pasta is still a food group, but I’m trying to change. I’m working on expanding my food life to include all the things that never ate growing up (well, within reason and excluding allergy foods). Baby steps… Just baby steps.

Do you realize that I never had tried a cherry? A real fresh cherry. Never. It actually was to the point where I didn’t know there were different types of cherries, different flavors, or even that they had a big seed in the middle.

Sad yes?

For weeks I saw these stands on the side of the road selling cherries, and I finally got the nerve to have the husband stop the car so I could go buy some cherries.

I did it, I bought some cherries. Two types actually. A sweet, blush/yellow cherry and some dark red ones. I really couldn’t believe how delicious they are! The dark ones are deeper in flavor, have a small amount of bite to them while the blush/yellow ones are sweet and almost grape-like.

I easily went through the two small baskets quickly. I then decided to go back and get two larger baskets.

I ate all of them.

It took me about a week but i finished all but a few of them. I had them every day, a few for breakfast and then a big bowl of them with lunch. I didn’t do any cooking with them, I ate them all fresh. I think I am cherried out for a while.

It’s probably a good thing that the cherry stands are now gone, since I don’t want to burn out on them.

But oh boy, they are delicious.

Jul 9, 2010 - File Icon Cake, Dessert, Pie/Cobbler   Comment Icon Comments Off on Pavlova


I had never heard of a Pavlova before I saw it being made a while ago on Ina Garten’s TV show. It looked neat but didn’t really appeal to what I “thought” I wanted in a dessert.

The time passed and I wanted to make a splash at a friends party with something light, berry, and cool. I remembered this one and thought it could be a really neat one if I did it right. Anything light and delicate seems to crumble under my hands, and that’s exactly what the meringue is in Pavlova.

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Jul 5, 2010 - File Icon Dinners With Friends   Comment Icon Comments Off on Fireworks And Adoption

Fireworks And Adoption

I was invited to my coworkers place yesterday for a BBQ lunch. It was pretty awesome. She has mad skills in the kitchen and makes me feel like I can’t boil water.

But they do appreciate the baking aspect of my kitchen life.

I’ve known my coworker for about 3 months and at first I really didn’t like her. She got on my nerves and just really irritated the heck out of me. Then I realized what it was, why I felt so annoyed with this really nice woman.

She’s not who I want her to be. She’s not my Steph. The reason my new coworker arrived is because Steph abandoned me to follow a dream to teach in another country. Quit her job and just left us.

Oh the nerve.

I was sad, distraught, and just wanted my Steph back. After I realized that everything was fine. She wasn’t trying to be Steph, just taking over the position in our company.

Now her and her group of friends are adopting me. We’re a bunch of foodies and crafters so that’s pretty awesome. I’ve been looking for a group like this for a while, so if it all goes well then there will be many more pictures and fun times ahead.

After visiting with them for several hours yesterday, I left to go home to be with Husband and Pup. After growing up in Southern California, having fireworks be legal is something that I’m not used to. Well the ground ones, sparklers, flashers, things like that I’m used to.

Huge exploding mortars? Not so much. All it did was want to make each of us curl up somewhere safe and hide from the loud explosions shaking our home. How un-patriotic am I? It also doesn’t help that it seems like every other house in our neighborhood bought their own extravagant fireworks display, and they are all setting them off at the same time.

Things to come? Sharing the recipe for my coworkers awesome Cuban Chicken she made, and also, a Pavlova I made for the celebration. Awesomeness.

Jun 20, 2010 - File Icon Dinners With Friends, In The Kitchen   Comment Icon Comments Off on New Days, Good Times

New Days, Good Times

Even though I haven’t been active in writing, life has been very active both in and out of the kitchen. Between getting sick (what is my deal with always getting the evil-alien-death-flu?), cooking failures, marriage and the economy… Just trying to survive can be enough of a challenge without adding writing to it.

Life has mellowed out, I’m another year older, and things are…better. It could also just be the change of seasons that is getting to me. The first day of summer is tomorrow, and I love the changes.

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Have I Lost My Cooking Powers?

I’ve had a rough time lately, but it’s not just one thing. The economy sucks, stress sucks, a lot of things suck. I’ve had a lot of “things” recently in my life that have seemed to just throw me out of balance.

Sadly it’s also given me cooking block.

I’m used to writers block or creative block, but cooking block is a new one for me. Either I cook something and it’s just “eh” or I do something and it just doesn’t come out looking right.

For the last few years I’ve almost felt like a cooking super hero. Every time I make something for friends they say they love it, I get rave reviews from work for my baked goods. It makes me feel rather awesome when I can just whip something up and it is just awesomeness.

Now it just feels like those powers have left me lately. I was doing great for the first month or so of the year, baking my first cake from scratch, experimenting with new ways of making breads without yeast, picking something up at the store that I’ve never eaten before and seeing what I can do with it….

I feel like Clark Kent and I just got beat with the kryptonite stick.

Now it’s my second batch of flat cookies and I don’t know what to do with myself. It was a double batch so I could make some ice cream cookies and still have some regular cookies around.

Now all I have is a large batch of flat cookies sitting on my counter.

Mocking me.

Mocking me and my dead cooking abilities.


I don’t know where I went wrong with this recipe. I’ve made it before and it turned out wonderful! It made some awesome ice cream sandwiches, but this time something happened and I’m not sure what.

I’ve tried:

  • Changing pans. Going from a half sheet pan to a flat cookie sheet with no sides.
  • Lowering the temp on my oven by 25F.
  • Cooking for less time.
  • Chilling the dough after scooping before baking.
  • Chilling the dough before scooping.
  • Making sure my pans are room temp before putting the parchment of dough on it.

But they all turned out pretty much the same. I’m really at a loss here.

What in the world happened to me?

Jan 25, 2010 - File Icon Hints/Tips, In The Kitchen   Comment Icon Comments Off on Oven Safe Cooling Rack

Oven Safe Cooling Rack

This has to be one of those things that I can’t really believe I’ve ever lived without. Its a cooling rack that is oven safe. Awesome.

Using this I can make chicken parmesan without having the bottom get soggy, let the fat drain off of a meatloaf, or make some pretty awesome bacon.

Meatloaf can be a little tricky to make on an open rack through, right? Its just a loaf of ground meat balanced on a wired rack. I wanted to find a way to drain off the fat, but I really didn’t want to buy one of those loaf pans with holes in the bottom. To me, meatloaf should not resemble a loaf of bread.

So I took some heavy foil (another kitchen favorite) and put it over the rack. Now that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to just have it on foil. So I poked it.

I poked it a lot. This is why I wanted to have heavy foil, so it’ll stand up to the meatloaf weight and also the poking. I used a large pen to make the holes, so there would be lots of places

The foil worked really well. The fat drained off and out of the meatloaf and it didn’t have a whole lot of congealing fat attached to the sides of it. Sounds yummy huh? Plus I could cook my potatoes on the same rack and have dinner ready at the same time.


Jan 12, 2010 - File Icon Bread, Dessert, Pie/Cobbler, Yeast Bread   Comment Icon Comments Off on Simple Bread Pudding

Simple Bread Pudding

I’m not normally the type of person to really enjoy eating puddings or a custard. Yogurt is even a stretch for me sometimes. Mouth texture is a huge thing for me with eating, crunchy I can do but soft and custard-ish or gooey really doesn’t do it for me.

So why in the world is this chick doing a bread pudding? Grandma was very generous and let us stay with her during our Christmas traveling, but her one request was that I would cook with her and make her some home made bread pudding. So I had to practice!
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