basil thyme quinoa cakes over arugula with fig honey goat cheese

5.23.2017

I think I tend to make quinoa cakes like once or twice a year - and normally when I feel like I need to pull myself together and get back to square one. Square one being actual meals... and not sourdough toast. Don't get me wrong toast is amazing - but there are no real vegetables, greens, or otherwise healthy nutrients to be gained. I'll never forget when I revealed to a guy I was dating how frequently I had english muffins... for dinner. He was especially confused given this is essentially a recipe site.

But this weekend, I pulled out the rice cooker and made my last cup of quinoa. I am simply not capable of making grains without the rice cooker. Forever thankful to my friend Carrie for giving it to me. And then on a Monday night after a full day of work, I easily managed to pull this meal together. It's really simple - and everyone needs to know that. I've made quinoa cakes for the last like 5 years but these are the best ones yet. I'd like to think it's because I plucked the herbs fresh from my garden... and since I'm the writer and the chef, it's probably true.

Here are some tips:

  • Quinoa // you can make this ahead of time. It'll cut down your cook time to less than 10 minutes. Ten minutes!
  • Breadcrumbs v panko // For the past few years, I've been pretty firmly in the panko club ... but an inadvertent breadcrumb purchase a few months ago forced my hand here. Breadcrumbs really enable you to get a nice crust on the cake... and alters the mixture consistency in a good way.
  • Consistency // You want the consistency to be slightly on the wet, loose side but enough that it stays together if you were to ball it up in your hands. I know this isn't a really helpful description - but fundamentally, don't let it be dry. Don't load up on breadcrumbs.

But in the end really, it's about great ingredients. I used fresh herbs from my garden and this goat cheese was real special. It was a fig and honey goat cheese that I bought from the grocery store next to my office. Can't get this? Just use regular goat cheese. It'll be fine.

Here's how it goes. Oh, and here are the other times I've made quinoa cakes (2012, 2013, 2014)

  1. combine cooked quinoa, egg, and breadcrumbs in a bowl. You want the consistency to be slightly on the wet, loose side but enough that it stays together if you were to ball it up in your hands. I know this isn't a really helpful description - but fundamentally, don't let it be dry. Don't load up on breadcrumbs.
  2. add in the chopped basil and thyme.
  3. spoon the mixture into gentle balls and place into a medium-hot skillet.
  4. let cook until browned and then flip to the other side.
  5. while the cakes are cooking, you can mix up the salad dressing. Absolutely toss your greens in the dressing before plating. Use your judgement on what proportions of dressing ingredients - but mostly olive oil, some honey, light squeeze of lemon.
  6. plate the cakes over the arugula and scatter some goat cheese. Drizzle olive oil over the plate.... and then eat.

Shopping List
1 1/2 cup cooked quinoa (1/2 cup uncooked)
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1 egg
salt to taste (I used pink Himalayan)
6 basil leaves chopped
3 sprigs of fresh thyme

salad
arugula
olive oil, honey, lemon juice
goat cheese

blueberry croissant french toast

5.22.2017


Sometimes, I write up recipes because they are an amazing success. I practically sprint to the computer and do it that same night. I'm so excited to write it all up. Other times, I'm writing up a moderate win pretty much to make sure I do better the next time.

This is one of the later examples. This was good - but I can be better. And unfortunately, the thing that I think could make it better was actually my first inclination. The answer is always more bread. Or Cheese. But in this case bread.

I had seen an Instagram post for some beautiful blueberry croissant baked french toast. I was rather immediately sold on the whole thing. So I made a trip to Trader Joe's to pick up the essentials... and my parents backyard to pick up the eggs. All the chickens are back to laying eggs... which means we don't need to buy eggs again until the winter. When I was standing in the bread section of Trader Joe's, I also grabbed a loaf of Sourdough bread. I wasn't confident that 6 big croissants was enough.

Here are a few notes about this dish:
  • Add bread // the croissants are so light... that they don't seem to absorb all the eggy mixture. This is fine if you like the dish on the eggy side instead of the french toast side - but it also just makes it super light. Adding a few slices of torn bread to the dish would have given a bit of heft that would have been greatly appreciated
  • Sugary topping // Everything deserves a little sugar topping. It's never a mistake. I combined some chopped walnuts, butter, and brown sugar - and drizzled it rather heavily over everything. Don't skip this. You'll regret it.  
  • Blueberries // Fun story. These blueberries are leftover from blueberry picking last summer. 
But here's how it goes. BTW - this was for Mother's Day ... and yes, you should always have Dunkin Donut holes at a brunch. Always.
  1. Grease your pan and heat the oven to 375 F
  2. Add your roughly chopped croissant to the dish.
  3. Mix up the eggs, milk, and all other ingredients. Pour over the croissants.
  4. Combine the topping ingredients and sprinkle over the dish
  5. Bake for 35 minutes or so - until your eggs are set.
  6. Eat!

Shopping List
10 croissants, cubed (or 7 large ones)
8 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1⁄4 cup brown sugar
1⁄2 cup milk
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 cup blueberries (or more?)

topping
1 teaspoon nutmeg, fresh grated
1⁄2 cup walnuts, toasted rough chopped
1⁄4 cup butter, diced
1⁄2 cup brown sugar

Funfetti Pancakes

5.14.2017

I was listening to a podcast yesterday and the person being interviewed was talking about the importance of understanding what goes into all your food. Now, I'll admit that my diet in the last couple months hasn't deserved any blue ribbon awards. But - when I was standing in my kitchen last night opening and closing cabinets, staring at the refrigerator, and pacing back and forth ... I had no idea what to make.

Then, it came to me. I wanted pancakes. Homemade pancakes are shockingly easy to make. While I agree that Bisquick is delicious, you don't absolutely need it. Plus, when you make things from scratch you know everything that is inside that meal. Now I know that funfetti pancakes have 7 ingredients and only take you like 15 minutes to make. If you happen to be texting at the same time, it'll take you 20. To be completely honest, I only made these whole wheat because I was completely out of regular flour. I'm pretty confident that I'm not any healthier for it because of the sprinkles, syrup, and butter.... but it still feels like a win. Also, it made a dent in the giant container of sprinkles I had to buy for the funfetti cinnamon rolls.

So here's how it goes. Essentially mix it all together and then put it on a griddle.

  1. Combine your dry ingredients - flour, baking powder, sugar.
  2. Combine your wet ingredients - eggs and milk.
  3. Mix your two bowls together and then add in the melted butter. If you have lemon juice, you can add it now.
  4. While your pan / skillet / griddle gets hot, you can add in your sprinkles. I didn't exactly measure, but just start with 1/4 cup and add until you get the right balance you are hoping for.
  5. Cook your pancakes as you normally would.

Shopping List (makes about 9ish pancakes)
2 cups flour (half whole wheat)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp melted butter
2 eggs
2 tsp lemon juice (optional)
1/4 - 1/2 cup of sprinkles
1 1/2 cup of milk

Biscuits + Airplanes // Day 5

5.08.2017


Ah the last day of our trip. When we started fleshing out this trip, I oscillated on whether we should stay closer to the airport ... or in the city. We absolutely made the right decision on staying in Seattle. It enabled us to really do so much the day before - including an awesome dusk walk - and actually enjoy breakfast before our flight. Who likes an airport hotel breakfast? No one.

Seattle

Although the day was largely spent in some form of transport, It was still a really great day. Per Jake's request we managed to get to Biscuit Bitch for breakfast. While we kind of expected a wait on Sunday, I was surprised to find a line on a Monday morning. The menu is pretty robust. Just think of like a make your own sundae bar... but with biscuits. We kept it kind of easy and just ordered biscuits - and they were really great.  A biscuit with honey - and a side of bacon - might not have been the healthiest way to end our trip but it was perfect. We sat in the Waterfront Park, ate some biscuits, and then checked out of our hotel.



Travel

You know what makes a cross-country flight easier? Doing it with your siblings. Seriously. When you know everyone in your seat row, it's like stress free traveling. You know you can use the armrest, go to the bathroom, and adjust the window shade as much as your heart desires.

We got to the airport pretty quick and easily via an Uber... and then just relaxed and charged our phones until boarding. Jake and I took one last trip to a Seattle based Starbucks. I'll be honest, I haven't been to Starbucks outside of Seattle in probably like over a year. Since the move to the burbs in 2015, I've been rather firmly in the Dunkin Donuts and local coffee shop camp. It's always nice to shake things up a bit.

I manage to negotiate the window seat for the first half of the flight... and my sweet siblings never asked me to switch. So for the next 6 hours, I watched the USA pass by. It was pretty great to start with some big mountains in Seattle... and end with a chorus of lighthouses in Boston Harbor. We flew over Boston Light and Graves Light, and in the distance I could see Minot Light. My favorite.

What's next? 

... And that was the whole trip. It was a really special couple of days that I'll never forget. At some point, I'll try and write up a post about it. But in the meantime, I'm going to water my lawn and keep looking at these amazing pictures. 

Flowers + Baseball + Glass Art // Day 4

5.07.2017


I'm really glad that we came into Seattle the day before - instead of this morning. While we weren't exactly trying to cram a lot of activities into Seattle... that extra breathing room made it easy for everyone to see what they wanted to see. I had last been to Seattle in 2010 on a grad school trip - and this time I managed to see just a few more things.

It really was a rather perfect day. We fueled up with a solid breakfast, walked 21k steps according to my Fitbit, and saw a beautiful dusky evening along the water. The only thing I would change is to get a hotel that has a roofdeck.

Breakfast at Ludi's

If I've learned one thing on this vacation, it's that my brother really loves breakfast. While the rest of the team was sleeping I did some research on good spots for our morning meal. We originally tried to hit up Bitch Biscuit but the combination of the line and lack of seating caused us to go with Plan B - Ludi's. Ludi's was billed as a no-frills, traditional diner option - and that was on-point. While the potatoes didn't exactly wow us, we can chock this up as a reasonable meal that set us up for the day.

Pike's Place

The last time I was here was in 2010... and I think it was before like 8 am ... so it was nice and quiet. But at 10 am on a Sunday this place is bumping. We probably spent a couple hours just walking around and peeking at things. I was absolutely in love with all the fresh flowers. Every stall was so amazing and had varieties that I had never seen before. The peony tulips are so unique... might try to grow some next year? Maybe?

Jake had two requests. See them toss the fish around and go to the first Starbucks. We managed to easily do both. Turns out there is always a line at Starbucks - even at 9 pm. Jake got another latte because that's his jam now. Kerrianne bought me a flower that I proceeded to carry around for the rest of the day. I only wish I could have taken it home with me to Boston.




REI

Since Pike's Place didn't take as much time as we thought... we had a little extra to play with. REI is based in Seattle so we had heard that it was worth a trip to the store. It was a bit of a walk and definitely not in downtown Seattle - but also totally worth it. I was a little worried that it was just going to be "normal" but it was far from it. There was a rock climbing wall, a river / fountain situation, a mountain bike trail, and two huge floors of product. An absolute experience.

Mariners Game

When we were beginning to plan this trip, the only thing Jake asked to do was to go to a Mariner's game. I ended up buying the tickets via Seatgeek at Logan Airport before we left on Thursday. It was a beautiful day for a game with blue skies and some warm sun. It was also apparently some special children's day at the game and Jake got a free hat. Technically the hats are only for the kids under 14 ... but the kid gave it to him anyway.

Boston seems to get a bad rap for being an expensive sports city but this wasn't exactly any cheaper. The food was absolutely the same - if not higher. But the stadium was really nice. It is located pretty much in the city so we were able to walk back to the hotel after the game.


Chihuly Exhibit

Although Kerrianne's main request was to visit cider houses, she also really wanted to see this Chihuly exhibit. It was only open for some limited hours, so we did leave the game a bit early to make it work - but it was also pretty impressive. I had seen one of his pieces at the Boston MFA a few years back so this was a much larger experience. Some of the reviews said it was particularly impressive to see at dusk or nighttime and I would agree with that. We were there around 5pm and I think it would only be more amazing if the sun was a tiny bit less bright.



Other Activities

Although I was inclined to take an Uber back from the museum, Kerrianne suggested we walk and it was a great idea for many reasons. One we ended up finding a cute Mexican place for dinner and two, I got to exchange my sad, worn-out vest at Patagonia. Both were great highlights for sure. We decided on the Cantina de San Patricio place largely because it had a great outdoor patio ... also because the guac looked great. It was a perfectly relaxing dinner in a cute alley way of Pike's Place. While we were eating we played "dealbreakers v gamechangers" with Jake. The game is essentially where we ask him questions and he tells us how much he cares about them. E.g. Buttered Toast is apparently a game changer.

After some relaxing hotel time, Jake and I took a dusk stroll back to Pike's Place. While he loves breakfast the most, he also loves a little sweet for dessert. I've disappointed him on more than one occasion by having nothing to offer him at my house. So we grabbed a little chocolate at Rocky Mountain Fudge and strolled through the empty Pike's market. The water was so pretty at this hour. You could see Mt Rainer clearly on the horizon and the ferries were going back and forth. I love a good walk and was happy that my baby brother obliged me on this one. We enjoyed our chocolate treats over some Uno and facemasks on hotel beds. Jake opted out of the facemasks activity sadly.



Tomorrow? 

We are flying home! Our flight isn't until mid-morning so we'll have some time to do breakfast in Seattle first. Jake has politely requested Biscuit Bitch... twice.

Mountains + Cider + City // Day 3

5.06.2017

The agenda for the day was certainly different from the prior days. We were beginning to scale back the nature and bring on the city life. Up until like 4pm we still hadn't determined where we were sleeping that night. Do we stay on the coast somewhere and then get up early for Seattle? or head in that night? We ended up with the later option since it would give us a little more relaxing time before the Mariners game on Sunday.

Morning Time

It's always hard for me to resist a morning walk - especially before everyone else is awake. It is one of my favorite ways to start the day and explore a new place. When I'm at home I wake up around 5, so it is not hard at all to be up at dawn on the west coast. The morning walk around the lake was so peaceful - plus there was another rainbow. Maybe it's just a daily occurrence here? Either way I was excited about it. Felt like a good omen for the day.

Also the hotel breakfast was pretty good. I think we all still votes for Kalaloch to win but the view helped. So pretty. Jake, the breakfast lover, wasn't a fan of the potatoes because "he ordered potatoes, not onions". These gems kill me.

Hurricane Ridge

Hurricane Ridge was about an hour drive from our hotel. When we looked it up on Google Maps it also said it would take 9 hours to walk there - which I find hard to believe. It was another site that was 10+ miles off the main road... except this time the 10+ miles were up a mountain. We had originally planned to do a small hike at the top but forgot to check the weather. There was still a pretty significant snowpack from the winter and the road had even been closed a few days prior. So instead we stretch our legs, checked out the view, and spied on some deer. On the way down the mountain, there were a few pullover spots where you could see the San Juan islands, the ocean ... and Canada. I was impressed.

Dungeness Spit

When a friend from work heard we were going to the Peninsula, he recommended checking out this Spit. He probably said other things but all I heard was "there are seals everywhere". I saw absolutely zero seals - but it was really pretty. They charge you $3 per family to walk out to the spit... and we only had $2.80 between the three of us including all the change we could scrounge up. So at some point we should send them the extra twenty cents. At the end of the five mile spit is a lighthouse. While I'm a sucker for any lighthouse, we weren't going to walk ten miles at high tide to see it. The drive out to the spit conservation area is a totally different experience than the rest vacation. When you leave Hurricane Ridge the land rather quickly transforms into more country and farming with cows, horses, and maybe even some goats. Kerrianne was real thrilled to see some deer and leapt out of the car super fast.



Lunch at a Lavender Farm

We are a bit early for Lavender season but it was clear that this part of the Sequim peninsula is known for that. Kerrianne had found a farm (Nourish) that offered very organic and local food. I'm not sure that people describe organic food as "very" all that often but it feels appropriate here.

Lunch was pretty solid. Jake had a bacon cheeseburger (of course), I had the pizzetta and a side of emergency fries, and Kerrianne had the smoked salmon sandwich. I call them "emergency fries" because when the meal came it was so small that I freaked out and ordered them - as one naturally does in a food emergency.

Cider Party

After refueling we were ready to tackle Kerrianne's favorite and most anticipated part of the trip.... cider houses. Similar to other wine regions, there are a handful of cider makers in this area of the peninsula. We ended up visiting three totally different places.
  • Alpenfire = super small but super cute. USDA certified organic.
  • Eaglemount = not as cute, but crazy nice. You normally get 5 tastings but they guy just kept letting Kerrianne try different ones. Also, there was a nice dog named Emily.
  • Finnriver = my favorite. It was a veritable party with so much going on. There was a pizza situation, brats ... and then of course cider. While the other places were really just about cider, Finnriver was a total experience.

To Seattle

For some reason, whenever I think of people going to Seattle... I think of them taking the Bainbridge Ferry. I kind of imagined it to be a bit like the Martha's Vineyard ferry - which it kind of it. We just pulled right up, paid $20, and were on the boat with no hassles. The view coming into Seattle is really impressive with the mountains set behind the city skyline... it is also insanely windy.

After docking in Seattle, we dropped the rental car, checked into Hotel 1000, and had dinner at Von's. The selling points for Hotel 1000? Complementary champagne upon checkin and beautiful bathtubs... also close proximity to Pike Place. Von's was decent for dinner. Our waiter had a lot of personality but with limited skill set. This place specialized in all things sourdough. Jake had a fully loaded pizza with sourdough crust and I had some SUPER tasty tomato basil soup. It was also the first place that didn't have any root beer for Jake - boo.

We closed out the day with some lazy time in the hotel room. No Uno playing for the night - instead I took a bath with champagne. Obviously.

Tomorrow? 

A bit TBD but we are absolutely going to the Mariners game and the first Starbucks. Jake has acquired a taste for lattes and it feels like a great place to do that.

Beach + Rainforest + Waterfall + Lakes // Day 2

5.05.2017

Everyone says Seattle is rainy and they seem to be right. We woke up this morning to some rain and constant din of the roaring ocean. It's like a permanent white noise machine. But the rain seemed to be our friend throughout the day, only showing up when we were driving and not as much when we were trying to take a quick hike or climb on some driftwood. The only exception might be that time it suddenly decided to hail - but I guess that was nature's way of telling us to move on.

Breakfast at Kalaloch

While everyone woke up, I sat on our coverage patio in an adirondack chair under some blankets drinking mediocre coffee. It was awesome. After being teased by the menu the night before, we ate at the lodge. I'm going to be honest the sourdough pancakes were not as amazing as we had hoped - but breakfast was great. Ever the teenager, Jake picked up a half dozen maple donuts for the road. He also decided to try a latte for the first time and declared it amazing.

Ruby Beach

This beach was only about 20 minutes from our hotel and a great way to start the day. We had seen some of the impressive driftwood at our hotel but Ruby was pretty spectacular. You began to see some of the sea stacks offshore. Jake declared this "the best beach he's ever been to".

Hoh Rainforest and Lunch

Hoh is one of the stops in guidebooks that are classified as "can't miss". It absolutely stands up to that. I think because we had entered the pack from the Quinault side and had already seen some rainforest this wasn't that insane - but still really amazing.

Everything is delicately and thoroughly layered in moss. To say it rains a lot here seems like an under statement - but everything is damp. When you begin to walk on the hall of Mosses trail you cross over this stream that has the absolute clearest water ever. The path was also lined with poetry which nobody else seemed to notice but me. For some reason being in all this nature makes me more interested in reading poetry about nature. Jake also saw some birds with his newly purchased binoculars and we learned about some real big trees.

We went back and forth between getting in another trail at Hoh or moving on for some lunch. Given there was no food in site at the rainforest, we chose to move on. It also began to really rain. The rain really sinks into your bones here and gives you a deep chill. I'm not sure that I'm going to be warm again for days.

One of the guidebooks Kerrianne had picked up recommended this place called the Forks Diner - but when we pulled into the EMPTY parking lot we pulled an audible. Jake had declared pizza the winner and so we did that. While we finished lunch quickly, I am continuing to make jokes about eating with Forks in Forks. I'm 11.

Rialto Beach

You almost could have made the argument you don't need to see Rialto and Ruby Beach. They've both got driftwood and waves and trees - but Rialto Beach was different. Where as Ruby beach was kind of compact and feature rich with the river, driftwood, etc ... Rialto felt more expansive in a way. The sand was black and even more intricate sea stacks were off the shore. The coast was lined with the driftwood like some kid had spilled his legos and never picked them up.

There are a few hikes here that make it worth while, but we were beginning to lose some steam on the day and still had another site to hit up. As we were walking down the beach, Jake spotted a huge bald eagle soaring just at the tree tops. It felt so close - and so huge. A really impressive moment.

Soleduck Waterfall

The last hit of the day was the Soleduck waterfall. This was another one of the "oh you have to go there sites". Based on some prior experience we knew that starting a hike of any sort around 4 could be a disaster... our next meal time was coming around the corner. This is another one of those "take a right off Rt 101 and drive for 17 miles". I'm convinced that nothing is located right on 101. But, when we got here the parking lot was largely empty and there was a warning sign about bears - so obviously we just charged right on ahead.

The hike itself felt long than it actually was. I know because I measured it coming back. It is about maybe a quarter mile to the first waterfall... and then another half mile to the big one. I was pretty pleased with the first one. It had some beautiful moss, flowing water, a bridge... home run. The second waterfall was huge. You got wet just standing near it - which is a feat considering you are already wet from just being in Seattle.
 

Crescent Lake

The last stop and our home for the night was at Crescent Lake. Shockingly enough, this is actually on the Rt 101 - and its beautiful. Kerrianne and I both instantly had flashbacks to Norway with the glacier carved rocks and blue water. The road hugs the lake and right as we were rounding one of the bends we saw one of the most bright and big rainbows ever.

The Crescent Lake Lodge was also flipping cute. I wanted to move in and never leave - or at least for a few days. There are many styles of accommodations but the cabins were the cutest. There are rocking chairs on the front porch and everything is super welcoming. I could stand on that dock for an eternity.

We took a quick walk along the lake and then grabbed some dinner in the lodge. Jake ordered chicken wings - and literally got giant chicken wings. It was like two whole chickens showed up to dinner and sat on his plate. Kerrianne had the mussels again - and I had a cesear salad. They also had root beer for Jake - which he said was "just fine".

Tomorrow?

Hurricane Ridge, some seals?, and a winery or cider house. Also, hopefully we don't run into the couple that seems to be following us everywhere. They also stayed at Kalaloch, we got gas at the same place, saw them at Rialto beach... and then again at the Crescent Lake lodge tonight.
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