Monday, June 25, 2012

Celebrate Good Times

Sometime in the past few weeks someone said to me, “I haven’t visited your blog lately. What have you been cooking?” All I could do was laugh. Food-wise, I haven’t been cooking, at least nothing “blog-worthy”, whatever that means. My standing Tuesday night plans with Joe involve the treadmill, a BodyPump class, and a black bean and rice salad from Calypso Café.

Life-wise, things have been cooking.

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1. Joe’s Residency Graduation
It’s hard to believe that four short-but-long years ago, Joe and I embarked on a journey when we a) got married b) Joe started his anesthesia residency and c) I started seminary. So we celebrated with family and friends and lots of food including this cake from Dulce Desserts, the same bakery that made our wedding cake. And if you ever get asked if you would like edible glitter on that, the answer is always, “Yes.” It was hard to get TOO excited about Joe graduating from residency seeing as he starts his critical care fellowship on July 1 with a month of night shifts. *sad trombone*

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2. Abby and John’s Engagement Party in Memphis
In the midst of Joe’s graduation, my mom and I skipped town to head west for Abby and John’s engagement party. It was so good to see them again so soon after my ordination and meet some of John’s family about whom I had only heard stories. Additionally, I ended up knowing a few of John’s old neighbors through Episcopal circles. Also, no one really believed that I was going to perform their wedding.

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3. Streaking
For the second time, I’m participating in a Runner’s World Run Streak, running at least one mile per day from Memorial Day to July 4th. It’s also really hot outside. This streak has been more successful than the last one, though. I’ve had minimal aches and pains, and it’s been nice to start nearly every day with a run. So far, I’ve run 112.5 miles in 29 days, which is close to an average of 4 miles a day. Pretty cool.

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4. Miscellaneous
Hanging out with the Vanderbilt Commodore at the hospital, training CPE interns, preaching, meetings and e-mails and phone calls about exciting things that I can’t tell you about yet, finally watching the season finale of Mad Men, wine with friends, and my CPE Consultation Committee.

What are you celebrating lately?

Monday, June 18, 2012

Willamette Valley/Portland Vacation Part 2

Part 1 of our vacation can be found here.

We wrapped up our time in the Willamette Valley with dinner at the famous Joel Palmer House. Normally, it would’ve been a little rich for our blood, but they had a three-course special for the month of April. Joel Palmer House specializes in mushrooms – all kinds of mushrooms. Local mushrooms and local wine were right up our alley.

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A sample of the mushroom risotto with truffle shavings arrived as an amuse bouche. I followed it up with the mushroom tart with truffle “snow”. Joe ordered the wild mushroom soup that had the shape of a mushroom drizzled on top with cream. For my entrée, I picked the marinated sturgeon over quinoa with a mushroom duxelle and cayenne aioli. The presentation and flavors and textures all complemented one another beautifully. I couldn’t turn down the trio of sorbets, though now I can’t remember what they were… I believe the one on the left was candycap mushroom and one of them involved basil. I’m always a fan of a restaurant where the chef is actually back in the kitchen and occasionally circulates around the dining room to check on how everyone is enjoying the food. Neither Joe nor I could believe just how incredible this meal was.

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The next morning we left the Willamette Valley to explore the Portland area. I requested a trip to the Columbia River Gorge, and I was not disappointed. After an initial mix-up that involved us hiking to nothing in the drizzly rain and mud, not being able to see from an overlook, and me getting grumpy, we found what we were looking for – waterfalls!

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We spent quite a while hiking around Latourell Falls. We crossed a log bridge and got ourselves out onto a point overlooking the the top of the falls, which was very scary and very cool. Then we continued on to Bridal Veil Falls and Multnomah Falls. By the time we arrived at The Governor Hotel, we were a little embarrassed to waltz through the fancy lobby in our muddy clothes and shoes. The travel gods were smiling on us this trip, and we were upgraded to a room with a huge balcony where Joe Mad Men-ed it up with some Pacific Northwest coffee.

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We were thirsty after all that hiking, so we cleaned up and walked to Deschutes Brewery for some beers and hockey. Somehow we scored two seats at the bar and watched the choreography of bartenders as they satiated the thirsty crowd that constantly demanded their attention. After a few beers, we strolled over to dinner at Gruner. Out of all the restaurants that I looked at, Joe was most intrigued by Gruner’s take on traditional German/Austrian cuisine since he lived in Milwaukee for several years, and he was not disappointed.

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We started with the beet-pickled deviled eggs (top left corner) and a venison terrine with fiddlehead ferns (bottom right). Side note: sometimes I eat meat when it’s a special trip or cuisine. My entrée is no longer on the spring menu, but I believe it involved quail and soft-boiled quail eggs on a salad of wilted greens. We opted out of dessert in order to hit as many locations as possible in one evening, and our check was brought to us in a German-language copy of  Eduard Morik’s Der Alte Turmhahn.

A couple of friends had recommended Andina to us, but it was very difficult to get a reservation, so we tried to get in for dessert and after-dinner drinks with success. It was definitely the place to be since it was still busy late at night. I don’t remember much about what we ordered except that it was good, very good, and I was extremely full. From the menu, I’m pretty sure I had the Melones con Aji to drink – “Hendrick's gin shaken with lime juice, sugar and agua de melón (fresh cantaloupe juice), served on the rocks with a float of agua de pepino (cucumber water), lime zest and ají en polvo (ground hot peppers)”. Yeah, that thing.

Somehow, the next morning, we rolled out of bed, ran the only 3 miles I ran all week just to end up at Voodoo Doughnut. There was no way that Joe was leaving Portland without a maple-bacon doughnut. Those doughnuts are HUGE, and I didn’t have my phone or camera with me, so no pictures.

As we were at the rental car place returning the car, the sun came out to wish us safe travels back to Nashville!

Monday, June 11, 2012

No-Bake Strawberry Icebox Cake

I love summer. Despite the heat and the humidity, it’s my favorite season of the year. Sure, my running slows down (not that I’m blazing fast to begin with), and my mornings start early, but no season is perfect. Summer is fresh vegetables, farmer’s markets, and grilling out with friends. Summer is also BUSY, but busy in a fun road-tripping-on-the-weekends-for-big-occasions kind of way. Last weekend, my parents and I traveled to Charlottesville, VA to celebrate my grandmother’s 90th birthday.


This past week, Joe and I celebrated our 4th wedding anniversary, and this weekend, Joe has his graduation from residency. One of his classmates, sensing the impending scattering of the people they have worked with closely for the last four years hosted a cook-out this past weekend. I’m sure there will be plenty more “bring a side or dessert” kinds of gatherings this summer, and this cake is a great one to bring. Light and sweet with fruit, you don’t even have to turn on the oven. I’m not one for overly sweet desserts, and having forgotten to add the confectioners’ sugar, I didn’t even miss it. It was so easy, even Joe assisted with slicing strawberries and requested to add the chocolate ganache drizzle.

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No-Bake Strawberry Icebox Cake
source: The Kitchn via So, How’s it Taste?


2 pounds fresh strawberries, washed
3 1/4 cups whipping cream, divided
1/3 cup confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
21 graham crackers
2 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped


Take out a few of the best-looking strawberries and set them aside for the garnish. Hull the remainder of the strawberries and slice each berry into thin slices.

With a hand mixer or in the bowl of a stand mixer, whip 3 cups of cream until it just holds stiff peaks. Add the confectioners sugar and vanilla, and whip to combine.

Spread a small spoonful of whipped cream on the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking pan, or a similarly-sized platter. Lay down seven graham crackers. Lightly cover the top of the graham crackers with more whipped cream, and then a single layer of strawberries. Repeat until you have three layers of graham crackers. Spread the last of the whipped cream over the top and swirl it lightly with a spoon. Add a few more strawberries.

To make the ganache, heat the cream until bubbles form around the edges, then pour over the chopped chocolate. Let it stand for a few minutes, then whisk until the mixture is thick and glossy. Drizzle this over the layered dessert with a spoon, or transfer to a squeeze bottle and use that to drizzle.

Refrigerate for at least four hours, or until the crackers have softened completely. Garnish with additional berries.