Portland’s Shamrock Run 2014

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What’s better than spending a Sunday morning on the waterfront? With minimal rain, I can’t think of anywhere I would rather be on a brisk March day. Today, I participated in the Portland Shamrock Run, which is the largest running and walking event in Oregon and the second-largest on the US West Coast.

With over 35,000 participants, the many perks of the event include live music, a free pour from Widmer Brothers Brewing and complimentary smoked salmon chowder from Stanford’s in the nearby beer garden. I opted for the pale ale, which was surprisingly refreshing for a 10 a.m. snack after running 3.1 miles.

Following the somewhat flat run through downtown Portland, my sister and friends were there to watch me run through the finish line and enjoy the beautiful view of Portland’s Waterfront Park. We sipped, snacked and laughed before hopping on the bus to head home. Let’s just say I’m feeling accomplished and am already making plans to compete in the 15k next year!

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Harlow: Portland’s Healthy Hot Spot

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Due to popular demand, I am really trying to bring back the blog in full force. And yes, the first part of that statement is mainly sarcastic. The partial truth, however, comes from the fact that I have been running into people that I haven’t seen in years and literally one of the first things they say to me is, “What’s new on the blog?” or “Loved that one blog post you did.” Although it was a bit odd hearing this from people I hadn’t seen since high school, it was also quite humorous and appreciated. Apparently my Facebook posts reached more people than I thought. It was nice to know that I had a few readers out there that I didn’t even know about. Maybe I even inspired a few to get into the kitchen and try out some of my recipes.

As I thought about starting up the blog again, I began by brainstorming possible posts or recipes to feature. This was a difficult task because due to my recent schedule, I haven’t been getting in the kitchen very often. And when I do, it generally consists of smearing crunchy peanut butter on a piece of whole wheat toast topped with sliced banana; definitely delicious, yet also lacking in creativity and fresh flavors. Now that I no longer work 8:30 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. (rough, I know), I have more time to cook and explore local restaurants during actual business hours. A luxury I used to take for granted. One of the places I currently really enjoy visiting is Harlow, a diet friendly hotspot on SE Hawthorne. Harlow’s fresh conscious cuisine includes vegetables, juices, scrambles, rice and quinoa bowls, smoothies and cocktails. In all three of my visits, I have yet to be disappointed.

On my first visit, I was accompanied by my friend Elaine. The bright, open layout welcomed us inside as we stood in line for less than 10 minutes debating which appealing treat we were going to order. We were overwhelmed by all of the options. Did we want gluten free sweet potato pancakes or quinoa with steamed greens? My stomach was not begging for a giant meal, so I opted for a juice. In all honesty, I am surprising myself with my boldness and current interest in juice; or at least juice that involves cucumbers and kale. My theory is that in order for the juice to taste great, there must be one sweet or non-green ingredient, like apple or grapefruit. In this instance, it was the “Howler” juice that caught my attention. This one consisted of pineapple, ginger, cucumber, parsley, kale and spinach. Upon my first sip, I realized ginger is a BOLD flavor that left my throat a bit unhappy, but the pineapple was a great flavor addition to offset the ginger. I highly recommend the juices as they are quite delicious and surprisingly filling.

The front counter was filled with freshly baked treats, so of course I also tried an almond protein ball. The concept reminded me of something I had seen on Pinterest and it paired well with my juice as a small, yet richly delicious snack. Elaine went with the African peanut bowl. Although I did not beg her for a bite, I can tell you that my eyes thought it was delicious. So colorful, the dish included brown rice, African peanut stew and steamed greens topped with fresh cilantro and roasted lime peanuts. She enjoyed the freshness and how uniquely well the ingredients paired together. I immediately noted that I needed to come back when I was a bit hungrier so that I could try out a bowl for myself. (Note: My next couple visits I ordered the Dragon bowl, which includes choice of rice or quinoa, beans, sea vegetables, avocado, steamed greens, sesame seeds, scallions, kimchi and garlic tahini sauce. Yummy!!)

Harlow is definitely popular among Portlanders looking for a healthy, yet fulfilling meal. The immense menu includes breakfast, lunch and dinner. Open Monday to Saturday 8 a.m. – 9 p.m. and 8 a.m. – 3 p.m. on Sunday, the SE Hawthorne location (3632 SE Hawthorne Blvd) is hip, lively and healthy. Whether you are gluten free, vegan or vegetarian, you can definitely find something on the menu to satisfy your taste buds. If you live closer to NW Portland, you can try their sister restaurant Prasad, located on 925 NW Davis Street.

And now that I am entering my third snow day, I better get back to sitting, knitting and Sochi viewing. Go USA!

Pear, raspberry and cilantro salad

20130902_135834After our morning coffee date, my friends and I decided to stop by a small vegetable stand a couple blocks down the street and pick out some fresh ingredients to make a refreshing summer salad. We bough a giant head of lettuce, three lemon cucumbers and a pear for only $1.95. We were in shock at what a bargain we got and proceeded to gather the rest of the ingredients by stopping by all three of our houses.

First stop: My House. My fridge was embarrassingly barren so all we were able to pick up at my house was the cilantro dressing and marinated artichoke hearts.

Next stop: Sarah’s House. Definitely benefited from Sarah’s fridge full of goodies. We were able to pick up raspberries, a red bell pepper and sparkling water.

Last stop: Elaine’s House. I immediately started chopping when we got to Elaine’s house, where we were also able to add baby sweet peppers and spinach.

Once everything was washed, sliced and thrown into the bowl, we headed out to Elaine’s charming backyard patio to enjoy our Labor Day concoction. The cilantro dressing paired perfectly with the sweet raspberries and pear. I must say, we were quite pleased with what we were able to pull together on such a whim. Next time you don’t feel like going to the grocery store, I definitely recommend checking out your local farmer’s market and your friend’s fridge.

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Black Bean Burgers

The first time that I made these burgers was back when I was living in Corvallis. I remember announcing to my roommate that I was making black bean burgers to which she responded with excitement and asked if she could invite her boyfriend. He was always eager to come over when one of us made dinner, but what I didn’t know was that she didn’t tell him that the burgers were made from black beans and that there was no meat actually in the burgers. He was not pleased to hear this news a couple minutes prior to sitting down to dinner, but after the first bite was pleasantly surprised and said meat or no meat, it was one of the best burgers that he had ever eaten! My family agreed when I made it for them a couple weeks ago alongside a simple arugula salad with fresh snap peas.

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Black Bean Burger Recipe

  • 5 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 small onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, deveined, and finely chopped
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup, plus more for serving
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked or canned black beans, drained
  • 1 cup cooked basmati rice
  • 2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
  • Hot sauce, such as Tabasco
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  1. STEP 1

    Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add onion, red pepper, and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, until soft and onions are translucent, about 8 minutes. Add cumin, turmeric, and ketchup. Cook for 1 minute.

  2. STEP 2

    In the bowl of a food processor, combine onion mixture, beans, and rice. Process until well combined. Transfer to a large bowl. Add breadcrumbs, and mix well. Season with salt, pepper, and hot pepper sauce.

  3. STEP 3

    Heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat in a large nonstick skillet. Drop 1/4-cup balls of bean mixture into skillet. Flatten into 3-inch patties. Cook until golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Repeat process with remaining 2 tablespoons oil and bean mixture. Serve immediately with ketchup, if desired.

Chef in My Garden Dinner Series

20130728_155826In order to meet Portland chefs and taste some delicious food, I decided to start volunteering for a non-profit called Growing Gardens, which promotes home-scale organic food gardening to improve nutrition, health and self-reliance while enhancing the quality of life and the environment for individuals and communities. I thought that it would be fun to gain experience as a server, while also getting to interact with some of Portland’s best and most experienced chefs. As it turns out, I was right.

On Sunday night, I worked at the Chef in My Garden event featuring Chef Jake Martin of Genoa Restaurant (which is located on 28th and SE Belmont). Chef Jake and his assistants, Sean and Brandon were willing to answer all of our questions and were fun to watch work as they communicated, always referring to each other as “chef.” Sean, (who looked shockingly similar to Vinny from Jersey Shore) told us all about his plans to move to New Mexico to open an American/Mexican style food cart. If I ever travel to New Mexico, I will definitely have to check it out because I can only imagine how delicious the food will be if it is anything like what I tasted during this event.

The event was located on Bettsy and Wally Preble’s 10-acre working urban farm with horses, alpacas, chickens, and a lake. The landscape was absolutely stunning and I was also very jealous of the private tennis court alongside the lake. I mean…who wouldn’t want to get in a game of tennis before feeding their alpacas?! I tried to take as many pictures as I could while also serving tables, but they didn’t quite turn out as well as I hoped. And well… I had to take a selfie 🙂

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Although I was there to be a server, I also got to taste the extra plates and sample the wine that was provided by Hawks View Cellars. I must say, I am not generally much of wine kind of girl, but this wine was DELICIOUS! My favorites were the Pinot Gris and the Cabernet Sauvignon, which apparently means my palette has quite a wide range since those types of wines are polar opposite. When 5:30 rolled around and the first dish was being plated, my eyes bulged with excitement, hoping there would be enough for me to have a small taste. The plate of heirloom tomatoes, melon, cucumber and sorrel was artfully plated, almost making my mouth water as I was serving it to my table of 10 guests. The course was refreshing and light and left my taste buds curious for the second course.

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The second course was chilled corn creme, soft egg, roe and nasturtium. I know you might be thinking what does all of that even mean? At the time, I was a bit skeptical myself but after the first bite I was in heaven. The corn was smooth and the soft egg that was cooking at a steady 148 degrees was perfectly “poached.” I had never tasted an egg like that before but it was absolutely insane how well the texture paired with the corn creme. Roe, which are salmon eggs, was an eye pleasing addition on top of the soft egg, as well as the nasturtium petals.

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The final dinner course was definitely my favorite because of the impeccably grilled beef striploin alongside confit squash, beef vinaigarette and pickled blueberries. The other volunteers and I went to town eating this one outside of view of the guests because we couldn’t get enough of the juicy beef and grill-marked squash.  Just thinking about it now is making my mouth water…and the sad part is I just ate lunch. I kept finding it necessary to remind myself that I was volunteering to serve and that it was probably time to go clear plates in preparation for the dessert round, which was Oregon berry summer pudding with olive oil and sweet yogurt. Let’s just say I was also thankful to get an over-sized sample of this sweet delight!

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This entire experience was one of the best nights that I have ever spent volunteering. Tasting delicious wine and fabulous food from Chef Martin was definitely not a bad way to spend my Sunday night. I am looking forward to volunteering more with Growing Gardens and getting the opportunity to interact with more Portland chefs.

Here is the list of restaurants that are catering the upcoming Chef in My Garden Events –

July 28 | Genoa
August 4 | Imperial
August 11 | Heathman Restaurant & Bar
August 18 | Toro Bravo
August 25 | Lucca

Grilled Ham and Pear Sandwiches

20130702_183750In under 30 minutes, dinner was on the table with this sophisticated yet simple grilled sandwich. I upgraded this Martha Stewart recipe by using my favorite rosemary loaf from Trader Joe’s. The salted crust is to die for and added a great flavor to this sandwich. Otherwise, I didn’t change a whole lot of the recipe because you really can’t go wrong with gruyere cheese, pears, ham and baby arugula. Paired with a fresh fruit salad of bananas, raspberries, blueberries and strawberries, this was the ultimate summer dinner. YUM!

Ingredients:

  • 8 slices rustic bread (1/2 inch thick)
  • 4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 4 ounces Gruyere cheese, very thinly sliced
  • 4 ounces thinly sliced deli ham
  • 2 cups baby arugula
  • 1 pear, such as Anjou or Bosc, cored and thinly sliced
  • Ground pepper

Directions:

  1. Brush one side of each bread slice with oil; spread mustard on other side. Layer half the cheese on mustard side of 4 bread slices and top with ham, arugula, pear, a sprinkle of pepper, and remaining cheese. Sandwich with remaining bread slices, mustard side down.
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium. Working in batches if necessary, place sandwiches in skillet and weight with another skillet. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook sandwiches, pressing down firmly with skillet, until bread is golden and cheese is melted, 3 to 4 minutes per side, flipping once. Serve warm.

Chicken Thighs with Pear and Leek Sauce

A couple nights ago, I decided it was time to go gourmet with this fancy dish. I had some extra time on my hands and figured I might as well spend it in the kitchen whipping up a three part meal for my family. An hour into the process, I realized I was utilizing all four burners of the stove top and was proclaiming that it felt like I was preparing Thanksgiving dinner. However, the unique sauce and cheesy potato salad made the somewhat time consuming process well worth it.

20130629_162835Ingredients for the Chicken Thighs with Pear and Leek Sauce:

  • 1 large leek, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
  • 4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 4 large boneless, skinless chicken thighs, (about 1 1/2 pounds), trimmed (see Tip)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, divided
  • 1 large firm ripe pear, peeled and diced
  • 3/4 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth, divided
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons currant jelly
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

Directions:

  1. Place sliced leek in a colander; rinse and drain well.
  2. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Season chicken with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and cook until golden brown and no longer pink in the center, 4 to 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and tent with foil to keep warm.
  3. Reduce heat to medium and add the remaining 2 teaspoons oil to the pan. Add the leek and cook, stirring, until beginning to brown and soften, about 2 minutes. Add pear and 1/4 cup broth; simmer until the pear is soft and the broth is evaporated, about 2 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, whisk the remaining 1/2 cup broth and cornstarch in a small bowl. Add currant jelly to the pan and cook, stirring, until melted. Stir in the cornstarch mixture, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Bring to a boil, stirring, and cook until thickened, about 1 minute. Return the chicken and any accumulated juices to the pan and turn to coat with sauce. Serve sprinkled with walnuts.

20130629_162850Ingredients for the Warm Potato Salad with Goat Cheese:

  • 2 pounds red potatoes, scrubbed well and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons white-wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 ounces crumbled goat cheese (1/2 cup)
  • 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
  • 1 small shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Directions:

  1. Cover potatoes with water in a medium saucepan; season with salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer until tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 tablespoon cooking liquid. Let potatoes cool for 5 minutes.
  2. Whisk together vinegar, mustard, and reserved cooking liquid. Add oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly until emulsified.
  3. Transfer potatoes to a bowl, and drizzle with vinaigrette. Gently stir in goat cheese, celery, shallot, and parsley. Season with salt and pepper.

Served with some sauteed broccolini, the plate was also visually appealing.

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