Campfire Setup

If you’re in Portland right now, you know. It’s hot outside. It’s 100 degrees, which means coffee shops across town are running low on cold brew and the fan aisle of Walmart looks like the apocalypse struck.

It’s time to leave town and go camping.

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Recently, I made the best purchase of the season. I bought a camping cookstove that hooks up directly to a propane tank. It’s small, durable, travel-friendly and, most importantly, heats evenly.

Hand in hand with its soulmate, a cast iron skillet, camping just took on a whole new level of outdoor cooking confidence.

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By no means should you bail on building a fire or cooking on it, but if speed and efficiency are your game, you should consider a similar hookup. (Any outdoor sports store has ya covered.)

So what did I cook with my new, fancy gear? I’ll be honest, I didn’t exactly reach for any stars. I made egg-in-a-hole, and it tasted delicious. Something about that mountain air.

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Step one. Lay out your gear. Never travel without your skillet, some cooking oil and some salt. (Pepper optional.)

The only additions to this truly minimalist setup were a loaf of bread and a carton of eggs.

Step two. Put that pan on the burner and warm it up. Grease thoroughly with oil.

Step three. Use any possible device (I used the lid of my Pam spray) to punch a hole in the bread, cookie-cutter style. Place bread in pan and let toast. If it doesn’t sizzle when it hits the pan, your skillet isn’t hot enough.

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Step four. Crack that egg right in that hole. Please note the (clean) hiking sock used as a pan handle and take my word of advice: buy a pot handle sleeve or bring a towel, those babies get too hot to touch. Or be ghetto, like me, and use a sock or something.

Season with salt and pepper, then flip your toast as gracefully as possible to cook the opposite side. If your yolk breaks or you make a mess, tell your camping party that you are serving a ‘rustic-style’ breakfast and that they have no other choice but to eat it and marvel at your authenticity.

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Remove from pan and serve.

Eat, enjoy, and pack up your things for a hike. You’re in the great outdoors! Go enjoy them.

 

Greek Orzo Summer Wedding Salad

For Luke and Val.

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I have been to so many weddings this past month my head is spinning. They’ve all been completely lovely.

There’s one last wedding to complete this season of matrimony, and by an unfortunate twist of fate, I can’t even make it. I’m bummed.

But the good news is, even though I can’t make it, I can send food! One of the more creative touches the happy couple added? Recipe cards for a potluck reception. Super creative, guys!

Also, I’ve never actually met the couple. (Hi, Luke, hi Valerie!) I’ve heard awesome things about them. I can’t wait to hang out with them after they’re married. But in the meanwhile, to conclude this season of holy matrimony, here’s my potluck contribution. It’s one of those make-ahead dishes that travels well and can be as versatile and summery as you like.

Ingredients:

  • 1 box of orzo pasta
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • lots of fresh dill
  • 1/4 c white vinegar
  • 3 T Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 c olive oil
  • 1 container feta cheese
  • salt and pepper

Directions:

1. Fill a pot with water and bring to a boil. Add orzo and cook 8-10 minutes until pasta is thoroughly cooked and al dente.

2. In the meanwhile, quarter the cucumber into bite sized pieces. Halve the cherry tomatoes and roughly chop the dill.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk together Dijon and vinegar for dressing. Drizzle in the olive oil slowly, whisking until thoroughly combined. Add the dill, then salt and pepper to taste.

4. Drain the pasta and rinse under cold water. (The goal is to cool down the pasta, since this is a chilled pasta salad. Nothing is worse than warm cucumbers.) In a large bowl, combine the vegetables, feta, dressing and orzo.

5. Taste and adjust seasonings. Feel free to brighten with lemon juice, or add your own touch — green onions, shallots, shrimp or anything else!

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Finally, eat, drink and be merry! Or married. Whichever is applicable.

 

 

 

Hop the Fence, Have Adventures

We got outside the other day. Phones down, boots laced, we headed towards the coast where the misty sunshine called. Part of an attempt to step away from social media and live like hermits, adventures have begun to feature more prominently in our daily lives.

It’s true, what they say. Stopping the car to jump out and take a picture of a mountain for Instagram isn’t the same as climbing the mountain. The adventures you hear on the internet aren’t nearly as intriguing as the ones people keep to themselves.

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I invested in a pair of Danner hiking boots (and proceeded to dye, treat and lace my own shoelaces thanks to my very invested leatherworking boyfriend) and have since found it’s impossible to stick to the trail. One of our favorite things to do is hop the fence entirely and go where we aren’t allowed.

I don’t recommend this on the most professional level, but let’s be honest. How many adventures happen when you stick to the beaten path?

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The inaugural boot break-in trip went swimmingly, we hiked Mount Hood and found a gigantic swamp near a breathtaking clearwater lake. Of course, this being spring, we found ourselves in the middle of frog mating season. I’ve never heard croaking so loud! The whole forest was ringing with the creaks and groans of frogs, and the still-snowy ground was littered in clear, gelatinous eggs. Each egg had a tiny tadpole forming in the center. It was disgustingly fascinating.

But I must admit, Cannon Beach is my favorite spot to escape to. The big volcanic rocks are beautiful and rugged. The mist wraps around them like a dame’s fur coat and are gorgeously foreboding. Every picture I’ve taken is flawless; it’s as though the coastline doesn’t have a bad angle.

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Anyway, since summer is around the corner, why not try lacing up your hiking boots, too, and seeing where you end up?

I recommend the following:

  • Bring snacks
  • Bring a camera (if you want)
  • Dare yourself not to post any proof of your miraculous adventures online (be old school and write it down in a notebook if you think you’ll forget details)
  • Keep your adventure boots in the car so you’re always ready
  • Ignore most fences, don’t be afraid to take risky routes
  • Pack water and first aid
  • Climb things
  • Use common sense
  • Collect cool objects
  • Just get out there. And make it a habit!
  • Share your best adventures around a campfire
  • (Learn how to start a campfire)

 

Coffee Tours: Slate Coffee Roasters, Seattle, WA

Slate Coffee Roasters is every barista’s dream.

“Open 7 – Close.” reads the sign propped in front of its tiny, 6th Ave location. The space inside is small, minimalist, appropriately slate grey.

The heart, soul and center of the shop is gleaming Slayer espresso machine, sparkling like a new Christmas toy.

“Hello!” the friendly barista for the afternoon with her perfectly rimmed glasses, crisp white button-up tucked into black high-waisted shorts, smiles with confident professionalism. She knows where she is and what she is serving. She is the master of her profession. “Drinking here?”

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Following immediately are glasses of water and menus, as table-service coffee materializes. The menu, although plain and simple, black and white, needs explaining. Familiar terms like ‘latte’ and ‘cappuccino’ are nowhere to be found.

“Everyone has a different idea of what a latte is,” she explains without prompting. “Here, we keep it simple and refer to it as what it is. Espresso plus milk. We offer four ounces, six ounces or eight ounces of milk with each double shot.”

Skimming the menu further, she continues, “We do not have any drip coffee at this particular location, but will happily do a pourover for you should you prefer.”

After placing an order, returning the menu and waiting momentarily, the coffee appears. It is as it should be: an artistic centerpiece.

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Were I to have any detrimental coffee comment to add to this experience, it would be the mound of foam atop the final macchiato. I was disappointed that there was no creamy microfoam to do the milk justice (but will attribute it to the fact our barista probably milk-shared to make two orders and I assume I received the tail-end of the pour.)

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The most popular item at Slate Coffee is a deconstructed milk drink. Served in small flutes, a single shot of espresso and a scant few ounces of steamed milk sit separately, side-by-side. The last flute holds the two together in what would technically be referred to as a macchiato.

The hope is to show the drinker the importance of each component before enjoying them together in a tiny symphony of thick, vanilla-cream milk and rich espresso.

The milk, of course, is local and non-homogenized. Buttery, rich and fatty, it results in creamy texture that has the natural viscosity of a melted vanilla shake. This milk is pure and sweet and heavenly. Matt Perger would beam with pride.

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I will warn you that if you’re looking for an in-and-out coffee experience, Slate is not for you. Slate is for savoring and appreciating coffee as culture, not for slugging 16-oz lattes as fuel. Any other shop in the world will offer that experience; Slate politely declines.

(They will, however, happily explain their menu in detail. Please ask them questions, they live for it.)

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My personal experience featured the Chelbasa Ethiopian espresso, a natural processed coffee from the Gideo region of Ethiopia. It tasted like bakers chocolate and cherry cordial with a lingering aftertaste reminiscent of licking the bowl after making chocolate covered strawberries. In short, it was one of the best espressos I have ever encountered. It had me re-evaluating my life choices to better center them around better coffee stewardship.

Of course, in a shop with a shiny gold EK43 and a Slayer at the helm, anything less would be underwhelming. It is certainly good to know, however, that some barista in Washington State is living my dream.

The myths are true: coffee here is nothing short of perfection.


Check them out HERE or give them a visit!

5413 6th Ave NW, Seattle, WA

1309 NE 45th St, Seattle, WA

602 2nd Ave, Seattle, WA


Side note: Seattle is awesome. See adventures below.

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Dumplings & Broth

Sometimes I want to take the ’20 Minute Dinner’ recipes and chuck them down the sink.

Sometimes I need my dinner to take me two hours.

Sometimes it’s not about the food so much as it is the process, about taking mindless eating and turn it into mindful eating.

The best cure? Handmade dumplings in ginger broth. It’s warming, delicious, and it takes an unashamedly long time to make. It’s the perfect meal to eat while reflecting on life.

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Ready to make dinner? Have an evening free? I recommend this dish on a night in when there’s no one to bother you, or when you want to have a leisurely conversation in the kitchen. This meal will keep your hands busy, yes, but the mellow, energizing scent of ginger, turmeric and cilantro will keep you content.

Also, things taste so much better when you give them all the time they deserve to become wonderful.

Without further ado.


 

Chicken Dumplings in Cilantro Ginger Broth with a side of Coconut Rice

Ingredients:

  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1  1/2 cups Calrose rice
  • 3 chicken breasts
  • 1 T coconut oil
  • 1 T turmeric
  • I lime, zested
  • 2 T freshly grated ginger
  • 1 shallot, diced fine
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Handful of mushrooms
  • 1/2 daikon radish, diced fine
  • Won ton wrappers
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 fresh bunch cilantro

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Directions:

  1. In a rice cooker (if you have one) add rice and coconut milk. There should be about 1/4 inch of liquid covering the surface of the rice. If you need more liquid, add water.
    1. If you don’t have a rice cooker, bring rice and coconut milk to a boil, then reduce to a bare simmer and cover with a lid. Let cook until all liquid is absorbed and rice is tender, about 20 minutes. Keep warm.
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As delicious and desireable as this thick coconut separation is, if your coconut milk has divided like this, stir it up with a spoon before dumping it into your rice.

2. In the meanwhile, wash and dice your vegetables. Save all the discarded odds and ends and throw them into a small pot. (This includes knobby chunks of un-grateable ginger, daikon bits, mushroom stems, etc.)

3. Cover the vegetable chunks with enough water to submerge them all. Feel free to add chunks of ginger for stronger flavor. Bring liquid to a simmer and let it happily bubble away in the background while you continue.

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4. Heat oven to 375. Cover chicken breasts with oil, salt and pepper. If desired, also season with dried ginger or turmeric. Bake until cooked through, about 20 – 25 minutes.

5. In a sautee pan, heat coconut oil. Add ginger, shallot, garlic, mushroom, daikon, turmeric, lime zest and any other desired vegetables or seasonings. Cook until tender. Let cool.

6. Around this time, your chicken should be finished cooking. Let cool slightly. Dice into small chunks or shreds, combine with sautéed vegetables.

7. Set out your wonton wrappers. Keep a small bowl of water handy to wet the edges. Place a small amount of filling into the center of the wonton, then fold diagonally to create a triangle. Tuck all the pointy ends into the center and seal with a pinch. Repeat.

Dumping Demo

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8. Strain the vegetable odds and ends out of the broth, discarding the veggies and saving the broth. To the liquid, add 4 cups of chicken stock. Taste, season as desired. Squeeze the lime into the broth.

9. Bring broth to a simmer. Gently poach a few dumplings at a time until tender, about 6 minutes.

10. Serve dumplings in broth with a side of coconut rice. Garnish with fresh cilantro. (Tip: don’t add cilantro until the very end to keep the flavor fresh and the color bright.)

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A Coffee Love Story

Part One

I have tried endlessly to blog about my favorite place in the world. Usually I start rambling, deleting, drafting, trashing and starting over.

I’ve decided to save my story and bottle it up until there is need for my memoir. Then you can read in detail about my experiences and I will have the ample space to spin my stories.

In the meanwhile, here’s the teaser. The real deal, the Erin Memoir Spectacular, is probably another decade in the making, so enjoy these lovely photographs and savor them in small doses.


I will give you some brief headliners.

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For instance. When I was 19, I started working at a coffee shop in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. A recent culinary grad, I was hired to bake all in-house treats, from biscotti to scones.

(My goal was to avoid at all costs those massive chocolate chip cookies found in cheap cafes. Making everything from scratch with unusual ingredients was my jam. Strawberry rosemary shortbread? Basil cheddar scones? Yes, please.)

I may have also extended my grocery privileges to cover very expensive grass-fed organic Irish butter, which is why the scones tasted so good.

Side Note: I still use that scone recipe for everything, including my last post. Sub Kerrygold butter for regular butter and prepare to melt. (Pun intended.)

As much as I enjoyed baking, it turns out I fell in love with coffee instead. I bugged the baristas for a few months until they let me behind the bar. I was able to play with the buttons of our La Marzoco Linea and crank the steam wands to full throttle.

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Of course, once I was bit with the coffee bug I started doing all kinds of off-the-clock research. I spent hours perched at the coffee bar, watching, asking questions, getting assignments.

“Read this,” our lead barista told me, pushing The World Coffee Atlas across the bar. He also sent me home with some good old fashioned Scott Rao books and proceeded to quiz me on their contents.

Coincidentally the more time I spent at the bar studying coffee, the more I noticed someone else sitting at the bar with increasing frequency. Only he wasn’t really there for the coffee. That was this guy, and he won  my heart around the same time I fell in love with coffee culture. The two go hand in hand, and within the span of our relationship we have consumed so much coffee that we could probably sail from Portland to Colorado and back in a coffee mug. But I digress.

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Suddenly I was actively listening and participating in heated conversations over pourover tasting notes. Was it grassy? Swampy? Earthy and vegetal?

Coffee had taken over my thoughts. I struggled to pour rosettas and hearts. I discovered a love of Ethiopian coffees, which continue to be my favorite. I drank a global assortment of wonderful brews, surrounded by people who wanted to represent it well.

Coffee culture. Precise, creative, beautiful, global, addictive.

When I moved away from Colorado to live in Portland, there was a mourning period. I was away from the mad coffee lab that birthed crazy coffee science. Despite the fact Portland is hands down one of the most coffee-saturated third-wave cities to live in, I had left my crazy coffee crew behind.

I found a job in the coffee industry, but longed for someone to lean over my shoulder, shake their head and tell me to do better.

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Recently, I took a trip back to Steamboat for a visit. I walked into the old shop and everything came rushing back as though I had never left, espresso starting to course through my veins.

I don’t know why Sprudge hasn’t done a piece on this lovely shop, cranking out the highest quality coffee in the Rockies. Heaven knows I’ve sent them enough emails.

(I’m telling you, Sprudge, if you need someone to write a piece on The Ristretto Coffee Lounge, I’m your girl.)

Are these my best friends? Yes. Is this like a second home? Yes.

Is it still insane coffee, all bias aside? Absolutely.

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I wouldn’t be here without the lessons I learned and the people I met in Steamboat.

I will now proceed to brag about them with photographs.

IMG_0426IMG_0394 IMG_0381IMG_0420 IMG_0455Of course, this story is far from over. And trust me, that’s the briefest run-through I can manage. But there are stories within stories, more tales than can be told over just one latte.

I intend to share them. But we’re going to need a few more coffees.

To be continued.

 

 

Caramelized Onion & Cheddar Scones

This is a recipe for savory scones, and if I am being totally honest with you, the ‘scone’ part is jargon for ‘something to hold cheese and caramelized onions together.’

I won’t lie. If you like cheesy, buttery, savory things then you are in the right place. If you like low-carb, diet-friendly snacks… definitely the wrong place to be.

There’s no shame in a few pictures, though, is there?

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Enjoy with your afternoon coffee, hunched over a desk or kicked back with a book. These babies go with everything.


 

Ingredients:

1/2 c butter, cold, cubed IMG_0609

1/2 c sharp cheddar cheese, also cubed

1/2 t salt

2 c flour

1 t baking powder

3/4 c milk

1/2 onion, sliced

Freshly cracked black pepper

Instructions:

  1. In a small saucepan, heat a tablespoon of butter or oil. Raise heat to medium, add sliced onions and sauté until golden and caramelized.
  2. Drain onions using paper towel. (Remove excess oil.)

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3. In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, pepper, butter, cheese and onions. Coat all butter/cheese/onion pieces with flour.

4. Add milk and knead gently to combine. Add more milk if mix is too dry, but avoid over-mixing the dough. (The less you manipulate the dough, the softer and flakier it will be.)

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5. Separate into scone shapes, brush with egg wash if desired.

6. Bake at 375 until golden, about 20 minutes. Let cool, serve.

7. Enjoy!

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