2015 National Night Out (Tomorrow!)

It’s already August (where did the past eight months go!?) and with that comes Election Day for those of us in Washington (make sure you vote!) and National Night Out. Both of which fall on the first Tuesday of August.

2015's National Night Out: TOMORROW! What are you bringing?

2015’s National Night Out: TOMORROW! What are you bringing?

What is National Night Out?

National Night Out is an annual community-building campaign that promotes police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie to make our neighborhoods safer, better places to live. Together, we are making that happen.

National Night Out enhances the relationship between neighbors and law enforcement while bringing back a true sense of community and provides a great opportunity to bring police and neighbors together under positive circumstances.

Neighborhoods across the nation host block parties, festivals, parades, cookouts and other various community events with safety demonstrations, seminars, youth events, visits from emergency personnel and exhibits.

Growing up I was the Block Watch Captain for our block, organizing the Night Out potluck celebration each year.

Our Megan’s Island neighborhood usually has a get together and this year is only a little different. Our neighbor Dave professionally smokes meats (ribs, brisket, etc. — it smells SO good on our street come football season!) and will be cooking up BBQ chicken and brats for our Night Out celebration.

(Interesting side note: We toyed with the idea of having Dave bring is smoker up to our house and having fresh pizzas and smoked meats, but we didn’t get out stuff together fast enough this year or last. We’re planning a separate neighborhood pizza party instead. Besides, two parties is better than one, right?)

The assignment for those attending our neighborhood potluck this year is to bring a side dish to share. I usually go with brownies, but since it’s been so hot and brownies are kind of boring, I’ve been scouring the internet for a new recipe and I think I’ve found the perfect dish to bring: a watermelon goat cheese salad. (Of course, any and all of these hot weather eats would be perfect for your Night Out celebration!)

I found this recipe in my new (library-issued) Food52 Cookbook, which happens to be our cookbook of the week this week. It’s perfect for the season and should be perfect for a large group of our neighbors. I plan on making a few (mostly lazy) changes, so I’ll include them here. If you want to see the official recipe, visit Food52.

Watermelon and Goat Cheese Salad with a Mint-Basil Infused Vinaigrette
Serves 4

  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 handful fresh mint basil 
  • teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/2 seedless watermelon
  • 1/2 pound fresh goat cheese
  • 1/2 cup unsalted pistachios
  • tablespoons red vine vinegar
  • teaspoon sea salt
  • dash fresh pepper
  1. Roughly chop the mint basil and add the olive oil and the coarse salt. Grind for about 10 minutes and let it sit for about 1 hour at room temperature. (The original calls for using a mortar and pestle, but we don’t have one of those. I’ll improvise.)
  2. Cut the watermelon into cubes and place in a salad bowl in the refrigerator.
  3. Place the pistachios in a pan and on low heat toast them for 5 minutes.
  4. Remove the pistachios from the pan and chop them roughly. Set aside in a small bowl.
  5. Crumble the goat cheese.
  6. Take the olive oil and mint-basil mix and put it through a small mixer. When completely mixed add the vinegar. Mix again.
  7. Take the watermelon out of the fridge, add the goat cheese, drizzle the vinaigrette, sprinkle the pistachios and finish with sea salt and pepper. Mix and serve!

This is what it’s supposed to look like. Check my Instagram feed tonight to see how my version turns out!

Food52's watermelon goat cheese salad

Food52’s watermelon goat cheese salad

I hope you’re able to enjoy Neighborhood Night Out tomorrow and get to know your neighbors!

 

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day! {2015}

Between lots of work and pregnancy exhaustion, my blogging has really fallen down lately. Sorry about that!

I had grand plans of doing several blog posts leading up to today’s holiday, but then, I didn’t. I had plans of making all sorts of treats for my office buddies. Then, I didn’t.

Instead, I present my “Luck ‘o the Irish” Pinterest board full of great ideas for today’s holiday.

I also would like to present a new favorite side dish of ours that pairs REALLY well with corned beef. (We jumped the gun on our corned beef consumption and created this perfect dish a few weeks ago…)

Without further ado… our feast:

St. Patrick's Day feast

St. Patrick’s Day feast

I buy my corned beef at Costco, throw it in the crock pot, sprinkle on the packet of spices, pour in a couple of glasses of water and let it go for 8-10 hours on low.

The potatoes are cut, boiled, and seasoned. I leave the skins on.

The garlic-roasted cauliflower is from Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa: How easy is that? cookbook. (From week seven of our cookbook challenge… I’ll post them soon! I promise!)

Garlic-roasted cauliflower

  • 1 head of garlic, cloves separated but not peeled (We used pre-minced garlic… turned out great!)
  • 1 large head of cauliflower, trimmed, cut into large florets
  • 4 1/2 tablespoons good olive oil, divided use
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed (or bottled) lemon juice

Procedure:

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

2. Bring a small pot of water to a boil and add the garlic cloves. Boil for 15 seconds. Drain, peel and cut off any brown parts. Cut the largest cloves in half lengthwise.

3. On a sheet pan, toss the cauliflower with garlic, 3 tablespoons olive oil, 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Spread mixture out in a single layer and roast for 20 to 25 minutes, tossing twice, until the cauliflower is tender and garlic is lightly browned.

4. Scrape the cauliflower into a large bowl with garlic and pan juices. Add remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, parsley, pine nuts and lemon juice. Sprinkle with another 1/2 teaspoon salt, toss and serve hot or warm.

We’re off to enjoy MORE corned beef tonight with some friends. I hope you have a wonderful St. Patrick’s Day and you don’t forget to wear green!

{Interesting fun fact–or fiction: According to the legends, leprechauns delighted in causing mischief, which included tripping, kicking or otherwise harming humans. Wearing green supposedly rendered the wearer invisible to leprechauns, and thus spared the wearer their attentions.)

Happy Valentine’s Day to us!

I hope you had a great weekend! I know I did! And how exciting… we have ANOTHER day off!

Selfie at the bottom of the Falls!

Selfie at the bottom of the Falls!

For Valentine’s Day, Brandon and I headed east of Megan’s Island to Snoqualmie Falls.

Snoqualmie Falls is one of Washington state’s most popular scenic attractions. More than 1.5 million visitors come to the Falls every year. At the Falls, you will find a two-acre park, gift shop, observation deck, the Salish Lodge and the famous 270 foot waterfall.

It was beautiful this weekend and the scenery and fresh air were so nice! So nice that I got a little photo-happy. Enjoy!

Snoqualmie Falls from the main viewing platform

Snoqualmie Falls from the main viewing platform

Snoqualmie Falls from the bottom

Snoqualmie Falls from the bottom

The path to the lower viewing platform

The path to the lower viewing platform

The Snoqualmie River

The Snoqualmie River

My valentine, posing down by the river

My valentine, posing down by the river

Driving from Snoqualmie to North Bend

Driving from Snoqualmie to North Bend

We stopped by Scott’s Dairy Freeze after our trip to the Falls and kept it pretty low-key for dinner. (Don’t worry. We have some great meals from the Barefoot Contessa’s How easy is that? cookbook. Remember that New Year’s resolution we have?)

We did celebrate a few days early with these delectable pink Rice Krispie treats. They were so good and easy to make! And I can’t stop munching on the leftover SweetHearts!

Special Valentine's Day Rice Krispies treats

Special Valentine’s Day Rice Krispies treats

Our outdoor time didn’t stop there. With spring seemingly here (Punxsutawney Phil was WRONG!) we cleaned up the yard, washed the cars and explored Seattle and Megan’s Island. More on that later this week!

 

Cookbook feasting {Weeks 1 and 2}

Our resolution to try out new cookbooks and recipes is off to a great start!

{Week 1} Pure Flavor

We kicked off this cookbook and recipe challenge with a cookbook by Kurt Beecher Dammeier, mastermind behind some of my favorite Seattle-area spots: Beecher’s Cheese, Pasta & Co., Bennett’s, and Liam’s. During the first week of the challenge I even stopped by Beecher’s (they give free cheese samples!) and Bennett’s (it’s VERY close to my house and has an excellent happy hour!).

We made the tomato-cheddar soup (p. 21) and were only somewhat impressed by it. It seemed to be way too watery and the “semi-hard cheese” that I used wasn’t right. This made far more than 4 servings and we put the leftovers in the freezer for another day.

Beecher's Tomato Soup

Beecher’s Tomato Soup

We also made the Bennett’s Cobb salad (p. 54). We opted for an apple cider vinegar salad dressing instead of the recommended lime jalapeno dressing and I think that was a misstep on our part. It was too sweet for the curried crab. Speaking of the crab, everything about it was wrong. We followed the recipe to a tee and it wasn’t good. The curry clashed with the crab and they all clashed with the capers. I would not recommend this recipe. We were able to add chicken instead of crab for our lunches the next day and it was far superior.

Bennett's Cobb Salad

Bennett’s Cobb Salad

Brandon also made an apple crisp for my “A” party for my Pretty Little LiArs pArty. It was delicious!

Other recipes that piqued our interest, but we didn’t have a chance to try out: Turkey meatloaf studded with cheese curds (p. 111), Citrus-herb-marinated turkey tenderloins (p. 112), Slow-cooked orange chili pork shoulder (p. 130), Pan-seared broccoli crowns (p. 145), Broiled sunchokes (p. 147), Brussels sprouts with garlic bread crumbs (p. 150), Roasted parsnip puree (p. 152), Braised kale gratin (p. 157), Chocolate truffle cookies (p. 175), Corn, tomato and avocado frittata (p. 212), Blueberry buckle (p. 222), House herbs (my favorite!) (p. 233), and Breadzels (p. 244).

{Week 2} Dishing up Washington

I found Dishing up Washington while browsing the cookbook section at the library. We found a ton of great recipes to try and ended up actually trying several of them:

The Fall sausage minestrone with mushrooms and squash (p. 34) was good, however, I just need to come to the realization that I don’t like soup. Especially minestrone. Brandon really enjoyed this dish, so if you’re a minestrone-lover, do try this recipe!

Fall minestrone soup

Fall minestrone soup

RN74 is a French restaurant in downtown Seattle, near the Pike Place Market. I’ve only been there for happy hour, and the food that I have had there was good. Expensive, but good. If you find yourself there, you should definitely get some of their seasonal beignets. If you don’t find yourself there, you can pretend you are by cooking up the RN74 beef bourguignon (p. 166). Reserve the whole day for staying near the oven as this recipe is pretty intensive, and know that it’s worth it.

RN74 Beef bourguignon

RN74 Beef bourguignon

Hot Cakes’ original s’more cookies (p. 230). Must I say more!? We didn’t smoke our chocolate chips, and the cookies turned out great! If you’re in Seattle, you should definitely stop by Hot Cakes! Their s’more cookies are great, but I prefer their boozy shakes and molten hot cakes!

Hot Cakes s'more cookies

Hot Cakes s’more cookies

Other recipes that looked good: Seattle Winter Market Salad (p. 60), El Gaucho’s mashed potatoes (p. 86), Camp fire grits (p. 91), Egyptian-inspired chickpeas and couscous (p. 108), Winter market comfort casserole (p. 130), Honey-glazed ham with apricots, caramelized oranges and cardamom (p. 148), Skagit River Ranch pot roast (p. 164), Northwest Wild Foods’ blackberry bars (p. 209), free-form pear crostata (p. 214), and pimped root vegetable hash (p. 242).

This week we’re cooking from Dr. Weil’s True Food. Spoiler alert: we have lots of kale meals planned!

 

2015 resolutions

Up until a few days ago, I hadn’t given my 2015 resolutions much thought. I was too busy enjoying the holidays, trying my hand at new desserts, and snuggling the cats, catching up on TV.

But now we’ve packed up Christmas and vacuumed away all traces of the tree, and it’s time to be thinking about the next 300+ days and my goals.

So, here we go.

Do more. With a full and part-time job and this flourishing little blog, you might think this seems silly, but hear me out. I want to be more in the present. Be a little more flexible with my schedule and be up for those impromptu happy hours, casual dinners or TV show watching parties.

Walk more. Along with all of these things, I’ve upped my daily step goal (I love my Fit Bit!) to 11,000 steps daily (unless I work out at barre or with Tracy Anderson in my living room). I started this at the beginning of the month and I’ve done quite well.

Drink more. I saw an interview that Gabrielle Union gave recently, where she mentioned that her beauty secret is drinking a gallon of water each day. I’ve been doing a good job at increasing my water intake, but I also read that a gallon is unrealistic. I’m also going to focus quality over quantity with my booze drinking. We are in four wine clubs now and our wine cellar is bursting at the seams. Rather than wait for a special event to uncork our “expensive” bottles, we’re going to celebrate the ordinary and open them whenever we feel like it. Maybe tonight!

Eat more. Every year we end up with a new approach to food (2014, 2013, 2012) and 2015 is no different. This year I’m pairing my love of the library with our meals and trying out a new cookbook each week. We tried out Pure Flavor last week and started Dishing up Washington today, with the RN 74 beef bourguignon and tonight we’ll make the Hot Cakes s’more chocolate chip cookies. We’re going to try and cook around three recipes from each book. Along with cookbooks from the library, we also have many cookbooks at home that will get more exposure in the kitchen. Hopefully we discover some new recipes and have some fun!

Be more. I found this on Pinterest and thought it pretty much summed up my hopes and dreams for 2015. Lofty yet manageable, still pretty lighthearted and with an emphasis on the things I like: creativity and adventure.

2015 resolutions

 

Cheers to 2015!