365 Project: Opaline Cafe & Bakery #seattle

Following Yelp reviews, we stumbled upon this little bakery with a tiny dining room in the back allowing a full view of glass blowers at work. It was fascinating and fun for both my daughter and I. And, it’s free, although we grabbed a bite and chai at the cafe. Such a fun find!

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365 Project – 199: Luncheon of the boating party ;) – Lake Crescent, Port Angeles, WA (July 18, 2013)

In 1880, Renoir had a more refined setting in mind when he painted Luncheon of the Boating Party but, in 2013 this is how girls lunch, after air-mattress kayaking on the lake, digging into their grub while reclining on their air mattresses! I love their style! LOL

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365 Project – 69: What’s for dinner…filipino Arroz Caldo – YUM! (March 11, 2013)

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Fast and Easy Arroz Caldo with Chicken Recipe

When I think of filipino comfort food, Arroz Caldo is the first thing that comes to mind, It’s the filipino chicken soup for the soul dish which warms and heals the body, mind, and soup. In our family, this was the dish my mom would make when we were sick, when it was cold, or any time we were craving this savory porridge. The umami of this dish comes from the holy grail of onions, garlic, and ginger then topped with fresh green onions, a tangy squeeze of lemon, and the briny fish sauce (if you can get it, use “Patis” the filipino version of fish sauce.) And, it is SO HARD for me to write a recipe because I cook with my eyes and nose. I never measure. But, here goes! Enjoy and tell me how you and your family likes this recipe!

Note: Unlike chicken adobo, which I like to prepare at least one day before serving, Arroz Caldo is best served right away. However, you could make everything ahead of time, WITHOUT THE RICE. About 30 minutes before serving, reheat, add the uncooked rice, bring to boil, stir, then simmer and cover about 20-30 minutes until rice is cooked. The rice gets gummy if it sits too long since it keeps absorbing the liquid.

Arroz Caldo Recipe
Serves 4-6 Prep time: 20 minutes Cook time: ~ 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 yellow onion – diced
  • 5 garlic cloves – smashed & minced
  • 1 thumb-sized ginger – peeled and sliced
  • 1 tsbp cooking oil (coconut, avocado, high-heat olive oil)
  • 5 lbs. chicken thighs with skin on; pat dry and sprinkle with salt on both sides
  • About 4-8 cups liquid (water or chicken stock)
  • 1-2 cups dry, uncooked white calrose rice – rinsed
  • Salt to taste.

Toppings:

  • Patis or Thai Fish Sauce
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 bunch green onions

Directions

  • Heat oil on medium high heat in a pot or dutch oven
  • Saute the onion and ginger until onion is translucent. Then, add the garlic and saute another.
  • Add the rice and saute 1 minute. (Less rice = more brothy; More rice = more like a porridge.)
  • Use a spatula to scrape the rice, onion, ginger and garlic to the sides.
  • Lightly salt the chicken thighs on top and bottom.
  • Add the chicken to pot, skin side down, let it sear for 3 minutes. Turn the chicken over and sear another 2 minutes.
  • Add water or chicken stock until chicken is covered; then add another inch of liquid.
  • Stir. Bring to boil.
  • Cover and reduce to simmer for 30 minutes.
  • Stir, taste, and salt as desired.
  • NOTE: under-salt if you are using salted chicken broth and/or fish sauce as a topping
  • GINGER: okay, this is definitely not a filipino thing BUT, if you don’t want your guests to bite down on a hunk of ginger you could find the slices and take them out or just warn your guests. OR eat them.! So good for you!

Prepare toppings to serve at the table:

  • Chopped green onions
  • Patis/fish sauce – a dash goes a long way! Add a little bit at a time.
  • Lemon wedges

Serve in a bowl with toppings added as desired. What makes arroz caldo so extra delicious is ALL of these toppings. It is just not the same without the onions, patis, and lemon. Start with less and add more toppings to taste. Breathe it in deep while you enjoy it!

First time making this recipe? Let me know how it worked for you? I appreciate your feedback as a recipe tester! And, experiment with the amount of rice. Adding too much rice can make it gummy. And, not enough rice is thin and brothy.

“Kain tayo!” (“Let’s eat!”)

Amelia

365 Project – 50: Arenal Volcano National Park – Costa Rica (February 18, 2013)

Hiking Volcan Arenal here in Costa Rica was an amazing geological, wildlife, and flora experience. And, it was just plain fun, for our two families who enjoyed this kid-friendly hike through the jungle to the viewpoint (“mirador”) of the volcano. We did the recommended loop trail and saw toucans, and heard numerous bird songs. The sights and sounds created nature’s scavenger hunt for the kids, distracting from the physical challenge from the heat and slight incline at the top.

We were hiking here on our own, with our Costa Rican friends, which was wonderful but, if I had a chance to do it again I’d love to go with a local bird expert. I envied the groups accompanied by local guides offering their knowledge of the flora and fauna. Within close proximity of one group we benefitted from a guide pointing out an anteater and our first toucans. One of our goals was to see toucans (my daughter’s number one wish actually) so we were all stoked to see several families of colorful toucans, with their big bills throughout our hike. We saw at least 10 toucans and heard even more. That alone totally made the trip! We didn’t see monkeys during this hike but, we heard them and laughed when they threw fruit down at us. (On a previous trip down the Sarapiqui River we saw many howler monkeys…that will be in another post.) And, the flora and fauna itself was amazing. We started the hike on the dry side, appreciating the shade of tall grasses flanking each side of our trail, then entered the lush jungle with hanging and climbing vines, large ceiba trees, tree ferns, and many prehistoric-looking plants. It was incredible.

It was quite a drive from San Jose which our friends generously offered to take us on this fun day trip. But, if we were on our own we’d probably stay in La Fortuna or another nearby village to explore the volcano a bit more and just be closer to this beautiful area. Click on this link for more information about Arenal Volcano National Park. And, as I mentioned in my previous post, there are no food options once you enter the park so here’s my restaurant recommendation in La Fortuna, just outside the park..

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At the trailhead

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At the viewpoint “mirador”

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From the viewpoint looking at Lake Arenal, the largest manmade lake in Costa Rica providing 30% of the hydropower in the country

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On the trail, which is clearly marked. You can see the loop trail we hiked on the right side of the map which was only 3 miles. or less, long. Wear sturdy shoes because of the lava rock at the top.

Restaurante La Choza de Laurel – La Fortuna, Costa Rica (February 18, 2013) #travel #costarica

Before you start hiking at Volcan Arenal stop in La Fortuna for some tasty authentic Costa Rican food at Restaurante La Choza de Laurel. Our Costa Rican friends said it was really good authentic food. For us we just thought the food was tasty starting with mango batidos (“smoothies”), fried green plantains served with black beans, pico de gallo and guacamole, then we ate typical Costa Rican plates such as arroz con pollo.

the ambience was casual with its open air setting and cultural activities. our daughter had a custom leather bracelet made with a suggested donation of a dollar. the hide was actually cut to fit her wrist then he stamped her name with some designs in the leather.

there are no options for food at the senderos (“trails”) so this is a great place to stop. as a point of reference, it is right next to Burger King. HA! and, in front of the restaurant, near BK, you can catch a view of Volcan Arenal. 🙂

Enjoy and Pura Vida!

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365 Project – 280: Tasty flower snack: rice cake with peanut butter and banana (October 6, 2012)

Shutter Speed: 1/500, Aperture: F/1.8, ISO: 100

Our snack today: mochi rice cake with peanut butter and banana…yum!! And, as my daughter says…”easy peasy, lemon squeezy!” 😉

See more of my 365 Project: Untouched photos from my Nikon D5000 with 50mm lens

365 Project – 257: RECIPE: Chicken Cacciatore from “Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook” (September 12, 2012)

Shutter Speed: 1/50, Aperture: F/2.8, ISO: 250

School’s started and the crockpot is one of my favorite and easiest ways to get a hot meal on the table at the end of the day. Not only do we end up with a homemade meal but, you walk in and the house smells heavenly and the cleanup is minimal.

I use a lot of recipes from “Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook” by Beth Hensperger and Julie Kaufmann. This, and other recipes from this cookbook, can be found by clicking on this link. Here’s my version of the recipe, adapted from this cookbook, which my family gobbled up last night. 🙂

Probably the main difference in my version is that I like to brown the chicken and saute the onions and garlic before putting them in the crockpot. I also didn’t have dry white wine on hand so I used an opened bottle of champagne instead, which worked fine. And, because it was easy and convenient, I used all chicken thighs instead of mixing it with drumsticks. The original recipe is a bit easier because everything goes into the crockpot, without any cooking on the stove, but, I like the texture and flavor of the chicken better with my added steps.

The original recipe suggests serving this over rice or noodles. I added potatoes so you can eat this as-is right out of the pot. To keep this gluten-free I omitted the flour and I served it up over polenta. I also made my own marinara sauce, which I consider pretty easy to do. I just recommend using San Marzano tomatoes, which you can buy in the can at any store. In my opinion, they just have a richer, sweeter tomato flavor. Lastly, I increased the portions a bit to make this a recipe for 6-8, instead of 4.  My family has big appetites. 🙂

I’m curious what you think of this recipe, compared to the original version.  Make it and come back to leave a comment with your take on this recipe.  Enjoy!

CROCKPOT CHICKEN CACCIATORE
Serves 6

~ 4 cups homemade marinara sauce (see recipe below)
1 medium-size yellow onion, cut in half and sliced into half-moons
1 to 3 cloves garlic, to your taste, minced
1 medium-size green bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
1 tbsp coconut or canola oil
8-10 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
6 ounces fresh mushrooms, quartered
~ 1/4 cup dry white wine or champagne
3 cups fingerling or red potatoes, in 1/2 inch chunks
Shredded parmesan cheese to garnish (optional)

1. In a skillet or fry pan, heat coconut or canola oil on medium high heat, add your chicken and brown about 1 minute on each side
2. Layer half of the marinara sauce and all of the bell pepper, and browned chicken in the crockpot.
3. To the skillet, on medium high, add the onion and saute 1 minute to slightly soften,  add the garlic and saute another minute (turn down the heat if the garlic starts browning), then add the wine or champagne. Heat on high and scrape up all the browned chicken bits. Let reduce a couple minutes then pour into the crockpot.
4. Add the potatoes, sprinkle the mushrooms on top and cover with the remaining marinara sauce.
5. Cover and cook until the chicken is tender and cooked through, 2 1/2 to 3 hours on HIGH or 6 to 7 hours on LOW.
6. Serve as-is or over rice, noodles or polenta. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese if desired.

Additional Notes: I love mushrooms in this recipe but, my daughter doesn’t so I’ve made this without them and it tastes just fine. I’ve also followed the original recipe, by skipping steps 1. and 3. but, I prefer this version with the extra steps of browning the chicken and sauteing the onions and garlic. For sure, I have ADDED steps to this recipe but, I still think it’s pretty easy. It took me about 30 minutes to prep and get this all into the crockpot, including the time it took to make the marinara sauce below.

SIMPLE HOMEMADE MARINARA SAUCE
1/3 cup olive oil
1 medium-size yellow onion finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 28-oz can San Marzano tomatoes
1 6 oz. can tomato paste
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
1 – 2 tbsp agave syrup or sugar, to taste
Salt and pepper to taste

In medium size skillet saute the onion and garlic in 3 tablespoons of the olive oil until softened, ~ 5 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients, except for the salt and pepper. Heat until bubbly then reduce heat to a simmer. Stir, cover and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Puree with an immersion hand blender to break up whole tomatoes. Taste and season with salt and pepper. If using this sauce in the above chicken cacciatore recipe, the sauce is ready to use since the flavors will continue to develop in the crockpot. Otherwise, cover and let simmer another 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Sauce can be kept in the refrigerator for up to a week or frozen for 2 months.

See more of my 365 Project: Untouched photos from my Nikon D5000 with 50mm lens

Day 4 – New York City (American Museum of Natural History, Babbo, Washington Square)

Started blogging in a taxi on our way to dinner at Mario Batali’s “Babbo” restaurant and had a nice conversation with our taxi driver who is from Nepal, one of my favorite countries. I love the diversity in this city!! I love the history and culture too, including at the American Museum of Natural History. I have fond memories of school field trips here so it was another walk down memory lane for me. For Nora, she kept wondering if the animals would come alive like in “Night at the Museum”. For sure, the museum is a gem and we’re so grateful for our day at the museum. What else was so awesome? You can enter the museum BY DONATION ONLY!! We paid full price but it’s so wonderful that they make this amazing experience and institution accessible to everyone. So, I have to say it again…I LOVE NEW YORK!!

And, dinner at Babbo? OMG.. serious foodie heaven. I just love and appreciate Mario Batali’s culinary genius even more! The service was impeccable too. Our best food experience so far…maybe ever! A splurge but, worth every penny. Appetizers: arugula salad and beet tartare. Primi: Pappardelle Bolognese. Contorni: heirloom tomatoes and fresh buffalo mozzarella. Secondi: Skirt steak on salsa verde with eggplant and pickled onions. Dolci: pistachio and chocolate semifreddo (my fav), fresh in-house strawberry gelato (Thad’s fav), chocolate hazelnut cake with in-house hazelnut gelato (Nora’s fav). We shared it all family-style and enjoyed the company of another family seated next to us, from Indonesia. Seriously, EVERYTHING, the food, ambience and experience was fabulous!

And, I had fun just taking slice of life photos in Greenwich Village and Washington Square. It was an amazing, comfortably warm evening with views of the Freedom Tower, Empire State Bldg through the Washington Square Arch, the fountain , New York skyline at sunset, and the best people watching. It’s our last night in New York and we’ve loved every minute. For sure, New York City is a family-friendly vacation spot. We look forward to coming back for more!!

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365 Project – 143: Pie night! (May 21, 2012)

Shutter Speed: 1/30, Aperture: F/4.5, ISO: 800, FLASH (AUTO mode)

The original plan for our FIRST annual pie night was to spend Sunday afternoon together, rolling out dough and making fillings, savory and sweet, while the kiddos and dads played.  HA! In our suzy homemaker dreams!  😉  Friday came around and my girlfriend and I decided “Nah, let’s just make our homemade dessert pies at home and order out for pizza so we can yak and not work.”  Visit, eat…and eat and eat, and barely clean the kitchen.  Now, THAT’S a doable pie night!!  hehe And, the homemade pies…oh, sooo good!  Sour cream lemon pie, dark chocolate cream pie, and my gluten-free lemon tart topped with fruit which I blogged about last week.  Kiddos and parents were happy…yaaay for pie night!!  😉

About the photo: I used the auto mode for convenience.  I just didn’t want to think about the settings.  I had antsy kids so I was in point and shoot mode.   I love the  creativity I can get from shooting in manual mode and I can’t remember the last time I used auto mode but, times like this I sure appreciate clicking it on AUTO!  🙂

See more of my 365 Project: Untouched photos from my Nikon D5000 with 50mm lens

365 Project – 109: Just for the kale of it… ;) (April 18, 2012)

Shutter Speed: 1/640, Aperture: F/1.4, ISO: 100

I was in a funk last night but, still mustered up the energy to cook a homemade dinner. I muttered “ugh, I need to harvest some kale”, and my daughter surprised me with a chipper “I’ll do it!” I handed her the kitchen shears and she scampered off to the garden, for the first time, to harvest WITHOUT me. I decided I had to capture her in action, but by the time I got there with my camera she had already harvested a beautiful bunch of perfect kale leaves. Her bubbly, capable attitude busted me out of my funk, which was just I needed.  I thought “Dang…with this bright light in my life, I gotta’ snap out of this crappy attitude! ”  So, I had to share this photo, and this story…just for the kale of it! *yuk yuk* Sorry, I couldn’t resist! 😉

See more of my 365 Project: Untouched photos from my Nikon D5000 with 50mm lens