Wednesday, November 11, 2015

roasted vegetables with pecans and goat cheese

Koselig.  What does it mean?  Well, there's no direct translation to English. Koselig (pronounced "kush-lee") is a unique Norwegian word that describe a cozy, warm, cheerfulness that comes from enjoying the winter season.

SAY WHAAA???!!  That's right, Alaskans.  Those of us that complain about the cold, the dark, the shoveling, the ice, the endless shelves of holiday items popping up in stores in October (for the love of all that's holy), need to scale back our sniveling and start embracing the cozy days of winter.  Time to light a fire in the fireplace, sip hot cocoa, don festive Norwegian sweaters, and not merely endure winter...but EMBRACE it!

The actual fire we built at Marika's house.  Super koselig!!
I only learned about this word recently, and just saw a friend post this article on Facebook that aptly summarizes the Norwegian culture surrounding the winter season.  So in that spirit, I lit a fire in the fireplace, pulled on my cozy wool socks, and set down to cooking this lovely koselig-esque winter dish.  A medley of winter vegetables - roasted carrots, parsnips, butternut squash, and onions - with a touch of balsamic vinegar, toasted pecans, and creamy goat cheese.  It may not be traditional Norwegian fare, but it's downright delicious!  I made this alongside roast chicken for a weeknight meal, but it's also perfect for an unexpected side dish at your holiday table.  

Happy koselig season, Alaska! xoxo h

(p.s. Here's the link to the story on KTUU Channel 2!)

Roasted Winter Vegetables with Pecans and Goat Cheese

1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cubed into 3/4 inch pieces

2 medium parsnips, peeled and chopped into roughly 3/4 inch pieces
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped into roughly 3/4 inch pieces
1/2 of a medium onion, chopped in 3/4 inch pieces
2-3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
1-2 tablespoons of good balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup pecans
2 oz. goat cheese

(1) Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

(2) Place pecans on a baking sheet and bake for 4-5 minutes. Take out, let cool, and roughly chop.  Set aside.

(3) In a large bowl, toss the vegetables with 2- 3 tablespoons of olive oil, kosher salt, and several grinds of black pepper. 

(4) Scatter the vegetables on two baking sheets and bake for 30-40 minutes, tossing the vegetables with a spatula at least once, and rotating the baking sheets once.

(5) Remove the veggies from the oven and place back in the large bowl.  Toss with 1-2 tablespoons of the balsamic vinegar (to taste).  Place on a serving platter, crumble top with goat cheese, and top with toasted pecans.


Friday, October 9, 2015

gooey butter cake

There is a time for kale, and a time for quinoa.  A time for lentils with herbed goat cheese, and a time for avocado on toasted sprouted wheat bread.  A time to fill your body with fruits and vegetables, and fuel it with the nutritional goodness that only whole foods can provide.

Folks, this is not that time.

The timing of this post is apropos, since I am in the process of wrapping up several months of heavy travel, and heavy eating.  As I time this, I'm on a plane eating kale chips (and making a total mess of it, come to that- I'm pretty sure my seat mate thinks he's sat next to an overgrown 2 year old whose food ends up everywhere but IN HER MOUTH).  Breakfast was a protein bar, lunch was a veggie chili.  All this healthy-shmealthy food, but my mind is still reminiscing about the fresh pasta, gnocchi, rustic bread with homemade butter, and panna cotta from the night before.  Ah, memories.  **SNIFF**

I'm finally get a decent stretch of time at home, and I plan to embark on some healthy, clean eating to undo the sins from the last couple months.  But NOT before I post a recipe that flies in the face of clean eating: ooey gooey butter cake!

This recipe comes from a former beau who hailed from the south.  The recipe is the purest example of the single girl's golden rule: never break up with a guy before you get his recipes.  Roger that.

The cakes origins lie in St. Louis, Missouri.  There are fancier recipes for it that you could try, but the one below is so easy and so incredibly delicious, why go to the trouble?  You're busy enough!  This recipe is cut from the same cloth as my favorite Cheesy Corn Casserole.  Staple pantry ingredients + box mix = a creation that will make the entire after church crowd swoon.

The cake is made in two layers.  And the result is a buttery, decadent treat that I can almost guarantee you will make over and over again.  I've never had a dessert quite like it, and I can't wait for you to discover it, too!

Gooey Butter Cake

For the first layer:
2 eggs
1 box yellow cake mix
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 stick of melted butter

For the second layer:
3 3/4 cups (or 1 small box) powdered sugar (plus a little extra for sprinkling)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 8 oz. package of cream cheese at room temperature

(1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  

(2) Mix 2 eggs, cake mix, vanilla, and the stick of melted butter.  The mixture will be thick.  Spread in an ungreased 9x13 inch pan.

(3) Next, mix the powdered sugar, 2 eggs, vanilla, and cream cheese.  Spread on top of the first mixture.

(4) Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until golden brown on top.  Don't overbake!

(5) When cool to the touch, sprinkle with powdered sugar.

xo h

Friday, September 25, 2015

spicy pickled carrots

The last couple of years, I've become rather enamored (obsessed? transfixed?) by all things pickled.  Pickling is the simple process of preserving food in a brine containing vinegar.  Once I discovered how easy it was to pickle things myself, I began pickling everything in sight.  I've pickled cauliflower, cukes, kohlrabi, chilies, devil's club buds (particularly proud of that foraged product- Bloody Mary, anyone?). But of all my pickled wonders, these spicy pickled carrots are my very favorite.

Why?  Because they are easy, colorful, and the perfect balance of tangy, sweet, and spicy.  My friend Lea introduced me to her recipe, and now I've made several batches of my own.  I eat them straight from the jar, or bring them on picnics and camping trips.  But my most common form of consumption?  I put a few in my styrofoam take-out Taco King container.  Because when I eat carrots along side my beloved lengua tacos, rice and beans, my Mexican comfort food is INSTANTLY transformed into health food!

BAM!  You're welcome.

Have no fear, folks.  These carrots are easy.  They were my first foray into pickling, and once I felt comfortable with the technique I began pickling things in jars with ease.  I'd stick to the brine recipe if I were you, but you can mix up what you put in the jars.  I've put mustard seeds, dill seed heads, peppercorns, fresh thyme sprigs, and bay leaves in mine.  In fact, my next batch might include a few of those.  But for your first time, stick to this recipe and you can't go wrong.

I dug up these pretty little carrots at Pyrah's Farm out in Palmer.  Right now is the PERFECT time to pick up a bag of Alaskan carrots at the farmers' market and knock your self out pickling up a frenzy.  I'm not an expert on preserving so if you'd feel more comfortable with a canning tutorial before you start, check out this link which has some basic information about canning and preserving.  I also love the blog Food in Jars, which has great information as well.  

Time to get pickling!!

Spicy Pickled Carrots
(Adapted from A Safe Kitchen)

4 cups distilled white vinegar
3/4 cup white sugar
3 tablespoons salt (pickling salt if you have it)
4-6 garlic cloves, halved
1-2 teaspoons red chili flakes (depending on how spicy you like it)
2 pounds carrots, trimmed, peeled and cut in half or quarters (if they're big), and cut in lengths about 1/2 to 1 inch shorter than the jars

(1) Take apart three new glass pint jars.  Set the screw tops and lids aside. 

(2) Fill a canning pot with water, or use a large pot with a metal sieve on the bottom (that's what I use).  Place 3 pint jars in the pot and bring to a boil- this will sanitize the jars.

(3) Wash the sealing lids with soap and water, then place in a small pot.  Fill the pot with some of the boiling water- this will soften edges of the lids for a better seal.

(4) Make the brine: In a medium sauce pan, bring the white vinegar to a boil.  Add the sugar and salt (I use pickling salt because table salt results in a cloudy brine) and dissolve completely.  Turn down to medium so it doesn't reduce too quickly while you ready the jars.

(5) Pull the jars out of the boiling water (I used to use tongs, but then I invested in a cheap pair of jar lifters which were totally worth the $10) and place hot jars on a towel on the counter.  Divide the garlic cloves and the chili flakes (as many or as few as you like) amongst the jars. Place the carrots in the jars, being careful not to pack them in too tightly.  Pour the brine over the jars, leaving about 1/2 inch of headroom.

(6) Place lids and screw tops on jars (using rubber kitchen gloves if you have them- these jars are going to be hot!!) and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes. Turn off heat and let sit for 5 minutes.  Let cool on the counter overnight, and check seals in the morning. 

They taste better after a week or more, so be patient!  


xo h

Sunday, September 13, 2015

chicken with morels, rhubarb galette, pickled hatch chilies, and a long overdue post!

Fall has arrived in Alaska.  I love this time of year.  The mornings are crisp and cold, the leaves are beginning to turn, and my flowers are just about ready to call it a season.  

It was a doozy of a summer.  The weather in Alaska was nothing short of spectacular.  Seems like wherever I’ve been (which feels like EVERYWHERE this summer) the sun was shining and the berries and mushrooms have been plentiful. Life has been very good, if not very, very busy.

Lobster roll nirvana
My summer has largely been spent getting from Point A to Point B.  From Barrow to Sitka, from Bethel to Delta Junction, and a few stops in between.  I even snuck down to the lower-48 for a spell (where I located a delectable lobster roll in Minneapolis.  MINNEAPOLIS- of all places.  Who knew?!)  In fact, I'm writing this post as I'm flying the friendly skies back home.

Like so many other folks, my summer got away from me and my life refuses to slow down.  As I was picking the last of the plump raspberries off the plentiful bushes that line my backyard, I suddenly realized that as my life seems to have evolved this year, so must my little blog.  Finding time to cook is not a problem.  Cooking is my therapy after a long day on the job.  For me, it’s like breathing and sleeping.  And without it, I’m just not me.  

But finding the time to write recipes, take photos (which for this amateur blogger is not an insignificant amount of time), and publish new posts has proven a bit more difficult.  So I’m just going to improvise!

Oh, I’ll still post recipes and pictures- don’t you worry.  Some of the recipes will be my own, but many may just highlight recipes that I’ve tried and loved and want to share with others. My pictures may not be as carefully staged and styled to perfection, but they'll still be my own.

This summer in Alaska has truly been a delicious one, and I wanted to share some of its culinary highlights.  It began on a foraging expedition with friends Renee and Michael for wild morels. I posted last year about my foray into mushroom foraging.  After last year’s beginners run, I was totally excited to tackle fungi foraging this summer.  And I’ve done so with gusto!  

Wild morels- one of my favorite adventures all year!

Creamy chicken with morels, photo by Renee
Morels are a tricky mushroom.  Prized by chefs for their earthy, meaty flavor, they’re also fairly elusive to foragers unless you know where to look.  A brief internet search will tell you that they thrive in sparse forests recently struck by wildfire.  They only grow in springtime, so get out there early next year.  They.  Are.  Worth.  It. 

My friend Renee is a fabulous home cook, who's  culinary skill and technique exceed my own.  The woman is stealth in the kitchen.  We turned this incredible bounty of morels into a truly astounding dish: Creamy Chicken with Morels, (recipe courtesy of our guru Ina Garten).  My mouth still waters thinking about that meal.  I cannot wait to hunt for morels again next spring!

While I was home with my family in Fairbanks for Fourth of July, my sister Holly and I threw together this Rhubarb Galette, courtesy of our pal Martha.  It has a cornmeal crust that is TO DIE FOR and comes together very quickly.  My only modification is that I swapped out half the ice cold water for ice cold vodka, because I’ve learned that it makes a flakier crust.  Just trust me on that (or don’t, and Google it for yourself!)

Rhubarb galette with a cornmeal crust.

Juneau was chock full of salmonberries this year (Juneau friends— is it like this every year?!)  I’ve said before, but it bears repeating, that I have a nearly insatiable enthusiasm for foraging wild edibles.  It's difficult to locate my "off" switch when you turn me loose on a berry patch.  I located these jewels in a friends backyard.  While I was excited at the idea of converting them into jam, the delicious treats didn’t make it through the night as we gobbled them up like candy.  Not quite too pretty to eat!


One of the very best parts of my summer was spending time in Bethel with my friend Valerie and her beautiful family.  Valerie and her Yu’pik ancestors have been harvesting the land in Western Alaska for thousands of years.  Val taught me the traditional way of processing and smoking wild salmon, just as her mother Tilly taught her, and Tilly’s mother before her.  Just look at the beautiful salmon in her smokehouse!

My happy place: smokehouse on the Kuskokwim River

With the swift work of her ulu, Valerie quickly processed the salmon we caught by setnet.  My job was to tie up the strips of salmon to hang in the smokehouse.  I’m proud to say that I excelled at this task.  I tied up salmon LIKE IT WAS MY JOB.  And it was…for two whole hours.  I ate so much smoked salmon that weekend that I nearly made myself sick.  Zero regrets.

Working through our bounty in Bethel.

A trip to Sitka last month resulted in a BOATLOAD of winter and golden chanterelles.  I was excited to learn how to identify them easily so that I know what to look for on future expeditions.  My friend Heather’s adorable mother Benny was totally thrilled to share her love for mushroom foraging with others, and was the ultimate host.  She turned our bounty into both mushroom quiche and cream of chanterelle soup.  HOLY DELICIOUSNESS, BATMAN.  Sadly, I don't have pictures of the food because I was too busy stuffing my face (along with her homemade biscuits- we ate like champs).

Wild golden and yellowfoot chanterelles foraged in Sitka
Milo's version of "blueberry picking"

Of course, no summer in Alaska is complete for any forager without taking a hike up a mountain for wild blueberries!  

Just like last summer, my friend Erica joined Milo and I for a bit of hiking and a lot of picking.  Last year I posted this tasty recipe for blueberry cornmeal cake, which I love.  I think this year I might make blueberry jam with my bounty.  If so, I’ll post it!

Last year I posted a picture of some pickled Hatch chilies that I made and enjoyed all winter.   Another shipment just landed in the grocery stores here in Alaska and several of your have texted me for the recipe.  I just put up another batch last week, and here's the recipe I used.  I eat them with my Taco King takeout so I feel like I'm getting a few veggies as I scarf down my carne asada special tacos.

Pickled Hatch Chilies

This is just a scattering of my summer food adventures.  I plan to make jams for winter soon, and pickle a few more veggies to eat all year round.  I'm even going to take another stab at perfecting rhubarb ketchup- and if I succeed, I'll post it!

Alrighty, Alaska...bring on winter! 

xo h

Saturday, May 30, 2015

midnight sun granola

Can you believe it?  It's finally here!  The birds are busily chirping, the sun is shining, and the grass is a lovely shade of verdant green (unless of course it's in my yard, where its still covered in brown patches and dandelions, but I digress).  

IT'S SUMMER!!!  Or practically summer, since technically summer isn't here until June 21st.  No matter!  In Alaska, the non-winter months are so few and far between that we play a little fast and loose with the seasonal calendar.  When it's roughly 54 degrees outside on a bluebird sunny day and the children are complaining of "the heat" on the ball field, it's time to bust out the barbecue and break out the water slide because SUMMER IS HERE!

I spent the better part of the winter in Alaska down in Juneau, where it rained more than snowed, and spent most of my time getting the hang of my new job and new surroundings (and eating several batches of these without enough help).  I spent far less time exercising and taking good care of myself. Let's just say that in the battle between exercise versus beers and pizza at the Island Pub across the bridge in Douglas, you can guess which was usually the victor (and if you happen to be visiting Douglas, try "The Don" pizza-- AMAZING!) 

To make up for the pizza sins of the last few months, I am committed to walking, hiking, yogaing (is that a word?  it is now) and biking my way back into good shape.

But you still need fuel, right?  And it's always better if the fuel is delicious, crunchy, sweet granola, don't you think?  Yup, I thought so too!

This recipe is another gem from my friend Shirley Jewett of Fairbanks.  Momma Shirley has given me some of my most beloved recipes, and this one is no exception.  I've tweaked it a bit over the years.  Sometimes I add dried fruit, such as apricots, cherries, or cranberries.  Or I substitute walnuts or pecans for the almonds.  But every time I taste it, I think of spending time in the kitchen with Shirley and her daughter Stephanie, my dear friends for more than 25 years.  So much laughter and good food has come out of that little kitchen on Farmers Loop Road!  I call it Midnight Sun Granola because it reminds me of home in the Golden Heart of Alaska...Squarebanks.  OOPS, I mean Fairbanks.

(Oh, as if every Fairbanksan doesn't call it that?!)

Granola is my fuel of choice on hikes and bike rides (and boat rides, and trips to the grocery store, and while watching's really an all-purpose fuel).  So here it is:  hands down, the BEST granola I have ever tasted.  

And NOW I am ready to go hiking.  

But maybe I will start tomorrow.

Midnight Sun Granola

2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
1 cup raw almonds
6 cups oats
1 cup wheat germ
2 cups Fiber One cereal (or other fiber-y twiggy cereal)
3/4 cups vegetable oil
1 cup honey
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees. 

Spread coconut on a large sheet pan and toast in the oven for 5 minutes (being very careful not to burn it).  Place in a bowl and set aside.

Toast almonds on the same sheet pan for 7-8 minutes.  Place in a bowl and set aside.

In a large bowl, mix oats, wheat germ, and Fiber One cereal, and set aside.  

In a medium sauce pan, mix oil, honey, salt, and brown sugar and bring to a bubbly simmer.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.  Pour over oat mixture, and mix well.  Spread the entire mixture on a large sheet pan coated with cooking spray.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes.  Remove from oven, and stir in coconut and almonds.  Cool at room temperature, then break up and store in an air tight container.

Trust me, this granola is worth all the work!!

xo h

Monday, April 13, 2015

dispatch from juneau: chocolatey no-bake cookies

Over the past few weeks, my days here in Juneau are spent in committee meetings, dealing with budget numbers, and figuring out just where to find the public lounge in the Capital Building (IT’S ON THE SECOND FLOOR, FOR THE LOVE OF ALL HOLY.  Why is this so difficult to remember when I’m in the building?!)  As a result, my appetite can be summed up in two words:  comfort food.

Hellllooooo????  What happened to "New Year’s Resolution" Heidi????  The one that was going to try eating vegetarian most days of the week, cut back on cheese, and hold the dessert?  The one that was going to try to fit back into her cute designer jeans that cost far more than they are actually worth?

I can’t find her.  She’s nowhere to be found (and frankly, neither are the jeans!)  She’s been replaced by "If It Makes Me Feel Good I’m Going To Eat It" Heidi.  I’ve met this Heidi before.  She made an appearance while studying for the bar, and again when she was buying a house.  I spotted her briefly the week leading up to an important oral argument in court.  But she’s overstaying her welcome right now.

In any event, the good news is that "Comfort Food" Heidi is cooking a lot these days.  She’s too hungry to take photos and post them, but she’s an awful lot happier when she’s in the kitchen!

Ok, enough of the third person voice.

I’ve spent a lot of the time in my tiny little Juneau kitchen lately, and it feels glorious!  Navy bean and ham soup, gnocchi with pesto, homemade ramen, and a delicious scratch bolognese recipe passed down to me from a friend whose family used to own an Italian restaurant in New York City frequented by Frank Sinatra.  (That one I hope to make again and post soon!)

Along with savory comforts, I’ve also been craving these chocolatey no-bake cookies.  My perfect little comfort food in dessert form. These treats are easily one of my favorite bites.  I think I’ve made them 3 or 4 times since I’ve been down in Juneau, and I figured it was time I shared them with others.  Many of you have certainly made these many times over the years, and they’re a classic for a reason.  For starters, they don’t involve the oven.  And for those of us who are slightly baking impaired (guilty), that’s a beautiful thing.  

My Dad was visiting in Juneau recently and, to my surprise, informed me that he’d never had a no-bake cookie.  He was extremely skeptical about them!  I could tell he figured this was simply one of Heidi’s goofy ideas.  Cookies should be baked, he thought.

After they had cooled sufficiently and were ready to eat, I handed him one to try.  He took one bite and his eyes lit up!  After he finished the cookie, Dad proclaimed, “For my very last meal, I want these cookies for dessert!”

In that spirit, I’ll likely make these cookies after the completion of the legislative budget process.  :)

Classic Chocolatey No-Bake Cookies

(Adapted from Add A Pinch)

1 3/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup milk
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into big pieces
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups quick cooking oats

In a medium sauce pan, heat sugar, milk, butter, and cocoa powder over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and cook for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and add vanilla, peanut butter and salt, and mix well. Add oats and mix until fully incorporated. Drop by rounded tablespoons onto a sheet pan covered in parchment or aluminum foil. Allow cookies to cool for 30 minutes.  Makes 2-3 dozen delicious little chocolatey bites!


xo H

Thursday, February 19, 2015

dispatch from juneau: smoked alaska black cod dip

Ah, February.  That time of year where Alaska starts gaining daylight, the days get warmer and brighter, love is in the air, and the house is full of the comforting smells wafting from my little, tiny kitchen.  Simmering stews, roast chicken, corn casserole, homemade marinara…

Memories…so tender and sweet.  

Flash forward to present day reality check.  Relocate from Anchorage to Juneau.  Work looooong hours (holidays? weekends? what do these words mean?)  Attend 5,932,487 receptions.

Dinner these days either consists of (1) reception food, (2) hosted dinner food, or (3) half of a Newman’s Own pepperoni pizza, salad from a bag, and my beloved Trader Joe’s cookie butter. Oh, the difference a year makes.  A legislative session is not for the faint of heart, or the active cook.  Although twice I have managed to scramble eggs for myself!

I know, I know.  Chena Girl FAIL.

Since there are only so many bacon-wrapped scallops and crudite a woman can consume, I’m endeavoring to “up my game” in the kitchen down here in Juneau (which happens to be yet another tiny little kitchen so I feel right at home!)  Not only do I enjoy cooking, it’s cheaper than eating out, healthier, and a relaxing activity after a stressful day.  Chopping vegetables and searing meat are zen experiences for me.

One thing Juneau does well is seafood.  In my opinion, Alaska’s ocean bounty is second to none.  As I was browsing the offerings at a fantastic local shop, Jerry’s Meats and Seafoods, I came across a package of smoked Alaska black cod.  While wild Alaska salmon hogs most of the spotlight (and justifiably so), black cod is the unsung hero of Alaskan seafood.  Rich, meaty, and incredibly tasty, it might actually be my favorite Alaskan fish.  

One of my new pals here in Juneau made a delicious smoked black cod dip with cream cheese, chives, and brie.  Crazy, right?  Well, it was crazy delicious.  Except when I was home this weekend, I didn’t have any brie and I was hell-bent on using my smoked cod.  So I did what I do best:  I improvised!

There's nothing very fancy about this dip.  It's tasty and a bit unexpected (given that smoked salmon dip is the appetizer of choice at most Alaska parties).  The horseradish and hot sauce give it a little kick, while the lemon brightens the flavor of the fish.  And I love using fresh herbs whenever I can, especially when they are so plentiful in the grocery store no matter the season.  I happened to have all of these ingredients on hand, and you might as well.  If you don't, be courageous and feel free to improvise!  A tablespoon or two of grated onion would make a great addition if you don't have chives, and chopped fresh parsley would work well, too.

Smoked Alaska Black Cod Dip

1 lb. smoked Alaska black cod (also known as sablefish), skin & pin bones removed, and flaked
1/2 cup whipped cream cheese
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 t. creamy horseradish
2 T. lemon juice
2-4 drops hot sauce
2 T. chopped fresh chives
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Mix all ingredients except for the salt.  Depending on the saltiness of your smoked cod, you may not need much additional salt.  Chop extra chives to serve on top as a pretty garnish.  How easy is that?  While it's delicious served right away, it's even better to make it a day ahead of time to let the flavors meld together.  Serve on any plain cracker or saltines.  No fuss and delicious!


xo h

Friday, January 9, 2015

roasted cauliflower & broccoli with lemony parmesan breadcrumbs

Happy New Year!  Well folks, big things happening in ol' Chena Girl's world.  Surreal, life-altering, incredible things.  Like, "pinch-me-did-that-just-happen?!" stuff.  Still wrapping my head around it.

I better just tell you.  It's too exciting.  


It's like Where's Waldo.  You have to find me in the picture.
I mean, seriously, right?!  Sure, it was at a random casino in a forgettable town in Oregon (for reals, I could not tell you the name of the town).  And yeah, perhaps their musical peak happened more than 30 years ago.  Don't care.  I love them.  Wendy, Carnie, and Chynna still got it.  Hold on for one more day?  I sure will!  And my sister Holly confirmed that it's the best birthday present she could have ever received.

I feel like a new woman.  Life couldn't get any better!

Except it did.  I got a new job.  A pretty cool one. :)

You see, I loved my old job.  Adored it.  I had no intention of ever leaving.  But I'm learning  that life just sort of has a way of charting it's own course while you're busy making other plans.

It was a big month, indeed.  So big, in fact, that I needed the entire month of December just to take a collective breath!  Thanks for your patience as I waited for my head to stop spinning. 

Based on all of the questions and comments I've received about my new gig, two concerns have clearly emerged as the most pressing.

First: what are you going to do with Milo?

Answer: I needed a housesitter when I'm in Juneau.  Problem solved!


Answer: Well, this question kind of touched me.  You see, when I set out to start this blog nearly four years ago, I didn't really have any idea what kind of reception it would get.  I mean, I knew I was guaranteed four fans (mom, dad, sister, and brother, but he's sort of half-hearted about it if you ask me).  Beyond that, I didn't even know if anyone would read it, much less make any of the recipes I shared.   But you do, and the feedback I get from my readers and friends fills my heart. 

So Chena Girl ain't going anywhere!

At this point, many of you are thinking to yourselves...dude, lady, is this a food blog or a "wax poetic" blog?

Hey, man!  It's my blog!  Go get your own. 

Ok, ok.  Back to the food.  I've lost track of how many friends are resolving to drop a few pounds this year.  A little less candy, a few more carrots.  In that spirit, this dish of roasted cauliflower and broccoli, topped with crunchy, lemony, cheesy panko breadcrumbs is about as close as you get to wanting seconds when it comes to veggies.  I actually tested this theory when I brought the dish over to my friends Bill and Becky's house for dinner last Sunday.  We all agreed that next time, I should double the recipe.  The real prize is the crispy, golden panko crumbs.  I add a little lemon zest to the crumbs because I love the bright citrus note, but you could totally leave that out if you don't have a lemon on hand.  But the Parmesan cheese is essential. 

The only thing I will do differently next time is make more.

Serve this alongside grilled salmon, like we did, or a seared sirloin steak or roasted chicken.  Because healthy food shouldn't be boring.  It should be delicious!  


Roasted Cauliflower & Broccoli with Lemony Parmesan Breadcrumbs

(Adapted from Barefoot Contessa)

1/2 head of cauliflower and 1/2 head of broccoli, cored and cut into small florets (big florets should be sliced in half; as an alternative, use one full head of either cauliflower or broccoli, but I used what I had on hand)
olive oil
1/2 cup panko (Japaneese bread crumbs)
Zest of one lemon (about 2 teaspoons or so- optional)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Place the cauliflower and broccoli on a large shallow baking sheet.  Toss with 3 tablespoons of olive oil, 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, and several grinds of black pepper.  Roast for 15 minutes.  Remove and toss with a spatula.

Toss the panko with the lemon zest and one tablespoon of olive oil.  Sprinkle on the cauliflower and broccoli and roast for another 10-12 minutes, until golden brown.  Remove from the oven, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, and roast for another 1-2 minutes.  Toss and serve.  It's sooooo good!

xo h