Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Lentil Burgers

Last night was a good night for burgers. Of course, my husband would ask when isn't it a good night for burgers? I like Gardenburgers quite a bit, but haven't seen the original version available for a while. They carried giant boxes of them at my local Costco six months or so ago, but none since. So I've been making my own veggie burgers at home. Most often I use beans such as chickpeas, but last night I used lentils. And it was good!

I find many restaurant veggie patties to be mushy, so be sure to make these on the thinner side so that everything cooks and you get a higher ratio of crispy outside to softer inside.

Lentil Burgers

Makes 6 patties
By Mark Bittman

2 cups cooked lentils
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 small onion, roughly chopped
1 egg
1 Tablespoon chili powder
Salt and pepper

Put all ingredients in a food processor (feel free to add other seasonings such as garlic or fresh herbs, and even toss in some shredded cheese if you like). Pulse until its all mixed together, but not pureed. You want to keep some lumps in there for texture. Let rest 10 minutes or so, then shape patties with wet hands to keep the lentil mixture from sticking to you too much. At this point you can cook them however you like. If you want to use a pan I would suggest freezing them for a bit to help the patties retain their shape and not fall apart while cooking, and cook/fry until nicely browned. This time, however, I cooked mine on the BBQ.

I sprayed a sheet of foil with cooking spray, and then put the whole thing over a relatively high flame. After about ten minutes I flipped them over and cooked for another eight minutes. I used foil because these burgers would not fare well on the grate. I did get some lovely char lines, even through the foil, and a nice smoky taste (maybe because I need to clean my BBQ and the accumulation of burned food bits on the bottom smoke when I use it).

Then serve as you would any other burger and with the toppings of your choice. We opted to forgo the usual bun/lettuce/tomato/etc. this time and had the lentil burgers simply on a plate with a thick slice or two of sharp white cheddar, and a side of broccoli that was out of this world (I'll share in a day or two, promise!).

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Up On the Big Hill

I took another trek with Mac and Ayla up on the big hill by our place the other day. The wind was blowing like crazy up there, and the grasses and flowers are thigh-high up there now, and at times even taller than me (and I'm not exactly short at 5' 6" or so). I took the picture above while standing. I can only imagine what Mac's point of view was the entire time, even walking along the little path must have felt like going through a jungle. Ayla isn't one to stick to paths, so she bunny-hopped through the grasses all over the place.

I love watching Ayla run, and her and Mac chasing each other...

Friday, March 26, 2010

365 Photo and Five Senses Friday

Enjoying wine in my souvenir glass from Barrel Tasting

My grape vine is taking off, just look at that tendril

And the under side of one of the leaves in the setting sun

The petunias are going crazy too

These flowers remind me of stars, there's so many of them

Snoozing in front of the TV, such a couch potato

* * * * *
Hearing: the wind blowing like crazy on the hill yesterday, pictures to come...
Tasting: home made macaroni and cheese, and a whiskey sour
Smelling: the comforting clean earth fragrance of Ayla's fur
Seeing: a big glass jar full of biscuits for my pups
Feeling: happy to have had today off from work

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Pleasanton Ridge

Last Sunday Ayla and I hiked at Pleasanton Ridge Regional Park. Its a multi-use area popular with hikers, mountain bikers, and horse riders. And since many of the open spaces are used for cattle grazing out here, there are also cows. Cows are cute, with their big glossy eyes and fuzzy coats. Cows are also large, and I'm very happy I have a dog that leaves them well enough alone. I took both Ayla and Mac here once before, but Mac is not exactly a long-distance dude. I think Ayla and I went at least 3 or 4 times farther than we did with Mac.

I didn't bring a map with me, so we just wandered where ever the trails took us. There were quite a few people out, but they seemed to mostly take the same Oak Ridge Trail, so we tried some less crowded routes and were actually all alone for quite a bit of the time. It was very nice. In all we went about 4.5 miles, and Ayla was worn out by the end. She was wearing her fur coat, after all.

I really want to explore more hiking areas, especially now that the rain is over and the paths aren't mud, but before the weather gets too hot to enjoy it without worrying about heatstroke for Ayla. There's an area nearby called "Little Yosemite," so perhaps I'll get over there this weekend.

Oak-shaded switchback reinforcements

At the top of the first big hill

I wish you could see these little purple flowers better... there was a sea of them

Onward and upward

Little leaves and spindly branches

Mess of lumber covering a gully/culvert/whose-a-whats-it


Vibrant orange flowers

My view for most of the hike, approaching a wonderful vista point

Ayla's so tired, I think her ears fell off

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Honest Scrap

Michelle, a blog-friend I've made who is a really cool person, has an awesome family, shares my love of cooking and eating, and is currently incubating what will be the cutest little bug ever, recently sent me this Honest Scrap Blog award. Thank you so much, hot mama!

So, there are three rules: Pass it on to 10 other people... Most of these people don't do the blog award thing, but you should check out their blogs anyway.

Abby Try Again - inspirational photography
Bakerella - satisfies my sweet tooth
Color Me Katie - infectious happiness
Diet, Dessert, and Dogs - food and dogs, what more is there?
Gimme Some Oven - really good recipes
It's the Little Things... - wonderful style inspiration
Joy the Baker - more good food
Lindsey's Kitchen - culinary student and blogger
Noble Pig - food and wine
Run Lori Run - someone I'd love to meet in person

Share 10 tidbits about yourself... I'm going to copy Michelle and post a questionnaire that will let you know more about Chris and I. 

1) What are your middle names? I'm Lynn, he's Scott 
2) How long have you been together? We started "going out" in May/June of 1996, 14 years ago, and were married June 2004. We've been together for nearly half my entire life at this point! 
3) How long did you know each other before you started dating? We were in band together in school, and I always thought he was cute (I even wrote his name on the inside of my closet door with the other boys I thought were cute!), but never really talked or anything since he was so shy.
4) Who asked whom out? We really "met" on a school trip to visit colleges, and spent pretty much all of it together (he bought me an Italian ice at Standford, and we held hands under a blue moon on the bus back home!). After that we just started hanging out together. We went to see "Independence Day" at the theater and someone asked if we were going out, at which point we nervously looked at each other with uncertain smiles on our faces, and said "I guess so." 
5) How old are each of you? I'm 30, he's 32. 
6) Did you go to the same school? We sure did - high school sweethearts.  
7) Are you from the same hometown? Mostly - he lived in Crowley, outside of Mammoth, but its all the same place. 
8) Who is the smartest? I've got the book smarts and test scores, but he can figure anything out and has more determination, which has been immensely helpful during our home improvement projects. 
9) Who majored in what? Chris has a BS in Biotechnology. I have a BA in Psychology, with a minor in Music, and a MS in Counseling Psychology/Marriage and Family Therapy. I'm also still paying my student loan bills. 
10) Who is the most sensitive? Me, definitely. Sappy movies and commercials can make me cry. 
11) Where is the furthest you have traveled together as a couple? Maui, HI, where we were married. 
12) Who has the worst temper? My fuse is shorter, but a truly angry Christopher is really something to behold. 
13) How many children do you want? Who knows; it depends on what the future has in store for us. 
14) Who does the cooking? Me. 
15) Who is more social? Me, though Chris can be quite charming when he wants to be. 
16) Who is the neat freak? We both are. Our style is very uncluttered and minimalist. 
17) Who is the most stubborn? Chris, definitely, though he usually has solid reason to be. 
18) Who wakes up earlier? Me - he's a night owl. 
19) Where was your first date? Good question. Is it the bus ride? Walking along Mammoth Creek after school? The movie? It was more of an organic thing for us. 
20) Who has the bigger family? Chris has a bigger extended family. 
21) Do you get flowers often? No, flowers from florists often have a terrible carbon footprint and pesticides. We grow flowers though. 
22) Who is more jealous? Probably me since I'm more insecure. 
23) How long did it take to get serious? Not long at all, especially since he was leaving for college after our first summer and we both knew we still wanted to be together. 
24) How do you spend the holidays? It varies - sometimes just the two if us, sometimes with family. 
25) Who eats more? Chris. He's always hungry, despite how much I feed him. He says my food is just too good. 
26) What do you do for a living? I'm in Procurement and he's a scientist. 
27) Who does the laundry? Me - one load of whites turned pink (probably on purpose) ensured that. 
28) Who's better with the computer? Chris, though I'm not too shabby at it 
29) Who drives when you are together? Me, especially at night since his night vision isn't great. 
30) What is your song? "Still the One" by Shania Twain.

Lastly, let everyone know you're passing the award on to them. I hope you enjoyed learning a bit more about my life!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Saffron Orzo Salad

I was wondering what to make for dinner the other night, when I saw 101 Cookbooks' saffron pasta salad. I think it was serendipity, since I had what I needed on hand to make an approximation. The vinaigrette has a different taste to it than I am used to thanks to the saffron - an earthy, spicy undertone. And I love the color this spice adds to dishes. Here's my version; definitely go check out how Heidi made hers too. On another note, my food photography has been rather craptastic lately...

Saffron Orzo Salad
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks
Serves 3-4

1/4 c. cooking sherry
1/2 tsp. saffron threads
1 garlic clove, smashed
1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 tsp. Dijon mustard (I misread and used 2 Tbsp., and it was good)
1/2 c. olive oil
1 tsp. honey
12 oz. dried orzo
1 lb. brocolli florets, cut into bite-sized pieces
Gorgonzola cheese and chopped chives to serve

Dressing: Combine the sherry and saffron to a small saucepan and bring just to a simmer. Remove from heat immediately and let cool. Sprinkle the garlic clove with the salt and mash it into a paste. In a mixing bowl combine the garlic paste with the cooled sherry/saffton, lemon juice, and mustard. Gradually whisk in the olive oil. Taste, and add the honey if you want it a bit sweeter.

Cook the orzo per directions, adding the broccoli a few minutes before it is done. Drain well. Toss the pasta with the saffron vinaigrette, and let rest for least 30 minutes. Toss again, and serve topped with chives and gorgonzola.

Related recipes:
Cheater's Risotto
Butternut Squash Risotto
Lemony Spinach and Orzo Soup  

Friday, March 19, 2010

365 Photo and Five Senses Friday

I've been down with the flu this past week, so I only have a few photos to share...

Gretel enjoying the sun, and her self-imposed naked belly (she's done that for years), and the turkeys that have been hanging out at our complex for a couple weeks now and frightening/exciting my dogs:

* * * * *

A new favorite blog of mine, Abby Try Again, posts every Friday a short reflection of the past week in Five Senses Friday, and I've decided to join her.

Hearing: my lightly snoring bulldog after Chris took the pups up the hill to play
Tasting: Pyramid Apricot Ale on awarm, sunny Friday evening
Smelling: not much, thanks to the lingering remains of the flu
Seeing: green buds and delicate blossoms everywhere I turn
Feeling: grateful to not be feeling sick any longer

Happy Friday!

Friday, March 12, 2010

365 Photo Friday

Another day, another rainbow

 Creamy, cheesy orzo and broccoli

 My grape vine is coming out of hibernation

Taco salad

Surprise tulip

Rainy cherry blossoms

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Cozy Up

The sun is out, but it's deceptively cool around here. I took the pups out yesterday, and of course snapped a few shots. I love this one of Ayla in action, with her funny bunny-hop run:

Mac loved plowing through the tall grass, cutting paths wherever he went:

And I actually got Ayla to sit still for a nanosecond:

Once we got home I definitely needed something warm and cozy to get my temperature back to its usual couple-degrees-below-normal, and I came up with this stew which I served over creamy polenta.

Simple Mushroom Stew
Serves 4

2 Tbsp. Butter
2 Tbsp. Flour
3/4 lb. Mushrooms, sliced thick
Salt and pepper
3 Cloves garlic, minced
1 c. Frozen peas
2 tsp. Herbes de Provence
2 c. Veggie stock

Put the butter and flour in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir or whisk constantly as it cooks, 10-15 minutes or until its a rich golden color. Increase the heat to medium-high and add the mushrooms; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until they are coated in the roux and start to release their liquid. Lower heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to brown, 5-8 minutes. Stir in the garlic, peas, and herbs and cook for a few minutes. Stir in the stock and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the soup is thickened. (If you have issues with the stew thickening, mix together a tablespoon of cornstarch and a little cold water until smooth, then stir into the stew). Serve on a bed of polenta and top with Parmesan cheese and parsley.   

Monday, March 8, 2010

Chasing After Dreams

Sunday was another lovely day, so I took the dogs out for a walk on the usual hill in the middle of the day to get some exercise for all of us. Mac enjoyed the feel of the warm sun and gentle breeze on his face:


While Ayla romped through the tall grass, ears blowing in the wind:


But wait!

What's that I spy?

And she's off! Rapidly becoming but a spec on the hillside:

She finally returns after a good run, looking... special:


And here's what she was after:

We saw a man being walked by his young yellow lab a number of times. He remarked on how well behaved my two were and was astounded that I was walking two big dogs at once. They are far, far from perfect. In fact, I doubt Ayla will ever walk truly nicely on a leash, though she has her moments. And Mac is a bit slower-moving by his very breed. But I did let the man know I spent time training my dogs, which accounts for their general good manners. He immediately assumed I sent them away to be trained, which I let him know was not true. Training takes consistency, persistence, and patience, but is attainable by any dog owner. I didn't want to be overly nosy or preachy and start giving him advice, but I do wish I had gotten his email address or something to let him know of a few good teachers I've worked with. Especially since he has a family - dog training is a great family activity, and getting everyone on board is even better for the dog's behavior. I'll keep my eyes open for him again on future walks; I'd love to see him and his family have a mutually beneficial relationship with their cute pup.

For now, its time for a good nap!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Wine Road Barrel Tasting

I need this sign I saw at Christie Vineyard

I had the best day yesterday, attending the Wine Road Barrel Tasting in the Russian River Valley. This is an event running two weekends in March in which many of the wineries participate and offer tastings from their barrels, as well as current production, and offer futures on the barrels. It is a great opportunity to explore the wineries in the area, talk to the winemakers, and learn more about their offerings. I went up with Stef, one of my best friends whom I've known since middle school, and her fiancee Philip.

Our first stop and check-in point was Alderbrook Winery for check-in. It was very crowded, but only because it was the beginning of the morning and every had to check in somewhere; we met fewer crowds at most of the other stops we made. We picked up our souvenir wine glasses and were strapped with our identifying wristbands, and then got to tasting. Alderbrook has a lovely and large tasting room, with lots of wine-type items and foods for purchase. They were pouring quite a few of their current bottles, and had a barrel of their zin for sampling.

Our next stop was Twomey Cellars, with a very modern tasting room and native plant gardens. We sampled a few barrels, and a few bottles (one smelled strongly of strawberries!), and snacked on popcorn topped with a variety of gourmet salts.
Kissy face

Accidental color coordination

Next up was Wilson Winery. They were pouring in the tasting room and from barrels in their barrel room. My favorite was their Molly's Zin, named for the winery dog. The Sawyer's Zin from the barrel was good too. Along with their wine Wilson was serving tri-tip and a fantastically garlicky coleslaw. This winery, and Twomey before it, were on the busier side, but things quieted down over the course of the day as participants spread over the entire area.



I think we're both copping a feel here
Then we stopped at Rued Vineyards. It was much quieter here, and their Cabernet Sauvignon was very nice. They also had caramel corn to munch on, and a very pretty little setting. Next we were off to Zichichi Family Vineyard, a very small operation where we tasted some very good Zin. And then we stopped at Dutcher Crossing. They have a beautiful facility, good wines, and also offered risotto topped with a sausage sauce and rosemary grape tomatoes that were fantastic.

More leg


 Mustard in the vineyards

Then we headed back down 101 to Christopher Creek Winery where we had more great Zin and watched people overfeed a dog that was wandering around on the sausage appetizers while I snacked on brownie bites. The staff here, like almost every other winery we stopped at, were very friendly too. A short drive down the road and we got to Limerick Lane Cellars, where they have a pool shaped like a wine bottle, though I didn't see it. 

Our final stop, and my favorite, was Christie Estate Winery, which doesn't seem to have a webpage. They were very laid back and fun, housed in a big old barn. The wines were very good (I left with "Pantry Dropping Zin" and "imPORTant" and I want to go back from the Big 5), the people were great, a kid was giving ATV rides around the property to see the vines and the pigs, and they had a game where you got three basketball shots: sink one and you get a case of their wine; miss and you have to buy a case. I loved the chill atmosphere here!

 This is what happens when you give Philip the camera - hiney shots


Stef and I want to be their next label girls

Then we headed home, stopping off for dinner at California Pizza Kitchen in San Rafael for a big bowls of pasta and yummy spinach dip to soak up some of the wine in our bellies. It was such a fun day, I got to try so many different wines and definitely have a few new favorites, meet some really nice people at the wineries, and spend time with two of my favorite people in the world. Thanks!