Do the Puyallup! Fall at the Washington State Fair…

Growing up in Alaska, I missed the memo about the Puyallup Fair (renamed this year to the Washington State Fair). This was the fair my mom’s family has gone to for years. My grandma even remembers when the famous raspberry jam-filled scones were only a nickle a piece.  My older cousin, who grew up in Tacoma, went every year without fail until he moved to Texas to get married.

I, on the other hand, was completely unaware of the fair tradition until I moved to Portland after college. My first experience was a bit ambivalent — I knew I would enjoy it but I had no idea what awaited me. One bite of a slightly greasy fair burger smothered in grilled onions and I was hooked. Now I can’t imagine a September without a trip to Puyallup and a bag full of hot scones for the car ride home.

Pickled Blueberries — a tart treat for summer salads

Pickled Blueberries w/ Summer Greens

Pickled Blueberries w/ Summer Greens

My husband and I took a trip to Tacoma recently to visit my family. We didn’t have much in mind in terms of plans, so when it turned out my aunt wasn’t feeling well, we happily took over dinner duty. My husband, who can never do anything halfway, took our meal to a whole new level of delicious.

We started with the several pounds of beef ribs that my aunt had planned on making and added to them: a huge pan of mac and cheese, green beans with crispy bacon, roasted new potatoes and (to add some semblance of health) a green salad.

To make the salad as interesting as its accompaniments, we jazzed it up with plenty of fresh herbs (parsley, chives, tarragon) and a lemon cucumber from my grandma’s garden. Deciding it still lacked some zing, we raided the last of the blueberries from one of her bushes and quick pickled them.

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The “recipe” is simple — combine water, red wine vinegar and sugar using the basic ratio of 3:2:1, heating until the sugar has dissolved. Cool slightly and pour over berries. Add a few springs of thyme, a bay leaf and a clove. Let sit for an hour or longer.

Once you drain the liquid, you can use it to make a vinaigrette for the salad. We started with a portion of the liquid and added minced garlic, a pinch of finely chopped fresh thyme and EVO. I only wish we had had some pecorino or Parmesan cheese but I can say it was still a mighty tasty salad.

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I’d call this a successful last-minute meal! (*Not pictured was dessert: my favorite summer standby, mixed berry spoonbread, with fresh whipped cream. Yum!)

So good!

So good!

Mr. Wonderful has arrived…and he’s a keeper!

White Cake with Strawberry Freezer Jam

Mr. Wonderful White Cake with Strawberry Freezer Jam

I made this cake a month ago, but summer is flying by so quickly, it feels like it was just last weekend! Yesterday I was actually surprised to see all the “back to school” stuff at the stores and then it hit me that it’s nearly mid-August. Summer, where did you go?

Luckily in times of crisis (and yes, summer ending is a crisis!), I find it’s best just to enjoy the moment and eat some cake…especially if it’s this cake. I made this berry-licious treat for my family reunion and let me tell you, it was gone so fast I barely got a piece. I think that’s the ultimate compliment, right?

Not only is this cake perfect for a summer get-together, but it’s also crazy easy to make. Seriously. I took the train to Tacoma, not arriving until 9pm and the reunion started the next day at noon. I had an idea of what I wanted to make, something sweet involving the jar of homemade strawberry freezer jam that I had brought along, but I didn’t really have a game plan.

On the trip up, I kept telling myself, just make it easy. Go to the store and buy a cake mix. No one will ever know and, as long as it has sugar in it, no one will care. But I remembered that I had seen a simple white cake recipe (hilariously named Mr. Wonderful White Cake) on one of my favorite blogs, food for fun, so I figured I’d give it a try.

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Why I love being married to a chef, Part II

This was my dinner a few nights ago, served al fresco on our new patio!

Little gem salad w/ feta dressing, grilled corn and Calabrian chiles

Little gem salad w/ feta dressing, grilled corn and Calabrian chiles

Grilled & Smoked Poussin with "crazy water" and purslane

Grilled & smoked poussin with “crazy water” and purslane

Backyard Sunset

Backyard Sunset

Home Improvement: Before and After Project Patio

When my husband and I bought our house almost 5 years ago, we knew there were projects that needed to be done. One of the biggest problems was the backyard. The “lawn” was just weeds, the fence was half chain-link, half wood (and falling apart) and there was no level place for our patio furniture and grill.

Building a new fence took us two summers and we finally paid someone to level the yard and lay sod two years ago. I dreamed about a patio but we kept procrastinating until the area that we had cleared was once again covered in weeds.

Then two months ago my husband said that he wanted to build us a patio using pavers. I was emphatically opposed, wanting to hire a professional instead, but he refused to listen.

Good thing too because just last week project patio was complete and I have to admit, he did a damn good job!

Before Pics of Backyard

Our backyard four years ago — so depressing!

Backyard Now: Project Patio is complete

Love it!

Backyard Now: Project Patio is complete

Once we wheel the kegerator out here, it’s going to be paradise!

A sad farewell to the Last Frontier

Leaving Alaska

Leaving Alaska

Last night I said goodbye to my family and headed back home to Portland. It’s hard to believe that my mini-vacation is over. I had so much fun the days flew by!

I also realized that I have a much greater appreciate for my home state after having been away for so long. The sheer beauty of the landscape had me pulling out my camera every five minutes — I’m sure I took more pictures than your average tourist!

Here’s a few more scenes from my trip:

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