Monthly Archives: February 2013

Greek Chickpea Salad

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Greek Chickpea Salad

Winter in Southern Oregon can be a great time of year for many people.  There are so many things to do and see.  There are myriad of fun activities such as skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling.  But, by the time February rolls around, I’ve grown tired of winter… Those feelings only get further amplified by unexpected snow falls, a foggy day or rain.  I’ve grown bored of wearing tall boots, long coats and hats.  I want my sandals, bright warm sunshine and blue skies back.  I recognize that spring is “just around the corner” but, there are times I just need a little bit of proof…

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Finding proof that warm spring weather is on its way was much easier than I thought.  As I was clipping fresh sprigs of rosemary from my garden for my Greek Chickpea Salad, I noticed a single blue flower on the tip of one of the rosemary stems.  As, I walked through the yard, other small signs of spring started to appear.  My tarragon and chives were starting to poke through the soil.  There were tiny buds on the branches of the cherry and crab apple trees.  All simple reminders that spring is nearly here!

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Fresh rosemary.  Rosemary is a wonderfully fragrant herb used in many Mediterranean dishes. I use rosemary frequently because I love the flavor and because it is so readily available to me.  I use it in many savory dishes that contain lamb, chicken or pork.  I use fresh rosemary in salads and homemade baked bread as well.  It’s a versatile herb that has earned a permanent place in my kitchen.  If you have the opportunity to plant rosemary in your yard, by all means do so!

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My Greek Chickpea Salad is prepared with canned chickpeas (garbanzo beans), crunchy green cucumber, bright red grape tomatoes, red onion, tangy kalamata olives, dressed with a lemon garlic rosemary dressing and topped with feta cheese.  My Greek Chickpea Salad makes a wonderful side salad or as a main course for an easy vegetarian lunch.  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients

  • 1 – 15 ounce can chickpeas (drained and rinsed)
  • 1/2 cup cucumber (chopped)
  • 1/2 cup tomatoes (chopped)
  • 1/4 cup red onion (chopped)
  • 1/4 cup parsley (chopped)
  • 1/4 cup kalamata olives (sliced)
  • 3 –  4 Tbs olive oil
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 tsp garlic paste (or to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper (or to taste)
  • 1/4  – 1/2 tsp rosemary (finely minced and to taste)
  • feta cheese (optional)

In a medium sized bowl, toss together the chickpeas, cucumber, tomato, red onion, parsley, and kalamata olives,  In a separate bowl whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic paste, salt, pepper and rosemary.  Taste the dressing and correct your seasonings.  Be aware that fresh rosemary can easily overpower a dish.  Add the dressing to the garbanzo mixture.  Mix lightly.  Top with optional feta cheese.  Makes 2 lunches or 6 smaller side dish servings.

Green Salad with Crater Lake Blue Cheese Dressing

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Green Salad with Crater Lake Blue Cheese Dressing

One of the really cool things about living in Southern Oregon is that we are so lucky to have such a wonderful creamery located right here in the Rogue Valley.  It’s called the Rogue Creamery and in my opinion, the Rogue Creamery is home to some of the BEST blue cheese I have ever tasted.  Ever… The Rogue Creamery makes at least 8 different delicious varieties of award winning blue cheese and several amazing types of cheddar as well.  They’re all absolutely delicious!

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Crater Lake Blue Cheese

My Crater Lake Blue Cheese Salad Dressing was inspired by a day trip to Crater Lake National Park.  Crater Lake National Park is the only national park in the state of Oregon and one of the most cherished National Parks in the United States.  It’s about 90 miles from Rogue Valley and 250 miles from Portland.  Crater Lake is famous for its gorgeous blue water, breath taking scenery and the fact that it is one of the world’s deepest lakes.  In the summer months, tourists from all over the United States and the world flock to this destination.  In the winter months, only a fraction of the tourists come to visit due to the cold winter weather and icy road conditions.  There’s a visitor center, lodge, restaurant and gift shop.

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The West Entrance to Crater Lake National Park.  The other entrances to the park are closed during the winter months.  The West Entrance is the only entrance open for access to the lake because maintaining the roads in winter is incredibly difficult.  Difficult because Crater Lake National Park gets on average of over 44 feet of snow accumulation per year!  Grab a tape measure and see just how much that is… You’ll find that it is a heck of a lot of snow!

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Before Bruce and I arrived at the West Entrance of the park, I asked him how much money we needed to pay for the admission. Well… Within minutes, I received my answer.  Surprisingly, the day we were there was free.  As you can see, there was no park ranger in the booth to take our money and there was a sign on the side of the booth that stated there was no cost for admission.  Crater Lake Lodge was closed for the season and the restaurant and gift shop was operating under “winter hours”.  Before scheduling a visit be sure to check the park fees, hours and rates on their website.  Also, if you plan to visit during the winter months, be sure to have chains on hand or studded snow tires on your vehicle.

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One more foot of snow and we would not have known that we were in a no parking zone.

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Our first peek over the rim at Crater Lake in the winter.  Bruce and I had to climb over 10 foot snow banks in the parking lot just to get a view of the lake.  Once over the top, the view was breathtaking!

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Do you see the thin layer of ice covering the lake?   In the summer months, the ice is gone and the water is a brilliant blue color that you would not easily forget.  The snow covered peak in the background is Mount Thielson.

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A view of the lake next to the lodge.  We were really careful not to get too close to the edge.  It’s crazy steep and trying to get close to the lake is not worth slipping into the caldera below.

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A view looking down at the icy blue water.  When I shot this photo, it looked as if I was pointing the lens up towards the sky.

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An easterly view of the lake.  In the summer months you can drive around the entire rim of the lake.  Given the opportunity, you’ll find that it is one of the most visually stunning day trip drives that you will ever take in your life.

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Wizard Island.  Wizard Island is a cinder cone that rises several hundred feet above the lake.  It is one of the most memorable features of Crater Lake.  If you ever have the chance to visit Oregon, trust me, you must schedule a visit to Crater Lake.

My Crater Lake inspired green salad with Crater Lake blue cheese dressing is simple to make, tastes delicious and is perfect for serving up on a busy weeknight or for a more formal weekend dinner.  It’s made with fresh organic lettuce, grape tomatoes, bits of blue cheese and drizzled with the Crater Lake Blue Cheese Dressing.  My blue cheese dressing is a combination of Rogue Creamery Blue Cheese, fresh buttermilk, Greek yogurt, cracked pepper and a splash of low sodium soy sauce.  Makes about 1 1/2 cups of dressing.  Enjoy!  Tessa

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A wedge of Roquefort blue cheese.  Another favorite!

Blue Cheese Dressing Ingredients:

  • 4 ounces Blue Cheese or Roquefort
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 – 5 ounce container plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 tsp cracked black pepper
  • 1 tsp low sodium soy sauce

Add all ingredients to a blender and pulse until desired consistency.  Store in a covered container up to a week.  Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

For each salad:

  • 2 cups fresh green lettuce or your favorite greens
  • 5 or 6 grape tomatoes
  • shredded carrots
  • sprinkle the top of each salad with bits of blue cheese
  • top with a tablespoon or two of the Blue Cheese Dressing
  • fresh cracked pepper to taste

Flour Tortillas

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 Flour Tortillas

I have always loved homemade tortillas.  There are only a few Mexican restaurants here in Southern Oregon that serve homemade tortillas with their lunches and dinners.  And, their fresh homemade tortillas are usually the reason that I visit.  Tortillas are thin unleavened flat breads made from white, wheat or corn flour.  Depending on the type or size, tortillas are used to make tacos, burritos, enchiladas and many other Mexican and Latin American dishes.

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My favorite type of tortilla is made from flour and is small enough for tacos.  That is the type of tortilla that I will share with you today.  With few ingredients, one would think that they are super easy to make.  They are, but it takes a bit of practice to make a batch of perfectly round tortillas. Once you get the hang of it, it is likely that you would not want to purchase store bought again.  I sometimes use a tortilla press but a good rolling pin also works just fine.

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A tortilla press.  Tortilla presses can be made from wood, metal or plastic.  Don’t buy the plastic.  I broke my plastic tortilla press in half a couple of weeks ago.  If you are going to purchase one, look for one that is sturdy and can withstand a good amount of force.  My new tortilla press is made from cast aluminum.  I hope that I don’t eventually break this one too…

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I use a comal to cook my tortillas. A comal is a flat griddle used to cook tortillas and many other dishes.  It’s a bit over a foot in diameter and seems to be a versatile little pan.

My little flour tortillas are perfect for tacos, mini cheese quesadillas or simply warmed up with a little bit of fresh cream butter.  Makes 1 dozen flour tortillas.  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  •  2 cups white flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 Tbs lard
  • a big pinch or two of salt
  • 3/4 cup warm water

Place flour, baking powder, lard and salt in a food processor.  Pulse a couple of times to mix.  Add water and pulse again until the dough forms a ball.  Remove and knead on lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic.  Divide dough into 12 balls and cover with plastic wrap.  Let the dough sit for about 15 to 20 minutes.  Heat up a dry skillet or a comal to medium high heat.  Using a tortilla press or rolling pin on a lightly floured surface, roll a ball of dough into a 6 inch disk.  Place on the skillet and cook for just a few minutes on each side.  Remove and place cooked tortilla in a covered warmer.  Repeat with remaining dough.  Makes 12 tortillas.

Original recipe was lightly adapted from here.

Snowshoeing at Union Creek and Fireball Hot Chocolate

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Fireball Hot Chocolate

This last week was one of the busiest work weeks that I have had in a while…  It was so brutally busy that by the end of the week, Bruce and I decided to book a cabin at Union Creek Resort for a mini vacation over the weekend.  Union Creek Resort is located in the Southern Oregon Cascade Mountains approximately 70 miles from our home and only 21 miles from Crater Lake National Park.  Union Creek Resort is a charming 1900’s era lodge with cabins for rent and miles of hiking trails all around.  Beckie’s restaurant is a short walk across the road and is known for their delicious homemade huckleberry pies.  At Union Creek Resort, there’s no cell phone coverage, no cable television in the rooms and definitely no internet.  No nothing, except for peace and quiet…  And, that was precisely why we were there.  To unplug and to unwind after a crazy busy work week…

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The lodge and country store at Union Creek.

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The rental cabins appeared rustic and rough on the outside but, they were nicely updated and clean on the inside.  We found the resort staff polite and courteous.  We would definitely stay there again.

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The old Do Not Disturb sign was pretty cool…  So was the antiquated key hole and knob on the front door.  Not to worry, there was a sturdy “modern” brass lock on the door above…

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Early in the morning, we rented snow shoes at the lodge.  This was the first time that Bruce and I ever tried snowshoeing before.  The skies were clear and the air was cold and crisp.  We knew that we were going to have a wonderful time.

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A view from the middle of the footbridge over Union Creek.  The water was icy and cold from the snow melt.  In the warm summer months, you can fish for rainbow and brook trout.

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Bruce and I trekked along Union Creek and through the forest on our way to the Rogue River.  There was about 2 to 3 feet of snow on the ground and bit more under the trees.  While making our way through the woods I made the mistake of tripping over my snowshoes and falling flat on my face in the powdery snow.  Note to self…  Be careful how you step in the shoes and be sure to not to fall into deep powder snow without poles.   Once down, I quickly learned that you can’t push yourself up very easily.  Every time I put my hand down on the snow to get my balance, I sank deeper. I yelled and Bruce had to turn back around and help me my get back upright.  It was embarrassing and fortunately nobody else was in the woods that morning to witness the event.

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When snowshoeing on the unbroken marked trail, we always looked for the blue diamond markers nailed on the sides of the trees.  In the summer months, following the trail is really easy.  Winter is a completely different story.  You can’t see the trail and it’s easy to trip over logs and branches if you happen to veer off.

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We finally reached the Rogue River…  During the summer, Bruce and I like to take our tent trailer and camp along the bank.  It’s such a quiet, peaceful and beautiful place. Yet another reason why I love living in Oregon.

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After reaching the bank of the Rogue River it was time to start our trek back to the cabin.  The snow was light, fluffy and sparkled in the morning sun.  I was extremely careful to make sure that I did not trip over my snowshoes on the way back.  I did not want to do an embarrassing “face plant” again.  By the time we got back to the cabin we both agreed that we would like to do this again soon.  Snowshoeing is a fun way to explore the forest and to get a great winter workout.

One delicious way to warm up after spending a day in the snow is to make Fireball Hot Chocolate.  Fireball Hot Chocolate is a wonderful blend of homemade hot chocolate (you can use instant hot chocolate packets if you like) and cinnamon flavored whisky.  It’s easy, delicious and is a perfect beverage after spending a day snowshoeing.  Makes one serving.  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • I cup milk
  • 2 – 3 tsp cocoa.powder (I like dark cocoa powder best)
  • 2 Tbs sugar or to taste
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 ounces Fireball Whisky (cinnamon flavored whisky)
  • whipped cream
  • chocolate sprinkles and cinnamon stick for garnish

Begin by preparing the hot chocolate.  In a mug, add cocoa powder, sugar and salt.  In a microwave safe bowl, heat milk in microwave 1 to 2 minutes or until hot.  Add the hot milk mixture to the mug and stir.  Add the Fireball cinnamon flavored whisky to the mug and stir again. Top with whip cream and garnish with chocolate sprinkles and a cinnamon stick. Makes 1 serving.

Cocoa recipe adapted from Hershey’s Perfect Cocoa.

***Note:  This is an adult alcoholic beverage and should not be served to those under the legal drinking age.  Please drink responsibly.***

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