Sunset magazine follows Sue in her travels!

We took a recent vacation to Oregon. I had a work meeting scheduled for a few days near Portland, and decided it was a perfect opportunity to fit in a vacation.

We started by driving to Silverton, Oregon for the weekend. It wasn’t too far from where my meeting was to be held, and looked like a fun place to explore for a few days. The draw for me was both it’s close proximity to a very neat looking state park called Silver Falls State Park and a great deal for lodging located adjacent to the Oregon Gardens. The state park lived up to my expectations. We biked one day, and hiked the next day on the Trail of Ten Falls. The 8 mile loop led us to ten waterfalls, with some of the trail even leading behind the waterfalls. Here’s a shot of me on the trail ready to get wet!

Our camera was filled with waterfall shots that day.

Silverton itself was a cute little town. I was especially entranced with the mural telling the story about Bobbie, the Wonder Dog. Truly a heartwarming tale of a dog making an incredible journey to find his way home. It got Dave thinking about the governor of Oregon’s dog, Hershey, and wishing that we’d happen to see him on our trip.

Hershey didn’t happen to be where we were, but we still enjoyed ourselves.

After our weekend of exploring the Silverton area, we headed to Dundee, Oregon, where my meeting was going to be held. It didn’t take long to reach the Inn at Red Hills. I’d looked at the web site before hand, and was kind of surprised to find the Inn on a busy highway, with an asphalt parking lot behind it, not the beautiful looking vinyards featured on their web page. Still, the room was luxurious and very pleasant. Not a place I’d stay on my own but if work is paying, I’ll gladly enjoy it.

After a few days of meetings, we then headed for the oregon coast for several days along the ocean at a state park staying in a yurt. Blue skies, sunshine, surf, sand beaches. Life is good.

Eventually we headed back home. The May issue of Sunset magazine arrived shortly after we got back. I started paging through it, eager to find new foods to try and destinations to visit. How very surprised I was to find a featured day trip to Silverton, Oregon. Wow. Sunset magazine recommended a visit to Silver Falls State Park, with a hike where we hiked, and also suggested staying at the Oregon Garden Resort, where we stayed. OK. Been there. Done that. I turned the page and was amazed to find them discussing Oregon’s Willamette Valley, with a suggestion for eating at the Inn at Red Hills in Dundee. Hmm. Weren’t we just there also?

Fun, but almost spooky to have Sunset magazine be shadowing me on our recent vacation. Stay tuned.

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King Arthur Flour would NOT be impressed…

King Arthur FLour would not be impressed…. with the pizza I made tonight. Dave wasn’t either. It all started with great intentions. I had frozen half a batch of pizza dough at some point in the past, and retrieved it from the freezer at noon. I had visions of a good home baked pizza for dinner. After work, the dough was thawed and nicely risen, so I patted it down on a piece of parchment paper, added toppings and slid it (parchment paper and all) onto the pizza stone that was well heated in my hot oven. A little while later, the cheese was bubbling and brown and it looked done. So I turned off the oven and made the fatal mistake. For some reason, I decided I didn’t need to remove the pizza stone and pizza from the oven together, but picked up two sides of the parchment paper to lift the pizza out of the oven. Major mistake. It folded over and the pizza ended upside down on the oven door. I tried my best to scrape it back together and we did eat it. Didn’t taste terrible, but as Dave put it, ” the presentation was really lacking”.

BIG bags of bread flour

TOG (the Old Geezer), my dear Uncle Dick, commented that he’d bought a 25 pound bag of bread flour at Sam’s. I’ve lingered before the same size bags of bread flour at Costco, more than ready to add it to my already overloaded cart. However, my husband always looks at me like I’m crazy, and voices the concerns of “where would we store this?” and “do we really need this much bread?”. The answers come quickly but aren’t said aloud… “I have no idea where I’d store this”. and “yes, we do NEED this much bread!”. So far the bag hasn’t made it to my cart, but perhaps with TOG’s comments that will change.

My sister Becky correctly guides us to the King Arthur Flour website. They have a great site. Lots of wonderful recipes, accompanied by the best bloggers ever. (thanks, specifically to my favorite, PJ Hamel). They bake like I love to bake. Trying out new recipes, sometimes making mistakes and admitting it, and enjoying having others savor the end products.

Becky says her current favorite bread recipe from KAF (King Arthur Flour) is ciabatta. The website actually has many versions of ciabatta, so I’m not sure I linked to the correct one. Help me, Becky?

My current favorite is Hazelnut Golden Raisin Baguettes. It’s almost identical to their Apple Walnut Fondue Bread.

The first uses the same size batch to make two loaves, the second recipe makes 3. I think it turns out better making three loaves. Recently I’ve made it using dried sour cherries and hazelnuts. (OK, OK. You’d think I’d make the apple walnut bread, seeing that I have a virtually unlimited supply of dried apples from work. Realize I also get kind of tired of apples…..)

This is great bread. Love it. The only problem is that it’s so good that I will cut myself a slice while it’s warm, slather it with butter and eat it, then cut another slice, etc. etc. Before I know it I’ve eaten most of a loaf!!

So, TOG – what are you doing with your giant bag of bread flour?

Mudding with a Subaru (or, did Subaru overlook Earth Day?)

Not food tonight that is setting me off, but an ad in the May 2010 issue of Sunset magazine. Here I was, idly paging through the most recent issue, drooling over recipes and trips to take some day, when on the top of an ad page with the heading “Dear Subaru” caught my eye. I’m a long time Subaru driver, and have always liked their cars. However, this ad featured a large photo of a Subaru totally encased in dirt against a background of a field of mud and mountains in the distance, with a letter from the owner. He is from Ellensburg, Washington, which is about 30 miles from where I live. This owner had obviously been out “mudding” based on the photo. And the owner was also obviously delighted at what he had been doing.

So, “mudding” is illegal on National Forest Service lands. The webpage for our local forest service even has a page about “mudding” and it’s affect on the environment.

Why would Subaru choose to glorify this activity? Whether on public or private lands, “mudding” causes damage to soil, water quality, vegetation, aquatic and non-aquatic life.

A dirty car – that’s an owner’s choice. A dirty environment? Let’s all make choices to keep it clean.

We were out hiking today, and came across evidence of the “mudding”, as seen by the deliberate tire tracks off-road through mud rather than using the adjacent road.

Why (literally) drives a person to mess up such incredible Western landscapes?

I was a high school sophomore for the first Earth Day. Little did I know that 40 years later I’d be writing letters to a car manufacturer about their lack of concern for our planet. I’ve been a satisfied Subaru owner for years. But, a “dear Subaru” letter has been sent letting them know about my dissatisfaction with this ad campaign. Do you think I’ll get anything beyond a canned response?

Slow baked asparagus…as Spring slowly approaches

OK, OK.  It’s been ages since I’ve blogged.  I honestly hope that my formerly loyal readers don’t even catch that I’m back.  As I don’t know whether I just took a long break, or this is just a fluke post.

Spring.  The apple trees are in bloom and the Yakima Valley is looking absolutely beautiful.  The sagebrush has new leaves of (incredibly!!) sage green color, much different than found later in the summer as everything dries up.   Spring flowers are in full display.  Even the blossoms on the locoweed are lush and lovely this year (with warnings from me to the cows to “stay away – makes you crazy. Look but don’t taste”.)

And I am once again in love with asparagus.  It’s back in the stores- local and cheap.  Filling my shopping basket, and then my head, with visions of spring dishes.   Look and then definitely do taste! I thought that I had this one down pat.  Either steam it, grill it, or roast it in a hot oven after drizzling with olive oil.  And then I read an article in the New York Times last week about “slow cooking asparagus in paper packets” It included this recipe:

Baked Asparagus With Shiitake, Prosciutto and Couscous

1 pound asparagus, ends trimmed

1/4 pound shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, sliced 1/4-inch thick

2 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, cut into 1/4-inch strips

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus 2 teaspoons; additional for drizzling

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Ground black pepper, to taste

Grated nutmeg

3 tarragon sprigs

3/4 cup whole-wheat couscous.

1. Heat oven to 200 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (it should be twice as long as pan). Lay asparagus in a pile in center. Scatter mushrooms and prosciutto on top. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons oil and season with 1/4 teaspoon salt, the pepper and nutmeg. Toss vegetables to coat evenly. Lay tarragon over top.

2. Fold parchment to completely enclose vegetables, and staple top and sides shut (or tie up with string). Transfer pan to oven and bake for one hour. Asparagus should be just cooked through. If too crisp, return to oven until done to taste.

3. In a small pot over medium-high heat, bring 3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons water, 2 teaspoons olive oil and remaining salt to a simmer. Stir in couscous and remove pot from heat. Cover and let stand for 5 minutes. Fluff with fork.

4. Spoon couscous onto serving plates and drizzle with oil. Divide prosciutto and vegetables, and their juices, among the plates and serve.

Yield: 2 main-course servings, or 4 side-dish servings.

I got our my roll of parchment paper and got busy – altering the recipe. No shitake mushrooms here, so regular white cremini will have to do. No prosciutto either. But I did have some Canadian bacon that I cut into little strips. Also no tarragon sprigs, so dried tarragon had to suffice. I put everything together, got out my stapler (great suggestion to use this instead of string) and popped it in the oven. I doubted that anything would even cook 200 degrees. But an hour later, when I took it out, it was heavenly. WOW! I tried it again a few days later and took it out after 45 minutes. Still WOW!. This is a keeper.