Dream Enchildas, with thanks to Greg Atkinson

What it is that makes reading cookbooks so much fun? It really shouldn’t be, but I still find myself regularly hauling home a cookbook or two from the library, even though my home collection no doubt has thousands of recipes still to be discovered and loved.

This weekend I brought home a book called The Northwest Essential Cookbook by Greg Atkinson. Funny, but like many mystery novels that I check out from the library, I got this cookbook home, started reading it, and thought “hmm. I know I’ve checked this out before”. But, tastes and inclinations change and it seemed time to look through it again. In browsing, I noticed a recipe called Dream Enchiladas. I read it through, noting with pleasure that the author had worked years ago at a Mexican restaurant in Bellingham, Washington. Carrie went to graduate school there, and I always enjoyed visiting here there. It was fun to see her, and also fun to eat out as I liked many of the restaurants.

So, this cookbook author said that one of the great things about the restaurant he worked at in Bellingham was the bacon and orange enchilada sauce served with chicken, beef or cheese enchiladas. He borrowed the basic recipe to make an enchilada dish with crabmeat. Crab was not on my menu, but I did think it would be fun to turn the recipe back around to it’s origins and use it to make chicken enchiladas.

A bit of work (not much, really) and well worth it. I LOVED them. Dave gave them a thumbs up also. Not the usual tomato sauce soaked dish I am used to, but much more lively and bright. I’ll make these again.

Dream (Chicken) Enchiladas with Orange Bacon Sauce

12 corn tortillas
corn oil, for frying
Bacon and Orange Sauce(recipe follows)
8 ounces cream cheese
1 pound shredded chicken
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

In a skillet over medium-high heat, fry the tortillas, one at a time, in hot oil for 30 to 40 seconds, turning once. As they are fried, stack them on paper towels and put aside.

Mix together 1/2 cup of the enchilada sauce with the cream cheese and chicken. Divide the filling evenly among the dozen friend tortillas and roll each one into a cigar shape. Place one cup of the sauce on the bottom of a 12X9 baking dish and arrange the rolled enchiladas in a single layer on top of the sauce. Ladle the remaining sauce over the enchiladas, covering evenly. Sprinkle with the parmesan cheese and bake at 375 until bubbling (20 to 30 minutes) P
Bacon and Orange Sauce

4 ounce bacon, chopped
6 TBSP flour
¼ cup finely chopped onion
1 tsp ground chili powder
1/2 tsp ground coriander
¼ tsp black pepper
2 cups chicken broth
½ cup orange juice
1 TBSP grate orange zest
1 tsp crush garlic

In a saucepan over medium-high heat, cook the bacon until crisp. Lift out the bacon with slotted spoon, then stir in the flour and cook for a minute more. Stir in onion, chili powder, coriander, and pepper, and cook for 1 minute more. Whisk in the chicken broth, orange juice, orange zest, and garlic and continue stirring until the mixture is smooth. Continue stirring until the sauce comes to a boil, then remove from heat, and stir in cooked bacon bits.

Adapted from: The Northwest Essentials Cookbook by Greg Atkinson


Ghost tours, or “haven’t I been here before?”

Our local newspaper has a regular Friday section that has information about what’s happening in the area. I read it, hoping to find some interesting and fun activities. Over the past few years, it’s led me to dog sledding in the Cascades, concerts in the valley, and this past weekend, a “ghost tour” of downtown Yakima led by a group called “The past is present“.

The weather was “iffy”. Lots of cloudy, cool temperatures, and occassional rain. I had no interest in driving very far. But I was willing to call and book us for an afternoon ghost tour. We met in front of the Pacific Hotel. Or that’s what the guide told us the historic building was named. I found it fascinating that I’ve lived here for several decades, probably driven by this building a thousand times, and never even noticed it. And had no idea of it’s history. Good start for a tour, even for a doubter. Our group of about a dozen people continued following our tour guide. We first traveled through the Chinese district. What?? I had no idea Yakima had ever had a Chinese district, but I guess it did. Interesting to find that the names of the buildings, such as Dragon Inn Garage or the Golden Wheel Restaurant, really did have an authentic ethnic background. We then walked past the courthouse, and discovered that it was located on the “hanging corner”. Yes. Really happened here according to our guide. From there we also learned about the most “active” site in perhaps all of the Northwest for paranormal activity… the Sports Center of Yakima. All kinds of confirmed (at least, confirmed by those who believe and study this kind of stuff) activity at this place. Here is what this group says about this place:

“The Sports Center of Yakima: This building was the former Commercial Hotel. It has served as the home of several businesses including hotels, stores, restaurants, gam- bling locations, etc. Several paranormal experiences have been reported by both visitors and employees at this location. This location has been “confirmed” as being haunted. The P.A.S.T. is Present conducted an 8 hour, 3 phase investigation at this location. The amount of paranormal evidence captured at this location from the investigation is historic in nature. From just one investigation, 236 EVP’s were captured, a photo of a shadow figure in a dress, a photo of a full bodied apparition and several video clips of object manipulation and unexplainable activity were captured (including a door shutting on it’s own in front of investigators and sheets being removed from light sources). A total of 23 personal experiences were backed with one or more other evidences such as thermal, video, EVP or photos. This location is quite possibly one of the most haunted locations in the Pacific Northwest. Although it it’s haunted, the activity is harmless in nature to employees and visitors.”

What’s my interest? Well, a few years ago I wrote a blog called “Buy a Gun” and commented about the similarity of our new Yakima banners (depicting hills of the wine country) and the Sports Center’s sign:

But, please, don’t buy a gun. Please. And don’t get too wrapped up in ghost stories. Just enjoy them, and think about all the history right in front of you that we pass up in our day to day activities.

This is GREAT!!!

So, how often do those word apply?

You find a recipe in a magazine or cookbook and give it a try. It seems promising. Sounds really good as your read through the ingredients.

And then you try it out. It isn’t a dud. It’s…. “OK”

Yes, …”OK”.. .. not “wow, I’ll make this again… I love it!!!!”. or “this is horrible. don’t EVER make it again”.

Our culinary lives.. always looking for the “this is fantastic!!!” moment. Doesn’t happen often, but we’re willing to try all kinds of recipes … just hoping….

Now, isn’t this the cookbook we’re all really wanting to find? Full of “Love it… This is IT!!!” recipes? Maybe this is where WE (me and the few readers of this blog come in?) Time to write that WOW cookbook full of recipes we say “Great”, not just “OK”?

I’m game. Yes, I know. This has been the aim of most every church group, junior league group, etc. that has written a cookbook as a fund raiser. Full of recipes. But what do you get. A few gems. And lots of “OK” moments. Time to go gold mining and find the gems!

Let’s go gambling!

I know people who visit casinos for entertainment. They tell me that they just give themselves a certain, modest amount, to use for gambling, and when the money is gone, they leave. I often hear $20 as the amount for the “mad money”. I don’t really like casinos, but like the idea of seeing what kind of fun a $20 bill will buy on a spending spree.

We headed south, towards the Yakama Legends Casino in Toppenish, on Saturday. Our first stop was at the Orowheat bread outlet store, or what I fondly think of as the Bimbo store. Yes, it’s where Bimbo brand baked goods are sold side by side with Orowheat product.

Cute bear. Silly name. I spent just under $10 of my $20 allowance at the Bimbo store. I got two loaves of Honey Wheat Berry Bread from the “still fresh” shelf, two packs of sourdough English muffins, a four pack of potato hamburger buns, a four pack of whole wheat hamburger buns, and two 3 packs of pizza sauce. As I was heading out the door, the store clerk reminded me that since I’d spent more than $7 I could also pick up an item from the rack near the door. I got a loaf of Italian bread.

From the Bimbo bread store we continued south to the Yakima Lower Valley farmstands. We stopped at one stand and I bought several acorn squash. Continuing down the road, we made another stop. I really liked the seasonal decorative bins off to the side.

At this stand, I bought a delicato squash, green beans, dried pinto beans, a trio of sweet peppers in green, yellow and red, two heads of garlic, a few sweet onions, and splurged on a bag of really little Yukon Gold potatoes. I laughed, almost, as I read the name of the farm where the potatoes came from. It’s a place just down the road where we stopped some years ago to buy potatoes from their self-service stand. We had our American Eskimo dog with us at the time, and Aurora enjoyed running around the parking area as we chose our large bags of potatoes. The owner came out and offered a trade….. leave our dog behind and take all the potatoes we wanted. Hmmm. We considered it for a few seconds, but decided that much as Aurora probably would have loved being a farm dog, we would miss her too mush. Besides, she really was worth more than a few bags of potatoes.

When we got home, I realized that we had spent just under the $20 I’d set as our “mad money” for the morning. Here’s a photo of what we brought home. More fun than gambling to me!

It’s grape harvest time

Late September…. early October. In central Washington state, that’s grape harvest time. My wine making group picked and crushed wine grapes last weekend. It’s been a late year for harvest due to cool conditions.

Tree Top also has a “grape crush”, only we bring in Concord grapes to make into juice. I love the aroma of Concord grapes. Really, I also like the taste, but I guess that because they also have lots of seeds most people don’t like eating them so they seldom show up in the grocery store. I remember as a kid, when we lived in Erie, Pennsylvania, that my mother would buy Concord grapes and make jelly. Stepping into the processing plant when grapes are being juiced always manages to bring back childhood memories as I catch that heady aroma.

Yesterday, for work, I had the opportunity to visit the vineyard we buy all our Concord grapes from. And I found it very interesting.

This vineyard is huge. Twenty four hundred acres, or about 4 square miles. You really had to see it to take in the magnitude of the operation. Most years this vineyard produces between 15 to 20 thousand tons of Concord grapes. That’s 3 to 4 million pounds!

The part I found most fascinating was watching the mechanical harvestors. I’d heard about them, but never seen them. I watched the machine go up one row, and back down another. Then watched some more trying to figure out how it worked. Lots of moving blades whacking or vibrating the vines, lots of conveyors moving the clusters of grapes to people sitting on perches sorting out the unwanted materials, then conveying the grapes into large gondolas on top of tractors. I was surprised to see that even when the harvester was about 50 yards down the row the vines at the beginning of the row were still vibrating noticeably. Made me wonder how the vines withstand such an assault. But apparently they are very strong. I also noticed that the mechanical picker missed many of the grape clusters at the start of the rows. I asked what they did with those, and when told they didn’t get picked, I readily was given permission to fill up some bags with grapes to bring home with me. Mmm .

Soup’s on in Selah


My time in high school French class comes in handy every once in a while. I think I can pronounce the name of the soup I made last night. But then, if someone atually heard me saying it I’m also sure they would be at least mentally shaking their head and saying “no, no, it’s not pronounced that way!”

Yakima Farmer’s market last Sunday yielded some nice looking leeks. I say nice looking because that’s what they were. The problem was that nice as they looked, I have to confess that I’ve seldom cooked with them, so I wasn’t quite sure what they would be used in. After reading some cookbooks for inspiration, I decided, with Dave seconding the vote, to try making a very basic potato leek soup. From the Joy of Cooking I discovered that if I added some milk or cream to it, that made it into Vichyssoise. Oo la la!

I did have to look up just how to handle the leeks. Thanks to the internet, I found a fellow blogger who had posted good, clear photos illustrating how to both slice and clean them. The soup was very easy.

Here’s a link to the recipe I used.

Clean and slice up the leeks, peel and cube a few Yukon Gold potatoes, add water and salt and simmer for half an hour or so. At that step I was supposed to puree it, but my beloved immersion blender stopped working a little while ago and hasn’t been replaced yet. And I know better than to try using the blender with hot soups. I know this from some “real life experiences” that didn’t turn out very well both from the messes made and from a safety standpoint. So I kind of mushed the soup up with a fork a bit, and then added some cream (yes, very rich and tasty). I also fried up the few remaining slices of bacon in the refrigerator with some thyme from the garden for sprinking on top. And then added some snips of parsley for color. I did omit the cognac….

I served it with a baguette. Verdict? Oh, very, very good. So simple yet so satisfying. I’ll make this again.

Not quite what I envisioned…..

Dave pointed out a recipe in the latest issue of Sunset magazine. It was a mid eastern lamb stew cooked inside a squash. It looked really good in the photo. We decided to try something similar. The thought was that it wasn’t necessary really to use the same stew recipe, but alter it to fit ingredients on hand, and cook it in a Kubucha squash bought yesterday morning at the Yakima Farmer’s Market.

So I made some meatballs, browned them, added lots of cherry tomatoes and some rice, lots of broth. Dave carved up the squash, which ended up much more difficult than we’d thought. It was very thick and hard to cut. Still, he carved it opened and removed the seeds. I filled it with the stew (of sorts), added the squash lid, and put inside a baking pan for a few hours. The squash split, most of the liquid seeped out before cooking down, and it really wasn’t at all like the magazine photo when I pulled it out of the oven. Still, we dished it up onto plates, adding both stew and squash to each serving. It tasted OK – nothing special but also quite edible. Good thing I’d also picked up some fresh cut flowers at the Farmer’s market so that there was at least something good looking on the table!