Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Gray is the New White?

Each week I get this great email from a local real estate agent (who used to be Joey's guitar teacher) highlighting Portland properties for sale. The links in the email take you directly to the real estate multiple listing for that property. Most of the listings include lots of great pictures. One of the houses in today's email has this gorgeous kitchen with gray cabinets. I have been noticing lately (on Pinterest, of course) that gray cabinets are really hot right now. If I didn't love my kitchen, I think I would get me some of those gray cabinets. Here are some of my favorite gray kitchens:
Love the open shelving and white countertop, I would do white marble :)
and I would totally have pink flowers on the counter all the time, because what a lovely color combination: pink & gray!

Love the shaker cabinet style and the hardware

Love the wood countertops

Love the open shelving, chandelier and shiny floors

Love the pot rack with all new-looking pretty, shiny silver pots and the big marble top table and stools

Again, gray and marble. Such a beautiful, clean contemporary feel

and this is the kitchen from the recent real estate listing. Lovely big farm sink. Lovely everything!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Breakfast Project: Day Five

Breakfast with Sammy
Day Five: "Not Mother's" Eggs Benedict

I have reached the fifth and final day of my Breakfast with Sammy Project.

I have a few general observations:
(1) I want to state that I am extremely proud of both my boys. They do both frustrate me and they also bring me the greatest joy I have ever known. I love them both for who they are as people. The teenage years are tough for all involved, but it is merely one step in a wonderful journey and I wouldn't trade it for the world.

(2) Like most everything else, practice makes perfect when it comes to cooking.
I enjoy the practice.

(3) I very much prefer sunny sunrises to cloudy ones.

(4) Getting up at 6:30am just isn't that bad, especially when I get to spend time with my 18 year old.

(5) Some things I thought were irreplaceable, aren't.

Thursday afternoons the house cleaners arrive. In preparation, I pick up everything in the house that is not in its place and put it away (otherwise who knows where it will end up). I make sure all the dishes are done, beds are made, etc... The animals are all rounded up and herded into my office. The cleaners clean the bathrooms, kitchen, floors, dust the furniture, vacuum, etc... I wish they wiped down the walls, but they don't. I thought when the boys got older, things like dirty fingerprints would be a thing of the past. They aren't. It seems the smudges are just higher up on the wall, and bigger.

Yesterday, while I was working away in my office surrounded by my three furry babies, I heard a large crash and then the sound of something (or somethings) shattering. Oh how I hate that sound. It seems one of the cleaners backed into a plate rack I have hanging in the dining room. She dislodged the rack (even though it is installed with a screw), it crashed to the floor, and my two 1920's German Majolica Bird Relief plates, that I adore, shattered into many, many pieces. This is not the first time my things have been broken (actually, Michael breaks things all the time). The cleaners have broken drinking glasses, a bowl, and even a light fixture. That was crazy, apparently while they were dusting it, the whole thing just fell out of the ceiling and crashed to the ground? When I saw the plates, I was heartbroken. Even though I don't speak Spanish, I know what the house cleaner was trying to say, and I felt bad for her. I could tell she was offering to replace the plates. I told her it was okay and went back to my office.

I loved those plates so much, that I often took pictures of them. For example, Tuesday morning, a picture of one of the plates appeared in my blog. Here's another picture taken that morning:

Thank goodness for the internet. After a brief period of mourning, I decided to see if more plates were out there somewhere. I am happy to say, I found them at an online antique store. Two "like new" plates are on their way to me. I am a happy camper.

Now, on to breakfast!
I love Eggs Benedict. I didn't used to love it, but sometime in my 20's I had an epiphany regarding Eggs Benedict. My favorite of all favorite Eggs Benedict is served at Mother's Bistro in downtown Portland. My Eggs Benedict today was NOT as good as MOTHER'S, I will admit that, but it was pretty good
We have made Eggs Benedict at our house before. Once, I made Eggs Benedict with Crab and Avocado. YUM!
Today, I went traditional. When I was preparing Sammy's, the Hollandaise curdled some and I didn't have the time to fix it. Once Sammy left (and I am left with the options of cleaning up my breakfast mess or starting work at 7:30am), I set to making that Hollandaise as smooth as silk.

Even though I know how to make Hollandaise, I feel I cannot really do it justice without having Julia's book in front of me. 
and then trying to get the sauce smooth again, I had to glance at her hints, just to make sure I was doing it right
We also had some delicious, sweet and juicy cantaloupe

I had a half portion of Eggs Benedict because I really should not be eating it at all and I also have an early lunch date with a good friend. Looking at these pictures, I am already hungry.

I made it through and I enjoyed it.
Next week, our breakfasts will be dedicated to healthy choices :).

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Breakfast Project: Day Four

Breakfast with Sammy
Day Four: "Mauna Kea"
Mastering the Waffle

After my frustrating waffle experience yesterday morning, I decided I needed non-stick cooking spray and a better recipe. Unfortunately, I also believe we need a new waffle iron.

I pulled together the ingredients for a recipe I found on the internet and subsequently pinned to a recipe board on Pinterest: Cornstarch Waffles. The recipe doesn't sound all that appetizing, but it worked okay.
Above: the cast of characters

I decided to make a raspberry syrup for our waffles. I started with fresh raspberries, a little sugar, a little maple syrup and water. What started out looking like this
ended up looking like this
I used the left over bacon from yesterday.

 I whipped up some cream.
and here is the finished product

The reason for the name: "Mauna Kea" is not that we were so full that when we finished we thought we would explode like the volcano on the big island of Hawaii (although I did think about that), but in fact, because this is my favorite breakfast to order when we stay at the Mauna Kea Hotel on the Kohala Coast. We order room service delivered to the balcony.

When I got up this morning to this
what I really wanted to see was this
Enter the "Mauna Kea" breakfast
and I always order a pot of hot chocolate at The Mauna Kea, so...
I made some.

Sammy is still sick, but he had a science presentation today so he headed off to school, early.
Although it may sound like bad parenting, I am glad he was able to make it to school today.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Breakfast Project: Day Three

Breakfast with Sammy
Day Three: "Grandma Elsie's Scrambled Eggs"
(plus Belgian Waffle FAIL)

Today's breakfast was supposed to include Belgian waffles, "fresh" berries, and bacon. I realize now why I do not like making waffles. I am horrible at it. A complete failure. I know we have made waffles before, a long time ago, but I am not sure if they were Belgian waffles. Anyway, I started the morning attempting this:

but instead, I got this:

And now I remember another reason I don't like making waffles: I very much dislike cleaning waffle irons (even when they don't look like this!) I used an Emeril recipe and I have never had a failed Emeril recipe. Hmm. Perhaps it is actually our old waffle iron ;). Perhaps not. I should have read the recipe the night before. I did not have any non-stick spray. I wiped the thing down with oil first. Ugh! I will get the non-stick spray and then I will master the waffle. I will, because I am stubborn that way.

The local nitrate and hormone free bacon was already baking in the oven at 425 degrees, so all was not lost. I threw a 10-grain English muffin in the toaster and started on some of Grandma Elsie's scrambled eggs. I'm not sure if others are as picky as we are around here with our scrambled eggs. I am picky and Michael is picky. Michael likes his eggs scrambled so well, that to me, they do not even resemble scrambled eggs anymore, scrambled with salami, even better. Me, I really only like my scrambled eggs like my Grandma Elsie (my Mom's Mom) used to make them. It is so easy, but you have to cook them slow and keep an eye on them. I start with butter in a small frying pan on low heat. I then crack the eggs directly into the pan and let them cook until the whites are just starting to set then I break the yolks. I do not mix the eggs around, I let them cook a little this way, the yolks are clearly separated from the whites. I add a little salt and pepper and I cook them slow, mixing them a little, not a lot, just until the eggs are not liquid. I immediately get them off the heat. They taste so rich cooked this way.
Our final breakfast meal included Grandma Elsie's scrambled eggs, crispy bacon, and an english muffin topped with homemade strawberry jam (from our berries).
The reason I was so enamored with our sunrise view the past couple days is because this is the kitchen view we normally get on a winter morning (well, and all day in the winter for that matter):
and then, a little reminder of the view we had the past few days:
Even though we did not have those intense rays of sunshine beating down on us, this pretty china teacup that Grandma Elsie gave me before she passed away, was a lovely addition to the breakfast table.
After Sammy left (on time), I savored a cup of English Breakfast tea, without a thought to the waffle fiasco mess I still had to clean up.
and it was a mighty wonderful cup of tea.
Heading upstairs to start work, I was greeted by Miss Chloe. She's a very pretty girl.

Everything is starting to look pretty. Perhaps this early morning routine is growing on me?

Even though Sammy got off to school on time, he was sent home by his first period (Japanese) teacher for being too sick to remain at school. Maybe I should have fed him chicken noodle soup for breakfast.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Breakfast Project: Day Two

Breakfast with Sammy
Day Two: "Andy McMuffin Redux"
(a.k.a. Homemade Burgerville English Muffin Sandwich with Sausage)

To begin, here is an explanation of the crazy name I have chosen for today's breakfast speciality (pronounced spe-shee-ality). Last weekend I was visiting my youngest Brother, Andy, and his lovely wife, Lindsay, in Salt Lake City. Michael calls him Andrew, but I have no idea who he is talking about. It is similar to when someone calls our house and asks for "Mike." I do not know who they are talking about and I say "no one here by that name." I have NEVER called Michael "Mike" and I have never called Andy "Andrew." As Ellen Degeneres would say, anyway....  moving right along. Andy served us the most delicious home made Egg McMuffin with Ham, Egg and Cheddar. It was great. The eggs were perfectly cooked (runny), the cheese perfectly melted, the muffin perfectly toasted, etc. What a treat. I decided I would make a sausage version of that sandwich for my second breakfast with Sammy.

The reason my breakfast name has an "also known as", is because my favorite fast food place, ever, and I mean ever, is Burgerville. Burgerville is unique to the Pacific Northwest and they are known for delicious fresh, local and sustainable food. When Michael reads this he is going to say, isn't IN-N-OUT really your favorite? The answer is NO. Burgerville is awesome and they have tons of menu items including their english muffin breakfast sandwiches. I very rarely eat a fast food breakfast, but if I had my choice, this is it. I never order it with egg, because even though I believe in Burgerville's food quality, I am afraid of any egg served at a fast food restaurant.

We enjoyed peaches canned in honey, not included in the title but very delicious.

The breakfast sandwich was served on 10 grain english muffins (7g of fiber)

topped with local, organic ground pork sausage patties + Tillamook Cheddar

and a sunny side up egg with plenty of runniness.

It was mighty delicious.

We also had another lovely sunrise experience

which lit up more prettiness
In the above picture is a pretty spoon that came with our house. Our house included a lot of interesting stuff like the dining room table that Chloe is sitting on, grrr--cats!?! I used the above spoon to grab out the peaches without taking all the sweet, peach honey sauce with them. I like to pull out pretty stuff when I have to get up at 6:30am to make breakfast. Pretty stuff makes me happy. Speaking of sweet peach honey sauce, it works great for making your own soda. I put in a little peach honey sauce, a little grenadine, and a lot of soda water. Yummy!

Even though Sammy finished his breakfast 10 minutes early, he ended up leaving the house 10 minutes late. I just do not know what to do with that kid.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Breakfast Project: Day One

Breakfast with Sammy, Breakfast Project
Day One: "Nana Fern"

I have a confession to make: I am not a morning person. I used to be a morning person... early to bed, early to rise and all that. When Michael and I first started dating, I was fast asleep by 11:30pm. I have always required eight hours of sleep to remain healthy, so whatever the bed time, I got my eight hours. It seems now that I am old, I can no longer get to sleep before 1:00am, sometimes I am up well past 2:00am. This makes getting eight hours of sleep and starting work before 9 or 10am very difficult. Not that you care about my sleep patterns, but I do have a point to all this and I will get to it, eventually. I promise.

A couple years ago I wrote about Joey's "senioritis." There just comes a point when they are ready to be done with high school. Sammy is currently a senior and I would be lying if I said it has not been a very difficult school year thus far. If anyone (anyone: a.k.a. younger siblings) ever wants to talk with someone about how kids, especially teens, will take your parental expectations, throw them on the floor and have a full out tantrum on them before handing them back to you as a mess of broken parental expectations, I am your gal. This is all very metaphoric, of course. Kids can't really stomp on a parent's dreams and expectations, can they? :). I'm here to say, for me personally, this was the toughest lesson to learn. Please don't saddle your kids with unrealistic expectations. Life is hard enough without them. The result is heart breaking for everyone. But I DIGRESS!!! For the purpose of this post, we are going to focus on the difficulty Sammy has had getting to school on time. We have been Sammy's human alarm clocks for a while now. It seems his alarms just never work properly... Michael mostly gets the burden since he requires much less sleep than I do and gets up much earlier than I do. Recently, Michael has also been driving Sammy to and from school. We could say this is part of a grounding situation for Sammy or a family car situation--three people, two cars, but again, not the time or place for that here. This week Michael is in Japan. I decided to give Sammy back some freedom by letting him drive to and from school this week. As far as getting him up in the morning, I have committed to getting up every day at 6:30am and making him breakfast to be served at approx. 7:00am so that he can leave by 7:30am (this all feels so deja vu) and THAT is the reason for the post. I am chronicling my morning breakfasts with Sammy and sharing them here on my blog.

Apparently, the sun has not risen by 6:30am here in Portland. Wow does that make it hard to get up :). I know I sound kind of whiny to most people who get up this early, or earlier every morning. My iPhone came in very handy this morning. I used it as an alarm (apparently Sammy's iPhone does not work well in that capacity). Then I used it as a camera for the first day of my "Breakfast With Sammy" project. Since I was using my iPhone, of course I used my new best friend: INSTAGRAM!!!

As the sun rose over the cascades this morning, I noticed it hit the chandelier in a very pretty way. I like to stop and look around at the pretty things when I am up at 6:30am.

Each breakfast this week will have a theme. Today's "Breakfast with Sammy Project" breakfast is titled:
"Nana Fern" because one of the things I remember vividly about visiting my salmon-fishing Grandparents in Tillamook is Nana Fern's Pan-Fried Salmon Fillets and Blueberry Pancakes.

My breakfast preparations began with Joey's "from scratch" pancake recipe. It is tried and true and here it is:

Joey's "From Scratch" Pancake Recipe
1 1/2 cups flour
3 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
(Sift these dry ingredients together then add the following)
1 Tbsp. white sugar
1 1/4 cups milk (I only had 1% this morning, so I added half buttermilk, half 1%)
1 egg
3 Tbsp. butter, melted

Mix the batter just until blended. Do not over blend or they will be tough pancakes. The batter is pretty thick, I usually end up adding a little extra milk, but Joey likes them super thick. I find them harder to cook when the batter is thick... Joey likes dark pancakes, I do not.

In order for the pancakes to be Nana Fern-like, I added fresh blueberries.

I purchased some lovely fresh caught Canadian Atlantic salmon last night at the grocery store. I added salt and pepper to flour and dredged the salmon fillets in the flour. I then pan fried them in a little oil. They weren't very thick and in order to get a nice color on them, I had the heat on med-high. It only took a couple minutes per side. I then removed them from the heat and covered them with foil to keep them warm. We prefer salmon cooked to medium here in our house, these were actually cooked through but still extremely moist and flavorful.

The finished product was delightfully delicious, just like Nana's always was.

One of the best things about eating breakfast at 7:00am at our house, the view:

And Sammy managed to leave the house on time this morning, even though he had no first period class. Success!