Friday, May 20, 2016

Abandoned Sea Castles


This is a post I wrote this past October.  I am slowly coming back to blogging.  I can only handle one blog at the moment.  I will be combining everything here.

I am looking forward to the summer and finding more of these little tokens of summer fun littered across our sandy shores.

ENJOY---Sherron

Our beaches draw thousands of visitors each weekend.  The Oregon Coast invites families, couples, and singles from all over the world to come and explore our beautiful coastlines up and down scenic highway 101. Newport sits on the Yaquina Bay and feeds into the Pacific Ocean.

We have officially ended what is known in our tiny town as the "tourist season" and gently rolled into our second summer.  Second summer is something we learned recently from a local update we subscribe to.  We get a few weeks of warm summer-like days that are sprinkled with rolling fog, misty mornings and cooler nights.  The days are delicious to our souls.  We savor each one with the knowledge that soon we will be cold and our homes will be hit with high winds and rain...lots of rain. Ten inches of rain in one month.

Crazy!

Our nights find us walking along the beaches at low tide in search of finding treasures from the water.  We find shells, drift wood and the occasional flip flop. We find toys, shirts, shorts, dead birds, bits of jelly fish and abandoned sandcastles.

On Saturday we headed to South Beach State Park over the Yaquina Bridge to check out a new beach.  The beaches have similarities but each beach also has its own personality.  Yaquina Head State Parks beach is covered in basalt.  Little black rocks covering the shore.  This creates a "shhhhhhh" sound as the water passes through each rock.  Nye Beach has dunes for the kids to run up and down on.  

 We have so many beaches to explore.

South Beach has shells.  We are discovering stretches of the coastline that do not have shells.  If they do, they are often busted and in pieces.  This beach has a bit of both.  I usually return home with a few "whole" shells.  I clean them and add them to the table in our living room for the kids to touch, see and admire. I love bringing the outside indoors.  

My home is filled with bowls of rocks and shells. Vases with driftwood.  Fake beach grass.  Anything to remind me that we live at the beach.

While walking, I stop and notice the sandcastle that is posted at the top of the page.  It is covered with crab shells and a few broken sand dollars.  I stand there for a moment looking and inspecting the sandcastle.  My mind drifts in and out of our own family's escapades to the beach and building sandcastles.  A smile gently rises to greet the warm feelings I am remembering.

Heading to the beach empty handed is never an option.  We must come prepared for epic expectations of building the largest sandcastle in town.  Cory hauls our wagon through deep sand,  laden down with shovels, buckets, sifters, rakes, gold panning pans, and towels.  If we are lucky we return home with our beginning inventory, if not, then we have shared a bit of our family with the next beach dweller.  It happens.  

Abandoned sandcastle sounds so lonely and deserted. It expresses the circumstances that most sandcastles meet at the end of a fun weekend or a single westward excursion to find some sand.  We don't build sandcastles with the thought of leaving them behind at the end the day.  We dream about the imaginary lives that will be lived inside, the battles that will be fought, and victories won.

There is an experience that happens between the time a decision to build a sand castle is made and the final moments of realizing you must leave it behind. Minutes are devoted to the design, hours to the building and a few seconds left for goodbyes.  It all happens so fast.  Time does slip away when making memories in the sand. Our kids never want to leave.

We don't want to leave either if I am being honest. 

Our sandcastles are abandoned as the weekend draws to an end.  They are empty because families must return home to their busy lives.  Adults work and kids have school and everything in between. Each builder leaves their sandcastle reluctantly, with a backward glance, as the tide slowly rolls in.  A long day spent digging, packing sand, carrying buckets of water, and finding adornments.  It ends.

It is over.

The deserted sandcastle will not be there in the morning.  The tide will roll in and take back each grain of sand. The waves that have brought the sand to shore, pulls them into the water.  Pushing them farther and farther out to sea until all that is left in its place is a memory.

Each day these memories are made for locals and visitors on the beaches of our Oregon Coast.  At the end of each day or long weekend, we take with us the memories of building our sandcastle.  The memories of time spent with family, friends and the sea.

Next weekend will bring a new idea.  New designs.  New treasures to decorate with.

More abandoned sandcastles.









Friday, January 15, 2016

Kale Salad with Maple Dijon Salad Dressing



Well, here I am.  Two weeks into school and my life is busy and exciting.  I have not felt so alive in a long time.  I struggled for quite some time to justify my decision of returning to school and pursuing my education. I was taught that my job was in the home.  I have supported my family and husband and watched with elation as they have met their goals, dreamed their dreams, and obtained their educational degrees as well.  I played the part of supporting actress, high spirited cheerleader and motivational speaker for some time.  I have been a stay at home mom for 21 years.  This role has brought me great joy, and yet recently, I have felt empty.

Something inside of me was not right.  I struggled to place my finger on exactly what was causing me to drop into depression, suffer from anxiety, doubt myself, and, I was aware that I was slowing drifting away from my life.  The island, that is my family, was slowly drifting further from the raft that I was floating in.  I felt the embrace of being pulled under or away.


It wasn't until things came to a head this summer after moving into our home that I realized I needed a direction.  I needed to do something for me.  My unhappiness with myself was affecting my family, my relationship with my husband, and with my life.  I needed a life line.

Facing the strange fear of possibly losing it all--I made a decision.  Cory has never ever once told me to not go to school.  It's the opposite.  He never wanted me to quit and has pushed me onto this course for some time.  I finally took the bait and did what I thought was impossible, I enrolled in school.  Knee shaking, heart pulsing--I was accepted.  I told my family and they have supported me 100%.
  

This one decision will affect our family.  Cory is still working from home but he still needs to work so I have been able to adjust my schedule so that he can work and then take care of Finnley while I am away a few hours each day.  Isabella is back in school for this school year.  Rye is working and her schedule allows her to help while I am at class too.  This whole process is teaching us to work as a team.  I am learning that I can let go of the steering wheel for a while and someone else in my family can drive the "home" ship just fine without me.  I needed to learn this lesson.

 
Cory and Rye are so cute because the other day they reassured me that I did not need to do all of the cooking.  They were capable of making a variety of dishes and they had my blog to fall back on.  I can't tell you how happy this makes me feel.  I still cook a lot but the responsibilities are being shared.

As for me, I feel good.  My spirits are high.  I am like a kid in a toy shop.  I never knew how addicting learning could be.  I am like a sponge.  I don't want school to end.  My goals are hefty and I am looking at 6 years of college but I can do this.

Our meals have become easier and more fresh.  This kale salad is delightful.  The kale and swiss chard work well together to create the base for this winter salad.  I have added a few crunch elements that my family likes but you can always exchange those for things you like more.  


Our favorite part about this salad is the Maple Syrup Dijon Salad Dressing. Twang meets sweet.  Together the flavor is "moorish" in the fact that I want more and more and more.

I hope you can appreciate Finnley as my photo assistant.  I have come a long ways since the first few years of taking pictures.  I had this idea that they needed to look perfect.  Those days are long gone.  The pictures you see are my life.  A busy Mom trying to blog, cook, photograph, write, go to school, clean house, help with homework, do homework, be a partner for my husband and still find time to pursue the things I like to do.  Finnley is my life right now and for now on you may see her foot, finger, hand, head, or shoulder in a picture or two.  I wouldn't have it any other way either. I love those little glimpses of her still small frame.

Too soon, I will have an empty home and my life will slow down.  I am trying so hard to find the balance and help my whole family achieve their goals, dreams, and personal educational needs.

It's challenging but so worth it.

Kale Salad with Maple Dijon Salad Dressing

Salad:

4 large winter kale leaves, center vein removed
4 large swiss kale leaves, center vein removed
1/3 cup parsley, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme, finely chopped
1/2 cup dried pomegranates
1/2 cup sesame seed covered cashews
1 lemon, juice only

Dressing:

1/4 cup sunflower oil
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
REAL maple syrup, to taste
salt if needed
pepper to taste
dash of garlic powder

1. Cut the kale and swiss chards into bite size pieces or narrow strips. I like the strips personally.  Add the remaining ingredients; toss to combine.  Squeeze the whole lemon over the salad and massage into the kale and swiss chard.  This should be done before adding the salad dressing.  Let sit for 15 minutes.

2.  In a small bowl, combine salad dressing ingredients.  Taste you product.  Add more mustard or syrup depending on how you think it taste.  Add salt if you think it needs it. Pour all of the dressing over the salad.

3.  Store left over salad in air tight container and refrigerate.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Greek Yogurt with Oranges, Mint and Pistachios


I have officially completed my first week of college.  I have felt many emotions this week: fear, excitement, and joy.  My favorite class is choir.  Yes, I am taking choir because I never took it in high school.  I love to sing and want a chance to work with a teacher to better my skills when it comes to belting out my favorite songs at random times in my life.  I like to say that my life is a musical.  

This little bowl of deliciousness is my favorite flavor combination when enjoying yogurt in the morning.  I can't explain why this combination of flavors works so well together--but it does.  I am not usually a person who eats loudly.  I am a quiet consumer when it comes to my table manners until I eat this.  Then, it's noisy and embarrassing.

I can't help myself.  You have the creamy texture of the yogurt combined with two crunchy elements-the pistachios and chocolate chips.  The tang of the oranges is never the same experience because they all taste different and finally the mint.  The mint is fresh and unexpected.  It is the glue that holds the dish together.  One without the other does not give the same experience.  Believe me I have tried and it doesn't punch the same POW that the original 5 ingredients do.  

I use dark chocolate chips and I unshell my own pistachios. You can use the kind that are already shelled.  I use all types of oranges and have even cheated with a can of canned mandarins.  I have tried this with greek yogurt, honey flavored yogurt and soy yogurt.  

We eat a lot of greek yogurt in our house.  So much that I just bought the system to make our own yogurt.  I plan on using coconut milk for ours. I bought a vegan starter from Amazon that was highly suggested by several blogs I follow.  

Yay me!  I hope it works.



This is our second favorite way to enjoy yogurt.  I have never lived anywhere that we could buy huge bags of cherries.  Well, we can in Oregon and it is amazing!  The come frozen and combine two types.  We heat them in the microwave until warm.  The juice just pours out of them when heated.  The fun part is that your yogurt turns pink.  We add my homemade granola to the mix and ta-da--it's a bowl of desire and comfort. 

To make homemade granola you can try these recipes below.  I make all of these throughout the year.  My newest one is Pecan Pie Granola.  I am still testing it and it should be added soon.





Greek Yogurt with Oranges, Mint and Pistachios
Makes one serving

1/2 cup of your favorite yogurt--plain, honey or vanilla work best
1 orange, peeled and diced into segments
1 teaspoon fresh mint, minced
handful of pistachios-shelled
as many chocolate chips as you want

1.  Grab a bowl and start adding ingredients.  Mine looks pretty just for the picture.





Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Jalapeno Fried Rice




My family has decided if I put jalapeno in any dish I make, it instantly becomes a hit.  This rice dish did not disappoint the family on a day when it was cold, rainy and gray.   

Very, very gray is how I would describe this time of year at the beach.  We get very few brights sunny days and having a bit of color in our food and on our walls helps with the blues.  When we were looking at homes the one thing that seemed to be common in each of the homes we liked were the painted walls.  Not white, cream or beige but bright orange, vibrant blue, canary yellow, and cherry red.  Bright and cheery and a bit of an eye sore when you see these rooms in person.  

I get it now though.  I see why the homes here have a lot of personality on the inside.  Those of us that live on the Oregon Coast spend a great deal of time inside the walls of our brick and mortar dwellings.  What has saved us from being down on these extended gray days are the windows in our own home.  Our living room has 10 huge windows and each and every day we get to watch the gray roll in and the gray roll out.  There is beauty in a monochromatic scene that I did not appreciate until we found ourselves immersed deep inside the gray-dom of living along a stretch of the West Coast that is simply breathtaking.  


I have never lived in a place that is constantly changing.  One day the beach has sand dunes and the next day it is flat.  The logs the size of telephone poles come to the shore with such ease that you forget that they are 25 feet tall.  They stack themselves like toothpicks near the sand dunes and in any nook they can find. Walking on the same beach you will have sun and then rain and probably more sun.

The weather is always changing and the weather is always changing the landscape.    Change, in my opinion, is good.

I guess this why I need to change up our fried rice a bit.  I won't lie and say I don't miss the bacon, egg and fried onion of my old fried rice recipe.  Bacon just adds a level of saltiness and smokiness that is hard to find in other products.  I don't like the Vegan Bacon and so I am learning to live without bacon.  My mind misses it but my body does not.  This body of mine does not process meat very well and we have been eating a plant based diet for some time.  

For this recipe I went with the spicy route.  We love all things hot.  Jalapeno's are a great way to infuse flavor and color into any rice dish.  This dish is flavored with a combination of Tamari (wheat free soy sauce) and Braggs Amino Acids.  I kept the veggies simple: garlic, onion and bell pepper with jalapeños and green onions thrown in at the very end.  

The ingredients on the list are the basics--designed for individuals who don't want raging hot fried rice, BUT, if your dinner crowd likes it extra HOT HOT HOT, well then, you might want to up the Sriracha Sauce and the jalapeños. Just go for it!


Jalapeno Fried Rice 

2-3 cups of day old prepared rice
1 tablespoon sunflower oil
1/4 cup red onion, sliced
1/4 cup bell pepper, sliced
1 teaspoon garlic
2 tablespoons soy sauce or Tamari sauce
2 tablespoons Braggs Amino Acids
1/2-1 whole fresh jalapeno pepper, I remove the seeds
salt to taste
chopped sliced green onions for garnish
Sriracha Mayonnaise 

1.  Heat oil in large saute pan.  Add onion and bell pepper.  Let cook until tender.  Add garlic.  Cook for 1 minute.

2.  Sprinkle day old rice over cooked vegetables.  Add the soy sauce/tamari/ Braggs and stir.  At this point--add more of these liquids--as needed.  If it looks dry, then add more.  Stir to combine.

3.  Slice jalapeno's thinly and add to cooked rice and vegetables.  Remove from heat and let jalapeños warm and wilt a bit.  

4.  Prepare Sriracha Mayonnaise by combining equal parts--if your brave--and mixing well. OR add more mayonnaise and a dab of the red stuff.   Dish up rice, criss cross the sauce across the top with a piping bag or a spoon and sprinkle with green onions.

OH, and be prepared to share the recipe--people want this one!


Friday, January 1, 2016

Gooey Hasselback Sweet Potatoes


Sweet potatoes in January?  Yep!  We are starting our year off right, in my opinion.

We eat these all year round plus I needed a reason to make marshmallows.  I think everyone needs a reason to make marshmallows.  They are beyond amazing.  I personally don't like the texture of store bought marshmallows and was leary of making them for the kids.

Little did I know that I would be hiding said "crack" from the kids because if they touched my marshmallows--someone was going down.  They are ridiculously easy to make and WAY better than the store bought version.

Now don't go crazy--you can use the store bought marshmallows for this recipe. I still buy them on occasion BUT just in case you want to try and make them yourself--GO HERE!  I love this recipe and mine turn out great each time.



Back to the sweet potatoes.  I was curious about this thing that people are always posting titled " hasselback" this and "hasselback" that.  I dug deeper and found that it has to do with the way you cut your potatoes and there is a recipe that was originated in Sweden. If you would like to see that one--go here!  I'm not sure they would approve of using a sweet potato so don't tell them.  It's our secret.

It's fancy and different.  I wasn't too impressed with it because of the stress I put on myself of cutting the damn thing in half--then what?  I like mine just fine baked the old fashion way but for variety I would suggest trying it for company. A gourmet presentation with a simple technique.

I gussied mine up with homemade marshmallows and a pecan crumble.  After that I didn't care how they were cut.


Gooey Hasselback Sweet Potatoes

4 sweet potatoes
1/4-1/3 batch fresh marshmallows or 4 large store bought marshmallows
pecan crumble--recipe below

Pecan Crumble (Make ahead--see below)
1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
3 tbsp. butter
1/2 c. chopped pecans 

1.  Preheat oven to 400.  Wash and slice sweet potatoes into thin rows.  Do not cut through the entire potato.  To make this easy, I laid a set of chopsticks out and put the potato in the middle.  Then I held all three together while I sliced away.  The chopsticks prevented me from cutting the potato all the way through. 

2.  I baked the potatoes until soft, about 45-60 minutes in my oven.  I laid the marshmallows across the top and returned to oven until melted.  I added the premade crumble before I served them.

To make the Pecan Crumble: Mix ingredients together and spread in the bottom of a cookie sheet.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.  Check and add time if needed.  Once cooled, use a metal or plastic spatula and break apart.  I would recommend parchment paper--this helps because you can lift the parchment and break it apart.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Citrus Baked Salmon with Pomegranate



I hope everyone had a fabulous holiday season.  We celebrate Christmas and had family in town.  Now we are trying to justify our food choices and figure out a plan of action.  This dish is on the menu for the week.

If you know a thing or two about Oregon then you know that Oregonians love their salmon.  Our home sits on a bay.  When the weather is good you will find many fishermen up early trying to land a popular Chinook Salmon.

Driving around you will see these said fishermen piled into flat boats all fishing in the same place.  Seriously, you will see 8-10 boats all together with their lines out.  Sometimes you mights see 30 or 40 fishing boats in one spot.  It's a sight to see and during PEAK season--good luck finding parking to even get your boat in the water.

Personally I don't have that kind of desire to hunt fish with a community effort. If we go, I prefer sitting by a quiet creek with little to no foot traffic or boats by the dozen.

We have yet to catch our own salmon.  Cory bought the gear and has tried a few times with his brother from the shore but without a boat I hear it can be tough. Eventually we may have to get a boat.  Although with the amount of rain we might be building an ark soon.

For now I get our salmon like most people do.  At the store.  I try to buy the freshest pieces I can.  Again, this is not hard in my area because we live in a fishing community and I go to the boat and buy it from the mornings catch.  Yes, we are spoiled that way.

If you read my blog, then you know that we don't eat much meat.  We do eat fish on occasion.  Let me explain.  Our not eating meat has nothing to do with animal cruelty.  I am opposed to inhumane conditions of these factory farms that are horrible to their animals.  I don't buy from these places when we do eat meat.  I try to shop locally from sustainable LOCAL farmers and fishermen.  I know the people who are raising the little meat that we do eat.    For me, it is a protein issue.  My body does not like animal protein.  I am able to eat fish without any visible or noticeable issues.  

For this recipe I wanted to try and experiment with spices and herbs.  I went with a coconut and orange juice bath with slices of oranges and lemons.  I added whole anise and cinnamon sticks while the fish was baking.  I also seasoned with salt, pepper, thyme, garlic, and onion salt.  Use any spices you want.  My thinking was to go with flavors that I thought went well together: orange and cinnamon.  These two flavors remind me of winter.  

It's winter.  It's cold.  We had salmon.  Simple stuff Maynard.



Citrus Baked Salmon with Pomegranate 

1 large filet of salmon, this piece measured about 15 inches long
2 oranges (1 for juice and 1 slices to bake with fish)
1 lemon, sliced
1/2 pomegranate, seeds only
2 whole anise
1 cinnamon stick
1 can of full fat coconut milk
2 teaspoons curry powder
salt, pepper to taste
garlic powder
onion powder
fresh thyme, minced

1.  Preheat oven to 350.  Oil a baking dish.  Lay filet in the bottom of baking dish.

2.  Add all of the ingredients (except the pomegranate seeds).  The fat from the coconut milk I scooped on top (see picture above) and poured the liquid in the bottom of the dish.  I seasoned the fish by sprinkling said spices across the top. I don't have a heavy hand and never measure this method. I use it for all of my fish dishes.  It works for us.

3.  Lay the slices of lemon and orange across the salmon.  I added the juice from one orange to the coconut milk--notice the orange color when baked--to add flavor and to extend the broth.

4.  Bake fish until flaky.  Salmon cooks fairly fast.  I usually check it after 15 minutes.  Each oven is different so keep that in mind.

5.  We serve the salmon in steaks over rice and sprinkle the pomegranate seeds for color and flavor.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Toasted Cashews


Are you going nuts yet?  Only a few more days before Christmas.  My house is a buzz with anxious adults and strung out kids.  They are way too excited this year.  The two year old is figuring things out pretty fast and the 8 year old is keeping her promise to not sleep much until Christmas day.  Send wine!

Our family eats a lot of nuts.  Even as a kid, I loved nuts.  One memory I have from my childhood are the bowls of nuts my grandparents had sitting around their home during the Christmas season.  They had the nut crackers and those thin picks.  Oh the piles of shells.  They were everywhere.  The grown ups from my childhood didn't know how to get up and throw the piles of shells away. I guess the Elf on the Shelf did that.

I tried the whole nut thing with my family and they did not care for it. Honestly I think it was too messy for their liking.  It's kind of like eating crab. My kids love it as long as I pick the meat out for them.  LOL

This is how we do holiday nuts in our house.  I have been toasting my own nuts for about 5 years.  The process is simple and I don't get too fancy but you can if you like.  I use my cast iron pans because it evenly heats the whole pan and they just turn out better each time I make them than when I use any other pan.


I buy my nuts raw and in a 25 pound bag. I store them in the freezer.  It takes us about 4-6 months to use them up and I find that they may go bad if I keep them in a drawer.  I toast them from a frozen state and have not had any problems with them turning out.

I use vegetable oil because olive oil can be too strong for my family and their taste buds.  I use flake salt to season them with after toasting.  I store them in an air tight container for up to 2 weeks.  Honestly they rarely go this long because we add them to almost all of our salads and curry's.  

If I had to describe a toasted cashew it would be nutty creaminess.  The combination of the toasted outside combined with the sweet center is the perfect snack in my opinion.


Toasted Cashews 

2 cups of raw cashews, whole or halved
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
salt to taste

1.  Preheat a cast iron pan and add oil. Heat oil and toss cashews in.  Stir with a wooden spoon until nuts are brown on both sides.  Remove from heat to a paper towel and sprinkle with salt.

NOTE: Nuts will firm up once they are cool.

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