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Month: June 2016

Tips for Healthy Travel

Tips for Healthy Travel

This week, there won’t be any little lunches.  I’ll be out of my office all week long, traveling.  I’ve spent a large part of my adult life traveling: I lived for two years in Majuro in the Marshall Islands and made the trip to and from the US four times during that time period, flying thirteen hours each way.  I’ve also traveled internationally in other spots of the world for vacation, traveled quite a bit in the US for work, and now spent much time traveling throughout Oregon both for fun and for work.

At first, when I traveled, I was a fairly strict vegetarian.  This often made lunch, particularly grabbed in an airport, complicated.  I learned to find specific spots in airports I frequented so that I was guaranteed food.  A particular BBQ place in Houston that served a very good baked potato comes to mind.  Though I’m not a vegetarian anymore, I’m still pretty picky about what I eat, so I don’t want to succumb to eating fast food as I transfer planes.  Last year, I traveled to Baltimore and, for the first time, packed my lunch.  It was such a good alternative to trying to find fresh and healthy food, I’ve done it ever since.

So here’s what’s in my carry-on luggage this time.

travel bag components 2

salami wrap oatmeal

Top: Umpqua Oats Oatmeal, In a Pickle Popcorn (Trader Joe’s), instant coffee from Starbucks, a salted dark chocolate bar (also Trader Joe’s), and trail mix (combination of peanuts, Brazil nuts, dried apricots, dried cranberries, dried edamames, and chocolate covered raisins).

Bottom: Salami, provolone cheese, hummus, and lettuce wrap in a tortilla.  These can all handle going unrefrigerated for a while so I’ll eat this between flights, right around lunch time.  Umpqua Oats Oatmeal, wrapped in a plastic bag in my carry on to prevent getting dried oatmeal everywhere on my clothes).

When I get through security at the airport I’ll buy water.  I’ll be well hydrated and well snacked throughout my flights and in the several nights at the hotel.  On the flights back, I’ll take my chances with airport food.

Easy Baked Chicken Breasts

Easy Baked Chicken Breasts

Last week was one of those weeks that I just didn’t feel very enthusiastic about anything, particularly cooking.  By Friday night, I was just tired – it had been raining all week, and as much as I love rain and love the PNW, I’m not a huge fan of this occasional season called Juneuary.  Sometimes, even a PNW girl needs some sunshine.  All of this is a long way of saying that on Friday, I just wanted to make an easy dinner, curl up under a blanket, have a glass of wine, and just be done.

Fortunately, I have just the recipe for such a situation.   Easy baked chicken breasts are just that: easy.  They can be accompanied by all manner of roasted veggie, including potatoes, green beans, cauliflower, and my personal favorite, fava beans.  I had fava beans from the farmer’s market from the previous Sunday, and I have an abundance of herbs in the garden right now, so all of these combined, along with a little bit of easy focaccia, made for the perfect weekend night meal.

parsley herbs

basil oregano

(Showing off my herb garden – all in pots and all doing better than I expected).

This is designed to be an easy meal for two, but could easily be adjusted to make more.

chicken and fava chicken fava focaccia

Easy Baked Chicken Breasts
Serves 2

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 – 3 tablespoons finely chopped herbs (I used basil, rosemary, oregano, thyme and parsley)
2 or 3 finely chopped garlic cloves
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
A few grinds of fresh pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Combine the herbs, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper in a small bowl.  Put the chicken breasts on a foil lined baking sheet and spread the herb and oil combination over them with a spoon.

You can also put vegetables on the baking sheet with the chicken – just keep an eye on them as you cook the chicken as they may cook at different speeds.

Bake the chicken for 20 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 170 degrees.

Green Power Smoothie

Green Power Smoothie

When life gives you beets, make a green power smoothie – this might just be my new motto. We’ve had a project going on for the past three months that has involved a lot of driving, a lot of weekends away from home, and, unfortunately, eating what feels like a lot of fast food.  Since that project is pretty much over, I’m feeling like it’s time to detox.  Fortunately, it is summer and the farmer’s markets are in full swing, which means I have an abundance of fresh produce in the fridge.  This past weekend, in addition to first of the season tomatoes, I also came home with Chioggia beets and a bag of mixed kale greens (though the latter was by accident – I actually thought I was grabbing a bag of spinach).  My first impulse with the beets was to recreate a beet tartin recipe I’d had in Bandon, but then I decided that would take too much work, so opted to create a smoothie instead. 

Chiogga beets are wildly striped pink beets.  They are a variety of beet that hails from Italy and they have a decidedly un-beety taste.  In other words, a beet hater might find them more palatable than the traditional dark red beet.   I’ll take beets in any form, but I do like the milder, sweet taste of the Chiogga for a smoothie.  I hate wasting beet greens, so decided to wash up a handful and toss them in the smoothie too.  And of course, I had that bag of kale greens that needed to be used up.  We also brought home blueberries and thus, a power smoothie was born. 

I made up freezer smoothie packs.  This entails putting together some or all of the fruits and veggies for a smoothie in individual freezer bags and freezing them.  It makes it easier to blend a smoothie a day for the week.  I’m not a fan of including the greens in these, so left them separate and will add them as I go this week.  I also added banana for a bit more flavor and to get some additional potassium in my diet.  The most time consuming part of this is boiling the beets, but that’s a very hands-off process. 

sliced chiogga beets whole chiogga beets

boiled chiogga green power smoothie

Green Power Smoothie
Makes 5 Servings

3 beets of any variety
4 bananas, peeled and chopped into chunks
1 pint blueberries
Several bunches of greens (kale, spinach, and/or beet greens)
Coconut water

Wash the beets to remove any major deposits of dirt.  Add the beets to a large saucepan and cover with water.  Bring them to a boil and let simmer for 45 minutes to an hour.  You’ll know the beets are done when a knife or fork goes into them easily.  Remove the beets and run cold water over them.  When they are cool enough to handle, slip the peels off.  Chop the beets into chunks. 

To make smoothie packs, distribute the chopped beets, the chopped bananas, and the blueberries evenly into five freezer bags.  Freeze.

When you are ready to make smoothies, add one frozen smoothie pack to about a cup of washed and de-stemmed greens in your blender.  Add a half cup of coconut water and blend until smooth, adding more coconut water if needed to get a smooth consistency. 


Roasted Tomato and Burrata Pasta Salad

Roasted Tomato and Burrata Pasta Salad

When life gives you half an hour to make your lunch for the week, along with the first of the summer tomatoes and an abundant crop of basil, make Roasted Tomato and Burrata Bow Tie Pasta Salad.  So if you follow me on Instagram, you may have noticed a number of beach-focused posts this past weekend.  One of the greatest parts of living in this part of the PNW is that the beach is only two hours away, and I was fortunate to happen to have a meeting along the coast on Friday, which led to a night’s stay in Bandon, Oregon, a small tourist town along the southern Oregon coast.  I ate seafood, picked up rocks and shells, and wandered along the beach.  This meant, however, that Saturday was consumed with beach-time and driving, leaving just one day to run errands and cook on Sunday.  I also realized, belatedly, that the Vancouver Marathon was happening on Sunday, which meant virtually no parking for the farmer’s market in Vancouver.  This gave me a great excuse for going to a different market across the river in Portland – the Montavilla neighborhood market, where I found the first cherry tomatoes of the season.  After having also crammed in shopping, a father’s day phone call, and a haircut, I was left with little time to be super kitchen creative. 

Thus, bow tie pasta salad with roasted tomatoes, basil and Burrata cheese.  Burrata cheese looks like a large round chunk of mozzarella.  The difference is that the exterior is very mozzarella like, while the interior is filled with creamy curds that melt very nicely.  It’s divine. Burrata was a rarity when we lived in rural Oregon, but here in the Portland area, it’s much easier to find.  This recipe comes together very quickly and makes a great lunch dish.  It would hold up well for a picnic, too. 


Roasted Tomato and Burrata Bow Tie Pasta Salad
Serves 4

8 ounces dried bow tie pasta
15-20 cherry tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic chopped finely
2 balls of burrata
10-15 leaves of basil, torn into bite-size pieces
Salt to taste
Ground pepper to taste
Olive oil to taste

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Put the whole cherry tomatoes on a baking sheet or pie pan and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with the chopped garlic.  Roast for 20 minutes or until the tomatoes are wrinkly and soft.  Set aside and let cool.

Fill a saucepan about half way with water and bring to a boil.  Add the pasta and cook according to package instructions.  Drain the pasta.

Combine the drained pasta, the roasted tomatoes, and basil and toss.  Tear the burrata into chunks and add to the pasta/tomato/basil combination.  Add a pinch of salt and a few grinds of ground pepper and drizzle a little olive oil over the top. 

This can be eaten as is, or left overnight in the fridge and reheated the next day – no more than a minute or two in the microwave.

Aperol Spritz – Friday Happy Hour

Aperol Spritz – Friday Happy Hour

As I’ve written about in prior posts, a significant portion of my job is driving around the state of Oregon, going to meetings.  Some of these drives are between three and four hours or fall into the rush hours in Portland (from noon to eight or such).  I’ve taken to listening to a combination of audiobooks and podcasts to help pass the time.  One of my favorite podcasts I recently discovered is Burnt Toast, from the editors of Food52.  I’ve enjoyed listening to interviews with both Ruth Reichl and Nigella Lawson.  I’ve learned about several cookbooks I really, really need to get and am hoping for a free weekend soon to go to Powell’s (my all-time favorite in the world bookstore in Portland) to get them. 

One of the recent podcasts was all about the Italian Spritz.  I don’t know how I wandered around Rome for several days nearly nine years ago and missed out on this simple cocktail, but somehow, I did and it took a podcast here in the US to introduce me.  I immediately went out and bought Prosecco, Aperol, and soda water and started making these.  Aperol is a super-tart aperitif made with bitter orange, gentian, rhubarb and cinchona (along with other unidentified and probably proprietary ingredients).  Cinchona is a tropical plant, which has bark that’s been used for medicinal purposes to treat malaria and is an ingredient in quinine.  The latter piece of trivia here is interesting to me, as I really like the taste of Aperol – it has the same distinctly tanginess that I enjoy in a gin and tonic, and tonic water has quinine in it – I can definitely see the connection between the flavors.

Enough trivia – here’s the super easy recipe for an Aperol Spritz.  My advice for the weekend is to make one or more of these and lie in hammock to read. 

aperol spritz

book and cocktail aperol spritz 2

Aperol Spritz
Makes 1

Soda Water

Fill a wine glass about half-way with Prosecco.  Add Aperol until the glass is about three-quarter’s full.  Add soda water and ice and enjoy.  If you run out of Prosecco, don’t panic – I’ve also made this with white wine.  It’s not as fizzy, but just as cool and refreshing on a hot summer evening. 

Steamed Artichokes with Garlic Aioli

Steamed Artichokes with Garlic Aioli

Steamed artichokes are another spring favorite food.  Along with asparagus and strawberries, this is one of the foods I recall being truly seasonal when I was a kid.  If you didn’t get a feast of all during a short time period in the spring, it was a long time coming to taste these again.  Now, of course, all are available year round, though as far as I can tell, they only truly taste good in season, in the spring and early summer.  We’re lucky here in the PNW that all three grow easily and readily and are available in both the grocery stores and at the farmer’s market.

Artichokes are a wonderfully messy food – they require some sort of dipping sauce to complement their meaty goodness.  I’m a fan of lemon juice, butter and garlic powder, as this is essentially the only dipping sauce I ever knew to accompany artichokes when I was younger.  This week, though, I decided to branch out a bit.  I’m a huge fan of the garlic aioli that comes with fried asparagus at Burgerville, the happy, local meat fast food place here in Oregon.  I thought it might be good with artichokes, so made my own variation.  This is a wonderful afternoon snack and I’m totally in favor of eating it at my desk, messy though it may be.  My only advice about this is to bring an ample supply of napkins.  The only thing that could make this better would be to be on a picnic, drinking white wine and lounging on the bank of a river.   Either way, enjoy!

four artichokes


Steamed Artichokes with Garlic Aioli
Serves Four

4 artichokes, stems trimmed and tips of leaves trimmed

Garlic Aioli
4 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 garlic cloves, chopped finely
Juice of half a lemon
Pinch of salt

Place a steamer basket at the bottom of a large saucepan.  Fill the pan with water up to the base of the steamer basket and bring the water to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer, add the artichokes and cover, steaming for 30 to 45 minutes.  You can check the artichokes for doneness by pulling on a leaf – if it comes off easily, the artichoke is done. 

Garlic Aioli

Add all ingredients in a small bowl and stir until combined.

Serve the artichokes with garlic aioli on the side.

Herbed Steak Salad

Herbed Steak Salad

Right now, the weather can’t make up its mind if it’s summer or not.  We’ve had outrageously hot days, followed up by weeks of cool, cloudy and rainy weather.  My cooking has remained optimistic: I’ve been aiming for lighter, easier to cook meals that don’t heat up the kitchen too much, like this steak salad for lunches this week.

The other reason I’m cooking this particular lunch item this week is in response to a blogging challenge on focused on cooking a food found in a novel.  As you may have figured out by now, if I’m not cooking or gardening, I’m more than likely sitting in the garden and reading.  I read widely, though generally my favorite genre is mystery or suspense and I’m a particular fan of mysteries set in interesting places that have characters that reflect those places and cultures.  One of my favorite series is by Dana Stabenow and features Kate Shugak, a private investigator living in remote Alaska.  As I was thinking about this challenge and reading A Taint in the Blood, I realized how much Kate Shugak cooks throughout the series.  Often, the meals include moose and other locally hunted protein, but in this particular novel, Kate goes to Anchorage to work on a case and buys things like steak.  Since I doubted I’d find moose at Whole Foods, I decided to replicate a recipe Kate makes about mid-book: an herbed steak with spinach.

book and cocktail

(I spent some of the weekend hanging out, drinking Aperol spritzes – recipe coming out on Friday – and reading).

I thought I’d try flank steak, as it’s lean and quick cooking, but Whole Foods also didn’t have this cut (maybe I should have asked for moose after all?).  I decided to go for round steak instead, coating it in olive oil and then smothering it with herbs, searing it in a cast iron pan and then throwing it in the oven for a bit to finish off, a very similar technique to the one Kate uses in the book.  The original recipe in the novel has Kate then steaming some spinach and dressing it with red wine vinegar.  I had originally purchased spinach for my salad, but it got repurposed for an omelet on Sunday morning, so am going with mixed salad greens instead, lightly dressed with red wine vinegar and olive oil.  I also threw in some dill and garlic goat cheese.  Kate is not a drinker, but I couldn’t resist tasting the steak with a bit of red wine on the side, and I promise you, it’s heaven.  It was all I could do to resist munching on the sliced pieces of steak as I put my salad together.


steak salad and wine

Herbed Steak Salad
Serves 4

4 small round steaks, about a pound total weight
3 tablespoons dried Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
Olive oil
Spinach or salad greens
Red wine vinegar
Goat cheese

For the steaks:  Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat.  Drizzle olive oil over the steaks and make sure both sides are liberally coated.  Combine the herbs, garlic powder, salt and pepper in a small bowl.  Dredge the olive oil coated steaks in the herb mixture until both sides are well coated.  Add the steaks to the preheated skillet and cook about four minutes per side.  Steaks should be well seared on both sides and should reach an internal temperature of 130 degrees for medium rare.  I found it helped to cover the skillet between flipping the steak to keep the heat in.  Set the steaks aside, cover with foil and let rest or at least two minutes.

Slice the steak thinly.  Plate four plates or bowls with spinach or salad greens.  Place the sliced steak over the greens and then sprinkle with goat cheese (to taste), and drizzle with red wine vinegar and with olive oil.

For more novel food blogginess, head over to

novel food


Basil Berry Sangria

Basil Berry Sangria

It’s Friday, it’s cooled down a bit here in the PNW, and it’s time to have some Basil Berry Sangria to celebrate!  Last weekend, on one of the hottest of days, Clay and I went to my favorite cousin’s house for a BBQ.  This cousin is a particularly amazing woman: she’s worked on cars, went to culinary school and worked as a sous chef, traveled the world, and just is a plan all around extraordinary person.  One of the greatest parts about living in PNW is that we live closer to her and her significant other and can hang out on a regular basis, including finally being able to take her up on invitations for great parties, camping, fishing, etc.  We’ll also be going wine tasting soon and I’m sure I’ll be posting photos and sharing some of our great wine finds.  All of this is a long prelude to say that at the aforementioned BBQ, she made some amazing sangria that had just the faintest herby hint of basil.  I was smitten and had to make some for myself. 

Of course, the current food mantra around here is it is berry season – eat lots and lots of berries – in everything!  So of course, I had to make a berry sangria.  This combines both berries and basil and makes me think I need to make more dishes with both ingredients and quickly.  For now, though, this sangria will suffice. 

berry basil sangria 2

Basil Berry Sangria – Friday Happy Hour
Serves 4-6

¼ cup basil infused simple syrup (recipe below)
¼ cup orange curacao or Cointreau
2 cups mixed berries (blueberries, blackberries, marionberries, etc.)
1 bottle dry white wine (I used a dry Riesling, but other whites or even a rose would do)

Combine all ingredients in a pitcher or carafe and stir.  Let sit in the refrigerator for at least two hours or longer for the flavors to blend.

Basil Infused Simple Syrup
6 basil leaves, washed and patted dry
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup water

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and heat over low heat until the sugar is dissolved.  Take off the heat and let sit until cool.  Remove the basil before using.