Tuesday, May 29, 2012

New food & new friends in Espana!!

It's night in Santiago, Spain and I've been here for a week. I"m running around with my friend Juan (Juancho) Antonio and his father Juan Antonio Sr. and Juancho's friend from Scotland, Iain. I'm eating my way through Santiago and exploring this town full of old beauty. Passageways between buildings open up like seams you can slide through. The old part of town is made mostly of stone which lets you hear the voices of Spaniards echoing as they talk and walk the streets. It's truly a magical place.

Check out Santiago at night:

People flock to Santiago on pilgrimages to see the great cathedral where it's believed the apostle James was buried. I've come for the friendship and food. Santiago is an off-the-radar foodie hotspot. A guy at the aeropuerto tells me the whole region of Galicia is famous for its rich agricultural treasures.The soil is beautiful and fertile, producing the best red bell peppers I've ever tasted (yummy like candy). Even the iceberg lettuce is better here. The bread is from heaven. Everything is cooked in olive oil, even the pastries have a lovely olive oil aftertaste. Santiago is not too far from the Northern coast of Spain, so seafood is king. The fish market in town is filled with the most unusual creatures from the sea, including octopus, inky squid, razor necked clams and fat fish of all shapes and sizes.

People hike from all over to Santiago. Some through France and Basque country, others cycle from Portugal. When they arrive in the Cathedral square, many lay on the stone ground and look up at the gorgeous cathedral. They walk in and smell the rosy incense and some take the sacrament from the priest. The reward for their journey.

When I arrived in Santiago, Spain, I was ravenous. I'd been eating the same fish and chips, chicken and chips, roasted goat and chicken and ugali in Africa for a month and I needed to baptize my palate in olive oil, Spanish cheeses and fresh veggies.

Here's one of my favorite tapas dishes, sweet mini peppers stuffed with chevre and drizzled with olive oil.
Galicia is known for its octopus! I'd hesitated buying this because I'd tried it several times in the U.S. and didn't like it, but Chef Miquel's octopus, steamed and served in a platter of Andalucian olive oil and sprinkled with sweet paprika was amazing. This octopus tastes like the pork of the sea, tender and fatty. Though I had octopus in Madrid at another place and it wasn't nearly as good.

I did eat octopus.. here's proof!!

Some of my friends in Spain: Matilde, beside me, lives in Spain but is native to Columbia. She taught me how to make empanadas. Her son German sits beside Juancho Antonio. We're eating a thick hot chocolate sauce with churros.
In Spain, people eat all night and into the morning. They get started eating tapas at 10 p.m. and then dinner at midnight and then move onto another eatery for more tapas where they eat and talk and eat until 3 a.m. or later. In Spain, they live to eat!! Below is another tradional appetizer in Spain, Padron peppers -- sweet, not hot-- pan-fried in olive oil and tossed with sea salt.
We went to the market and bought a round of creamy, farm-fresh goat cheese. Love it! I made a delicious orange cheesecake an brownie dessert with this cheese and Valencian oranges

This creamy, sweet cheese is famous in Galicia and the locals call it "boob" cheese. " :)

Here's my new friend Iain, a divinity student at the university in Santiago who pal-ed around with us and kept us on our toes with his ideas about the nature of God, man's destiny and the art of eating squiggly things like octopus.

Sangria with oranges

This was a relief on the wall of my favorite church called Las Animas near the town center. There characters are almost three-dimensional and reach out to you as you view them. Santiago is rich in religious history.
This is a view of Juan Antonio Senior from upstairs in his apartment after he's hung up his clothes to dry. I love how simple his family lives!

On the way back to the airport, I saw this bag and I loved the message on it.
Goodbye beautiful Santiago; till we meet again!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Here be Beer, Monks and Lotsa Sausage
Mt. Angel, Oregon is a must-see!!

Tucked away in farm country east of Salem, Oregon, is an inconspicuous little German town called Mt Angel. It's a place settled by German pioneers in the 1800s, where you can be both "holy" (at the Mt Angel Abbey) and "wholly" devoted to sausage and beer at Mt Angel Sausage Company, the Glockenspiel Restaurant and Pub, at the many local German-themed eateries and at Mt Angel's annual Oktoberfest, coming up next month, on Sept 15th through the 18th. It's Oregon's largest folk festival. Took these photos of the Oktoberfest last year.

FYI: This year, the Glockenspiel plans to sell HOG WINGS at the Oktoberfest (pork on a stick!) Stay tuned!

Here's a few photos that illustrate why Mt Angel, Oregon is a wonderful place to visit!

1) People are happy here! Happy to serve you beer in large quantities and local sausage. Here's Bretny Endicott hamming it up. She's a server at the Glockenspiel.

2) The servers at the Glockenspiel Restaurant and Pub wear lederhosen!

3) If it's German beer you like, you'll be in Heaven here.

4) The locals all know how to do the chicken dance! The lady behind the chicken and stein in this photo is Teresa Godon, supervisor for the Glockenspiel Restaurant and Pub. This restaurant has a magical Glockenspiel clock in front, that plays wonderful tunes and tells the story of the early pioneers who came to Mt. Angel.

And reading German aloud just makes you feel special. Try it!

Also, aren't German knick-knacks just cute!

And how about this sausage truck! Cute, again!

5) On the drive from Salem to Mt Angel, you might drive past this exquisite field of poppies.

6) While there, you are bound to meet a local celebrity. Here's Jim Hoke owner of Mt Angel Sausage Company and his wife Robin; Jim was just featured on the Food Network's episode of Outrageous Food!

7) You might meet another local celeb, Jerry Lauzon, public relations director for the Mt Angel Oktoberfest. Below is a video of Jerry singing a German tune and yodeling with his sweetheart!

8) Order as many delicious hand-stuffed sausages as you want!And you'll love the fries at Mt Angel Sausage Company.

9) Accordian music! This guy and his buddy play bass and accordian on the back patio of Mt Angel Sausage Company... fun summer dining.

After filling up with sausage, beer and fries, head over to the Mt. Angel Abbey, a Benedictine Monastery on a lovely hill overlooking the east side of Mt Angel.

10) You may run into Benedictine monks.

11) The chapel at the Mt Angel Abbey feels so European...if the chapel is empty, go ahead and sing a Gregorian chant there - the acoustics are divine!

12) In the Summer, attend the Abbey Bach Festival, listen to Bach then picnic outside with wine and sandwiches on the grass.

13) See a famous architectural gem: the Abbey Library on the campus was designed by the Finnish architect Alvar Aalto.

If possible, take a tour with a monk, so you don't miss the details of the library, like how the bottom of these Aalto-designed chairs have a brand on it: the Abbey historically owned cattle and this symbol was their original brand. The Abbey houses one of the largest collections of Alvar Aalto furniture in North America. The arms and legs of the chair are formed out of a single piece of bent wood, shaped like an upside down U.

Enjoy! Auf Wiedersehen!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Day 17th- White Cake with Velvet Chocolate Frosting

Sorry Gram, I got a little behind in blogging daily. Truth is, I spend all day at work online and like to unplug when I go home, so I'm trying to play catch-up. But I hear in Heaven you have no concept of time, so I'm sure you won't mind if I blog into July :)

For Father's Day weekend, I joined forces with my sister Cara to make a one of Grandma's cakes! This white cake recipe is simple but delicious. White cake is one of the most easily adulterated cakes out there (lots just buy cake mixes) so when you get a good homemade version, it can be heavenly!

2/3 cup shortening (use oil for a lighter cake)
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups sifter flour (for cake flour, substitute 2 Tblsp. cornstarch for flour in each cup.)
3 1/2 tsp baking powder

Cream shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and beat thoroughly. Add milk to the bowl. Add dry ingredients and vanilla and mix on slow speed to blend. Turn to medium speed and beat till thoroughly mixed. Pour into 13 X 9 inch greased pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. Recipe perfected for 5,000 feet, adjust for your altitude.

My cute niece helped us cook...

Cara's little family.

Here's the batter! Yum!

Velvet Chocolate Frosting:

6 oz your fav. chocolate chips
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup sourcream
1 tsp. vanialla
dash of salt
powdered sugar

Melt chocolate and butter over hot (not boiling) water. Remove from heat. Add sour cream, vanilla, and salt and blend in. While beating, add enough powered sugar to make a spreading consistency.

Chocolate chips melted in butter my sister made from her neighbor's cow's milk.

Chocolate frosting

Cara's daughter... the drama queen herself!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Day 16: Stuffed Pork chops

My cousin Pam Hepworth is at it again, cooking grandma's stuffed porkchops! Enjoy!

4 double-thick chops. Cut a pocket in the fat side.
1/4 c. chopped onion
1 c. chopped celery
1/4 c/. butter
6 slices bread, crumbled
1/3 c. chopped green pepper
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 tsp sage
1/4 tsp poultry seasoning
1/3 cup water

Saute veggies in butter, combine with crumbs and seasonings. Fill each pork chop with 1/4 c stuffing. Add 1/3 c. more water to rest of stuffing and bake in buttered, covered casserole dish. Bake chops, after browning in a skillet, in 350 degree oven for 1 hour. Fasten edges of chops with chopsticks.

CHEF OF THE DAY: Pam Skoy Hepworth

I love pork chops and I love stuffing-- so of course this is a favorite recipe of mine. I haven't made it in years, so I jumped at the chance to make this dish again. It was much easier than I remembered--most likely because I actually took the time to sharpen my knife before slicing into the chops (I'll spare you the horror story of my prior attempts to make the pork pockets with an embarrasingly dull dud of a knife no doubt inherited from my mom before it could be donated to the DI). However, the entire process did take me longer than I recalled. For me the time-takers came in the form of shredding quite a bit of bread (unless your bread is already dry and crumbly), making my own poultry seasoning because I couldn't find the nearly full container I have somewhere in the house, AND the hour of baking after everything is combined, stuffed and browned.

My advice would be to tackle this recipe when you have plenty of time to enjoy the process, or take the recipe in parts and make the stuffing the night before (minus the broth--you can add that just before stuffing the pork).

Green Bean and Mushroom Medley

This combination of vegetables is not only easy peasy to make, but really makes your ordinary, dull can of green beans stand up and act fancy. I didn't have waterchestnuts and didn't use bacon to garnish the top of the beans (since I was serving it with the pork chops), but the dish was yum, even without those items.

My food storage is over-laden with canned green beans, so I chose to use canned over fresh beans. Later this summer, when green beans are in season, I'll make this again with fresh beans, which will, of course, make it even better.

Stuffed pork chops, green bean mushroom medley and some extra stuffing. You could add gravy, but why???

Green beans and mushrooms cook up first; then add the green onions and waterchestnuts to the pan a few minutes before serving. So easy.

A side view (less scary view) of the finished stuffed pork chops.

Cutting the pocket into the chop was actually easier than I thought it would be. Of course I sharpened my knife first.......

Smart phones are so handy in the kitchen when you need to look up the recipe for poultry seasoning.

My bread was pretty fresh and squishy, so I toasted it in the oven until it was slightly browned, hoping to save the stuffing from becoming a dense mass of bread and veggies and maybe adding a toasty flavor dimension to it all. It worked!

Stuffed and browned chops, ready to go in the oven, looking very much like scary, wide-mouthed sea monster grins in mid-chew.