Sunday, March 31, 2019

Korean Colors

The people of Seoul lean into a strong shared fashion aesthetic. Walking the city streets in winter, I notice that almost everyone is wearing a black or dark navy puffer jacket. Inside restaurants and bookstores, when they take off their coats, I see that the color palette continues in somber tones of black, navy, white, and dare I say it, tan as a bold accent.

I'm not exaggerating. Everyone under the age of forty apparently has pretty much eliminated vibrant colors from their wardrobe.

At first, I found the dark uniform to be a bit dull, but soon I came to embrace it. The colors are endlessly flattering to the Korean hair and skin type, and the entire city looks chic and effortlessly put together. 

And even though the people dress themselves in a monochromatic vibe, that's not to say the city lacks color.. Because what Seoul may not boast in flashy fashion, as an afternoon's walk around my daughter's Gangnam neighborhood proves, it more than makes up for with its colorful architecture. 

Some buildings go for a fully saturated color story:

^ A coffee shop in the neighborhood. I don't even drink coffee but I love to feast my eyes on this baby blue every morning. 

^ Apartments. What a sunny sight to come home to. 

^ A hot pink bridal shop with plants and black staircases that take it from good to great.

Others feature colorful design elements:
^ A strip of tomato red brings these neutrals to life and give me a certain sense that up on that rooftop patio, there's a party going on. 

^ Orange and yellow make good neighbors. 

^ Not even sure what that color block of school bus yellow is but I don't care. It lights up my eyeballs and I like it. 

And others concentrate their colorful fire power on the front door:

^ Yellow door is sunny and bright. I don't exactly know what this store was selling, but I sure wanted to walk through that door and find out.

^ This magenta portal may actually be an elevator but same difference. 

^ These red doors are everything. If only I could have crammed them into my carry-on bag. 

Even the construction barricades join the party mood in bright red

^ And yes, the construction crane working behind this crimson curtain was also red. 

 So here's my advice. When you travel to South Korea, pack all your black turtlenecks, leather jackets, black jeans, and navy striped tops. But be sure to bring your sunglasses too because the postmodern architecture on the city streets will dazzle your eyes.

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A full accounting of my trip to Seoul:

Friday, March 29, 2019

Double Bluff Beach

Here we are, Gracie and me, deep in the heart of the Pacific Northwest and enjoying a lovely hike down Double Bluff Beach. Though we traveled a mere eighteen miles from home, our day was packed with adventure. 


The Ferry Ride

^ My hometown is a ferry town. From the terminal just a few miles down the hill from my house, two big boats ply the waters of Puget Sound between the mainland and Whidbey Island. The islanders cross over mostly for shopping or work; we mainlanders love to head to the island for outdoor adventure.

^ The ferry crossing is, in a word, windy. Not that we're complaining. As we almost always do, my fourth-born and I voluntarily left our warm car to venture up to the passenger cabin and out onto the forward deck to take on the headwinds. 

Daughter and dog were already outside attempting to not be blown overboard as I passed through the cabin on my way to join them. A group of  passengers stood inside near the door, and as I approached them, I overheard their happy chatter.

"Look at that dog's long fur being blown in the wind! And her owner's long hair is blowing every which way too. You know how they say that humans and their dogs often look alike? These two definitely do!"

Yep. They were talking about my traveling companions. And they were so right.

^ I did not capture a close-up image of my daughter's hair standing on end. But Gracie's wild fringe - all the way down to her tousled toe fur - left me weak with laughter. 

^ Ten minutes later, with a quick pause at the car deck railing to check for seals, orcas or jellyfish, we re-boarded our car and sped off. Just eight quick miles on the main island road, and we arrived at our destination. 


Outbound on Double Bluff Beach 

 Now it's no secret that I'm fond of Pacific Northwest beaches:

the rugged tangle of beach logs tossed against the shore by winter storms.
the rocks that shelter tide pools where curious creatures live
the grey waters that lap at grey shores
the green ridges of triangle trees that line the horizon
the shadowy mountains that frame our special place in the world.

But this beach was particularly heart-stopping and I pinched myself to make sure I wasn't dreaming.

And if the natural beauty wasn't enough, this amazing spot was a dog park.

^Yes. A place where our four footed friends are not just tolerated but welcomed.

And invited to run free.

^ Under my watch, Gracie has never enjoyed such freedoms. Oh sure, she's slipped out of the house at least a dozen times and treated herself to wild romps around the neighborhood.

But nothing in her past behavior has convinced me that she's responsible enough to go off leash and come back when she's called.

 ^ So we compromised. I left her long thirty-foot lead attached to her collar, but I dropped my end. This way, my happy redhead was free to wander as she liked, but we humans still had a significant tactical advantage if she abused her freedom and we needed to get her back under control.

^ Happily, I can report that Gracie handled herself responsibly. She trotted up ahead of us, wandering through the shallow waves and sniffing among the rocks, but always keeping an eye on us and staying reasonably close.

 ^ And so we walked together through sea and sand and big open sky to the place where the beach ended.


The Turning Point

^ Of course, the beach did not actually end. This is an island. But after a couple miles, we clearly reached the place where the bluff ended, which once towered high over our heads, melted down to a three-foot ridge in the sand. We peered around the end of it to find - you guessed it - more beach but decided we had ventured far enough.

^ One important feature of a good turning back spot is a photogenic spot for an end-of-trail photo. This massive chunk of upturned tree worked nicely. 

^ And some other intrepid explorers had chosen this spot to build a driftwood homestead. That seemed a sure sign to stop and visit. 

So we paused. 
Surveyed our surroundings. 
Marveled at the majesty.
Fed Gracie some treats.
Fed ourselves some dried fruit. 

And turned around to begin the return leg of our trip.


Hiking Back

As the outbound leg of our journey celebrated the largeness of this lovely beach, our return focused on details. 

^ We stepped carefully (and guided Gracie's long leash) around dozens of geoduck clams popping their long and shockingly ugly necks out of the sand. 

^ We tried not to tread on the hundreds of sea anemones growing in patches on rocks and even on the sand. Most were shut up tight against the air but this one, bathing in a tide pool, had opened its flowery tentacles in hopes of catching a bite to eat. 

^ And we saw birds. Ducks and seabirds bobbed lazily on the waves, much to Gracie's fascination. Herons stood patiently, occasionally curving their necks into a perfect S as they bent down to snatch up a fish. A trio of golden eagles swooped and circled directly over our heads. 


The End

In a snap, we were back at our car, shaking heavy wet sand off our shoes, enjoying our picnic lunch, watching our dog drink water like it was going out of style.

We packed ourselves back into the car and, with our thirst for adventure happily satisfied, headed back to the ferry.

And this time, no one wanted to get out. 

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More stories about beach hikes? Here you go:

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Streicher Eats: Part Two

When I decided to take some photos of my food to satisfy the curiosity of my daughter's South Korean boyfriend, I didn't realize how much fun I would have, filling my camera roll with documentation of my daily dinner accomplishments.

I'm encouraged to keep trying new recipes,
I'm excited to keep a record of my healthy choices.

And I'm endlessly entertained by trying to take a variety of shots so every photo of my plate doesn't look exactly the same.

So in the spirit of good cooking and good fun, allow me to offer a second serving of Streicher eats.

^ Okay to be fair, I shared this dish in my first post on Streicher Eats. But not only do I love this concoction like a favored child, I've discovered a new tweak that makes this chicken bacon ranch infinitely easier to prepare. Precooked bacon crumbles. 

I mean, if I am feeling the extra step of cooking eight strips of bacon in the oven, zapping myself in the arms with flying bits of fat, and covering my stove top with a greasy sheen as I bring the pan out of the oven, I can always do that. But this marvelous Hormel product allows me to rip open a package (okay, more plastic is never cool but stay with me) and pour out delicious nuggets of real bacon-y goodness all ready to go, and that is an offer I cannot refuse. 

Here is the recipe; here is a link to the bacon crumbles. See my previous post here for other tips and tweaks. 

^ Saint Patrick's Day calls for a no-nonsense Irish dinner. Corned beef served with cabbage, carrots, and potatoes. I cook the corned beef according to the directions on the package, which means boiling the meat for two-and-a-half to three hours. Pour enough water into a big pot to submerge the meat, add the spice packet that comes with it, and leave it on a lazy boil. During the last half hour, add some potato and carrot chunks; once the meat, potatoes, and carrots are done and you are just about to sit down to eat, toss the chunks of cabbage into the water and give them a quick boil-up. As the steamy scent of boiling cabbage fills my home, I imagine myself an Irish washerwoman stirring up a pot of cabbage soup for my dozen or so children, and thank my lucky stars that my fate was not hers. 

I ate a plate of these delicious leftovers with a nice dollop of horseradish sauce for breakfast the next day, as my prisms cast a flurry of rainbows over my table. Must be me lucky charms. 

^ On the first day of spring, a recipe featuring roasted fall vegetables popped up in my feed, and despite the incongruity of the seasons, I made it for dinner. Twas delicious. 

The work was straightforward: chop and roast a whole bunch of veggies:

shiitake mushrooms
baby kale
sweet potatoes

Okay, asparagus was not in the recipe. Rather than a fall vegetable, it's clearly a member of the spring club and I decided to toss it in just to represent for the vernal equinox. I'm a rebel like that.

I also decided to add a bit of chicken sausage to the mix as we Streichers are devoted omnivores, and provided some lovely shaved Parmesan for topping. 

Rather than assemble the components into a single dish, I served them separately so we could customize our own plates. Empower the individual, that's what I say.

The recipe is here

^ So when I made the orzo dish with the fall vegetables, I used only half the cooked orzo. The next day, I prowled around online to find a recipe that would use up my leftover orzo with a completely different flavor profile. 

This little gem hit the spot. Simple flavors of chicken stock, creamy cheeses, and fresh greens were light and satisfying; since my orzo was already cooked, this dish came together in a very short time. A dinner dream come true 

The original recipe is here and it calls for you to cook the orzo in chicken broth. Since my orzo was already cooked, I warmed it up in about a cup of chicken broth (I'll be honest - I just used what was left in the box without measuring) and gave the pasta a few minutes to absorb the flavorful liquid before I moved on to the next step.

^ A ground turkey burger and roasted Brussels sprouts with a side of slaw and some blackberries for a quick and easy weekday dinner. It would be entirely proper and fitting to dress this burger up in a bun and load it with condiments but for the five or ten years these have been in our regular dinner rotation, we are content to eat the turkey burger as its own thing. These little angels are crazy delicious as leftovers straight out of the fridge, and you better believe that for my next breakfast and lunch, I ate them just like that. 

Here is the original recipe. I've tweaked this quite a bit over the years: I use one egg rather than two, and a full portion of a prepackaged serving cup of applesauce. I also add cumin. 

^ The sun was shining, the daffodils were blooming, and my fourth-born and I did not feel a whole lot like cooking. So she dreamed up a menu of a simple chicken salad - roasted chicken, cucumbers, grated carrot, and homemade mayonnaise - served in a whole wheat pita. 

Homemade mayonnaise is worth the small amount of trouble it requires. Here is a nice recipe for getting started. 

The finished effect was pure springtime magic and I ate the leftovers wrapped in lettuce for my breakfast the next day.

^ Remember seventeen-year-old Red Gerard who pulled off Olympic snowboarding gold back in PyeongChang?

If you don't, here is his gold medal run. Watch it. It's a thing of beauty.  

But my point is this. His sister, Tieghan, runs a killer cooking blog called Half Baked Harvest, and her recipes are exactly my cup of tea. This roasted mushroom kale pizza was well worth every extra fussy minute - yes, I really did massage the kale and mushrooms with my hands for one minute, as instructed, and I have no regrets. 

The recipe for the toppings is here; Tieghan's recipe for whole wheat pizza crust is here; scroll all the way to the bottom for the dough recipe. 

^ Tacos were kind of a new American thing when I was a kid, and when they started appearing on our dinner table, my brothers and I thought we had it made. Then, one night after a taco feast, a stomach flu virus hit our home and one of my brothers made a desperate run to the bathroom. Alas, he did not get there in time, and his taco dinner made an unfortunate second appearance across the dining room table. We did not eat many tacos after that. 

Fortunately, the taco craze has made a less dramatic and longer lasting run in my household, and after decades of devouring them, our taco appetite is still going strong. Our self-serve menu generally includes

ground beef with taco seasoning
refried beans
shredded cheddar cheese or a blend of Mexican cheeses
green onions
sour cream

No avocados. At least half of my daughters inherited my body's inability to process avocado oil and I cannot eat a single bite. 

We can't agree on a single base so I serve crunchy taco shells, soft tortillas, and lettuce for the salad lovers (mainly me.)

^ Stuffed peppers and roasted green beans. I'll be honest. I have never found a recipe for stuffed peppers that tastes as good as I think they should taste. So I've given up on outside sources and just make up my own concoctions as I go along. 

The peppers are the easy part. I do prefer red, orange or yellow peppers to green; I slice them in half, clean out the seeds and ribs, then vigorously steam them before stuffing. I do not like a crunchy stuffed pepper.

I get creative with the stuffing. Ground beef and onion for sure. This time I found in my fridge half a red onion  and half a sweet onion, so I used them both. I didn't have any tomato sauce on hand, so I added a cup or so of salsa, and stirred in a goodly amount of cheddar and Mexican shredded cheese (leftover from taco night.) I also found about half a block of cream cheese (left over from the spinach orzo dish) and after debating the pros and cons, decided to toss it in. 

I must say, they were scrumptious. I ate one and a half for dinner, and two the next morning for my breakfast. No regrets.

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Wanna see all the food that the Streichers eat? Check out these posts

Streicher Eats: Part One

"But what do you eat everyday? For dinner? For breakfast and lunch?"

When I was in Seoul last month, my daughter's South Korean boyfriend was curious about American eating habits, I gave him a long tour of my camera roll that held quite a few photos of my second-born's dinners in Ohio. But when it came to showing evidence of my own home cooking, I came up short. 

So this post is dedicated to you, JN. Here's a month-long highlight tour of my plate and a solid sample of what the Streichers eat.

^ On my first day back from Asia, my first-born stopped by and mercifully cooked my dinner. She made lasagna, one of her favorites, served with a Caesar salad. Almost always, I eat the previous night's leftovers for breakfast the next day. Sometimes there are leftover veggies; sometimes, like this day, there are not. But that's nothing that a bright piece of fruit can't fix. 

Find our tried and true family lasagna recipe here.

^ On my second day back from Asia, my fourth-born cooked the evening meal.  I was undoubtedly curled up in the fetal position on the couch as she googled around to find a  new recipe for a straightforward beef stir fry. It was delicious for both dinner, accompanied by some roasted asparagus, as well as the next day's breakfast. 

^ Here are the dinner and breakfast version of my plate loaded up with one of my new go-to favorites: chicken bacon ranch casserole. I craved it in Asia and whipped up a batch as soon as my jet-lagged brain could make it happen. This dish combines protein, veggies, and lots of delicous dairy into one glorious casserole and therefore needs little in terms of side dish to round it out. There's no better complement to a meal like this than a dish of berries, apple slices, or a cute little satsuma. 

A word about portion size. Don't let these bird-size servings fool you. I like to start with a modest first serving because I am all about having seconds. 

I've tweaked this recipe considerably: a little less bacon, lots more broccoli, and enough of the homemade ranch dressing to properly meld the ingredients together. Find the original version here.

^ Roasted spaghetti squash makes a nice base for all sorts of roasted veggies, spicy sausages, nuts, cheeses, and wilted greens. This dinner/breakfast/dinner again triple combo features mushrooms, chicken sausage, onion, garlic, arugula, and later almonds and parmesan; the original recipe features bacon and blue cheese which are delicious but we found to be just a bit too heavy. 

Many of my favorite dishes lately come from paleo, keto, or Whole 30 roots. I always cook from scratch and try to stay away from refined carbs; unless I'm going hard with a steak, roast, or cheeseburger, I take it easy on the red meat. But I'm not cooking to any specific regime or eating plan - just having fun and serving the flavors that my family and I like best. 

Inspired by this recipe.

^ Valentine's Day dinner is a well-established holiday tradition: heart-shaped meatloaf, baked according to my mother's meatloaf specifications, and red baked potatoes. Even though they are starchy blood sugar bombs, I adore baked potatoes and load them up with butter. I especially love to eat the jackets, crispy and warm, and always remember how my grandfather used to tell me that they were his favorite part. 

^ Omg salmon, my absolute favorite. Though I've long been a fan of crispy pan-roasted salmon, lately I'm all about baking it with lemon and dill. Served with a Caesar salad, roasted green beans, and a hearty dollop of dill-infused mayonnaise (not shown), this meal sends me directly to heaven. 

This recipe takes a slightly different approach than what I've been using but I want to try this soon. 

^ Most of my photos in this series focus on the main dish. But I always serve at least one vegetable - lately our favorites are roasted asparagus or steamed broccoli - and a dish of fresh fruit. Apple slices and oranges are reliable standbys but our favorite is a bowl of fresh berries. It's a miracle of the postmodern age that raspberries, blueberries, blackberries and strawberries show up in the grocery store all year round, and though they can be a bit pricey, we often indulge in these tasty treasure.

^ Once again, my eldest daughter dropped by to whip up a batch of pasta heaven - in this case, our classic homemade mac and cheese (above.).As a low carb option, I pulled together another new favorite of mine, a cauliflower and cheese casserole (below.).My husband has made it crystal clear that he is not a fan of cauliflower main dishes, so I slip this one onto the table when he's distracted by a heap of golden rotini. It's a win-win.

The macaroni and cheese recipe is here; the cauliflower casserole recipe is here

^ On Sunday mornings, after an early Lutheran worship, I stumble sleepily back into the house and slide into a stool at my kitchen counter. Then, my husband dons his chef hat and for one and only one time each week, he cooks for me. He rifles through the fridge and gives me ingredient options, and then I order up. Usually it's some sort of egg concoction like this one which features a scramble with bacon and green onion. 

Then, after I eat, it's nap time. 

^ Another beef stir fry taken from a quick Google search. This one featured flank steak, carrots sliced on my new mandolin, and sugar peas. The flavors of the sauce were spot on and I hope that the gods of the internet will somehow help me find this recipe again. 

^ For many, many years, we Streichers have been firm practitioners of the Pizza Party Friday Night. The particular form of our pizza pie had evolved considerably over the decades, though we have been on a long roll with a basic yeast crust that came back in the day from my daughters' Klutz cookbook. My husband and fourth-born still enjoy that base with simple toppings but I've lately switched it up to a cauliflower crust. I know. It sounds a little kooky to build a pizza crust out of veggies, and it is a bit of a process, but cauliflower does provide a reasonable non-processed carbs foundation for any and all pizza toppings, and I consider it to be worth the hassle.

After lots of experimenting, I now boil the raw cauliflower florets until they are soft enough to yield to the pressure of my hand potato masher. Once the florets pass my squish test, I drain off all the water, mash them into submission, and wring them out in a tea towel. At this point, I send them back into the empty pan and mix them up with an egg, cheese, and spices,. Parchment paper with oil is a must for baking the crust; once the crust is nicely golden, I pull it only long enough to add sauce, more cheese, and toppings, then bake a few more minutes till the creation is a masterpiece.

Though there are countless ways to improvise a cauliflower crust, this recipe is a good place to start. 

^  I try my best to make every dinner a priority, but let's be honest, there are some days when I scramble. However, in keeping with my life philosophy of faking it till I'm making it, I keep a few pantry items on board at all times for emergencies such as this. A couple cans of black beans, simmered for a half hour on the stove with a can each of green chiles and mushrooms, as well as some onion, garlic and spices, goes a long way to look, feel and taste like a proper homemade meal. Which of course, when served up with some salsa, sour cream and rice (or in my case, roasted leftover cauliflower that I seredipitously found in the back of the fridge) it is. No regrets.

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Wanna see all the food that the Streichers eat? Check out these posts