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Stuffed Acorns! November 21, 2010

Filed under: food,Uncategorized — ravennagirls @ 12:56 pm
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How do you stuff an acorn, you ask?

Well, its really acorn squash, which allows you a bit more room!

Last Friday night we realized we had an abundance of fall veggies from our CSA box in the fridge. Acorn squash, collard greens, bok choy, potatoes, turnips, just to name a few. So, in order to have a hearty fall dinner and also plow through some of our delicious veggies, I found two recipes to try some fun new flavor combos.

The salad recipe has several strong flavors: crisp peppery radicchio, tangy persimmon, and citrusy vinagrette. Its a salad that stands alone, thats for sure! The pear mellows it out a bit, though, and it definitely awakens your palatte during this time of fall comfort food. We ate it as a first course without worrying too much about flavor pairings, and I think it was pretty successful. It was crisp and interesting and I would certainly make it again.

Our main dish, the acorn squash is also an interesting mix of flavors. I used bok choy in the stuffing, which may seem an odd choice of greens to some. I love bok choy as I’ve cooked with it more and more lately. I like its mellow flavor and the fact that it stands up well to being cooked. It doesn’t change color or get bitter as mustard/collard greens tend to. It almost always keeps the dish tasting fresh but without too much fuss or pizzazz. Add some soft cheese and a little nutmeg, and there were a round grouping of flavors whose texture contrasted nicely with the firm squash. Again, highly recommend. Plus, it was super easy even though it might  read as if it takes a bit of effort, I made the whole shebang in under 40 minutes.

Recipe #1: Pear and Persimmon Salad

Adapted from our CSA provided recipe from their  blog, Good Food Life

2 Fuyu permsimmons, peeled and chopped

1 Pear, cored and chopped (I leave the peel on)

1 small head radicchio (from our yard!!)

2-3 romaine leaves, chopped

1/2 t minced orange zest

2 T juice squeezed from orange

1 t honey

1 t red wine vinegar (the actual reciped called for Champagne vinegar which might be better but I used what I had)

1/4 t salt

3 T olive oil

Loosely chop romaine and radicchio and place in shallow bowls. Arrange Persimmons and Pears on top.

Pear, Orange, and Persimmon

Radicchio and Romaine

In a small bowl whisk together the rest of the ingredients except for the oil. When well combined, whisk in the oil in a steady stream until emulsified. Pour over salad and serve.

Citrus Red Wine Vinagrette

Flavorful fall salad

 

Recipe #2: Acorn Squash Pasta Bowls*

Adapted from  Big Red Kitchen, seen over at Tastespotting

1 acorn squash

1/2 pound penne pasta

4 T. olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 medium onion

1/2 cup mascarpone cheese (found near the ricotta at your grocery)

1/2 tsp. grated nutmeg (great if fresh, its ok if not)

1/4 tsp. Kosher salt

4 grinds black pepper

1 oz crumbled blue cheese or gorgonzola

2 T. fresh parsley, minced (for garnish. I am lazy and skipped this step)

Slice the squash in half and scoop out seeds. Drizzle the insides with olive oil and sprinkle with Kosher salt and pepper. You will have to turn the squash in your hands to get all of the insides covered. Roast squash in a 400 degree oven for 35 minutes or until fork tender.

Beautiful Bok Choy

Sauteing bok choy with onions and garlic

In the last 20 minutes of roasting, start the ingredients for your stuffing. In a saute pan with a small bit of olive oil, cook onion and garlic over medium heat until onion is clear. Add in chopped bok choy and cook until slightly wilted. At the same time, boil your pasta until al dente and add drained pasta to vegetable mixture with 1 tbsp warm pasta water.

Starting the pasta boiling while the veggies saute

Ingredients for a light creamy sauce: mascarpone, nutmeg, freshly ground black pepper

Add mascarpone, half your blue cheese, nutmeg, salt and pepper, and stir slowly until cheeses are incorporated into a sauce and noodles are coated.

Completed stuffing

Ready to go back in the oven

Spoon pasta into squash so that it is mounded slightly, but not spilling over the edge. Top with the remaining blue cheese and return to the oven for 10 minutes or until cheese is melted. Sprinkle with fresh parsley if you are extra fancy. Serves 2.

Stuffed acorn!

* I was actually glad to find a recipe like this similar to one I heard Dorie Greenspan talk about on NPR a couple weeks back. Not quite as cheesy or decadent, but a good fairly healthy alternative!

So, in these two easy dishes, we managed to use a lot of things from our veggie stash: Persimmon, Pear, Radicchio, Orange, Bok Choy, Onion, and Squash!

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sometimes you go the wrong way and you end up in the right place… November 20, 2010

Filed under: adventures — ravennagirls @ 10:41 pm
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it happened to me recently.

A few weekends ago I took the junior highers on fall retreat.  It was the same location as last year… only sunny this time.

In fact, I had no idea that this mountain was right outside the big lodge windows!!

Pretty spectaular….

I love retreating, can I just say that?  It’s just so …. relaxing yet exhausting, goofy yet powerful, intense yet crazy… Its everything really.   It makes me thankful I have such great 8th graders, even though they woke me up in the middle of the night, even though they took pictures using a flash the entire way up the dark mountain, even though they brought makeup this year and talked about boys, even though they really want me to do everything they are doing every second of the day…

sitting by the fire

They are just seriously the coolest kids I know.

So cool in fact that we went on a little hike.  It was advertised to us by the lodge manager as a mild walk — level and very short.  Some of my girls came, and so did some other jr highers and a few other leaders.  But I drove the van that left the parking lot first and I had the map.

Now before I begin, when I say “map” I really mean a 4″ x 5″ paper with one dark squiggly road on it and a few labels along said road.    I am told, oh, you can’t miss it, it’s around a bend and there is a ranger station.  It’s supposedly called Artists’ Point.

I pull out of the lot, and begin going further up the mountain – winding winding around the curves.  Really spectacular  views … yes, but I was told this place was not far… so where is it?  (and for those of you that don’t know — unlimited hot chocolate at the lodge + switch back roads + the 12 passenger van + kids + too many minutes = a nervous leader who did not bring Dramamine on this adventure.)

Luckily, just as I am about to be seriously worried… we pop out from the road into a parking lot.

No signs to be seen about what the trails were called, but there were tons of people there.  Not a spot in the parking lot.  

We all eagerly jump out kids start running around.  We find the trail head, and with other people all around start walking.  There were big  rocks the kids loved climbing, small areas of snow for a few snowballs, big puddles from melting ices to splash in. 

We keep going on this trail and pretty soon it starts to get steeper, and steeper.  The kids evidently slept way better than I thought last night, because they have energy to burn and still racing ahead.

And before we know it, we are all hiking up the switchbacks up this mountain.  Now, before you think I am whining… This was some serious steep-ness.  Most of the path became small rocks, which started falling as people were walking on them.   This cannot be right, I think.  This is not a short stroll through the woods.  This is like mountain climbing.   {kids beat leaders hands down though, for what it is worth…}

But finally, after what feels like forever… I realize we have not gone the wrong way.  Maybe different from what we set out to do, but certainly not wrong.  We have reached the top and you pop out right next to Mount Baker and all this beauty all around. 

mt baker!

It certainly was the right place to see all that splendor.

 

…and when we returned we played a very excellent game of  Ticket to Ride, our now yearly tradition….

…with more hot chocolate, but of course.

I hope every weekend is full of fun, laughter, games, deliciousness, and taking wrong turns to end up in exactly the right place.

 

weekend, i was not ready for you to be over October 25, 2010

Filed under: adventures,photo — ravennagirls @ 10:01 pm
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I am not all that thrilled about Monday today.

The weekend was pretty darn good though.  It probably has something to do with the fact that B and I have been out of town the past two weekends.  By the time Friday happened … I was exhausted.  I had lofty goals of a productive Friday evening… but after work and a quick trip to the gym and making some dinner… I was practically ready for bed.

A few exciting things did happen this weekend though…

We got the house ready for fall and B did this spooky Halloweeny mantle…

and then we had the first fire of the season… & finished some craft projects… & organized some things around here…

We treated ourselves to a dinner out on Sunday night a favorite neighborhood joint and got Mahi Mahi tacos with mango and guacamole.  Yum!  For some dinnertime conversation we brought along our crazy-thick voter’s pamplets in an attempt to read through what all these initiatives are and begin to fill out our ballots.  I am so tired of those TV commercials leading up to election day…. AH!

We planted some more tulip bulbs and did some weeding and had some yard master planning discussions with a surprise few sunshiney hours on Sunday…

And I got a new lens for my camera delivered from Amazon.  I had been looking and looking and wanting it… so finally I just did it.   I was pretty darn excited when it showed up …

And, it showed up just in time to play with it on Saturday when we went over to the twins’ and had a lil photo shoot for their family.  :  )

I have to say, the lens is pretty darn awesome.  Initial reasoning… the ability to get my aperture set as large as 1.8 is just terrific.  I think that if you ever know anyone that is moving to Seattle with an SLR you should get them this lens.   The fact is.. I won’t use a flash unless I have to take a photo at night.  I abhor a direct flash and what that does to the color of my photos.   So during 7 months of the year I am on a constant quest for good lighting.   I hardly take photos after work and on a weekend day I am still struggling to photo indoors.  It usually involves a bunch of exposure/brightness/etc balancing in photoshop.   But with this new lens… and Without much of my typical settings being changed but the f-stop (aperture)… It was SO MUCH EASIER to shoot in a low light setting.  It was so so fast and blured the background WAY better then I have ever done before.

So … while the parents went to get ready for the family photos… B and I sat downstairs and played with the babies.  Well actually baby.   Ethan choose to sleep even though I kept whispering to him that we were taking pictures…. I think he might have whispered back something abou needing his beauty rest for the afternoon.

But Kaylee.. she is a happy picture subject.

Here is a pretty typical photo I would take with my Nikon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G AF-S DX VR Nikkor Zoom Lens.  Even with the Vibration Reduction setting on… In order to get enough light the picture is really blurry.  Babies move ….

Now, seconds later, I popped on my new lens…. Nikon 35mm f/1.8G AF-S DX

So same lighting, same baby, same color/indoor/all that jazz settings on my camera.  This photo just is taken with a lens that got my aperture up to 1.8.

Oh, and she is looking at me now.  Cause she likes my camera clicking. : )

Oh, and I did not Photoshop either of these.  Not even color or brightness or crop or anything.

Now, there are a few things I am really going to have to get used to after day one with this lens on.   All of a sudden  I am getting more light, so the white balance settings I had already customized on my camera where a bit off.    And… it is now possible to get too much light.  Whoa.  That has pretty much never happened to me before.  I could definitely tell sharpness/light/color were some things I cannot wait to practice more .  And the whole one size business.  I walked a lot more and moved a lot more… where before i would have twisted my lens to zoom.  But apparently, according to every blog I could find researching this puppy, I will get used to that.

But the babies… they make excellent lil subjects.  So cutey.

 

Friday Cozy October 22, 2010

Filed under: shopping — ravennagirls @ 9:20 am
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I ordered this sweatshirt from LLBean signature a couple weeks back (on sale!) and it showed up while I was in Norfolk for the weekend – so I get to wear it today for the first time. This is my first purchase from the new LL Bean signature collection (their site dedicated to hipper fashion), and i’m dang happy!

Sailor Striped Sweatshirt

While still the coziness of a sweatshirt, the cut is chic enough that i can wear to the office on a Friday and not feel totally frumptastic. Its warm but not suffocating, and has cute nautical charm that I’m (not surprisingly), all about these days.

Check out LLBean Signature, though – totally cute stuff, I’m a happy shopper so far!

[Complete disclosure: I actually wanted to wear my new Saints shirt today, but I couldn’t find it this morning!! boo]

 

whew! October 15, 2010

Filed under: photo — ravennagirls @ 10:40 pm
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B and I have been pretty darn busy lately.  What else is new i suppose…..

It has been mostly good busy though.  We have been neglecting the house a little though…just friends and fun events and work and all that jazz have gotten in the way a bit. 

It’s ok though.  Because it has been so much fun lately.  It makes me miss those homey activities, which is actually kind of nice.  (it will make it that much more enjoyable when we have a little free time!)

Plus I am like yay fall lately which is a nice change of attitude. (this may have something to do with the fact that i am going to see a ton of fall this weekend and relax with some of my favoritest people..)

Oh, and the fact that I found somewhere in Washington state that makes apple cider doughnuts.  Must find sunny crisp day to go.

Oh, and I am also like yay fall because our dahlias are still blooming like crazyness.

We are nearing 3 months of bloom time here and its glorious.  Fall, but still some pretty blooms.  I went out back tonight and they were just exploding.  I merely clipped a few for the dining room…..

But the orangeyness brings fall and summer a little closer to me.

 

Raincoat Quest September 26, 2010

Filed under: shopping,Uncategorized — ravennagirls @ 10:11 pm
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 A few weeks back I decided i needed a new raincoat. I have a couple jackets for fall/winter but none of them really fit the bill for the weather that Seattle doles out. I have a couple wool coats, but they don’t have hoods, and when its raining real hard, you just get water logged. I also have some “shell” raincoats, that keep out the moisture (mostly) but aren’t very warm once the coldest of the rain sets in. Plus, they aren’t very professional looking for wearing to work meetings and site visits. Although, now that i think about it, most raincoats don’t really match hard hats so thats probably a moot point.

Anyhow, in August sometime we received our first fall/winter catalog from Boden, which is a British clothing company who has recently expanded to the US market. THey have really cute stuff, most with a retro/mod twist. I spied this jacket below, but since it was still summer, I wasn’t totally ready to pull the plug on a serious jacket purchase.

Flash forward to this week. I went back to the Boden website to check out the options, but the color shown above was backordered 11 weeks. 11 weeks is pretty much 2011, so THAT doesn’t do me much good. I did some thinking about the other colors and patterns, but couldn’t quite commit to any of them, so decided I’d have to seek either options. Let the quest begin!

Stop #1: LL bean.

The go-to for outdoor wear. I found this option, which was affordable, promised to be waterproof, and had a part wool lining, but wasn’t too jazzed about the simple design. Just not much to it compared to the piping and buttons on the Boden option. So, onward.

Stop #2: Eddie Bauer.

Again, for northwesterners, a go-to option. This one looked even warmer, but with the elastic waist I was afraid of the frump-factor. Kept this one in my back pocket, though.

Stop #3: Overstock.com

Overstock had this cute London Fog option that was cut a little more stylishly than the LL bean/Eddie Bauer options, and had a hood, but I was worried that they would be too light weight since the description didn’t pay any emphasis on lining, etc.

Stop #4, 5, 6, & 7: Old Navy, Target, Gap, Piperlime. No Dice, at least not in my price range (you know Piperlime had some BEAUTIFUL options, they always do, but most were $400+ yikes!)

Stop #8: Banana.

Really cute cut and pattern on this one, but no hood! Deal breaker for Seattle gals. Drats. Moving on.

Final Stop!: Sierra Trading Post.

I’ve ordered gear from this discount site before and been very happy with their options, so i thought I’d see what they had. And success (mostly)! I found this Merrell Ava Car coat in muted turquoise. It has a hood with fleece lining and is reportedly waterproof (the reviews were positive). Also, it has piped accents and a cute tie at the waist to lend some flattering shape. I think its the best of all worlds. Plus, i found a coupon code online that discounted any purchase at Sierra Trading Post 20%. Score!

So its on its way. The only problem was that they had one (ONE!) jacket left in this color and its a size larger than i would usually order. Sometimes this can be good to fit bulkier sweaters under in the dead of winter, so i’m hoping I won’t have to send it back.

On the chance I have to send it back, does anyone have a go-to source for stylish, warm, and (most importantly!) waterproof jackets? I’ve exhausted my normal online sources.

Do share!

 

fall {?} September 22, 2010

Filed under: photo — ravennagirls @ 11:40 pm
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I have been fighting fall, digging my heels deep in summer.  

Today –the beginning of fall— other blogs are full of cute clothes, warm drinks, woods with colorful trees, etc.

B would write this post all about how fall is her favorite and probably tell you all about her favorite sweater and latte drinking on weekends and the great crisp air and all that.

But me… I am really not feeling fall this year.

I have to say, I do LIKE  fall.  Just not right now.  Summer just slipped too quickly, too chilly in the NW.  I just wanted a little more time.  Time for me to get in a few more nights on the patio and trips around Greenlake on my rollerblades.  Time for our tomatoes to ripen.

In general, I don’t really like change.  Once it has happened, I am fine… I just don’t like it  while it is happening.

I drove to work this morning and could not help but notice trees with hints of reds and yellows.  I was in a panic.

As luck would have it… although today is officially the first day of fall…. we are supposed to have a 70-and-sunny weekend coming up.  Hopefully the weatherman is right this time….

So it looks like I might win.

But I am going to then submit to fall next Monday.  I will be ready then. Promise.

Hopefully.

It probably will help that my October is filled with fun.  New Orleans (where I will bring shorts yippee!) and the Jr High Fall Retreat (where I will bring wool socks and play board games and really tell myself that fall is REALLY here).

So, here is to fall, like it or not.

And falling into sweaters and lattes and fires and new tv shows and craft projects and football [that was a nail biting Saints game on Monday!!] and roasting vegetables and colorful falling leaves.

Oh, and my it’s fall picture.