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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Stinging Nettle Tea

Stinging Nettle Tea 1

After going through all that trouble of plucking stinging nettles, I wanted more than just one recipe out of it. So I set aside some of the leaves and brewed them to make tea.

Stinging nettle tea tasted like any other herbal tea, maybe with a slight vegetal taste. Not something I would crave unless I was in the mood for feeling healthy.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Stinging Nettle Soup

Stinging Nettle Soup 1

I'm trying to be better about posting my seasonal recipes before the season disappears. And seeing stinging nettles growing in the wild at Latourell Falls - Columbia River Gorge - Oregon reminded me that I needed to blog this recipe.

The first time I heard of stinging nettles was in Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale, "The Wild Swans," about 11 brothers who turned into swans at night, and their sister who wove shirts out of nettles to remove the enchantment to change them back. Such devotion. Reading the story as a child, I could only imagine the sores and welts she suffered while weaving the stems into cloth. But actually experiencing the sting myself as an adult was enough to make me permanently wary of this plant. I brushed against a nettle once when I was in Scotland years ago and it caused my skin to sting, and itch, and swell with red dots.

Last month at the Farmers' Market - Alhambra, despite the conspicuous sign that said "Don't Touch," my masochism, or perhaps my insatiable curiosity, lured me toward the bunch of stinging nettles.

"If I can't touch, how will I prepare them for eating?"

"Good question," chuckled the farmer.

So I decided to err on the safe side and didn't purchase any that first week. The following week, the stinging nettles beckoned me forth again with their "Don't Touch" sign. Oh, alright, I reasoned. I'll simply use tongs and scissors and won't touch the nettles at all.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Nai Xao Xa Cuon Banh Trang (Vietnamese Sauteed Lemongrass Venison Rice Paper Rolls)

10 Thit Nai Xao Xa Cuon Banh Trang (Vietnamese Sauteed Lemongrass Venison Rice Paper Rolls) 1

I've mentioned before that when I'm home, I try not to eat out for dinner, but save it for spending time with my parents. And so after a long day of chasing waterfalls in the drizzle and a late afternoon snack of pie, we sat down to Nai Xao Xa (Vietnamese Sauteed Venison with Lemongrass) to cook at the table and to wrap with rice paper. The venison was shot by my dad. The wine was made by my mom from blackberries she picked in the hiking trails around the neighborhood.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Crown Point Vista House (Winter) - Columbia River Gorge - Oregon

9 Crown Point Vista House (Winter) - Columbia River Gorge 1

When I visit the waterfalls, I like driving on I-84 past Multnomah Falls, and then backtracking on the old highway to end at Crown Point Vista House because it is the perfect spot to look back over the Columbia River Gorge. Of course, the view is much bluer and greener during the summer, but I still think it's pretty impressive nonetheless.

We briefly went inside the Vista House.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Latourell Falls (Winter) - Columbia River Gorge - Oregon

8 Latourell Falls (Winter) - Columbia River Gorge - Oregon 1

I always save my favorite waterfall for last.

I've blogged Latourell Falls before, that post has video if you want to hear and get another sense of the water. During the summer though, the waterfall is almost a trickle in comparison to the sheer power cascading down this day after a series of recent rainstorms.

Another bridge.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Shepperd's Dell Falls (Winter) - Columbia River Gorge - Oregon

7 Shepperd's Dell Falls (Winter) - Columbia River Gorge - Oregon 1

Perhaps it was a good thing that it was so drizzly that day. I drove much more slowly than usual on the windy shaded old highway. After leaving Bridal Veil Falls, my sedate pace meant I managed to spot the sign for Shepperd's Dell Falls.


My first visit to this waterfall. The reason why I've never been able to stop before is that there's really no room to park, just a slightly wider shoulder that only fits a few cars. Once you pass the sign, there's a bridge over the very steep and narrow canyon. And there's no place to turn around. So I've always missed it every other time I've gone.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Bridal Veil Falls (Winter) - Columbia River Gorge - Oregon

After Wahkeena Falls, we stopped off at Bridal Veil Falls.

6 Bridal Veil Falls (Winter) - Columbia River Gorge - Oregon 1

Unlike most of the others, Bridal Veil Falls isn't visible from the old Columbia River Highway. But it's just a short half mile hike down to the falls.

Of course, I've also blogged Bridal Veil Falls before in the summer when everything is lush and green. And while these shots have more barren trees, the water pictures are much better. I love how I can almost see how fast and furiously the water crashed between the rocks.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Wahkeena Falls (Winter) - Columbia River Gorge - Oregon

5 Wahkeena Falls (Winter) - Columbia River Gorge - Oregon 1

Not much to say about Wahkeena Falls. Just a super quick drive past Multnomah Falls and right up on the freeway. So hop off, snap photo, and back in the car again.

Gee, I said virtually the same thing when I blogged Wahkeena Falls the first time.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Multnomah Falls (Winter) - Columbia River Gorge - Oregon

4 Multnomah Falls (Winter) - Columbia River Gorge - Oregon 1

After Horsetail Falls, we made our way to Oregon's most visited tourist attraction.

Again, I've written about Multnomah Falls before, so read that post for more details about the legend. There are also more pictures of the falls from various angles that I didn't capture this time simply because it was too wet. And everything I had to say about Multnomah Falls is in that previous post because evidently I don't have any new stories for ya. But how about some pictures of moss, fern, and drizzle?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Horsetail Falls (Winter) - Columbia River Gorge - Oregon

3 Horsetail Falls (Winter) - Columbia River Gorge - Oregon 1

After lunch at Bunk Sandwiches - Portland, we were ready to go "hike" the waterfalls. I say hiking loosely because most of the waterfalls are viewable from the Historic Columbia River Highway so it was really just pulling over the side of the road, snapping photos, and then onward to the next waterfall.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Bunk Sandwiches - Portland - Oregon

2 Bunk Sandwiches - Portland - Oregon 1

Since Gourmet Pigs had never been to Oregon before, she had a list of three things she wanted to do. Eating at Bunk Sandwiches was one of them.

Why do they call themselves bunk? According to the Bunk Sandwiches website, with so many places proclaiming they're "the best," Bunk would rather you decide for yourself. That unpretentiousness was rather endearing in a very PDX kind of way that made me miss home. Then I clicked on the link to see their press. Getting written up by local press is a given, but once you hit the New York Times, or appear on "Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives," or get proclaimed by Mario Batali to be one of the world's top 100 contemporary chefs (that would be Tommy Habetz, former sous chef at Batali's Lupa in New York City, who currently co-owns Bunk with Nick Woods), hype is unavoidable.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

I'm Coming Home

I'm coming home
I'm coming home
tell the World I'm coming home...

Can't get the J. Cole song out of my head. Like the Brady Bunch song while I was hiking, its subliminal message forced me to title this post as such. Also, why does "world" need to be capitalized in the lyrics?

1 I'm Coming Home 1

My car had been making grinding noises every time I turned for months now so I wanted to take it home for my dad to fix. It's also been a while since I've been home and I missed Oregon. Sure there was the brief trip because of the $41.40 plane ticket to Portland last November, but prior to that I hadn't been home since Christmas 2009 (which I still haven't blogged yet, nor September 2009 neither). Even though my parents were just here for my niece's first birthday, it was the only time Gourmet Pigs was free to drive with me. I worked late the night before so I had to get up at 4 a.m. to do laundry, pack, and make a batch of Tuong Ot Xa (Vietnamese Lemongrass Chili Sauce) for my parents. Can't bring them on the plane anymore unless I'm checking luggage, and you know that rarely happens anymore either.

After a late start, we finally started driving at 6:45 a.m. It was gonna be a long day.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Hello Kitty Cake Pops

Hello Kitty Cake Pops 1

Somehow I got it into my head that I needed to make something special for my niece's first birthday. Something that I normally wouldn't do. Sure she won't remember it, but she'll have photos to look back on, right? But, there were so many people at the party and things were so hectic that I totally forgot to take photos of her holding one of these Hello Kitty red velvet cake pops.

Of course, my version doesn't look anywhere near as cute as Bakerella's original Hello Kitty cake pops, but they ended up nicer than I expected. They also cost more and were a whole lot more work than I expected as well. Altogether, the cost of all the supplies was about $30 (Minus $10 for the cookie scoop and edible markers which ended up being useless.). I started these around 10 p.m. and didn't finish until 8:30 a.m. Granted, there was a lot of rest time in between, but it was still a whole lot more work than I've put into cooking anything in recent memory.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Dessert Sushi with Swedish Fish Candy and Rice Krispies Treats

Dessert Sushi with Swedish Fish Candy and Rice Krispies Treats 1

I've made dessert sushi with fruit and coconut sticky rice before, but since it was the niece's first birthday party, I wanted to make some desserts for the little kids. Remembering Lan of Angry Asian Creations' candy sushi, I figured this was perfect for a kid party, even though most of them were too little to really appreciate the humor in this. Oh well, they enjoyed eating the regular Rice Krispies treats that were leftover.

The Hello Kitty cake pops had turned into such a laborious task that at 3:45 a.m., I decided I wanted to have at least one item for the party finished before I went to bed. The Rice Krispies treats had been made hours before and had cooled down by then. So it was a simple matter of cutting and assembling. Done in about 15 minutes.

First party item checked off.

Monday, March 07, 2011

On Vietnamese First Birthday Traditions Again

On Vietnamese First Birthday Traditions Again 1

Gah! Isn't she just the cutest?

My parents came down for my niece's first birthday and my mom had her suitcases packed with pre-made frozen homemade puff pastry dough and filling for Banh Pate So (Vietnamese Meat-filled Pastries) and pre-made frozen banh bot loc (Vietnamese tapioca dumplings with pork, shrimp, and bamboo shoots). Since it was our niece's first birthday, lil' sis and I got a little fancy with our food contributions too.

I had less than two hours' sleep before I was up at 6 a.m. to finish my labor-intensive project. Then I had to go to work for a few hours so I left my mom, with help from lil' sis and oldest nephew, to make the banh pate so.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

On Tactile Pleasures, a Plethora of Plaid, and Souvenir Socks

This Little Tiger Wish Everyone a Happy Year of the Cat 2

One year ago, my darling little niece was born. Any time I see this cutie is a good day. Happy Birthday baby!

February was mostly a miss for me. The Year of the Cat started the month off on a bad note and ended badly with the loss of my parents' beloved chihuahua, Penny. In between was a lot of hibernation as I retreated to bed with my flannel to escape winter and busy myself quilting again. Let's hope spring's warm weather gives me a more cheerful outlook.