Tony O Rama Bars and Job Hunting

Job hunting makes me SCREAM! I'm just tired of filling out applications with all of the same information that's on my resume, chatting with people that "ooh" and "aw" over my resume, and then never getting a job.
So what do I do? After another afternoon of filling out applications and turning them in - I drove to the downtown Bellingham Co-Op and continue my search (and blog writing) with the wonderful help of a gluten free Tony O Rama Bar! I don't know why they call it that - it's a coop thing.
This bar is like nothing I've ever had! I haven't attempted to duplicate the wonderfulness yet - but I will.
The ingredients are simple: chocolate chips, peanut butter, powdered sugar, vegan (blegh) butter, coconut, brown sugar. It's pretty much this slab of peanut buttery, coconuty heaven with another slab of coconut chocolaty goodness on top! Words can not describe. And the great thing about this bar is NO GLUTEN! So other than that 1/4 pound of sugar I just inhaled - there's no guilt! Not that I usually have any type of guilt when I'm eating - but since Hannah and I ate most of a huge loaf of bread on the way home from the store yesterday, I'm working on cutting back on the wheat today :-)
So the lesson to be learned here is: if life hands you something frustrating - chocolate, coconut and peanut butter will fix it!


Bob's Chowder Bar - Review

Bob's Chowder Bar in Anacortes WA is a fun little place that I spotted as I drove into town. After dropping mom and brother off at the ferry for their San Juan Island bike adventure, I headed back towards I-5 on the lookout for a place to grab a quick bite to eat. Since I was in an area so close to the ocean, with sailing boats and little bays in every direction – I decided that seafood was a must. Bypassing the Greek Islands restaurant that had been recommended to me – I headed straight for Bob's.
This little place (hardly bigger than most drive through coffee stands) is surrounded by plenty of parking. And if you don't want to park you can actually drive through and pick up something to go! Bright red with cute pictures of mermaids and such painted on all sides – this chowder bar is eye catching.
The front consists of a small red porch with a couple of picnic tables. There is also a little grassy side yard with extra outdoor seating and a few of those wooden cutout figures that call to you to stick your face where theirs should be and have some helpful friend take your picture. Inside this little drive through is a counter where you can order (and where you can watch the wraps and baskets being assembled), a long grill and stove top where a big pot of chowder bubbles away while being stirred by a lady in white chefs gear - and a red bar that wraps around the customer area to provide indoor seating.
The menu consists of many different basket options, some wraps, a few chowders, smoked salmon, and a few other items floating around the edges. Everything on the menu is available for under $12. My bowl of New England Clam Chowder was the very reasonable price of $3.95 before tax.
I decided to eat inside since it was a windy coastal day. As I was eating I eavesdropped on the gals working behind the counter - I was impressed with their cheerfulness and professional service. They provided a refreshing change to the really bad customer service I have received in Bellingham recently.
The chowder was very good! Not the best I've every had, but I was very pleased with the flavor, consistency, and choice of ingredients. The chowder also came with some sort of herbed toast – unfortunately it was very stale, although if it had been fresh I think it would have been slightly addicting... so maybe it's better that I didn't really want to finish it!
I was less than pleased with the cleanliness of the bar I was sitting at. Maybe they'd just finished with a big rush of people (although it was barely 6:15 pm) but that bar needed a good decrumbing. To give them a little credit – they were sweeping outside and wiping other surfaces off while I was there – so maybe it was just bad timing.
Over all – I think Bob's Chowder Bar has a lot of potential. If I am ever back in the Anacortes area I will definitely stop back in – if only to eat a bowl of yummy chowder and listen to some cheerful customer service!


Salsa and Salsa Nectarine Chicken

I made some great fresh salsa earlier – because really... what is better then fresh salsa and crispy tortilla chips for a mid afternoon snack? For my salsa I quartered cherry tomatoes, finely diced part of a white onion, very finely chopped three garlic cloves, and chopped a large handful of cilantro leaves. I threw everything together in a handy bowl and sprinkled in some sea salt and ground pepper. Voila! Salsa!

After eating about half the bowl – I was still hungry... so - the following recipe was born!

You'll need:

chicken pieces (I used a giant thigh)
granulated garlic
a little oil
a few pieces of nectarine
and the a fore mentioned salsa

Preheat the oven to 400. Put a little bit of oil in a glass baking pan - so the chicken won't stick. Place the chicken in the pan, spread as evenly as possible. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and granulated garlic. Spoon some of the salsa on top of the chicken. Dice up the nectarines and add them to the salsa on top of the chicken. Spread the nectarines and salsa out so that the chicken in completely covered. Kind of press everything together so it will stick. Anything that falls off into the pan should be scooped back on top or tucked under the chicken pieces. (I suppose that last part is easier when you're using a boneless piece of chicken...) Bake until the chicken is done (180). Enjoy – preferably with a cold beer and some more chips!

P.S. Be sure to use plenty of salt on the chicken... mine could have used a bit more.



I made some yogurt last night - while destroying the rest of my kitchen... It's been a while since I've made yogurt, I made a few batches when I was in Moscow but I think the last one was before Sara and I went to Mexico. Anyways... it was long over due.

yogurt starter or plain yogurt
a big pot
mason jars

Making yogurt is easy with or without a yogurt-maker. Simply heat your milk (I used a gallon of whole milk) to just before the boiling point - bubbles should be rising and there should be a lot of steam. At this point turn the stove off and let the milk cool down to between 108-112 degrees(F)(the milk is the right temperature if you can hold your finger in it for a slow count of ten). Cooling the yogurt down takes a long time. Once the milk reaches the right temperature - add the starter to the milk (use a packet of yogurt starter or a large spoonful of plain yogurt for each liter of milk, mix the starter into a small amount of warm milk before adding it to the rest of the milk). Fill clean mason jars with yogurt, put them in a prewarmed oven and cover with a clean dish towel. I warm my oven up a little bit and then shut it off right before I put my jars of yogurt in. I have a pizza stone in my oven to help hold on to some of the heat. Let your yogurt sit in the oven for 6-8 hours depending on how firm you want it to be. About half way through - or whenever you remember to - boil a small pan of water and set it in the oven to help keep everything warm. Once the yogurt has set - cover it and refrigerate for at least one hour before using.
Enjoy your homemade yogurt with granola, in smoothies, with fruit, in sauces, on rice, on it's own, etc.

Tomato Sauce and Broken Sinks

Today I spent a large portion of the morning and afternoon cutting bad spots out of tomatoes, dicing the good parts up, and cooking them down into a yummy tomato sauce. Well - at least that's what I was doing until some tomatoes got stuck to the bottom of the pan and burnt. And then the pipes under my kitchen sink decided to start spewing water everywhere.
So right now I have a sink full of dishes, a pan that I can't clean, a trashed kitchen for my landlord to enjoy and bowls full of half cooked tomato sauce sitting on both counters! Pretty soon though - I'll have lots and lots of home made tomato sauce sitting up in my cupboard!

How to create a mess in your kitchen OR Preparing the harvest...

Yesterday Ayla and I were given 7 boxes of fruit and vegetables that were on their way to being compost! Let me tell you - I have never been that excited to see rotting produce...
So last night, we went to town - sorting, peeling, cutting, freezing, cooking and canning. It's a good feeling to know that your freezer is full of enough french fries to last the rest of the year, and that all those plums are going to make some great BBQ sauce - but boy does it take a toll on your kitchen!


Creamy Blueberry Smoothie

I currently have a shortage of ingredients in my house to make anything cool and sweet with. And today was so hot that it really called for something cool and sweet. So I took the few ingredients that I do have and came up with a refreshing and creamy snack!

about 3/4 cup frozen blueberries
1 container plain yogurt (personal size)
2 Tbsp whipping cream
a drizzle of maple syrup
1 tsp of white sugar (I would have used only maple syrup but I ran out)

Throw all ingredients into a blender or something similar and blend away! Serve immediately (although I suppose this could in the freezer for a while to keep it cold).

The whipping cream makes this smoothie wonderfully satisfying!


Plum BBQ Sauce

I had a bunch of plums to use up and I didn't really want to just make jam with them. My solution? BBQ Sauce! I made this recipe up as I went along and it needs a bit of tweaking - but here is the rough draft to start with.

In order to get the 12 cups of plum "juice" that I ended up using - I simply washed and de-stemmed the plums, piled them in a big pot with a couple of cups of water and then cooked and mashed them until I could strain the seeds, skins and the majority of the pulp out with a pasta strainer. I'm sure there is an easier, more sophisticated way to do this but it worked for me!

12 c. plum juice (very pulpy)
1 c. Worcestershire sauce
1 c. Apple Cider vinegar
3 c. white sugar
3 c. brown sugar
1/3 c. plus 1/8 c. salt (even though it tasted fine when I pulled it off the stove, it got saltier as it sat so I would cut this amount back)
1 Tbsp black pepper
1 Tbsp ground dry mustard
2 Tbsp granulated garlic
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp celery seed
3 fresh garlic cloves - finely chopped

Put everything in a big pot and cook on a medium heat, stirring occasionally to reduce. Reduce to about 2/3 amount - or desired consistency. Taste as it is reducing and adjust flavoring accordingly. Bottle and refrigerate until needed.

Enjoy with chicken or pork or anything else you can come up with!



I miss this... oh well - at least I still have the hammock :-) and plans in my mind to go to Mexico with my brother sometime... woot!

Piquant Prawn Salad - or as I like to call it... the best salad ever!

I love this "salad"! This is another recipe from the previously mentioned Thai cook book. I normally leave a few ingredients out but I will put in parenthesis whatever adjustments I make so you can see all of the options! This recipe serves 4.

-7 oz rice vermicelli (or whatever rice noodles you happen to have on hand)
-(8 baby corn cobs, halved)
-5 oz snow peas
-1 Tbsp vegetable oil
-2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
-1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
-1 fresh red or green chili, seeded and finely chopped
-1 lb raw peeled jumbo shrimp
-4 green onions, very thinly sliced
-1 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds
-1 lemon grass stalk, thinly shredded (when you can find it)

For the dressing:
-1 Tbsp chopped fresh chives
-1 Tbsp Thai fish sauce
-1 tsp soy sauce
-3 Tbsp peanut oil
-1 tsp sesame oil (or if you love sesame oil as much as I do, use it instead of peanut oil!)
-2 Tbsp rice vinegar

-Put the rice noodles in a heat proof bowl, cover with boiling water, let sit for 10 minutes. Drain, refresh with could water, drain again and set aside.
-The dressing can also be made ahead by combining and either shaking or whisking all of the dressing ingredients together and then setting aside.
-Saute (or steam) the snow peas (and baby corn) and set aside.
-Heat the oil in a frying pan (or wok). Add the garlic, ginger and chili and cook for one minute. Add the shrimp and cook until just pink. Stir in the green onions, snow peas, (baby corn) and sesame seeds. Toss lightly to mix.
-Tip the contents of the pan over the rice noodles.
-Pour the dressing on top and toss well. Sprinkle with lemon grass and serve or chill for one hour before serving.

Enjoy this light flavorful salad!

Super Easy Hot-and-Sour Soup

The original recipe for this soup calls for prawns - I made it with chicken... I'm sure either would taste wonderful! Original recipe from "Thai - the essence of Asian cooking" from Hermes House.

This recipe serves 4 to 6

1 lb raw chicken (or jumbo prawns)
4 c. chicken stock
3 lemon grass stalks
10 kaffir lime leaves, torn in half
8 oz can straw mushrooms, drained
3 Tbsp Thai fish sauce
4 Tbsp lime juice
2 Tbsp chopped green onions
1 Tbsp fresh cilantro leaves
4 fresh red chillies, seeded and thinly sliced
salt and ground black pepper

-Cut the chicken into bite size pieces (or if using prawns - peel and save the shells, then devein and set the prawns aside).
-Put the stock in a large pot and bring to a boil (if using prawns, rinse the shells and add to the stock).
-Slightly crush the lemon grass stalks and add them to the stock along with half of the lime leaves. Simmer gently for 5-6 minutes, until the stock is fragrant.
-Strain the stock, return it to the clean pan and reheat. Add the drained mushrooms and the chicken (or prawns), then cook until the chicken is cooked through (or the prawns turn pink).
-Stir the fish sauce, lime juice, green onion, cilantro, chillies, and remaining lime leaves into the soup. Salt and pepper to taste. The soup should be sour, salty, spicy and hot.

This is a great soup to make ahead of time and keep hot in a crock pot or on the back of the stove until time to serve.



Perfect summer dessert!

Ayla and I were graciously invited to the Tyler's home for lunch yesterday! Linda Tyler made a wonderful tasty meal and a fabulous dessert. I pressed her for as many details as she could give me so that I can attempt to duplicate it :-) Her instructions are as follows:

Make and bake and cool a buttery Graham Cracker Crust. For the filling take part of a block of cream cheese (for a 9x13 she used not quite a full thing), mix together with some whipped cream until well incorporated. Add whatever flavoring you want (she used a little almond, but says she has done lemon, orange, chocolate, etc. in the past) and add some powdered sugar to lightly sweeten. Fill crust with filling. Top with fresh blueberries and slightly press them into the filling to help them stay there. Maybe sprinkle some almond flakes. Cook and cool some more blueberries and poor over everything to kind of hold it in pace. Sprinkle a few more almond flakes. Serve and enjoy!

I realize these instructions are not specific at all - but I'm sure you can figure it out! The filling was a very light fluffy cheese cake type filling (although even Ayla liked it 'cause you couldn't taste the cream cheese). This desert was perfect for summer because it was cool, slightly rich, and the blueberries were allowed to shine!

Thank you Linda for your hospitality and wonderful dessert!


New House...

I'm in! Sort of...not really very much. But - I can begin moving in and unpacking! And if I ever find my camera in all this mess - I'll put pictures up :-) And some day I will feel clean again - the previous renter didn't clean very well before she left so I've been wiping out kitchen cabinets - and mice got into my storage unit and pooped all over everything - and it's hot and dusty. So a shower is definitely in order sometime soon!
On another note - my dad says he is going to buy me a gun :-) haha! woohoo! I guess there are benefits to my dad thinking we all need to be able to fight to the end and hole up in a bunker (I'm paraphrasing - a lot).

Moving Frustrations...and cookies!

I was going to write a post about how frustrated I am with the way our new land lords have been handling this whole moving situation... or about the fact that our move in date keeps getting pushed back because they are still painting... and then I decided that it isn't great to dwell on the negative...

Instead I am going to expound upon the virtues of these - Flour-less Peanut Butter Cookies - created by the Gluten-Free Girl.

After having my mom and roommate continually forget that I wasn't eating wheat or dairy during the last two weeks - it was a joy to discover one of my favorite cookies in a wheat and dairy free form! Plus - anything from Gluten-Free Girl is bound to be wonderful, including her writing and photography. I highly recommend her blog and book to anyone who enjoys food - whether or not you are trying to go gluten-free. They are both a joy and an inspiration to read! Check out her blog here.


The search continues...

I received another call today from Great Harvest - informing me that they decided to go with someone else. Not totally sure why I haven't been able to get a job so far - but I guess I'll just have to keep looking! Maybe the perfect job will jump out at me once I'm living in Lynden and am a bit more familiar with the town. I would love to find a job that I can walk or ride a bike to!
Oh - my move into the new place has been postponed a day (they need to paint and stuff) so I will be able to get in on Monday!

I added wheat back into my diet yesterday! Had a French Dip sandwich from Billy McHales. Also at a bunch of garlic bread today :-) So far haven't noticed any adverse reactions. The garlic bread had some melted cheese on it so dairy was re-introduced today. No reactions from that either - although I wouldn't really expect any from that little amount. I'm pretty sure I just need to reduce the amount of wheat and dairy in my diet because I will probably have an easier time with the whole staying in shape thing! Very happy to be eating bread again!


Bread and Bakeries

I've had two interviews at the Great Harvest Bread Company! The first was your basic interview - with lots of questions and four people sitting there staring at you. The second was this morning - starting at 7:15 and it consisted of me just hanging out in the bakery... pretending like I was competent and knew how to knead bread dough :-) Apparently they can't decide between me and this other gal so they're trying us both out... how do I "beat" someone I know nothing about?! It was fun though...fun people, fun to get my hands back in some dough and flour :-)

Interesting experience too because the only real bakery experience was with the Moscow Food Co-Op - and even though there are plenty of similarities, there are also a few large differences. Mostly with the way the dough is shaped or kneaded. At the Coop we SHAPED our loaves... they really ended up looking like little bread loaves before they were even in the pan. We also folded most batches of dough part way through letting it rise... and we let the loaves proof or rise for a longer amount of time before actually going in the oven. The Coop was also trying to make "crusty artisan" type bread.
At Great Harvest the dough is pretty much kneaded into a smooth ball and then rolled into a log a little longer than the pan so that when it's put in the pan the middle is kind of "perky". As far as I can tell none of the doughs are folded. The rise and baking I'm not sure about yet - although they are much more careful about temperatures then the Coop... and they are making pretty much all soft loaves.

It's just interesting to see the differences. One thing that will be huge (and hopefully not to hard to get used to, if I get this job) is the pace that Great Harvest keeps. Many more doughs a day - and I thought we were pretty steady for the little while I was there but apparently they normally go MUCH faster with less people. Well - we'll see if a get a job offer... until then...

I am excited to try their Gluten-Free Bread sometime - job or no.

Speaking of bread... here is a wonderful Blue Cheese Spread that goes really fantastically with a lot of different breads!

Blue Cheese Spread

3 lb Cream Cheese - room temp
2 cups Walnut pieces - toasted
1 cup Sour Cream
1 Tbsp Black Pepper

1 bunch Green Onions - chopped
1.25 lb Blue Cheese Crumbles
1 bunch Parsley - chopped

Combine the first four ingredients and mix well. Add the last three ingredients and mix until incorporated. (I think the reason for this is so that those last three don't completely disintegrate). After it's all mixed - taste it and add a little more pepper or some salt if needed. Serve with bread or crostini or roast beef or whatever your taste buds tell you would taste good! Enjoy!

I love this spread so much because the blue cheese is really flavorful without being overwhelming. So yummy...


More change is in the air...

Today I was woken up by a call from the Great Harvest Bread Company here in Bellingham - asking me to come back in for a second "interview"! This one will consist of me pretty much hanging out for a couple of hours and trying to prove that I have the perfect personality to be the best addition to that group. He told me that they just can't decide between me and this other gal so their having us both come in on different days to hang out for a while. What do I say to that?? "Sounds great! What's my competition like??" Oh well... if it's meant to be it's meant to be - at least that's what I've been telling myself for the last three months :-)

Sunday is when I will be able to start moving into our new house! SOOO excited! We won't have to be stuck in this tiny pod of a room anymore... and I'll have a kitchen again! And we'll get to have our kitties back with us! So many reasons to be excited...

I've decided it is TIME to get back in shape. I am tired of not being happy with the way I see my body and I know that if I worked out even a little bit every day - that would change. Plus I have a family that can provide a home gym set-up as well as built in running partners in the forms of Kealen and Noah! Of course - tonight Kealen's leg "hurt" so I ran while he rode his bike in circles around me... still motivating though! Great summer body - here I come! (Just in time for winter clothes)

Possible new job...New house...More energy and better legs :-) Fun stuff!



I realized I haven't said a word about my new little brother yet :-) My parents are adopting a little boy from foster care! His name is Gabriel (Gabe), he just turned seven, and after some really intense struggles with the state and other people - he has been placed permanently with our family! Which means that even though they can't adopt him for another six months... he's ours and here to stay! This little guy needs so much love, and in return he is very loving :-) He doesn't like the color of his hair or his skin because his step-dad told him over and over how ugly he was. He doesn't like his name because his mom gave it to him. Not to mention the abuse and abandonment. So we try to rub his head at every opportunity and tell him how handsome his curls are! We tell him how we've always wanted a little brown brother and my mom says how she's always wanted a Gabriel (which is true)!

This whole situation is going to be a growing experience for all of us - but it is being made easier by a little boy who it TRYing to love his Forever Family!

Welcome to the family Gabe... we love you already!

Going wheat and dairy free...

I'm experimenting... no wheat or dairy for two weeks. So far so good - Friday is when I can add some back into my diet.

What is the reason for this madness you might ask??? Why torture yourself and cut out some of the best things in life???

Well... I'm pretty sure I have allergies or intolerance's to both wheat and dairy - so I thought cutting it out and then slowly adding some back in might give me an idea of how sever the allergy, etc. really is. I haven't really noticed a difference in how I feel these last weeks - but it'll be interesting to see if I have a strong reaction after Friday! Also - I just wanted to see if I could do it... how difficult it would be to cut these two out. You know me... very interested in alternative diets :-) It's been hard - and I've really missed both wheat and dairy (mostly bread and cheese), but I think it's mostly been made difficult by not having a kitchen I can really use. Being in limbo in Bellingham really puts a limit on the variety of food you can eat :-)

I have had fun rediscovering a few things that I CAN eat - that I'd kind of forgotten about! Such as lovely ripe tomatoes with mayo, or just salt and pepper. REAL tacos (the corn tortilla, chopped chicken, onion, cilantro, lime type) thankfully there are a number of option for those around here! Lots of fresh fresh berries (blue berries and raspberries right now). Oh the summer options!

My sister Hannah was super sweet and made me no-bake cookies, with almond milk instead of regular. The perfect chocolate peanut butter taste :-)

Oh - did I mention that I'm cheating just the tiniest bit and still eating things like butter and soy sauce? If you really HAD to totally cut dairy and wheat out - those two would be gone too.

So, long story short - it's been an interesting experience... but it's not quite over - I'll keep you posted!


Life in Bellingham...

Here we are in Bellingham! Ayla and I moved to Bellingham Washington at the end of June! We finally found a place to live - that we can't get into until the first - but huge relief anyways. I still don't have a job... the search continues... Ayla and I have managed to stay friends even though we are sharing a postage stamp of a room and a "full" size bed. I think one of the hardest things to handle so far (other than missing friends and being in a strange place) is not really being able to cook... I don't feel like I can use the kitchen here and there isn't really room in the fridge for anything more than a few veggies. Can't wait to get into our house!


Finding my man...

Last year my mom signed me up for an online dating site. It's actually pretty entertaining but the one she signed me up for cost about $30 dollars a month. So I was on there for a bit and then canceled my subscription. Until the end of December when I went online and joined a DIFFERENT online dating site - this one's free! Again - entertaining :-) I've actually started talking with a couple of different guys! It's so hard though... it's really impossible to get your personality to come through in a message. And one thing that concerns me is that there is no way to tell through an e-mail if you would really click. I mean - everything can be fine and dandy as far as your interests and convictions go but the only way to see if that "connection" is there is to meet someone in person. And what if you were to get far enough along that you wanted to meet (which is pretty far), and then you didn't hit it off. Or what if one person didn't like the other persons laugh or random head twitch but that person thought that everything was perfect! There's so much that could go wrong!!! It's pretty nerve wracking... I suppose I just need to keep in mind the fact that it is all under control (God's control) and there's really nothing I can do about any of it except prayerfully seek wisdom in each conversation and situation. One benefit of all of this is that it has made me really nail down what is truly important to me! And what I would be able to "compromise" on if the need were to arise. I've discovered convictions I didn't know I had :-)

The adventure continues!