Monday, October 27, 2014

Look at and buy our cookbooks

As I have mentioned in earlier posts, my sisters and I write and publish cookbooks under our company name, CB Cooks. Our cookbooks are geared towards the home cook - nothing too fancy, just plain good food that's easy to make and yummy to eat. Almost all of our recipes include nutritional information which a lot of people find helpful for a variety of reasons. We have published 10 books, 7 of which are still in print. They are:

Simple Slow Cooking: Simply Sensational Recipes for Your Slow Cooker
Ethnic Slow Cooking: Combining the Flavors of the World with the Convenience of a Slow
Eating Out: Recipes for Camping, Boating, Backpacking, Tailgating
mm-mmm Muffins!
Girls Just Wanna Have Fudge!
More to Celebrate: Party Inspirations for Not-So-Big Holidays
Smorgasbord: The Customs and Pleasures of a Scandinavian Feast

We sell our cookbooks on our website, word of mouth, small gift shops, and through friends, but most of our sales are during holiday gift shows, October - December. If you are in the neighborhood, we'd love it if you come to one of our holiday shows, look at our cookbooks and related products, and meet us in person. Be sure to tell us that you read this blog!

33rd Annual Holiday Craft Fair, Spanaway High School, Spanaway, WA
November 1-2, 2014 Saturday 9-5, Sunday 10-3

Homemade for the Holidays, Thurston County Fairgrounds, Lacey, WA
November 7-8, Friday 4-8, Saturday 9-4

Holiday Bazaar, Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, Lakewood, WA
November 14-15, Friday 9-4, Saturday 9-4

Bearzaar, Olympia High School, Olympia, WA
November 22, Saturday 9-4

Kent Commons Holiday Bazaar, Kent Commons, Kent, WA
December 5-6, Friday 10-6, Saturday 9-5

Seaside Holiday Fair, Seaside Convention Center, Seaside, OR
November 28-30, Friday 12-6, Saturday 10-6, Sunday 10-3

Shepherd of the Lake Lutheran Church, Prior Lake, MN
November 8, Saturday 10-6

Pax Christi Catholic Church, Eden Prairie, MN
December 6, Saturday 10-6

Our website:

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I LOVE Potluck Parties!

I have had a wonderful last few weeks - I spent some time in Minnesota attending my niece's wedding and getting to see my other nieces and nephew, their kids and spouses, my brother, my sisters, and other family and friends. The weather cooperated - brilliant blue skies, but definitely autumn in the air. The winds kicked up while we were waiting outside the church for the bride and groom, but overall, it was a beautiful Minnesota fall weekend. Two blogs ago, I described the wedding and the amazing dinner. And then there was the cross-half-the-country train trip from Minneapolis to Seattle. The train was hours late, but my daughter and old friend and I had a sleeping compartment, books to read, and they kept feeding us, so we were happy. This was followed by several days in a gorgeous house on Haro Strait just outside of Sidney, BC. That's at the north end of the Saanich Peninsula, about 18 miles from Victoria. My last blog tells some of our travel story.

I finally got home and was settling in to my life which turns busy in a week or so (see my next blog, which will appear midweek this week, for details). I went to my water volleyball session at the Y, which I had really missed; while in the locker room, I walked SMACK BANG into a heavy wooden bench, which was attached to the wall and had been there forever. I spent most of the rest of the day with the doctor and radiologist, who diagnosed a spiral fracture in my little toe. Ow. I spent the rest of the week trying to stay off of it, wearing an uncomfortable "shoe" - really, it was an inflexible piece of material held on to my foot with light cotton and Velcro. Fashion and comfort all rolled into one!

The good news for the week is that we had a potluck party at our house - I do love potlucks! Once again, the food was delicious and non-repetitious. We had scalloped potatoes with lots of bite sized pieces of pork chop/pork loin - it was so homey and yummy. I kept wanting to make an egg casserole brunch dish, but couldn't get my mind off lasagna (it was chilly and drizzly all week), so I ended up making a lasagna with pasta, marinara meat sauce, ricotta cheese, Romano cheese, Parmesan cheese, Mozzarella cheese, and Asiago cheese, and lots of fresh basil. We had roasted garlic cloves, olives, pickles, Italian wine salami, assorted cheeses, crackers, and baguette. We had grapes, mandarin oranges, bananas, and then to complete our meal, several desserts. There was a pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting, angel food cake with pineapple, white confetti cake with sparkly orange buttercream frosting, chocolate brownies, and dark chocolate truffles. And a can of whipped cream which we used liberally.

There's nothing quite like a potluck party with good friends and yummy food - I can't wait until the next one.

Don't forget to check back later this week for my next blog, detailing holiday gift shows that my sisters and I are vendors at; if you're in the neighborhood, we'd love for you to drop by and see our cookbooks. Be sure to tell us that you read our blog!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Sidney, BC

This weekend, I’m on a wonderful Chick Trip. Every year for the past 17 years, my sisters and I have taken a trip together – just us, no brother, no Mom, no husbands, no kids, just the three of us. We look forward to it so much that we begin planning the next one even while (and sometimes even before the current one!). And yet we enjoy them fully. We wish we could do 2 or 3 a year, but that’s not likely.

This is the second time in all our years that we have an Extended Chick Trip. Last time, we invited our daughters (only one could come, the others are not at the time in their lives that it’s particularly attractive, but that will come); we invited our two oldest friends (I’m the oldest and I’ve known them since I was about 6 years old); one of them brought their daughter who was just a few months younger than my daughter – they played together a lot when they were little. This year, those two couldn’t come, so we each invited a really good friend with a long friendship history. And my daughter and her best friend came along, so there are 8 of us. Perfect number of people.

But we’re here to discuss food, yes? Oh my – I want to talk about two meals we’ve had in the Sidney / Victoria area of British Columbia. The first was Afternoon Tea at the Empress Hotel. This is an experience not to be missed. Yes, you can get an excellent Afternoon Tea for less money in Victoria, but this was an Experience with Ambiance in addition to delicious tea and tea items. I think everyone should take Afternoon Tea at the Empress Hotel at least once in their lives.

I got the Empress Blend tea which is my very favorite; I’ve tried some of their other teas, but this one is perfect for my tastes; and at the end of tea, they give you a box with 10 tea bags of Empress Blend in it – a nice little take-away. Some of our group got different teas and pronounced them delicious. Tea comprised a three tiered plate display. You begin eating from the bottom plate, which were little sandwiches. There was a marble rye finger sandwich with Moroccan curried chicken; a cranberry bread finger sandwich with smoked ham; a triangle sandwich with cream cheese and cucumber; a spiral sandwich slice with salmon; and a mini-croissant with egg salad. Then give yourself a little time to digest and you move to the middle plate which transitions you from savory to sweet. This layer has a golden raisin scone with a little pot of unsweetened whipped cream and some strawberry jam. This was delicious; one of group said she’d be happy with just that plate only with a few more scones! The top plate had the sweets. There was a pumpkin and caramel mousse-like bar; a black current coconut cake ball, a cheesecake with lemon curd in a white chocolate cup, ginger topped shortbread, and best of all, a chocolate mousse in a dark chocolate cup. The Empress Hotel is so accommodating. We asked for gluten free tea items for two people. They brought a beautiful three tiered tea plates – the sandwich breads were GF as well as the scones and the tiny desserts. It looked (and reportedly tasted) as wonderful as the other tea plates. Well, I have to report that as “difficult” as it was, we ate every bit – and waddled to our cars full and happy.

The other food experience was Friday night’s dinner in Sidney. We found a restaurant highly recommended in Urban Spoon that we went to, and I’m so glad we did! It was one of the best meals ever! The restaurant is called Seaglass on the Waterfront; it’s on Harbour Road in Sidney, just off of highway 17. Our waiter, Lee, quickly realized that he had 8 –let’s call us high-spirited – women and knew just how much to let us run and when to reel us back in. His descriptions of entrees and specials were spot on and he willingly repeated himself as we needed. We started out with wine and cocktails; 4 of us had a particularly yummy cocktail called the Pink Piranha, made from vodka, cranberry juice, pomegranate liqueur, and lychee liqueur, with a slice of lime. Mm-mmm.

We split some salads (unless you have a huge appetite, I’d recommend this – there was plenty of salad for two people). I had the Artisanal Salad with mixed greens, julienned carrots and beets, candied pecans, Craisins, and sliced kiwi – what a nice change from cucumbers! We had a citrus and black pepper vinaigrette. The other half of us had Caesar salad with freshly made dressing – they said it was also delicious. Freshly baked rosemary focaccia and soft butter accompanied the salads.

The meals, however, were spectacular! I’ll do my best to describe them. I had a pecan encrusted chicken breast that was juicy, tender, and flavorful. It rested on a large portion of mashed Yukon potatoes, with steamed carrots and broccoli on the sides. It had a little pile of julienned apples that were sautéed, with sugar and cinnamon. This was garnished with pea tendrils. Then there was a Bartlett pear compote and what I thought was a large piece of pear on the side, but when I tasted it, it was a golden beet. The whole meal was one delicious bite after another. I did leave some of the potatoes on my plate, but I finished every last bite of everything else – even the pea tendrils!

One person had braised short ribs. These were so tender, your fork barely touched it and it fell apart. And it melted right in your mouth. It was served on a bed of risotto and a cabernet reduction (a gorgeous red) and with steamed carrots (a bright deep orange color) – truly as beautiful as delicious. Three of our group had halibut, tender, mild, flavorful crusted with an olive tapenade. The halibut steak was thick and cooked to perfection throughout – difficult to do. This was presented on top of garlic mashed Yukon potatoes, with steamed carrots and steamed broccoli, plus bell peppers, tomatoes, and garnished with pea tendrils. Two of us had tenderloin steak – thinner cut but just as tender and flavorful as a filet mignon. The steak was sauced with a mushroom demi-glace, served on Yukon mashed potatoes, and as others, garnished with steamed broccoli and steamed carrots, topped with pea tendrils. And one person had a stuffed portabella mushroom, served on a cake of steamed jasmine rice with garlic, onion, and carrot. The portabella was stuffed with goat cheese, crab, and all sorts of vegetables. It was pronounced delicious with so many complementary flavors.

For dessert, we were stuffed, but Lee made a couple of excellent suggestions, so we found a tiny bit more room and the eight of us shared 3 desserts. One was a luscious crème bruleé with grated fresh ginger and scraped vanilla bean on the crystalized sugar topping. Oh my, that was fantastic – what an wonderful interplay among flavors – this chef is really inspired!. The other two desserts were a chocolate hazelnut flourless torte with chocolate ganache, blackberry coulis, a fresh strawberry, and a dab of not-very-sweet  whipped cream. Again, what wonderful flavor combinations to finish off our meal.

 All in all, all eight of us highly recommend this restaurant. Every single bite of every single dish we had was superb and we wouldn’t change a thing Not even any of the garnishes. And Lee was one of the most fun, most professional, most friendly, and most knowledgeable waiters we’ve come across. So, three cheers to Seaglass, to Lee, to Chef,Ron Vincent and to his spectacular food and flavor profiles. I have to quit now because I have run out of superlative adjectives.
A PS to this post: We actually went back to Seaglass a couple days later (and we have never repeated a restaurant on our Chick Trips) - we all had a different entrée, different dressings on our salad, and besides the crème brulee and chocolate torte, added a lemon tart to our experience. Really, if you get anywhere near Sidney on Vancouver Island - even take the ferry from Tswassen BC or Anacortes WA - you have to try Seaglass. We can't stop raving about it!


Sunday, October 5, 2014

Wedding Banquet

I usually don't remark on wedding banquets, simply because I usually don't find the food particularly noteworthy. Generally, they're passable and the company and event are far more interesting.

Last night, my niece got married to her childhood sweetheart. And the event was fun and noteworthy - full of happy tears and joy. And everyone looked so beautiful; the bride was gorgeous and so was the groom; the parents of the bride and of the groom looked fabulous; the weather cooperated except for a VERY brisk wind - what more could one want in an October wedding in Minnesota?
But here, the food was also very good. We had gone back to our hotel to rest a bit and so missed the hors d'ouevres. I asked a couple of people what was served, but alas, all I got from these well-meaning, but definitely non-foodies was "shrimp, beef, you know...'

To find our seating, my sister and her daughter, the bride, spent hours tying tags to caramel apples. The apples had cellophane wrapped around them and then they tied on a little tag with our names, the table number; the color of the tag indicated to the wait staff if you had a beef, chicken, or vegetarian entree. Very clever and nice since I had long forgotten which entree I had ordered.

For dinner, we first had a mixed greens salad with sliced almonds and mandarin oranges, dressed with a raspberry vinaigrette. Multigrain rolls were an accompaniment. I discovered that I had ordered the beef entree and so was served a bacon-wrapped filet mignon, cooked perfectly and was, as expected, very tender. I prefer my bacon more cooked, so enjoyed the bacon flavor on my steak while my brother - who has never turned down food - got my bacon. The steak was topped with a grilled baby portobello cap and a veal stock demi glace. The sides were mashed yukon potatoes with feta and garlic. The cheese and garlic were very mild and subtle so you could still taste the buttery potatoes. Delicious. Also as a side were steamed green beans with strips of red bell pepper. They barely steamed the beans, so they were nice and crisp. The side benefit was that the red peppers were also lightly steamed ad retained their shape, texture and flavor. How many times have you had this combination only to find that the peppers could have been pimientos? Not here - they did a standout job in the kitchen.

The other entree options were a quarter chicken served with a maple raspberry glaze garnished with fresh raspberries and toasted pie nuts. I was told by those at my table that the chicken was moist and delicious. The third entree option was a vegetarian dish of wheat linguine with steamed mixed vegetables and feta. I don't know how that was - my family are total carnivores. They even had a special meal for kids with chicken strips, french fries, and a fruit cup. Everyone was happy. Finally, for dessert, there were individual warn apple pies with the traditional double crust. Adorable and just the perfect size.

After dinner and an hour of dancing and champagne toasts, they invited us outside to a small bonfire and s'mores. For those of you unfortunates who've never had a campfire s'more, it's two graham crackers with a toasted (or totally burned, depending on your tastes and skills) marshmallow and a chunk of Hershey's milk chocolate candy bar. All squished together, it's ooey - gooey and makes you want  "s'more."

After a couple more hours of dancing, they brought out sliders and french fries. The sliders were delicious - the meat very well seasoned and with cheese, bacon, catsup, and barbecue sauce.

I have to give this place a plug - the reception venue was beautiful (though I wish the wind wasn't so strong so we could have enjoyed the outside views more), the waitstaff was efficient, pleasant, friendly, and very helpful. As an original Minnesotan, I appreciated getting coffee along with my meal insted of having to wait for dessert. The food was plentiful and outstaning - everything was cooked and seasoned perfectly, not an easy feat when serving 250 guests! So, if you're in Minnesota and looking for a great venue for an event, I heartily recommend Rush Creek Golf Club in Maple Grove, Minnesota.

Congratulations Rachel and Bryan - may you have many happy married years and great memories of your special day!

Taste of Washington cookbook review

Last week's International Food Blogger Conference (IFBC) in Seattle began with the book launch and signing of A Taste of Washington: Favorite Recipes from the Evergreen State by Chef Michele Morris. Although this was a book launch, the official publication date is October 2014. This is a special cookbook because not only does Chef Morris provide recipes from restaurants and chefs from all over Washington state, she took almost all of the photographs herself - and they are stunning.
The recipes look so good and use Washington state's special offering to very good use - and my mouth waters just reading through some of the. In the coming months, I write about the recipes I try, but in the meantime, I do suggest you check out this very special and stunning cookbook.