Sunday, December 18, 2011


By some miracle we got the old dining table up the stairs. A couple days later, our living room looked like a dining room by the time the place settings were done. And what a wonderful celebration with food! On November 24, 2011, I went a little nuts and cooked everything in the house -- almost. The menu: Turkey, lathered with butter, sprinkled with salt and pepper; Sage Dressing with chopped walnuts and mushrooms that were sauteed in butter; Macaroni & Cheese with 3 kinds of cheeses, diced ham, onion, and green pepper; good ol' cranberry sauce from a can; Steve made the glorious Giblet Gravy; there were Roasted 'Taters (Bakers cut in half, dipped in oil and flour, then roasted for an hour to a golden brown); a wonderful Green Salad by Mary Rose with mesclun greens, avocado, and other salad delights; Green Beans baked in an Italian casserole, by Silvia and Don; Rummy Yams with Brown Sugar; angle-sliced, steamed carrots in a maple syrup and butter sauce; Sonya brought a non-gluten pumpkin pie with coconut on top; I made a Pumpkin-Pecan Pie; and for the chocolate portion of the dessert, I made Dark Chocolate Mousse in glasses with chocolate pieces on top. Our friends Noelle and Greg were there, and we all had a fun time, with plenty of loud, intense conversation, drinking of wine, some electric guitar playing downstairs, the CD player going all evening at a reasonable volume, oohs and aahs and full stomachs over the amassed tonnage of foods. We are so fortunate to have so much. Blessings to all -- and have great holidays this year and into the new year.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Baker is Rockin' !

Finally, finally, finally, I have started selling my baked goods. People order what they want, I make their order, and they come pick it up. It's great! I had my first order last week. It was so much fun! Here's the menu; if you would like to order off the menu, send me an email! I'm at:


Black Pepper Polenta Crackers $10.
Challah 6.
Focaccia 6.
Grissini (Italian Breadsticks) 10.
Multigrain 7.
Rye Baguette with Bacon 9.
Stollen 10.

Breakfast Breads
Coffee Cake 7.
-Lemon Poppyseed
-Sour Cream
Lemon Bread 7.

Muffins 10/doz.
Scones 10/doz.

Cookies (prices are per dozen)
Chocolate Chip (w/ or w/o walnuts) 10.
Pecan Crescents (shortbread) 15.
Almond Crescents (non-shortbread) 18.
Oatmeal (w/ or w/o chocolate chips, walnuts, or raisins) 10.
Brownies (w/ or w/o walnuts) 10-14.
-Cream cheese brownies
-Iced brownies
-Cake-like or dense dark chocolate brownies
Peanut Butter 12.
Shortbread 15.
Chocolate or Vanilla Sugar Cookies 17.

Carrot 19.
Devil’s Food 20.
German Chocolate 24
King Cake 19.
Opera Cake 25.
White 15.

Linzer 16.
Sacher 18.

Lemon 20.
Strawberry-Ricotta 20.
Chocolate 20.
Tiramisu 24.

Apple 16.
Blueberry Crisp 10.
Cherry 12.
Coconut Cream 15.
Lemon Meringue 15.
Pecan 15.
Pumpkin 12.
Pumpkin-Pecan 13.

Zucchini-Cheese-Mushroom 15.

Italian Specialties
Chicken alla Cacciatore 20.
Eggplant Parmesan 20.
Lasagne (w/meat or w/spinach) 30.
Marinara Sauce with Pasta di giorno 18.
Stuffed Shells 20.



Friday, October 14, 2011


My longtime friend Sonya and I went out to eat Wednesday night at Portofino in the Sellwood neighborhood. It's a lovely little place, cozy and charming, with friendly staffers. I had the Wild Mushroom Fettucine, a deliciously creamy dish with more mushroom than cream flavors, and the taste of the pasta came through. My plate was left clean. Sonya had the Seafood Risotto, a varied, luscious blend of shrimp, scallops, and a nicely-herbed, creamy risotto. I had the Montepulciano, a red wine that went very well with the pasta. The petite basket of bland bread was nothing to rave about. Our server, who appeared to be alone to serve the entire room full of customers, was surprisingly attentive -- perhaps too much so, which I suppose is better than being ignored.
For dessert I had a Special that night, a peach and blueberry cobbler with cinnamon gelato. It tasted as good as it sounds. The flavors complemented each other well in a dessert that wasn't overly sweet; a comforting finish to a fine dinner.
Portofino is a very pleasant stop in my quest to try the Italian restaurants in the Portland area. It rates high with me because of our food and the welcoming attitude of the staff. Also, I must admit to a touch of nostalgia: the atmosphere reminded me a little of the late, great Piccolo Mondo, an Italian restaurant at the Johns Landing Water Tower.
Buon appetito,

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Alder bakery

I went to a new bakery the other day called Alder. I had a cinnamon roll the size of a hamburger -- and ate the entire thing. It was so rich and delicious, a tight spiral of tender, flaky pastry as in a croissant, plenty of chopped walnuts, and drizzled with a nice white icing. I would have been satisfied with just a half, but I was hungry and this worked well for my sweet craving of the morning. Actually that was quite the understatement. I was sated for the rest of the day in terms of desiring any more sweets whatsoever.
Alder is a spacious area with beautiful two-tone varnished wood tables, and benches available at the wall. The building is next to The Matador restaurant, and across the street from Pet Samaritan Clinic at E. Burnside at 24th. Good Sam's a place I've been to hundreds of times over the past 20 years, so of course I'm immediately going to notice a new bakery in proximity.
Other choices were perfect macarons, flawless square and round chocolate layered desserts with various garnishes; gelato with an assortment of flavors; and three large, thick types of cookies of the standards: Chocolate chip; peanut butter; and oatmeal/raisin, all looking decidedly nonstandard and delicious; and other sweets to delight the eye and palate. Well worth a stop with their excellent drip coffee alongside.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Humdrum existence?

Feed starter. Make apple pie with whole wheat crust. Adapt pumpkin tartlets recipe. Clean kitchen floor. This is my life now, after my "temp" job as a cook. I suppose industrial-size soup-making is not my thing. Time to ramp up my catering biz sideline, make all things sweet or Italian. Classes, anyone? I love to teach people how to cook and bake. Come on over! Comment on this post!
Autumn, the time of change. Absolutely everything changes in fall: the leaves, obviously, but also my nose, allergies be damned; then there's the actual food season change, turning to examining pear and pumpkin possibilities, then tangerines and turkey in November, and, well, we won't even mention December yet. Here in the Northwest, with the decline of summer and the beginning of the fall rains (rainfall?), the dreariness sets in; or rather, the delectability! The trad foods, the modern spins on the trads, the mind set in motion to create a new dish, a new dessert, but still embrace the traditional. Therein lies the creative challenge. For instance, I've got a Charlie Trotter/Michelle Gayer date tart recipe that I will magically turn into a pumpkin tartlets recipe. Who ever said I wasn't creative! Um, well, no one, actually; not to my face, anyway. Heh. far it's going well. The samples turned out fine, even if a bit too rich. Back to the kitchen. BTW, my dearest one and only husband said to me: "Don't ever let anyone tell you you're not a good cook." Isn't he a keeper? Absolutely.


Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Italian Dinner from the 1800s

Wow. Get a bunch of Italians together and they really know how to have fun.
I went to an event billed as an Italian 18th Century Dinner, at Taste Unique, a small restaurant at 2134 SE Division Street here in Portland. Everyone there spoke at least some level of Italian, which of course made it more fun, and challenging. The food just kept coming, one course after another. It started with Crostini -- 3 kinds: Crostini di spinaci, Crostini di latte, e Crostini di rosso d'uova duri. The first, topped with a spinach kind of spread; the latte one probably had some kind of cheese as a spread on it; and the third had a stiff egg yolk, cooked, and flat, on top. All very tasty.

The second course was one of my favorites: Lasagne di princisgrass rigorsamente bianche con tartufo, which was a lasagne made almost entirely of cheese, with a slight crust that formed on top from the baking. It was heavenly. And we each got only one piece, which was a good thing because I would've filled up on that without regard to anything coming after.
The 3rd course was grilled lamb cutlets with a pignoli sauce e peas with sage, or: Cutulette di agnello fatte in griglie con salsa di pignoli e piselli fritti alla salvia.
For dessert we had some little doughnuts with a dipping sauce of sugar, cream, and spinach pureed together. The wine, from Winebow, was a delicious rosso, a Merlot, I believe.
We dined, drank, laughed, and talked -- and at one point, three women, which included the organizer of the event, were huddled around Chef Stefania's laptop singing along raucously to an Italian song on the stereo system. By the time Chef Stefania brought out a large wooden spoon for them as a microphone prop, I knew the evening was about to draw to a close.
Some time later, farewell greetings exchanged and last-minute introductions hastily made, we wound our way out of the restaurant, around the long table, down the narrow aisle into the warm summer night, our hearts filled with fun and our stomachs full of the joy of good food and wine.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Life After School

I've graduated from culinary school, now looking for work, and I've been thinking about my resume. I've been constantly updating, tinkering with it, and still find it amazing that such well-known, upscale restaurants have been calling me for interviews.
The thing about school is that it is so intensive, it leaves you ravenous for more information, even though you've been bombarded with it all year (I took a year-long program in Baking & Pastry). I have a stack of 25 books from the library, most of them about cakes, desserts, and baking. I opened one this morning and though I didn't think I'd like anything about it except the pictures, I was immediately drawn into Johnny Iuzzini's introduction (the book is Dessert Fourplay). By 26 he was working at a four-star New York restaurant as Executive Pastry Chef. I can't even imagine that now, because I am so much older than that in culinary graduate years. Because I'm just getting back into the business, I am light years away from what he is even talking about.
Of course I keep telling myself, "You should have started this career so much earlier!" But . . . I did! I started in my 20's. I was a server, then cocktail waitress, then a bartender. Then a server again a few more times, a few more locations. That was how I did it. I job-hopped, but never got into the cooking side of it. Eventually I slid into office work and probably wasted some years doing that. I also worked extensively in the arts: singing jazz, freelance writing, theatre work.
Now I'm ready to cook; ready to start at an entry-level job, which is best, really, because you don't want to miss anything on the way up. I'm probably different from a lot of my classmates because I don't want to open my own place. I want only to cook here, in Portland, and keep improving and learning. That's where those library books come in. And the interviews. I've already learned so much from the interviews. Wish me luck.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

A Year of Desserts

It has been an amazing year. I have learned so much in culinary school, and am very excited to be graduating from the year-long Baking & Pastry program at The Art Institute of Portland -- the commencement is next week! It seems like a miracle, the end of an arduous, fulfilling, fun, and very satisfying year of many accomplishments -- and a few small failures that seemed huge at the time: a tart that was melting while chef was grading it, for example. Yet there were many more successes. Since pictures are often more effective than words, here are a few snapshots from the year.



Wednesday, May 4, 2011


I'm in love with farro! And recently I made a salad with it. It was delicious! I found this little recipe in the Oregonian. The salad has 2 ears of cooked corn on the cob, and you slice off the kernels when it's cooked. The farro is soaked in water overnight, then cooked for only 10 mins. in a bit of water. There are chopped chives, thyme, and oregano, all of which I was able to walk to the backyard herb garden and pick fresh! It was so fun to make this salad. It also has a perfect blend of acidity and sweetness, with white wine vinegar, olive oil, and the natural sweetness from the corn. What a great find.
At People's Food Co-op and Food Front you can buy farro in bulk, which is nice because then you can pick out exactly how much you want. Farro is a whole grain, so it's very nutritious. It's an ancient grain; it's been around a long time in Europe and the Middle East and Egypt. Here's the recipe:
Farro Salad with Tomatoes and Corn
Mise en place: Overnight soaking of farro, a wheat grain with a nutty flavor. Cook corn. Toast almonds.
1 cup farro
2 ears cooked corn
16 cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
4 tsp chopped fresh oregano
4 tsp chopped fresh thyme
2 tBsp chopped fresh chives
1/4 cup toasted slivered almonds
2 tBsp extra-virgin olive oil
4 tsp white wine vinegar
TT - Salt and fresh-ground black pepper
Place 1 cup farro in a small bowl with water to cover. Let rest overnight at room temperature.
When ready to cook, drain farro and place in small pan with water to cover. Bring to a boil and cook for approx 10 mins, or until tender or al dente.
Scrape kernels from corn and place in a bowl large enough to hold all ingredients. Add tomatoes, the herbs, almonds, olive oil, vinegar, and salt & pepper; mix well. Drain cooked farro and toss with the other ingredients. This salad is best served at room temperature but can be chilled.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Time to Toast the new season ~

Having been away a couple of months (!) from this blog o' mine, it becomes obvious that the previous school term was crushingly busy. I could not wait for it to be over. It was so amazingly exhausting, mentally and physically. But hey! Finals are over, I survived, and there's still a few days left of spring break. What better place to celebrate by going out to breakfast than TOAST! TOAST is a neighborhood cafe on SE 52nd Ave near SE Steele and is so charming it even has pasted on the walls in the front room hundreds of crayon drawings by children. If that doesn't cheer you up, nothing will. The food is great, and the plate presentation is appealing. The menu is varied, including the sides, and who cares if it only has 3 spaces in its parking lot. Park on the street! They have mimosas! They have Vanilla Bean French Toast, and Squash Tart with the Tart pastry baked to perfection, and with perfectly sauteed, non-bitter Kale and 2 perfectly poached Eggs. For example. If, in the midst of all this perfection, you prefer to order a side of Toast, FYI, it's house made. Eggs and bacon are cooked to perfection; the staff is amiable, or friendly, and there's a bench to sit on if you have to wait to get a table. The drip coffee is nothing to write home about, but they have other beverage options. TOAST has food professionally prepared, a pleasing atmosphere, reasonable prices, and specials of the day. I keep going back there because I know I'm going to eat something good. ciao! deb

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Lauro Mediterranean Kitchen

A restaurant at which we recently dined, Lauro is an expansive room with loads of talent and warm plates of food to delight in. The service was excellent. I ordered the Chicken Tagine one Saturday night, and it came with couscous, butternut squash, chickpeas, and currants. It was fun to taste this dish of Moroccan origin, with the perfect touch of spices that don't overwhelm, and suddenly have a pleasant sweetness in the mouth from a currant or two. Chicken Tagine comes to your table in a very warm bowl and your entire meal is within it. How nice that it stays warm throughout the dining hour! My companion had the same experience with his Seafood Paella. It had mussels, clams, calamari, shrimp, and chourico sausage on a bed of rice. The sausage is very unique, meaty and delicious. I also tasted the mussels and they were wonderfully plump and very fresh. He ate the whole thing, so it was obviously a hit with him ~ !
I didn't finish mine, but reserved the remainder for later at home. I simply had to try the apple tarte tatin with vanilla ice cream. It was glorious; the pastry was very fresh and tasted house-made, which isn't a far cry from reality, I'm sure, since they have a pastry chef there, Nancy Forrest. I am a sucker for good pastry, and indeed, I ate the whole thing.
My companion had the dessert special, a Grand Marnier pot de creme, with creme chantilly, and chocolate shortbread cookies on the side. Not to put too fine a point on it, but, ah, he ate all of it, too. I did have a chance -- barely -- to taste it; and it was very sophisticated and yummy.
After we left the restaurant, he said "One of the few times we've been in a place like that (a nice restaurant with innovative food) where I seriously considered having the pizza." There's always next time.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Random Order, Aebliskivers

On NE Alberta at 18th, Random Order is the coffee place that has everything: Boozy pies, espresso drinks, vegan, non-gluten, and vegetarian menu offerings, Bailey's Irish Cream, cool music, wi-fi, and accommodating counter-persons. Try the Kentucky Bourbon Pecan Pie, or the Brandied Peach Pie; nice, and with a little glob of whipped cream on the side with your fave espresso -- heaven is pretty close to this.

Last month on Christmas morn it was once again time for making Aebliskivers with friends. For those of you in the know, skip this sentence: Aebliskivers are round Danish pancakes that are cooked in special pans for this purpose.

Our 2nd annual tradition began last year when my friend Pam came over with her 2 aebliskiver pans, lingonberry jam, and ScanFest cookbook. I provided the cardamom, powdered sugar, and all the rest. We had a blast (see photo at left), and resolved to do it again.

This year we had several more people in the kitchen: Pam and I, of course, and also Kelly, and Gritt, who is 100% Danish and is expert at making aebliskivers -- but of course! Here we are, cooking, then sampling: