Archive for January, 2012


Monday, January 30th, 2012

Hi everyone! I hope you had a good weekend – my weekend flew by because my sister Maren and I took a quick day trip to Portland!

I like going to Portland – it’s a three-hour drive from Seattle, so the trip can easily be accomplished on a Saturday. In addition, there are some really unique places to eat there. I thought I should share the highlights of our trip with you!

First of all – coffee. Maren and I have 10 years of experience working at Starbucks between the two of us, so we appreciate the need for caffeine. In Portland, Stumptown is the obvious choice!

We decided on the drive down that we would go to Screen Door for brunch. I have already mentioned my experience trying their Shrimp and Grits. I can now officially say Screen Door is my favorite restaurant in Portland.

I ordered an egg scramble with grits and a biscuit. It was so good. My sister made a wise decision and ordered chicken and waffles.

Their fried chicken is literally the best we’ve ever tasted. I love that place and wish we had one in Seattle!!

Next stop – Powell’s Books. This is a given on any trip to Portland. It is the biggest bookstore I’ve ever been in – the store is the length of a whole city block. This time around I spent some quality time in the cookbook section.

Here is a picture of me in the bookstore. I’m trying to look casual and hide the panic I immediately feel whenever a camera is pointed at me…

After Powell’s, we headed to NW 23rd Avenue and wandered through the boutiques for awhile. When dinner time arrived, we were getting tired and used Yelp to find something within walking distance.

We ended up at a Thai place called Red Onion.

Maren started off with a Thai iced tea – always a good choice.

This restaurant received fairly good ratings online, but sadly we didn’t like the food at all. Mine was not quite hot enough, and the chicken tasted sort of processed. It’s possible we just weren’t that hungry, or maybe we are Thai food snobs?

I did however enjoy the appetizer I ordered – deep fried tofu served with peanut plum sauce.

After making one more stop for coffee, we headed home to the music of the Mamma Mia soundtrack, Michael Jackson, and whatever else we could find that would keep us awake. I love traveling! I wish I could go visit somewhere at least once a month!

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Peanut Butter and Pickle Sandwiches

Friday, January 27th, 2012

Happy Friday! We made it through the week!

I have three totally unrelated things to discuss with you today.

1. Peanut Butter and Pickle Sandwiches.

Have you ever heard of this before? If not, I understand you may feel skeptical. I know it probably isn’t the prettiest sandwich you’ve ever seen…

But just trust me! It’s so good in a sweet and salty way.

It’s also simple!

Slice some fresh bread, spread peanut butter on both sides, apply the pickles, and you’re done. I like this sandwich with dill pickles but there is room for experimentation with any of the elements. I hope you give it a try!

2. Dessertless January

We are nearing the end of January, and I thought I should give you a summary of my month without sugar/dessert. As expected, it was both miserable and beneficial.

First off, I should say that there really are two ways of doing this. You could cut out everything that has sugar, which is….everything. Or you could keep it simple and just ban desserts and all desserty-type things. I chose the second course of action.

In summary: I definitely feel healthier, although not dramatically so. More than anything I have noticed the lack of that sick feeling you feel after a big dessert – I didn’t realize how often I felt that way before.

Ultimately, I’m so glad I did this because it’s just healthy to say “no” to yourself every now and then and practice a little self-discipline. And then it’s so fun when you’re finally free to indulge again! I have so many dessert ideas I can’t wait to share with you.

3. January Books

As I mentioned back in the days when I was allowed to drink scandalous things like White Hot Chocolate, I’m going to post every month or so about good books I’ve encountered. Here are a few of the latest!

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carré

I read this one back in December before the movie came out. The author actually used to work for British Intelligence, which adds a level of authenticity. I loved it, although I am partial to spy stories. It was a challenge in some ways – there was a lot of British slang and spy slang, but totally worth it in the end. The acting in the movie was exceptional, although there were a couple scenes that were explicit where the book was a little more classy and vague.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I won’t go into detail here – most of you probably know about the slightly (greatly?) disturbing plot. I thought the writing was fairly poor (maybe one level up from Twilight but multitudes down from Harry Potter) but the storytelling was great. It’s a fun book all things considered – a good airplane book. I read it in a weekend and will likely finish the series.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

I just finished this book and I almost can’t talk about it yet. Is it too dramatic to say that by the end my heart was in little shattered pieces on the floor along with a huge pile of tissues?

This was one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. It looks at the Holocaust from a different perspective – the German citizens. Also, it’s narrated by Death, which turns out to be one of the most interesting aspects. The writing is so creative and poetic. I loved it.

Three somewhat dark books. I’m ready for something a little lighter now!

By the way, if you enjoy reading and book reviews, my friend Sara co-writes an excellent blog  – Two Readers Writing.

Have a great weekend!

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Hot Pockets with Roast Beef, Pesto and Mozzarella

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

Hello Monday! We meet again.

I had a great weekend. It included such indulgent activities as going to Target just because I like it there, seeing Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, and taking a delicious nap after church. But now the time for such antics is past, and Monday has arrived, holding a hysterical alarm clock. Time for coffee!

In addition to all of the above, this past weekend I took a risk and tried out homemade hot pockets, using puff pastry and the ingredients from an excellent panini my mom has made several times.

Warning: there is a tiny bit of measuring/math involved in this scenario. A ruler is a definite must for this recipe.

I was so excited when these emerged from the oven looking just like real hot pockets! The pastry puffed perfectly and the filling was cooked just right. The flavors of the roast beef, pesto and mozzarella came together in perfect unity. I should mention that they were a little on the rich side (which is not really an issue for me personally).

For those who don’t care for roast beef or pesto, there are other options! Fill these with whatever you think is tasty! I think almost anything you would put on a pizza or in a panini would be interesting to try.

Happy Monday!

Hot Pockets with Roast Beef, Pesto and Mozzarella

Recipe adapted from Anne Thornton and Betty Crocker

Makes 10 hot pockets


All-purpose flour, for work surface
2 sheets (1 package) frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash

For the filling:
5-7 tablespoons basil pesto
Approximately 5 oz thinly sliced cooked deli roast beef (or just less than one large slice per hot pocket)
10-12 deli-style slices mozzarella cheese


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Flour your work surface so the puff pastry doesn’t stick. Unfold one sheet of the thawed pastry. Roll it out into a 10 by 15-inch rectangle. Using a ruler, cut the rectangle into 2 (5 by 15-inch) rectangles, then cut each rectangle into 5 (5 by 3-inch) rectangles. Repeat with the other sheet of pastry. Transfer the 20 rectangles onto your baking sheets and chill until they are cold.

Spread a small spoonful of basil on 10 of the rectangles, leaving a border. (Be careful not to include too much oil.) Add a few strips of roast beef on top, and a few strips of cheese. Be careful not to add too much filling.

Brush the borders with the egg wash. Lay the remaining pastry rectangles on top. Use a fork to seal the border (make sure the borders are firmly sealed, or the filling will bubble out while baking). Refrigerate for another 20 minutes or so.

Remove from the refrigerator. Brush the tops with the remaining egg wash. Cut three vents, about 1/2-inch long, in the top of each pie.

Bake, rotating once, until the tops are golden and the filling is bubbling, about 25-30 minutes. Cool on a wire rack before serving.

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Spinach Blackberry Goat Cheese Salad

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

You know those commercials for healthy food products where the woman makes good eating choices all day long, then looks in the mirror before bed and sighs blissfully at her reflection because she’s just been so good? I’ve probably had about one of those days in my lifetime…if that.

I just love dessert. I always have!

However, like most people I would much rather be slim than not, and while I would love to look like Carrie Underwood and also eat brownies all day long, life just doesn’t work that way.

I don’t claim to have the answer to this dilemma, but I suppose it must come down to moderation? What a boring word!

One thing I do know for sure – if we’re going to eat healthy at least some of the time, better make it delicious. And here is one way to do that – buckets of spinach made palatable by creamy goat cheese and juicy blackberries.

Finish it off with some hot lemon water, and I think you would be quite justified in giving your reflection an encouraging smile tonight!

There is no real recipe for this salad – it is inspired by the Spinach, Berry & Goat Cheese Salad at Specialty’s. They serve strawberries or blueberries. You could really use any decent looking berry you can find at this time of year. In addition to blackberries and goat cheese, I toasted some walnuts in a skillet with oil, and used a raspberry/açaí vinaigrette. Perfect combo!

Have a great Friday everyone – I am finally preparing for work after six days at home due to snowy conditions. I’m ready to be productive…at least until the weekend!

Now – go forth and eat salad!

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Jessie's Kitchen Chronicles