Thursday, June 11, 2015

Maryhill Winery, Museum, & Stonehenge #Washington {#travel} Columbia River Gorge

Camping or travel in the Pacific Northwest is so rewarding - from the great outdoors with fantastic hikes, climbs,  surfing and more to wine tasting, fine art and  - gasp - Stonhenge.  Yes,  you read that correctly…no joke.

You may remember that our first tenting trip of 2015 too us yet again to Memaloose Oregon State Park in the Columbia River Gorge; it usually is always a nice hike however my foot has been bugging me so since that was out of the question why not sightsee…

I have heard many things about a supposed replica of Stonehenge in the Columbia River Gorge so this was the perfect opportunity since we were pretty much already half way there {from Portland that is}.  We crossed the Columbia in The Dalles and from it there it was less than an hour to reach Maryhill Winery - our first stop. I honestly did not know what to expect.  Yes,  we have been wine tasting in Willamette Valley but never before in the Columbia River Gorge.  Oh my what have we missed…

Maryhill Winery has a very nicely appointed large tasting room, the most amazing place however is the patio.  There is a lovely, large patio with stunning views of the Columbia River Gorge, and Mount Hood.  You could bring along a picnic {saw many people with that thought} order a bottle of wine and enjoy a lovely afternoon on the patio.  Now let me also say,  that the wine was quite delicious and we may have added a few bottles to our collection :)

Next stop - Stonehenge; now let me preface by telling you that we {as in Ron & I pre-kids} have been to actual Stonehenge.  Stonehenge that is surrounded by green and seeing a fully intact replica in a dessert environment was - how can I say this correctly - a little surreal, but at the same time super cool.  Samuel Hill built the replica of Stonehenge as a memorial for those fallen in World War I.

Our last stop was the Maryhill Museum of Art - let me admit that I did not have high expectation but was I wrong; we were blown away.  Starting out with the amazing collection of pieces and drawings by Auguste Rodin to the amazing collection of American Indian Artifacts to the Théâtre de la Mode; oh and did I mention the girls favorite which which is collection of royal memorabilia from Queen Marie of Romania.

We stopped at the museum cafe for lunch and it was delicious; not only were they able to cater to our kids but the food was yummy.  Ron and I shared a salad with local smoked salmon….

Good to know if you go
- Maryhill is about 90 miles or about 2 hours drive from Portland
- the weather is quite a bit warmer
- there are several vineyards along the route so be sure to have a dedicated driver
- pack a picnic and stop at Maryhill Winery
- have fun

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Camping in the Columbia River Gorge at Memaloose {#Travel #Oregon #GoCamping #Food Family #Fun}

How can it be that it is already June 10th - another few posts are still locked up in my head and there has been zero output on this blog lately.  Yes, shame of me…time keeps just on rolling by…so now no more fretting from me…

Summer is here meaning the tent camping season is now fully open {for us} -  we kicked off the season with a two night stay at Memaloose Oregon State Park; actually the same campground we kicked the season off for a few years now.  Memaloose State Park is in the Columbia River Gorge just past Mosier and few miles west of The Dalles; this is the place - at least we think so - where the lush green changes over to a more desert feel.  The mighty Columbia is just below the campground and Rowena Crest rises high above;  Memaloose is located where the gorge is super narrow.  The train line is below the campground separating the river from the park; I-84 runs right above campground and Rowena Crest towers above.  Yes,  it is loud - there is the highway, trains all times of day and night, and - since this is the Columbia River Gorge - one the premier wind/kite surfing places around the world super, duper windy.  WE - for some odd reason - love to kick off the season here.  It is always a lot warmer, and drier than Portland plus there is a lot to do.

We love hiking up Rowena Crest, or the Tom McCall Preserve but since I hurt my foot {hello Plantar Faciatis} a hike was not in the cards.  Let's just say that MiaRose was slightly excited about that fact.  Instead of the hike we headed to the Washington side in the gorge, tasted some wine,  went to an awesome museum and visited Stonehenge.  More about that tomorrow, or soon thereafter...
Roasted Marshmallows and s'mores by the campfire

Other things to do include biking, wind/kite surfing, hiking, more wine tasting, visit the the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center, taste fantastic beers at Full Sail and/or Double Mountain in Hood River…

Oh yes and finally figured out how to improve our camping fare; parboil.  I obviously did not invent the idea but how on earth did it take me so long to think of it?  We finally had great food - perfectly roasted corn on the cobb {parboiled at home before packing} plus potatoes, bacon, and eggs for breakfast - I parboiled the potatoes and they came out fantastic….

Good to know before you camp at Memaloose

  • It is loud - there is no way of sugar coating it; trains run throughout the night, and so does the traffic on the highway
  • It is windy and the wind can be really gusty; so if you are tenting be prepared to anchor it down
  • It is dry and hot
  • and yes,  despite it all we love it , but it is not for everyone - so if you are looking for a quaint spot to camp this is not it…
  • Great Junior Ranger program in the summer

Friday, May 15, 2015

Almond Crunch Rhubarb Kuchen {cake #dairyfree #recipe Rhabarberkuchen}

I love spring - well, guess I say that about every season - and I love rhubarb since tart and bitter are my flavors.  Yes,  I am a tart and bitter woman :)  Strawberries are of course a perfect company for rhubarb however I prefer rhubarb all by itself.  It takes me back to my childhood.  My grandparents had a - seemingly at the time - huge yard growing everything from Stachelberen {goose berries}, Johannisbeeren (red and black currents) to vegetables and Rhabarber {rhubarb}. When rhubarb was in season it was often rhubarb compote for dessert, Rhabarberkuchen is served in Cafe's and bakeries everywhere around.  Topped with meringue or with marzipan or glazed…so yes,  I love Rhabarberkuchen.

Rhubarb has finally arrived at our stores. We already had a rhubarb-strawberry compete with ice "cream" for dessert and finally the first Rhabarberkuchen of the year.  My usual go-to recipe is Rhubarb Meringue but sometimes there is just not enough time to make it….So instead it was this easy and quick  cake….which shall be named Almond Crunch Rhubarb Kuchen.  It comes together super easy, really delicious and you can always add a little more rhubarb than I did.

Almond Crunch Rhubarb Kuchen
  • 1-1/4 C flour
  • 1-1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/3  C corn starch
  • 1/2 C sugar
  • 5 TB Earth Balance {or your favorite "butter} - softened cut into pieces
  • 1/2 C plain almond milk {your favorite type of "milk"}
  • 2  egg
  • 1     tsp vanilla extract
  • 3-4 C cleaned, chopped rhubarb cut into about 1/2" pieces
      For Almond Crunch topping
  • 2/3 C ground almonds
  • 1/2 C sugar
  • 1/2 C flour
  •    4 TB Earth Balance {or your favorite "butter"}
        ***Preheat oven to 360 F***
  1. In a stand mixer gently combine flour, baking powder, corn starch, and sugar
  2. Add "butter", "milk",  eggs and combine into a smooth batter.
  3. Add vanilla until it is worked well into the batter
  4. Mix rhubarb into the batter
  5. Pour batter into a prepared springform
  6. Combine ground almonds, sugar, flour, and "butter", until it becomes crumbly {I use my hands for this step) and it has the appearance of streusel.
  7. Top the batter with the streusel
  8. Bake for about 80 minutes or until a tooth pick comes out clean

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup {#dairyfree #recipe}

Soup is on my mind - I must have told you that before a couple of times but we love soup. Soup to me is always comforting,  delicious, the perfect meal in one bowl plus it's the perfect lunch the next day.  The weather does not matter - every day is the perfect soup day, add some crusty bread, a hearty salad and it is a complete dinner…You know what else I love?  Lemon and pasta…lemon adding a fresh, tangy, crisp flavor to anything and pasta the prefect comfort food.  Now adding it all together is the perfect meal - not photogenic at all - but oh so tasty….

Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup
  • 1 Tb olive oil
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 2 celery stalks diced
  • 3/4 lb diced chicken, skin removed {I prefer dark meat}
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 TB dried Oregano
  • 1/3 C lemon juice
  • 1 qt chicken broth
  • 3 C water
  • 1 tsp lemon zest {use zest from organic lemon}
  • 1/2 C of dried orzo
  • 2 C frozen, defrosted or fresh spinach
  1. Heat olive oil in a stock pot and when hot add
  2. onion and sauté until softened
  3. Add celery, garlic together with diced chicken.  Sauté until celery turns bright green in color.
  4. Add salt, pepper, and oregano; sauté for another couple of minutes until fragrant
  5. Add lemon juice, lemon zest, chicken broth, and water.  Bring to a low simmer, cover and leave on the stove for about 30-45 minutes for all of the flavors to combine.
  6. Increase heat and add dried orzo when the soup is bubbling, continue cooking until orzo is soft.
  7. Add spinach to soup, stir, cover and simmer for another five minutes.
  8. Adjust salt, pepper, lemon as needed.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Chicago with kids {#travel #family}

Ron and I moved from Chicago to Portland about thirteen years ago; for the longest time we have been talking how much fund it will be to go back with the girls, stay downtown, and be tourists in our old hometown.  In the past our big annual summer trip has been to go home {at least for me} to Europe, but since Europe will not be happening this summer we were finally made the trip back to Chicago.   Why did we wait so long?!

We left PDX at 12:40am getting into Minneapolis just before 6am getting us to Chicago O'Hare just around 8am; I know it does sound a little crazy to take the red-eye with kids but it was great.  It was the most economical flight option and two out of four slept all the way; while the other two may have enjoyed a rare treat of Coca-Cola.  Now do you care to guess who the two sleepers were?! 

Getting into O'Hare that early was great and getting downtown from O'Hare is super easy by taking the 'L' -  follow the signs for "CTA Trains" or "Trains to City"; 
we stayed at the downtown Hampton Inn & Suites on Illinois pretty much right off Michigan Avenue and it was fantastic.  Bright, clean, nice size rooms, comfy beds, a lovely swimming pool {key when traveling with our kids} plus continental breakfast.  In order to make our stay more economical we booked and prepaid the room.  Now let me say this - and no this is not a sponsored post - this hotel was absolutely perfect, we will definitively stay there again and I highly recommend it to all traveling to Chicago with kids.  True, it is not right on Michigan Avenue, or in the Loop but it is centrally located. Eataly is a couple of blocks away,  you can walk or take the bus to Navy Pier {just straight down Illinois}, and Michigan Avenue.  Our room was ready when we got there.  There is nothing like a shower, a quick rest to rejuvenate after the flight to get ready to explore.

I have to admit that there was one big thing making me uneasy was worrying about food options for the girls.  Yes…it is true but let me tell you not a reason to be worried; for lunch we went to Wishbone one of my all time favorites - it was burgers for the girls on dairy free buns {the regular buns contain dairy}. Breakfast was at the Corner Bakery, dinner at Ed Debevec's, dessert at  Eataly where there is plenty of Sorbetto {dairy free}, hot dogs at the Cub's game…plenty of dairy free / galactosemia friendly choices.  What did I worry about?!  The key - like always - is to ask, don't take "it probably has milk in it" for an answer but ask to read the labels…

We walked a lot and rode the 'L" everywhere…
went to a Cubs game
and we discovered the best playground {at least in our opinion} this side of the Atlantic…the Maggie Daley Park

Good to know if you go to Chicago with kids {or by yourself}
  •  bring good walking shoes
  • Chicago has fantastic public transportation - use it; get a daily pass, or buy a Vesta card
  •  taking a red eye flight can be the most economical options - have your kids bring their favorite pillows
  • pay for your hotel room in advance to get the best deals {I use the Hilton booking site}
  • call ahead to restaurants you want to visit to ensure that there are "safe" options for the kids
  • have LOTS of fun!!!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Thai Fish Soup

Thai Fish Soup
Hello friends of The Not So Cheesy Kitchen, it's Heather from girlichef dropping by to share a bowl of soup with you today, because Bea has been so busy lately that she's forgotten to feed you. (Joke!) And hey, when all else fails, soup always comes to the rescue. Especially one this simple, that comes together quickly, and packs loads of flavor!

This soup came about on a clean out the pantry and fridge night, so I used a can of peas and a can of corn (I know - gasp!), along with the end of a bag of julienne carrots. But really, any frozen or fresh veggies will work here. Throw in some ribbons of greens, some snow peas cut on the bias, or some beautiful carrot coins. Switch up the herbs, or use only one kind.

As far as the fish went, I had a few fillets of tilapia and a large swai fillet that I took out of the freezer the day before, and in those went. Mild white fish is definitely the way to go here, it paired perfectly with the broth made slightly creamy from the addition of coconut milk.
Thai Fish Soup
You may notice the obvious crazy yellow color of my broth. That comes from the addition of turmeric in my homemade curry powder. I'd probably opt to use a curry powder without turmeric next time (though turmeric is a very Thai-inspired ingredient), just because I think it might be more visually appealing.

Oh, and I mentioned this came together quickly, right? You can have a pot of delicious soup on the table in under 30 minutes. What are you waiting for!?

Thai Fish Soup
This brothy soup enriched with coconut milk is packed with chunks of tender white fish, veggies and herbs. Switch up the add-ins to match the season!
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Thai Fish Soup
by Heather Schmitt-Gonzalez
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15-20 minutes
Keywords: simmer soup/stew dairy-free pescetarian Thai

Ingredients (serves 4)
    for the curry broth:
    • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
    • 3 spring onions or scallions, thinly sliced
    • 3 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 tablespoon curry powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
    • 4 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
    • 3/4 cup coconut milk
    • 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
    • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
    everything else:
    • 1 pound white fish (I used a mix of tilapia and swai)
    • 1 1/2 cups mixed vegetables, cut very small (peas, carrots, corn)
    • 1 cup cooked rice
    • 1/4 cup mixed chopped fresh cilantro, basil and mint leaves
    • lime wedges
    Heat oil in a medium saucepot over medium heat. Add green onions, garlic, curry powder and sugar; cooking, stirring constantly for 2 minutes. Add chicken broth, coconut milk, ginger and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer for 10 minutes.

    Add the fish and veggies to the pot, simmer until everything is cooked through, 3-5 minutes. Stir in rice and cook for 1 minute longer. Remove from heat and stir in herbs. Serve with lime wedges for squeezing over each serving, to taste.

    -adapted from Taking On Magazines and Family Circle Magazine, January 2014
    Thai Fish Soup

    More delicious soups from the sea (at girlichef):
    Caldo de Camaron y Pescado (Brothy Shrimp and Fish Soup)
    Manhattan Clam Chowder
    Rhode Island Clam Chowder
    Smoked Salmon Chowder (inspired by Pike Place Chowder)

    Friday, April 24, 2015

    Bagby Hot Springs {#travel #Oregon #PDX}

    We have finally made it out to Bagby Hot Springs out in the Mt. Hood National Forest  This has been on my wish list in forever.  By the time I think about it is usually is already quite late in day, and then there is also the little piece of distance.  Now this beauty - depending on your threshold of time spent in the car - is a drive but oh, so totally absolutely worth it and I am not a hot tub fan.  Well, of course this is no hot tub but a hot spring brining absolute mind clearing serenity.  It is in the middle of the woods,  it is a tiny hike about 1-1/2 miles which non-surpisingly still brought on the "When are we finally question - but oh, my.  The trail to the Hot Springs is already magical; green in any variety dark, light, the sound of a river as the trail leads up along a river. It is easy to imagine it as fairy land.

    and then just when we thought we missed a turn….

    Just a couple steps past the sign  hot water bubbles up and is directed to by wooden lines to the different soaking areas.

    The water runs to the soaking area to five private rooms, about three  round tubs for smaller groups, and a couple of larger tub for a bigger group.  We chose the private soaking room…what to expect?  First off, the tub is a carved out of a cedar log log…Please tell me you are as excited as I am about this.
    Once in the room, let the hot water flow in and be sure to get a few buckets of cold water; because the water is hot. Next..soak.  Sit back, relax, look out through the holes in the roof…

    What do you think?  It is absolute bliss….then walk back to the car through the magical forest

    Good to know if you go:
    In addition to towels pack water, snacks, and all other stuff you usually bring with you on a hike.  Yes, this is short but it is in the middle of Mt. Hood National Forest, the weather can change, people slip and did I mention that it is in the middle of the woods?  So yes, no matter how close and easy it seems wear sturdy shoes.

    There is a $5 {cash only} soaking fee for each adult - so be sure to bring cash, or get your wristband the Ripplebrook Store.  Bagby Hot Springs are about 40 miles SouthEast of Estacada so yes,  it takes some time to get out there but it is so worth is.

    Lastly,  it does get very busy so be prepared to wait and most of all have fun!

    Wednesday, April 22, 2015

    Picnic Pearl Couscous Salad {#vegan #dairyfree #recipe}

    Happy Wednesday! How are you? - Everything here at The Not So Cheesy Kitchen is great, I just needed a little hiatus but now I am back and {in my mind} many posts are lined up.  Now,  I just need to get them all out of my head onto paper  the screen.  Will tell you all about our adventures these past few weeks, just stick with me.  Pretty please?!
    Portland weather has been absolutely spectacular these past few days with summer like temperatures.  Yes, it feels more like summer than early spring and we are ready for picnics as well as cooking out. This easy Picnic Pearl Couscous Salad is the perfect side for any picnic.  It comes together quickly, is fun to eat and all it needs is enough time to absorb all the flavors.  

    Picnic Pearl CousCous Salad

    • 3 c water 
    • 1 tsp sald 
    • 2 C Pearl CousCous
    • 1 C cucumber, seeded and diced
    • 1 C tomato, seeded, and diced
    • 1 C red pepper, seeded, and diced
    • 1/2 C Kalamata Olives, pitted, and diced  
    • 3 Tbs lemon juice
    • 2 Tbs olive oil
    • Salt &  pepper to taste
    • 1/2 bunch of chives minced
    • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
    1. Add salt to water and bring to a boil
    2. Add couscous, cover, and turn heat down to low.  Simmer for about 8-10 minutes. Couscous is ready once all the water has been absorbed.
    3. Remove cooked couscous immediately from pan to a larger bowl to cool down
    4. Add vegetables once couscous has cooled off
    5. Combine lemon juice with olive oil, dried oregano, and minced chives
    6. .  Add salt and pepper to taste
    7. Pour dressing over couscous and carefully toss into salad until well combined
    8. Cover and let rest for at least an hour before serving.  
    9. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. 

    Wednesday, April 1, 2015

    Fort Stevens State Park, Astoria & Beer or the first #camping trip of 2015 {#travel #gocamping #yurt #oregon}

    No, this is not an April first joke it is actually me posting…can you believe my super long break?!  I am really waiting for that tool to transpose my posts from my brain to my blog.  Yes, I have been saying that for a long time it's lame but yes, so many, many posts lined up in my head and oh so little time.  Well, truth be said that lately I have also been feeling a little worn out ~ not to worry the family is all right just me being a little under the weather.

    I am happy to announce that our 2015 camping season has opened.  Okay, truth be said we did not yet break the tent out and instead camped in a yurt at Forth Stevens Oregon State Park {Northern coast} which is perfect especially in chilly weather as there is heat, electricity, as well as beds.  Take a look

    It's super fun and dry…We arrived on a Monday - it being March and the Oregon coast - there was a chill in the air and a slight drizzle in the air.  After setting up camp, we took a quick drive to the beach to explore the wreck of the Peter Iredale a ship that ran ashore in 1906.

     This was the first time we have seen it, really the first time that I have seen a real-life shipwreck and I do think that there is a certain mystique about it. You, know I was thinking about the hands that built the ship, the people that sailed on it the merchandise…okay, okay I am getting a little carried away...

    The next stop was dinner and when in Astoria or close to it Fort George Brewery  is our place to go.  Let me just say that the beer is delicious and the food is not shabby either.  They certainly always have options for the girls.  In addition to the regular pub fare on the lower level,  the restaurant has expanded the upstairs into a pizzeria including a wood burning oven.  Feeling more like pub food - fish tacos for me friers - we stayed downstairs, gobbled down our food, enjoyed the beer, and took in the atmosphere of the steady downpour….

    After dinner back to the yurt - yay for the yurt in the pouring rain - a nice game of Eckolo with Alena, comfortable beds and sleeping to the sound of the rain without worry.

    We woke up to an almost dry day - you know the kind with lots of dry patches, sun, and intermittent rain.  Ron - always the camp chef - made us bacon and coffee/tea for breakfast…before we took a nice long walk to Coffenbury Lake (you can swim in the summer) to the beach and back.

    I do have one complaint about Ft. Stevens and that is that cars are allowed on the beach. Year-round the beach is open for cars to drove tp the shipwreck but the area north is closed off for the months May thru September.  Let's just say,  cars on the beach are not my thing…

    Check-out is at 1pm leaving plenty of time to explore Astoria.  Alena loves to visit the Columbia River Maritime Museum  which really is an awesome place to visit, now you know there is a but coming, right so here it is blue skies - sun and yes, neither MiaRose nor I were into a visit this time.  Instead we watched a beautiful 3D movie about Galapagos Islands and then headed outside to the pier to tour the Columbia Lightship

    Feeling hungry our last stop was at Buoy Beer Company right on the river; the brewery is a little over one years old and neither the beer nor food disappointed.  The most amazing thing however are the views…I am talking right on the river,  pilot boats go by as do huge freighters coming off the Pacific Ocean and let's not forget the great viewing area of sea lions from the restaurant.  What do I mean?  Well, there is huge viewing area in the floor of the restaurant and below the floor are sea lions lounging.  Quite amazing and it's an awesome addition to the places to visit in Astoria.
    Good to know:

    Yurts - as many campsites in Oregon - must be reserved ahead of time and they go quickly; we just got lucky but only got to stay one night.  Reserve your spot at ReserveAmerica

    Bring sheets to put underneath your sleeping back it's more comfortable than lying directly on the thick plastic

    Be aware that cars are allowed on the beach at Fort Stevens State Park.

    Have fun!

    Wednesday, March 11, 2015

    Manzanita, Beach, Pizza & a Bald Eagle #family #Sunday #fun {#oregon #travel #NehalemStatePark}

    Is it really already the second week of March? All is great here I just have been feeling under the weather a bit…but you know there is nothing like spending time outdoors to lift my spirit.   On Sunday we ventured out to the Oregon coast which is one of our favorite places it always rejuvenates with its majestic beauty.  There are so many great places to go from Portland for a quick day trip - often times we go to Cannon Beach closest to Portland but there are so many, many other fantastic spots…

    This time it was Manzanita - the town is south of Cannon Beach and this is the view of the town and beach from 101…

    Amazing, right?!  It is a cute little beach town this is the view down main street….

    What do you think?

    Since we did not pack a picnic {yes, shame on me} besides a couple of snacks we decided to order a couple of pizza's from Marzano's Pizza - easy enough, right?!  Yes, especially when the dough is "safe" for the girls (i.e. no milk sugar) and that makes this mothership very happy…Anyway it was a pepperoni pizza without dairy for the girls, and a number eight for the parental units.  While the pizza was in the making we walked down to the beach and relaxed for the twenty minutes until the pizza was ready.

    The beach in Manzanita is by far not as crowded as in Cannon Beach, but looking for an even more quiet spot plus some dunes we packed the pizza's and drove down the five minutes to Nehalem State Park.  It is the perfect spot…dunes, beach, quiet…

    We ate our pizzas on the beach - the girls ran down the dunes and the absolute cherry on top {as MiaRose says} was this sight…

    Yes,  a Bald Eagle devouring his catch right on the beach;  good thing we brought the binoculars and Ron took the pictures.
    Walking back to the car after a fun day on the beach


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