May 27, 2014

Oregon Strawberry Season: Public Service Reminder


As Oregon's strawberry season moves into full swing, I would just like to make the following public service announcement:


The strawberry is a perfect specimen on its own, both delicious and healthy, so there's no need to ruin your pies, jams, and crumbles by adding something as foul tasting as rhubarb to the mix.

May 3, 2014

Taco Quesadillas

After getting frustrated with how to reheat tacos and tortillas, I finally decided it was easier to throw everything into a tortilla with cheese... and taco quesadillas were born...

Taco Quesadillas

No measurements. Just use what you have, and don’t overfill.


Tortillas – Either flour or corn/flour mix (fresh tortillas work, too). Just make sure they won’t break when folded in half (regular corn tortillas don’t work very well for this).

-Shredded cheese – jack, pepper jack, cheddar, or mozzarella (a mix of any of these is great)
-Leftover seasoned taco meat (can be chicken, beef, etc.)
-Leftover refried beans
-Other leftover veggies, rice, potatoes, etc. (a few tater tots or French fries in each is really good)
-Scrambled Eggs

(I open up the quesadilla after cooking, add toppings, and then fold back up)
-Shredded cabbage (bagged cole slaw mix works great)
-Very thinly sliced carrots (mandolin thin)
-Pickled jalapenos
-Your favorite salsa
-Hot sauce
-Avocado (or guacamole)
-Anything else that sounds good

Place a large non-stick skillet on stove-top over medium heat. Set tortillas out on prep surface (cutting board or baking sheets) and spread a thin layer of cheese mixture on half of each tortilla – the other half stays empty and gets folded over the top. Sprinkle with any or all of the filling ingredients, but the more ingredients, the less of each you can put in each quesadilla. Sprinkle another thin layer of cheese mixture on top and fold tortillas over (press gently to flatten out).

Cook on each side for a couple minutes, flipping when the first side is golden brown. Remove from pan after second side is browned. Open up and throw in any of the toppings that sound good to you. Cut in half, and serve.

My kids love these!

Note: When flipping over in the skillet, it works best to use two spatulas and then roll each quesadilla to the other side on its spine. A little cheese occasionally falls out into the skillet, but that’s OK – it just adds some nice toasty flavor.

January 25, 2014

Cindy's Cafe

It's time to give a shout out to my favorite restaurant in the Molalla area, Cindy's Cafe. The following is from my 5-star Yelp Review...

We've visited Cindy's Cafe too many times to count over the years and have never been disappointed, so its time to write a review.

Cindy's is the kind of place that just feels like home -- we are always greeted with a smile and made to feel welcome. Cindy genuinely cares about the customers she serves, and that shows in the food they prepare and in the attitudes of the wait staff.

Whether it's breakfast or lunch, Cindy's does it right.

The monstrous, plate-sized pancakes are not just big, but full of flavor as well. The cinnamon roll french toast are outstanding, too; and the croissant breakfast sandwich with fresh fruit is my favorite for when I want a little lighter fare. My wife loves their taco quiche, and orders it just about every time we go there!

I always have a tough time deciding what to have for lunch, as there are so many good options. My favorite sandwiches include the reuben and the #4 panini. The reuben is packed full of pickled goodness with lots of sauerkraut and piled with pastrami, all sandwiched between two pieces of perfectly toasted marble rye. The #4 panini has smoked turkey, avacado, red onion, and bacon; with bookends of focaccia.

The burgers are also excellent, with the Western BBQ being my favorite -- crispy onion rings, barbeque sauce and Tillamook cheddar on a juicy burger patty; all served on a bun that's up to the task. My 11-y.o. son always opts for the Tillamook bacon cheeseburger with french fries.

Cindy's soups are always really good, too. The Fiesta Chicken is one of my favorites, and the Salmon Chowder we had to day was outstanding.

Whenever we are looking for a place in the Molalla area to breakfast or lunch, Cindy's is tops on our list.

October 23, 2013

Los Girasoles

I have a new favorite restaurant for casual dining in Silverton, Oregon: Los Girasoles. The following is the review I did on Yelp:

This is the perfect little hole-in-the-wall for authentic taqueria style Mexican food.

The space is tight and the atmosphere casual. The ordering counter is immediately on the right as you walk in the door, with a drink cooler to the left and a pastry case across room. The gal at the counter was very friendly, helpful, and patient with our family of four.

My wife ordered the Burrito Enchilado, my 11-y.o. son ordered the Tamale plate with beans & rice, my daughter a basic cheese Quesadilla, and I went for un Orden de Al Pastor (comes with beans, rice, homemade tortillas).

The whole family loved what they had, but I can't speak for their taste buds, so I will just elaborate on my own...

The first thing I tasted was the large horchata that I ordered. I found it to be very sweet and syrupy, with a good balance of cinnamon. For just drinking by itself, I would prefer the lighter, less sweet horchatas that I've had at other local taquerias; but when paired with my dinner plate, I thought it was excellent.

All of our food came out very quickly, and all were generous portions (especially for the price). In addition to my al pastor, they also brought out a roasted jalapeno with a wedge of lime -- one of my favorite treats. How did they know?!? The tortillas were obviously fresh, and they reminded me of my benchmark for homemade tortillas, Luis' Taqueria in Woodburn. The al pastor was lightly sweet, with a homey warm flavor that is hard to describe -- I rate it even better than my old standby, El Chilito in Canby. The beans reminded me of the real home-cooked Mexican refried beans I've had a handful of times over the years, and the rice also did not disappoint. Absolutely delicious.

We took home a few small bits of leftovers, most of which came from my 7-y.o. daughter's quesadilla -- she could only eat half of it. We headed over to the pan dulce case after dinner and each picked out a treat to eat at home later. It was all very good.

I don't want to be too quick to crown Los Girasoles as the best Mexican food around, so I'm going to have to come back and try a few more menu items. But after one visit, I will confidently place in the same category as Luis' and El Chilito. We will be back for sure.

May 25, 2013

KFC "Honey Sauce"

Wake the flock up America!

[Click on image to enlarge in pop-up window]

Crap like this has infiltrated our fast food industry, and it is making us fat and giving us diabetes. The government subsidizes the corn industry, so corn is cheaper than honey -- so why use natural, nutritious, pure honey when you can just us a bunch of chemically altered corn products and a little bit of honey to make you think that's what you are getting.

Put down the hormone-injected chicken breast and slowly walk away... and leave the biscuits, "honey sauce", and butter-like spread, too...

May 5, 2013

Kanpai Sushi - Bend, Oregon

The following is my Yelp review of Kanpai Sushi in Bend, Oregon.

I was part of a group of 6 that stopped in at 7:30 on a busy Friday night, and I could not imagine a better sushi experience. Kanpai is quite small, and everything is freshly made to order for you, so don't expect your sushi to come out at a fast food pace. I read all of the yelp reviews before visiting, and was pleasantly surprised to find excellent service from wait staff and no unreasonable waits for anything.

We tried a variety of different Nigiri and Sashimi options, as well as several of the Classic and Specialty rolls.

First off, the star of the show for me -- an absolute standout that dazzled my taste buds and had me on cloud nine: the Yakuza roll: Ahi Tuna, Cucumbers, Tempura Fried Jalapenos, topped w/ Seared Filet Mignon, Pickled Red Onions, and Wasabi Aioli. This roll had it all -- perfect texture, a little spice, and complex flavors. Outstanding.

Also near the top would be the special Nigiri of the evening: Ahi & Striped Sea Bass in a light, flavorful, sesame oil and soy sauce. All incredibly fresh and vibrant.

I'm a fan of a good dry sake, so the server brought me two different samples to try, and I ended up ordering the Origin of Purity -- an excellent accompaniment to my dinner. Highly recommended.

The fun part for me was sharing the many different flavors from the variety that we ordered -- and the conversation with friends that happened during the short wait times between our courses. In addition to the above mentioned items, we also ordered and enjoyed the following:

-Salmon & Ahi Nigiri
-Broiled Tomato Nigiri
-Flying Kamikaze
-Kanpai Roll

Our night was topped off perfectly with a sampling of Kanpai's homemade ice creams -- Salted Caramel, Coconut, Avocado, and Fermented Garlic. They were unusual, flavorful, and just the right amount of sweetness to finish the evening.

Five stars for sure. We will be back.

April 21, 2013

The Farmstead Restaurant & Pub

This is a repost of my Yelp review that I did for The Farmstead Restaurant & Pub, which is located between Molalla and Mulino...

I have been to The Farmstead numerous times since it opened 10+ years ago, and have always been pleased with the food and service -- even with the different menu changes that have happened along the way. Today's visit was to the restaurant side of the establishment, not the pub -- although we have had good results at the pub, as well.

Today's lunch visit was to celebrate my mother's 65th birthday, and I have to say that it was an excellent choice. The Farmstead offers a wide range of American classics, as well as 'newer' fusion type flavors (oriental and southwest influences). Within our group of five, we had a philly steak wrap, thai chicken wrap, cheeseburger, kids fish n' chips, and my blackened ahi tuna entree salad -- all of which were met with high praise.

The ahi salad seemed like a perfect choice for me since I was keeping an eye on calories, and I was not disappointed. The base was a nice mix of spring greens, with fried wantons, chunks of apple and celery, all topped with the seared and sliced ahi. The ahi was cooked perfectly, with a nice spicy kick -- and the texture? Just like buttah! The salad had a light, somewhat spicy, dressing with traditional oriental flavors -- ginger being one of the more notable standouts. Top notch.

The birthday girl ordered her own cheesecake for dessert, and the rest of us shared a brownie/cookie crumble sundae -- a nice finish to a great meal.

The only real critique I would have is more pertaining to the layout of the restaurant dining room. When patrons enter the restaurant, there is no sign saying whether they are to wait to be seated, or to seat themselves. If the servers are at their prep station, or tending to patrons on the west side of the dining room, they have no way of knowing that someone is waiting to be seated. This did create an awkward moment when we entered, including a longer than expected wait in the lobby, until we ventured into the dining room to contact a server.

But that is minor. We rate The Farmstead very high overall, and we will definitely be back again!

[I give it 4 stars out of 5]

January 29, 2013

El Chilito - Canby's Best Restaurant

El Chilito defines the phrase "hole in the wall". It's a tiny little place, but don't let that deter you from giving it a try. It truly is Canby, Oregon's best restaurant.

If I'm in town and feeling the need for really good, authentic Mexican food, I head to El Chilito to get four asada tacos (with everything) and add their homemade hot sauce, a squeeze of lime, and some pickled jalapeños, and I'm a happy boy. Their horchata is really good too, so I've got to have one of those to wash it all down.

I'm just a basic taco guy, but they also have really good burritos, quesadillas, and beans & rice.

Initially I gave this place 4 out of 5 stars, based on comparing them with my top Mexican choice in the area, Luis's Taqueria (in Woodburn). I actually think El Chilito's asada tacos are a little tastier, but Luis's is a notch above in these key areas: homemade tortillas, atmosphere and cleanliness, and freshness of ingredients. If El Chilito starts making tortillas like Luis's, I'll put up another star to 5 out of 5.

[Update: 1/29/13]

I stopped in to get a to-go lunch from El Chilito again today, and have decided to up my rating to 5 stars. I recently tried their "al pastor", and I actually like it *better* than the asada -- I didn't think that was possible! The al pastor has a little sweetness to it, with a rich, warm flavor that I just can't get enough of. They still don't have homemade tortillas, but I decided that if I found myself craving this place just as much as Luis's, then I'd better give it the same rating. Canby's best right here.

September 26, 2011

Mi Famiglia Wood Oven Pizzeria

At the base of the old bridge that connects West Linn with downtown Oregon City sits Mi Famiglia Wood Oven Pizzeria. We first stumbled upon Mi Famiglia on a trip to the hobby shop in downtown O.C. – we parked up above on the bluff and rode the elevator down to check out the electric trains – and were mesmerized by the scent of the wood fired oven as we passed by the pizzeria. It wasn’t until the day the Green Line MAX train opened in September 2009 that we finally decided to stop in for some pizza.

We were greeted by the warm glow of the wood oven, and seated nearby in a set of old church pews converted into a booth. Everything on the menu sounded good – Panini sandwiches, calzones, lasagna, soups and salads, and of course, the pizza. Steph opted for a veggie Panini, but I was there for the pizza, so I selected the Veggie pizza. Noah went with the Original (marinara sauce, mozzarella cheese, and fresh basil) with the addition of prosciutto and bacon, while Emily went with a basic Cheese option. Mi Famiglia will let you customize your pizza from the ground up, and also offers gluten-free dough for those with allergies.

The pizzas take a little time to cook since they only have one oven, so our server brought out dough for the kids to play with, and then took it to the kitchen to bake the shapes the kids had created.

When the pizzas did arrive, we quickly learned that they were very much worth the wait. The crust was crisp and thin, as one would expect from pizza baked in a wood oven. I had tasted many pizzas in my day, but was not prepared for this – all of the ingredients, the variety of vegetables, the fresh herbs, and the wonderful pesto sauce, created layers of flavor that I had never experienced while eating pizza. As I reached the outer edges of the first piece, I could really taste the smoky flavor imparted by the wood smoke, as well as the hint of cinnamon.

Steph also loved her Panini, which was chock full of roasted peppers and mozzarella cheese, and was accompanied with a side salad with the house vinaigrette, which was also delicious. The kids also chowed down on their selections and we all agreed that we needed to stop in more often.

In the two years since our first visit, we have made countless visits to Mi Famiglia, taking as many friends and family members as possible to experience this gem of a restaurant. We have gotten to know the owners and feel at home every time we visit. The Kyle’s Favorite pizza is my overall favorite, but I often order the Veggie (with the addition of roasted garlic). Other favorites of mine are the meat lasagna, the Caesar salad (with anchovies), and any of their Paninis. The spinach-artichoke dip and the baked ravioli are my favorite appetizers, and we usually choose the canoli for dessert – although my all time favorite dessert was a chocolate cake with orange cream filling they had as a special one time.

Mi Famiglia is open for lunch or dinner, and is the kind of place that feels warm and inviting every time you visit. We still like to park up above on the bluff, and often take the stairs instead of the elevator. If you are ever in the area, I highly recommend stopping in – I consider it to be the best pizza in the entire Pacific Northwest – it really is that good.

February 1, 2011

Pok Pok

Pok Pok in SE Portland is my new favorite Thai restaurant.

I met my brothers at Pok Pok for lunch yesterday, and I have to be honest, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. I have eaten at many Thai restaurants that serve staples like Pad Thai, but I had never been to one where the goal was to stay true to the "street food" of northern Thailand.

We met there around 11:45, and were quickly seated at a booth. We each ordered our own dish, and shared two more between us (ordered off the lunch menu). The shared dishes came first -- Ike's Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings (Spicy) and Muu Sateh.

The Muu Sateh was pretty good -- the peanut sauce wasn't as sweet as most Thai restaurants make, so that took some getting used to, but it did go well with the wonderfully grilled pork meet. I loved the cucumber relish that was served with the dish. Ike's chicken wings, on the other hand, have to be about the best wings I have ever had. They were spiced nicely, but not overpowering, with a sweet glaze that made you want to devour every last morsel. The pickled vegetables on the plate were not just for garnish, but were packed with flavor (sorry JD & Tony for not leaving much for you). If you go to Pok Pok, you *have* to try the wings!

For my main dish, I ordered the Phat Si Ew. I like noodles more than rice with my oriental cuisine, and the description sounded good. Following the advise of our server, I added bits of the four condiments that were sitting on the table -- pickled chilies, hot pepper oil, crushed red peppers, and palm sugar. The flavor of the dish was sweet yet savory, with excellent caramelization on the pork and good texture provided by the Chinese broccoli. The dish was excellent.

I've read in online reviews that the wait to get in can be quite long during busy times, but it is well worth the wait. The Pok Pok website says they will take reservations for groups of 5 or larger.

April 22, 2010

Do You Know Where Your Food Comes From?

Do you know where your food comes from? Do you want to know? You most certainly should...

There are two documentaries that every North American needs to watch: King Corn and Food, Inc.. Both films provide an eye-opening look at the food industry and how it has changed in the last thirty years. King Corn can be handled fairly soon after eating, but for Food, inc., you will want to make sure that any fast food cheeseburgers, chicken nuggets, or sausage & egg biscuits are out of your system before viewing... and don't even think about eating during it.

If you think you are ready to go straight to the hard stuff, then be my guest... PBS aired the film last night as part of their POV (Point of View) series, and you can see a preview of it here: POV: Food, Inc. [Note: The entire film was available for viewing immediately after airing on PBS, but not any longer]

There is good news for those of us in Oregon or Washington when it comes to fast food -- Burgerville uses a truly sustainable business model which includes sourcing fresh, local ingredients from area food suppliers, including natural (not corn-fed) beef. Here is a list of their suppliers: Sustainable Business Partners. A steady diet of Burgerville is probably not the best idea, but as a treat every now and then, it is a pretty good option.

Now that you know where your food comes from, how do you change your eating habits to ensure you are getting natural products? I don't have all the answers for that question, but here are a few good places to start:

0. Grow your own food. Thanks for the reminder, Kris! ;-)
1. Buy fresh produce from local farmer's markets when possible.
2. Avoid buying products made from high-fructose corn syrup or partially hydrogenated oils.
3. Look for breads and pastas that use whole grains ("wheat bread" does not equal "whole wheat bread"), and avoid the use of HFCS or PHO's.
4. Look for certified 'Organic' or 'Natural' products including meat, poultry, vegetables, and pre-packaged foods (even Ketchup and Peanut Butter).
5. Buy a quarter or a half of grass-fed beef from a local farmer, and have a local butcher-shop package it for you.

Buying fresh, natural foods is going to be more expensive, make no mistake about that, but isn't your family's health worth it? Isn't your health worth it? The only way we can get these multi-national food corporations to change their un-sustainable ways is to hit them where it really matters... in the pocket-book. Money is the only thing that matters to them. It's time to take charge of where your food comes from and tell the big companies where they can go. Your life may just depend on it.

August 22, 2007

Chili Garlic Hot Sauce

I've already established that I like to dump Tapatio all over just about everything I eat, but sometimes I just need a different kind of heat.


Putting Tapatio on oriental influenced foods just doesn't seem right, so I've discovered Huy Fong Foods Chili Garlic hot sauce. It is considerably warmer than Tapatio, yet still has a nice flavor to it -- although much different. The Chili Garlic sauce seems to compliment the oriental flavors better, and the garlic really helps to cut some of the sweetness found in some Teriyaki or Sweet & Sour dishes.

If you like it hot, you'll probably like this stuff -- it'll get your nose runnin' in a hurry. :-)

April 13, 2007

This Grill Rocks!

OK, one last grilling post... for a day or two, anyway. :-)

I have always been a firm believer that with things like cooking, photography, golf, etc.; the talent and skill of the individual using the tools or equipment is more important than the actual equipment used. A great chef can make a gourmet meal on $10 fry pans, a talented photographer can take memorable photos with a basic point-and-shoot camera, and good golfers can make great shots with cheapo clubs. With that being said, having a better tool for a particular job can provide for that extra bit of control that helps make the desired outcome so much easier. Such is the case with my new grill.

Monday night we grilled Japanese Chicken Thighs with Rice and Grilled Veggies (from the latest Cooking for the Rushed cookbook). I soaked two handfuls of hickory wood chips, and then placed them in tuna cans on top of the 'Flavorizer Bars'. Then I followed Weber's instructions for cooking chicken thighs... I heated the grill up very hot (up to over 500 degrees), and then turned all three burners down to medium. Then I placed the thighs on the grill and closed the lid. Halfway through the cooking time, I flipped them... and was amazed by the perfect grill marks... then I just let them finish.

I think it may have been a combination of the marinade and the hickory smoke, but whatever it was; it made for some absolutely delicious chicken -- it tasted just like it had been cooked on a Traeger. It was so good, in fact, that I have been 'filleting' the leftovers and using them on sandwiches... yummy. Oh yeah, and I also had some red peppers, zucchini, and red onion going in a grill basket, and they also turned out perfect.

Then last night, it was time to try my hand at hamburgers. My old grill used to make a mess of hamburgers because it would flame up so much... in which case the 'Charbroil' name was most appropriate. I followed the same preparation and grilling procedures as with the chicken, flipping the burgers halfway through the cooking time. Once again, I was delighted to see some gorgeous grill marks -- and to see a lack of charring. In fact, when I flipped the burgers, the juice dripping off them barely made the burners flame up at all -- just momentarily.

The end result? Thick, juicy, uncharred, perfectly grilled, delicious hamburgers -- and it even did a fantastic job of toasting the buns, too. I had that old Charbroil for ten years and was never able to get results like this -- and I still don't know all the little idiosyncrasies of this grill! I'm most definitely looking forward to the coming grilling season...

Now, if we can just get some decent weather so I can wheel this thing around to the back yard...

February 10, 2007

Fast & Easy Pizza Crust

When I was a kid, I always loved my mom's homemade pizza. But for some reason, we can never make her recipe turn out anywhere near as good as she does -- that's just the way some things are, I guess.

We did, however; find another pretty easy pizza crust recipe in one of the Best of Bridge cookbooks that Sandy gave me for Christmas a few years back. Most of you in the states are probably wondering, "What is Best of Bridge?". Well, all I really know is that it's a Canadian thing (maybe one of the Canadian readers can comment and fill us in... *hint* *hint*). Or, you can just click on the 'Our Story' link on their website.

The other day I decided to enter Best of Bridge into google... and guess what? They have all of their recipes online. So, I give you the Fast & Easy Pizza Crust recipe.

The recipe is not only easy, but it makes a delicious crust as well. We like to use half whole wheat flour to make it a little healthier -- and it gives it a little bit of texture. For a tomato-based pizza sauce, we usually just buy Boboli pizza sauce in serving sized packets... that way we don't have half a jar growing mold in the refrigerator.

So whether you like pan, thin crust, American toppings or Mediterranean toppings; give this pizza crust a try... I'll be surprised if you don't like it.

November 30, 2006

Jethro's Hopped-Up Tuna Sandwich

If you ever get tired of a basic tuna sandwich, here's a way to spice it up...

1 can of tuna
Miracle Whip (enough for desired consistancy and flavor)
5 or 6 good splashes of Tapatio hot sauce
3 or 4 pepperoncinis, chopped -- seeds optional

Mix ingredients together and spread on toasted whole-grain bread to make a sandwich. Enjoy.

Patty-Melt Variation --> Mix ingredients and spread on single piece of toasted whole grain bread. Top with grated Pepper-Jack cheese and melt under a broiler.

Not your average tuna sandwich... :-)

July 20, 2006

Favorite Drink on a Hot Day?

If I'm doing a lot of physical labor on a hot day, I much prefer water over any other drink. But any other time, I will take a nice cold glass of freshly brewed iced tea.

We have a Mr. Coffee Iced Tea maker that we bought about 10 years ago, and we use it a lot during the Spring and Summer months. We find that six Lipton tea bags in the steeping compartment provides the bold flavor we like -- once we add some sugar and lemon juice, that is (but no mint for me, please). Mmmm... mmmm... ain't nothin' better on a hot day.

So, what do you like to drink when the mercury starts rising?

March 23, 2006


Miss Emily is now one month old, so I guess it's time for me to do an entry on a different subject. So, I will do an entry on my favorite hot sauce, Tapatio.

Tapatio is not the hottest sauce out there, but it offers a nice balance of flavor and spiciness -- without the vinegar taste that comes with Tabasco. If you dump too much on you may be running for ice cubes, but a small amount at a time isn't going to burn your mouth like the habanjero sauces.

Tapatio is one of the staples of my diet, both at work and at home. It is an excellent accompaniment to any Mexican food, but that is not all. I keep a big bottle in the fridge at home, and I put it on everything from pizza to macaroni & cheese (Kraft Dinner, for the Canadians :-) to hamburgers. I have a bottle sitting on my desk at work, too -- to put on all the microwavable mexican-style food that we get from Costco. It is also great for recipes (like quacamole dip, etc.) that call for hot sauce. Or, mix it with Ketchup for a spicy dip for chicken strips -- or mix it with mayo for a hopped-up sandwich spread.

If you like things spicy, I'm pretty sure you will like Tapatio.

February 16, 2006

Balsamic Vinegar & Olive Oil

Sometimes the simplest things in life are the best... like Balsamic Vinegar & Olive Oil.

The combination has always been one of my favorite salad dressings, but it also makes a wonderful dip for bread. Pour a generous amount of good olive oil on a small plate, and then drizzle some balsamic vinegar over the top. Take a piece of your favorite bread and dip it in the mix... and enjoy. The flavors are much bolder and more complex than basic butter, and it's a lot healthier, too. Makes a great accompaniment to any pasta dish.