How Sweet it Is >> Blueberry Crush

Remember how I went blueberry picking the other week? Well, knowing that the next What She Ate prompt was this week  is "how sweet it is," I figured I should not let the opportunity go by to combine the two. Problem was, I was not in the mood for baking (I rarely am). I actually made a blueberry vinaigrette for a quinoa salad that I was going to share here, but while it wasn't bad, it wasn't really "YOUGOTTAMAKETHIS" worthy either. Instead, I went with one of my old standbys: a delicious drink. 
I have a confession to make: I don't really like water. Not plain anyway. I mean, it's alright since it keeps me alive and all, but I'm not one of those people with a water bottle constantly attached to my hand. Mostly I drink tea and sparkling water when the urge hits, but I'm always on the lookout for ways to make water more appealing. Here, I went with muddled fruit.

1/4 c. blueberries
4-5 mint leaves
1 tsp. sugar
squeeze of lemon

Add these to the bottom of a glass, and using a muddler if you have one (you fancy bar mistress you), or a wooden spoon if you don't (I'm in this category), mash and mix well. When you're satisfied with your mash-abilities, top with sparkling water.
Are you thinking what I'm thinking? Why, yes, this WOULD be delicious with a bit of vodka thrown in! But it's plenty good as is, especially if it's before noon like it is for me. :)

Now go, fancy up your water!

shanti >> sondra



Life in the PNW >> Blueberry Picking

One time, I asked Andy, "if you could go back to any decade or time in American history, which would you choose?" His answer? The Great Depression, so we could, "be hobos together."

In that case, I guess I'm glad time travel isn't a thing. Especially after our outing earlier this week, where we went blueberry picking. Turns out, we would make TERRIBLE migrant fruit pickers. In an hour, we picked about 3 pounds of blueberries, which seems like a lot in comparison to the pints you buy at the store, but not when you compare it to a couple of friends who casually mention that they picked 15 and even 32(!) pounds of blueberries. Crazy! I guess if you did it ALL day...but the sun was hot, and arms get tired reaching up over and over again. Anyway, since we're not migrant farm laborers in the 30s or any other time, we stopped when we felt like it (apologies for the photo quality, I only had my phone with me).
When we moved to Washington last September, it was sort of the end of berry season, plus we were too busy getting our berrings to go out and do such things. But berries are prolific here! They grow in huge bushes and brambles on the side of nearly any road or trail. Even in a city like Seattle, you can see people with buckets picking blackberries on the sides of busy roads. We went out aways from the city, and found a little field with a U-Pick sign, a scale, and the honor system for payment. Well, I guess that little kitty in front of the scale was being the enforcer.
All in all, it was a really relaxing way to spend the afternoon. I found the picking and subsequent soft thud of each berry as it landed in my bucket to be really relaxing and meditative. I think next year I'll pack a lunch and we can take a break in the middle and make more of a day of it. Have you gone out and picked anything this year?

shanti >> sondra



August Break >> Days 6-13

Day 6 // "diagonals" // Out paddle-boating with friends on a beautiful summer day.

Day 7 // "skyline" // On a walk with the dog, the view of Mt. Rainier and power lines from the hill in our neighborhood.

Day 8 // "selfie" // There is a Caribbean sandwich place called Paseo that is known as much for their epic lines as their amazing food. We waited for 45 minutes to get ours on Andy's birthday. Next time, we're going on a rainy day (the line is outside, so this should help).

Day 9 // "taste" // Also from Andy's bday (I was behind a day), pre-dinner drinks. Mine is a Swedish 60, a play on the classic French 75. Yum!
Day 10 // "red" // Flowers from Pike Place market. Always amazing.

Day 11 // "play" // I mostly bummed around the house this day, but we walked up to the grocery store in the evening and saw these kids making good use of the playground.

Day 12 // "far away" // I was looking for some new things to hang on the wall, and came across this old photo I took a few years ago. It feels sooooo far away to me: Sierra Nevada mountains, winter, and all that fluffy, white snow. Feels alien on a hot, August day!

Day 13 // "home" // Mitz was born in my mother in law's house 14 years ago this summer. The next summer, when he was 1, he went to live with Andy in his first apartment, and then I came the year after. In 12 years we've lived in three states and more than 10 apartments, but he has been one of the few constants. Home is wherever he is. :)

Speaking of home, tomorrow we hit the road for a two week trip to Minnesota! I'm excited for lakes, the North Shore, wine on the porch, and seeing lots of friends and family, of course. Then, when I come home, it's back to work for me and summer will be over. Can you believe it???!!! I'm not ready yet! :/

shanti >> sondra

The August Break 2013



Herb Marinated Tofu + Green Bean and Tomato Salad

As much as I've been enjoying The August Break, it was nice to put together a good recipe to share with you all today...and it was even nicer to eat it. Andy said he wished every night was "blog dinner" night...I can't decide whether to be pleased or offended by that comment. ;)

The challenge for this edition of What She Ate was "from the grill." Apropo for summer, right? Welllllll....since I'm not too big on meat, and I live in an apartment in the city and do not have a grill, I had to think a bit. At first I thought I'd try grilling fruit, but that's not such a novel idea anymore, and then I settled on the idea of trying my hand at a vegetarian classic: tofu. Since I don't have an outdoor grill, I used the next best thing, a grill pan.

Tofu gets a bad rap. Yes, it can be bland and rubbery, but so can a plain chicken breast if you don't cook it right or season it. Also like chicken, it has the advantage of taking on whatever flavor you want it to, and it can be adapted for pretty much any cuisine . This is less of a recipe and more of a technique for cooking excellent tofu.

First, you HAVE to press the water out of it. Start with extra-firm tofu, slice it into 1cm or so slabs, and lay out a stack of paper towels or a clean kitchen towel. Lay the slabs out, put some more towels on top, and then place something flat on top, like a cutting board or cookie sheet. Then, add weight. I used my cast iron dutch oven which worked marvelously, but some canned goods or even some books would be good, too. Then, wait 20-30 minutes. When you come back, you'll have compressed tofu slabs, all ready to replace the water you extruded with delicious flavors. So, now for the delicious flavors!

You can use any kind of marinade that you would normally see on meat, but basically some kind of vinaigrette variation. Here, I went with fresh herbs from my front step. I don't think the proportions of the herbs matter too much, since most of it won't stick to the tofu in the end anyway. Just use what you like or what you have! But, for reference, here's what I used:


2 tbsp. lemon juice
3 tbsp. olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbsp. finely chopped basil
1 tbsp. finely chopped rosemary
1 tsp. finely chopped tarragon
1 tsp. thyme leaves

Whisk together, and coat the tofu in a shallow dish or ziploc bag and put in the refrigerator. Then....wait. If you were smart, you'd do this in the morning or even the night before and REALLY let it marinate. But, if you're like me, you didn't think that far in advance, and an hour is the best you can do. No worries, it still turns out tasty! When you're ready to grill, get the pan going over medium high heat, and make sure it's good and hot before you start. While it's heating, get out some corn starch, and pour some into a shallow dish. I dredged these, but I thought it went on a little unevenly. Next time, I think I'd try sprinkling with a sieve or something, like with powdered sugar for a light dusting. Either way, the corn starch will help get you the crisp crust you're after. Then, grill away! Get both sides nice and crisp, and eat immediately. NOM.

I used the marinating time to put together a quick summer salad with the gorgeous tri-color beans and orange grape tomatoes that came in our CSA box last week. This is the second time I've cooked with purple beans. Too bad they're so pretty raw, but lose that gorgeous color when you cook them! At least I caught their splendor in a photo.

1/3 c. olive oil
2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1/2 small sweet onion, sliced thinly (I used Walla Walla)
1 1/2 c. grape tomatoes, sliced in half
1 lb. green beans (or yellow, or purple...)

Whisk the olive oil and vinegar together, and then add the onion and tomatoes. The acid from the vinegar and tomatoes will take the edge off the onions, so do this first so it can sit for a few minutes while you prep the beans. Next, put a pot of salted water on to boil. While this heats up, snap the heads and tails of the beans off, and cut smaller if desired. When the water has come up to a boil, drop the beans in for 4-5 minutes, cook until crisp-tender. Drain and plunge them into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. When you're ready to serve, pour the tomato and onion mixture over the beans, and season with salt and pepper. I didn't have any, but I bet a big handful of feta crumbles over the top would be heavenly on this...next time!

All in all, this was a lovely summer meal, and we enjoyed it on a balmy Seattle night. Nothing tastes better than produce cooked at the exact peak of freshness, especially when you made it with your own two hands.

shanti >> sondra



August Break >> Days 1-5

So far so good, on participating with the first few days of The August Break! It's been so warm and lovely the last few days in Seattle, that I'm glad to soak it all up and not worry about blogging. Here's what I've captured for August so far:
Aug 1 // "breakfast" // I forgot to check what the prompt for this day was until after breakfast, so instead here is a picture from the hike we took that day. It was cool and rainy, and this guy was loving it.

Aug 2 // "circles" // I forgot to check what the prompt for this day was, but I played catch up at the beach (see Aug. 3), and found these guys.

Aug 3 // "yellow" // Flowers along the shore while out for a stroll.

Aug 4 // "love" // Yesterday was all about the love. I was making breakfast and Andy told me to finish up and grab some shoes, we were going for an adventure. We drove out to the Olympic Peninsula for a long day of driving, sight seeing, and shenanigans. We barely caught the last ferry back to Seattle last night (like 5 mins to spare!), but it was a day well spent in a BEAUTIFUL area, with my two favorite travel companions.

Aug 5 // "close up" // This face. I could snuggle it till it falls off.

I've been doing these all on Instagram to make it as easy-peasy on myself as possible to keep up. Find me @instasondra if you haven't already, or leave me your IG name in a comment so I can see what YOU have been up to in August!

I'll be back tomorrow with a "real" post: a grill recipe for the What She Ate series! Now, I've got to go make it! ;)

shanti >> sondra