It’s blueberry season around here and I’ve been baking up a storm. Thus far, I’ve made a Blueberry Coffee Cake, Blueberry Gingerbread Cake and last night, Blueberry Crisp à la Mode. This last was my favorite, by far. I think I could have eaten the whole pan. Added bonus- it only took about 20 minutes to put together. Now that’s my kind of baking! G’s comment was that it was very good, and not super sweet as he had feared. We both prefer fruit desserts that aren’t excessively sweet and this was perfect.

Notes: We used Ben and Jerry’s vanilla istead of the frozen yogurt that’s called for. Honestly I don’t think it needs anything but I’ll never say no to ice cream.

Blueberry Crisp à la Mode
Source: Cooking Light, July 2000

6 cups blueberries
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup regular oats
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 1/2 tablespoons chilled butter or stick margarine, cut into small pieces
2 cups vanilla low-fat frozen yogurt

Preheat oven to 375°.

Combine first 4 ingredients in a medium bowl; spoon into an 11 x 7-inch baking dish. Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup, and level with a knife. Combine 2/3 cup flour, 1/2 cup brown sugar, oats, and cinnamon, and cut in the butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Sprinkle over the blueberry mixture. Bake at 375° for 30 minutes or until bubbly. Top each serving with 1/4 cup frozen yogurt.

Note: Topping may also be made in the food processor. Place 2/3 cup flour, 1/2 cup brown sugar, oats, and cinnamon in a food processor, and pulse 2 times or until combined. Add butter; pulse 4 times or until mixture resembles coarse meal.

Yield: 8 servings

CALORIES 288(26% from fat); FAT 8.3g (sat 4.8g,mono 2g,poly 0.9g); PROTEIN 4.2g; CHOLESTEROL 22mg; CALCIUM 77mg; SODIUM 96mg; FIBER 3.8g; IRON 1.3mg; CARBOHYDRATE 52g

Trip planning

G and I have been busy trip planning. Everything from weekend trips to a big road trip and Thanksgiving. Last week, we decided (somewhat last minute) to head off to Victoria for a couple days. We had been 2 years ago for our anniversary and had a great time. We set off Friday afternoon on the Clipper. It was 97 degrees in Seattle and the boat was a welcome respite- it was air conditioned and whisked us away from the most brutal heat.

By 6 pm, we were in Victoria and quickly check into our hotel, the Grand Pacific. It was very nice and we lucked out with a corner room on the 2nd from topmost floor. Best of all (note my theme), it was air conditioned. The weekend was a scorcher, although a couple degrees cooler than Seattle itself. We didn’t do a whole lot but managed several walks, a lot of food and a couple tours.

Saturday morning we dodged the crowds at Butchart Gardens. The gardens were lovely, packed with tourists, and we’ve had our fill of them for the next 40 years or so. In the afternoon, we ate, napped, walked the seaside, and spent some time in the hotel pool. We set out early for dinner and stopped for a drink en route. G got massively crapped on by a bird- completely gunking his nice, new shirt. So we took a quick cab back to the hotel and still managed to arrive at Brasserie L’école at our exact reservation time of 8:30. It would have been pretty hard to top our last experience here. It was probably one of the better meals out we’ve ever eaten and expectations were high. This time was maybe not as spectacular but still excellent.

We each started with salads and they were both fantastic and substantial. I had an endive salad with hazelnuts, bacon, apple slices, and a mustard dressing. G’s greens came with local golden and red beets, and Stilton. For entrees, G went with the venerable Steak Frites- the NY strip was nearly perfect and the frites were salty and crispy. So much so that I ate at least half of them. My entrée was probably the weakest dish of the night. Rock sole with tiny shrimp, morels and English peas in a cream sauce. I was swayed by the uniqueness of the dish and ordered despite the cream. Bad move. G has been given explicit instructions NOT to allow me to order a cream sauce again- just way too rich for me. In any case, we capped off the meal with a crème brulée and one chocolate truffle.

Sunday was another lazy, hazy day. Other than a little harbor tour, we didn’t do much. The boat ride home was notable because we had the misfortune of sitting beside by a very loud, boisterous group of older ladies. On the plus side, we met another young couple sitting across from us who live 2 blocks away in Ballard. We shared a cab ride home and returned safely by 9 pm.

Upcoming trips include a road trip to Montana and Alberta. Any recommendations are welcome!

We had this for dinner tonight. It’s a very quick weeknight meal but has some of my favorite flavors. I usually serve it with rice but roasted potatoes work well too.

Chicken Sauté with Provencal Sauce
Serves: 4
Source: Eating Well Magazine, Jan/Feb 2005

1 pound chicken breasts
1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
fresh ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste (optional)
1/2 cup reduced sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 14 1/2 oz can diced tomatoes
1/4 c chopped basil
2 T chopped black olives

Combine flour, salt and pepper in a shallow glass dish. Dredge chicken breasts in the seasoned flour, shaking off excess.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add the chicken and cook until well browned and no longer pink in the center (4 to 5 minutes per side). Transfer to plate, cover and keep warm.

Add onion, garlic and anchovy paste, if using, to the skillet. Cook over medium heat, stirring, for 1 minute. Add broth, wine and tomatoes; bring to a simmer. Cook until slightly thickened, 6 to 7 minutes. Stir in basil and olives. Return the chicken and juices to the pan; reduce heat to low and heat through. Spoon sauce over the chicken.

Little Brown Dress

I stumbled across an article in the Seattle Times today about a woman who has been wearing the same dress every day for the last year. Alex Martin is a local artist and dancer and undertook the personal challenge to wear the same item of clothing for 365 days (today is the last one). Her tagline: “365 days. one brown dress. a one-woman show against fashion.” I, for one, think it’s incredibly cool. Daunting, in many ways, but so simple! When G and I travelled around the world, we survived with just a few changes of clothing. It was certainly more than ONE item, but it was a nice exercise in minimalism.

Some of Alex’s reasons are to combat both consumerism and society’s pressure on us to be image conscious. Again, I applaud her cause. Personally, I’ve taken to buying almost all of my clothes second hand (except undergarments and shoes). I’m sure I still own way too many, but recycling is a lot better than buying new. My money’s not supporting sweatshops, it’s going to charity instead.

Am I going to undertake a similar project? Probably not. Do I think this is an important piece of work? Hell, yes.

If you happen to be in Seattle, Alex is giving a performance tonight which will culminate her “year-long performance project”. If not, she’s got a pretty cool blog, which I’ve spent the majority of the afternoon reading. Check it out, and pass it along while you’re at it.

Weddings galore!

G and I had a very busy long weekend with 2 weddings and many associated parties. By the time we left Monday’s brunch (the last of the lot), we were ready for some major relaxing. And, in fact, the past 36 hours have been pretty much nothing but. Today we slept past 9 am (virtually unheard of) and then I watched an hour and a half of Wimbledon tennis in my robe. Pure decadence.

The festivities began with M and K’s Saturday BBQ at Gas Works Park. We met a few family members, had some food and managed to leave with a 4-pound tray of cooked shrimp (they bought too much). On to the 2nd [non-wedding] BBQ where we were able to offload most of the shrimp. We ate again- ribs, chicken, and potato salad and surrounded ourselves by children playing croquet. Finally, we walked from our house to M and K’s for a cocktail party. Despite a nice chat with some of K’s San Francisco friends, we were tired and left early.

Sunday was the day for weddings. M and K were up 1st with a 3 pm ceremony at GasWorks. A highly interactive ceremony, we enjoyed K’s niece and nephew perform Michael Franti, the dog aka ring bearer, and some of the more touching vows I’ve heard. At 4, we made a quick exit and swiftly drove across town to Magnuson Park and wedding #2. We made it in plenty of time as they started late. We sat in the sun drenched Amphitheater and witnessed the semi-Jewish ceremony for S and J. S looked amazing and we were treated to Sean Nelson’s singing at the close of the ceremony.

We stayed at wedding #2 for dinner but had to leave before the first [tango] dance or cake. By the time we got back to wedding #1, we had missed the 1st dance, speeches and piñata bashing there too! But the band was fantastic and the dancing rocked on until we were kicked out at 10. One of our favorite things about M and K’s wedding was the rental of a photo booth – you know, the kind that spits out 4 sequential pictures. We went through at least 3 times – I think there was a line all evening.

There were some folks trying to keep the party going with a bonfire on the beach. But man, all that running around, dancing, congratulating and socializing did me in. So we called it a night and went home to bed. Best wishes and many happy years to both couples!