Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A Frozen Fog Drive and Thick as Fog Split Pea Soup

Yesterday I took a nice drive just outside of town and down by the river to check out the beautiful frozen fog  that had turned everything around us into the most beautiful winter scene.

For about a week we have been surrounded by a thick fog, this has been the view outside my back window.
Although I do miss the sun breaks, I really do enjoy fog, and always have.

When the kids were little I would always play one of my favorite Celtic/Bagpipe Band's Album that I acquired at the Portland Scottish Highland Games when we saw them perform at the games years ago.  The group is called  Wicked Tinkers, and the CD is called Banger for Breakfast, you can follow my Amazon link below to hear some samples of their music.  Song number seven, Belly Dance and Hornpipes, was one of our favorites and we often would play it in the car while driving around the foggy countryside, so the song became known to us as Fog Music.  Whenever it was foggy we had to play our fog music, so now, every time I am driving in the fog I remember our times of listening to "fog music" when the kids were little.

                                                                 Banger for Breakfast

We often have fog around here, but it doesn't usually freeze like this, it is really delicate, not like snow or freezing rain, but like delicate icy crystals.  The first stop on our drive was one of our local parks, the trees were beautiful!

Here is a close up of the fence, you can really see the unique ice crystals.

Here is a picture of the sun trying its best to peak through the gray sky.

Then we made our way just outside of town toward the river, here are some of the trees along the way.

I had to pull over and try and get a few shots of the road we were driving down, the white trees almost looked like spring blossoms, it was magical.

I thought this old barn was beautiful with the trees in the back and white covered branches in the front.

Finally we walked down by the river, the trees along the river were so pretty, I love coming down here to take in the view!

We decided to check out the view of the river from the bridge, so we pulled off to the side, I was a little hesitant to walk over the bridge, but couldn't resist the view.  As we made our way over the bridge I got a couple pictures of some logging trucks, against the wintery background I think they looked pretty cool.

The view from the bridge was amazing, my little camera doesn't do it justice, but looking down the river was just beautiful.

We took in the view on one side of the bridge...

The we crossed over to the other side of the bridge.

When we were done checking out the river, we took back roads home to see more of the countryside.  I loved all the cattle grazing in the foggy fields.

Closer to home, we pulled over to get a picture of this little silo behind the trees.

Then this red barn among the trees.

Every other second there was a beautiful new view, it was a wonderful drive!

This was a particularly stunning tree standing by itself out in the middle of a field.

Last we pulled in a couple blocks behind our house, to a field of Christmas trees, the tops of them all covered in white frozen fog.

This was such a wonderful drive, absolutely beautiful!  I am glad we went when we did, a few hours later it started to warm up, and a lot of the frozen fog melted.

Today the rain is back, but I was inspired by yesterday's fog to make Thick as Fog Split Pea Soup.  We all love soup around here, just about any kind.  Here's how I made today's soup.

Thick as Fog Pea Soup

1 pound dry green split peas
One bunch of celery chopped into small pieces
One large onion chopped
half a bag of frozen crinkle cut carrots (or fresh sliced carrots if that is what you have, I always use frozen crinkle cut carrots in my soup, it saves a lot of peeling and chopping time)
about 12 cups of water
either a ham hock or a box of chicken broth ( I didn't have a ham hock so I used a box of chicken broth from the pantry)
1 teaspoon of liquid smoke, if you don't have a ham hock, (you can find it by the spices and flavoring or possible the BBQ sauce)
salt, pepper, Italian herbs blend (or your favorite blend of herbs), a dash of garlic powder if desired
a couple tablespoons of olive oil
One package of cooked and crumbled bacon

First saute the chopped celery and onions in olive oil until onions are translucent, then add carrots, and chicken broth or ham hock, and about 8 cups of water, and salt, pepper and herbs to taste.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, and cook for about an hour and a half, stir it occasionally.  Then sort and wash dried peas and add to the soup, you can add a couple more cups of water at this point, continue to simmer and stir occasionally, make sure it doesn't get too hot, once the peas get soft they will stick to the bottom easily.  After about an hour add more herbs and spice to taste, and if you are not using a ham hock add a teaspoon of liquid smoke.  Keep stirring occasionally, add more water as needed, and continue to check the flavoring, as it cooks you may need to add more salt, pepper and herbs, I usually add flavoring a few times during the cooking of any soup. If you are using a ham hock, toward the end of cooking remove ham hock, let it cool a bit then remove any meat and add it back to the soup.  Cook for another 2-3 hours until peas are thoroughly cooked and incorporated into the soup.  Serve with crumbled bacon on top, this soup is delicious served with fresh sour dough bread and butter. The whole family really enjoyed our Thick as Fog Split Pea Soup.

I hope everyone is having a nice week.  Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Winter Garden and Bacon Wrapped Chicken

Last night I decided it was time to do a walk through of our wintery garden, I haven't spent much time out in the garden since the busy holiday season.  I went out just before dusk, and decided to snap a few pictures before dinner.

The barberry bushes and their pretty red berries are the star of the garden right now. We have been in a fog bank for over a week now, the fog has frozen onto all the plants and trees and looks beautiful, the red berries really stand out.

The frozen fog has made delicate icicles throughout the garden.

The rose hips are very pretty and stand out against the dark greens and browns in the garden as well.

Here is our plum tree.

I enjoy looking up through the tree branches at the wintery sky.

The garden is quiet and peaceful.

On foggy winter nights, the smell of a nice warm dinner cooking is always welcome.  Last night I thought I would jazz up our chicken, and decided to wrap it in a layer of bacon.  I started with frozen boneless skinless chicken tenderloins, and wrapped each one with two strips of thin bacon (some of the smaller pieces I only wrapped with one strip of bacon).  I topped them with some fresh ground black pepper, then popped them in the oven at 400 F.  After about half an hour I flipped them over to brown the bottom, when the bottom was browned I flipped them back upright to make sure the top was crisp and brown.

When you are sure the chicken is thoroughly cooked and the bacon is crisp and fully cooked, remove them from the oven.  I cooked mine probably five minutes too long, some of the ends of the chicken had dried out too much, but the taste was delicious.  I served them along side boiled potatoes with butter and sour cream, and a big serving of steamed broccoli spears.  Definitely a meal I will be making again!

Today I took a beautiful country drive and got out for a short walk down by the river, I will have some beautiful pictures to share in my next post.  For me there is nothing more invigorating then getting out into nature, even for a little bit, I tend to get a bit of cabin fever when we have too many gray days in a row, which we have a lot of here in the Willamette Valley.  I look forward to sharing about my outing as well as a new soup recipe I will be trying out.

How's the winter weather in your part of the world?

Monday, January 14, 2013

Marmalade Raisin Tea Bread

January is nearly half way through, and I have been keeping very busy with various organization projects around the house.   It seams as if every drawer, cupboard, nook and cranny needs attention, so I am getting a jump start on spring cleaning by making my way through our home getting each space back in order.

The weather has been cold and wet, and is often gray, thankfully the sun pops out every now and again, which is so energizing.  With the weather being cold lately, the birds have been very present at the bird feeders, I love watching them flit and hop around the backyard, they keep me (and my dogs) entertained.

Last week I felt a little baking was in order.  I love experimenting with quick breads, they are easy to whip up and perfect for an afternoon snack.  I was inspired by an old recipe in a Celtic cookbook I have, to try an orange marmalade tea bread.  I was experimenting with the recipe as I didn't have all of the original ingredients, my first attempt produced a far too dense loaf, so I decided to try one more time, tweaked the recipe a little more, and the second batch turned out moist and delicious. Here is my recipe for Marmalade Raisin Tea Bread.

Marmalade Raisin Tea Bread


1 black tea bag
1 cup water
1 cup raisins (I used half regular and half golden raisins)
4 rounded tablespoons of orange marmalade
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon cinnamon

In a saucepan bring water to a boil. Remove from heat and brew tea bag in water for a little over a minute until a nice black tea has been brewed.  Remove tea bag.  Bring tea back to a low boil and add one cup of raisins.  Remove from heat and let the raisins sit in the hot tea water for ten minutes to plump up, and cool down.  After ten minutes stir in 1 cup of brown sugar, then four rounded tablespoons of marmalade.  Stir until combined, then set aside.  In a mixing bowl add four cups of flour, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon,  stir to incorporate, then add sugar and raisin tea mixture, and one egg, milk and oil.  Mix until wet and dry ingredients have been mixed and all flour has been incorporated into the dough, but careful to not over mix, quick breads turn out better when not overly worked. Transfer dough into two well greased loaf pans, and bake at 350 F. for about an hour.

Remove bread from over and let it cool on a cooling rack.   After about ten minutes make the glaze.

Marmalade Glaze

Heat 1/8 cup water to low boil (I put mine in the microwave for 20 seconds), add 3 rounded tablespoons of marmalade, stir until mixed, and jam has melted into the water to form a thinner mixture. Then add to a bowl with one cup of powdered sugar mix (use more if needed) until glaze is smooth.  Drizzle over bread.  Let bread cool, then slice it up and serve for afternoon tea or coffee or for an after school snack, it is also good toasted with a little butter for breakfast.

I would suggest using a good brand of orange marmalade, by my second batch of glaze I had used up my good jar of marmalade and had to use and off brand that I had left in the fridge that had a lot less orange peel, so the orange flavor wasn't as strong, if you run into this situation, you could also add some orange zest to punch up the orange flavor.

I am looking forward to a nice productive week, we have started to get a few snow flurries and the weather has gotten chilly.  A big pot of classic chicken soup is on the stove, the sniffles have started to invade our home, and I am hoping to keep them at bay!

Hope everyone is having a nice Monday.  I have been squeezing in fairy tale crafting between my organizing chores and hope to have the next post up soon. :)

Monday, January 7, 2013

Stairs of 2012

Throughout 2012 every time we were on an adventure, and I would come across an impressive set of stairs, I would make sure and get a picture.   I have a thing for stone stairs and steps and paths, I think they are so beautiful.   I thought it would be fun to gather all of the pictures of these steps in one post to remember all the  different stairways I came across in 2012.

The first set of stone stairs we came across this year were these steps leading down to a beautiful pond at The Rhododendron Gardens.

These, almost prehistoric looking, stairs led us out of the Rhododendron Gardens at the end of our visit.

This set of stone stairs were the biggest we walked up this year, beyond the three flights you can see, I believe there are two to three more, a very fun workout climbing to the top of Mt. Tabor.

You can see Sarah and Joseph part way up.

We also found this much more manageable stairway surrounded by beautiful stones and plants in Mt. Tabor Park.

Here is another simpler set of stairs on Mt. Tabor, more of a gravel stair than stone, but I still liked it.  Great way to climb a little mountain.

We came across this set of stone stairs on the way down to Shepperd's Dell, a very pretty fall we stopped at along the way to Multnomah Falls.

The stone steps and handrail led down to ...

 this beautiful stone path.

This very tall stairway led us into Fort Stevens at the Northern Oregon Coast.  You can see Sarah and Joe way down at the bottom.

Here is a picture looking up the stairway.

We always enjoy this pretty stair path on the grounds of Mt. Hood Community College, where we go to enjoy the highland games every year.

Here is another set of stone stairs on the college campus that we came across during the highland games.

And even though these stairs are metal...

They are inside the very tall stone Astoria Column, a very impressive set of stairs for sure!

These pictures were fun to revisit, and reminded me of all the fun we had throughout 2012.  I am looking forward to all the new adventures I hope to share with my family in 2013.

We have been having a fun time this winter break, we enjoyed lots of family time, went to see Les Mis and The Hobbit, both excellent movies, and have enjoyed all the extra late mornings, and relaxation.   Yesterday was Epiphany, and end to the 12 days of Christmas, we had a nice simple gingerbread cake to celebrate, you can read more about our Epiphany Traditions in my post from last year.  Tomorrow we will be back to our normal routine, and I am looking forward to getting to work on projects that I set aside over the break.

I hope everyone has had a nice beginning to the New Year! :)