Friday, December 31, 2010

Meat Lasagna with Mozzarella and Spinach

After watching Eat Pray Love, I just had to go Italian.  I call up my mother who’s on the way to the snow, stuck on hwy 80, I might add, and behind two other stuck cars all in the spirit of New Years.  Despite dinner sounding like the best thing with since sliced bread, she gave me the run around on how she likes to do things.  Lord knows, she had the time to chat food.  From there, I accumulated my favorite renditions of the grand Italian dish.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Lemon Pistachio Cake

If you like nuts, this cake is for you. And if you like lemon, than it’s time you get to the kitchen.  Thanks to Stacey Snacks, who is quickly becoming a "go to" food blogger for fun food- this nutty cake calls for a roaring applause, and seconds.

The lemon: a top five favorite ingredient for me in the kitchen, I should grow a tree.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Ann’s Chair Cookies with Chocolate and Butterscotch

Just to die for...

OK, we’re obviously on a sweets kick.  And when I think sweet, I think Grandma.  Both of my Grandmothers were and are great cooks.  One recipe that my mother adopted from Grandma Ann when she married into the Bridges’ family was Grandma’s cookie recipe.  1) Because

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Rice Pilaf with Saffron, Almond and Sweet Onion

I needed a fun new side dish.  It was getting a little boring.  I needed some COLOR.

A few months back I felt the need to beef up my spice library.  At Trader’s I found a cute little steal of a deal on Saffron.  Usually this stuff can be pretty pricy and you don’t use it every day, so I thought what a perfect little treat!   I try and buy

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Banoffee Pie (WARNING: banana explosion!)

Sweet toffee caramel meets banana cream?!   I had never heard of this goodness, but when I partook of “just a small slice” at a Western women and wives event- that was it.  I knew I had to make it for Thanksgiving!  We were gonna switch it up this year!

Banoffee Pie  recipe compliments Janice Ma

Who are we kidding with a “just a small slice?”  It’s a nice way of saying

Monday, November 29, 2010

Holiday Rolls: Caramelized Onion, Rosemary and Love

My first culinary holiday was a success.  There was not any more pressure seeing that I started this little blog, but there were some hungry eaters.  My father woke up at 4am just to make it in time for the big meal (and the Dallas kickoff). 

Being the strategist I am, I decided to go simple on the things that mattered, and then experiment on the things that worse case I could trash and run to the store day of.  Below is the account of one of my experiments.  Simply Scratch posted this a while ago and I thought I could smell them through my computer screen.  But real yeast?!  Could I do it?  Would it rise?

The answer was YES as soon as I saw my little love call out to me at Traders.  I had taken Chris with me to do the holiday shopping, more for the moral support I suppose.  He returned to the cart only to find me clinging to my precious little Rosemary bush in the shape of a Christmas tree!!!  Divine!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


I rarely buy canned fruit.  But if I do, it’s because it’s not in season, it’s time for baking, and I’ve got a hankerin’ for something special.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Perfect Whole Roasted Chicken

“Address the bird”- Julia Childs.  I confess that watching Julie and Julia kind of kicked my cooking butt into gear.  I loved Julie’s humble little home, where cooking was her means of relaxing and creativity.  And her husband ate it all.  So today I’m crossing one off the list, folks.  Roasting a WHOLE CHICKEN.

Me and Birdy

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Wooden Spoon Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

You know when you go over to a friend’s house for a meal and you say “this is so good, can I have the recipe?”  90% of the time it gets lost in the car, amongst receipts, or maybe you didn’t like it THAT MUCH.  But then there are the times that you really mean it!  These cookies were from a specific childhood memory.  It’s kind of fuzzy, but the stories always get better that way right? 

It was a typical Monterey day, grey morning with expected afternoon sun.  It was summer, because we didn’t have school, and we were all going with mom over to Kristen Thurlby’s home in Carmel, CA.  She had such a natural way about her.  She took special interest in us kids, and we remembered that.  I remember she made this KILLER corn salsa, which would have been enough worth remembering, but more was to come.  We had a pleasant lunch, we sat well behaved and engaged in the adult discussion when we could.  Then she got out her oboe and played it for us (the things that you remember…) and then THERE WAS DESSERT!  Dessert at lunch was always a treat!  Just a little something extra special.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Childhood Potato Cheese Soup

So many things on this blog could be titled: “Mom’s this” and “Mom’s that.”  The truth is, for a lot of us, our first kitchen memories were of helping Mom in the kitchen.  She never really made us do anything, but she always included us in the process if we were just standing around, as teens are often very good at.  She’s always one for “meaningful conversation,” or so she called it (still does), and if she gave us something to chop, peel or stir, meaningful conversation was soon to follow.

Truth be told, for as many times Mom made Potato Cheese Soup (one of Dad’s favorites), it’s her gal-pal Laurie Cameron, nearly my second mother, who I think of when I eat Potato Cheese Soup.  She would make it for our Progressive Dinners and we would eat it out of a cup.  That was always so fun to me.  Soup in a cup!?  Kind of like ice cream in a mug (also a favorite).  SO many times would I burn my mouth because I just couldn’t wait to taste.  It smelled SO GOOD.

Bridges and Camerons, friends for 20+ years.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Pumpkin Brûlée

I’ve been doing a lot of cooking and less writing.  I guess that’s healthy… means I do in fact like to cook just for the simple pleasure of cooking- not just to share it with the world (all 27 of you) :-) My food blog fascination began with my mom’s friend Debby from Monterey.  I’m still yet to meet her, so it’s kind of a penpal foodpal relationship.  Do check out her blog: A Feast For The Eyes  careful- it just may inspire YOU!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Cheese Ball and Culture Contemplations

I always get contemplative in the shower.  This usually means ten extra minutes just thinking, sometimes about my schedule, potential conversations I should have, recipes to try, thoughts on God.  I think of it as Brain Blogging.  If only I could immediately put those thoughts on the page.  Cause as soon as I am out of my self-made steam room, the thoughts vanish… but every now and then there’s ONE that holds on.

I’ve been thinking back to a podcast from years ago on marriage and real life.  The woman spoke of the need that our society has for excitement and newness.  Always looking for the ultimate, or the latest spin on something.  She challenged us to find beauty in the monotony.  To find simple joy and deep pleasure in things we do or make in a typical day: it’s doing it well that counts.  Kind of like a cast iron skillet, used over and over, for the same dish even, but it gets better and better each time. 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Freestyle Chili (Good For The Common Cold)

We all knew the common cold was coming with the cold.  It hit Chris last week, and then myself this week.  This has meant, less cooking on my part.  Chris has been my hero with breakfast before work, and a lot of dishes too (what?!)   I’m on day four, you know, the day when you just don’t care how many drugs it takes to clear you out, when all food tastes the same because of your lack of smell, and really you don’t want to make any more decisions than you have to!!!

Friday, October 15, 2010


So many times I have torn out a recipe from a magazine… sometimes ashamedly in secret- like at the gym, or the doctor’s office- something I simply could not live without.  When I’m home, there is the “maybe this week” pile, the “next time we have company” pile, the “when I find extra money to buy these cool ingredients that I’ll only use once” pile… granted, I’m rather organized, but there is still chaos.

Then about every couple weeks (sometimes it’s longer for some of us… no judgment), I go through the piles that have lost their name (see above paragraph).  They get the look over, and few make the cut.  But this one just seemed easy and it was nearing the end of peach season so off I went to the kitchen.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Alyce's Apple Pie with Pat's Crumble Top: MADE WITH OREGON APPLES

This past weekend we bundled up and drove out to “The Fruit Loop” outside of Hood River with new friends.  We’ve found ourselves in Hood River numerous times since moving to Portland- there’s just so much to see and do.  This time our goal was to explore the fruit orchards.  

As the colors have began to change, Chris and I find ourselves reminiscing of Apple Hill off Hwy 50 on the way to Tahoe.  Memories of taking the youth on orchard scavenger hunts, scouting out the best deal for “seconds” for pie baking, tasting fudge, visiting new wineries, admiring the views, and of course sweating- seeing that we usually were up there at the first sight of fall- busting out our new scarfs and boots, but later regretting it because it was still 80 degrees.  Oh Sacramento...

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Murphys Bread

Murphys Bread
A Ritter House Hold Favorite
There is a little town called Murphys in Northern California.  It’s north of Sonora, in Calaveras Country (famous for the frog races), off of Hwy 4.  It’s a little “best kept secret” for wine lovers.  Within walking distance, there are a few dozen tasting rooms amidst little antique shops and restaurants.  Surrounding the “downtown,” acres of vineyards, historic homes and rolling hills cover the land.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Dining Out: Nostrana on SE Morrison

Nostrana on Urbanspoon

Recommended by several locals, neighborhood papers and magazine clip outs that mom kept sending me.  Nostrana.  When I first saw their website on there was a picture of a giant pig's head- which has somehow changed categories in my head from “ew” to "ah, an appreciation for meat.” 

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Peanut Butter Waffle Cookies and Scrabble

I've had some ups and down with this whole job search things.  I have been hired by Oregon Health and Science University, but have been waiting a month for them to iron out all the paper work, HR details and back ground checks: Monday holds great anticipation.  So while I’m living on my email, and trying to not distract Chris from studying, I have been doing more cooking.  And surprisingly more baking!  Nothing special, but baking is more scientific than cooking.  It takes more energy, uses more tools, requires more concentration- all things that I typically would not stand for after a long day of work.  Cooking on the other hand lets me explore and be forgivingly creative.

Monday, September 27, 2010

“Burgers to eat before you die” – Red Mill Burgers, Seattle WA

So we did a whirl-wind, less than 24 hour, trip to Seattle for Chris’ book business.  We were blessed to stay at our friend’s house while they were away, so naturally we needed to explore the cuisine a little bit, curious if Seattle could stand up against Portland…

Chris had worked really hard Friday night and Saturday morning, so upon heading out of town we went with his cravings “I could really go for just a good burger,” truth be told, Chris could always really go for a good burger. J   Google led us to Red Mill Burgers near the south end of Green Lake, and we were sold when we heard it was “1 of 20 burgers to eat before you die” according to Oprah and GQ (for the record, they’re not usually my standard for good dining).  We weren’t planning on dying anytime soon, but we thought we’d cross it to our food bucket list ‘cause you just never know!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Summer In My Kitchen: Garlic Lime Mahi Mahi Over Coconut Rice

Most of you know my romance with Trader Joes.  I never leave that store in a bad mood.  If I have a happy place- it’s Trader’s.  One of these days I’ll blog about my famous wine spill… or should I say WINE BATH a few Christmases ago that I became known for.  For now, I’m rather incognito at our new Portland location, but I plan on befriending the shelf stockers soon enough.  Outside of the soy sauce I used, everything in this recipe was from Trader’s.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Coffee Rub Tri-Tip with Steak Fries and Zucchini

Chris is getting used to my camera being in the kitchen.  He laughs while I “plate” and sits patiently while I change the lighting.  I sighed, “not exactly what I was hoping for.”  “You HAVE to blog about just that, Noelle!”- Chris.  He was right.  I’m still learning.  It keeps me real in the kitchen.  No celebrity chefs here.

Back in June, Chris and I returned from camping with our youth group in Rocklin after a long weekend.  We were tired to the bone, as is to be expected after our fourth annual trip with the group.  All of those camping mornings began with good coffee.  One might say that anything tastes good when you’re camping, but when you’re in charge of 20 some odd kids, one can’t be too sure.  Anyway- we’re a fan of the French press, an item we made sure not to forget.  And we brought enough for all the adults helping out with the weekend as “payment” for the lack of sleep.

Naturally we had some left over fresh grounds when we got back.   God forbid we throw out good coffee.   Thus became our Coffee Ground Rub.  While some may go out to eat after a trip like that, we really rejuvenate with a good meal, cooked in, together.  We had read of rumors regarding a coffee ground mix, or marinades using fresh espresso.  So we tried it out.  So fabulous.  Great crunch.  Amaaaazing flavor.
So we went for it again last weekend.  We used a small Tri-Tip cut from Trader Joes, but I would love to try it on a good Rib-Eye paired with a peppery Primitivo. 

Friday, September 17, 2010

Dining Out: LORENZO'S on NE Mississippi Ave

Lorenzo's Ristorante Italiano on Urbanspoon
A few nights ago we visited Lorenzo’s in celebration of my new job opportunity.  We find ourselves frequenting NE Mississippi Ave quite often when it comes to food.  Living on the boarder of North and South Portland, I feel that we’ve just let the wind blow us, and we keep ending up in NE for dining, church visiting, coffee shops…etc.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Garden Breakfast: Poached Eggs

Simple pleasures.  They are different to everyone.  Sometimes there is emotional attachment.  Other times, it’s just a no hassle kind of enjoyment. 

On our morning walks around South East Portland, we are impressed by everyone’s veggie gardens.  Cucumber, tomatoes of every color and size, herbs the size of small trees, apples, I even saw some pumpkins the other day!  I love Portland for their “sharing mentality.”  There are sporadic little signs: “please enjoy sparingly.” And no one takes the whole box, just a few.  They are simple little treasures- each one delicate and different.  I carry them home as though it was a rare sea shell I found on the beach in Pacific Grove.  Mom always said I could only take a few because otherwise the beach would run out?!  Be it shell or tomato, the treasure made it home safe and sound.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The VooDoo Experience

We drove by yesterday around noon to spot the suspect.  Shades on.  13 mph.  Target spotted.  Line out the door.  Line around the corner.  Couldn’t see the end of the line.  But at least we had a sighting.  This thing was for real.

So back we went today.  10am on a Monday.  A surprise attack, I’m sure.  Still a line.  But an end in sight.  Now for parking.  I swear the one way streets switch directions once you turn the corner.  It’s as though you literally can’t get to it, it’s a game.  It’s VooDoo!

Once in line, I snap a few pics.   I’m slightly embarrassed any time I’m the obvious newbie surrounded by “Weird Portland Locals” who are just gettin’ their usual breakfast.   I must have made some of the posers feel better about themselves because about four other cameras emerged proudly while our tummies growled in unison.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

THE TRIFECTA: My Spaghetti

One thing I have learned since diving into the adventure of cooking is how to critique my food.  This may sound snobbish, but let’s be honest- I don’t really know what I’m talking about… but there are a few things that make good sense.  

Be it on TV, cooking demonstrations, or just learning from an excellent home cook--- the perfect food is always about balancing what I like to call “the Trifecta.” 

Now there are several different combos- but the point is balance.

Take my Ground Turkey Spaghetti Sauce- looking for Salt/Heat/Sweet.   Salting- a little bit on each item you add to the pot (“layering the flavor” as they say) should provide you with the perfect salty fix by the time it’s ready to serve.  For heat, ½ and ½ hot/sweet sausages, or for my ground turkey I like sprinkling in red pepper flakes to taste.  For sweet- I am reminded of Chris’ Aunt Pam who adds bell pepper, or recently inspired by Adrienne Sanvos’ Spaghetti Sauce with carrots.  Bell pepper and carrots have a natural sugar that is released when cooked that provides that sweet/savory thing you go for when cooking dinner. 

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Right Brained Cooking

The threat of a food blog came about six months ago when Chris and I decided that cooking really was relaxing to us.  That, and noticing that half of my Facebook statuses consisted of what I was planning for dinner.  We would come home after work, with the left side of our brain sufficiently worn only to look for something to "relax with" using our right side.

Science moment 

uses logic
detail oriented
facts rule
words and language
present and past
math and science
can comprehend
order/pattern perception
knows object name
reality based
forms strategies

uses feeling
"big picture" oriented
imagination rules
symbols and images
present and future
philosophy & religion
can "get it" (i.e. meaning)
spatial perception
knows object function
fantasy based
presents possibilities
risk taking

You get the idea... left side is what the Ritter brain does all day.  Right side is how we play.  

So fast forward a few months--- HELLO PORTLAND!  new state, new city, new home, new weekend opportunities, new restaurants, new wine country, new books to read, new people to meet.

As we take it all in, there are so many things to share.  And so many of these simple pleasures happen to be palatable discoveries.  But others may be moments that make us chew a little longer.  Or conversations that linger.  Or scenes we want to savor.  

So I invite you to dine with us as we explore life in Portland- from our kitchen discoveries to our city life encounters.