Exit 34 in North Bend, Washington. Just 30 minutes east of Seattle on I-90. 10 minutes away from Snoqualmie Falls & Snoqualmie Casino.

Memoirs of an Innkeeper

This is me after a much-needed 3 hour nap only, you know, it lasted 10 minutes.

This is me having a typical text conversation with one of my relatives. We don’t need words to understand one another. I love her.

This is me enjoying Pinterest when it lines up perfectly. As if each of these pictures is not enough on their own, but to have them happen upon my wall side by side? Perfection.

After my little nap, I got a call that we had some special guests arriving from Japan. They brought us this stunning candy. We were honored to have our guests. They were so kind and fun and as we found out after a day or two, they were, um, famous.

Koji Yakusho, Japan’s leading actor and his lovely wife Saeko (who is also an actress & can tell a story like nobody’s business – even when there are language barriers) had us laughing every morning.

The New York Times did a story on Koji last week because he had been at a film festival in New York the week before he visited the Snoqualmie Valley. For those of you not up on the world of Japanese entertainment, Koji was also in  “Memoirs of a Geisha” and “Babel.”

And finally, breakfast. Breakfast for newlyweds and guests celebrating their first year of marriage. A breakfast to celebrate new beginnings.

I need a nap.

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Mini Almond Mazarin Tart With Fresh Fruit Recipe

Buttery crust and almondy filling but the real topper is the glazed fresh fruit. Fancy yet simple. Plain yet colorful.

Preheat oven to 350F.

CRUST INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 sticks (one cup) butter
  • 1 1/2 cups of powdered sugar
  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1 teaspoon of almond
If butter is chilled, things will simply take longer to come together but will eventually become a lovely dough. Press dough into about 16 – 4 inch tart pans.  If making less tarts, just save extra dough in fridge for another day.

ALMOND FILLING INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 7 oz. almond paste (make sure it’s fresh & soft)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
Combine filling ingredients until well beaten.

Filling will be a little runny.

Place some almond filling into each tart. Place tarts on a cookie sheet and bake..

Prepare fruit by rinsing & cutting. You can use any fruit you like with these tarts. Most berries (especially raspberries & blueberries) and stone fruits (cherries, peaches, nectarines) go best with almond.

To coat fruit with a glossy topping, place about 3/4 cup of apricot jam with a few tablespoons of water and heat until thinned. Allow to cool a bit before using.

Remove from oven when tops are golden brown.

Pile fruit upon tart in a most glorious fashion and drizzle with apricot glaze. Adorn with fresh mint if desired.

Perfect for breakfast, a tea or dessert.

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Chocolate Pecan Truffles

Where there is chocolate, there is a party.  In a way, I guess you could call these party balls. Add dark cocoa powder, and you have a fancy party. I tell you the truth.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 16 ounces high quality semi-sweet chocolate
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 cup high quality, dark cocoa powder

Place a double boiler over medium-low heat. Chop chocolate into small bits and add to pan. Stir in cream. Heat and stir until dark and dreamy. Things will not look pretty and you will think I steered you wrong for most of the melting process but then suddenly you will see darkness and the world will make sense again. It is shiny. It is hopeful. It is truffles in liquid form. Stir in chopped pecans and transfer to a shallow pan like a casserole dish.

Refrigerate for about an hour or until firm and fudgy looking. Place cocoa powder onto a plate.

Scoop small amounts of the chocolate and form into balls. Coat each one with the lovely cocoa powder.

Ahhhhh.

Serve your party balls on a platter or place each in a mini paper candy cup liner. Or perhaps place four in a mini gift box with a parchment liner. The perfect little gift – a party to go.

Makes about 24 mini parties. If you are making this recipe for a group of people you don’t know very well, I recommend rolling truffles in finely chopped pecans rather than cocoa powder so that anyone with nut allergies will be aware that these contain nuts. Store covered in refrigerator until ready to serve. 

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Mushroom Risotto Recipe

She is not always familiar, for she is foreign. She is not rice, for she is frumpy. She is not pasta, for she is temperamental.

INGREDIENTS:

  •  1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup sliced or diced fresh mushrooms
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 2-3 tablespoons beef Better than Bouillon
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup fresh parmesan cheese, grated (plus more for top if desired for garnish)
  • One small handful fresh chives, finely chopped
  • Salt
  • Pepper

To prepare for all that is holy and lovely, pull all ingredients together ahead of time. Cut onion and mushroom and heat olive oil on medium-high in a somewhat deep frying pan.

Saute mushrooms until softened and a beautiful brown. Using a straining utensil, remove mushrooms from pan and set aside.

While cooking the mushrooms in the frying pan, heat the chicken broth in a separate saucepan until warm in a saucepan. Keep warm (but don’t allow it to reduce).

Place chopped onions into oil. Cook until translucent and caramelized. Add minced garlic. Then add Arborio rice and stir until rice is translucent around the edges yet white in the center.

Finally, the finicky side of risotto… the babysitting.

Pour white wine into risotto. Stir and cook on medium heat until wine is nearly all absorbed by the rice.

Add about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of broth and stir and cook until broth is nearly all absorbed.

Continue to cook and add broth in this same fashion until broth is gone but, more importantly, until risotto is al dente (not mushy and not crunchy). The dish should be a little creamy. Stir in 2-3 tablespoons beef Better than Bouillon to your liking.

Stir in cooked mushrooms, butter, parmesan cheese and chives. Add salt & pepper last since you can’t be sure how much salt you will need until after the parmesan has been added.  If desired, sprinkled freshly grated parmesan over the top and perhaps some freshly chopped chives.

Serve hot and serve often for she is warm and gorgeous and comforting. For she is risotto.

To make this into a main dish, you can stir in pieces of  cooked chicken. 

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Yogurt Parfaits

I love it when things are so simple and so beautiful all at the same time. These lovelies are just that. Perfect for a Saturday morning. Or Sunday. Or Monday. Or Tuesday. Or Wednesday. Or Thursday.

INGREDIENTS:

  • Yoplait Boston Cream Pie Yogurt (or vanilla pudding or your  own favorite yogurt )
  • 2 cups of fresh mixed berries
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Chopped nuts or granola (optional)
  • Whipped cream (optional)

Clean berries and drain well. Stir lemon juice and sugar into berries. Allow berry mixture to sit for at least a half an hour so that the sugar draws out the juices in the berries. Layer yogurt and berries into a pretty glass bowl or tall glass. Adorn with a sprig of fresh mint.  If you’d like to make things difficult, add chopped pecans or granola and whipped cream on top.

Yes, simple and simply perfect. Even for Fridays.

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Chicken Marsala Recipe

Perhaps this should be called Indulgent Chicken Marsala Recipe. But I can’t help it. I love a breaded piece of chicken. And I love a gravy sauce. One would probably never guess I was born as far away as one can get from the south while still in America. Well, there was that one thing – the fact that I spelled y’all as ya’ll for forty years might have been a clue.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 6-8 whole chicken breasts
  • 1 1/4 cup flour (divided)
  • 1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
  • 1 cup mushrooms, diced or sliced
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup dry Marsala wine (can use sweet Marsala wine if preferred)
  • 3 tablespoons Better than Bouillon Chicken Base
  • Juice from 1/2 fresh lemon
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Leaves from 6 fresh oregano stalks, chopped

First, pound chicken breasts until about even all the way across.

For breaded chicken, just use 1 cup or so to coat each piece in flour. This is entirely optional, you know, for those who do not have a southern girl on the inside.

Heat pan with oil to medium-high heat. When hot, fry chicken until 165 degrees inside the middle.

Set chicken aside.

Fry mushrooms in same pan. Set aside as well on a separate plate after cooked.

Make sure pan has about 4 tablespoons of oil in it. If not, just add some and wait until hot again. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of flour into pan and whisk immediately. Cook a few minutes or until somewhat brown. Pour in chicken broth and continue to whisk. Sauce will thicken.

Again, thickening the gravy is optional. You can also just let it cook down for a while until it reduces to a lovely sauce.

Pour in Marsala wine.

Continue to whisk.  The whisking exercise makes the breading and the gravy okay.

Gravy will turn a beautiful brown color. Add chicken base, salt and pepper to taste. Stir until chicken base melts into gravy. Stir in lemon juice, butter and then mushrooms.

And fresh oregano.

Pour gravy over chicken and serve.

Though she is stunning served on her own, she also pairs will with pasta or a fresh green salad. She is chicken Marsala. She is indulgent. I’d imagine she originated in the southern part of Italy.

 

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A Focus on Home… and a Horse

This week is about home. That, and one horse.

Uncorking a bottle of fine wine only to figure out that it’s a screw top. Check.

I changed my first toilet seat all by myself. It only took 19 minutes. Just in case you ever find yourself in a situation of needing to replace a toilet seat in a hurry, here is how to do it:
  • Remove old seat and carry into your local hardware store and wave it in the air like you just don’t care.
  • Compare seat to the seats available to be sure to get the right size.
  • Shout out to male friends on Facebook to ask if all lids attach to the potty the same way. They do.
  • Ask son to grab necessary tools from garage.
  • Read instructions 7 times.
  • Start by standing up.
  • Apply toilet lid.
  • End by practically laying on the ground.
  • Cheer for self.
In other news, I cannot stop making triple berry sauce.
And I cannot stop smiling at these cutie baby second cuzzies who came for a little visit last week.
Good luck with that sentence, Google Translator. Good luck.
I mean, really. You want to eat triple berry sauce for every meal? Sure, cuzzie. I cannot say no to such cuteness.
If you have been a guest at The Old Hen lately, you may have noticed my broken tea pot. The story behind this is that one of my dearest BFFs gave this to me many years ago and I simply cannot get rid of it. I keep gluing the lid together. Thank you for understanding.
And finally, as promised, a horse – a sunbathing one at that. You’re welcome.

 

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Sweet Red Cherry Pie Recipe

Cherry pie. Summer at its best. That is, unless you count the time I used dish soap so I could go faster on our Slip & Slide. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen our kids laugh as hard as they did that day nor have I embarrassed myself more – at least not while covered in bubbles. On that slippery slope, maybe it’s best we get back to the pie.

PIE CRUST INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for rolling
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) cold butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/4  cup ice water (a little more only if needed)

Combine flour, salt, sugar and butter in food processor until crumbly and about the size of peas.

Sprinkle cold water over crumbly dough and process again until sticks together but still a wee bit crumbly.

Yeah. Like that.

Divide dough in half and form each half into balls.

Roll out first ball of dough until large enough to cover the bottom of your pie pan. Use flour to prevent it from sticking to your counter.

Gently fold crust into fourths so that it is easier to move from the counter to your pie pan. Push down so that it sits in pan nicely.

PIE FILLING INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 1/2 pounds sweet red cherries
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 3/4 cup bourbon (adds a lovely flavor but can replace with water if desired)

Slice cherries into half, remove pit from each one and place in a large bowl. This is a messy but peaceful job. Stir in remaining pie filling ingredients.

Add to pie crust. Now for an easy version of a pretty lattice crust.

Roll out other dough ball and cut into about 1/4 strips that are the length of the pie pan. Place four strips across the top with plenty of spacing between each.

Place four more strips the other direction.

Place four more in between the original four strips.

Do the same in the other direction with the last four.

Trim the edges.

Using a leaf or flower shaped mini cookie cutter, cut out shapes with the remaining dough. Place all around the edge with a bit of overlap.  Press down a bit as you go so they hold well. You can just leave the extra crust on and pinch the dough all the way around, but I like the look of a cookie cutter edge.

Brush entire top crust with one beaten egg so that the crust will be shiny and golden when baked.

Bake at 425 for 15 minutes and he reduce the heat to 325 and bake another 40 minutes.

If the looks like it might get too dark, just lay a piece of foil over it for the remaining baking time. Also, if your e=oven doesn’t bake evenly, be sure to rotate pie during baking time.

Yep, the only thing better (and more dangerous) is a Slip & Slide used with an abundance of dish soap.

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Both Odd and Awesome

This week shall go down as the week that was both odd and awesome. Although odd, son and his friend got things off to a fun start by shoving pillows up their shirts. How can you not have an awesome week after you see this?

Mom & I went for a drive to town one morning and noticed these majestic birds along the road. Ooooo ahhhh.

Wait. What? Are those chickens? Oh, they’re wild chickens. Are they turkeys? They’re kinda ugly.

Turkey vultures. I should be honest with you. These guys down-right freaked me out. I’d never seen a vulture before. And I’ll be okay if I never come across one again.

On to prettier things like, you know, individual scalloped potatoes for guests. I’m not completely sure why I felt the need to photograph these all wrapped up and ready to bake for the next morning, but you’re welcome.

Impromptu iced tea with lemon ready in 43 minutes. It’s what I do.

And in the spirit of saving the best for last, the police chief’s retirement party was this week. Here he is being silly with son and dotter. He is like family to us and they love him. Congratulations, Jim!

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And in more awesome news, I went to a wonderful dinner put on by Outstanding in the Field and Full Circle Farms in Carnation, Washington. It’s worth checking out and then looking for a dinner in your area. Each dinner is different… some are held in Napa Valley’s vineyards and others on the beach. You can read more about our dinner here.

And finally, I leave you with French press coffee.  Here’s to a new week.

 

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Watermelon Salad Recipe

Some things should not go together. You know, like Diet Coke and peppermint gum at the same time, for the combination of these two items tastes like mold to your taste buds. Don’t ask me how I know this. I just do.

Watermelon, cucumbers and tomatoes, however, do go together. Again, I just know.

SALAD INGREDIENTS :

  • One small, seedless watermelon (cut into small, bite-sized squares) – I’m sure we can all agree that cute little squares taste best.
  • 1/2 pint cherry tomatoes (cut in half)
  • 1/2 pint yellow cherry tomatoes (cut in half)
  • 1 English cucumber (cut into small, bite-sized pieces)
  • 1/2 red onion (thinly sliced) – optional

Place chilled salad ingredients into a large bowl.

SALAD DRESSING INGREDIENTS:

  • Juice from 1 fresh lemon
  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Simply shake the salad dressing ingredients together in a container with a lid & drizzle over your gorgeous salad. Give salad a gentle toss and serve.

Other things that do not go together include out-of-towners and round-abouts. I can feel my protective instincts going all Starship Enterprise defense mode just thinking about it. Also not good, arguing newlyweds and a comfy couch. Turns out, your odds of making up after an argument are better if you have a bad couch. Again, don’t ask me how I know. And finally, starches with starches is not a good idea. For example rice served with pasta, potatoes and bread is a bad combo if you’d like to ever see your feet again.

But isn’t it nice that in a world where many things do not go well together that we have found this beautiful salad.

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© Deanna Morauski 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013