Sunday, July 29, 2007

Fun with Food

(The first in what will likely be a recurring series on one of my favorite topics...)

One of the things I love about living in Oregon is the ubiquity of farmers markets (I can never figure out if that should be farmers' markets) and fresh produce in the summer, especially the berries. While visiting our local Sellwood/Westmoreland market last week I eagerly checked out the offerings, squeezing through the crowds in front of each to taste the tempting samples each vendor was displaying. One in particular had a variety of juicy looking berries: raspberries, blueberries, and marionberries*. Checking out their prices, I noticed that there was a special price for half-flats (6 pints). Never one to resist a deal, I quickly picked up a mixed box (2 pints of each kind of berry). It was only as I was walking home with my purchases that I began to wonder how the two of us would possibly eat all of these berries before they went bad. (For some reason freezing them never came to mind. That's a culinary tactic I'm still working on developing).

Arriving home I immediately called my mom to pick her brain about the relative merits of crisps versus cobblers versus crumbles for these types of berries. The conversation was fruitful. (ugh. sorry. terrible pun) Not only did I figure out that I'm definitely more of a crisp person than a cobbler person, but Mom reminded me of a delicious, quick, easy and impressive-looking dessert that we used to make when I was young and we were getting buried by berries.

I'm sure it has a more elegant name, but I've always called it Berry Pizza. Basically, it's a cheating way to make a quick fruit tart with some serious wow factor. (You can, of course, make your own dough (whether it be pastry dough or cookie dough), but part of the beauty of this recipe is its "quickfix-ness") My first try at it (pictured above) ended up with a more rustic than elegant feel. Without a pizza pan to bake the cookie crust on, I ended up with a more oblong/blobby shape than a true circle, and I left the apricot lumps in the glaze because they taste good, even if they're not that aesthetically impressive.

I recommend giving it a try before the berries are gone for the year. It takes practically no time to make and adds a very summer-y feel to any occasion. Enjoy.


*For those non-pacific northwest readers of the blog, Marion Berries are a particular type of blackberries developed in Marion County, OR. They are known for their intense flavor and for having fewer seeds than other blackberry varieties. Marionberry pie is an Oregon specialty, kind of our version of American Apple Pie. (And no, despite what some suggested in the late 90's, they are not the punch line to a joke about disgraced former DC mayor, Marion Barry)

Becca's Berry Pizza
recipe from Joyce Carver

1 tube Frozen/refrigerated Sugar Cookie dough

"Pizza sauce":
8 oz cream cheese
1/4 cup sour cream
2 Tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp almond extract

Raspberries, Blueberries, Blackberries, Strawberries, etc
Sliced peaches/plums/nectarines, etc.

1/2 cup apricot or raspberry jam
2 tsp sugar

Cut cookie dough in 1/4" slices and arrange on a greased and floured pizza pan. Bake 10-12 minutes at 325 and cool.

Cream cream chees, sour cream, sugar and almond extract and spread over cooled cookie dough.

Arrange peaches, strawberries, raspberries or marionberries in rings on top.

Stir jam and sugar together over moderate heat in a saucepan for 2 to 3 minutes until thick enough to coat a spoon with a light film. Drizzle over berries while warm.

Can be made up to 1 hour ahead of time. Store leftovers in frig (fruit will run)

Monday, July 23, 2007

An interesting website regarding livability...

During my internet exploring, I found The website's goal is as follows:

"Walk Score helps people find walkable places to live. Walk Score calculates the walkability of an address by locating nearby stores, restaurants, schools, parks, etc."
It goes on further to talk about the drawbacks of the site (it fails to take into account public transport, street length, pedestrian friendly design, etc) but as a whole it serves as an interesting resource to see how much of your life you can live within your neighborhood. This has been a constant topic for Becca and I as we continue to settle into life at home and figure out ways to cut down our driving and live more locally.

For the record, our place only scored a 58; this score placed us in the "some walkable locations" category. I have to admit I was surprised by this since we have a grocery store, bookstore, library, numerous restaurants all within a half mile of us and consider the Sellwood area a pretty walking friendly neighborhood. However I guess the lack of other important items (hospital, businesses, etc.) and the lack of consistent public transport (the buses our way come few and far between) make it a less viable place to be sans car. In fact, if you go 1.5 miles up the road, our in-law's place rates as a 73.

Interesting stuff; it's worth our US based readers to plug in their home and see how walking friendly it really is!


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Pain? What pain?

I'm been a runner for almost 20 years now; I ran track (begrudgingly; why run around in a circle so much?) and cross-country (definitely my favorite) in high school, got burned out and went away from it for part of college and then have had a love/hate relationship with the sport for most of my 20's.

Upon "retiring" from ultimate in 2004, my friend Dave convinced me to train with him for the Twin Cities Marathon. He was convinced that it wouldn't take much for me to be able to step up and do a race of this distance (despite my longest run previous being 14 miles).

Long story short, Dave got injured and had to stop training but with the help of my wife the domestique I was able to finish training and have a great race day, running 3:26. (The picture above is my post-finish "where's my friggin' Chipolte" stare)

For the first time in a very long time, running was fun. I continued to do so until we left on the trip. I really think a major reason for this was the moderation in which I trained; 4 days/week and reasonable mileage as opposed to the levels in which I'd run (and gotten burned out) previously. Upon our return, I was actually excited to get back into running. After a bit of a slow start (not running for 15 months will do that to you) I actually found myself running at a faster level than before in no small part due to the 20 lbs. I'd lost during the trip.

With this I got all geeked up; time to try to boost the mileage and try to qualify for the Boston Marathon. Unfortunately the reality of school and the job search made that an unrealistic goal. Instead I elected to just have fun with my running and do the occasional race (like the Hagg Lake 25k that left me looking like this).

Fast forward to this summer. I've been looking for a few racing opportunities just to see where I'm at speed wise but I really prefer the endurance races as they make my methodical racing style pay off. So what to do?

The Hood to Coast relay. A 12 person, 195 mile relay that I last ran as a HS'er 16 years ago. Thanks to the wonders of the internet, I was able to find a team that needed a runner. So now I have just over a month to get in good enough shape to run on average 15-16 miles over a 24 hour span with little to no sleep crammed in the back of a van. No problem!

I'm excited; this coupled with a few cross-country style races in the fall have my competitive juices flowing. There will be plenty to write about so expect a few entries about my continued running adventures into the fall with a guarantee that they'll be another picture (likely much like the one above) after Hood to Coast.

Off to go for a run!


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

More than you ever wanted to know about BD...

I was tagged to write eight habits about myself from my friend Chelle the true blue New Yawker living in Minneapolis. Essentially, this is meant to be a worldwide game of tag and I'm supposed to list eight people at the bottom of this post who are now meant to do the same. However, Homie don't play that so instead I'll let my wife be the one to link up more people (she's more amenable to that sort of thing) to the fun. Now onto all the things you never wanted to know about me...

My Facts and Habits:

  1. I am a creature of habit: I run 4 days a week, I have one caffeinated beverage a day, I put on my shoes the same way, I need the Scrabble board a certain direction, etc. Becca says I'm anal retentive. Whatever. I like consistency.
  2. I am an Eagle Scout. In fact, I got my Eagle Scout badge when I was 15. The most memorable part of the day was falling off an elevated scorers table at my brother's basketball game beforehand, guaranteeing me a day of being hopped up on painkillers.
  3. It is a miracle that I didn't have a heart attack in my mid-20's. To say I had an anger problem would likely be a gross understatement. I too often lashed out at things I had little control over. Thankfully over time (with a lot of help and patience from the wonderful wife) I have mellowed. Still doesn't mean I won't get fired up at times but I handle it in a tempered manner and have learned that sometimes... stuff just happens and there's nothing you can do about it.
  4. My debt collection skills are top notch. Or so said my previous boss at Best Buy. When I was looking for a career job in Minnesota, I did a lot of temp work. One of those jobs was as a corporate debt collector for Best Buy. I found out more about my tenacity and closer skills in that job than I ever care to know. For the record, the biggest culprits were... schools and churches. Evidently God doesn't pay off the big screen TV on Best Buy's terms.
  5. My longest relationship prior to Becca was 4 1/2 months. It's not like I was a Lothario making the rounds; instead I was quite happy living the single life and the relationships I did have just organically ended. The same organic process led to me moving across the country 10 months into a relationship that will hit 7 years(!) in September.
  6. I probably should have been an engineer. My GRE scores showed as much (I scored a 790 on the Analytical section), my best friends from HS and college are both engineers and my brain is just wired that way. Thankfully, I didn't. I consider myself to have far too many social skills to be a proper engineer. Plus I enjoy the big picture and using words to make a point.
  7. I was my current height in the 6th grade. So I've gone from a center on the middle school basketball team with Kevin McHale-esque low post moves to a shooting guard in college with no jump shot. You wonder why I only run nowadays...
  8. Finally... I have a plethora of nicknames. The cool thing is that I've picked them up in different parts of my life and as a result can immediately place who's talking to me by what nickname they use. Here's the rundown: Orson (as in Bean), Beanie (I used to warm up in HS in a beanie stocking cap), BD (fairly obvious; the only one of the list that has been prevalent throughout time, Visa (ultimate; my credit card length jumping ability), Bizo (ultimate; no real reasoning but just given to me by my former teammate Merde), and I have to admit my favorite... Bounce-Bounce (Bounce for short). This was given to me by my first friends in Minnesota, Alex and Matt. Why Bounce-Bounce? Well, they were watching MST3k and the episode was Hobgoblins. Servo uttered the following: Meet the hobgoblins: Frankie, Sniffles, Bounce-Bounce and the Claw. At that point they decided they were going to give out those nicknames to people they knew. Somehow they only got around to sticking me with my moniker but as a new guy in a new town, it kind of made me feel at home.
So there you go. You, the loyal blog reader know more about me than you ever cared to know. If you think I missed something, please feel free to add it to the comments. In the meantime, for being a trooper and reading the whole damn thing I've embedded a YouTube reward...


(the video is a garden tool fight from Hobgoblins)

Monday, July 09, 2007

Warning: Take Care Handling Sharp Objects!

Kids, Don't Try This At Home
(I can't touch a knife these days without blood gushing yet somehow Brian is able to stab open a can of oily tuna fish with a butcher knife and come away unscathed. Unfair. )
photo: Nida, Lithuania

So I've been getting a lot more into cooking over the past year and have been increasingly enjoying it as both my culinary knowledge and technical skills have improved. However there's some weird mojo going on at the moment. I don't know if Jupiter is aligned with Mars, if there's a bad moon rising, or if I'm just dealing with the bad karma from a previous life.

Over the past two weeks I have either cut or burned myself (or both!) just about every other time I've tried to cook or prepare anything. My fingers currently are a mix of bandaids, scabs and scars. I have no idea what I'm doing differently or why this is suddenly happening. But it's getting ridiculous. Soon I'm not going to have any fingers left!

Here's hoping I snap out of it before I permanently do my digits in!


Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Happy Independence Day!

I wanted to take a moment and wish everyone a happy Independence Day. As the date of our declaration of independence where we told the Brits to take their warm beer and cricket back across the pond, the 4th is obviously an uniquely American holiday. Of course like many of our other holidays, the original meaning of taking time to appreciate the independence our country holds has been co-oped by brats, beers, fireworks and sunburns.

In this particular case (as opposed to Memorial Day, see Becca's earlier post), I think that's a good thing. The 4th is about celebrating the fact that as Americans we have the right (within reason) to do what we please and express ourselves accordingly. For Becca and me, this day will be spent going for a hike with our brother and sister-in-law and then spending time with my family afterwards. For some people, that means having a picnic and watching fireworks; for others having too much to drink and falling asleep at 3pm is their way of expressing independence.

Independence is a touchy subject nowadays. With political bickering at what seems to be an all-time high and the idea of free speech sometimes being dependent on what you're saying, every once in a while people need to take a step back and appreciate what they have. There are countless countries around the world (several of which Becca and I have actually been in) where free speech, independent thought and even something as simple as the right to wear whatever you want is not a given.

So I hope that with this holiday, people take at least a moment to appreciate what we have as a country and the fact that we stuck our necks out to get it 231 years ago. We're by no means perfect but in the grand scheme of things we're a lot better off than most. So appreciate the position you're currently in and take some time to say thank you to the people that help defend our independence around the world on a daily basis. We may not always agree with where they are or what they're doing there, but we should respect the fact that they are willing to put their lives on the line to preserve what we celebrate with beers and sparklers.

Ok, I'm officially off my soapbox. Anyone up for some wiffle ball?

Happy Independence Day to all.