Mexican food is by far the favorite flavor in our house, second only to soup. And this soup is both, win win. I think I found this recipe a few years ago in a magazine, it may have been advertised as a white bean chili but I change it every time I make it based on what ever we have in the house or is available at the grocery. The beauty of this soup, or I suppose most cooking recipes (not baking, baking is its own special chemistry that should never be messed with unless you REALLY know what you are doing) you can kind of make it your own.
Ours always has tomatillos, garlic, onion, peppers of some sort, broth of some sort, and beans. We also always make sure to add either ground chicken or turkey as we are not vegetarians but it could easily be left out and taste just as good.
Also something you should know, I don’t really measure so this recipe reads like a child wrote it, or your grandmother trying to give directions “just turn at that place where we saw that deer that one time”.
– Taco Soup –
Half a produce bag full of tomatillos
About 3 cups of various peppers (bell peepers are the least hot, I usually use pasilla and jalapeño)
Half a bulb of garlic
One medium onion
One box of broth, looks like about 32 ounces (we use chicken or homemade bone broth)
One can of beans drained and rinsed (I use white beans usually)
Taco Flavors: If I feel lazy I just use a package of taco flavor from the store. Or you can use a combination of cumin, chili powder, garlic and onion powder, salt and pepper. I have no measurements for this I just wing it.
Optional – One package of ground meat
Optional post cooking toppings – Tortilla chips, grated cheese, sour cream or diced avocado.
I always brown my meat before adding it to the crock-pot, so I cook that up and add the flavors to the meat directly and then transfer once browned to the crock pot. Peel, rinse then chop the tomatillos, de-seed and chop all peppers (remember to wear gloves if using hotter peppers you will thank me later when you accidentally rub your eyes), peel and dice both garlic and onion. Add everything to the crock-pot (add spices if you didn’t add to meat already), pour in broth, cook on high or low (depending on your needs) until the tomatillos start to look a bit like jelly and fall apart. Add beans and cook for about another 20 min.
Serve on it’s own or with your selection toppings.
Allergy Reminder – Tomatillos and peppers are both nightshades, if you react at all to eggplant, potatoes or tomato I would not suggest eating this soup.
The second we decided to go to England I knew I had to spend a day at Kew Gardens. I had been reading about it for years through historical fiction, and non fiction books of various subjects. I was always fascinated by the scientific and seemingly innocent drive to collect and study the worlds plants. And how that opened up the doors for some of the most destructive advances in world trade and shipping that ultimately caused things such as the opium wars in China.
The endeavor to collect and preserve as many plant species and display them to the public officially started in 1759. But was officially founded in 1840 which is when the construction of the glass and wrought iron houses that stand today begun. Today the Kew Gardens are 330 acres of walking paths, trees, bridges both over water and in the tree tops, several historic buildings that can be toured, green houses, cafes, art exhibits and a tea house.
We got to the gardens just a couple hours after they opened but there was already a line to get in. Payment is taken at the main gates and they do take cards, which is nice because it isn’t cheap to get in. From there we were handed a map and set off on our own. We wandered around the typical sights, sort of ever searching for the desert house, which is actually the Princess of Wales house, it isn’t marked very clearly on the map what that green house holds. It also appears to be much smaller on the map than it really is. We also wanted some food but every place we stopped seemed to just be cold sandwiches from a fridge and it was a little chilly that day we were hoping for something a big more substantial. We wound up eating at the Botanical, which was very beautiful and had a great view of the Palm House but the portions were far too small for how hungry we were. We later discovered The Orangery which is where we really should have eaten.
Moral of the story, Kew is really lovely and I would certainly go back again it is big enough that I doubt you could actually see everything again. And the maps that are handed out are very helpful, but in hindsight we probably should have planned a bit better, given some of the info we wanted was not included in the materials handed out at the ticket gate.
Newens Tea House
Newens Tea House was something I found at the last minute. We were loving the tea services we had so far on the trip and wanted to have one last afternoon tea experience. The history of the place is really fascinating and I think is a must do for anyone who loves history and pastries. Allegedly King Henry 8th came across Ann Boleyn and her Maids of Honor eating this light as air tarts, when he tried them he was so smitten he took the recipe and locked it up in the castle. Time went on and in 1850 a man named Newen built the Newens Tea House at the location it is today, however it was destroyed in the blitz. It was rebuilt on the same location and sits there today as the only place in the world the makes the unique little pastries.
We had our doubts about exactly how good they were, but we went to experience the history all the same. We had some amazing Russian Caravan tea, scones and clotted cream of course. And the pastries, and oh my heavens they were amazing. If you are visiting the Kew area, I personally think this needs to be a number one spot on your list.
Kew England itself is a district within the Richmond area of London. It had its role throughout history for drawing in royals, as well as artists and even sheltering individuals during the French Revolution. Today however it is mostly just a very nice, if not very expensive residential district. The train station is quite small, and once you pop outside of it you instantly feel the drawn to the area. Small shops, tree lined streets, beautiful well kept homes everywhere you look. There is very little noise and traffic. Just a lovely quiet part of town all around.
We wound up staying at the Kew Gardens Hotel, mostly for its proximity to both the gardens and the train station. It actually turned out to be even closer than I thought. For some reason the map made it look close but still a fair jaunt, but it turned out to be no more than a couple blocks from either. The hotel was more expensive than anywhere else we stayed, but it was well worth it for us. And still probably considered a budget room.
The hotel is both a restaurant, pub and a hotel. So it can get a bit noisy at night. If you want to stay here and are a light sleeper I would just suggest requesting an upper floor room. Otherwise the rooms are updated and very nice. The dining space is really lovely and the food top notch. The rooms come with wi-fi and breakfast which in and of itself is a feast. After our long day of travel and touring around Kew I took a nice long bath in the giant tub in my room and we woke up the next day to a breakfast feast that lasted us almost back to the states.
All in all I couldn’t have been happier with our stay in Kew and if we ever make it back will likely have to repeat a day at Kew Gardens since we didn’t actually manage to see it all. We will also most certainly we repeating our stay at the Kew Gardens Hotel.
If you ever find yourself around the Gorge in Oregon you will likely have been in or near The Dalles. It is often pronounced, much to our amusement here in Oregon, like the city in Texas, but is not and I am not a linguist so have no clue how to write out how to properly say it.
Regardless of pronunciation it is one of the larger towns along the Columbia River, having been established in the 1840s as a major rail and river depot for families coming into the area via the Oregon Trail. It was featured in ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ as the home town of Cheif. Bobbie the Wonder dog trotted through the area on his way home to Silverton Oregon. It had a US Mint and was home to the single largest bio-terror attack in US History. Moral of the story it is a much more interesting town than it may look upon driving by it on the freeway with quite a few nice establishments to go along with its rich history.
But my favorite thing about The Dalles is The Baldwin Saloon. Situated just off the main road downtown it can be hard to find but it should not be missed. The saloon originally opened in 1876 over the years it has also been a restaurant, a steamboat office, a warehouse, a coffin storage site, and a saddle shop. In 1991 it was finally restored back to its original state and reopened as a bar and restaurant. The owners have taken great pride in bringing it back to life by keeping the old that was worth keeping and decorating it with antiques of all kinds.
Not only is it quite a lovely little place the food is outstanding. They offer lunch and dinner with a large variety of sandwiches and filling entrees as well as vegan options a plenty. And given their location their wine menu is of course impressive and extensive. So if you ever find yourself near the area I highly suggest you stop in, it is in my opinion the best place in the area by far.
Being alone, without any means of finding things to do and in terrible weather can be a horribly defeating feeling while on vacation. I was certainly in danger of getting down on myself and feeling like I had wasted a lot of money for nothing on the first day of having had sat out on hiking.
But when the jewelry shop worker at Jon Weldon suggested I take shelter in a cafe up the street my whole day turned out. Goat Street Social is a rather small establishment that serves coffee, brunch, and lunch though I was only in it for the hot drinks and cake. I was lucky to find a table as it was entirely packed but I wedged my way in. After having removing as many wet layers as socially acceptable I set my things up to dry and enjoyed a nice pot of tea and some almond orange cake. I grabbed the only novel off the high shelf above my head and started reading about Ewan McGregor’s motorcycle trip from Scotland to South Africa.
I didn’t finish the book, though it was a decent read. The place started to get really busy and I didn’t feel right holding up the table any longer given I had finished what I came in for. I gave up my small table to a couple. I could tell the waitress wanted to make sure I was actually ready to leave and not feeling pressured but was immensely grateful to not have to turn another customer away.
I went back the next day as I once again chose to sit out the hike. The terrain was not going to be great for my more comfortable but also significantly less water proof shoes. So while I waited for my ride again I headed straight back up. This time choosing a cappuccino and the sticky toffee pudding. Which was to die for.
In researching information about the establishment it appears that there used to be a place called The Goat Street Cafe in its place which has since closed. The new cafe, Goat Street Social is however open, obviously since I went there…twice. They must be new given how little information is on the internet. The cafe can be found at Grove, Dingle, Co. Kerry, Ireland and is open 10:30 to 3pm seven days a week though it does close for bank holidays.
I have been to New Orleans a hand of times and I never tire of it. But as someone who doesn’t drink all that much, dislikes loud noises and crowds friends always ask what the draw to the city is. What else is there to do in New Orleans that doesn’t involve a 24 hour party? Among other things, eat of course!
Call me crazy but months and years after I have had a particularly good meal I dream of the foods and someday returning to experience them again. Acme Oyster House is one of those places.
Now it may look like an 80s florescent nightmare, it isn’t the fanciest place by any means and I could imagine a good many people cringing at the thought of stepping into the place let alone eating in it. I have in fact suggested this place to people before and they reported back that they chose to eat at a ‘nicer’ place. Big mistake!
So first things first right off the plane in November I marched my family down the side street and before they had a chance to protest asked for a table and sat down. I don’t eat shellfish but I have heard their oysters are top notch, they are after all called an oyster house. However I go for the po-boys.
About 20 minutes after sitting down the sandwiches were devoured and goofy looks of sheer ecstasy were plastered on my dining companions faces. I had converts! We almost went back but there are so many other places to eat we instead chose to equally dream sweet dreams of returning someday.
No the picture below is not blurry, the glass protecting the diners from the hot grill is just very greasy. Just goes to show you can’t always judge a restaurant by its atmosphere. Sometimes the very best places are a little rough around the edges.
Acme Oyster House
724 Iberville St, New Orleans, LA 70130 (just behind the Crown Plaza hotel in the French Quarter).
Open 7 days a week 10:30 to 10
You know when you travel how your schedule gets off and you just start to feel icky. Then on top of the schedule your eating is off because you don’t have your kitchen, your stores, your meal prep and you start to feel more off. I almost immediately start to feel like that. I LOVE food, all kinds, but my system seems to prefer simple unfussy foods. Mostly veggies, no sauces, simple fats and lean protein. This can be very hard to find when traveling, less so on the West Coast but still a challenge.
I was so pleased to find Tocaya on Sunset Blvd, right down the street from where we were staying. It is a build your own food type of place, mostly in theme of Tex-Mex but with the typical SoCal organic flair. I can take or leave the organic thing, but I did very much appreciate the simplicity of the food and the ability to add what I wanted and nothing more.
I ate here more than once in three days, I loved the outdoor seating. Cannot pass up the chance to sit outside in the mild California weather. And the food always left me feeling satisfied but not weighed down. Sword Fish salad for the win, olive oil dressing, simple greens, manchago cheese and mixed fruits/nuts. Perfection.
During my recent trip to Los Angeles I mentioned that I was mostly on foot. Which meant long days of a lot of walking. One such day wound up being 12 miles in total, I had intended to just walk to Greystone Mansion and back but as luck (and lack of planning) would have it I wound up at the mansion three hours before it actually opened. So I chose to hit the bricks and explore the area and if I could find a place to grab breakfast. I wandered around Beverly Hills for a while leering at beautiful homes.
I started to get hungry so I looked up a coffee shop, I wasn’t thrilled with my options there was a Starbucks or a extremely popular local place both still about a mile off. I toyed with the idea of just not eating but that seemed unwise. So I chose the local spot and headed in that direction. About a half a mile later I walked passed a small store front that just said ‘cafe’ on the awning. I was REALLY hungry at this point so I popped in.
The cafe’s name, La Conversation, I eventually figured out was a really excellent last minute choice. The wait staff sat me right away, at my choice of table. The coffee was delicious and strong. The menu had a lot of really great healthy options without being terribly unsavory (no green juice or other non-food foods). I settled in and enjoyed a leisurely brunch in this heavily antiqued restaurant.
I ended up wishing that I had more time in LA and more time at this end of the Sunset so that I could have gone back, but our time there was limited and I never got the chance to return. Hopefully in the future we will make our way back and I can revisit this charming little shop. Should you chose to give it a go, La Conversation can be found at 638 N. Doheny Drive West Hollywood, CA 90069.
I had the opportunity to go to New Orleans in 2017, but before that happened I had been craving good creole food (let’s be honest I am ALWAYS craving creole food). It’s not common in the pacific northwest. There are plenty of restaurants that claim to have it, but most fall fairly short in my opinion. If you find yourself in a similar situation in Portland proper Miss Delta on Mississippi Ave or her predecessor and slightly dive-ier cousin The Delta Cafe on Woodstock are my go-to places. I promise eventually I will get around to writing up reviews. Which means I have to visit and eat at both again. I am not in the least bit sorry about this.
But this is not about those restaurants, this is about a new restaurant. New to me and new to the valley area, Gem. I discovered it on accident, a very happy accident indeed. One day wandering around McMinville Oregon wishing I could find some decent cheesy grits. And then right there in front of me was a lovely little restaurant with cheesy grits on the menu.
The interior is very purple and gold. VERY. Which makes sense as those are two of the three official colors of Mardi Gras. It was quiet (blissfully), the service was prompt (even better) and the food was hot and delicious. We were given a nice table by the window to watch all the happy people wander around in the sun (a rarity for that time of year here).
We ordered many (most) of the appetizers, giddy to get to try some long craved goodies. They did not disappoint. The grits were the best I have had outside of the south. Just thinking about it is making me want to go back. I wonder how they would feel if I ordered ALL the grits to go? Fried Okra, Hush Puppies and Fries were of course also incredible.
Gem is situated next to La Rambla (my favorite Spanish restaurant in the states) at 236 NE Third Street in McMinville Oregon.
I have an affinity to hamburgers. I didn’t eat red meat for about 20 years and when I went back to eating it I did so with gusto. I LOVE HAMBURGERS. I can’t say that I am terribly picky either, I like fancy gourmet burgers, I like burgers with crazy toping, and I like flat greasy diner burgers from little hole in the wall places.
The Block House Café in Dayton, Oregon has a nice mix of all these traits and come out clean with a burger to suit all type of burger consumers (in my opinion anyway). But most importantly they offer a mini burger that is more suited to my stomach size.
As an added bonus the restaurant resides in the building of the former First Baptist Church of Dayton Oregon. It was built by a family who opened one of the first brick companies in the area and is one of the oldest standing brick buildings in the valley. It has been beautifully restored into a small dining facility with high ceilings, bright windows and a relaxed atmosphere. The wait staff was incredibly nice, and the menu aside from the hamburgers list boasts a large selection of sandwiches and a brunch menu to die for. They also have cinnamon roll pancakes, which are truly incredible. They are located on 301 Main Street in Dayton, open only for breakfast and lunch closing at three everyday.
After we ate we walked around the town, which is mostly just three shop lined streets that flank the main square park. It is a very small town. But it does have a surprising list of places to eat, none of which I have been to yet. One of which, Archie’s is a 1950s themed ice cream shop decorated to resemble the Archie comics I am so very fond of. Had I not been stuffed and it been a slightly warmer day I would have pounced on the chance to go in. Next time. There is always next time.