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Thursday, July 30, 2015

Recipe: Warm Apple Pie Bread with Cinnamon

Photo Courtesy of Spend with Pennies
Another recipe I saw on Facebook made it's way into my kitchen.  This one is compliments of Spend with PenniesWarm Apple Pie Bread with Cinnamon is a batter-type sweet bread that goes together pretty quickly, bakes around an hour and cools for a few minutes before serving.

It reminds me of an improved version of my mom's Bisquick coffee cake.  It is great warm and I bet really great with a cup of coffee.

I made the full butter version.  You can substitute applesauce for the majority of the butter but I didn't have any...and I like butter, so...ya know...butter it was.  Ends up being about 13 TB of butter...or just over a stick and a half.

I don't have a power mixer and it's a little challenging to cream sugar and butter by hand, but I did my best.  It was also a little challenging to get out of the loaf pan...even non-stick it's a challenge to get a loaf out that is a bit fragile when warm and you need it to stay right side up.  But I managed.

Warm Apple Pie Bread with Cinnamon

Ingredients
  • ½ tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • ⅓ cup white sugar
  • ⅔ cup brown sugar, divided
  • ¼ cup butter, softened
  • ¼ cup applesauce (note: you can use ½ cup butter and skip the applesauce if you prefer)
  • 2 eggs, well beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ⅓ cup milk
  • 1 large or 2 small apples, peeled and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a loaf pan.
  2. Combine ⅓ cup of the brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and set aside.
  3. With mixer on medium, beat white sugar, remaining brown sugar and butter until fluffy. Mix in applesauce. Add well beaten eggs and vanilla.
  4. Stir together flour and baking powder. Add flour to egg mixture and stir just until combined. Do not overmix!! Add milk.
  5. Pour half of the batter into a greased and floured loaf pan. Sprinkle with ½ of the apples and ½ of the brown sugar mix.
  6. Stir the remaning apples into the remaining batter and pour into the pan. Top with remaining brown sugar mixture.
  7. Bake approx. 40 minutes. Remove from oven, brush topping with melted butter. Continue baking an additional 5-10 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  8. Let cool 10 minutes and remove from pan.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Movie Review: Blue Jasmine

Blue Jasmine (2013) is categorized as an "American Dark Comedy Drama."  The film, is directed by Woody Allen and stars Cate Blanchette as a mentally unstable woman transitioning from the jet-set life to the world where the rest of us live.  Her tycoon husband (played by Alec Baldwin) is profiting greatly with one corrupt financial deal after another and philandering is way to the bank.  When she finds out about all the other women, she turns him in to the FBI and the walls on their rich life come crashing down.

The film flips forwards and backwards in time from retrospective to present day.

Cate Blanchett won an Academy Award as Best Actress.  I can see why.  She does a phenomenal job of truly convincing you of her character and her neurotic mental fragility.  You very nearly hyperventilate right along with her.

For me?  I don't see the draw or the value in the film.  There is very little redeemable or likable in any of the characters who all seem bent on self destructive behaviors.  There is nothing uplifting about the film, and to me...it meets criteria for "dark" but not for "comedy".  There is no resolution at the end either...it comes full circle back to where it began.  It's two hours of my life I'll never get back.  If you're after a great performance...see Blanchett in this.  If you're interested in an enjoyable movie...pick something else.

We rented this via Netflix.  Watch the trailer below or via this link.


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Motel Review: Econo Lodge Southeast in Milwaukie Oregon

We recently stayed at the Econo Lodge Southeast on McLoughlin Blvd in Milwaukie, Oregon.

We booked online, printed confirmation, and via email, requested an early check-in time if at all possible since we would be traveling 4 hours and then getting ready to attend and afternoon wedding.  They said they would try.  As it turns out, our room was ready around noon, which was perfect.  Their usual check in time is 3 p.m. so we appreciated it being ready earlier.

The property is on a very busy street but doesn't actually face that street.  The parking lot looked newly resurfaced and painted.  The outside of the motel, while certainly and older property was well-maintained and looked attractive.  The cost or our room, which was a double queen (we only needed a single queen) was, with tax, around $95.  I believe we stayed in room 160 which was downstairs. 

Our room also happened to be directly across from a washer and dryer, vending machines and the ice machine under a stairway.  You might want to avoid this room if you don't like the sound of laundry being done, ice buckets being filled and the foot traffic associated with that.  On the plus side, with the buffer of the entry area in the room with a half wall, the beds gained a little distance from the door.
kitchenette area

We checked-in, quickly changed and left.  We didn't return until nearly 1 a.m.

The room was clean and spacious.  It was a much bigger than average room.  Microwave and newer fridge and even a little kitchenette sink.  There was no in-room coffee if that makes a difference in your stay.

The bathroom had a separate vanity area with spacious counter top and the bathroom itself was larger than average.

There were two television sets in our room.  One in the kitchenette area, and one in the bed area.

sleeping area
The beds were not at all comfortable.  You can hear the springs moving and sproinging when you shift and you can feel them too.  They are quite low to the ground and I'm sure they have seen better days.  Way past time for upgrades in the beds...that IS, pretty much, one of the most important features in a motel...good beds.  The furnishings in general were old but in good shape.

We slept until after 8 a.m. and were not aware of people coming and going.  We were pretty tired though.  Overall, we were not aware of noise transfer between rooms.  My husband was aware of someone's thumping walking up above us, so sometimes and upstairs room is a good choice.

bathroom
The shower had good water pressure and all of the sinks drained well (which is sometimes a rarity).  The bath towels are really small...somewhere between a hand towel and a bath towel size and are rather threadbare.

The room's heat/cooling unit appeared to be reasonably new and reasonably quiet...it takes a little time for the room to heat/cool given that the unit is by the door and there is the partial wall separating the sleeping area from the kitchenette area, but that buffer also provided some sound barrier from the unit.  While the rooms are non-smoking, be aware that if people step outside their door to smoke in their doorway, as happened in the morning of our stay, the air conditioner unit will suck their fresh smoke directly into your room.  You could also tell that our room had been smoked in before...that old, stale, smoke smell.

A night light or a dimmer switch in the vanity area would have been a nice addition...because with the black-out curtains pulled and the lights off, it is absolute dark in the room.  Leaving the bathroom light on wasn't an option because it is connected to the fan that would then run all night.  Luckily, I try to travel with a dollar store night light...if I forget it...it only cost a dollar.

We did not partake of the "continental" breakfast.  Hubby said that consisted of a table in the cramped lobby with a coffee and rolls basically.

I didn't have any dealings with the front desk or witness check in or out.  Hubby didn't complain about the process so I assume it went smoothly.  I did call and speak with the front desk clerk as we rolled into town to see if our early check-in was going to work out.  I had a difficult time understanding his thick accent and he was a bit brusque.  Not rude...just not exactly bright and friendly.

Overall, for the price, the spaciousness, the good working order of things and the cleanliness, we would certainly consider staying here again.  I don't think we would count the breakfast as a plus, and beds and linens need to be upgraded (sheets were clean but like starched paper).


Monday, July 27, 2015

Recipe: Craving Beans

Photo Courtesy of Southern Plate
I saw this crock pot recipe on Facebook compliments of Southern Plate and it looked easy AND yummy.  A good combination.

After making it, I would say that I think I would have preferred carmelizing the onions first.  I think it would have tasted better.  But it would be an extra step and another pan to dirty...so I would have to think on that.  If I did it, I would also brown the hotdogs for added flavor and color.

I live in rural Northeast Oregon and I didn't find anything in our stores resembling a butter bean.  So in terms of my alterations to this recipe, I used organic dark red kidney beans, two cans of organic great northern beans, organic brown sugar, mustard and ketchup and 4 Aidell's natural chicken and apple dinner sausages.  OK...here's the recipe:

Craving Beans

Serves 4-6 as a main dish, 8-10 as a side dish (we say no more than 4 hungry people or two with a meal left over).

Ingredients:

16-28 ounce can baked beans with liquid (I went with 28)
15 ounce can kidney beans with liquid
15 ounce can butter beans with liquid (couldn't find so used two cans great northern beans)
2-4 weenies (I used 4 and more would have been even better...good quality...not pink eraser hot dogs)
1 onion, chopped (I used two...it made things a bit watery, more like soup but still good)
1 heaping TB of yellow mustard
1/2 cup ketchup
3/4 cup brown sugar (I think less might be better depending on the sweetness of your baked beans)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Instructions:

1.  Combine all ingredients in a 5-6 quart slow cooker or dutch oven and stir until well combined.
2.  If using slow cooker, cover and cook until thick and bubbly, 708 hours on low or 3-4 hours on high.
3.  If using a Dutch oven, cook over medium heat, stirring often, until mixture begins to bubble, Reduce heat to low ans simmer, uncovered until thick, about thirty minutes.

You can follow the Southern Plate blog/website and follow them on Facebook.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Restaurant Review: Burgerville in The Dalles Oregon

We have seen the billboards for Burgerville on our travels but have yet to stop.  July 19th, 2015 became the day to stop and see what the billboards are talking about.  Burgerville is a restaurant chain similar to Dairy Queen that is unique to Oregon and Washington.  The first one opened in 1960 and there are currently 40 stores.  They also source some regional, seasonal ingredients such as the Walla Walla Sweet Onion, or seasonal blackberries for shakes and such.

They were busy, and from what we could see on the road, everywhere we stopped was slammed on this hot (over 100 degree) summer Sunday.

The decor is slightly retro with old fashioned style Formica tables and colorful chrome chairs.

Hubby ordered just a cheeseburger.  I ordered the pepper bacon cheese burger.  We split some Walla Walla Sweet Onion rings, and we split a medium chocolate shake.

I'm going to call the food, highly average on the low side.  How's that for specific?  The bun on my burger got flat and mushy right away and tore while I was eating.  The quality of the burger was sub-par and made me feel a bit queasy as the day wore on.  Add to that, the "apple wood smoked pepper bacon" had no flavor of bacon OR pepper.  The onion rings start with beautiful, prime Walla Walla Sweet onions but then have a gritty, Burger King style breading on them that does little to let those sweet onions shine.  For about $3.79 there were 4 onion rings.  So nearly $1 per onion ring.  My milkshake was lower than McDonald's quality and came squirting out of a machine.  It was way too sweet.  I wasn't able to finish it and it probably was only about 10 ounces.  Me?  Not finish an ice cream product?  That's totally unheard of.  For our order of two burgers, one order of onion rings and one chocolate shake the total was over $17.  Too steep for the quality received.

As for the service...it was average.  Friendly enough staff.  Reasonable order delivery time.  They forgot to make the shake for our order so we had to wade back through line to get it.

I will concede that the place had obviously been busy.  But there was a large pop spill on the floor that received a "wet floor" sign but no clean up the entire time we were there.  Even some paper towels if they didn't have time to break out the mop and bucket would have been better than just leaving it there.  Tables were either all in use or dirty.  Most people bused their own tables and the empty tables hadn't been wiped.  Every waste receptacle both indoors and out was overflowing and the place wasn't very clean.  We decided to go elsewhere to use the restroom because if the eating area hadn't had any attention to cleaning...I didn't even want to see the restroom.

Been there...done that...don't need to come here again.  It didn't suck, but it wasn't worth the price or the hype people are giving it.  Honestly?  McDonald's has better quality food.


Saturday, July 25, 2015

Restaurant Review: Shari's in Gladstone Oregon

This is a stock photo...not necessarily the one we visited.
On a recent trip, we had breakfast at Sharis Restaurant in Oregon City, Oregon.  They are located at 1926 McLoughlin Blvd.

I'm going to guess it was around 9 or 10 a.m. on a Sunday morning.  They were plenty busy and we had to wait for a while for a table.  Sharis is one of those places that doesn't get a very good rap...they are Denny's-like, often with substandard ingredients.  But it was close, we were hungry and it was convenient.

Hubby ordered an omelet with either pancakes or french toast and an "appetizer" of a cinnamon roll.  I had the bacon and egg breakfast with bacon, scrambled eggs and two pancakes.  I had coffee and hubby had water.

This Shari's was clean, seemed either newly updated or to the newish side overall.  It seemed clean and the decor was pleasant.  Sharis are often located so that the entrance is a bit cumbersome to get to from the parking area...like the entrance faces street side and the parking is in the rear.  Kinda strange.

Our wait staff was friendly and attentive.  She delegated another server to bring my husband his cinnamon roll ahead of his meal but it was forgotten.  So he got it after the meal arrived.  Not earth-shattering, but not how he ordered.  Our meals were adequate.  The bacon is disappointing.  It is paper thin, rather flavorless, and more of a tease than actual bacon.  My eggs were cooked fine but may have been powdered eggs...the texture didn't seem like fresh egg.  The pancakes were a bit chewey and I only finished about half of the two small cakes.  The coffee was pretty darn good.

Overall, for what it is, I would return to this location in the future if we are in the area again.  Perhaps not as a first choice, but in a pinch, it sufficed.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Book Review: Blue Dahlia by Nora Roberts

Blue Dahlia (2004) by Nora Roberts is a work of women's fiction centering on the convergence of three women from different generations, rebuilding their lives.  They work on their independence while supporting each others steps.

And there's a woman ghost too...did I fail to mention that? And lots and lots of plants?  You had me at hello.

Of course, as with all of Nora's books...ho-hum...there is romance and some sex mixed in.  Would be nice to just stick to the main themes of women...but...it is what it is.

The three main female characters (and one wounded but powerful ghost) live together in a historic house which is also the property for a major nursery operation.

Apparently this is the first in a trilogy of the In the Garden series (In the Garden is also the name of the nursery in the book).

I like the way that Nora writes.  The characters are well-developed and so are the stories.  As always, I could do without the romance but that's just me.  To me it detracts from and diminishes the ideas of women and their independence to then pop love interests in who will take over some of the heavy lifting for them.  Nothing wrong with that per se, but it still implies that women need rescuing.

Because I don't yet know what will happen with the ghost, I would be willing to read the series.  I already see the handwriting on the wall for the other two female's love interests.  Yawn.  I won't throw the baby out with the bathwater though.  Bring it.