Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Summer Kitchen - Free Sample

The Summer Kitchen is going to be available on Amazon in print in 3-5 days and for Kindle and iPads tomorrow! I am so excited to share this with you all. It's been a great ride making this second cookbook and I'm loving learning how to do this. I love being able to create recipes and share them with everyone.

This book was all about summer produce and my favorite ways to eat them. From tomatoes and zucchini, to peaches and berries, I've got you cooking delicious food all summer long. I have appetizers, soups, salads galore! Desserts and drinks are also included :)

I'm also so excited to say that I wanted to give everyone a free sample of my book that has 12 of the recipes, one from each section. The ones I selected are some of my favorites, but it was so hard to pick just 12!

I have included these recipes:

Asian Crab Salad on Cucumbers

Roasted Veggie Salad with Crab

Hoisin Chicken Wraps

Grilled Summer Squash and Honey BBQ Chicken Sandwiches

Roasted Italian Cherry Tomatoes

Chocolate Zucchini Bread

Apricot Vanilla Soda

Blueberry Walnut Oatmeal

Cherry Lemon Soda

Lime Yogurt with Tropical Fruits

Cantaloupe and Mango Salad

Chia Seed Pancakes with Nectarines and Blueberries

Aren't you hungry now? I sure am! If you would like to download your copy of my free sample, click here! And please please please share that sample with everyone you know! I want as many people as possible to enjoy my food :)

Have a wonderful day!


Monday, August 25, 2014

Sauteed Kale with Crispy Potatoes

The other night I was in a rush for dinner and had no idea what to make. I had some kale leftover in my fridge, and some potatoes in my pantry, so I decided to make a simple sauteed kale with roasted potatoes for dinner. Plus I wanted to eat some of the potatoes again for breakfast since I have been craving a good potato hash for weeks now!

I absolutely love dinners like this. They are so simple, yet so filling for the stomach and the soul. The weather here has been trending towards cooler temperatures (Pumpkin Spice Lattes anyone??) so it felt good to eat some comfort foods after a summer of grilled veggies and salads.

Are you ready for comfort foods or do you prefer lighter fare like salads?

Sauteed Kale with Crispy Potatoes
serves 4

3/4 lb. potatoes, cut into medium sized cubes
salt and pepper
1 bunch kale, rinsed and roughly chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 c. white wine

Preheat oven to 400 F. Toss potato cubes with 1 tbsp oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Spread out evenly on a baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes until crispy, shaking pan every 5 minutes or so to prevent sticking. Remove from oven and set aside to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, in a large saute pan, heat 1 tbsp oil over medium heat. Add onions, garlic and bell peppers and cook for 3-4 minutes until onions are soft and bell peppers are crisp tender. Add kale and wine, and toss continually until kale has begun to wilt. Serve kale with potatoes on the side.

Like this recipe? Check out my cookbooks, The Spring Kitchen, available on Amazon in print and kindle formats.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Summer Vegetable Soup with Parsley Pesto

I have some really great news! My second cookbook, The Summer Kitchen, is almost done! It is being proof read and then it will be available on Amazon in print and kindle formats. Isn't that exciting?

In the meantime, I made a delicious summer vegetable soup that is very similar to Soupe au Pistou, a rustic Provencal soup that has a French version of pesto (they call it pistou) dolloped on top. I had a few extra tomatoes and zucchini from my cookbook photos, and I had seen this soup while browsing through a cookbook so I knew I had to make it!

My version of this soup has lots of vegetables, including zucchini, tomatoes, green beans, white beans, carrots, celery, onions, garlic and corn. For the pistou part of the soup, I blended together garlic, parsley and the leaves from the celery stalks with some olive oil to create a paste.  The celery leaves taste a bit like apples, which gives an extra dimension of flavor. The paste was delicious in the soup, but was also delicious smeared on some sourdough bread and placed under the broiler for a few minutes. It was so yummy I had a second bowl!

Summer Vegetable Soup with Parsley Pesto
serves 4

1/2 yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped, leaves reserved
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 tbsp salt
4 c. chicken or vegetable stock
1 zucchini, chopped
1 c. green beans, frozen
1 c. corn kernels, frozen
14 oz can white beans, drained and rinsed

2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 handful parsley leaves
celery leaves from above
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 c. olive oil

In a large stock pot, heat 1 tbsp oil over medium heat. Cook onion, garlic, carrot and celery pieces for 5 minutes or until soft. Add tomatoes, salt, and stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes, then add zucchini, beans and corn. Cook for another 10 minutes, adding beans during last 2 minutes. Turn heat to low and set aside while making pesto.

To make pesto, combine all ingredients in a food processor and process until a paste forms. Ladle soup into 4 bowls, then spoon a dollop of pesto on top of each. Serve with crunchy bread.

Like this recipe? Check out my cookbook, The Spring Kitchen, available on Amazon in print and kindle formats.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Glacier View

I'd like to start out this post with the comment that this hike had some of the best views I've ever seen since I started hiking. And to boot, it was a short 4 mile hike with only 900 feet of elevation. If you haven't done this one, go do it this weekend. I'm serious! It's outside the park boundary, so dogs are welcome.

I picked this one out of my guide book, Day Hiking: Mt. Rainier because it was near Mt. Beljica, both of which are off the Copper Creek Road. The Copper Creek Road is a little hard to find since there is only one little teeny sign that says "59," as in FS 59, aka Copper Creek Road. We passed by it on the way there, but turned around at the Copper Creek Inn (which has delicious pie, might I add!) and headed up the road.

The first mile or two were not the best. There were a lot of pretty deep potholes, but we were in a Ford Escape and it handled them no problem. The last few miles of the road were in really good condition, which was odd, since the first few miles were so bad.

The hike is at the very end of FS 59, which is about 8 or so miles in. I'd suggest bringing a paper map of the roads with you (Green Trails one worked great!) because there are a few side roads that split off and look like they could be the main road. The trail head is well signed and so is the rest of the trail.

For the first half mile or so, you get glimpses of Mt. Rainier and its beauty. Soon after, you head on the other side of the ridge where you won't see anything but trees and some mini-meadows until the very end of the hike. The view from the top is amazing! Even though it was hazy, I could clearly see Mt. Adams, Mt. St. Helens, the Olympics, and I could even pick out Tacoma! I'm sure on a clear day you could see the whole Puget Sound area!

I seriously did not want to leave, but Andrea had to get back home so we headed down to the car. It was a spectacular hike that left me wanting to go explore that area more.

Special Announcement!

I have a special announcement today! My second book, The Summer Kitchen, is now in the editing phase, which means I will have it finished early next week.

In addition, I have a special surprise for everyone! If you send an email to rachelvdolekkitchen@gmail.com with the subject "Free SK Preview" I will send you a free 12 recipe sample of my ebook. You know you wanna see the recipes!

Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Bench and Snow Lakes

The hike to Bench and Snow Lakes is not a hard hike, but when you add in heat and super bugs, it's not as much fun, but still just as beautiful.

It was a gorgeous sunny day, but a little too hot for my taste. We forgot the bug juice and suffered the consequences. The hike meanders up through the forest to a meadow area filled with snags. The snow was still lingering on some of the adjacent mountains, making it feel more like June, not July. We got to Bench Lake to discover that the shore was very overgrown and there was pretty much no where to stand. Onward we went.

Snow Lake was much prettier than Bench Lake, with that glacier blue color that I just love! The bugs at Snow Lake were just as bad, so we barely dipped our feet in before we left. Well, Mark went fishing for a bowl he saw at the bottom of the lake. Turned out it was a lot father down than he expected!

We decided to seek out a tarn that was mentioned in the guide book, so we followed the trail up into the boulders. Soon, there were no more bugs! I was so relieved. We continued up the hillside before coming to a nice flat rock to take a break. We contemplated going up this steep chute to bag Castle and/or Unicorn, but I was too tired and the snow in the chute was a little too melted to make an easy climb up.

So we settled for hiking back down into the bugs and accidentally got off course when we spotted a male deer just chilling near some rocks. We stood there in silence while watching him lay down in a spot that was obviously his. I took as many photos as I could! He was so beautiful!

We left the guy in peace and headed back to the trail. The bugs immediately swarmed us, so we began running (well, more like serious hobbling) down hill. We came across a few parties that were shocked at our sudden presence. One lady asked if there was a bear or something. Nope, just a lot of bugs!

We definitely learned that we needed to buy some bug spray, which we promptly did the very next day. I counted around 30 mosquito bites, not a record, but it was up there. I'd love to go back to Snow Lake in early fall, when there wont be as many bugs!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Camping at Wynoochee Lake

Back in January (before I changed my hiking list several more times), I made plans to camp at Lake Wynoochee with some friends and then hike the loop around the lake. I had never heard of Lake Wynoochee, but I figured, hey, it's camping at a lake and even if it's not that great of a lake, we are still going to be camping, so it's going to be awesome. And it was!

The lake is tucked back into the Olympic National Forest, about 34 miles from the nearest town of Montesano. The lake was created when they dammed the Wynoochee River in 1972 to provide flood control for the city of Aberdeen, but wasn't used for hydroelectric power until 1994. The Coho Campground on the shores of the lake was created for picnicking and camping.

I had never been there before, but I picked a site that was a walk-in at the far end of the walk-in sites, where I hoped that it would be quieter and less traveled, and it definitely was. The site was huge since it's capacity was for 12 people, but it was perfect for the 4 of us. The site is at the end of a short paved trail that made transferring our gear rather easy, although we made a mental note to bring a hand cart for the cooler since that was the heaviest item.

The lake had a nice little beach and swimming area where we lounged for several hours on both days. I waded in a little bit since the water was clear and I could see the bottom. Mark swam out to the line while Tonya enjoyed laying on her neon float. Kids and adults were swimming and barbequeing, but it wasn't very loud. After dinner, we enjoyed a nice sunset stroll to the dam and around the campground, then finished off the night with smores and a sleepy fireplace circle.

The next morning, Mark and I slept in while Tina wandered around and Tonya went fishing. All that talk about fishing has made me really want to get my fishing license again! We enjoyed a relaxing breakfast with lots of coffee for them and tea for me, then headed out on our hike. The hike around the lake is a long 16.5 miles, but I only wanted to do 3 miles to the first creek crossing since it was already getting hot out. We found where the other walk-in campground is, but decided our spot was much better. Soon after that, the trail became rather overgrown with salmonberries, salal and unfortunately, nettles. All of us got hit, but we later soothed our legs in the lake.

Check out wasn't until 2 pm, which was nice, but even after we packed up, we didn't want to leave. So we lounged at the lake a bit more. I suffered from some heat exhaustion, and was perfectly happy sitting in the shade while the other 3 relaxed in the sun. We finally packed up around 4 pm and headed home. We stopped at the Ranchhouse BBQ for some dinner and it was oh my gosh delicious. I had the brisket sandwich with garlic fries and beans, and split an ear of corn with Mark. I definitely recommend the place if you are on your way to the coast and need a bite to eat just outside of Olympia.

Overall, it was a great camping trip and I want to go back to that lake again next year. I have the serious camping bug and now I am planning as many camping trips as I can!

Where do you like to go camping?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Vegan Buttery Biscuits

Biscuits are notorious for being difficult to make. I don't see why, as I think they are fairly easy to make, as long as you measure everything out exactly. Making them vegan, however, makes for a whole new challenge. How do you make them light and fluffy without any milk or butter? My solution was to use a combination of vegan margarine and vegetable shortening. This gives them that buttery taste, plus the fluffy lightness.

These are the perfect breakfast biscuit, great with some homemade strawberry or raspberry jam.

Vegan Buttery Biscuits
makes 10 biscuits

2 c. AP flour
1 tbsp baking powder
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 tsp salt
6 tbsp butter or vegan butter (I used Earth Balance)
2 tbsp vegetable shortening
2/3 c. almond milk

Preheat oven to 450 F. Combine flour, baking powder, sugar, cream of tartar and salt in a large bowl. Cut in butter and shortening with a pastry blender or two knives until butter is the size of peas or smaller. Pour all of the milk into the batter and mix together using a fork until just moistened. (There will still be some dry ingredients that don't get mixed in and that's ok).

Pour dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead 4 to 5 times just to combine the dough a little better. Roll the dough out to 1/2" thick then cut dough with a 2.5" cookie cutter. Place biscuits on an ungreased baking sheet with room between them and bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool then enjoy with your favorite jam.

Recipes adapted from Menus in Minutes

What do you do with the leftover dough? I usually cut it into small pieces then roll them in sugar and cinnamon and bake for 5 minutes to make little mini biscuit bites.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Cilantro Roasted Potatoes

I love roasted spuds. Who doesn't? I also love to find new recipes to give them a little extra kick. I came across a parsley buttered roasted potato recipe, which I thought sounded delicious, but I wanted to do something a little different. I had cilantro in my fridge, so voila! Cilantro roasted potatoes. They were delicious and perfect with a nice fillet of grilled salmon. Yum!

Cilantro Roasted Potatoes
serves 4

1 lb. baby red potatoes
1/4 c. olive oil, split in 2
salt and pepper
1 large handful cilantro, chopped

Heat oven to 450 F. Place potatoes in a microwaveable dish, then microwave for 2 minutes. Meanwhile, in a ceramic baking dish, pour in half of the olive oil (2 tbsp) and add 1/2 tsp salt. Add potatoes, shake pan to get potatoes to roll and coat with oil, then bake in oven for 15 minutes or until crispy on the outside. Remove from oven and pour the other half of the olive oil over (2 tbsp) and sprinkle over potatoes. Shake pan to get potatoes to roll and coat with oil and cilantro. Serve hot.

Like this recipe? Check out my cookbook, The Spring Kitchen, available on Amazon in print and kindle formats.

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