Aug 262014
 

My besties planned my bachelorette party. I had no idea what they were planning. My maid of honor, Rachel, set up a private Facebook account for her and the other ladies involved to discuss and plan in secret. Even when the day finally came, I had NO idea what was planned other than it wasn’t going to be your typical party–doing shots, staying out all night, going to clubs, etc etc. I was a-okay with that. I am getting older and the idea of doing shots sounds awful and even more awful? Trying to stay awake until 2am! Gawd I’m old. I’m not a huge fan of surprises because I am such a control freak, but it was kind of nice not being involved in any of the planning and just anticipating the event. Rachel said it was going to be a “day of shit Lisa loves”.

I did a quick mini workout at the gym Saturday morning, had a small breakfast and Michael drove me downtown to meet up with friends. It was Rachel (maid of honor), the bridesmaids: Erika, Robyn and my cousin Anna, as well my friend Samantha who is doing a reading at the wedding. We all arrived and we got in the tour van for EverGreen Escapes. It was driven by Dylan, who was very fun and nice and a great tour guide! He asked if I wanted to know what the day itinerary was and I said no. It was kind of fun being surprised! We drove towards the Gorge and he told us some historical and ecological things about the area that I hadn’t known before, as well as some of the Native American legends surrounding the “origins” of landmarks. Then we came to our first stop.

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It was a view point up by Vista House that I’ver never been to. We all hopped out and he took a few pictures for us then the girls decided it was time to deck me out with my outfit for the day. :)

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Then we got back in the van and went by Vista House and then down the old highway to the Bridal Veil post office! Remember, the one I was going to mail my invitations from? It was so cute in person!

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After seeing that Dylan drove us down a hidden road and we all got out in the middle of nowhere. It was weird and then he said that Sam had brought a bottle of champagne so she opened that up and he poured glasses for all of us and there were cookies too! Little macaroons. They were so tasty.

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We hiked a little ways up a hidden path and then we were at the Bridal Veil Falls. I’m surprised Michael and I haven’t hiked this one before. It was really pretty and quiet.

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After that we stopped by another waterfall along the highway and he said the next one was usually Multnomah Falls but we all said to skip it. We’ve all been there and done that and on a weekend in the summer? It’s a nightmare with no parking and too many people. As it was we sat in traffic for a bit trying to get through it all to get past the Falls! So instead he took us to Starvation Creek. Another hike I hadn’t known about!

It was lunch time so we drove to Hood River and stopped at this restaurant/deli. I don’t remember the name of it now but we got everything to go because it was so crowded and loud and Dylan drove us up to a viewpoint in the Fruit Loop. That was a much better idea! We sat outside in the sunshine and had like a picnic lunch, complete with a bottle of Pinot Grigio. There was a gorgeous view of Mount Hood behind us.

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When we finished up lunch they asked me if I knew what were doing yet. I said it was probably wine tasting. :) I was right! Dylan drove us to the first winery, Wy’East. It’s in the “Fruit Loop” in Hood River and they have really nice wines. Michael and I have been there once before.

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It turned out we had a private tasting and were seated on the patio underneath a big umbrella and vines of wine grapes. They brought out a snack plate of gouda cheese, crackers, toasted hazelnuts and salamis. We did the wine tasting and I really enjoyed all the wines we tried, even the Chardonnay (which I’m not really a fan of normally). I ended up buying a bottle of their Pinot Gris.

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I was not a fan of the Port so I poured that into Robyn’s glass. :) We made it work sharing stuff we didn’t like. The patio was so nice and there was a cool breeze. The day was warming up but it was just wonderful drinking wine outside in the sunshine. There were even a few cute winery puppies! Here was one that apparently loved cheese and salami. :)

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After Wy’East we went over to Cathedral Ridge, one of my favorites in the Gorge. I was a little worried because the weekends in the summer time are kind of a nightmare for wine tasting. Too crowded, too busy. But we were ushered to a back patio, shaded, for a private tasting!

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There was one white wine, that I loved and almost bought a bottle of. The rest of the flight was red wines. This is what happens when you go wine tasting with my cousin Anna:

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Usually when Michael and I go wine tasting together we split tastings. It’s more affordable AND I’m a lightweight so I don’t totally sloshed by sharing a tasting. But yeah, this day? I definitely got drunk!

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After the wine tasting we had some time before we had to head back to Portland (I am glad we only went to two wineries). Some of the girls pitched in for a bottle of red and we all shared it while we sat on a couch near the gorgeous view.

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It was such a gorgeous day! The weather was perfect, the wineries were gorgeous, the food was good. I had so much fun with my ladies and it was definitely something I needed after some of the UBER STRESS I’ve been dealing with lately. There was so much drama and stress and disappointment with a wedding vendor but I was able to completely forget about all that stuff and just enjoy my day. I was grateful I had such wonderful friends to help with that.

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And I was grateful that my friends chose the PERFECT day for my bachelorette party. They know me so well. This was a memorable trip and something that I probably wouldn’t have thought of myself. It was out of the ordinary for a bachelorette party and I loved it! Our tour guide, Dylan, was also a rockstar. Great sense of humor, wasn’t freaked out about a bunch of cackling hens drinking a lot of wine. ;) He drove us back to Portland and dropped us off at Rachel’s hotel downtown and gave us each a big hug and me a congratulations. What a great tour!

Sam had to take off and the rest of us ladies went up to Rachel’s room to freshen up before dinner. We walked a few blocks to Henry’s Tavern where we had reservations. It’s funny, we ran into two other bachelorette party groups. One of them asked to take a picture with me because part of their bachelorette scavenger hunt was to get a pic with another bride to be. ;) Thank god I didn’t have to do any of that stuff!!! Hahaha!

I definitely did not need any more alcohol but I ended up getting a beer with dinner–Boneyard RPM. I saw my beloved Boneyard on the menu and just HAD to…! Thankfully we’d all been drinking a lot of water all day and I drank like 8 pints with dinner, too!

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We all shared an order of Henry’s famous onion rings and I ordered their small burger with a side of Caesar Salad. LOVED their Caesar. It was just a bunch of romaine lettuce that they grilled, drizzled Caesar dressing on and then salted. It had a wonderful salty, smoky flavor.

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Dessert was on the house! That was very nice of Henry’s Tavern. Even though I was SO STUFFED I couldn’t think about eating anything more, I ordered the chocolate brownie sundae. It had ice cream, whipped cream and salted caramel. Thankfully everyone helped me eat it!

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After that we made a quick trip to the Spartacus store and then back to the hotel. Thankfully I was home and in bed by 10:30. No 3am here! I am really glad we didn’t do something traditional. It was a very long, very wonderful day and I could not wait to go to sleep. :)

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Aug 252014
 

We got roma tomatoes this year in order to make salsa. It was a little early for tomatoes. I had about one bowl full of ripe tomatoes which came out to be almost 2 pounds (almost 5 cups, which the recipe called for. I was 1 cup off so I added one can of diced tomatoes to make it 5 cups). The jalapenos and anaheim peppers also came from our garden. I had a mixture of green and red jalapenos.

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I found this recipe online and it turned out to be very similar to the recipe in the canning cookbook that came with my kit. I had 6 new jars for canning. I followed the instructions and ended up filling 5 jars (and two of them weren’t as full as they could have been). It was weird that there was a discrepancy between the servings it created. But anyways, here is the recipe:

Zesty Salsa

Prep Time: 1 hour

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes

From: http://www.freshpreserving.com/recipes/zesty-salsa

Ingredients

  • 5 cups chopped cored peeled tomatoes (about 13 medium)
  • 2-1/2 cups chopped seeded green bell peppers (about 2 large)
  • 2-1/2 cups chopped onions (about 3 to 4 medium)
  • 1-1/4 cups chopped seeded chili peppers, such as hot banana, Hungarian wax, serrano or jalapeño (about 7 medium)
  • 3/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 to 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp finely chopped cilantro
  • 1-1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp hot pepper sauce, optional
  • 3 (16 oz) pint or 6 (8 oz) half pint glass preserving jars with lids and bands

Instructions

  1. PREPARE boiling water canner. Heat jars and lids in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil. Set bands aside.
  2. COMBINE tomatoes, green peppers, onions, chili peppers, vinegar, garlic, cilantro, salt and hot pepper sauce, if using, in a large stainless steel saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring frequently, until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.
  3. LADLE hot salsa into hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if necessary, by adding hot salsa. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Apply band until fit is fingertip tight.
  4. PROCESS both pint and half pint jars in a boiling water canner for 15 minutes, adjusting for altitude. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not flex up and down when center is pressed.
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It was very time consuming but fun. I put on some music (which may or may not have been Miami Sound Machine and Cyndi Lauper) and got started. First I prepped the stuff I needed to chop. I diced the onion (using red and yellow), minced garlic and then got some latex gloves (smart! smart!) to dice up the jalapenos.

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Then came time to clean and prep the jars. I let them simmer to keep warm while I took care of the tomatoes. I had no idea it was so difficult to skin the tomatoes. I went to Google and found a video that showed some tricks and used one of them: add the tomatoes to almost boiling water, let them sit in the hot water for a minute or two then add them to a bowl of cold water. They were super easy to peel then.

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Once everything was chopped and ready, I put the mixture into another pot and cooked it for like 10-12 minutes or so, per the instructions.  It smelled so good! Our jalapenos are very spicy, so I bet the salsa is gonna be spicy…even so, I did add a small splash of Aardvark sauce to the mixture (it said you could add some hot sauce). I mixed it constantly while it cooked.

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I also added a little bit of this stuff:

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It’s a salsa mixture meant for canning. It basically has some spices (onion powder, garlic powder) and dehydrated green bell peppers. It smelled pretty good. I mixed it all in and once it was done cooking it was time to ladle the salsa into jars. This was the hard part, honestly. The jars were flaming hot, the openings were really small and too small for the ladle. I put on my oven mitts and that made it even harder to hold onto the jars. But despite that, I was able to get everything into the jars.

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I put the jars into the giant pot to seal. When I took them out after 20 minutes only one of the four was sealed properly. I was super bummed out and then a minute later, POP. The other three sealed. It was very weird! So they all sealed properly. I let them cool all evening and then into the pantry they went. One jar that I did not seal went into the fridge for later testing. :D I also made some more of those amazing pickled red onions I did and sealed them in the canning kit to have later this winter.

How was the salsa?

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It smelled amazing! I was excited to give it a go so Michael and I made nachos for dinner. Just simple nachos with Colby Jack cheese, black olives, and pickled jalapenos from the garden. Had some sour cream and my salsa on the side for dipping.

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The salsa was GREAT! It tasted so good and wasn’t too spicy, something I worried about using our jalapenos (which are exceptionally hot this year). Loved the salsa! It was definitely a success. Action shot:

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Yum! The salsa was great, or in the words of my future husband “that salsa was fucking awesome.” I am excited that it was a success and plan on making more. The one downside is that it is SO time consuming. It took me about 3 hours to do the whole process and only got 5 jars out of it. I think once the tomatoes are all ripe, I’ll do another batch of salsa and then focus on just canning the tomatoes whole to make sauces with later.

Do you have a favorite canning or salsa recipe to share?

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