Basking In The Sun At The Park

A couple weeks ago, I found a hidden gem of a park about 3 blocks from my apartment building. Well, not exactly hidden, I just didn’t know it was there. I moved into the community in 1997 and the area has always been a big empty field with a dog park on one end and a children’s museum and animal shelter at the other. I just haven’t taken time to walk out see what is there in a long time. Well, last week I was having a rough day and decided to walk to the a thrift store a couple blocks from my apartment to see if they had any stuff for my tea nook and treat myself to a Big Mac and fries. After that I still wasn’t ready to go home so I decided to walk around the field to the dog park. When I came to the end of the trail leading to the dog park, I was absolutely amazed to see how they are transforming this space. There are many different places where they planted flowers around a theme like, butterfly garden, a,b,c garden, and fairy garden. They put in tables and chairs on a patio like space and put in a little covered shelter with a picnic table. There are benches all over the place and statues tucked into unexpected places. The flowers were amazing so many kinds I had never heard of but they perfumed the air. I found a bench and sat there in the sun for a very long time just feeling the sun, smelling the flowers and watching the various animals run through the park. It is my new favorite place.

Yesterday, I decided to take my camera, and my bearded dragon friend, River, and have a photo shoot in the park. I am really delighted with how the pictures turned out so I decided to share them here.

uy it’s been a long, tough road, but i think we made it, bud.

look how handsome you look!

– steph

It is hard to believe, looking at River now but when my friend, Steph, went to get this little guy he was starving to death and very ill with a fungus that took 8 months of daily treatment and many, many visits to the vet to get rid of. River will bear the scars of his neglect on his tail and back of his hind legs forever. River is now one spoiled bearded dragon.

Ready for your close up, huh bud?

I am endlessly fascinated by the pattern of River’s scales, especially how the scales, exactly where his lips would if he was human look like he is puckering up for a big kiss.

little dragon, big personality

When I came upon this little bumble bee her butt was towards me. I told her that I wasn’t interested in taking pictures of her little bee booty. I wanted pictures of her beautiful bee face. The bee immediately turned around towards the camera. I was amazed that the bee let me get so close to her. I didn’t have my telephoto lens so I was maybe 6 inches away from her when I took these pictures. She paid me absolutely no mind what so ever.

This butterfly on the other hand, jumped away from me every time I breathed. I was amazed I actually got a good picture of him.

I will be going back to the park regularly to sit in the sun and recharge my batteries.

Korean Style Stir Fry Sauce

One of the things I love about my home town is there a lot of ethnic grocery stores in the area. There are several Asian markets, a European market, an African market, an Indian market, a Balkan market and probably even more I don’t know about as I know about most of the markets by word of mouth or through one of my explore the city walks.

I love spending time walking up and down the aisles, looking at stuff and picking new stuff to try. Sometimes, I get lucky and find an absolute treasure like this Tea Masala, that makes a Masala tea exactly like the one I love at my favorite ethnic restaurant, the Himalayan Yak. Other times, I don’t get so lucky and bring home Durian flavored cookies. If you never heard of Durian, it is a fruit that supposedly tastes delicious but smells like something rotting. It is bad and I just had cookies. I can’t imagine what a whole fruit smells like. But by far, I have had more positive shopping experiences at ethnic markets then bad ones. Trying new things is always a chance no matter where you shop.

My current favorite ingredient that I bought at the Asian market is Gochujang, a Korean hot pepper paste. This ingredient was way outside my culinary comfort zone because I am a hot spice wimp. The first time I used Gochujang in a recipe I was expecting it to blow the top of my head off like a scotch bonnet pepper. Instead, it has a pleasant heat and earthiness that I really like.

I found the recipe for this simple stir fry sauce by googling easy stir fry sauces. I was so excited to try it Because I love a good stir fry sauce and it did not disappoint. I don’t know how authentic my vegetable choices were to Korean food, I used Bok Choi, green beans and white mushrooms, but it was delicious.

A Few Tips For Shopping At An ethnic market:

  1. Be respectful. You are going to see things in ethnic markets you don’t see in your average grocery store. The words yuck, ick, or that’s disgusting should never leave your mouth. Just move on to the next thing or leave the store. This shouldn’t even need to be said but after watching two people throw an absolute fit because they couldn’t find “American” food in an Asian market I guess it does.
  2. Google and Google translate are your friends. You won’t know what a lot of the items are on the shelves, although some will be very familiar. Google products to find out what they are. Snap a picture of the ingredients or directions if they are in another language and run them through Google translate to see whats what.
  3. Step outside your culinary comfort zone and try something new. Some of my favorite things to cook with like Furrikake, Gochujang and Kimchi, have all become my favorites because I just picked them up and tried them. I had no idea what to do with them at first. I just googled the item for recipes, picked one and tried it. It has lead to many really enjoyable meals.

Korean Style Stir Fry Sauce

2 1/2 TBS Gochujang (Korean hot chili paste)

1 1/2 tsp soy sauce

1 1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil

1 1/2 tsp sugar

1 1/2 tsp rice wine vinegar

1 tsp Gochugaru (Korean red pepper flakes)

In small bowl, combine all the ingredients and mix well

Instant Pot Bison Roast

On Saturday I went to the Farmer’s market with my friend, Steph. I wasn’t planning on buying anything. I just needed to get out of the house for awhile. Of course that meant I came home with a Bison chuck roast and about 5 pounds of yellow baby potatoes. I have never eaten Bison before, much less cooked it so I had no idea what I was going to do with this roast. Why do I do this to myself?

As always, when I have an ingredient I haven’t cooked with before, I search the internet to see the possibilities. This time the internet failed me there just aren’t many people posting Bison meat recipes on their blogs. So I decided to crowdsource some ideas from a tea group I belong to on Facebook. What does Bison have to do with tea? Absolutely, nothing, but the group is a supportive community that posts about everything not just tea. I got some great information and links to information.

One of the links was to a site called Rock River Bison that had a recipe I adapted using what I had on hand as I didn’t have the specific rubs they used in the video. I had decided to use my pressure cooker before I saw the video. Bison is very lean so it overcooks and dries out easily. You need to cook it low and slow in in the oven or crockpot for hours to prevent that or use a pressure cooker that makes it more difficult to over cook. I didn’t have hours. I was hungry now so pressure cooker it was.

It was so worth the wait. The meat was very tender and juicy, not dry at all. It would be very easy to adapt this recipe to use other sauces and spice rubs. How about teriyaki sauce, 5 Spice powder and rice vinegar or salsa, taco seasoning and apple cider vinegar?

I added a little sauce to some of the shredded meat and served it over a bunch of the baby yellow potatoes I baked. I have also served the shredded meat and sauce over pasta lot in a sandwich like the picture.

Instant Pot Bison Roast

Adapted from Rock River Bison

2-3 TBS of your favorite meat rub, I used Primal Palates BBQ Rub

1 cup of your favorite BBQ sauce, I used 8.5 oz bottle of Primal Kitchens Classic BBQ sauce

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

2 lb Bison chuck roast.

If your pressure cooker has a saute setting, set it to high and let it preheat. If it doesn’t have a saute setting, heat a frying pan over high heat. While the pan is heating, cut your roast into steaks, season both sides with the whatever spice rub you are using. When your pan is hot add a little oil and sear the roast on both sides.

Add the seared roast to the liner of the pressure cooker. Add more spice rub to the meat and use your hands to coat the meat evenly. Add your BBQ sauce and vinegar. Close the lid and turn the vent to the closed position. Set the pressure cooker to high pressure and cook for 45 minutes. When the meat is done cooking. Natural release until the pin goes down. Remove the Bison to a plate and shred with two forks.

Spicy Coleslaw

This stack of new to me cookbooks is making me so happy! They are all by my all time favorite cookbook author, Mark Bittman. I have been cooking from his various incarnations of How To Cook Everything for over 20 years. I have made literally, dozens of his recipes of over the years and many of those recipes have made it to my favorites list. One of my cooking goals is to have every cookbook Mark Bittman has ever written. Adding these cookbooks to my collection gets me really close to accomplishing that goal.

I made a BBQ Bison roast last night and needed a quick and easy side dish so I made this coleslaw from one of my new Mark Bittman cookbooks. This is not your typical Midwest coleslaw recipe as there isn’t a drop of mayonnaise to be found. Instead Mark Bittman uses a basic vinaigrette to season and sauce the coleslaw. Its a refreshing change from the waterlogged, stodgy coleslaws that I grew up with.

You can use any type of cabbage here. I had some Napa cabbage so that is what I used.

Spicy Coleslaw

Adapted From How To Cook Everything The Basics

1 TBS Dijon mustard

1 TBS Balsamic Vinegar

1/4 cup olive oil

1 1/2 tsp sugar

3 cups cored and shredded cabbage

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1/2 cup scallions, chopped

salt and pepper, to tast

Whisk the mustard and vinegar together in a small bowl. Slowly, whisk the oil into the the vinegar/mustard mixture. Once the oil is combined add the sugar and whisk until dissolved.

Combine the cabbage, peppers, and scallions, toss with the dressing. Season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.

Gado Gado Dip

My friends don’t believe me when I say this but sometimes I don’t feel like cooking. This week I cooked exactly twice. I made blueberry waffles one morning and a stir fry for dinner which was basically leftover rice and a bunch of random stuff from the fridge. The rest of the week I have been living on cereal, delivery, and this dip. The dip is good on raw veggies or on chips. Here is hoping that I feel more like cooking next week.

Gado Gado Dip

1/4 – 1/2 tsp chili flakes

1/2 clove garlic, mince

1/4 cup peanut butter, I subbed Sunbutter. You could also sub another nut butter.

1 1/2 TBS lime juice

1 1/2 TBS brown sugar

1 TBS fish sauce

1 1/2 tsp soy sauce

2 TBS hot water

salt, to taste

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well.