I’ve had several requests for this recipe, which has evolved over time, and tastes different every time, depending on the bottom layer, type of cheese uses, and heat of the Anaheim peppers. Many of the steps below can be done simultaneously.
- 6-8 Anaheim peppers
- 6-8 tomatillos
- 1 jalapeno pepper
- Olive oil cooking spray
Line a cooking sheet with foil. Place oven rack in the top position, and turn the oven onto to broil. Lightly coat the peppers with cooking spray. Toss in oven. Watch the pepper, and turn once or twice until charred or the skin starts to blister.
Place the peppers in a plastic bag, twist the bag to seal and place on counter. Allow the tomatillos to cool.
- 2-3 bell peppers (could be a combination of green, orange, red, and yellow)
- 1 large or 2 medium onions
- 1 bunch of spinach
Reserve a chunk (half a medium onion), then thinly slice the peppers and onions. Wash then wilt the spinach on the stovetop or microwave. Squeeze the water out of the spinach and chop. Lightly mix onions, peppers and spinach and place in large, flat casserole dish.
- Jalapeno from step 1
- Tomatillos from step 1
- Onion from step 2
- 4-6 cloves of garlic
- Bunch of cilantro
- Favorite Mexican seasoning
Remove the jalapeno from the plastic bag, and run under cold water as you peel off the skin, and remove the seeds. Puree in a food processor the jalapeno, tomatillos, onion, garlic, lightly chopped cilantro, and a generous sprinkle of Mexican seasoning. I’ve been using up some Sauza Salsa Seasoning Mix I got as a gift. It contains onion flakes, black pepper powder, salt, garlic, chili, and Sauza Tequila flavor.
Taste the sauce to determine if it needs more flavoring. Pour over the peppers, onions, and spinach in step 2.
- Anaheim peppers from step 1
- 1 pound of white cheese. My favorite is fresh oaxaca.
Under running water, carefully peel off the skins and remove the seeds from the Anaheim peppers. Don’t worry if they split apart or you can’t remove all the skin.
Fill each pepper with a generous strip of cheese. Fold into a neat package, and layer down the casserole. At this point, you can refrigerator the casserole until you’re ready to proceed to the next step.
Grate left-over cheese.
- 4-6 eggs
- Grated white cheese
Turn your oven to 400°. Separate the eggs. Beat the whites until they’re stiff (i.e. you can turn the bowl upside down, and the eggs don’t move). Beat the yolks until creamy. Gently fold the yolks into the whites. Pour over the casserole and smooth. Sprinkle on the cheese.
Place in 400° oven for 15 minutes until the top is lightly browned. Lower the heat to 350°. Bake for another half hour or so until you can see the vegetables on the bottom bubbling.
Serve with refried beans or brown rice.
Every year, Rich surprises me with a get-away for my birthday. This year, he upped the game, keeping a tight lip until the last possible millisecond.
The weekend started on Friday evening with Rich telling me to pack a light bag for the weekend. We then visited Qdoba, where I had a burrito bowl with flavorful brown rice, tequila chicken, roasted vegetables, and corn salsa. Yum!
Coldstone was our next stop for my favorite: Coffee ice cream, crushed Health bars, almonds, and caramel syrup. It doesn’t get any better!
After arriving in our house in Mount Vernon, our weekend get-away, I took a quick look around the yard, delighting in my emerging peonies, blooming spring bulbs, and other plants, starting to awaken in the warmer weather. I then scurried into the house, plopped on the futon, and l waited for Rich to select that evening “important” TV viewing. We’ve been watching the British series, Happy Valley. Following tradition, Rich and I both snoozed through the program. The older we get, the more Friday nights are for napping with the blaring TV as a lullaby.
Meanwhile, Lolitta (Lynx-point Siamese) and Lila (Angora), who are seasoned car travelers, race down the hallways, excited to be the only cats in the household. Our other four cats, left behind in Kirkland, probably break out the catnip and tuna juice as soon as Lolitta and Lila are loaded in the car. Cats can be catty, and ours are extra bitchy.
Saturday morning, we went to McDonalds’ for our ubiquitous Egg McMuffins and iced coffees. Rich then aimlessly drove around downtown Mount Vernon, while I kidded him that my surprise trip was to camp in our motorhome, parked in the driveway of our Mount Vernon house. Not a word escape from his lips.
He then turned into the Amtrak station, and I screamed, “We’re taking a train. We’re taking a train!!! Are we going north to Canada or south?”
Not a word came from his inscrutable lips.
After a short wait outside the station — because the guard hadn’t shown up that morning to open the stations — we went inside where we struck up a conversation with a man from Canada. The day before he had driven down to attend a Bernie Sanders event. However, his car conked out, and he was trying to get back to Canada since the repairs couldn’t be made on his car until Monday morning.
It should be noted. The Washington caucus coincided with my birthday week. I’d registered to attend, and had looked forward to casting a vote. I made it very clear to Rich that my celebration better be fabulous to miss out on an opportunity to vote for Bernie!
Riding a train evokes simpler times when people weren’t tethered to electronic devices, and entertainment was watching the passing scenery, reading a book, playing a game of checkers with the person opposite, or busying your hands with knitting or crocheting. Travel took days and not hours. It was a cherished opportunity to get dressed up, sit back, and relax.
Even though most people today start the journey with a smart phone or tablet tucked in their pocket, purse or bag, within a few minutes, stretched out in a wide seat, with plenty of leg room, and no one fussing over the size of their carry-on luggage and where to stash it overhead, they loosen up, talk to the people around them, peek out the window, walk around, or get something to eat from the dining car.
The porters in their perky Pullman caps greet each passenger, collecting tickets, assigning seats, and moving people to make their journey more pleasant. On our way back to Mount Vernon, the porter assigned us two sets of seats. Going to Seattle, we were on the east side of the train, and then switched to the west to watch the sunset as slender-legged herons swooped over the Puget Sound, sea birds bobbed in the water, and an occasional seal popped its head up, perhaps observing the people on the shore, parents with their kids, pet owners with happy dogs frolicking in the water.
Unlike plane travel, people on trains become more amiable as the hours pass. Going to Centralia, we were seated behind a young couple with a young son, and bouncy 2-year girl who kept peered around the seat, stretching out her hand so we could shake or playfully grabbing the sweater off my lap. The family was heading to Kelso, Washington for Easter.
Across from us were two young boys, traveling with their grandmother. Unlike the parents in front of us who pointed out interesting landmarks to their kids, the boys missed the sites, along with the rumbling and swaying of the train. Both were wearing headphones and watching a cartoon on a laptop. When they weren’t tuned-out, they were eating copious amount of store-bought food, dropping the wrappers on the floor.
With numerous stops at cities and towns along the way, it took nearly four hours to reach Centralia, 84 miles south of Seattle.
With a population of less than 17,000, Centralia was founded by George Washington, an African-American free man who was the adopted son of Missourian J. G. Cochran who in 1850 filed a donation land claim on what is now Centralia. Two years later, he sold the town site to Washington who filed a plat for the town of Centerville, offering lots for $10 each.
The town as officially incorporated as Centralia on February 3, 1886. The largest employer in the area was TransAlta Corporation, which operated the Centralia Coal Mine. In November 2006, they eliminated 600 coal mining jobs. Fortunately, the cuts didn’t impact the town longer-term, and today, has one of the lowest unemployment rates in Washington, bolstered by the opening of a Millard Refrigeration Service facility (temperature-controlled storage, warehousing, and distribution) and Lowe’s Distribution Center, along with the rejuvenation of the downtown area.
Smack dab in the middle of downtown Centralia is the Union Depot, which has undergone extensive restoration and has vintage wooden benches, oak trim, bright white subway tiles, ornate plasterwork, and framed vintage photos. You need a token to use the restrooms, and in my excitement of having arrived, I used my token to enter the men’s room. I quickly realized my mistake, but decided to continue with the matter at hand…
Then I heard a token being deposited into the door. I was relieved when Rich walked in, and not someone else! He guarded the door until I could safely exit, pretending nothing unusual had happened.
Cattycorner to the train station is McMenamin’s Olympic Club. Once considered a “gentleman’s resort” where loggers, miners, gamblers, and miscreants could get a shave, haircut, shoe shine, good meal, Cuban cigar, liquor, game of pool or seat at a poker table. Adding to the allure was opulent mahogany bar and paneling, ceramic-tiled floor, tiffany-style lights, and Belgian crystal glassware. At the adjacent Oxford Hotel, men could partake in the company of working women.
The Club survived prohibition with bootlegger shipping liquor from Canada, and smuggling it in through a tunnel running from the train station to the basement of the club. When the club was renovated by the McMenamin’s, they found a pickle barrel with a hidden compartment.
Today, the Olympic Club consists of a hotel, restaurant, two bars, brewery, movie theater, billiards room, and event venue. For many years, I longed to spend a weekend at the club, and my birthday was the perfect excuse.
Upon arriving, we found a cozy booth in the restaurant for a late lunch. Rich had a McMenamin’s Hammerhead beer with an el diablo sandwich, consisting of grilled chicken, avocado, pepper jack cheese, lettuce, and tomato, on a squish bun with chunky fries. I opted for fresh-pressed apple cider and a scrumptious West African bowl with veggies (squash, onions, peppers), brown rice, and tasty spicy peanut-tomato sauce.
We couldn’t check in until 3 p.m. so we wandered the downtown area, darting into the many antique shops, selling everything from fine furniture to 1970’s schlock. I purchased an ornate doily with pink roses for $4 from an Ace Hardware store, which devoted part of its space to selling collectibles!
We also visited the historic library, built in 1912 with a grant from Andrew Carnegie. Between 1883 and 1929, 2,509 libraries were built in the United States with money from Scottish-American businessman and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.
As the afternoon progressed, we returned to the Olympic Club to check into our room. The hotel consists of 27-guestrooms, each with a small sink, bed, night stand, a chair or two, and hooks for hanging clothing. We were in the Lester Weber room, which was conveniently across from one of the communal bathrooms. It was cozy with an extra surprise on the bed, a bottle of sparkling wine, two keepsake champagne flutes, massage oil, and small box of chocolates.
Also on the bed was plush white robes for trips to the bathroom. Although, it didn’t really matter because it was Easter weekend, and few people were at the hotel.
After dropping off our bags, we trotted back outside for more sightseeing, including watching numerous freight and Amtrak trains zip by, visiting a blown glass studio, and surveying where we wanted to eat dinner.
If you stay at the Olympic Club, admission to the theater is free. We opted to see a 9:40 p.m. showing of Star Wars: Episode VII. To whittle away the time, we returned to the hotel, and popped the cork of the sparkling wine, drinking most of the bottle before we waddled down the street to the O’Blarneys Pub for dinner.
I enjoyed a warm Ruben sandwich, while Rich has pot roast with carrots, garlic mashed potatoes, and dense soda bread. We skipped dessert, and dodged under awnings to avoid the light rain, before dashing across the street to the theater. After settling into two comfortable chairs, Rich ordered cups of coffee to keep us awake during the movie.
McMenamin’s theaters are outfitted with sofas, easy chairs, and small tables so you can enjoy food and libations while watching a flick. Rich’s and my second date was at the McMenamin’s Bagdad Theater and Pub in Portland, OR, after initially meeting at the McMenamin’s Sherwood Pub… following several weeks of corresponding on Matchmaker.com. Our wedding rehearsal dinner was at John Barleycorns, a MeMenamin’s restaurant in Tigard, OR. You can see why McMenamin’s pubs, theaters, and venues hold a special place in our hearts!
We thoroughly enjoyed the Star Wars flicks, and closed our eyes 30 minutes later, with the smells from the restaurant wafting into our room, gently patter of rain, and occasional whistle of a train. Even though ear plugs are provided in the rooms, neither Rich nor I are bothered by the sound of trains. In fact, I told Rich that several trains passed throughout the night, and he didn’t recall hearing any of them!
The next morning was overcast with no rain in sight. We walked two miles to the McDonald’s off Interstate 5. It was an enjoyable jaunt through neighborhoods of older, nicely kept homes, and light industrial. On the way back, after our routine Egg McMuffins and latte’s, we walked through an urban area, which seemed to be shorter.
With it being Easter Sunday, most places were closed; however, after retrieving our bags from the hotel, and checking-out, we meandered to the Station Coffee Bar, one of the coolest coffee houses I’ve ever been in! We’d seen it the day before, and walked in, thinking it was a furniture store.
Located in a large storefront with two sizable display windows, an expansive area on the lower level, and two second-story spaces, Station Coffee was furnished with gorgeous, black leather sofas, black tables with black-leather upholstered chairs, shorter, stylish coffee tables, and shelves filled with books.
In the display window where we sat – me with a chai, and Rich with a frozen caramel coffee – was a cushy, black sofa with decorative pillows, coffee table, and off to the side was a smallish round table and four high-back stools. Some of the walls were painted deep red, adding to the ambiance.
It was so much fun to sit in one of the display windows and watch the world pass by on the sidewalk outside!
Our tummies made happy with our drinks, we headed back to the Olympic Club Theater to watch an 11:40 showing of Kung Fu Panda III. It was better than expected, but probably more thoroughly enjoyed by the handful of kids in the theater with their parents.
Following the movie, with plenty of time on our hands, and few places open, we wandered through a residential area, watched a coupled of trains pass, and then headed to the grocery store to purchase food for a late lunch, and dinner on the train.
I think our expected appetite was larger than reality because we walked out with two large burritos (we thought they were healthy wraps), cheese sticks, day-old pastries, container of macaroni salad, six hard-boiled eggs, box of Triscuits, oranges, and mango/orange flavored fizzy water.
We definitely had enough food to last us until we arrived at close to 9 p.m. back in Mount Vernon. On the way home, we once again enjoyed the ambiance of the train, ever-changing scenery, and chance to just kick-back and relax.
It was a fabulous, fabulous birthday weekend to remember for a very long time. Thanks Rich and the McMenamin’s Olympic Club!
A couple years ago, Rich and I had a two-day staycation on Orcas Island. Having taken the first ferry to the island, we were hungry when we arrived, but didn’t want a sit-down breakfast. Instead, we wandered into Brown Bear Baking in Eastsound, and purchased a kalamata olive and rosemary bread. Tearing off chunks in-between sips of coffee, we discussed purchasing whether we should purchase one of their delectable pastries or another bread. In the end, we opted for an apricot and fig bread, which I used the following week for open-faced sandwiches with poached eggs on top, along with tomatoes, kale, and other goodies.
What makes Brown Bear Baking’s breads so amazing are their round shape with a chewy crust, and soft, tangy inside. I asked the bakers how they make their breads, and they shared the dough is proofed in baskets, and then baked in heavy cast-iron pots with lids.
Months later, when wandering through the Bellevue Goodwill, I spotted a large ceramic pot with a lid. The only problem was it had several small holes in the bottom for use as a berry strainer. Nevertheless, I couldn’t resist buying it.
The first bread I made in the pot was ghastly. I used parchment paper to cover the holes on the bottom, and the light coating of olive oil I rubbed on the loaf, dripped through the holes, and smoked when it hit the heating element in the oven. The smoke made the bread taste terrible.
My second attempt was marginally better, but the crust was soft, and the inside of the bread wasn’t overly tasty.
Disgusted, I placed the pot in the living room as an art piece. This week, however, I did research on cooking bread in a ceramic or iron (dutch oven) pot. I found a simple recipe and gave it a try, placing a small piece of foil inside my pot to cover the holes, and a length of foil beneath the pot, just in case any oil drizzled out.
The result was nothing less than “wow!” Below is the recipe for what I’m calling my victory or “I finally figured it out” bread! I made some revisions to the recipe, using one-third whole wheat flour, and adding McCormick Everything Bagel Seasoning from Costco.
Mix and knead until smooth
- 2 cups white flour
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1½ cups of lukewarm water
- 1 tablespoon everything bagel seasoning (coarse salt, dried onion and garlic, sesame and poppy seeds)
- 1½ teaspoons yeast
Shape into a round mound, and place on a well-floured counter or marble slab. Dust with flour then cover with plastic wrap. Let rise for 8 to 18 hours.
Punch down, knead lightly, and then form into a mound. Let rest for 30 minutes.
Place ceramic pot and lid into a cold oven. Heat to 450°. Remove pot and carefully lift up dough with floured hands and place in pot. Drizzle oil over the top, and sprinkle on additional everything bagel seasoning. Cover the pot, and bake in oven for 30 minutes.
Remove the lid, and bake for another 15 minutes until brown.
Turn out onto a rack and enjoy!
I suspect my grandmother, Rose Ridnor, didn’t have a recipe book to flip through for ideas on what to fix for dinner. She therefore had lists on index cards, such as this one for meats, which provided ideas. Because my grandparents grew up in the tenements in New York, they were always very frugal, eating little meat, and supplementing main courses with bread, potatoes, pasta, kasha, and other grains.
For the most part, my grandparent’s subsisted on lower quality cuts of meat, cooked for hours, and subsequently labeled “pot roast.” My grandmother would always add potatoes and carrots an hour or so before the roast was done to make a more substantial meal.
My also routinely roasting or boiling chicken. The broth from the latter was turned into chicken soup with carrots, celery, onions, homemade noodles, and kneidlach (soft matzos balls).
For special occasions, my grandmother made tiny sweet and sour meatballs, which were eaten with crushed matzos. The sauce was made from ketchup, brown sugar, and white vinegar.
I don’t recall her ever making lamb, veal, steak, or fresh fish. Maybe my grandfather didn’t like fish so it was disguised as gefilte fish, lox, herring, kippers, and canned and smoked salmon. Below is her recipe for scalloped salmon, which was showcases how a can of salmon can ended up serving several people, possible for multiple meals.
- Pot roast
- Swiss Fried
- Pan fried
- Chicken fried
- Meat balls
- Sweet & sour
- Tamale pie
- Barbeque sauce
- Ground pepper loaf
- Ground patties
- Ground balls
- Chops fried
- Chops pan fried
- Breast stuffed?
- Sweet & sour
This recipe came from Taste of Home, and was a hit when I made it for Thanksgiving.
- ½ cup of butter, softened
- ½ cup of sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
- 1 package (8 ½ ounces) corn bread/muffin mix
- ½ cup milk
- 1 can (15 ¼ ounces) whole kernel corn, drained
- 1 can (14 ¾ ounces) cream style corn
Preheat oven to 325◦. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in sour cream. Gradually add muffin mix alternately with milk. Fold in corn.
Pour into a greased 3-quart baking dish. Bake uncovered 45-50 minutes or until set and lightly browned
Before we married, one of Rich’s favorite dishes was a plate of rice with a Marie Callender chicken pot pie turned upside down, and plopped on top. For years, he’d slowly wheel past supermarket freezer cases, reminiscing about the “good old days” of heating up frozen pot pies, taquitos, breaded shrimp, and fish sticks.
Whenever we were apart, due to travel or attending events, Rich would sneak off and purchase his old standby, a Marie Callender pot pie. A few years ago, I decided to make a batch of mini chicken pot pies. While they looked lovely in pretty ramekins, they were a culinary failures. I had invited a friend over for lunch, proudly serving my pot pies. However, she found them tasteless with too much crust, and a mediocre filling, sadly missing salt.
While disappointed, I reconsidered my use of salt. Because my father had a heart attack when I was nine, and it was believed high blood pressure had led to his condition, I got used to cooking with little or no salt. In reality, his arteries narrowed with cholesterol.
Nevertheless, my tasteless chicken pot pies, coupled with Rich’s proclivity for hiding his food under a layer of fresh ground pepper, pushed the issue over the edge. I needed to start using salt!
Last week, with a bin full of vegetables, and time on my hands, I decided to give pot pies another try. Happily, it was a success, with Rich declared my pot pie every bit as good as those made by Marie Callender!
Since I don’t use recipes, here’s an approximation of what I did:
- Red potatoes (don’t peel)
- Walla Walla onion
- Frozen peas
- Bouquet garni: sage, oregano, parsley, rosemary
- 12.5 ounce can of chicken (or cooked chicken)
- Rice or tapioca flour
- Worcestershire sauce
Cut the red potatoes and onion in chunks, and place in a pot along with the fresh herbs, salt, and pepper, and enough water to cover. Cook until the potatoes are slightly hard. Add chunks of carrots and celery, along with frozen peas, and enough water to cover. Cook a few minutes longer to soften, but retain the color of the vegetables.
Drain the vegetables in a colander, over a bowl to catch the broth. Remove the herbs.
Strain the broth back into the pot, and add the juice from the can of chicken. Bring to a boil. Mix rice or tapioca flour with enough water to make a slurry. Add to the boiling broth, stirring constantly to make a gravy. Taste, and adjust flavoring and color by adding Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, and finely ground herbs.
Gently simmer to cook the flour, and stabilize the consistency. If you want the gravy to be thicker, add a bit more flour (always blend with water beforehand, and slowly pour in, stirring constantly to avoid lumps). If the gravy is too thick, add a bit of water.
- 1 cup of whole wheat flour
- 1 cup of white flour
- 1 cube of butter
- Finely chopped fresh herbs
Make the crusts by combining the flours, chopped herbs and salt. Blend in the butter. Add a few tablespoons of water, and use a fork to blend. Continue adding tablespoons of water until the dough forms a ball. Place on a floured board and lightly kneaded.
Divide the dough in half, and roll-out to fit a deep-dish pie pan. Trim the dough so it doesn’t overhang the pan. Roll-out the rest of the dough, including the scrapes from the bottom crust.
Pour the cooled filling into the pie pan. Place the second dough over the top. Trim and press the edges of the two crusts together to seal. To ensure they’re sealed, flute the edges or use a fork to mash the two crust together.
Use a sharp knife to cut a few slits in the top. Place the pie on a foil-lined tray (to catch spills), and place in a 375◦ oven. Back for 30-45 minutes or until the gravy bubbles out of the slits on the top.
Several years ago, Rich celebrated my birthday by planning an elaborate surprise staycation where he revealed the details of what we’d be doing at the last minute, including spending the night at the Waterfront Marriot, and enjoying a Sunday brunch at the top of the Space Needle.
This year, he decided to do the same, and once again, he refused to reveal the details until the last minute. On Saturday, before Rich left to show a potential client a home, he told me to pack outdoor gear and my hiking boots. Although, after some consideration, he revised hiking books to Keens.
With our bags packed, cats and birds feed, house secured, and bellies full from homemade pizza, we headed to our Mount Vernon home, where my mother lives. Every week, we do her grocery shopping, gather the trash and recycling (we don’t have garbage pick-up in Mount Vernon so we have to cart it back to Kirkland), restock supplies, cook (i.e. chocolate pudding, chopped liver, chicken soup, etc.) and other household tasks that aren’t done by her caretakers.
After shopping, Rich thumbed through our Entertainment Book to find a place to eat. Unfortunately, most of the restaurants aren’t located in Mount Vernon or Burlington. With few options, I recommended Taco Bell. We’re never disappointed by cheap, but satisfying burritos, chicken tacos, and 99-cent cheese roll-ups.
That evening, we watched a flick on TV, and made sure everything was ready for the next morning, when the alarm went off at 5:30 a.m.
Off to Orcas
The first stop of our two-day staycation was McDonald’s. In early March, they had a newspaper insert with buy-one-get-one-free coupons. The day we received the insert, Rich raced down to a local apartment complex, and scrounged through their recycling bins, harvesting a stack of coupons. For the past month, we’ve been eating lots of McDonald’s food, principally iced coffees with vanilla flavoring and caramel Frappuccino’s.
Plus, each time we used a coupon, we got a receipt, which invited us to take an online survey. When you take the survey, you’re given a code, which can be used for purchasing… wait for the drum roll… buy-one-get-one-free breakfast sandwich or cheeseburger.
On Saturday morning, armed with a code, we started the day with buy-one-get-one-free Egg McMuffins and coffees.
With food in our stomachs, we headed to Anacortes to take the ferry to Orcas Island. We had an enjoyable ride over, arriving around 9 a.m. Our first stop was Eastsound, which is the main town, smack dab in the middle of the wishbone-shaped island. I didn’t know what to expect, but was pleasantly surprised. It reminded me of an upscale seaside town on the east coast with cool inns and bed & breakfasts, art galleries, bookstores, quaint churches, and hip restaurants, serving organic, fresh-off-the-farm meals.
We wandered around, snapping pictures, and unwinding from the week. One of the highlights is the Emmanuel Episcopal Church, which is on the National Registry of Historic Place. It comprises several charming, whitewashed buildings, and has a large labyrinth, which I walked around, contemplating the day when we can move to our house in Coupeville, and become residents, and not just visitors to the islands.
With it lightly drizzling, we were on the lookout for a place to pull up a chair and sit until the weather cleared. We spotted Brown Bear Baking. As soon as we opened the door, we were struck by the aroma of fragrant breads, buttery pastries, and fresh-brewed coffee. Ignoring the display case of sweet and savory goodies, our eyes drifted to the round, crusty loaves of bread behind the counter. We chose the Kalamata olive and rosemary loaf, but the counter staff accidentally gave us the fig and apricot loaf. It was a nice surprise… so tasty that throughout our trip, we ripped off and ate big chunks. And we resolved to purchase another loaf the following morning before we left the island!
As a side note, I’m glad Brown Bear Baking is ferry-ride away because it would be hard to resist their unbelievable loaves of bread, beautiful quiches, mouth-watering croissants, gorgeous muffins, dreamy cakes, and other treats. It’s much easier to refrain from grocery-store baked goods!
Scoping out Resorts
Our first stop was Rosario Resort, which one of my favorite marinas, and where the Moran Mansion is located. It’s the crown jewel of the Puget Sound, and unlike most exclusive resorts, the public is welcome to wander the grounds, and walk through the main building, in this case, the mansion. Check out the photo gallery to see what makes the resort a memorable place to visit… and stay by boat or car.
And read about our adventure at Rosario four years ago.
Next, we headed to Olga, which is the town time must have forgotten. It consists of a closed general store, and tiny post office. Or maybe we blinked while driving through the town.
Actually, Olga is very much like most of Orcas Island, lightly populated with quaint shops, inns, and bed & breakfasts (like the Orcas Hotel), discreetly tucked among the trees, which hibernate during the winter months, and open up in the spring through the summer. You can also visit Olga Pottery, which has very pretty, Asian-influenced vases, pitches, cups, bowls, and plates.
Our next stop was Obstruction Pass, which Rich claims we’ve moored off of during one of our charter trips. From a boat, most of the coastline looks the same!
On the east side of the island is Doe Bay State Park, and Doe Bay Resort & Spa. The resort is a labor of love, and designed to accommodate visitors from those looking for a rustic experience of pitching a tent to those wanting a relaxing vacation, complete with spa treatments and yoga sessions.
Rich and I walked around and were in awe of the campsites with names like antelope, baer’s lair, coot corner, crow’s nest, eagle’s nest, grouse grove, heron, hollow log, hummingbird, minke, and warbler. Our favorite site was seagull’s bed, which is a small site, perched on a high-bank cliff, overlooking the water. Seal landing is a bit larger, but so close to the cliff-edge that there’s a small fence so you don’t walk over the edge if you sleepwalk.
We’ve never seen campsite, which are not only smartly designed to provide privacy, but feature dramatic views.
Nestled between the camp sites are yurts and dooms, some of which have queen-sized beds. Three of the yurts are located steps from the water like the beach yurt.
The hostel is an affordable, and no doubt warmer place to sleep in bad weather. Along with communal beds, there have several rooms for couples.
My choice would be one of their cabins with a kitchenette, bed, table and chairs, electricity, bathroom, and a heater!
Along with accommodations, the resort has a general store, spa (we saw a naked man climb into one of the hot tubs… eck!), restaurant, yoga studio, rentals (kayak, boat), and of course, strategically placed benches for viewing the scenery.
I’ve already planted a bug in Rich’s head that I want to stay at Doe Bay for my next birthday!
Cozy Room with Surprise Inside
Still nibbling on our bread, we headed west to Deer Harbor, where we checked in at the Deer Harbor Inn. Rich had purchased a Groupon to stay at the inn. Our room was in the Log Cabin Lodge, which has eight rooms, four on the top floor, and four on the bottom. They also have a couple of cabins.
Our second-story room was lovely with a large pine bed, and matching chairs, and table. On the fireplace was a picnic basket, much to our surprise, filled with food for the next morning, including English muffins, hard-boiled eggs, bowls of homemade granola, bananas, and packets of jelly. In the small refrigerator was milk, butter, orange juice, and bottles of water.
After putting our bags in our room, we drove down to Deer Harbor Marina. We were hoping they had the huge ice cream cones, which we usually order when we stay in the marina. However, it being late March and still chilly, they didn’t have ice cream. Instead, we found several chairs overlooking the marina, and continued nibbling on the Brown Bear Baking bread, pretzels, and drinks we’d purchased earlier in the day.
A large black crow was also interested in what we were eating. He stood on top of the railing just a few feet from us. We marveled at the variety and color of his feathers. His head and cowl had tiny, soft, matte black feathers. His wings were covered with long iridescent black feather that glistened in the sun. The smaller feathers, covered the rest of his body, were deep, matte gray. Its legs and feet were covered with shiny black scales.
He (or she) was very elegant, and patient, waiting for us to place a few pieces of bread on the railing. He’d then pick them up, and fly down to a barrel where a pool of water had formed. After soaking the bread for a few moments, he’d gobble it down, and then fly to another bird, who was waiting with beak open for the regurgitated food.
When we switched to feeding the crow pretzels, he’d bury them in the planter boxes, no doubt for a future meals.
Once the crow flew off, we decided to take a walk around the marina. As we approached the end of a dock, a beautiful gray cat popped out of an open port hole on a small motorboat, dashed across the deck, leapt onto the dock, and raced towards us. It was a full-on cat attack!
She was eager to be pet, rolling over so we could scratch her tummy, and meowing her gratitude. She accompanied us to the boat where she lives. There was a cat bed in the pilot house where she must curl up at night.
Sticking to our Kool-Aide budget staycation, and not wanting a large meal after nibbling on bread all day, we opted to drive to a grocery store in Eastsound. We walked from one end of the store to the other until we settled on a bag of chicken tamales in green sauce (in corn husks), individual salads from the deli section, and a bag of Chips Ahoy chocolate chip cookies.
We returned to our room, and refrigerated the food, and then set out on foot for a walk around the area. We turned down the road to a residential area, and feed long blades of grass to two goats, guarding a boat repair facility, and then crossed over a narrow bridge to the other side of Deer Harbor.
At top of the hill was another marina. We thoroughly enjoy walking around marinas, looking at the boats, and strategizing how one day we hope to have a 35-foot Catalina sailboat, named Monkey About. “Come about” is a sailing term, and “Monkey” was the name of one of our cats, who passed away in Texas.
As we neared the end of one of the dock, we saw several birds perched on boats, squawking loudly. Less than 20 feet away, on a floating dock, was a bald eagle picking at a dead crab. Bald eagles are scavengers and have no hesitancy of taking food from other birds. Rich snapped quite a few picture before he flew away.
Back at the Deer Harbor Inn, Rich heated the tamales in the microwave in the common area, while I assembled the salads. While it might not seem like a fabulous dinner, we thoroughly enjoyed it in our cozy room, topped off with chocolate chip cookies.
Afterwards, we grabbed a couple of magazines, turned on the propane fireplace in the common area, and read for an hour or so. Sitting in front of a warm gas or propane is ten times better than a smoky, smelly traditional fireplace, which burns wood.
Warmed up, I recommended we hope in the hot tub. Rich was concerned because we forgot to bring our bathing suits, but I persisted, explaining everyone in the lodge had probably left for dinner, and most of the hot tub is obscured by the gazebo.
We took the minimum clothing with us, stripped down, hopped in the tub, and enjoyed the warmth and soothing bubbles, before jumping out, throwing on our clothes, and dashing back into the lodge. During that time, the only souls that saw us were some foraging rabbits.
Amazing Views with Each Turn
The next morning, we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast (the items in the basket left in our room), before going back to Brown Bear Baking for a loaf of bread to bring home. We then drove to Moran State Park. Opened in 1921, the park initially consisted of 2,700 acres donated by Robert Moran, a shipbuilder and former major of Seattle. A few years later, he donated another 1,000 acres. Today, the park is more than 5,200 acres with more than 38 miles of hiking trails from gentle forest loops to challenging ascents.
In the 1930’s the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), built trails, roads, bridges, and 21 buildings, including the Ellsworth Storey tower, atop Mount Constitution. For our jaunt, we chose the Mount Constitution Loop, which is 6.7 miles, rated “difficult.”
We parked by Mountain Lake, which is 917 feet in elevation. We then trudged up to the top of Mount Constitution, which is 2,409 feet in elevation. The first mile or so was heart-pumping hard. The next two miles was a steady, but tolerable uphill climb. It was worth getting to the top because even though the Ellsworth Storey tower doesn’t look impressive in picture, it’s four stories in height, and provides what is considered one of the top marine views in the nation.
Originally built as a fire lookout, the tower offers a 360◦ view of the San Juan archipelago, Vancouver Island, and the Cascade and Olympic Mountain ranges. Plus, the tower is superbly constructed out of sandstone with wrought iron railings, door hinges and knobs, and other details, forged and shaped by CCC blacksmiths. At the top of the tower is an enclosed room with beautiful paneling and a heavy wooden door with ornate handles and hinges. I’m was awestruck by the workmanship!
Our decent back down to Mountain Lake, nearly 4 miles, was quick. We then drove to Orcas Village to catch a 3:00 ferry to Lopez Island, where we’d have less than an hour “lay-over” until we could get on the ferry to Anacortes. We reasoned it would be fun to spend some time on Lopez rather than hang-out on Orcas for a “direct” ferry to Anacortes.
Our plan would have worked out if there hadn’t been a mishap with the second ferry. We ended up waiting in the ferry line on Lopez Island for nearly two hours… polishing off the rest of the fig and apricot bread, reading magazines, and trying to get a cell phone signal.
Nevertheless, with amazing weather, it was enjoyable hanging out on the island, people watching, and taking two ferries. And we got to Anacortes 5 minutes before the “direct” ferry from Orcas Island. As we drove way, we could see the “direct” ferry circling in the harbor, waiting for the ferry we’d arrived on to leave.
As we drove back to Mount Vernon to retrieve the groceries we’d purchased a few days earlier, we reflected on our wonderful staycation… and the opportunity to escape from work, household chores, gardening, caregiving, and the myriad of tasks that need to be done.
Plus, Tuesday and Wednesday evening, we enjoyed Brown Bear bread for dinner. I poached eggs in minced kale, parsley, spices, and wine. The eggs were then placed on two thick slices of bread, which had been drizzled with olive oil. Layers on top of the eggs was sliced tomatoes, lightly cooked asparagus, and cheese. I then cooked everything in a 400◦ oven for 15 minutes. The eggs were slightly soft, and made the dish magically when poked with a fork.
Every year, we make cookies and candies to give away. We start in late October, purchasing the ingredients, and determining what we’re going to make. And then in early November, we start baking, boiling, and packaging!
This year’s batch included:
- Rocky road fudge
- Seven-layer bars
- Chocolate cookies with peanut butter chips
- Oatmeal with butterscotch chips
- Exotic spice
- Cappuccino thins
- Two types of biscotti: Traditional with almonds, and dried mango
- Fudge with cashews
- Peanut brittle
- Chocolate chip made with cinnamon chips
- Salt-and-pepper cookies with toasted pine nuts
- Snicker doodle
- Ginger coins
- Candied orange peels
- Candied grapefruit peels
- Macaroon (coconut)
- Mexican wedding cakes
- Fudge with dried cherries
- Marshmallows (so easy to make!)
- Rum balls
- Coffee caramels