We are three sisters united in our search for the divine - in food, libation, literature, art, and nature. This blog will capture the true, sometimes decadent, at times humorous, and every so often transcendent adventures of the Salvation Sisters.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Linda's Kale and Mustard Greens Chips

by Linda

   With kale chips being all the rage these days, and being that they are very expensive for a tiny little package, I thought it would be fun to try my hand at making them at home. Further impetus was that I just happen to have an Excalibur dehydrator that doesn't get very much use these days which was purchased for my brief flirtation being a raw foodist a number of years ago.

   When I went to select my kale in the produce department of the Whole Foods Market where I work, not only did the kale look amazing, but the mustard greens were even more beautiful. I thought to myself, "Hmmm... mildly spicy and peppery tasting. Why wouldn't they make great veggie chips as well?" I decided upon purchasing kale and the mustard greens as an experiment, and I am so glad that I did. Mustard greens may be hard to find, but if they happen to be in season, I recommend giving them a try along with the kale.

   I decided to take these to a party that my friend's were throwing. Since I had a busy week ahead, I knew that I would not have time to make something the day of the party. I made a big batch the week before, and then placed them in a large acrylic cambro with a tight fitting lid. I saved the silica packets from my empty vitamin jars to throw in the bottom of the cambro to keep the chips nice and dry.
   The chips were a favorite at the party. Not only did they make a nice presentation on the table, but they were easy to transport, and there was nothing to do but set them on the table at the party. I set the cambro lid below the container on the bottom as a base (so I wouldn't lose track of the lid) and at the end of the evening when leaving the party, all I had to do was pick up my empty container. Easy peasy! Every last crumb was devoured by both the children and the adults.

Linda's Kale and Mustard Greens Chips

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Vancouver BC and Cactus Club Cafe's Spinach Salad (Gluten-Free)

My Traveling Tales by Michelle 

Getting There
   Any flight between Los Angeles and Vancouver could justifiably be renamed the Disneyland Express. The passengers on these flights are primarly families with smallish children, plus some additional folks (like me) added to the mix and an actor or two thrown in for good measure. The flights are always a bit of a gamble kids wise. The well behaved children are usually outnumbered on a heavily weighted sliding scale by overwraught, overtired, oversensitized kids wrecking havoc from the confines of their seats. A few flights are quiet joy rides as experienced from my westward looking window seat. The majority of flights seem to be three-and-a-half hour riot fests on the topsy-turvy Mad Tea Party ride: round and round we go, when the screaming stops nobody knows. 
    On my last flight on a Sunday afternoon, a young girl threw an epic tantrum on the plane. Mini wolverine was old enough to have outgrown the horrific tantrum stage, but  nonetheless there she was rolling around on the dirty floor screaming her head off, white sandled feet kicking, limbs flailing.
   "¡Egads!", as my Nana may have lamented back in the day. There was nowhere for me to run and nowhere to hide so there I sat feeling suddenly claustrophobic buckled into my seat at 10A trying to avoid direct eye contact. Everyone knows looking a wild animal squarely in the eye is a direct threat, an invitation for disaster. Unfortunately, I had a full view to the unsavory attraction because I was sitting directly behind her.

The view as the airplane gradually descended into Vancouver.
   I tried giving practice to my ignoring skills by giving an A+ effort to listening to an audio book on my iPod. It was a waste of time. All I could fantasize about was shoving a sock in her mouth, which I will reluctantly admit is what my sister Maria did to me when I was ten years old. I was being annoying as younger sisters will do from time to time (cough!). She told me in a threatening voice to shut up. I instantly, defiantly, brazzingly retorted, "Make me." Big mistake. Maria, who was five years older than me, easily threw me down on the ground and stuck her dirty sock covered foot in my mouth. This was at the height of my germ phobia, Howard Hughes style, so I thought I was surely going to die a quick and painful microbe related death. Talk about germ warfare. Just to spite my sister, in only the way sisters can, I lived to tell the tale. The unsavory memory still makes me scruntch my face in distaste. I learned the hard way to never again repeat the words "make me" to Maria. She could be a badass and only had a modicum of patience for me on good days, let alone bad.
   Loving sisterly rememberances aside, I sat as patiently as I could even though I was exasperated at the spectacle unfolding in front of me, wondering when the flight attendants were going to assert some authority over the situation. I seldom watch the news, but I've read enough juicy, newsworthy airline related articles to know that exiting the family seemed entirely reasonable because the mother (dazed and confused) and father (faining sleep) made no effort to get their beast of a daughter under control.
   I suppose the parents were operating under the theory that if they just ignored her, the rampage would stop. Denile is not just a river in Egypt. Perhaps the Dad, with his eyes closed, was trying to desperately remember how Rick Moranis Shrunk The Kids. The convulsing girl continued rolling around on the floor completely apoplectic. Daffy, but not related to duck. Unless we are referring to duck and cover. Sadly I was instructed by the attendants to turn-off my iPod as well as remove the earbuds in preparation for departure. My eardrums, no longer protected, were assaulted by the ongoing vocal rampage one seat in front of me. I asked myself while intaking a deep calming breath: What Would The Dali Lama do?

   The stewardess using her most saccharine voice - as if she were engaging a chihuahua - did finally make the mother understand that the girl had to be belted into her seat for takeoff. "And the screaming," I thought to myself, "What about that?" I kept hoping the attendant would say, in her best salty sailor impersonation, "'Ello poppet, who wants to play Pirates of the Caribbean?  Time to gag the Little Miss."  Or at least resort to the other more plausible option of bouncing all five members of the family off the gang plank plane. (It's a pirate's life for me.) Unfortunately screaming doesn't seem to pose a problem for a Canadian crew. Conversely, American flight attendents are more flinty and prone to action for even non verbal infractions such as a rock star wearing his jeans too low... just ask Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day. The Southwest Airlines attendent thought he was an American Idiot. Billie Joe seemed pretty good natured about the whole incident, which was more than I could say for myself at the present situation.
   Maybe due to the power of  positive thinking associated with the compassionate Dali Lama, or better yet, a magic spell delivered by an apparition of Walt Disney himself, at takeoff the wracked girl finally pulled it together one delayed sob at a time. Once airborne she, owner of the tear-stained face, and her menacing dark-haired siblings, the mininons of the underworld, decided to discover how quickly they could punish everyone around them. The boys reminded me of the trouble-making Siamese cats from Lady and The Tramp. As soon as I possibly could, I reinserted my earbuds and then closed my eyes trying desperately once again to tap into some inner peace. 

A bird's-eye view of the Burrard SkyTrain Station.
   Just as I was getting to a centered state, the older brother started  repeatedly shrieking, "She's asleep." I opened my eyes just to verify that yep, he was indeed yelling directly at me. I kid you not. Even better, the parents had no suggestions for behavior modification for their children, such as hey don't yell at the lady who is glaring at you with squinted eyes resembling a female Clint Eastwood who wants to whisper menacingly, "Go ahead make my day." The whole tragedy made me yearn for the good old days when parents would tell their kids to "modulate". I glanced over at the parents hoping to give them the "WTF? glare" but they both just looked far, far away in the opposite direction, their minds in Never Never Land. I visualized using my other remaining sock for the loudest screaming brother a la Maria. I just closed my eyes and tried really, really hard to think positive thoughts and then realized with a quick check of my watch that horror of horrors I still had three hours to go until we were due to arrive in Vancouver.
    After the plane finally landed after its slow descent and I cleared customs, I had the displeasure of seeing the family again at the baggage carousel. The same beasty girl was having a total meltdown over bubble gum while her brothers were trying to hurt themselves and others with two baggage carts. Her parents acted as if it was a perfectly normal day in Wonderland. I was about to transform into the Queen of Hearts but fortunately my bags arrived. There were still no visible signs of stress from mom or dad, at least not that I could detect. Their outward appearance was that of not having a care in the world. The parents continued to act like a walking advertisement for Prozac as I, bewildered and tired, loaded my luggage on to my cart. I walked as quickly as my legs would carry me to the taxi stand for the getaway. I thought to myself, I am so glad I will never see any of you people again (pretty please, universe hear my plea). It is a small world afterall, so all bets are off.

  After the particularly stressful flight I practice yoga breaths in the backseat of the taxi - deep breath in, hold for three seconds, exhale slowly. Repeat several times. Although the sky is gray, thankfully the weather is mild. And, I remind myself that I happen to be in Vancouver. How can one be unhappy in Vancouver? It is supposed to rain (as is the perpetual forecast), but the Gods smile upon me. I check into my high-rise modern hotel room, drop my bags and immediately go downstairs and cross the street to the Burrard SkyTrain station to photograph the cherry blossoms in their glory while the fading light lingers. It's all dumb luck. I didn't even consider in advance blooming cherry trees in Vancouver in April even though Washington State is known for bountiful crops of cherries. It stands to reason that Vancouver would have cherry trees too. I am so glad I lugged my camera along for the trip.
Deep Cove at twilight during an evening cruise.
   Tapping into the happier side of life, I will reminisce about some of the experiences that I have enjoyed during my various trips to Vancouver. On my first visit I was invited to eat dinner in Deep Cove at Arms Reach Bistro topped off by an after dinner ski boat cruise of the Indian Arm fjord and surrounding inlets. On the return trip to my hotel, from my seat in the taxi van, I watched the Celebration of Light, an annual fireworks festival that features nightly dazzling pyrotechnic displays that takes place over a span of a week at the end of July to early August.

The Spanish Banks
   Vancouver is a gorgeous city surrounded by devastatingly beautiful nature, and to see it all from the point of view of the Spanish Banks is exhilirating. Roland, cooking in the photo below, did all the coordinating, shopping and cooking for the company picnic. He bought the sausages, salmon and prepared salads from Whole Foods. With a laugh I told him that my sister Linda would highly approve. Roland seasoned the salmon with soy sauce, brown sugar, slices of lemon and mild white onions and then sealed the fish within a foil packet and placed it on the grill. My co-workers raved about the fish. Sigh... if only Roland had known to use wheat-free tamari in lieu of soy sauce, I could have eaten it too. As we age, everyone's health issues and/or eating preferences (including mine) are a real pain in the neck when preparing food for large gatherings. I can, however, try the recipe at home using Roland's technique. And you can, too.

    Rob Feenie is Canada's beloved award-winning Iron Chef. His restaurant brands are located across the city and the popular Cactus Club Cafe has various locations from downtown to the suburbs. My favorite location sits on English Bay. I wrote my sisters an e-mail about the experience, "I had the best salad tonight: spinach, pears, pecans, crumbled goat cheese, shaved parmesan, prosciutto, wedged beets. It was tossed with a very light vinaigrette. Perhaps a champagne vinaigrette. The salad was garnished with parmesan over the sliced pears and then drizzled with a balsamic reduction (glaze or syrup, whatever you want to call it). I added grilled salmon. I enjoyed every last bite. I practically licked the plate. I want to recreate it at home. Shouldn't be too difficult."

Feel the energy of The Cactus Club on English Bay.
Arrive early to score a table by the windows or on the patio and...
… this is your amazing ocean view while you drink and dine.
Bin 941
   Although I didn't officially eat at Bin 941, I wish I had. We popped in for a nightcap and the place has a jovial gypsy kind of vibe. The lamps cast a red glow across the small dining room and adjoining belly-up-to-the-bar and get cozy area. Tapas are the main event and I hear that the meatballs are to die for.

My friend Michael gallantly rolling my rig up the street.
At Bin 941 the mirror over the bar reflects the tables in the tiny dining room.
      Although I haven't had the opportunity to wander through Chinatown, it is certainly fun driving through with a Frenchman who pauses the van long enough to let me snap photos of dragons and parks illegally so I can capture the gate.

I am crazy for the brass dragons striking a pose on the streelights in Chinatown.
The gate to Vancouver's Chinatown.
Granville Island and The Sand Bar
   The first time I visited Granville Island it was the week before Christmas. The market was decorated for the holidays. Customers, clearly on missions, were shopping for gifts, flowers, prepared foods, gourmet delicacies, fresh meats and seafood, artisan breads and sweets of all kinds. I was with my co-worker Gary and his wife Debbie and we had the carefree luxury of moseying from store to store and wandering aimlessly through the public market marveling at all the sights, taking in the smells and bustling activity. The various berries were stacked high in bakets and I marveled over the Dragon fruit and the pretty chocolates. We eventually recognized that we were hungry and decided lunch was in order. A kindly shop owner referred us to The Sandbar Seafood Restaurant. We were fortunate to be seated at a table located on the deck, near the fireplace, looking out to the bridge, the city and False Creek, an ocean inlet. Water taxies ferried people to and fro. Competitive rowers glided with timed precision across the fairly calm ocean. The overhead heaters kept us warm and the sun played hide and seek with the clouds as we enjoyed our soup, salad and sandwiches.

The seagulls look innocent enough but to be forewarned is to be forearmed.
If the weather is cooperating, ask for a seat on the open air deck.

 Italian Kitchen
   This bustling two-story restaurant with a small street-facing patio is only two blocks from luxury shopping Robson Street. Regardless of the day Italian Kitchen is usually cranking in the evening. After toiling at the office I can usually find a seat for one at the bar where the bartenders happily make me a cocktail and then serve me dinner while I have a front seat view to all the activity in the open kitchen. I especially like watching the pantry chef prepare crostini style appetizers and insalatas.

Lamb sausage pizza with egg.
The view from my seat at the bar at Italian Kitchen.
Stanley Park and The Teahouse
   The mid July weather, sunny and in the eighties, was absolutely gorgeous for the after work tour of Stanley Park. After enduring so much rain extending from the late autumn all the way through early summer, the Vancouverites where downright giddy over the glowing orb in the sky and its warm rays. Silly friends actually thought it was HOT. Gary, my fellow traveling Tucsonian, and I just shook our heads and laughed. Hot? We'll show you hot. Return with us to the Sonoran desert where perhaps only the mid summer monsoon showers might offer some respite from the withering heat.
   Despite the elevated temperatures, we opted for a table on the patio of The Teahouse and ordered a pitcher of sangrias. Thank goodness for the umbrella over the table otherwise we would have changed our minds and begrudgingly accepted an inside table. As the sun sank lower in the sky, the temperatures dropped correspondingly. I needed to slip on my light jacket by the end of the meal. Everyone enjoyed his or her entrĂ©e and I would gladly return to the Teahouse again for another delightful meal. 
   After dinner we simply walked across the parking lot to a grassy area featuring park benches and a low wall to lazily wait upon the sunset. We were not alone. Lovers nuzzled on the grass and a few couples were laying on quilts, enjoying picnics and sipping glasses of wine. Couples strolled hand-in-hand along the winding path. With seemingly happy couples everywhere, I could see how being single in Vancouver could be depressing, at least in the summer when everyone is out and about. With my husband thousands of miles away, I held my camera close to me... does that count? I wistfully thought of my daughter and sent her a text, "Wish you were here..." along with a snapshot of the sinking sun. Roland managed to snag my camera from me to take the portrait featured below. Although I don't particuarly care to have my photo taken, I'm glad that he insisted.

Although this looked like a festive eating option in the park...
… we opted to have dinner on the patio of the Teahouse in Stanley Park.
Loitering after dinner waiting upon the "longest sunset" in Vancouver...

… and I was indeed captivated by the setting sun.
Cypress Mountain 
   Once the sun set, I anticipated a quick return to the hotel to prepare for an early morning departure to the airport, but Roland suprised us all by suggesting he drive us all over the Lions Gate Bridge and through West Vancouver to the lookout point on Cypress Mountain. We were not alone as couples stood arms around each other and folks sat at comfortable intervals along the low stone wall. We stayed until the insects became pests, prompting us to leave. Otherwise, without the increasing aggressiveness of the bugs, we would have stayed and marveled a bit longer at the expansive view of the twinkling city lights.

A view of Lions Gate Bridge as seen from Prospect Point in Stanley Park. 
How did I get this gig? I'd love to be a portrait and wedding photographer in Vancouver.
The expansive view of Vancouver from the Cypress Mountain Lookout.
Cactus Club Cafe's Spinach Salad

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Tri-Tip: Santa Maria-Style Barbecue and The Firefighters of Greenville ~ Part II

My Traveling Tales by Linda

"These are the better days, baby
Oh better days, it's true
These are better days, baby
Better days are shining through"
~Bruce Springteen

   Two years ago, I visited my son in the mountain town of Greenville, California for the first of what has turned out to be my annual pre-fire season visit in April. Jordan had recently moved there and bought his first house which he spent a considerable amount of time renovating. That April morning upon rising, we loaded Jordan's dogs, Jake and Emma, in the truck and headed to take them for a long run in the sparse snow. I noticed when I hoisted myself into the front seat of Jordan's big ol' truck and he turned on the radio (Jordan is a lover of country music, by the way) that a Craig Morgan song was playing on the station that completely fit what I was experiencing on my first visit to the town. The song goes like this: “A little bit of guitar, a little bit of truck, a little bit of hound dog, and a little bit of luck..." I call this phenomenon, which I have experienced in other situations as well, the "tarot" of music. And so it went on that visit—the perfect song manifested. While last year's visit to Greenville brought an overnight snow of several inches, which allowed for lots of time to cook and for the watching of movies, this year's weekend was accompanied by brilliant sunshine and warm days. This led to Saturday morning being spent golfing with the guys which allowed me to do one of the things that I enjoy the most—take a few hundred photos of the handsome young men while they golfed, and shoot the spectacular scenery of the surrounding snowy peaks at the Mt. Huff Golf Course.

   Then the afternoon was barbecue time. Last year because of the snow, we had a Mexican Fiesta in the house with all of Jordan's buddies. This year with the advent of the amazing weather, it was time take advantage of the mild temps and grill tri-tip. Being from the Santa Ynez Valley, this is our family tradition... one that we never tire of. I am a woman that loves to grill, but when "Grill Master" Steve is around, he takes charge of cooking the meat. Steve has worked as a Hotshot for several years now with the Plumas group. He not only can cook, but Steve is an excellent hunter as well. He joined us halfway through the golfing because he had been up at dawn to go hunt wild turkeys.

Grill Master Steve tending the tri-tip.
   The menu included homemade pinquito beans, garlic bread from sourdough baguettes that I have been making from Juliette's bread recipe that she developed for her Guadalupe Baking Company, and a big green salad which are the usual sides for the Santa Maria style tri-tip barbeque. As I looked around from my seat on the front porch, my eyes took in firefighters sitting on the lawn laughing and talking, and a young mother nursing her baby boy next to me. There was a grandmother and grandfather, dogs playing fetch with children, and even an American flag waving over the proceedings. I couldn't help feeling like I was taking part in a Chevy commercial—the kind that makes you tear up in spite of yourself.

 Our family suffered the devastating loss of Joshua four years ago. It has been a very rough road as anyone who has lost a child knows. On that day, Jordan lost his identical twin and best friend. The healing is slow, and there is no way through the overwhelming grief but to slog on one step at a time—day after day. Through this uncharted territory, we all have managed to pull together, and be kind to one another. Easier said than done. 
   With the advent of this year's outing, I once again with concentrated effort, flung myself into Jordan's tall truck as we headed to the golf course. I unceremoniously straightened myself in my seat while Jordan smirked at my customary lack of grace—nothing new there. When the radio sprang to life with the start of the engine, a Bruce Springsteen song was playing, and his voice rang out, "These are the days, baby, oh better days, it's true, these are the days, baby, better days are shining through."  I smiled to myself at the perfection of the tarot of music for once again offering up the perfect song... for these are indeed better days for all of us, and I intend to give thanks for them and savor every single one.

Santa Maria Style Barbecue Menu
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