Monthly Archives: December 2021

The first major snow-hike of the Winter!


Saturday, 18-Dec-2021


Snow, Snow, Snow!

I love snow!

I’ve mentioned it before, but it’s an interesting thing worth repeating – In Oregon, the snow level is very much dependent on elevation. When I picked up my coworkers in town, it was a nice (albeit drizzly) morning. Cold, but not that nice crisp-cold… sort of a damp-ish cold. But by the time we all piled out of the car at the trailhead it was crisp, snowy, and gloriously overcast. Little flurries of snow, with the loud “whump” of snow falling off the trees as the day got warmer.

Portland itself is just about sea level, as is Wilsonville, both being just about 100ft above sea level. Our destination for the day, however, was just below 3,500ft elevation… and the snow level met us at just about 2,500ft during our drive up.

Ohh, right. What was our destination? Mirror Lake!!

I know, I know, it’s not the most exciting or intense hike out there… but you know what? This was the first time that we’d all gotten to hike together, it was the first real snow-hike of the year, and we were stuffing four people into the Mustang. So… you know, Hopefully a little understandable that we didn’t want to go too far or too long.

First off – why the Mustang? Well, my friends had all just moved to Portland earlier this year – so none of them had snow tires, or chains, for their cars. We debated it, but since two of the party were rather small we decided that it’d be simplest to let me drive… I’ve got solid Oregon-snow driving experience, already have chains for the car, and I’ve become quite comfortable driving the Mustang through the sometimes challenging terrain around Mt. Hood.

I mean, that… and I just really like driving the Mustang!

The trailhead was surprisingly empty when we parked and started into the woods… I’ve come to expect this trail to be packed nearly year-round, so this was an absolutely lovely happenstance. On a Saturday, no less! I expect that it’s from the skiing… I have a feeling that all the drifting snow would make for an excellent powder day, so it’s definitely understandable that everyone would be out enjoying the early-season pow-pow days.

We hiked in. We ate lunch at the lake (I brought beef stew!) and we even fed the birds a bit! I adore seeing peoples faces the first time they have a Jay land on their hand… There’s someone just so wholesome about seeing someone take a full “disney princess” moment, you know?

Hiking was excellent – we walked, chatted, enjoyed the views, and had ourselves an excellent time. The snow was quiet, the air was crisp, and there was just enough of a drizzle or rain / snow mixture to keep us happy to be moving.

A very good day, indeed.

As a bonus – I really love the “looking up into the canopy” picture I took… especially because, for some reason, all I can see is Sasquatch walking. Do you see it now?

A fancy dinner evening


Wednesday, 08-Dec-2021

It’s been a while since I’ve had occasion to really throw down and make a big, multi-course, fancy and fun dinner. Daniel and Erin’s visit had given me some change, but for some reason those hadn’t quite scratched the itch that I was feeling…

My poor neighbors. Subjected to such cruelty. Having to come over and get fed.

I don’t think they minded, so much.

The plan for the evening was a four-course meal. I’d say “nothing fancy”, but that wouldn’t quite be true… I was taking this as a chance to practice, to experiment, and to try a few recipes that I’d been wanting to try out. For quite a while, in one case!

Adding to the challenge was a new dietary restriction – I’ve cooked for vegetarians and for vegans, but never for someone dairy-free… That gave me some interesting leeway, but still put a block on many of my standard cooking practices.

I was aiming to follow the framework of a fancy Italian meal – small courses, planned and timed to flow into each other as best as possible.

Without further Ado – The meal!

Course 1 – A pasta course.

This one was a light starter, but with enough heft that we wouldn’t be distracted by hunger for the rest of the meal. Simple, clean, and pleasant:

Bucatini, tossed in a non-dairy butter sauce mixed with a tiny bit of truffle oil, with soppressata sausage, salt, and pepper added. Garnished with parsley, of course, since I’m not a savage.

Course 2 – A veggie course.

I’ve been wanting to cook this for years, even since trying it while visiting Rome back in 2018. Judaean Artichokes! Trimmed, spread out, and oiled with truffle oil, olive oil, salt, and pepper.

My neighbors were kind enough to bring over an air fryer, so I didn’t have to deep-fry them like the recipe calls for – and I’ll say, they turned out beautiful! There’s far less meat on an artichoke than I remembered, so this one was a good “rest” course, where peeling the artichoke was as much an event as eating it was. It gave us a good chance to chat and relax before the main course.

Course 3 – The main event

This was going to be a challenge.

See, I love cooking steak, and I love making fancy steak. One of my favorite “show off” dishes is a variant of Steak Au Poivre, where I flambe fillet mignon in a brandy sauce. But you see… that works because the brandy flames work with the butter and steak juice, making a glorious base for the heavy cream.

None of which are dairy-free. As a variant, I grabbed non-dairy butter along with oat heavy cream, but this was definitely going to be a challenge.

In the end… the steaks came out well, but the sauce was a bust. I tried my best, I really did, but the non-dairy butter that I got just… didn’t quite work. Somehow it opened the grains in my skillet and caused the brandy to… seep through? Or something? Which meant that, when I lit it up, it didn’t really mix or caramelize at all, and instead just set the whole pan on fire. Literally the whole pan. All sides.

I was able to get the sauce together by using a ton of fake-butter and oil, but when it did come out… It was somehow a chocolate sauce? I don’t know what I did, but I think the sweetness and nuttyness of the oat milk combined in some arcane dark ritual.

End the end, the steak was excellent on its own – especially when paired with the solid full-bodied red wine that I’d picked out.

Course 4 – Dessert

For dessert, we had chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream!

“But Ben, those aren’t dairy-free!”

“You’re right, other Ben! But I MADE THEM DAIRY-FREE!”

The ice cream was easy. I bought non-dairy ice cream. Boom, done.

The cake? Vegan chocolate cake, one-mug, in the microwave. Boom, done and delicious.

The wine pairing? Loganberry aperitif – sweet, sparkling, and a glorious pairing… especially with the tiny bit of cherry juice that I added to the cake batter 😀

I’m quite proud with how everything came out. Definitely a fun evening!

Bibliography: Recipes!

– Bucatini = Don’t need a recipe, just… cook it up?
– Judaean Artichokes =
– Steak Au Poivre (WARNING: Graphic language. Sorry. It is what it is.) =
– Single-Mug vegan chocolate cake =