Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Favorite recipes of 2014

Tomorrow is 2015. Crazy right? Right! For me, 2014 was a good year but I plan on making 2015 a spectacular year. I think we get to make those choices. Attitude is everything.

My 2014 highlights? Celebrating one year of marriage with my most favorite person (yes, this is Blake) in magical Crested Butte. Spending one week wandering in the Grand Tetons. Getting lost in a maze of needles in Canyonlands National Park and within Canyonlands hiking to what now makes my top 5 list of most sacred stunning places, Druid Arch. We also had our fair share of great meals. 2014 seemed to be the year of really awesome pizza and if I have my way, 2015 will be too.

I cooked a lot in 2014. Possibly more than I ever have before. I feel I have grown leaps and bounds as a cook and baker in the last year. Below you will find my favorites.

Carrot cake power muffin-my absolute favorite muffin
Lemon yogurt bread-this bread is just wonderful
Irish soda bread-make this in March or tomorrow, so good
Maple sweet potato oat muffins-maple and sweet potato are my favorite things
Breaded lemon cream cheese bread-for special occasions this bread is a win

Buffalo chili cheese fries- I will eat these at every Super Bowl until the end of time

Korean Bulgogi grilled flatiron steak with bok chi-Sweet, spicy, smoky
Jalapeno pretzel dogs with beer cheese dipping sauce-If left in charge, I would eat these weekly
Baked hot chicken sandwich with spicy bourbon sauce-A southern dream
Chicken souvlaki with tzatziki sauce-light, zingy, wonderful
My all time favorite penne with meat sauce-the greatest comfort food
Loaded pulled pork chili fries with chipotle beer queso- fries, queso, pulled pork, and guac is all I need
Roasted sweet potato and onion sandwich with avocado and sriracha mayo-a go to in our house

Oatmeal applesauce snack cake-oh so satisfying and almost healthy
Brown butter cadbury egg blondie-always a hit
Muddy buddy crispy treat-muddy buddies and crispy treats? Be still my heart
Peppermint pattie cookies-my favorite dessert made this year

Friday, December 26, 2014

Pork sandwich with onion marmalade, blue cheese spread, and avocado

I'm sitting on the couch in a robe. It snowed 10 inches overnight. I'm wondering how long I can delay going to work. If I do go to work, I'm wondering if at the very least I can wear the robe. I'm calling this the holiday hangover. Not in the I consumed one too many glasses of wine sense but in the sense that I spent the last few days eating cookies and relaxing on the couch and eating more cookies. My body needs time to adapt. Alas all good things must come to end. 

The other thing I want is a relatively easy meal. I have cooked a lot this holiday season. This sandwich is a beauty. The blue cheese spread is cream cheese and blue cheese whipped together. Nothing wrong with that. So simple. So delicious. That richness with the brightness of the red onion marmalade is a beautiful thing. I would eat this sandwich again and again. 

Pork sandwich with onion marmalade, blue cheese spread, and avocado
Serves 4, blue cheese spread adapted from Not Without Salt 

1 pound boneless pork chops
3 cups water
1/4 cup salt
1 bay leaf 
1 teaspoon peppercorns (optional)
3/4 cup blue cheese, softened 
3 ounces cream cheese, softened 
1 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 avocado, sliced
Arugula for serving 
1 large baguette, cut in quarters and each quarter sliced lengthwise  in half

Red onion marmalade 
1 tbs butter
1 tbs olive oil
2 red onions thinly sliced
1 garlic clove minced
1/3  cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup dry fruity red wine (I used a Bordeaux, zinfandel would work great as well)

In a large bowl or tupperware, mix water, salt, bay leaf, and peppercorns. Add pork to the brine (water/salt solution) and let brine for 30 minutes. 

While pork is brining, mix together blue cheese and cream cheese with a spatula. Set aside.

Now prepare your red onion marmalade. In a saute pan over medium-high heat, heat oil and butter until butter has melted. Add onion, garlic, sugar, salt, and pepper and stir. Reduce heat to medium and stir occasionally, until onions have softened, about 15 minutes. Add vinegar and wine and cook until most of the liquid has been absorbed, about ten minutes. Remove from heat. 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk together pepper, 1/2 teaspoon salt, paprika, mustard powder, and brown sugar. Remove pork chops from the brine and pat dry with a paper towel. Rub the pork chops with the spice rub you just made on both sides. 

In a medium oven safe saute pan over high heat, brown the pork on both sides, 5-6 minutes a side. Put the pan in the oven and bake 20-25 minutes until the pork is just cooked through. Let pork rest for 5 minutes. Slice lengthwise into 1/2" strips. 

Assemble your sandwich. Spread a generous layer of blue cheese bread on one side of the baguette. Layer pork, avocado, onion marmalade, and arugula on the baguette and enjoy!

Friday, December 19, 2014

French onion braised chicken

Remember in college and high school when the holiday break meant at least two weeks of freedom? That's when the holidays were really fun. Two weeks of waking up and staying in your pajamas until ten in the morning, drinking eggnog, and watching holiday movies. Then we get older and we have to go to work. If we are lucky, we can squeeze in a couple of days with family doing the above mentioned activities but it's never the same.

This year I'm committed to reclaiming the holiday spirit of relaxation and merriment. I'm sitting by the tree most nights with apple cider in hand and appreciating it's loveliness. Starting Saturday through Christmas I'm committed to rocking the pjs for most of the day. I will wrap in them and bake in them. I may even go to the store in them. Judge if you will. I will make cinnamon buns, fluffy rolls, and more cookies. I will savor it all. 

In taking back the holidays, I'm making all sorts of celebratory food. This French onion braised chicken fit the bill perfectly. I love French onion soup. Crispy baguette and bubbly gruyere all floating in a nest of caramelized onions makes me happy. 

Then I saw this braised French onion chicken on the The Kitchn and I was sold. How had I not thought of this before? This makes French onion soup a more hearty meal. Braising the chicken makes it tender and the caramelized onion accompaniment gives it a richness without being heavy. Broil a little gruyere over the top and you have yourself a meal worthy of a celebration. 

French onion braised chicken
Adapted from The Kitchen, serves 4

2 tablespoons butter
2 pounds yellow onions, sliced 
Pepper and salt to taste 
4 cloves garlic, minced 
2 teaspoons thyme
1 tablespoon rosemary 
2 cups chicken broth 
1 tablespoon balsamic 
2 tablespoons dijon mustard
4 chicken breasts
1/2 cup gruyere, grated 

Melt butter in a medium oven safe saute pan over medium heat. When the butter has melted completely, add the onions. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and stir. Cook the onion for 35-40 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally. 

While the onions are cooking, season your chicken with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over high heat in a medium saute pan. Once the oil is hot, add the chicken and cook 5-6 minutes a side, until the chicken is browned on both sides. Set chicken aside on a plate. 

Using the same pan you cooked the chicken in over medium high heat add the remain 1 cup of broth and stir vigorously. Whisk in balsamic and dijon. Cook until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Take off the heat.

When the onion begin to caramelize, add garlic, thyme, and rosemary. Cook for 5-10 more minutes. When onion are dark brown in color, add 1 cup of the chicken broth. Turn heat up to high and let simmer for an additional 5 minutes until it has reduced some. Take the onions off the heat.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 

Place the browned chicken over the onions in the saute pan. Pour over balsamic and dijon sauce. Put a lid on the saute pan and put in the oven. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Remove chicken from oven and put oven on broil. Sprinkle gruyere over the top and put back in the oven for 3-4 minutes. Keep an eye on the oven. Once you have bubbly cheese pull out the chicken and enjoy! 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Garlic roasted broccoli


Snow and I had another meeting of the minds this weekend. In my attempt to enjoy snow, I feel I'm coming up short. It's still cold. It hides ice and takes me out on runs. Snow is not reciprocating my attempts to bond. I suppose all relationships take time.

I did have a little break through with snow this weekend on my run. Up in the foothills it fell in big fat idyllic flakes around me. It seemed kind of nice so I pulled out my earphones to appreciate the serenity. It was oh so quiet. 

What is it about snow that makes the world so quiet? It must be science. Does the snow absorb sound? The more likely theory, the thing that I can embrace about snow, is that people tend to stay cozy at home. Snow makes people start a fire, drink hot chocolate, read a book, watch a movie, or play games. Or at least that is what I like to think. It makes me like snow a little more. I certainly enjoyed it in that quiet moment in the hills. 

When I came home from my run, in my snow appreciation mood, I was committed to roasting something in the oven. I made this roasted broccoli that night and about five time since. It may be the only way I eat broccoli moving forward. That or covered in cheese. Either are viable options. 

I imagine many of you didn't even click on this post. Roasted broccoli. How boring! It's not though. I promise. Side dishes often are neglected. Why must we eat boring vegetables? I say starting today we take a stand. Moving forward we cannot and will not eat dismal broccoli. Roasting broccoli takes no more thought than steaming and it improves the flavor tenfold. It slightly crisps the edges giving the broccoli a toasty sweet flavor. In this version, I add garlic but you could slice lemons over the top and roast it all together or season it with anything under the sun. Very versatile. Very good. 

Garlic roasted broccoli 
Serves 4

2 pounds broccoli 
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon granulated sugar 
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Chop each broccoli floret from main stem. Stir garlic and oil together in a medium bowl. Add broccoli to the bowl and toss to coat with oil and garlic. Sprinkle sugar, salt, and pepper over the top and stir. 

Spread broccoli over a baking sheet. Roast for 30 minutes stirring halfway.  

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Cauliflower pesto pasta

Blake is in the midst of law school finals. Law school, as you might imagine, is not a whole lot of fun. Certainly not for him but also not for me. While he's holed up studying, I have no one to entertain me. And I liked to be entertained. I don't do bored well. I have engaged the dog at length in conversations. She's good company.

I won't leave Blake alone for too long though. The exciting thing about living with me (or possibly annoying) is that I insist on fun. Fun all the time. I pack our schedules tight with activities. Remember that time we tried to learn to play the mandolin? That kind of fun. During finals I have to dial the fun back a little but yesterday after his first test, we went out for a break. A beverage, french fry, burrito kind of break. That's the great thing about food right? A little french fry can go a long way in improving your day. We also took a break earlier in the week to eat pizza, put on Christmas music, and decorate the tree. Pizza...see a theme in how we have fun here?

Food can also bring comfort during stressful study weeks. My comfort food of choice? Pasta. Did you guess it? This pasta is from the Smitten Kitchen cookbook and I love it. We make it frequently. The cauliflower gives it a little more texture and heartiness than your ordinary pesto. The sun dried tomatoes and capers are my favorite additions. A little sweet and a little salty. I think this pasta is super satisfying. It comes together in 30 minutes or less. Perfect for busy weeks when time for fun is already sparse.

Cauliflower pesto pasta
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen, serves 6

16 ounces of linguine
1 small head of cauliflower
5 sundried tomatoes (not packed in oil), rough chopped
2 tablespoons of capers
2 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup parmesan plus more for serving
1/2 cup almonds
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Bring water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions. Save a 1/4 cup of the pasta water before draining.

In a food processor or blender, pulse the cauliflower until its about the size of couscous. Pour the crumbled cauliflower into a large bowl.

 Add the sundried tomatoes, capers, garlic, parmesan, and almonds to the processor. Pulse until the mixture is coarse in texture. Add to the bowl with the cauliflower.

Add pasta to the bowl with the pesto and cauliflower. Add olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, and pasta water. Mix together until all the pasta is coated. Serve with a extra parmesan.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Peppermint pattie cookies

Let the cookie baking begin. What better excuse than the holidays? As soon as we finish eating one batch, I'm onto the next. Some batches may overlap. In need of a cookie? Come to our house. I can guarantee that we will have cookies through the New Year. As of right now my cookie baking list looks like this: these peppermint pattie cookies, sugar cookies, soft gingersnap cookies, rugelach pinwheels, peppermint fudge, and peanut butter blossoms. I reserve the right to add other batches as I see fit.

These cookies! I'm pretty excited about these cookies. I'm worried I started off on such a high note all other cookies will disappoint in comparison. I love these cookies! First, the cookie itself is super chocolaty and dense. I could eat them on their own. Then add the smooth and creamy peppermint frosting and you will need nothing else in life. Nothing! I promise. Need some holiday cheer? Look no further. 

Peppermint pattie cookies
Adapted slightly from How Sweet It Is, makes about a dozen cookies 

1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (my all time favorite is Valrhona cocoa powder) 
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt 
10 tablespoons of unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 egg and 1 egg yolk 
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup dark chocolate chips

Peppermint pattie frosting 
2 cups powdered sugar 
1 1/2 tablespoons butter, softened 
3 tablespoons evaporated milk 
1/4 teaspoon vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract 
1 teaspoon peppermint extract 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two baking sheets

Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. 

In a large bowl, whisk together melted butter and sugars until combined. Add egg, egg yolk, and vanilla extract and whisk until combined. Using a spatula stir in the chocolate chips. 

Add dry ingredient to the wet ingredients and use a spatula to combine. 

Roll cookie dough into 2" balls and place on your baking sheets. Cake for 8-10 minutes. You want to bake the cookies until they have just set. Lean towards less bake time than more. You want your cookies to stay fudgy. Let cool completely. 

While the cookies are cooling, make your frosting. In a medium bowl,use an electric mixer beat together powdered sugar, butter, evaporated milk, vegetable oil, vanilla extract, and peppermint extract. Beat until smooth. Spread the frosting over the cooled cookies. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Thai pork lettuce wraps + bonus holiday DIY decoration

Yesterday Blake caught me crafting again. I believe I have mentioned this new affinity I have for home decoration and projects. It freaks Blake out a little. It freaks me out a lot. I now know what it means to decoupage. Oh goody.

What was I decoupaging you might ask? More likely you're not asking. Also, who knew decoupaging was a verb? Not me. I made this darling little Christmas tree, which I framed and now hangs on my entry door in place of a wreath. Did I say darling? You bet I did. Darling is a word reserved for crafters. 

The holiday spirit has taken over my life. I intend to be armed at all times with a glue gun for crafting and spatula for cookie making until December 25th. I'm sharing this tree project with you below because it was easy and fun. If you too have always dreamed of decoupage, this is the project for you. 

When you are in the throes of glue sticks and sequins, you need an easy dinner. Enter Thai pork lettuce wraps. Really yummy Thai pork lettuce wraps with a sweet coconut milk, peanut, and chili sauce glaze. 30 minutes and you have yourself a meal. Did I mention it's also fairly healthy? Let's all be honest a healthy dinner never hurts during the holiday season, when my moto becomes a holiday cookie a day keeps the doctor away. 

Thai pork lettuce wraps
Adapted from Seriously Delish, serves 4

1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup sweet Thai chili sauce 
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar (you can sub white wine vinegar) 
2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
Juice of 1 lime
3 tablespoons brown sugar 
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced 
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds boneless pork loin chops, chopped into bite sized cubes 
1/2 cup carrots, sliced (about 2 medium sized carrots)
1 head butter lettuce
1/4 cup roasted and salted peanuts

In a saucepan over medium heat, whisk together coconut milk, sweet Thai chili sauce, rice wine vinegar, peanut butter, lime juice, brown sugar, garlic, and crushed red pepper until combined. Whisk occasionally for 3-5 minutes until sauce slightly thickens and set aside. 

Sprinkle salt and pepper over your pork. In a medium saute pan over high heat, heat olive oil. Add pork and cook until browned on both sides, 4-5 minutes a side. Add carrots halfway through browning the pork. Stir occasionally. Once the pork has browned, stir in 1/4 cup of your glaze. Stir until all the pork and carrots are coated and remove from heat. 

Using the butter lettuce as a cup add your pork and peanuts. Use the extra sauce for dipping. 

Christmas tree frame for doorway 
Tree adapted from Better Home and Gardens

8" by 10" frame 
1 piece of white poster board cut to 8" by 10" 
Pages from an old book 
4 tablespoons white glue (Elmer's)
4 tablespoons water 
Paint brush
Hot glue gun
1 yard of green lace or thick ribbon (whatever you would like to make your tree from)
Sequins, buttons, or anything shiny to decorate your tree

Lay down some newspaper. 

Cut out 5-7 pages of an old novel. Plan your layout on your poster board. You can crisscross the pages any way you like. They will be your background. 

Mix together your white glue and water. Brush the glue mixture over your poster board and carefully lay your book pages over the sticky poster board (to the best of my knowledge this is more or less decoupage). You will need to add more glue for any overlapping pages. 

Lay your lace or ribbon back and forth across the posterboard to make your tree shape. Once you know what you want this to look like hot glue down the ribbon. 

Glue on any sparkling ornaments. Place in your frame and hang on a wreath/frame door hanger (can be found at most craft stores) on your door. 

Monday, December 1, 2014

Garlicky Collards and Sausage with Jalapeno Cheddar Grits

This dish stemmed from my desire to cook something veggie packed this week. Blake had to point out that including sausage and cheddar in grits may negate some of the value of all the greens. I just call that a balanced meal. I wouldn't want to shock my body by taking all the cheese out of dinner. It's only a little cheese after all.

Southern food tops my list as an area I want to explore further as a cook. It's also an area I want to explore some time in person. I want to drive across the south and eat po boys, biscuits, grits, and BBQ. Give me all the biscuits! Until then I will settle for experimenting at home, which is half the fun of cooking anyway.

The grits in this dish are everything you want, creamy, hearty, and a little cheesy with some heat. That makes them the perfect accompaniment to the collards swimming in garlic with a bright touch of apple cider vinegar. A pretty easy dish that after about 20 minutes of prep, requires only the occasional stirring. A nice way to get a load of greens in without being too healthy. 

Garlicky collards and sausage with jalapeno cheddar grits
Collards slightly adapted from The Kitchn 

Jalapeno cheddar grits
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 jalapenos, seeded and diced
2 cups milk
2 cups water
1 cup grits
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese

Garlicky collards and sausage
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 links of your favorite sausage, pre cooked and cut into 1/2" rounds
2 yellow onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes 
1 teaspoon salt
2 bunches collard greens, cut into ribbons
3 cups chicken broth 
1/2 cup dry sherry (you could sub a dry white wine)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

In a medium sauce pan over medium high heat, heat the olive oil. Add the jalapeno and cook 3-4 minutes stirring occasionally. Pour in you milk and water and bring to a boil. Once boiling add grits and cook 2 minutes stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low and cover with a lid. Let grits cook 40 minutes, stirring every 7 minutes or so. 

Heat tablespoon of olive oil in a large saute pan over medium high heat. Add sausage and brown on both sides, about 3-4 minutes a side. Add onion, garlic, paprika, red pepper flakes, and salt to the pan. Cook for about five minutes, until the onion begins to soften. Add the collard greens and let wilt slightly. Pout in chicken broth, sherry, and vinegar. Stir to combine. Lower heat to low and cover with a lid. Let simmer for 30 minutes.  

Stir cheddar, salt, and pepper into grits right before eating. Serve collards over the grits. If you have leftovers, reheat the grits with a little milk to make them creamy again before eating. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Sticky Thai BBQ pulled pork sandwiches with slaw

On any given day, I have about 100 different cravings. Chocolate, something spicy, pizza, pickles!
Thus, around and around goes my mind. This makes deciding what to cook for dinner a difficult task. Usually I have to consult Blake, which goes a little something like this:

Me, "Pizza with figs, blue cheese, and prosciutto for dinner or burgers with goat cheese, roasted peppers, and date spread?" (Yes, the options are almost always this healthy.)

Blake, "Both. With a side of broccoli." (Broccoli always balances out the other poor decisions.)

So I'm back to not knowing what to cook for dinner and then inevitably throughout the day a third option comes to mind. No decision can ever be made. This also means I find myself at the grocery store at a minimum of every other day to meet whatever cravings may come. Luckily I love my grocery store. Mostly because of the samples. The more samples the merrier. Especially cheese samples.

On the day I made this meal, I was craving a sandwich and pork. Easy enough to combine with endless possibilities. The original recipe that inspired this Thai BBQ sauce, slathered ribs with the sauce. Also, a good option. I love the sweet and slightly spicy balance of this sauce. I love the thick stickiness. The slaw provides the perfect counterpart to the sweetness. I also love throwing pork in the crock pot in the morning and having my meal almost ready when I return home from work. This is the beauty of the slow cooker. This sandwich is hearty and assuredly will fill many a craving on a cold winter's day.

Sticky BBQ Thai pulled pork sandwiches with slaw 
Serves 4, Thai BBQ sauce adapted from Half Baked Harvest

1 1/2 pounds boneless pork chops
1 1/2 cups sweet Thai chili sauce
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon Thai red curry paste (in the Asian aisle of most grocery stores)
2 cloves of garlic, smashed
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Medium head of cabbage, shredded
2 medium carrots, grated
1/4 onion, grated
1/4 cup mayo
3 tablespoons mustard
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Thai BBQ Sauce 
2 jalapenos, seeded and diced
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup ketchup
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup sweet Thai chili sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
Juice of one lime
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
4 ciabatta rolls
Bread and butter pickles (optional)

Whisk together sweet Thai chili sauce, soy sauce, red curry paste, garlic, and pepper. In a crock pot, pour sauce over pork chops. Cook in slow cooker on medium for 4-6 hours. Once pork is done pull into strip using two forks.

While the pork is cooking, prepare the slaw. Mix together shredded cabbage, carrots, and onion. Whisk mayo, dijon, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, salt, and pepper. Pour over the top of the cabbage mixture and mix until coated. This is best done at least one hour before you plan to use it. Can be made the day before and stored in the fridge. 

About 10 minutes before you plan to eat, make your BBQ sauce. Add a tablespoon of olive oil to a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Add you jalapenos and cook strirring occasionally until softened, 3-4 minutes. Add the soy sauce, ketchup, peanut butter, sweet Thai chili sauce, rice wine vinegar, and lime. Stir until just combined. Remove from heat and stir in the cilantro.

Pour BBQ sauce over your pulled pork. Toast rolls. Layer pork, slaw, and pickles over the roll. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Lemon Thyme Creme Fraiche Potato Soup

Today I'm going to tell you a love story. Who doesn't enjoy a good love story? It has to do with potato soup. Oh the possibilities when potato soup is involved. Alright it's about more than potato soup. Really it's about a love that came together over a mutually shared admiration of food (and the outdoors) and the food that continues to sustain that relationship. Because if it's about love, of course it's about food and Blake. Don't worry I didn't forget my husband.

When Blake and I began dating we got to know one another over shared meals, which included dates at restaurants, cooking together, and watching the food network. This is not different then most relationships begin. Whether we are cooking or eating out, food gives us the opportunity to put the brakes on all the noise and chaos that fills our everyday. Sharing meals allows us to have conversations, in a world where conversations have become fewer and further between. Over each meal Blake and I learned more about the other's vision of life and learned that our visions were much the same. Those meals began everything.

Those meals and weekend adventures in the great outdoors still sustain everything. With Blake at law school and me at work, time is limited. Twice a week we drop everything to hang out. Date night and hiking Sundays are sacred in this house. For date night this week, we went to a wine/beer paired walking dinner. Six courses each paired with a wine or beer from a different place. We had conversations. As it does every week, it reminded me how much I like talking to Blake, especially over an excellent meal. Yes, I still like talking to him. This is good news.

During this meal we had velvety potato soup with a dollop of lemon thyme creme fraiche. I loved it so much I immediately went home and attempted to recreate it. This soup is thick and hearty. Perfect for a cold night. The lemon creme fraiche brightens it up. The chard adds some texture. It's a way to eat a bowl of mashed potatoes for dinner and call it a meal. This soup is just one part of my favorite love story.

Lemon Thyme Creme Fraiche Potato Soup
Serves 6

1 head of garlic, roasted
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 sweet onion, sliced
6 medium sized yukon gold potatoes, diced
4 cups chicken broth
8 ounces creme fraiche (sour cream can be subbed)
Zest of one lemon + 3 tablespoons juice
2 teaspoons thyme
1 bunch swiss chard, chopped
1 teaspoon salt (more to taste)
1 teaspoon pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Chop off the top of the garlic to expose the cloves and wrap the garlic in foil. Roast for 40 minutes. If you don't have the extra 40 minutes, you can mince the garlic and cook it with the onion and potatoes. Roasted garlic has a caramelized sweet flavor that's pretty magical so I recommend it.

Heat olive oil in a dutch oven over medium high heat. Add your potatoes and onion and cook stirring occasionally until the onion has softened, 7-8 minutes. Add your chicken broth and increase heat to high to bring to a boil. Once boiling reduce heat to medium. Simmer until the potatoes are fork tender, about 10 minutes.

While the soup is simmering, in a small bowl whisk together creme fraiche, lemon zest and juice, and thyme.

Using an immersion blender or regular blender puree the soup. I wanted mine smooth but you can blend yours to your prefered consistency.

Once pureed, add back to the dutch oven over medium heat. Mix in half the creme fraiche mixture and greens. Stir until the greens have cooked down. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve with a dollop of creme fraiche on top.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Sweet potato pie with praline topping and gingersnap crust

Dearest Colorado you still manage to surprise me. Usually in the best possible ways. For example, on Sunday, Blake and I drove up to the mountains and turned on a road we had never been down before. We do this every week. Take to the mountains and hike. We have turned down many roads and been greeted by beautiful things. What still amazes me is how many beautiful places we have yet to see in this state. How many nooks and crannies we have yet to explore.

This road led to a stunning gulch that ended in magnificent James Peak towering 13,000 feet over the valley floor. The temperature was 40 degrees. Warm for that elevation in November. The winds matched the temperature at about 40 miles per hour. Not the most peaceful hiking but we had fun. We saw something new. We got out of the car and were surrounded by nothing but wilderness. Thank you Colorado for these gifts.

Our Sunday adventure 

But of course what Colorado giveth it also taketh away. For example, yesterday morning I ran in shorts in 63 degrees. An hour after my run the temperature dropped 30 degrees and it began to snow. Now I am staring at a few inches of snow of the ground and it continues to fall. Oh Colorado, you are so silly.

I'm learning to embrace snow. Trying my darndest. It's pretty, right? Peaceful. It demands I drink hot chocolate. At the very least I like hot chocolate. It also means Thanksgiving pie season is upon us. This pie is a lot of good things rolled into one. I love the gingersnap crust with the sweet potato. So much more interesting than your average flaky pie dough and so easy. Mix some gingersnap crumbs with butter and you are on your way. The praline topping was a favorite component in our house. A little extra crunch and awesome caramelized flavor. You can double it and spread it all over the top of the pie. I would do this. The more topping the better. Watch out boring Thanksgiving pie! This pie brings some excitement back to dessert.

Sweet potato pie with praline topping and gingersnap
Crust adapted from Joy the Baker, filling and praline adapted from Sunset Magazine

2 pounds sweet potatoes
3 large eggs
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons melted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Gingersnap crust
2 1/2 cups gingersnap crumbs
5 tablespoons melted butter

Praline topping 
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon  bourbon (optional)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup rough chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Pierce sweet potatoes with a knife all over. Bake in a shallow baking dish until for tender, 50 minutes to 1 hour. Let cool and puree flesh (no skins) in a blender.

While the sweet potatoes are baking prepare your crust. In a food processor or blender, pulse about 4 cups of gingersnaps until they are a fine powder. Mix crumbs together with butter. In a 9 inch greased pie dish, press the gingersnap mixture with your fingers or the back of a large serving spoon into the dish and up the sides. The spoon works well for the center and your finger work well for the sides. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes.

Reduce oven heat to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together 2 cups of the sweet potato puree, eggs, butter, sugar, milk, vanilla extract, cinnamon, salt, allspice, and nutmeg. Pour into crust and level. Wrap rim of pie dish with 4 strips of aluminum foil. This keeps the exposed crust from burning.

Bake for 30 minutes. While the pie is baking, whisk together all the praline topping ingredients.

After 30 minutes, remove the foil from the pie and spread praline topping around the edges. Bake another 15 minutes.

Remove from oven and let cool completely. About an hour.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Potato "Enchiladas" with Chorizo and Peppers

Initially I was going to talk about a thai brussel sprout salad today but then I realized if I talked about brussel sprouts twice in less than a month, you may all stop reading. So instead I layered some sliced potatoes with chorizo, greens, and peppers, and smothered it with enchilada sauce and cheese. Way more fun than brussel sprouts.

This dish has been on my mind for awhile. I love potatoes. I wanted a way to eat a whole slew of them and call it a meal. I wanted it to have a southwestern feel. The beautiful thing about cooking is that you can make anything you crave a reality. No one is going to tell you no. Dream big dreams.

I dreamed big dreams with this dish and was wholly satisfied. Essentially it's like potatoes gratin without the milk and add in some enchilada sauce and spicy chorizo. We ate half the casserole dish in one night and were simultaneously disgusted with ourselves and delighted. Once again this is one of those recipes you can make your own. Not a fan of chorizo? Do it with chicken or ground beef. Want it a little less spicy? Cut the peppers. Add other vegetables. The world is our oyster.

Potato "enchiladas" with chorizo and peppers 
Serves 6 reasonable people

1 pound chorizo
1 medium red onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 anaheim or bell peppers, chopped (pick your favorite pepper variety)
2 jalapenos, minced (or 1 for something more mild)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
4 cups spinach
1 1/2 pounds red potatoes, sliced about 1/4" thick
1 (28 oz) can enchilada sauce or you can make your own, I used this recipe
2 cups grated sharp cheddar
Avocado, sliced
Hot sauce

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a nonstick pan over medium high heat, add chorizo and cook stirring occasionally for about 3-4 minutes. Add your onion, garlic, and peppers to the pan and stir occasionally, until vegetables just begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the spinach and cook about 1-2 minutes until just wilted. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat, pour off excess grease, and set aside.

Coat a 9" by 13" baking dish with nonstick spray. Layer the bottom of the dish with a 1/3 of the potato slices. Spread a 1/3 of the enchilada sauce over the potatoes, sprinkle half the sausage and pepper mixture and half the cheese over the potatoes and sauce. Take another 1/3 of the potatoes and layer over this. Spread 1/3 of the enchilada sauce and rest of the sausage mixture over the top. Do your final layer of potato slices and smother with the rest of the sauce and cheese.

Bake covered for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 15-20 minutes until the cheese is bubbly. Serve with avocado and hot sauce.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Halloween Pumpkin Oreos

I will take any excuse to celebrate and make themed holiday food. Why not? Let's have a little fun in this life. I live with a holiday scrooge but I just refuse to accept that. I bought him a halloween tie covered in spider webs with 3D eyeballs in the middle. I love it. He's not sold. He thinks the dog should wear it and I just frown at him and charge ahead.

What he didn't protest was the bright orange cheddar pesto popcorn I made to honor halloween. He also ate about 75% of these pumpkin oreos. He also probably won't turn down a pumpkin beer tomorrow. So secretly I think he really likes halloween and can't wait to wear his new tie.

These oreos are really fun. They require some waiting time but not a lot of hands on time. The dough needs to be refrigerated for an hour and the filling takes 2-3 hours to set but if you are patient, it will pay off. The cookies are super chocolatey and crispy. Way better than their store bought counterparts. The filling is pretty much like stuffing a pumpkin pie between two cookies that taste like brownie batter. Who could protest that? I sure can't. Blake can't either. They may have the power to turn a holiday scrooge into an enthusiast. I will let you know the results. Until then, we all can agree that a little fun in the shape of an oreo is a pretty good thing.

Halloween Pumpkin Oreos 
Adapted from Half Baked Harvest, makes 20-25 oreos

Pumpkin filling
1 package gelatin (found in the baking aisle)
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 can sweetened condensed milk (14oz)
2 eggs, beaten
1 can pumpkin puree (15oz)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Chocolate wafer
12 tablespoons butter
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

In a medium sauce pan whisk together gelatin, pumpkin pie spice, salt, condensed milk, and eggs. Place on a burner over low heat and stir constantly for 10-15 minutes until the mixture thickens. Stir in pumpkin and vanilla extract until combined. Remove from heat. Place filling in a sealed container and refrigerate for 2-3 hours until thick and spreadable like jam.

In a medium microwave safe bowl, place butter and chocolate chips. Microwave for 30 seconds, stir, and repeat until the butter and the chocolate have melted. Whisk in sugar and vanilla extract until combined. Whisk in the egg.

In another medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda. Add flour mixture to the melted chocolate and butter and beat with an electric mixer or stir with a wooden spoon until dough comes together.

On parchment or wax paper, roll dough into a rough log about 2" across. Roll up dough in wax paper. Refrigerate for an hour. You can rotate your dough periodically, if you want the perfect circle. They taste the same no matter what the shape though so this step is definitely not necessary

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Slice cookie dough into 1/4" thick slices, place on parchment (can be placed right next to each other), and bake for 11-14 minutes. Cookies should be fairly firm when you take them out of the oven. Let the cookies cool.

Once your filling has set, spread generously over your cookies and make your sandwich.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Chocolate Chip, Coconut, Candied Pecan Cookie

Sometimes a girl gets home from a particularly trying day of work, finds a pipe spraying water all over her laundry room, and some cracks in her ceiling that may be the foundation of her house settling. Darn and other choice words we will keep off this PG blog are uttered. On these kinds of days, when the odds seem stacked against us, we need cookies. Cookies are the simplest solution to many of life's large challenges. I really believe this.

Baking and running are my self prescriptions for quieting an ornery day. Most often the simple act of stirring or putting one foot in front of the other allows me to take a big breath and strategize solutions to the stressors in my life. Also, no matter how stressed warm cookies bring a little happiness to this world. As does wine. The two in tandem are pretty wonderful.

So if you need a cookie, I highly recommend these. It's a chocolate chip cookie on steroids. Each bite has a different textural intrigue. Yes, you heard that right, intrigue in the form of a cookie. How exciting. I used candy coated pecans, which was a big win but regular pecans will make you happy too. I'm a girl who doesn't even like nuts in her cookie but the coconut, pecan, chocolate combo is really spectacular. Refrigerate your dough for at least one hour. I know nobody in their right mind wants to make cookie dough and wait to bake it, but refrigerating the dough improves the flavor and makes your cookies stand up when baked. No flat cookies for us. We are all about dense, chewy cookies. The kind that make you think, "what a nice day."

Chocolate chip, coconut, and candied pecan cookies 
Makes between 14-18 cookies, adapted from Flour by Joanne Chang

11 tablespoons butter at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 all-purpose flour
2/3 cups rolled oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup candied pecans (can be found in the bulk aisle of many stores) or salted pecans, chopped
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or using a handheld electric mixer, cream together butter and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy (around 3-4 minutes). Beat in the egg, yolk, and vanilla extract until combined.

In another medium bowl, whisk together flour, oats, baking soda, and salt. Add the chocolate, pecans, and coconut and toss to combine. On low speed, add flour mixture to the wet ingredients until combined.

Put dough in a airtight container for at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours. Trust me refrigerating your dough here will lead to cookie greatness.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment or grease the sheets with nonstick spray or butter. Place about 2 tablespoons of dough on the baking sheets. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until edges turn golden brown.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Grilled Skirt Steak with Sriracha Crema

Around Colorado we are enjoying a bonus summer. We have seen 70s and 80s all through the fall. I'm a pretty big fan of bonus summer. I have been running in shorts. We hiked up to 11,000 feet on Sunday on a snowless trail. It was beautiful up in the mountains. Until the weather turns, I intend to embrace bonus summer for all its worth. If you need me, I will be on the porch margarita in hand.

During bonus summer we will shun soup and food that requires a long time cooking in a hot oven. We may still drink apple cider because it's comfort in a cup. We may still cook with pumpkin and apples because they are in season and delicious. But what we most definitely will do is fire up the grill and enjoy some steak. 

In particular, we will enjoy this steak. This steak is slightly adapted from my favorite cookbook, Seriously Delish. It marinades in garlicky soy brown sugar sauce, which really compliments the sriracha crema. A little addition of feta and tomatoes adds brightness and acidity. Blake and I really loved this dish. We ate it alongside oven baked fries and some seared greens. Let's all pretend it's still summer and grill up something delicious. Winter will come soon enough. 

Grilled Skirt Steak with Sriracha Cream
Serves 4, adapted from Seriously Delish 

1 1/2 pounds skirt or flank steak
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/4 dry sherry
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons brown sugar
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper

Sriracha cream
1/2 cup plain full-fat or 2% greek yogurt
3 tablespoons  low-fat buttermilk
4 teaspoons sriracha 

For serving
Feta for sprinkling on top
1 pint grape tomatoes
4 scallions, sliced

In a 9x13" baking dish, whisk together soy sauce, sherry, olive oil, brown sugar, and garlic cloves. Add the steak to the dish coating both sides with the marinade. Refrigerate for 2 to 24 hours to marinade.

Preheat your grill to high heat. Remove steak from the marinade and sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides. Grill for 3 to 4 minutes per side.

Slice steak, drizzle with cream, feta, tomatoes, and scallions. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Maple Glazed Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Apples, Brussel Sprouts, and Turnips

I think this fall and winter I may roast everything. How easy and delicious. This dish required about 20 minutes of hands on time before throwing it in the oven and forgetting about it for 35 minutes. When the oven timer went off, it was like kitchen magic. An entire comforting meal came out of the oven and I didn't have to stir a thing. Not once.

This meal hits all the fall favorites: maple, apples, brussel sprouts, and turnips. Now if only I could have snuck some pumpkin in, we would really be in business. I know you are probably thinking turnips and brussel sprouts? How are those fall favorites? While I know you have been avoiding brussel sprouts like the plague for as long as you can remember, I beg you to reconsider. I for one think they are the tastiest and so versatile. And healthy! Unless you throw them in with bacon, blue cheese, and maple syrup, which is another preparation I highly recommend. 

As for the turnips, they roast well and absorb the flavor of everything around them, which in this case is apple and maple. If you find yourself really set against them, throw in potatoes. No one can protest a potato. Regardless of your turnip decision, you too will find yourself singing the praises of the roast. I do hereby declare this the fall of roasting everything!

Maple Glazed Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Apples, Brussel Sprouts, and Turnips
Serves 2 

1 pound of pork tenderloin 
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil 
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 apples, sliced
3/4 pound turnips, peeled chopped into roughly 1/2" cubes
1 pound brussel sprouts, halved 
1/2 cup white wine
2/3 cup apple cider

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 

Sprinkle both sides of the pork with salt and pepper. Heat oil on high heat in an oven safe skillet (cast iron is good). Brown pork on all sides in the skillet, 2-3 minutes a side. Turn off burner. 

Brush pork with the maple syrup in the skillet. Add the apples, turnips, brussel sprouts, wine, and cider to the skillet. Put the skillet in the oven and roast for 35-40 minutes. 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Paprika and Lime Chicken Tacos with Goat Cheese Queso

Before we talk about these deliciously smoky chicken tacos with creamy goat cheese queso, I want to talk a little about my food philosophy. If I boil it down and this will come as a shock to you, my philosophy is this: I love food. Really, truly love food. Love growing it, cooking it, and eating it.

Once upon a time, I ate a lot of processed food. Junk. Then I started to read about food. Many of us have either read or heard of the books that altered my perspective on food namely, The Omnivores Dilemma and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Then I dove deeper and read everything about food I could get my hands on. Where my food came from, how it was grown, and cooking became enormously important to me. I shifted to eating and cooking with whole foods. I began to try to cook and bake everything. I made tortillas, cheese, loaf bread, muffins, pretzels, and crackers all from scratch. I began to develop a real understanding of what went into the food I ate.

I now make almost everything consumed in our house because it allows me to control the ingredients. I'm not saying this is for everyone. It is a ton of work but I do think as a culture overall we have developed an unhealthy relationship with food. We obsess about what we eat in all the wrong ways. Fad diets have taken over our lives. We shouldn't be limiting what we eat, rather spending more time in the kitchen cooking. Cooking allows you to deepen your relationship with food. Yes, that's right, your relationship with food. It's an important one as it sustains you everyday.

 How do the Italians and French manage to stay slim, while eating all the cheese and baguettes they want? Because they cook everything. They make the pasta and cheese. The food they consume is made with real whole food ingredients as opposed to the crap that goes into a box of cheerios. Wheat, dairy, and red meat are not evil but the way we consume them can be. So am I saying pull out the pasta maker and get rolling? Yes and no. Try it once. It's a pain and also makes the best pasta you will ever have. Once you understand that pasta is made from flour, eggs, salt, and olive oil, you can understand what to look for when you buy it in a package. What I am saying is cook often. Do as the French do and embrace cheese. Do as the Italians do and enjoy multi-course meals that last an evening. Embrace cooking and you will really be able to embrace and enjoy eating. And who doesn't love to eat?

Now onto these tacos. It's really all about the goat cheese queso here. Spicy jalapeno and garlic queso that comes together in a few minutes. The base of the goat cheese sauce is a roux, which is the fancy term for fat and flour combined. This adds richness and thickens your sauce. The chicken is rubbed with some smoky spices and roasted in a bed of limes and onions. Top it off with a little avocado and tomato and you are onto something.

Paprika and Lime Chicken Tacos with Goat Cheese Queso
Adapted from How Sweet It Is, serves 4

1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
3/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 sweet onion, sliced
2 limes, sliced into 8 wedges

Spicy goat cheese queso
1/2 tablespoon butter
1 jalapeno, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 cup milk
4 ounces goat cheese

To serve
Corn tortillas
2 tomatoes, chopped

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Spray a baking dish with nonstick spray.

In a small bowl, mix together the paprika, salt, pepper, chili powder, and garlic powder. Rub both sides of the chicken breast with the rub.

Spread sliced onion over the bottom of the baking dish. Place the chicken breast on top. Place lime wedges around the chicken breasts. Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 40-45 minutes until the chicken is cooked all the way through. Using two forks shred the chicken breasts.

About 10 minute before the chicken is done cooking, make your queso. Heat the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat and add the jalapeno and garlic. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Add your flour and stir constantly until it turns golden brown. Reduce heat to low and pour in milk. Stir until the mixture thickens,  2-3 minutes. Add the goat cheese and stir until it melts.

Pile chicken, avocado, tomatoes, and lettuce on your tortilla and drizzle the queso over the top.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Baked Spiced Pumpkin Donuts Holes

How have we made it so far into the month and I have hardly uttered the word pumpkin? I expect full mutiny on my hands. Don't you worry though. I have made pumpkin curry, pumpkin chocolate hazelnut muffins, pumpkin chocolate chip bread, and these delightful spiced pumpkin donuts.

Let's talk a minute about pumpkin. Who doesn't love pumpkins? We all love running out to the pumpkin patch to find the perfect one for our doorstep in October. Finding the perfect pumpkin used to be a painstaking process for me. I like funky pumpkins. Ones that come in unique shapes and have character. I love character. Now I grow cinderella pumpkins in my backyard, which takes care of all my character needs. Cinderella pumpkins come in bright redish orange hues and squat shapes. They are anything but boring and taste great too.

This brings me to my second point about pumpkin. What most of us love about pumpkin, me included, is that we have come to associate it with fall spices and sweets. A little secret between you and me...pumpkin does not come from the ground tasting like nutmeg, cinnamon, and brown sugar. In fact, it tastes a lot like squash because that's what it is. Don't let that stop you from throwing it in every baked good. Pumpkin adds great moisture to baked goods and it's well complimented by all those fall spices and sugars.

Pumpkin also makes great donuts. The term donut may be a stretch here as these are not fried but they sure taste a heck of lot like donuts. Donuts without all the fuss of frying. Quick and easy and oh so fluffy. After baking you dunk them in butter and roll them in cinnamon sugar. That's where all the happiness comes from, a nice donut butter and sugar bath.

Baked Spiced Pumpkin Donuts
Makes 12 donuts, slightly adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/3 cup coconut oil, melted or other neutral oil
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup canned pumpkin puree
1/2 cup milk

For dunking
4 tablespoons butter, melted
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a muffin tin with nonstick spray.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice in a medium bowl.

In another medium bowl, whisk together oil, brown sugar, egg, vanilla extract, pumpkin puree, and milk. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and use a spatula to stir until combined.

Divide the batter among muffin cups and bake for 14-18 minutes, until toothpick or knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

While the muffins bake, melt the butter for the coating. Mix together cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl.

Take each baked donut and coat completely in the melted butter shaking off the excess and then coat in cinnamon sugar.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

All Time Favorite Penne with Meat Sauce

Originally this recipe was my grandma's, then passed down to my mom and aunt, and then to me. We all make different variations of grandma's recipe. Without a doubt this is my favorite dish to eat in the whole world. Really. We all already know my love for pasta runs deep. Give me all the pasta! Put cheese on it. Smother it in alfredo. Above all else cover it in this deeply flavorful meat sauce.

Each generation has altered this recipe slightly to their preference. My alterations include red wine and a chunkier vegetable meat sauce. Red wine increases the richness of any good tomato sauce. The additions of carrot and celery provide excellent texture.

 Did I mention how much I love this pasta? If you were to invite me to a dinner at a nice restaurant, I may very well turn you down if this pasta was on the table. Don't take offense. This pasta just really satisfies my soul. The dish is nothing fancy but it is so comforting. Perfect for cooler weather with a rather large glass of red wine. 

All Time Favorite Penne with Meat Sauce

1 tablespoon olive oil
16 ounces of penne, cooked
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2  medium carrots, chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
1 onion, chopped
3/4 ground beef (buffalo is good here too)
1 cup red wine
1 large can diced tomatoes (28 ounces)
3 tablespoons tomato paste 
1 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoons pepper
1/2 teaspoons red pepper flakes (we do 1 teaspoon but we like the heat)
1 teaspoon italian seasoning 
Parmesan for serving

Bring your pasta water to a boil. Salt it. Cook the according to the package directions.

Heat olive oil in a large saute pan over medium high heat. Add garlic, carrots, celery, and the onion. Cook stirring occasionally until the vegetables have softened, 6-7 minutes. Add your beef and saute until cooked through stirring occasionally, 5-7 minutes. 

Pour in wine and let simmer until reduced by half. Once the wine has reduced, add in your diced tomatoes and tomato paste. Add your salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and italian seasoning. Stir to combine. At this point turn heat to low and let simmer for at least 20 minutes. You can simmer it for up to an hour. A longer simmer improves the flavor even more. 

Serve over the penne with a healthy pinch of parmesan. 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Apple Cider Sangria

We just returned from Crested Butte, Colorado. Land of wonder. Land of the largest aspen tree stand in the United States. Land of endless miles of quiet hiking trails through stunning wilderness. And let us not forget the tamales and tacos at Teocalli because they are darn good. Every time we leave Crested Butte, I become a little more committed to staying. We were one rationality away from going back to Boulder, picking up the dog, packing up, and turning back around to stay in the Butte for good. The rationality? Maybe Blake should finish school first. Maybe. But tomorrow's blog post may be titled "When Blake quit law school and we move to the Butte."

In Crested Butte, we celebrated 1 year of marriage. If you had told me seven years ago when I met Blake, a wild, moderately charming freshmen in college, that he would be my husband, I would have smiled. Because while he was only moderately charming, he was endlessly interesting. Even as a wild freshman, he wanted to learn everything and explore it all. I wanted to explore it all with him and now I get to everyday. That's worth celebrating and celebrate we did.

On of my commitments in our marriage is to continue to keep it exciting, keep celebrating. Coming back from Crested Butte and back to the grind is always hard so to ease the pain I made apple cider sangria. Why do we need a special occasion to enjoy a celebratory drink? I sure don't. Sangria on a Monday makes for a good Monday. No reason we can't have a little fun and keep the celebration going. This is the perfect fall drink. Pears and apples soaked in apple cider, white wine, and brandy transforms sangria from summer to fall. Make some and enjoy the fun.

Apple Cider Sangria
Adapted from How Sweet It Is

2 apples, chopped
2 pears, chopped
1 bottle of white wine (pinot grigio or sauvignon blanc would work well)
2 1/2 cups apple cider
1/2 cup brandy
1 cup club soda

Mix together apples, pears, wine, apple cider, and brandy in a pitcher. Let sit for a least 1 hour and up to 6 hours. Right before drinking add the club soda and mix.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Maple Cornmeal Waffles with Maple Blackberry Syrup

This week is for celebrations. Blake turns 27 and we are celebrating one year of marriage. This is big stuff. I mean Blake is old! Oh and our first year of marriage is a pretty a wonderful thing. We started birthday week with these waffles and an afternoon apple pie snack. The day of Blake's birthday we ate our way across town stopping in each of our favorite restaurants for different courses. Stop 1 whiskey and wings. Stop 2 entrees and dessert. Tomorrow we head to the mountains to surround ourselves with fall color, fishing, food, and beer. All the makings of an excellent celebration. 

But let's take it back to where it all started, maple cornmeal waffles. These waffles have excellent texture with the cornmeal and a lovely maple syrup sweetness. Top them with blackberries and more maple syrup and you have yourself the perfect fall breakfast. Do yourself a favor and take a leisurely Sunday morning and enjoy these with a cup of tea. 

Maple Cornmeal Waffles and Maple Blackberry Syrup
Makes 4-6 waffles, waffles adapted from Girl Versus Dough

1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup finely ground cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons melted butter 
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 egg

Maple blackberry syrup
10 ounces frozen blackberries (1 bag)
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract

Heat your waffle iron to medium high or 250 degrees. 

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt. 

In another bowl, whisk together milk, melted butter, maple syrup, and the egg. Add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture and stir with a spatula until just combined. 

Pour 1/3 a cup onto the waffle iron and cook until golden brown. 

To make the syrup combine the blackberries, maple syrup, and vanilla extract in a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Let simmer, stirring occasionally until the blackberries release their juices and the berries begin to soften, about 7-8 minutes.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Creamy Goat Cheese, Sausage, and Broccolini Pasta

Date night happens once a week in our house. A date could be a cheese and wine picnic, casual burgers and a beer out, or the occasional all out four course beer paired dinner at one of our favorite haunts. Yes, date night always involves food. Sometime it involves a film about outdoor adventures, a beer festival, or a game of air hockey but always food, food, glorious food.

A recent date night took place at an Italian restaurant, where I enjoyed the dish that inspired this pasta. Who's to say we can't take date night home? We can. Light the candles and pull out the good wine. You too can make some pretty delicious food right in your home. Replicating this wonderful pasta dish was my way of bringing date night to our house.

 Pasta is the most satisfying food on this planet in my opinion. This pasta is creamy and delicious without feeling overly heavy. Italian sausage gives it a little spice and the tomatoes and white wine give it a nice brightness. The whole dish will take you 30 minutes start to finish.

Creamy goat cheese, sausage, and broccolini pasta
Serves 4

3/4 pound penne, cook according to pasta directions
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 red onion, chopped
1 bunch of broccolini (about 3/4 pound), cut each individual floret leaving about 1/2" of the stem
1/2 cup white wine
3 medium sized tomatoes, chopped
2.5 ounces goat cheese (half a round log)
1 pound pre-cooked spicy italian sausage, slice into 1/2" rounds
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste

Bring water to a boil for the pasta and add the salt. Cook the pasta according to the package directions.

Heat the olive oil in a medium saute pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and onions and cook until the onions start to caramelize slightly, 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the broccolini and cook another 5-7 minutes. Pour in the white wine and increase heat to bring wine to a gentle simmer. Cook until the wine has reduced by about half. Add the tomatoes, goat cheese, and sausage. Cook until the tomatoes become slightly wrinkled, 2-3 minutes. Add the oregano, salt, pepper, and pasta. Stir until the pasta has warmed and serve.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Oatmeal Applesauce Snack Cake

If we call something a snack cake, that means we can eat it whenever we darn well please, right? Cakes make the best snacks. Brownies, cookies, and ice cream also make for excellent snacks, in the world in which I want to live, where I can eat all the dessert all the time. Alas, we all know that snack brownie may be a stretch on a day to day basis, but snack cake can be a reality. We will make it a reality.

Actually who made this snack cake a reality is my favorite food blogger, Jessica Merchant, of How Sweet It Is. I highly recommend you check out all the glorious things she does with food on her blog. I also highly recommend you go out and buy her recently released cookbook, Seriously Delish, which is where I found this recipe. Also, included in the book are breakfast cookies. Another way we can all justify eating dessert at what might otherwise be considered an inappropriate time. Oh and did I mention the book also includes recipes for a bacon blue burger with jalapeno jam and chicken pitas with jalapeno whipped feta. You will have a lot fun cooking from this book.

This oatmeal applesauce snack cake in my mind can definitely be justified as a snack or breakfast. In fact, I think it makes for great workout fuel. Peanut butter, applesauce, and whole wheat flour give you a little protein and some healthyish carbohydrates. The whole batch only has 2 tablespoons of butter and it isn't overly sweet. Even better it's a dessert you can feel good about. Your only real problem will be finding the will not to eat the whole cake in a day.

Oatmeal Applesauce Snack Cake
Adapted slightly from Seriously Delish, makes 9 squares

1 cup rolled oats
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter, melted
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup 2% milk
3/4 cup cinnamon applesauce

1/3 cup rolled oats
1/3 cup loosely packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into eighths
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degree. Spray an 8" by 8" baking dish with nonstick spray.

In a small bowl, whisk together oats, flour, baking soda, and salt.

In a medium bowl, use an electric mixer to beat sugar and peanut butter together for 2-3 minutes until fluffy. Add vanilla extract and beat until combined. Slowly add the dry ingredients and mix on low. Add milk and continue to mix until a dough forms. Press the dough into the baking dish. Spread the applesauce over the top. The original recipe calls for apple butter, which would also be delicious but it more expensive and harder to come by then applesauce. Either applesauce or apple butter will be delicious.

To make the crumble combine oats, brown sugar, and flour. Whisk to combine. Add butter and vanilla extract. Use your fingers to crumble the butter into the mixture. Sprinkle crumble over the top of the applesauce.

Bake for 25-30 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes and remove from pan to cool completely.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Jalapeno Pretzel Dogs with Beer Cheese Sauce

Football is upon us and once again everything is right in the world. Sundays have returned to their former glory. They now consist of morning hikes and afternoons filled with Peyton Manning. The Broncos make my heart aflutter.

Every Sunday (or Monday) we honor each glorious game with darn good football eats because the second best part about football is the eating. We started off the season with bang, jalapeno pretzel dogs with beer cheese sauce. I loved these. The dough is warm and chewy and the perfect blanket for the hot dog. And beer cheese dip...need I say more?

Once again, I urge you to not be intimidated by the homemade pretzel dough. You can do it. I promise. I will show you how. You will be so impressed by yourself when they come out of the oven that you will walk around the house and declare over and over again to your significant other and the dog, pretty much anyone who listen, "These hot dogs are a win. How impressive looking. How utterly delicious. Do you see how good these came out?" Or at least that's what I did. Make them and you too can indulge in shameless self promotion. They are that good.

Jalapeno pretzel dogs with beer cheese sauce
Serves 4, slightly adapted from How Sweet Eats

3/4 cup warm water
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 teaspoons honey
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 jalapenos, seeded and minced
1/2 tsp salt
4 hot dogs
1/4 cup baking soda
1 egg, whisked
Coarse salt for sprinkling on top

Mix together warm water, yeast, and honey. Let sit for 5-7 minutes until frothy. This is the most important step in making sure your dough will rise. If the yeast is bubbly and frothy, that means it's active. Also, make sure your water is not scalding hot, as that could kill your yeast.

In the bowl of your electric mixer, combine the yeast mixture, olive oil, flour, jalapenos, and salt. Knead on low 4-5 minutes until dough comes together. *This can also be done by hand. Combine ingredients with a wooden spoon and knead by hand for 10-15 minutes. It will be a stickier dough. In a large, well oiled bowl, let dough rise in warm spot until doubled, about an hour.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Add the baking soda to the water. Oil a baking sheet.

On a well floured surface, roll out the dough to about an 8" by 12" rectangle. Cut the dough into 4 strips lengthwise. Take each strip and wrap it around the hot dog starting at the top. Pinch ends down so the dough stays together.

Drop the wrapped hot dogs into the boiling water for 30-40 seconds. Remove dogs and place on prepared baking sheet. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with salt. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until dough is a dark golden brown. While dogs are baking, prepare you beer cheese sauce. The recipe is below.

Beer cheese sauce
2 teaspoons butter
1 tablespoon flour
8 ounces light beer
12 ounces white cheddar, grated
1 teaspoon dijon

Melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour, until it starts to turn golden. Pour in the beer and whisk frequently until the sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Stir in cheese and dijon and continue to whisk until combined. Serve with your delicious hot dogs.