Saturday, May 31, 2014

Roasted Strawberry Bread

It's summer! You thought I loved spring just wait until you hear about how much I love summer and then there's fall, which I love more than all of them combined. But summer is really special. I live for summer adventures. When it occurred to me that summer had arrived, I immediately started planning all our summer adventures. In one day, I pretty much filled our entire summer schedule. We will be road tripping to Jackson, camping, fly fishing, backpacking, going to Film on the Rocks, adventuring to Nederland to enjoy our favorite pizza, and walking through the Chihuly exhibit at the Botanic Gardens. And when we are not running around we will sit on our porch and enjoy the immense wonder that is a summer night. I can't wait.

Since it's summer, early summer, that means I am also celebrating strawberries. Strawberry syrup, strawberry cinnamon knots, strawberries on their own, and strawberry bread. Blake loves strawberry bread. His mom makes a particularly awesome version. I thought I would try my hand at this delicious, sweet, quick bread. I roasted the strawberries before hand, which caramelizes the sugars making them extra delicious and of course, browned the butter. Will I ever stop browning the darn butter? I think not. It's just too tasty. As is this bread. It's made even tastier by the realization that it's summer and strawberry bread is just the beginning of all the wonderful things we will enjoy.

Roasted Strawberry Bread
3/4 cup strawberries, quartered and roasted
4 tbs unsalted butter, browned
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup + 2 tbs brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 a tsp cardamom (optional)
2 eggs
1/2 cup plain yogurt
2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease a cookie sheet with oil. Place strawberries on the cookie sheet and sprinkle with 2 tbs of the brown sugar and toss with your hands to coat. Roast for 20 minutes. Remove and let cool to room temperature.

Brown you butter in a medium saucepan over high heat. Watch as the butter gets bubbly and then subsides. Once it subsides, you should see brown specs at the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat and let cool.

Whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda, cardamom, and salt in a large bowl. In another bowl, whisk together eggs, yogurt, brown butter, and vanilla extract. Add this wet mixture to the dry ingredients and stir with a spatula until combined. Add roasted strawberries and mix.

Grease a loaf pan with nonstick spray and pour in batter. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes until a toothpick or knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Tuna, Potato, and Green Bean Salad with Olive Dressing

Did you eat like I did this Memorial Day weekend? Potato salad, hot dogs smothered in queso, french toast with a bunch of butter, and chocolate chip cookies, lots of chocolate chip cookies. Not our healthiest menus but some of the most delicious. The chocolate chip cookies were apart of a chocolate chip cookie throwdown. Three different chocolate chip cookies, five friends voting, and only one winner. The winner was unanimous and I will share that recipe with you someday. It involves extra brown sugar, a healthy dose of salt, and lots of brown butter.

Needless to say after consuming a bunch of cookies and hot dogs covered in cheese something a little more reasonable was called for. Something like a salad but this is not just any old salad. Usually we eat salads to feel better about ourselves. This salad we will eat because it's awesome. It packed almost as much flavor as the queso hot dog, almost. If you are familiar with Nicoise salad, the ingredients are very similar. Tuna, potatoes, green beans, hard boiled egg, and capers make up the base. What makes this salad different and one of the tastiest salads you will ever eat is the olive dressing. Into the foreseeable future this salad will be gracing my lunch hour.

Tuna, Potato, and Green Bean Salad with Olive Dressing 
Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens, Serves 4
2 lbs small yukon gold potatoes, cut in half
1 lb green beans
3/4 cup olives (use your favorite type)
2 tbs olive oil
2 tbs lemon juice
1 tbs honey
1 tbs balsamic vinegar
1 tbs dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cans tuna in water, drained
2 eggs, hard boiled
4 tsps capers

In a large pot, bring potatoes to a boil. Boil potatoes for 5 minutes and add green beans. Boil for an additional 5 minutes until the potatoes and green beans are tender. Drain and run under cold water.

To make the dressing blend the olives, olive oil, lemon juice, honey, balsamic vinegar, dijon, and salt and pepper in a blender.

Assemble the salads individually with green bean, potatoes, 1/2 a can of tuna, 1 tsp of capers, 1/2 a hard boiled egg sliced, and a couple dollops of dressing.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Braided Lemon Cream Cheese Bread

This bread is for celebrating. I made it for mother's day but you can make it to celebrate anything. Even a random Tuesday, if that's when you feel like celebrating. I say we don't celebrate enough. So pick anything, pick any one good thing and celebrate it with this bread, and wine, and whatever else makes you happy.

I know that homemade bread intimidates a lot of people. I'm here to tell you it shouldn't. It requires a little extra time but we all know nothing, and I mean nothing, beats a warm slice of fresh baked bread. All the better if that fresh baked bread is filled with tangy lemon curd and cream cheese. So much better in fact. I will give you the step by step and you too can be celebrating with this bread by tomorrow, if you so choose.

This bread was a hit with my family. They loved it. The six of us consumed the entire loaf. I foresee it gracing many celebrations in the future. You can make it all the night before, let it rest overnight in the fridge, pull it out an hour before you want to bake it and let it rise, and then just slide it in the oven. You will never celebrate without this bread again. Fluffy egg dough, zesty lemon curd, and rich cream cheese is what all bread dreams should be made of.

Braided Lemon Cream Cheese Bread
Slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen, serves 6 indulgent people and 8 more polite

6 tablespoons warm water
1 tablespoon honey
1 1/2 tsp yeast
1/4 cup all-purpose flour

Sponge (from above)
1/3 cup yogurt
4 tablespoons butter, melted
2 large eggs, one for dough and one for brushing on top
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups sugar
Extra sugar for sprinkling on top

Lemon Cream Cheese Filling
1/3 cup cream cheese softened
2 tbs sugar
2 tbs yogurt
1 tsp lemon juice
2 tbs all-purpose flour
1/4 cup store bought lemon curd (you can make your own, if you're feeling energetic, otherwise, it's usually sold by the jelly in stores)

In a small bowl, combine all the sponge ingredients and stir. Let sit for 10-15 minutes, until the sponge gets a little bubbly. You want to see the sponge rise or bubble here that means your yeast is working and your dough will rise.

If you have a stand mixer using the dough hook attachment, combine the sponge, yogurt, butter, 1 egg, sugar, salt, and vanilla. Add flour and mix 5-7 minutes until a smooth dough forms. Place dough in a greased bowl, cover, and let rise  in a warm area until doubled 60 to 90 minutes.

Without a mixer, you can whisk together, sponge, yogurt, butter, 1 egg, sugar, salt, and vanilla. Using a wooden spoon or your hands mix in the flour and knead 10 minutes. Then place in the greased bowl to rise.

While the dough rises, make your filling. Combine all the ingredients minus the lemon curd in a small bowl and mix until lump free. Reserve until ready to braid.

Once the dough has doubled, deflate and roll out on a floured surface to 10" by 15" rectangle. Transfer rectangle to a large piece of parchment paper. Using the side of your hands, press two lines down the length of the dough, dividing it into 3 equal columns. Spread the cream cheese filling down the center section leaving 2 inches at the top and bottom. Do the same with the lemon curd over the cream cheese.

Now it's time to braid. Cut 1 inch strips down the two outside columns making sure you have an equal number of strips on each side. Fold down the top and bottom two inches on top of the filling, then lift the top dough strip diagonally over the filling and do the same on the other side. Continue down the braid.

Move braided loaf on the parchment to a baking sheet. Cover loosely with dish towels and let rise 45 minutes until puffy.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Whisk last egg and brush over dough. Sprinkle sugar over the top and bake 22-30 minutes until golden brown. Let cool 15 minutes before serving.

**If you want to do it the night before, you can refrigerate the braided dough overnight, pull it out an hour before you want to bake it for the last rise, and throw it in the oven.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Caramelized Pork Stir Fry

I'm reading Peter Heller's The Painter right now and I love it. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for something to read. If you haven't read his other book, The Dog Stars, I also suggest you find a copy immediately.

Heller's main character is a painter and a fishermen. He spends a lot of time doing both in the book. The books we love resonate with us. According to another recent favorite book of mine, The Storied Life of A.J. Firky, books give us the words we couldn't come up with. Heller does that for me with The Painter. For anyone who has a passion or anyone who loves the outdoors, Heller gives us words for the all consuming feelings of calm and joy these passions and places give us. His book makes me feel peaceful and I hope maybe it does the same for you.

This weekend we finally got up to the mountains for our own outdoor peace. We hiked quiet trails in Rocky Mountain National Park, sat on the porch of the cabin overlooking Longs Peak, and ate a bunch of junk. It was quite relaxing.

Given the amount of bread, cheese, and sweets we consumed in Estes, we were looking for something a little lighter for dinner this week. In our house, lighter never means sacrificing flavor. This Caramelized Pork Stir Fry fits the bill perfectly. The original recipe actually calls this caramel pork, given the thick slightly sweet and salty sauce that coats the vegetables and the pork. It only takes about 30 minutes to throw together and really hits the spot for a satisfying lighter dish. This dish is a keeper and will definitely make it into our rotation of weeknight meals.

Caramelized Pork Stir Fry 
Adapted from How Sweet Eats

1 cup chicken broth
3 tbs brown sugar
1 tbs fish sauce
1 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tsps cornstarch
2 tsps white wine vinegar
1 lb boneless pork chops, cubed
2 tbs olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 cup of carrots, chopped
1 medium to large head of broccoli, florets cut into bite sized
1 tbs ginger
5 cloves of garlic
1/2 a head of cabbage, shredded
1/4 cup crushed peanuts
2 cups prepared jasmine rice

Prepare your rice according to the package directions.

In a bowl whisk together chicken broth, brown sugar, fish sauce, red pepper flakes, cornstarch, and vinegar. Reserve for later.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add pork and brown on all sides. Place pork on a plate and reserve for later.

Add 1 more tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet and add onion, ginger, carrot, garlic, and broccoli. Cook until softened, 5-6 minutes. Pour chicken stock mixture over the top and simmer for 3-4 minutes until slightly thickened. Add pork back in and cook 1 minute until warmed.

Serve over rice with cabbage and peanuts.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Loaded Pulled Pork Chili Fries with Chipotle Beer Queso

Let's be a little rebellious today. Let's throw caution to the wind and do the things we want to do and not worry about what we should be doing. It's Friday after all. I propose we start by taking baked chili fries, piling slow cooked pulled pork, guacamole, salsa, and chipotle queso on top and calling it a meal.

I asked Blake if he thought that constituted a meal, to which he replied definitely, if we put a vegetable on the side. At first I agreed but upon further consideration I realized a vegetable would tarnish all that is good and wonderful about these fries. Which is cheese and starchy potatoes. Last I checked potatoes were a vegetable so we're all set.

In all seriousness, these fries are amazing. The baked chili fries recipe is our weekly go to for a side dish. Topped with spice rubbed pork slow cooked for 6-8 hours in beer, BBQ sauce, and a little dijon mustard as well as creamy chipotle beer queso. Well, all I can stay  is be still my beating heart. This dish does consistent of a few components you have to make but once you get the pork cooking early in the day, the rest comes together fairly easily. The ingredient list appears long but most of it consists of spices you already have in your house.

After eating these fries for dinner, you will feel the sky's the limit as to what other crazy and self-indulgent acts you can commit. We capped ours off with some cardamom strawberry rhubarb ice cream. Tonight I may even enjoy them with a glass of wine or two. Who knows what other mayhem might ensue.

Loaded Pulled Pork Chili Fries with Chipotle Beer Queso 
Serves 4-6 people, fries adapted from Joy the Baker

Beer and BBQ Slow Cooked Pork 
12 oz of a light beer
3/4 cup of your favorite BBQ sauce
2 tbs dijon mustard
1 cup water
2 tbs brown sugar
2 tbs chili powder
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp salt
1 tsp mustard powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp lemon pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
3-4 lbs pork shoulder

Baked Chili Fries 
3 russet potatoes, roughly peeled and cut into fry shaped wedges
3 tbs cornstarch
3 tbs chili powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tbs olive oil
2 tbs worcestershire
2 tbs grill seasoning or BBQ rub

Chipotle Beer Queso 
1 tbs olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 jalapeno, diced
1 cup beer
8 oz cream cheese
3/4 cup pepper jack cheese
3/4 cup sharp cheddar (you could do just a 1 1/2 of one kind of cheese too)
1 chipotle pepper, chopped
1 tbs adobe sauce (comes with the chipotle peppers in a can)


The pork needs to cook in a crock pot for 6-8 hours so plan accordingly. The longer you cooked it the more tender it will be.

In a crock pot whisk together beer, BBQ sauce, dijon mustard, and water.

To make the rub, mix together all the spices from brown sugar to garlic powder. Rub all over the pork shoulder. Heat a pan with olive oil to medium high heat and brown the pork on all sides. Place in the slow cooker with a lid and cook all day over low.

An hour before you want to eat preheat the oven to 425 degrees and prepare the fries.

Whisk cornstarch, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, and red pepper flakes together and set aside. In a large bowl, mix the potato wedges with the olive oil, worcestershire, and grill seasoning. Once all the fries are coated, sprinkle the cornstarch mixture over the top and mix.

Spread fries evenly over a baking sheet and bake for 35-45 minutes. Flip the fries half way through.

About 25 minutes before the fries are done, prepare the queso. In a saute pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and jalapeno and cook for 5-7 minutes until they soften. Add the beer and let cook until slightly reduce 3-5 minutes. Add the cream cheese and stir until no longer lumpy. Add the pepper jack and cheddar and stir until combined.

To assemble the fries: layer potatoes on the bottom, add pork, guac, and salsa, and drizzle the queso over the top. YUM!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Cardamom Spiced Strawberry Rhubarb Compote

Let me tell you about a little thing called love. It comes in the form of this Cardamom Spiced Strawberry Rhubarb Compote. It comes in other forms too but this one may be the loveliest of them all. We used it in rhubarb floats with vanilla ice cream and soda water, strawberry rhubarb ice cream sundaes, and strawberry rhubarb vodka tonics. I also think it would be quite good over bread pudding. And I know it's amazing by the spoonful. Your spring will not be complete without it.

Strawberry rhubarb float

We enjoyed mass quantities of this compote over the weekend in an attempt to cling to our dream of spring, in weather that seemed anything but springy. This weekend we were blessed by some May snow. Some wet, cold, "enough already it's May", snow. None to pleased with the snow we did our best with what we were given. Sunday we enjoyed brunch and dinner with our wonderful mothers. Monday we worked on our newest puzzle, read, and watched Showtime's newest show, Penny Dreadful. We ate strawberry rhubarb ice cream floats, which brought me so much joy. I could almost pretend it was seventy degrees out. I can only wish the same joy for you. 

Cardamom Spiced Strawberry Rhubarb Syrup 
Adapted from Not Without Salt, makes 6 floats

3 cups rhubarb, chopped
1 cup strawberries, chopped
1 cup sugar
2 cups water
1 vanilla bean or 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cinnamon stick
3-5 cardamom pods (whole is definitely best but could sub 1 tsp cardamom)
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a gentle boil and boil for 15-20 minutes, until mixture is reduced by half. Remove from heat and let cool. Put it on your toast, put it in your float, and most definitely put it straight on a spoon and enjoy.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Five Spice Grilled Chicken with Chili Lime Dipping Sauce

A little motivation from famed runner and philosopher, George Sheehan, for you today: 
 "Behind the enthusiasm, behind the inspiration, behind the passion, there must be the will. We can choose. We can decide. We can will to do it our own way. When we do, nothing can prevail against us."

Mr.Sheehan is on to something here. And I don't know about you but sometimes we all could use a little motivation. I, in particular, this week could use a little extra shove. I'm feeling worn out. This Sheehan quote has been a favorite of mine since my uncle gave me one of his books. It reminds me that it's largely the decisions we make that drive our successes. I feel that I have been making a lot of important decisions in the past couple of years. That can be intimidating.

 Luckily for me seven years ago I made the best decision, when I picked Blake. I made an even better decision 2 years ago, when he asked me to spend my life with him, and I said yes. That decision makes all the others seem trivial. Even when faced with the toughest of choices, I have already made the decision that is going to see me through this life. The decision that makes it all spectacular. So this week, while I may be stressed by other important decisions, I can take comfort knowing that I have already made the most important decision of them all. 

And you thought we were here to talk about five spiced grilled chicken, didn't you? You didn't click the link to hear about the life philosophies of Kate. You clicked because you were hungry. The connection here is that I have been feeling stressed this week and I didn't feel like devoting hours to the kitchen. I needed tasty food and I needed it quick. This five spice chicken dish is all of that. Easy to prepare, light, and delicious. The chili lime sauce is particularly wonderful and would be good over any steamed veggies. Make this dish. It's a good and simple decision. 

Five Spice Grilled Chicken with Chili Lime Dipping Sauce
Serves 4, Adapted from Sunset's Great Outdoors Cookbook 

2 tbs soy sauce
1 tbs olive oil
2 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
2 tsp sugar
1 lb chicken breasts
1 package rice vermicelli (found in Asian aisle at grocery stores)
1 cup shredded and quick pickled carrots (recipe to follow) 
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup cilantro 
1/4 cup crushed peanuts 

For the chili lime sauce 
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup rice vinegar (white wine vinegar will work too) 
2 tbs fish sauce (found in the Asian aisle of most grocers) 
2 tbs oyster sauce (if you're grocer doesn't carry oyster sauce, just do 4 tbs fish sauce)
Juice of 3 limes 
1 jalapeno, minced

Prepare your chili lime dipping sauce. Mix 1/2 cup hot water with 1/4 cup sugar and stir until dissolved. Whisk in the rice vinegar, fish sauce, oyster sauce, lime juice, and jalapeno.

Mix soy sauce, olive oil, Chinese five-spice powder, and 1 tsp sugar. Add chicken to the marinade and let sit for 15 minutes.

Heat grill to medium heat.

To pickle the carrots heat apple cider vinegar, 1 tsp sugar, and 1/2 tsp salt in sauce pan until boiling. Remove from heat, add shredded carrots and set aside until ready to use.

Boil water in a sauce pan. Once boiling add vermicelli and remove from heat. Allow the vermicelli to stand in the water 3-5 minutes and then drain.

 Remove chicken from marinade and cook on the grill 5-7 minutes on each side until cooked through. Place chicken on cutting board and thickly slice.

Serve chicken over vermicelli and top with carrots, cilantro, peanuts, and chili lime sauce. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Chipotle Potato Salad

This Saturday we spent a solid eight hours on our patio only moving to take the dog on a walk up in the hills. It was 80 degrees. It was glorious. We sat, played the mandolin, talked, got up to take the dog swimming in the ditch, came back to dinner and a glass of our favorite beverages, and played games. We talked into the darkness, until the solar lanterns came on and were even at one point joined by some friends on the patio and enjoyed their company. It was a perfect day. It was a summer day. The kind of day where you revel in the sheer joy of sitting outside enjoying good company, in this case my favorite company, my husband.

The nook where we spent the day

It was also the kind of day that makes you start to crave certain kinds of food. Watermelon, BBQ on the grill, and potato salad. I love potato salad. Not the kind doused in mayo but the more tangy potato salad. Potato salad may seem like a dime a dozen but a good potato salad is second to none. This Chipotle Potato Salad has spice, creaminess, and tang from the addition of mustard and apple cider vinegar. It's the kind of salad that accompanies smoky barbeque perfectly. It's the kind of salad that demands, "let it be summer." And you acquiesce, because you want nothing more than to spend eight hours on your porch and eat potato salad.

Chipotle Potato Salad
Serves 4 as a side

2 1/2 lbs red or yukon gold potatoes
1/3 cup sour cream
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 tbs adobe sauce (chipotles in adobe are sold in cans in the Mexican aisle of the grocery store)
1 chipotle pepper chopped
1 tbs dijon mustard
1 tbs apple cider vinegar
2 tbs sweet relish
1/2 a red onion, diced
Salt and pepper to taste

Boil potatoes in a large pot for 30 minutes or until fork tender. Allow to cool and chop into eighths.

Whisk together sour cream, mayo, adobe sauce, chipotles, relish, mustard, and vinegar. In a large bowl, pour the chipotle dressing and red onion over the potatoes and mix. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

5 Layer BBQ Chicken Tostadas

I'm getting antsy. This is not an uncommon state of being for me. I'm always go, go, go. One activity to the next. I need the mountains and not just the ones out my backdoor. I want the tall granite peaks of the rockies. I'm getting greedy I know. While spring is beautiful in town, it is very much still winter up high in the rockies. My yearning for summer hikes by quiet mountain lakes is always particularly intense this time of year. I'm restless. I'm bursting with energy. I'm probably fairly obnoxious.

Blake is also quite antsy at moment, as he is in the middle of law school finals. The attitudes at our house are needless to say kind of grim. So we are self medicating with comfort food. Tostadas and pizza to be exact. Not doctor recommended but what's a little extra cheese in the name of happiness? 

These 5 Layer BBQ Chicken Tostadas were yummy. It's like putting 5 layer dip on a crispy corn tortilla and calling it a meal. Guacamole, cojita mashed black beans, salsa, BBQ pulled chicken, and sour cream create this delight. Your world is now complete or at least mine was. 

5 Layer BBQ Chicken Tostadas
Serves 4, inspired by Half Baked Harvest 

Corn tortillas 
4 tbs olive oil
1 cup BBQ sauce
1 lime, zested and juiced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
1/2 tsp cumin 
Salt and pepper to taste
2 chicken breasts
1 onion, chopped 
1 can of black beans 
1/2 cup feta or cojita cheese
Guacamole (can buy from the store or do a simple guac by mashing 1 avocado, the juice of 1 lime, 1/4 cup cilantro, 1 jalapeno (diced)) 
Jar of your favorite salsa 
Sour cream

Heat 3 tbs of the olive oil in a saute pan, until hot. Cook each corn tortilla 30-45 seconds per side in the oil, until crispy and set aside for later. 

Mix together BBQ sauce, lime zest and juice, 1/4 of the garlic, jalapeno, cumin, salt and pepper. Pour half the mixture over the chicken breasts. 

Heat your grill to medium high heat. 

While the grill is heating, heat 1 tbs of the olive oil in a saute pan over medium high heat. Add the onion and the rest of the garlic. Cook the onion and garlic for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the beans and cook until the beans have warmed through. Add the cheese and remove from heat. Using a potato masher, mash the beans into a chunky spread. Set aside. 

Grill the chicken 6-7 minutes each side, until cooked through. Using two forks pull the chicken into bite sized pieces. Pour the rest of the BBQ sauce over and mix in. 

To assemble spread the beans over the crispy corn tortilla, add the guac, chicken, salsa, and drizzle sour cream over the top.