Thursday, December 31, 2015

Bison dogs with Asian BBQ sauce and slaw

Let's go out with a bang 2015! We will unapologetically devour these hot dogs right up until the end. Then in 2016 we will eat them as leftovers because they are awesome. Who said the New Year was for clean and healthy eating? I say it's for hot dogs! Especially really good ones, like these.

I'm talking the best combo of sticky sweet and spicy BBQ sauce with the lovely tang and crisp of the slaw. We both almost ate 2 each last night but we decided to be reasonable, if only slightly reasonable.

2015 was lovely. Top notch. Blake graduated from law school and passed the bar. I am proud of him because it was almost never fun. He also got a job. Big stuff. But in our household, the real success of a year is measured by the adventures we had outside of work.

In 2015, we visited 1 national monument, 3 state parks, and 7 national parks. Those are the metrics we love. The ones that give our day-to-day meaning. The great outdoors. Adventures shared together.

In 2015, we saw the Columbia Icefield, the largest icefield in the Rockies. We touched glacial turquoise waters in Canada's national parks. We wandered among hoodoos. We spent time fishing with family in the mountains. We learned about birds. We celebrated 2 years of marriage surrounded by blazing aspen trees. I wouldn't have traded a moment.

Bison hot dogs with Asian BBQ sauce and slaw
Serves 4

4 bison hot dogs
4 Buns (we used pretzel buns which were superb)

Asian slaw
1 small head of red cabbage or 1/2 a large head, sliced
1 carrot, grated on the large holes of a box grater
3 large radishes, grated on the large holes of the box grater (if you hate radishes, sub an extra carrot)
1/2 cup cilantro, rough chopped
2 serrano or Thai chiles, diced
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon chile paste (found in the Asian aisle)
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

I think this slaw is best made a few hours before you want to eat but it will still be tasty if made right before.

In a large bowl, mix together cabbage, carrot, radishes, cilantro, and chiles.

In a small bowl, whisk together lime juice, soy sauce, chile paste, white wine vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Pour over the cabbage mixture and stir until combined. Store in the fridge until use.

Asian BBQ sauce
1/2 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons brown sugar
4 tablespoons red chile paste
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch of red pepper flakes

In a sauce pan over medium heat, whisk all ingredients together. Whisk occasionally for 5-7 minutes, until sugar has dissolved and ingredients are combined.

In a saute pan over high heat, crisp bison dogs on both sides. About 3-4 minutes a side. Load up your bun with hot dog, BBQ sauce, and slaw.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Black lentil and spicy Italian chicken sausage soup

Between all the stuffing, au gratin potatoes, cookies, and pie, we must take a break. A small break, albeit, but a break none the less. I don't want to scare you away by calling this dish clean eating. I figured you already are a little less than enchanted by the thought of eating lentil soup, but this dish is darn good. You will look at the simple ingredients and you may not believe it but give it a go. 

The parsnips, carrots, celery, and onions up the flavor of the broth. Use a chicken sausage you really like. That's part of the success here, good chicken sausage. This meal is healthy and good. So so good. In fact, Blake and I ate lentil soup at one of our favorite restaurants in town last night and we thought this recipe was better. We may or may not have served this with a big chunk of crusty bread. We all have our limits. 

Black lentil and spicy Italian chicken sausage soup
Serves 6, adapted from Bon Appetit 

2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 pound cooked spicy Italian chicken sausage, cut into 1/2" rounds 
1 large onion, chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
2 large parsnips, peeled and chopped 
2 celery stick, chopped 
2 1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning 
1 pound black lentils
3 quarts chicken broth
4 cups of spinach 

In a large pot over medium high heat, add 1 tablespoon oil. Once oil is warm, cook sausage until browned. Transfer sausage to a plate. 

Add last tablespoon of oil to the pot. Add onion, carrots, parsnips, celery, and Italian seasoning to the pot. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables begin to soften, 7-8 minutes.

Add lentils and stir to coat. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until lentils are tender, about 20 minutes. 

Add sausage back into the soup along with the spinach. Simmer for another 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.  

Friday, December 4, 2015

Banana bran muffins

I'm reading Bob Dylan's Chronicles right now. He has a brilliant mind. It's like going down the rabbit hole of an endless and interesting train of thoughts. One minute he is ruminating on how little he knows about the Civil War and two sentences later he is talking about Tolstoy and Pushkin and you are wondering how those topics connect so you just hang on for the ride.

I especially enjoyed his reflection on how he came to write his own songs. In Dylan's words, "I couldn't have come up with anything comparable or halfway close to the folk song lyrics I was singing to define the way I felt about the world. I guess it happens to you by degrees. You don't just wake up one day and decide that you need to write songs, especially if you're a singer who has plenty them and you're learning more every day. Opportunities may come along for you to convert something-something that exists into something that didn't yet. That might be the beginning of it."

I like this because I love to write and the way Dylan speaks to writing songs is how I feel about writing in general. Writing is an opportunity for me to express my thoughts about the world in small doses daily. It's a part of the reason I started this space on my favorite topic, food.

Which means my train of thought for the day went something like this: Dylan's ruminations, love of writing, food is great, breakfast muffins, need to use old bananas, love bran muffins, what about breakfast banana bran muffins? See how we got here?

Muffins! You all know how I feel about muffins. I especially love bran muffins. They are nutty, hearty, and full of fiber. I also happen to love banana muffins. Banana adds sweetness without sugar. These muffins were a perfect marriage. I feel good about eating them in the morning. As with all muffins, these are easy to make! Easy, I tell you! You are 30 minutes away from enjoying warm homemade muffins start to finish. Do it on Sunday and enjoy them the rest of the week.

Banana bran muffins
Adapted from my favorite Cook's Illustrated bran muffins, makes 12

2 1/4 cups bran cereal
1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons molasses
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
1 3/4 cups 2% greek yogurt
3 ripe bananas

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and spray a large muffin tin with nonstick spray.

In a food processor or blender, add a cup of the bran cereal and pulse until powder.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the cup of bran cereal you just processed with wheat flour, all-purpose flour, baking soda, and salt.

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, brown sugar, molasses, and vanilla extract until combined. Add melted butter and yogurt and whisk until combined. Add bananas and use a potato masher to mash until mostly smooth (a few banana lumps don't matter). With a spatula, stir in remaining bran cereal.

Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir with a spatula until just combined. Distribute batter in muffin cups. Bake 14-18 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Curry sweet potato chicken noodle soup

El Nino has yet to impress me. I find myself possibly, in the very slightest of ways, wanting snow. I'm sure I will get over this small desire soon enough. Snow will anger me with its wanton ways and I will hope to never seen it again. But for now I can't fight the urge to watch it fall outside my window cup of hot chocolate in hand.

Even without the snow, my food cravings have completely shifted. So when the weather man said 6" of snow would fall this week and it didn't, I still wanted soup. Noodle soup. I also happen to be in possession right now of 6 tons of potatoes, root vegetables, and winter squash. This year we elected to extend our farm share through the winter. I love it. I really do. It matters where your food comes from, how it is grown, and who grows it. Now seven months a year I know exactly where my food comes from. I visit the farm every Wednesday to pick up a bounty. I will be making 100 varieties of pumpkin and butternut squash soup, bread, and pasta until February and I will enjoy every moment of it.

This soup was the perfect antidote to my need for something warming and used up some of my large supply of potatoes. The curry gives it all the kinds of warming spices you are wanting this time of year. The coconut milk gives it a little richness without the addition of dairy. Snow or not it's deeply satisfying.

Curry sweet potato chicken noodle soup
Adapted from Bon Appetit, serves 6

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 red onion, sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
2 tablespoons, minced and peeled ginger
2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste, found in the Asian aisle of your grocery store
1 tablespoon garlic chile paste, also found in the Asian aisle
2 tablespoons curry powder
2 14 ounce cans light coconut milk
5 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons fish sauce (Asian aisle)
2 teaspoons sugar
2 cups sweet potatoes, chopped into 1/2" cubes
1 pound dried pad thai rice noodles (Asian aisle)
3/4 pound chicken breast, cut into 1" cubes
1/4 cup cilantro
1 lime, cut into wedges

Heat olive oil in a large saute pan over medium high heat. Once hot, add onion, garlic, jalapeno, and ginger. Cook stirring occasionally until the onion is translucent, 7-8 minutes. Add in curry paste, garlic chile paste, and curry powder and stir until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add in coconut milk, chicken stock, fish sauce, and sugar. Bring to a simmer and then turn to low to keep warm while you prepare the sweet potatoes and noodles.

Bring water to boil in a large sauce pan. Add sweet potatoes and boil until slightly softened, 7-8 minutes. Remove sweet potatoes with a slotted spoon and put on a plate to reserve for later. Use the water you boiled the sweet potatoes in to cook the rice noodles according to package directions.

Increase the heat on the stock to medium and bring to a simmer. Add chicken and cook 10-15 minutes until cooked through. Turn off heat and add back in sweet potatoes.

Place rice noodles in individual bowls, pour broth over the top, and serve with lime wedge and cilantro.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Potato pull-apart rolls

Woops...It looks like I disappeared for a few months. Summer got the best of me. I want to be outside, must be outside, when the sun is shining. But you can bet I have been cooking.

Have you heard of Malcom Gladwell's 10,000 hour rule? The basic idea is that if anyone does something for 10,000 hours they will become experts. He posits that this is how Bill Gates became a computer tycoon. I think I'm getting close to reaching that 10,000 hours spent baking and cooking. I feel I have grown leaps and bounds in the past few months. I love food. I really do. From the ground to the plate. I will keep cooking and sharing.

In the past few months, Blake and I have started an America West book club. The America West is one of our greatest loves. We have created a list of books, both fiction and nonfiction, that we want to read and discuss in this lifetime. We just kicked off Epitaph: A Novel of the O.K. Corral by Maria Doria Russel.

For fun, because life should always be fun, we decided to make a cowboy dinner in tandem with beginning the book. Coffee rubbed steak, baked beans, and potato pull-apart rolls made up the menu. Health food if you will. These rolls would be perfect for Thanksgiving. They are fluffy, buttery delights. Here's Blake taking the theme seriously.

Potato pull-apart rolls
Adapted from Bon Appetit, makes 18 rolls

2 medium Yukon Gold potato (you want a 1 1/2 cups when pureed)
1 cup 2% milk
1 package active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
4 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons butter, melted, plus more for brushing
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon sea salt

Boil potatoes in small sauce pan for 30-40 minutes until soft. Puree in a food processor or blender.

Proof the yeast: Heat the milk up in the microwave until it is warm not hot. This was about 30 seconds in my microwave. Add yeast and sugar to milk and stir until sugar dissolves. Let sit for 10 minutes until the yeast gets foamy. This is how you know your yeast is active.

In the bowl of a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, mix together yeast and milk mixture with the potatoes until no lumps remain. Add butter and mix until incorporated. Switch to the dough hook and add half the flour. Mix on medium until a sticky wet dough forms. Add eggs, egg yolk, the rest of the flour, and salt. Knead on medium high for about 5 minutes. Brush the top of the dough with butter and let rise in a warm place covered for 40 minutes. The dough should be about 1 1/2 times its original size.

Brush a 13" by 9" baking dish with melted butter. Turn dough out onto a lightly oiled surface and roll the dough into 18 balls with your hands. Place dough balls into the baking dish, brush with melted butter again, and let rise uncovered for another 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Brush dough one more time with butter (the more butter the merrier) and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the rolls are a golden brown. Let cool for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

French onion dip

Date night. It's important. I have been married for almost 2 years. I know, right? Two, whole, crazy years. I still really like my husband. I rarely find him annoying. I want to spend all the time with him. In the scheme of the 60 years I intend to married, 2 is not much, but that doesn't make it any less important to do good things for our relationship everyday. Good things like French onion dip.

I made this dip for a surprise date night for Blake. I threw him a summer party complete with decorations, build your own mojito bar, strawberry shortcake, hot dogs, and dips! Dips was kind of the theme. For the hot dogs, we had mustard, jalapeno jam, kimchi, and homemade BBQ sauce. Then I made homemade potato chips with salsa, herbed goat cheese dip, and French onion dip. Dipping is fun.

I will argue French onion dip from the packet mixed into sour cream is pretty darn good but it has nothing and I mean nothing on this dip. Slowly caramelizing the onions bring new layers to dip you never thought possible. It's sweet and rich. It's really one of my favorite things. Perfect for BBQs or date nights.

French onion dip
Adapted from How Sweet It Is, serves 4-6

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
4 sweet onions, sliced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons brown sugar
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 (8oz) block of cream cheese, softened
1 cup 2% greek yogurt

Heat the oil and butter in a large skillet over medium low heat. Stir in onions, salt, and pepper. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are deep golden brown, about 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, add the garlic and brown sugar and cook for another 15 minutes. Remove from heat.

Place the onions, cream cheese, and yogurt in a food processor and pulse until combined. You can eat it immediately or let it sit overnight in the refrigerator.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Maple Yogurt Bread

Summer. Ah, summer. You make me so happy. The best thing about summer is all the hours of daylight. When I get home from work, I still have so much time to have fun. Blake and I's most recent version of fun involves birding. I kid you not. We are eighty years old at heart. Last night we went to a talk on the Colorado River. The average age of the group? Probably around 60. Did I mention that the photos of the Colorado River reaching the ocean after a decade choked both us up? And yes I immediately went out and hugged a tree afterwards. Judge if you will.

Back to the birding. After the 100th time of me pointing out pretty birds to Blake, we finally bought a book. Now we are spending evenings out by ponds and walking trails trying to identify any birds we can. We are made to be birders. We love the outdoors. We love animals. Blake loves cataloging things. I secretly want to be clad in a khaki Patagonia vest and wide brimmed hat as I wander amongst my fellow retiree birder brethren. If you need us, we will be sitting on a bench listening for the song of the meadowlark.

My love of summer and birds really has nothing at all to do with this bread. Who makes maple yogurt bread in the summer? Maple is a flavor of the fall. The maple trees are actually tapped this time of year so maybe that's some justification? Not that we need any justification. Maple yogurt bread is a slice of comfort. The maple flavor is subtle with a touch of lemon zest. It makes for a great breakfast. Perfect for enjoying on a quiet morning on the porch watching the blue jays flit around your trees.

Maple yogurt bread 
Adapted from Food 52, makes an 8" loaf pan

1/2 cup maple syrup
3/4 cup 2% greek yogurt
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup coconut or olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter an 8" loaf pan.

In a large bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, greek yogurt, eggs, vanilla extract, and lemon zest.

In a medium bowl, whisk together both flours, baking powder, and salt.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir with a spatula until just combined. Add your oil and stir until absorbed by the batter. Bake 45-50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

 Let cool for 5 minutes in the pan. Cut around sides to remove and cool on a cooling rack.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Grilled honey chipotle chicken salad

Blake and I returned from the desert last week. As always Utah left us breathless at every turn. If you are seeking solitude in a world where little is left, the desert is for you. We hiked to some of the most beautiful places I have ever been. With nothing to distract us, Blake and I talked for hours around the campfire. In the morning we would awake and hike out among hoodoos, to waterfalls, and hidden desert arches. Utah makes our lives simple again. Escaping cell phones and TV is a gift. Talking to my husband, I mean really talking to him is my favorite thing. The desert is a wondrous place.

Leaving the desert sun behind is the hardest thing. When we returned home we were both craving some fresh food. Our camp dining consisted of beer cheese fondue, nachos, pasta, and burgers. So I made a salad and a really good one at that. A salad I would eat time and time again for dinner and feel completely satisfied. The honey chipotle marinade/dressing gives the chicken a nice crispy sweet crust when grilled. Toss with a bunch of crispy romaine lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, cilantro, and honey chipotle dressing for something delightful.

Grilled honey chipotle chicken salad 
Adapted from How Sweet It Is, serves 4

Honey chipotle chicken marinade/dressing
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons adobo sauce from can of chipotles
3 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons dijon mustard
4 garlic cloves, minced

1 head of romaine lettuce, rough chopped
1 pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, rough chopped
4 green onions, sliced
1 lime, juiced
Avocado, sliced

Whisk together the salt, pepper, olive oil, adobo, honey, dijon, and garlic. Pour half the marinade over the chicken. Save the other half for salad dressing. Marinade the chicken in the fridge for at least 2 hours.

Preheat your grill to medium high heat. Grill the chicken about 6-8 minutes per side, until chicken is slightly charred with grill marks. Slice chicken and toss with all the salad fixings and the remaing marinade.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Irish soda bread muffins

Muffins. I really like muffins. Not the kind with tons of sugar and fat that seem more like dessert (okay I like those too), but the kind that start a day off right. The low sugar, whole wheat, power me through the day kind. I can tell you that muffin mornings are really enjoyable. We may find ourselves thinking that muffins are only meant to be splurged upon at the coffee shop for indulgent treats. I disagree. We can splurge every day in our homes with little effort. A good book, some tea, and homemade muffins are all we need for a little extra happiness in our days. 

So you heard when I said easy right? So easy. You can't mess them up. Twenty minutes to make the batter + twenty minutes in the oven=dreamy muffin mornings. These muffins take the cake or the muffin, if you will. They are a little like biscuits turned muffin. Buttermilk gives them moisture and a richness without actually being rich. Currants (or raisins) and a tiny bit of sugar make them slightly sweet. They are absolutely my favorite. Second only to these carrot cake power muffins. A really excellent muffin morning awaits you. 

Irish soda bread muffins 
Makes 10 muffins, adapted from King Arthur Flour 

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour 
1 teaspoon baking powder 
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar + more to sprinkle on top
1 1/2 cups currants or raisins 
1 large egg
1 1/4 cups buttermilk 
3 tablespoons melted butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a muffin tin with nonstick spray.

In a medium bowl, whisk together both flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and sugar. In a large bowl, whisk together egg, buttermilk, butter, and currants. Add dry ingredients to wet and mix with a spatula until just combined. 

Evenly distribute the batter between 10  muffins cups. Sprinkle sugar evenly over the top of each muffin. Bake 10-15 minutes until slightly golden brown and toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. 

Let cool for five minutes in muffin tin and then remove to let cool. Serve with some jam on top for extra goodness. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Tortilla crusted chipotle salmon cake salad

We are going to go ahead and call this salad. Lettuce is involved. Also involved is an awesome chipotle salmon cake crusted in tortilla chips. Tortilla chips in a salad I can get behind. The crunch from the tortilla chips is really exceptional in tandem with this smoky salmon cake. Layer some chipotle aioli, avocado, and goat cheese over the top and you have yourself a meal.

We ate this meal after both of us had pretty grueling weekend workouts. Blake spent 16 hours on his feet climbing on some snow in Rocky Mountain National Park and I completed my last long training run before the Colorado Marathon. The run took me on the back roads from Boulder to Lyons in an exhausting head wind. The idea was once I got to Lyons we would celebrate at our favorite local brew pub Oskar Blues. Turns out after running 20+ miles ruebens and nachos aren't that appealing but we ate them anyway and both immediately regretted it.

Hence the need for a salad but a salad of substance. This salad hits all the marks and proved to be much better recovery food. Did I mention we had some ice cream too after the pub food? Apparently we don't learn.

Tortilla crusted chipotle salmon cake salad
Adapted from How Sweet It Is, serves 4

1 pound of salmon
1 shallot, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 egg
1/3 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1 tablespoon adobo sauce from can of chipotles in adobo sauce
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 cup tortilla chip crumbs (use a food processor or blender to break up)
3 tablespoons olive oil
Head of butter lettuce
Goat cheese
1 avocado

Chipotle aioli
1 chipotle pepper, chopped
2 tablespoons adobo sauce
1/2 cup mayonnaise

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray a baking dish with nonstick spray and bake salmon for 20-25 minute until cooked through.

In a large bowl, flake the salmon into small pieces using a fork. Add shallot, garlic cloves, egg, seasoned bread crumbs, adobo, chili powder, paprika, cumin, salt, pepper, and parsley. Use a large spoon to mix together.

Form the salmon mixture into 4 patties. Place your tortilla crumbs on a plate. Press salmon cake into crumbs on both sides.

Heat olive oil in a large saute pan on medium high heat. Once hot, add salmon cakes and cook until golden brown on each side, about 4-5 minute a side.

On top of the lettuce layer the salmon cake, goat cheese, avocado, and drizzle chipotle aioli over the top.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Graham cracker carrot cake

You know what is kind of magical? Spring trees in bloom. Colorado is currently lit up by various shades of fluffy pink and white blooms on trees. And then there are the tulips, the daffodils, the irises, and trees budding out. The world is colorful again. It’s lovely. We all could use a little more magic in our days.

We spent last weekend basking in the spring sun. First, we enjoyed many of Colorado’s delicious beers at Avery Brewing’s Strong Ale Fest. Then we spent Easter Sunday with family. I made carrot cake and pastel colored M&M cookies for Easter dinner. Not just any old carrot cake though, graham cracker carrot cake. That’s right ground up cinnamon graham crackers replaced some of the flour in this cake. If you love graham crackers like any self respecting adult should, you will love this cake.

The cake is jam packed with carrots making it super moist. The graham crackers give it an extra little special kick of flavor and then, of course, we have cream cheese frosting. The only kind of frosting in my opinion. For some reason, I have a hard time slathering a cake with all the butter in buttercream frosting, but when it comes to cream cheese, I say the more the merrier. Have your cream cheese enrobed cake and eat it too has always been my credo.

Also, this is a layer cake and we don’t have enough occasions in life to make a layer cake. So while this may be a little late for Easter, make this cake to celebrate spring or Friday. You know there are never enough reasons to celebrate in my book. Also, don't be scared of making a layer cake. I think most people are deterred by making frosting. The key to frosting is well softened, room temperature butter and cream cheese. Use your electric mixer to mix your softened cream cheese and butter with powdered sugar until light and fluffy. You can do it. I promise

Graham cracker carrot layer cake
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen, serves 14-16 people

1 cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup finely ground cinnamon graham crackers, use your food processor or blender to make the crumbs
¾ teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¾ teaspoon ground ginger
½ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup brown sugar
10 tablespoons butter, melted
3 large eggs
3 cups peeled and grated carrots, this was about 5 large carrots for me

Cream cheese frosting
2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two 9-inch cake pans with parchment paper and spray with nonstick spray.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger.

In a medium bowl, whisk together butter, sugar, and eggs until smooth. Stir in carrots. Pour wet ingredients in to the dry and stir with a spatula until flour just disappears. Pour batter evenly into your two cake pans. Bake 18-22 minutes, until a knife or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the cake pan five minutes before removing. Then cool on a cooling rack until completely cool. It’s important that the cakes are completely cool before you frost them.

For the frosting, beat the cream cheese and butter together until completely smooth. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla extract and beat again until smooth.

Spread top of one cake with about 1/3 of the frosting. Place the next layer on top. Spread the rest of the frosting over the top and side. My method is to start with the frosting on the top of second layer and spread outward to the sides and over. 

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Raspberry whole wheat bars

In a constant effort to perfect camping, hiking, and road trip food, I'm always focused on the snacks. When taking to the road and spending hours romping in the splendid outdoors, quality snacks are a must. I love snacks. Especially sweet ones, which are more like dessert, but sort of healthy.

Right now I'm testing out recipes for our annual Utah desert road trip in May. This time we will be exploring Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Capitol Reef National Park, and diving further into the San Rafael Swell. The desert is calling and we must go. 

We have already planned the menus. The first night, in celebration of Blake's completion of law school, we will be making camp beer cheese fondue. That's right you can have fondue and all the fixings while camping or so says Sunset's The Great Outdoors Cookbook. There will also be camp pesto pasta, thai red peanut coconut curry noodles, frittata, and pancakes. We will snack on M&M cookies, homemade chex mix, beef jerky, nut butter, Annie's cheddar bunnies, and these bars. These snacks are becoming tradition and traditions make camping under the stars all the more special. 

The reason for these bars is a childhood love of Nutri-Grain bars. As with all food things in life now, I believed a version of Nutri-Grain bars could be homemade with less unpronounceable ingredients and more whole food ingredients. I'm talking whole wheat, oats, raspberries, sugar, and butter. That list right there makes for an energy filled food, maybe a little decadent, but a great tasty hiking snack. These bars revived me after a 20 mile training run this morning and they will revive me after hiking miles in the desert in May. And darn are they good and easy. Good things in life should always be embraced. 

Raspberry whole wheat bars
Adapted from Two Peas and Their Pods

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour 
1 1/2 cups thick rolled oats 
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt 
2 tablespoons coconut oil (melted) or canola oil
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cut into 1/2" cubes 
1/4 cup water
3/4 cup raspberry jam or any favorite fruit jam 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse together flour, oats, brown sugar, and salt, about 3-4 pulses. Add the coconut oil, butter, and water and pulse until the dough holds together when pressed. If dough seems dry, add water a tablespoon at a time until it holds together. Alternatively you can whisk the flour, oats, sugar, and salt in a large bowl and add oil, butter, and water using a fork to combine and break up pieces of butter into the dough. 

Grease a 9" by 13" baking pan with nonstick spray, cover the pan with parchment, and spray the parchment with nonstick spray. Pour half the dough mixture into your baking dish and use your hands to press it into a layer. Using a spatula spread the jam over this layer. Sprinkle the other half the dough over the top and use your hands or the spatula to press into a layer. 

Bake for 35-40 minutes, until golden brown.

Let cool before cutting into whatever sized bars you please. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Hoisin pork rice bowls

Spring has kicked me into high gear. I spent the entire weekend outside doing all the garden projects I have been meaning to do since we bought the house. That was four years ago. In those four years, weeds reclaimed pretty much everything. My back lawn is one big dandelion patch and since I'm one of those darn tree huggers, I refuse to spray anything nasty on them. So I have bequeathed the yard to those lovely yellow weeds. Go ahead dandelions. It's all yours.

This weekend I laid weed barrier in the weed infested planter beds. I could no longer stand for the weeds threatening my tulips and irises. I also pulled up old mummified tomato plants from days of yore. Peas and carrots are successfully in the ground. I stained the deck. I gave myself a high five. 

After all the backbreaking work, I even manage to make dinner. These hoisin pork rice bowls are like the homemade version of Tokyo Joe's. They are simple to make. The hoisin sauce with peanut butter, and sweet red chili sauce is the best part. It coats the pork and vegetables in a sticky sweet delight. The pork does need to sit for an hour in the dry brine or overnight, if you want to plan ahead. After letting the pork marinate, the recipe comes together in less than 30 minutes. 

Hoisin pork rice bowls 
Adapted from Half Baked Harvest, serves 4

1 lb pork chops, cubed
3 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons of brown sugar 
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil 
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons fish sauce 
3 tablespoons rice vinegar (can sub white wine vinegar)
1 red bell pepper, sliced 
6 green onion, chopped 
1 small head of green cabbage, rough chopped
1 lime

Hoisin sauce
1/4 cup hoisin (found in the Asian aisle of the grocery store) 
2 tablespoons peanut butter, melted
2 tablespoons sweet thai chili sauce 
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes 

3 cups steamed white rice
2 large carrots, cut in to matchsticks
1 cup cilantro, chopped
1/3 cup crushed peanuts 

In a large tupperware, stir pork together with garlic, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, salt, pepper, and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Let marinade in the refrigerator for an hour to overnight. 

While pork in marinating prepare your hoisin sauce. In a small bowl, whisk together hoisin, peanut butter, sweet thai chili sauce, and crushed red pepper flakes. Set aside. 

In another small bowl, whisk together 1 tablespoon brown sugar, soy sauce, fish sauce, and rice vinegar. 

Right before you are ready to cook the pork prepare the rice according to the package directions. 

In a large saute pan over high heat, add olive oil until it's almost smoking hot. Add the pork and brown on all sides, 4-5 minutes a side. Add your bell pepper and cook for a minute. Add the cabbage and green onions and cook until the cabbage is slightly wilted, 3-4 minutes. Pour the soy sauce mixture over the top and stir for 3-4 minutes until everything is coated. Squeeze half the lime over the top, stir, and remove from the heat. 

Over the rice layer pork and vegetables, carrots, cilantro, peanuts, and a dollop of hoisin sauce. 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Lentil crusted grouper with saag and lemon zest sauce

I made you something light, springy, and wonderful. Does spring make you really happy? I know I have said this in the past but I have recently discovered spring as a new favorite season. I have forgotten this lovely season in the past. I pretty much skipped it and went right on to summer. But as Blake and I were walking this weekend in 70 degrees, I turned to him and made this profound statement, "this season just makes me really happy." The flowers, the sun, and the hope spring brings with it are too wonderful. I refuse to skip it anymore.

The changes in the weather also dictate changes in my appetite. When the sun starts to warm the earth, I no longer find myself craving chili. I want lighter, brighter ingredients. This grouper is from Farm, Fork, Food, a cookbook by local chef, Eric Skokan. Skokan sources many of the ingredients in his restaurant from his own farm. As a result, his cookbook is broken down into recipes that reflect what can be sourced in Colorado in each season. Yummy, local food is close to my heart.

I love the lentil crust on this fish. Since it's just lentils and spices, it's gluten free (if that's something important to you) and crispy. The saag is made with yogurt instead of the classic cream, which makes it tangy and lighter. The highlight of this dish for me was the lemon and orange zest sauce. A little lemon and orange zest, pureed with a little sugar and olive oil are outstanding on top of this fish. Really lovely.

Lentil crusted grouper with saag and lemon zest sauce
Adapted from Farm, Fork, Food

Lentil crusted cod
3/4 cup red lentils
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 1/2 pounds grouper
4 tablespoons olive oil

Lemon zest sauce
2 lemons
1 orange
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons water

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 tablespoons curry powder
5 clove of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon of ginger, minced
3/4 of pound spinach
1/2 cup yogurt

In a blender, combine lentil, coriander, cumin, and mustard powder. Blend on high speed until a coarse powder forms. Set aside for the fish later.

Using a vegetable peeler, peel long strips of peel off the lemons and orange. In a small saucepan over high heat, cover the strips with water and bring to a boil. Drain and repeat one more time. This makes the peel less bitter. In a blender, add the peel, sugar, olive oil, and water until smooth. Set aside.

In a large saute pan over medium high heat, add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Once hot, add onion, curry, garlic, and ginger. Cook about for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onion turns slightly translucent. Mix in spinach until it wilts, 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in yogurt. Add salt to taste.

Pour lentil mixture into a flat dish. Salt both sides of the grouper. Dredge the fish on both sides through the lentil mixture. You want the fish covered. Heat 2 large saute pans over high heat with 2 tablespoons of olive oil in each pan. Heat until the oil is hot. Crisp fish on both sides until golden brown, 4-5 minutes a side. Serve drizzled with lemon zest sauce and the saag on the side.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Chocolate stout cake with a whiskey caramel layer and Bailey's cream cheese frosting (aka the Car bomb cake)

Today we hiked to the top of a little mountain in Boulder County. The mountain overlooked a complete 180 degree view of 13ers and 14ers in the Front Range. It was 70 degrees. We saw two other people the entire the time. We found ourselves a little secret place in a world where few secrets still exist. Back at the car we pulled out a picnic of roast beef and horseradish sandwiches, potato salad, an orange, and this cake. A perfect day.

Oh boy, this cake. Do yourself a favor and make this cake or better yet come over to my house and eat some. Save me from consuming this entire cake in 2 days. It's so good. It's got all your Irish favorites: stout, whiskey, and Bailey's Irish Cream. The chocolate cake with compliments of the stout is super chocolate goodness with a light crumb. A layer of whiskey caramel in between and Bailey's cream cheese frosting is dreamy. Really dreamy.

Chocolate stout cake with a whiskey caramel layer and Bailey's cream cheese frosting 
Serves 18-20

Chocolate stout cake
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup cocoa powder
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup stout

Whiskey caramel sauce (adapted from Cook's Illustrated)
1 cup water
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup whiskey (I used Jack Daniels but Jameson would be more Irish)

Bailey's cream cheese frosting 
8 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
3 tablespoons Bailey's Irish Cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour two 9" cake pans.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cocoa powder.

In the bowl of an electric mixer with paddle attachment or with a handheld mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating until incorporated after each egg. Add vanilla and beat until incorporated. Add half your flour mixture and beat until combined. Drizzle in buttermilk and stout and beat until combined. Finally, add the rest of the flour mixture and beat until combined.

Pour batter into cake pans. Bake for 25-30 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pans and let cool completely before assembling and icing the cake.

While the cake is baking, make your caramel. In a medium saucepan, pour in water and sugar. Cover with a lid and let come to a boil. Once boiling remove the lid and boil until it reaches 300 degrees, about 15 minutes. Once it reaches 300 degrees, turn heat down to medium and cook until it reaches 350 degrees, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, slowly drizzle in your cream, add your salt, and whisk. Whisk in your whiskey. Let cool (I put mine in the fridge to cool completely).

For the frosting, beat cream cheese, powdered sugar, and Bailey's on low until incorporated. Put in the fridge until ready for use.

To assemble: Trim on cake layer to have a flat top. Pour 1/2 the caramel sauce on top of this cake layer. Spread caramel evenly over this layer with a cake spatula. Place next cake round on top of the caramel layer. Next spread frosting over the cake. My method is to start with all the frosting on the top of cake and spread it out to and eventually over the edges. But really who cares how it looks, since it tastes so awesome.

Serve with an extra drizzle of whiskey caramel sauce

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Garlic white pizza with roasted chicken, candied lemons, and spinach

I have so many moments in life where I will look over at my husband and think that right there is the best decision I ever made. For example, the other week we were at the Banff Mountain Film Festival screening in Boulder. We were watching a film about a ninety year old man who goes back to fish the rivers in France, where he fought in World War II. Him and his wife are sitting in France and he is telling her how much it means to him that he gets to show her the places he went in the war. In the next scene, he is being gifted a beautiful handmade fly rod by a man in France. It makes him cry. It also makes me cry. When he finally makes it to the river to fish, my husband and I are both moved to tears. Or at least I certainly am and Blake is pretty close. And I'm thinking how lucky I am to share this life with someone who also gets sentimental over an old man fly fishing.

Then the next week I'm watching Boyhood. At the end of a movie the characters are sitting in Big Bend National Park overlooking a sunset. The dialog goes a little something like this:

Girl: "You know how everyone is always saying seize the moment? I don't know, I'm kind of thinking it's the other way around, you know, like the moment seizes us."

Boy: "Yeah, I know, it's constant, the moments, it's just- it's like it's always right now, you know?"

Each of us uses our own frame to interpret things. My frame is eternally and optimistically romantic. This quote reminds me of how many times the moment has seized me with my husband. Those moments look something like this: turning the corner amongst red rocks to the most awe inspiring arch tucked 5 miles into the corner of the desert, sitting together on a mountain top able to see miles in all directions without another soul in sight, climbing straight up to a beautiful mountain lake and sharing a peanut butter and jelly, and camping surrounded by sheer canyon walls in the company of desert snakes, each other, and little else. All outdoors, all with my husband, I have been seized by the moment time and time again.

So there I go again letting another sentimental ramble get the best of me and making you listen. What does all of this have to do with pizza? Blake is 2 months from finishing law school and about to start prepping for the bar. It's a stressful time for him and stressful times call for us to be seized by little moments. I can't do much to ease his stress but I can feed him pizza and take him to get frozen yogurt. This pizza will most certainly conquer what ails you. Zesty and rich roasted garlic white sauce complimented by the slight sweetness of the candied lemons is most awesome. This pizza does require a little time to prepare each component but it's so very worth it. You can also prepare the candied lemons, sauce, and chicken the day before to have everything ready to go into the oven for dinner.

Garlic white pizza with roasted chicken, candied lemons, and spinach
Serves 3

Candied lemons (adapted from The Kitchn)
3 lemons
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold water
1 cup sugar

Shredded chicken
1 chicken breast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon thyme

Roasted garlic white sauce (adapted from Emeril) 
1 head of garlic
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup 2% milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Pinch of cayenne pepper

3 cups spinach
1/2 cup parmesan
1 (8 oz) fresh mozzarella ball, sliced
Pizza dough (a lot of grocery stores sell already made dough or you can use my recipe here)

*Read the whole recipe through first. You are going to get the next component going, while the previous is cooking.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut off the top of your garlic, wrap in foil, and roast for 50 minutes. Leave the oven on, after you take out the garlic.

While the garlic is roasting, peel the lemons with a vegetable peeler into long strips. Fill a medium sauce pan halfway with water and the salt. Add the lemon peels and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes and drain.

In the same sauce pan, add cold water and sugar. Bring to a simmer and stir until the sugar dissolves. Add the lemon peel and simmer on medium low for 40-45 minutes. Remove the peel with a fork and let them cool on a piece of parchment or wax paper.

While the lemon peel is simmering, prepare your chicken. Spray a baking pan with nonstick spray. Whisk together the salt, lemon pepper, garlic powder, and thyme. Rub both sides of the chicken breast with seasoning. Your oven should still be at 400 degrees from the garlic. Bake for 20-25 minutes until cooked through. Let cool and shred with two forks.

Increase oven temperature to 550, after you pull out the garlic and chicken.

When you put the chicken in the oven, start your sauce. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Once melted, whisk in the flour. Whisk for a minute and then slowly whisk in your milk. Whisk for 3-5 minutes. The sauce should thicken. Once thick, put in a blender or food processor with roasted garlic cloves, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Puree on low.

Spray a 16" pizza pan or cookie sheet with nonstick spray. Roll out your dough a little larger than the pan. Fold in the edges for your crust. Spread your garlic sauce over the dough with spatula. Layer your spinach over the top of the sauce, then spread the chicken and candied lemon over the top. Finally, evenly distribute the mozzarella and parmesan over the top.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Fontina, roasted garlic, and kale toast with an over easy egg

Once upon a time, I didn't like my eggs any way but scrambled and even then, I didn't like them all that much. Now I want to put eggs on everything. I've also been having strong cravings for oatmeal. I think I have eaten oatmeal about 5 times in entire life. What are these cravings? Does it have something to do with getting old? Last week I realized that there are a number of things in my life that happened a decade ago. I can now measure things in decades. Crazy.

This dinner came at a time when I needed something easy for dinner and something centered around my beloved egg. Throw some garlic in the oven for 40 minutes, saute up some kale and mushrooms, put it on toast, throw some cheese on top, broil it in the oven until bubbly, and toss a fried egg on top. Boom! That's what I call 30 minute meals (minus the hands off garlic roasting time). Take that Rachel Ray.

Fontina, roasted garlic, and kale toast with an over easy egg
Adapted from How Sweet It Is, serves 4

2 whole heads of garlic
3 tablespoon olive oil
2 bunches of kale, rough chopped
1/2 pound of crimini mushrooms, sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 cups shredded fontina cheese
8 eggs
Crusty bread
Hot sauce for serving, if you wish

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut of the top (narrower part) of the garlic bulbs and wrap in foil. Roast in the oven for 45-50 minutes, until the cloves are soft. Let cool. Once cool, push the garlic cloves out and smash with a fork. 

While the garlic roasts, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium skillet over medium high heat. Add kale and mushrooms and stir until softened, 3-5 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and stir until combined. Remove from heat and set aside.

Put oven broiler on high. Toast generous slices of bread in a toaster. Place toast on a baking sheet. Spread roasted garlic over the bottom of the toast. Stack kale mixture on top and sprinkle with cheese. Put in the oven and keep a close eye on it. You want the cheese to get bubbly, which takes about 2-3 minutes but can go quickly to burnt, if you don't watch it closely. Pull out of the oven. 

In the same skillet you cooked the kale in, heat the last 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Carefully crack your eggs into the skillet and let cook until the egg white sets, about 2 minutes. Flip the egg and cook, until your desired doneness. Medium soft took about 4 on the other side for me. Put on top of your toast and splash some hot sauce on top. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Tilapia cake cobb salad stacks

One of my favorite parts of the weekend is waking up, remembering it's the weekend, and realizing I can do whatever I want with my day. Usually on the weekends we are up and out the door to hike in the mountains, but with the cold weather and the record breaking amount of snow in February, we have been taking it a little slower in the mornings. 

This weekend we woke up leisurely, ate breakfast, read, and relaxed. Or at least we relaxed for a little, before I began to demand some outdoor activity. We bundled up and took the dog on our favorite little stroll up the trails by our hours, wound our way to downtown for some hot chocolate, and then took a little self-guided historic Boulder homes tour. It was all very lovely. 

We ate a lot too. Cold snowy days inevitably seem to contain a lot of good eats. Last weekend when we were getting pummeled with snow, we went to my favorite restaurant, Bru, and ate breakfast pizza swimming in sausage gravy, fried apple rings dunked in a maple creme fraiche, and then to top it off the restaurant gave us a complimentary chocolate beer cream filled donut. It was a really spectacular meal and way more food than two people should ever consume for brunch, but don't think I regret it. Not for minute. 

This tilapia cake wedge salad stack also graced one of our snow day menus. We absolutely loved it. The tilapia cake could also be made with crab or salmon. Tilapia is just more cost effective and with all the other flavors going on here, tilapia works well. This meal is easy and fun. It also includes bacon and blue cheese so there's that. Stack the bacon and blue cheese with a really tasty tilapia cake, hard boiled egg, some lettuce for good measure, and a red wine vinaigrette, and I promise you will be happy. It's a weekend delight.

Tilapia cake cobb salad stacks
Adapted from Seriously Delish, serves 4 

2 eggs, hard boiled and sliced
6 slices of bacon, cooked and cut in half 

Vinaigrette (you could use a store bought dressing too but this is pretty delicious)
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon honey 
1 garlic clove, minced
Pinch of salt and pepper
1/3 cup olive oil

Tilapia cake
1 pound tilapia
1/4 cup red bell pepper, diced
3 tablespoons red onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
8 multigrain crackers, crushed
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon greek yogurt, sour cream, or mayo
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil

To serve
1 large tomato, sliced
Red onion, sliced
1 avocado, sliced
1 head of romaine lettuce
Blue cheese crumbles

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 

Start by cooking your bacon and hard boiling your eggs. Set these aside. 

Put all your vinaigrette ingredients in a jar and shake until combined or whisk together. 

Place tilapia in a baking dish and bake 10-15 minutes, until fish flakes easily with a fork. In a large bowl, flake tilapia into small chunks and combine with bell pepper, red onion, garlic, and crackers. In a small bowl, whisk together egg, mustard, yogurt, salt, and pepper. Add the egg mixture to the tilapia mixture and stir well to combine. 

Form 4 patties with the tilapia mixture. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat with the olive oil. Add tilapia cakes to the skillet and cook until golden brown, about 5 minutes per side. 

Layer lettuce with red onion, tomato, hard boiled egg, tilapia cake, avocado, bacon, and sprinkle blue cheese on top. Drizzle with the vinaigrette. Yum!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Blueberry lemon pancake bars

I'm itching for an adventure. I'm ready for the road. I want the Utah desert. I want that quiet. I want those ethereal rocks. I want to feel small below grand arches. Instead what I have is snow, snow, and more snow.

Snow and I are now done. I can almost make it to March with my resolve to appreciate snow and then I fold. That little snowflake symbol occupies almost every day of the 10 day forecast. I must make the best of it. 

This weekend in the snow, I read almost all 800 pages of The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton. I really liked this book. It's completely different. It unravels a series of mysterious events in a New Zealand mining town in the late 1800s. It's intriguing and engaging. If you have some spare time, I would definitely invest it in this book. 

I also baked blueberry lemon pancake bars on this snowy weekend and my world as I know it will never be the same again. I love pancakes but I hate flipping them. It takes too much time. The genius over at The Kitchn who decided to take pancake batter and bake it into a big casserole dish will never know how much I love her. These baked pancake bars result in all the tasty fluffy delight of a pancake with none of the hassle. This week I have been so excited to wake up, warm up my pancake bar in the microwave, and douse it in maple syrup. Pancakes for breakfast every morning. What a dream.

Blueberry lemon pancake bars
Adapted from The Kitchn, makes 10-12 bars

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 1/2 cups buttermilk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 cup frozen or fresh blueberries

Grease a 9" by 13" baking dish.

In a medium bowl, whisk together both flours, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

In another medium bowl, whisk together sugar, eggs, buttermilk, butter, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until just combined. Add blueberries and mix in with a spatula.

Pour the batter into your prepared baking dish and let rest while you preheat the oven. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Bake for 12-15 minutes, until just browning the edges and a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Homemade party mix (aka get out of the way Chex mix!)

Be forewarned. Making this mix will result in consumption of unreasonable quantities of carbohydrate filled delight. It's so good that a handful will never do. Make it and share it. Or make it and shamelessly consume the entire massive bowl in a day. I'm not here to judge.

This party mix is fun to make. Pick your wheat filled products and go to town. Pretzels, chex cereal, peanuts, wheat crackers, and popcorn made up my first version. Next time I'm adding goldfish. Once you have some brown butter, the sky's the limit  for how to season this baby.

This version contains Frank's red hot and worcester. I also just made a BBQ version. Next I'm thinking a sticky sweet and spicy asian variety with hoisin and sweet chili sauce. Oh the fun we are going to have with this mix.

Homemade party mix
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen, makes massive quantities appropriate for as few as 1 and as many as 10

2 tablespoons oil
6 tablespoons unpopped popcorn (can sub six cups already popped popcorn)
1 cup peanuts or any darn nuts you love
2 cups chex cereal
1 1/2 cups mini pretzels
1 cup wheat crackers, or melba toast, or goldfish, or pita chips
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons worcester sauce
1/4 cup Frank's red hot (or sub BBQ sauce for a BBQ version)
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

Pop that popcorn! Heat the olive oil and 2-3 corn kernels in a large pan with a lid over medium high heat. When the first kernels pop, add the rest. Every 30 seconds grab the pan and lid and shake. Once a few seconds passes between pops, remove from the heat. Pour popcorn in a large bowl. Add the peanuts, chex cereal, pretzels, and crackers to the bowl and use your hands to mix.

In a medium sauce pan, melt butter over high heat. When the butter begins to turn golden brown, remove from heat. Whisk into the butter the worcester, Frank's red hot (or BBQ), brown sugar, mustard, salt, paprika, garlic, and onion powder.

Pour the butter sauce over you party mix and stir with a large spoon or spatula, until everything is coated. Pour the mixture onto a baking sheet and spread evenly. Bake 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. Let cool and go to town!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Saucy chipotle baked eggs and potatoes

Blake and I spent the weekend in Grand Lake, which is the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park on the westside. We stayed in a perfect little cabin warmed by a gas stove. We slept in and drank warm and warming beverages. We ate pizza and BBQ. We hiked on a quiet beautiful trail in our most beloved national park. It was all quite wonderful.

As per usual on these trips, we ate and ate and ate. When we came home, we wanted to eat something that contained a vegetable but it also needed to be warming and hearty, as it was dumping snow outside. What we settled on is our absolute new favorite dish. We have eaten this meal once a week for the last three weeks.

The premise is simple. Baked eggs and potatoes swimming in a slightly spicy chipotle tomato sauce with kale and goat cheese. Mop up the sauce with piece of toasted crusty bread and you will find yourself so very satisfied. The beautiful thing about this dish is that you can adapt it to your own preference. Maybe you don't want spicy? Instead of the chipotle add some italian seasoning and parmesan for an more Italian spin. Once you make this dish, you will make it again and again.

Saucy chipotle baked eggs and potatoes 
Adapted from Pinch of Yum, serves 4

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, sliced
3 cloves of garlic, sliced
2 teaspoons chipotle powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1 28 ounce can of diced tomatoes
6 eggs
1 1/2 cups yukon gold potatoes, chopped into bite sized pieces
2 cups kale, chopped
2 ounces goat cheese
Crusty bread, toasted

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium high heat in a large saute pan. Add the onion and garlic and cook until softened, 5-7 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon of the chipotle powder, salt, stock, and can of tomatoes. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 8 minutes. Pour tomato sauce in a blender and puree until smooth.

In the same pot you cooked the sauce in over medium high heat, add the last tablespoons of olive oil. Add the potatoes and chipotle powder. Cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. Add back in the sauce, reduce heat to medium, and simmer for 10 minutes.

Stir in your kale. Using a spoon make little holes to crack the eggs into. Put the lid on the pot and reduce the heat to low. Cook for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and let sit for 4 more minutes. This will give you medium soft eggs. If you shake the pan and the eggs jiggle a lot leave them longer. You can also adjust the time depending on how soft or hard you prefer your eggs.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Valentine's Day inspiration

I'm all about celebrating love. All love. All the time. Let's celebrate love for your significant other, family, and friends. Love is the most wonderful thing. We don't celebrate it enough.

I'm celebrating love this weekend with a pretty neat guy. We are making pizza and brownie sundaes complete with chocolate bourbon ice cream and hot fudge. We will be drinking my new favorite cocktail, the French 75, made with sparkling rose because it's pink and I'm a sucker for this holiday. Let the love fest begin!

Below is some inspiration for food to celebrate love.

1.For dessert:Chocolate lava cake with brandied cherry sauce

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Roasted dill potato salad

You know what I love? When spring decides to come early and by early, I mean January. Good old Colorado is giving us weeks in the 60s. Literally weeks. I have forgotten it's winter. In fact, I keep thinking it's March but it is most definitely not March. It's a little alarming really. In a state where we rely on snowpack to keep us going through the summer, we could really use the return of winter. But it is not in my hands to decide the weather and I quite love 60 degrees so I am going to enjoy it.

Yesterday we hiked to 10,000 feet on mostly dry trails. Once again not exactly what we want to see in February but we had fun. The sun was shining. It's porch weather. One day this week I gave myself the luxury of sitting on the porch in the sun and reading for a couple of hours. I'm about to put up the hammock, uncover the grill, and try to find some watermelon. 

I will hold off though and leave the joys of summer for May. For now, I will strike a happy balance with this roasted potato salad. A very happy balance, as I deem this potato salad to be awesome. A new favorite. Potato salad is undoubtedly a summer picnic item but roasting the potatoes in the oven makes it a winter friendly salad. How versatile. This salad is creamy with only a dab of mayo. Roasting the potatoes with the garlic creates that wonderful sweet garlic flavor. Combine that with a generous sprinkle of dill and we have ourselves a winner for winter spring.

Roasted dill potato salad
Serves 4, adapted from my favorite Date Night In

1 pound red potatoes, cut into bite sized pieces
2 garlic cloves, rough chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/3 cup red onion, diced
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 1/2 tablespoons grainy mustard
3 tablespoons dill

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a large bowl, toss together potatoes, garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Layout a large sheet of aluminum foil on the counter and pour the potatoes in the center. Wrap up tightly. This may call for another sheet of foil for reinforcement.

Roast for 40 minutes, until tender. Cool potatoes for 10 minutes.

Whisk together the red onion, mayo, mustard, and dill.

Toss with the warm potatoes with mayo mixture and enjoy. 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Chocolate bourbon pecan pie bars

Blake is a pie guy. I am a cookie, brownie, cake, bread pudding, and ice cream girl. Give it all to me except pie, which makes my husband sad.

They say marriage is about compromise though and I'm all about baking. Given this, I have committed to giving pie another try. Pie makes Blake happy. Happiness is a beautiful thing.

I have a few pies to my name and I'm still working out what makes for my perfect flaky pie dough. I know its definitely all butter. All butter. All the time. My favorite part of pie is the filling. I especially love cream pies, which essentially remind me of pudding. But the pie project is for Blake and he is more of your traditional fruit pie guy or the occasional pecan pie.

 Blake also quite enjoys bourbon and chocolate and I enjoy desserts in bar form. That is how I came to make these chocolate bourbon pecan pie bars from Joy the Baker's new cookbook Homemade Decadance. I liked these bars a whole lot and so did Blake. They lasted 4 days in our house. Although in our defense, we shared some with a friend. Three to be exact. We shared 3 bars of about 15. Generous. These bars consist of a buttery crust layer topped with a pecan, chocolate chip, bourbon filling. If you too want to bring a little joy to any of your relationships, I highly suggest a batch of these.

Chocolate bourbon pecan pie bars
Adapted from Joy the Baker

Pie crust
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
13 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 teaspoons salt

4 tablespoons butter (1/2 stick), melted
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
3 large eggs
3 tablespoons bourbon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups toasted pecans, coarsely chopped
1 cup dark chocolate chunks

Put a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Grease a 9" by 13" baking dish with butter.

For the pie crust, in an electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or a handheld electric mixer with beaters), combine flour, confectioners sugar, butter, and salt. Beat until crumbly, about 4 minutes. Pour the mixture into the baking dish and press with your fingers evenly across the bottom of the dish.

Bake for 12-15 minutes, until slightly browned. Remove from oven but leave the oven on.

For the filling, in a medium bowl, whisk together butter, brown sugar, honey, eggs, bourbon, and salt until completely combined. Stir in pecans and chocolate chunks. Pour the mixture over the baked crust, distributing the chocolate and pecan pieces evenly.

Bake until set, 25-30 minutes. Let cool completely, before slicing.

Friday, January 30, 2015


Dehesa in Spain

Spain harbors an agricultural area known as the dehesa. It's pretty darn cool and I think you should know about it. I learned about the region through reading Dan Barber's The Third Plate. An excellent read on sustainable food systems. I truly think anyone who eats should read Michael Pollen's The Omnivore's Dilemma, Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and when you find yourself thirsting for more move onto Dan Barber's The Third Plate. Have a book club with friends or your significant other and discuss these books. The way we eat affects our health, in part (a large part in my case) our happiness, and the natural resources we rely on to survive. We should know more about it.  Plus, it's all so interesting. I promise.

People call the dehesa in Spain an ecoagricultural system. Really it's just the way livestock and crops have been managed in the area since the middle ages because it works. The dehesa largely still represents the original landscape of grasses and oak trees. The ecosystem provides important habitat to many species. The Spanish learned to work with it.

 Instead of ripping up all the trees and tilling under all the natural grasses, the natural landscaped was embraced. The oak trees provide acorn forage for renowned Iberian pigs, which are said to produce the best ham in the world. The trees also protect against soil erosion by decreasing runoff. Livestock such as pigs, sheep, and cows all fertilize the land, which then supports crop production such as barley and oats. Everything in the system works together without depleting the area of its natural resources or destroying ecosystems. Neat, right? Most definitely. 

In the US, we have become far removed from these natural agricultural systems. Luckily we have some hope. We just need to pay more attention. I do think more people are paying greater attention to what they eat. Eating more food locally and talking to the people growing your food is a good start.

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs are a pretty awesome way to support local growers and learn more about the source of your food. CSA's provide you with a share of a specific local farm's bounty. These farms usual have a much greater awareness of how to grow food, while supporting the farm's natural systems. Participating in a CSA will also connect you more closely to what can be grown in your region. You will eat 6 tons of lettuce in the spring. You may not love it but you will begin to understand what a healthy local food system can provide for us. It's also fun. Grab a friend or a significant other and take on the challenge of how to make all those darn greens interesting. Talk to your farmer about it. People connecting to people. It's powerful stuff. 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Crispy baked oven fries

Today we are going to talk about fries. What a good day. In my house, we are no stranger to fries. Ask me about restaurants in Boulder and it's very possible I will report to you first on the quality of their fries. That is, if they are the kind of restaurants that serve fries, which is to say the best kind of restaurant.

Mountain Sun. If we were to have a discussion about my favorite restaurants in Boulder, this would top my list. The beer, the service, and the food all combine to create a magical experience of warmth and comfort. Then we have the fries. These are no frills fries. Pure, unadulterated fries at their pinnacle. Some of their fries come out crispier and others a little soft. They have a nice golden brown glow.These fries are not to be missed.

The thing about fries though, if we are being honest, is we can't enjoy their fried in oil goodness all the time and not be concerned about our hearts. Enter the baked oven fry. The baked oven fry is a real art. I have made countless batches seeking to attain that crispy golden exterior. These oven fries will not disappoint. The secret is cornstarch. It gives them the crisp we desire. They are almost as satisfying and wonderful as their fried counterpart. Almost.

Crispy baked oven fried 
Serves 4

3 medium sized russet potatoes, cut into 1/2" fry strips
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

I cut square fries but really any 1/2" thick shape will work. To cut square fries, I cut a little slice off the top, bottom, and sides of the potato to make it more of a square shape to start. Then I halve the potato lengthwise. From the half, I slice lengthwise every 1/2" to get my rough square fry.

In a large bowl, sprinkle cornstarch over the potatoes and stir until all the fries are coated. Add your oil and stir until coated. Finally, add your salt and pepper and stir until coated.

Line a baking sheet with parchment. Spread potatoes evenly over the baking sheet.

Bake 40-45 minutes, flipping halfway through.