Monday, December 20, 2010

Great Sushi!

My wonderful hubby took me out for sushi while we were shopping in Grand Junction today. We went to one of my favorite sushi places....No Coast Sushi. Devin had the Wicked Garden and the Wasabi Nut Crunch rolls. I had the KA (eel) and the Cougar (fried oyster). I absolutely love this place. If you are ever in Junction and looking for great sushi, this is the place to go!

If anyone knows any other sushi places in Junction, please leave a comment and let me know. I'm always looking for new places to check out!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Soup and Sandwiches for Dinner!



Tonight I decided to take my panini press for a spin. I hadn't done that in a while. I knew we were having the cheesy brat soup for dinner, so I figured grilled cheese sandwiches would be a good combination.

Dev just wanted gouda cheese in his sandwich. I was in the mood for something a little more...complicated.

I took a slice of Dev's homemade bread and put 4 slices of brie on it. Then I laid a few pieces of thinly sliced deli turkey on the brie. Next, I piled on some radish sprouts and 2 pieces of bacon. I slathered the other piece of bread with a thin coat of sour cherry preserves. One more piece of brie finished off the sandwich. I slathered both outsides with butter, and fired up the panini press.

I think the picture pretty much sums up how good this sandwich was.

Cream Cheese Stuffed, Bacon Wrapped Jalapenos



These are so good, they're sinful. And addictive. And rich. And easy. And relatively quick.

A couple of weeks ago, Dev and I went to a covered dish supper for the last night of our Spanish class. One of the many wonderful dishes there was a tray of stuffed, roasted jalapenos. They were whole jalapenos, somehow hollowed out, with cream cheese piped in, and wrapped in bacon, then roasted.

They were heavenly! The pepper itself was soft and sweet, the bacon done, but not too crispy, and the creamy filling was warm and gooey. I knew then that I had to make them for myself.

I had 6 jalapenos laying around in my produce basket. I couldn't figure out how to hollow them out so they could be whole, so I halved them. Then I took out the seeds and membranes. I decided since I could cut the cream cheese into sticks while it was still cold, not to soften it. This is good, because this time of year, room temperature in my kitchen isn't nearly warm enough to soften anything! So I cut 12 short sticks of cream cheese and laid the pieces in the pepper halves. Then I cut 6 pieces of bacon in half, and wrapped a half piece around each stuffed pepper. Then I secured the little bundle with a toothpick. They baked at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes. Larger peppers with more cheese might take longer.

I don't have the words to describe how good these were. There was just a hint of heat from what little membrane I left in the peppers. If you like spicier things, just remove the seeds and leave the membranes. The peppers get soft and sweet from the slow roasting. And cream cheese is cream cheese- you can't go wrong there.

Please make these for yourself! I promise you won't regret it.

Beer, Brat and Cheese Soup



Today was a good soup day. It was cold and rainy.

I sat down and looked through my soup recipes and found an old favorite. The only thing I did differently this time was using kielbasa instead of brats (because that's what I had).

Brat, Beer and Cheese Soup
From Penzey’s

3 bratwurst sausages, cooked and sliced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 c. onion, finely chopped
1 c. celery, finely chopped
1 c. carrots, finely chopped
1/4 c. flour
1 lb. potatoes, peeled and diced
6 c. chicken stock
1 beer (12oz)
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder
1/2 c. milk or half and half
1/4 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
2 c. grated sharp cheddar cheese

Heat olive oil in soup pot over medium heat. Add onion, celery and carrots. Cook about 15 minutes or until tender, stirring every so often to keep from sticking. Stir in flour; cook about 1 minute. Add potatoes, stock and beer. I didn't have 6 cups of stock, so I used 4 cups stock, 1 cup white wine and 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil and cook 10-15 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Add mustard powder, garlic, salt, pepper and chipotle powder. Combine milk and worcestershire sauce in a bowl. Stir into the soup. Remove soup from heat. Add cheese, stirring until the cheese is melted and smooth. Remove 2 cups of vegetables with some liquid and puree in blender or food processor. Stir back into the soup to give it nice body. Return to low heat and add sliced, cooked bratwurst. Cook until sausage is warm; 5 minutes should do it.

I didn't puree the 2 cups of soup. I used an immersion blender to blend the soup in the pot until it was as chunky as I wanted it. I also had a lonely ear of corn in the ice box, so I cut the corn off the cob and threw it in when I added the sausage to the soup.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Shrimp Curry and other pantry purging meals...



Earlier today I posted about New Year's Resolutions. I had another brilliant idea. I resolve to figure out what all I have in my pantry, and start cooking with it. There are 2 benefits to this strategy. The first is, of course a neater, trimmer pantry. The second is the opportunity to make room for new stuff!

Being a foodie, I have amassed some pretty odd stuff. And the sad thing is, I have no idea what all's in my collection.

So this afternoon I poked around on the shelves and found a package of curry mix. Here's a pic of it...



Ok. Go ahead. I'll wait. I know you want to make jokes about the name of the mix. It is frightfully close to gonad shrimp curry. There. I said it. Now can we get on with the post?? Thanks.

I followed the directions on the packet and combined 3/4 cup of lemon juice with an equal amount of olive oil, then whisked in the powdered spice packet. I defrosted and peeled about a pound of shrimp and put them in a dish. I poured the mixture over the shrimp and marinated them for about an hour. I stir fried some zucchini, green peppers, mushrooms and sugar snap peas. I added the marinated shrimp and let them cook for about 3 minutes. At the very last moment, I stirred in a few glugs of half in half. I served it over rice.

To be honest, this wasn't the best curry I've had. It didn't have that much flavor. Now that I've used that packet up, I can go out and buy some better curry!

American Macaroni Salad



I have rediscovered pasta salads. I don't know why I'd forgotten about them. If you think about it, any sort of pasta salad is the perfect lunch! You can add protein and veggies, and you've got pasta! There are vinaigrette type dressings, mayo based dressings, the sky's the limit...

I took a macaroni salad to our staff Christmas Party. It was the classic macaroni salad. The only change I made to the recipe was to add sharp cheddar.

American Macaroni Salad
From Food Network Kitchens
Prep Time:
20 min
Inactive Prep Time:
--
Cook Time:
10 min
Level:
Easy
Serves:
6 servings
Ingredients
• 2 cups dry elbow macaroni, cooked, rinsed, and drained
• 1/3 cup diced celery
• 1/4 cup minced red onion, soaked in cold water for 5 minutes, drained
• 1 tablespoon minced flat-leaf parsley
• 1/2 cup diced vine-ripened tomato (optional)
• 1/2 cup prepared mayonnaise
• 3/4 teaspoon dry mustard
• 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
• 1 1/2 tablespoons cider vinegar
• 3 tablespoons sour cream
• 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
• Freshly ground black pepper
Directions
In a large bowl combine the macaroni, celery, onion, parsley and tomato, if using. In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, mustard, sugar, vinegar, sour cream and salt. Pour the dressing over the salad and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve. Store covered in the refrigerator, for up to 3 days.

New Year's Resolutions

I'm starting a little early this year on my New Year's Resolutions. I've been brain-storming a few ideas, which the goal of narrowing them down and picking the top two to tackle in the coming year. Here are the 2 I thought of today:

1. Spend less time watching TV and more time practicing my hobbies (cooking and knitting).
2. Get more active- this would be good for me and the dog. We took him out for a romp in the snow this morning and now he's pooped. That equals not as hyper, which equals happier owners.

Brickle Drop Cookies

Here's one of the recipes I made last week, but didn't have time to take pictures. These turned out really well. I added mini chocolate chips as well as the toffee bits. They passed the kid test...my husband used them as "auction items" in his 5th grade class.

Brickle Drop Cookies

Ingredients
1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1-1/3 cups (8 oz. pkg.) HEATH BITS 'O BRICKLE Toffee Bits

Directions
. 1. Heat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease cookie sheet or line with parchment paper. 

. 2. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, vanilla and salt in large bowl until blended. Add eggs; beat well. Stir together flour, baking soda and cream of tartar; gradually add to butter mixture, beating until blended. Stir in toffee bits. Drop by heaping teaspoons onto prepared cookie sheet. 

3. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool slightly; remove to wire rack. Cool completely. About 6 dozen cookies.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas Break!

Yay! Two weeks off...sigh.

I have a whole bunch of recipes to try AND our new Wii should be here any time now. I can't wait!! One of my goals for the New Year is to be better about posting to my blog and remembering to take pics of the stuff I cook. I've been cooking up a storm, I just don't take time to stop and document it.

Wow- this has been a random post....

Monday, December 13, 2010

Soft Pumpkin Cookies

Old-Fashioned Soft Pumpkin Cookies

Yields:
36 cookies
These cookies are something different and great for after school with a big glass of milk.
Ingredients
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
1 cup LIBBY'S® 100% Pure Pumpkin
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Glaze (recipe follows)
Directions
PREHEAT oven to 350° F. Grease baking sheets.

COMBINE flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in medium bowl. Beat sugar and butter in large mixer bowl until well blended. Beat in pumpkin, egg and vanilla extract until smooth. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto prepared baking sheets.

BAKE for 15 to 18 minutes or until edges are firm. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely. Drizzle Glaze over cookies.

FOR GLAZE:
COMBINE 2 cups sifted powdered sugar, 3 tablespoons milk, 1 tablespoon melted butter and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract in small bowl until smooth.

These were indeed very soft. Almost too soft. They would have made excellent whoopie pies, though. I had some leftovers and made pumpkin ice cream sandwiches out of them. Sorry I didn't take pics!

Getting in the Christmas Spirit...

Here are some silly Christmas pics I snapped over the past couple of days.





So cute!

Braised Chicken with Tomatoes and Garlic



Chicken with Tomatoes and Garlic

Prep Time: 10 Minutes Cook Time: 1 Hour Difficulty: Easy Servings: 6
Ingredients
• 8 pieces Chicken Legs Or Thighs
• Salt And Pepper, to taste
• 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
• 1 Tablespoon Butter
• 1 can (28 Ounce) Diced Tomatoes
• 1 can (14 Ounces) Whole Tomatoes
• 2 Tablespoons (Heaping) Tomato Paste
• Fresh Herbs: Basil, Parsley, Sage, Rosemary
• 8 cloves Garlic
• 16 ounces, weight Pasta (I Used Cavitappi)
• Grated Parmesan Cheese, For Serving
• ½ cups White Wine (or Red Wine)
Preparation Instructions
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Salt and pepper chicken legs.
Heat ovenproof skillet or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add olive oil and butter. When oil/butter is hot, add chicken legs to the pan. Using tongs, brown on all sides, about 2 minutes. Remove chicken from pan.
Pour in wine, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen any bits. Cook for 1 minute. Pour in tomatoes with their juice and add tomato paste. Add salt and pepper to taste, stirring to combine. Bring sauce to a boil, then turn off heat. Add plenty of fresh herbs, 8 cloves of peeled (but whole) garlic, and the chicken legs. Put lid on pot and cook in the oven for 1 hour.
Remove pot from oven and allow it to sit on the counter with the lid on while you boil the pasta.
Cook the pasta to al dente, Drain and add to a large serving bowl.
Remove lid and check sauce. If it’s overly thin, remove the chicken from the pot and boil the sauce on the stovetop for 5 to 10 minutes. Check seasonings and adjust as needed.
To serve, pour sauce over cooked pasta, then arrange chicken pieces over the top. Sprinkle generously with fresh Parmesan and serve with crusty French bread.

This was REALLY good. And after we ate the chicken the first night, I saved the braising liquid and tossed it with angel hair pasta to get another whole dinner out of it!

Pecan Pie Bars


Several people have asked for the pecan pie bar recipe. So here it is. I aim to please!

Pecan Pie Surprise Bars

Base:
1 pkg. yellow cake mix
1/3 c. butter, softened
1 egg

Filling:
½ c. firmly packed brown sugar
1 ½ c. dark corn syrup
1 t. vanilla
3 eggs
1 c. chopped pecans

Heat oven to 350. Grease 13x9 pan. Reserve 2/3 c. dry cake mix for filling. In large bowl, combine remaining dry cake mix, butter and 1 egg at low speed until well blended. Spread in prepared pan. Bake at 350 for 15 to 20 minutes or until light golden brown.

In large bowl, combine reserved cake mix, brown sugar, corn syrup, vanilla and 3 eggs at low speed until moistened. Beat at medium speed about 1 minute or until well blended. Pour filling over base; sprinkle with pecans. Return to oven and bake 30 to 35 minutes or until filling is set. Cool completely. Cut into bars. Store in refrigerator.

36 bars.

I followed the recipe exactly as it is written here. I don't remember from whom I stole this. I'm guessing either allrecipes.com or an old issue of "Taste of Home" magazine. The only problem I encountered was after putting them in the ice box overnight, they were very difficult to get out of the pan. I would suggest waiting a while for them to cool on the counter, cutting them and removing them from the pan, putting them on a serving platter AND THEN putting them in the ice box. Then maybe you wouldn't need a jack hammer to remove them.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Rolls- 2 batches from one great recipe!

So today I decided to do some baking. Over the Thanksgiving Break, I spent some time in Savannah with my parents. They get the Cooking Channel with their cable package (I don't here in Rifle). I watched it quite a bit at night when Mom and I would get back from the hospital. One evening I caught an episode of "Kelsey's Essentials" (that might not be the exact title). She was making homemade roll dough that could be used to make either sweet or savory rolls. After I got home, I remembered it and downloaded the recipe.
I was extremely pleased with the way it turned out. I followed the recipe exactly. It made enough dough for one batch of cinnamon rolls and one batch of dinner rolls with rosemary/garlic.
For the cinnamon rolls, I just rolled out the dough and spread it with softened butter. Then I sprinkled brown sugar, cinnamon and pecans on it. I rolled it up, cut it in one inch slices, put the slices on a cookie sheet, let them rise 20 minutes and baked them at 400 for 25 minutes. While they were still hot, I slathered them with cream cheese glaze.
For the dinner rolls, I portioned the dough into 12 balls, then put them in a cast iron skillet, leaving some space between for rising. I brushed them with melted butter that I had flavored with rosemary and chopped garlic and let them rise for 20 minutes. They baked at 400 for 25 minutes.

Rapid Rolls:
• 3 (.25-ounce) packets active dry yeast
• 1 3/4 cups warm water
• 1/2 cup honey
• 1/2 cup melted butter, plus more for brushing
• 2 teaspoons salt, plus more for sprinkling
• 2 large eggs, beaten
• 4 to 6 cups flour, plus more if needed

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the instant yeast, and warm water. Let it activate for 5 minutes until bubbly. Stir in the honey.
On low speed, add 1/2 cup melted butter, 2 teaspoons salt, and eggs. Slowly add the flour cup-by-cup until fully incorporated and the dough pulls away from the sides of the mixing bowl. Add more flour if it is too sticky.
Portion the dough into 24 even servings. Form the rolls into desired shape and let rise approximately 20 minutes, or until doubled in size. Place the rolls in a cast iron skillet or on a baking sheet. Brush the rolls with melted butter.
Bake for 25 minutes until the tops are golden brown. Remove from the oven and brush with more melted butter, and sprinkle with a little salt.
Cook's Note: This recipe can be used as a traditional loaf bread, pizza dough, and for both savory and sweet rolls.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

It figures...

So we haven't had any snow yet, to speak of. But right after I book airline tickets to fly to GA for Thanksgiving on Monday, a huge winter storm looms on the horizon- forecasted to hit our area tomorrow night.
Why??

Friday, November 19, 2010

Late Night Dinner in Denver

Dev and I arrived in Denver about 8:30. We checked into our hotel (the Hyatt Regency on 15th Street near the mall) and asked at the front desk if there was decent sushi within walking distance of the hotel. The concierge on duty happily pulled out a map of the area and marked 2 sushi places on the map, recommending one over the other.

So we set off walking, map in hand, eagerly anticipating our late night sushi feast.

Unfortunately, we went to the spot marked on the map, but could not find a sushi place anywhere. We knocked around, trying to "use the force" and ferret out the elusive sushi place. No luck. I was rapidly losing patience and becoming grumpy (due to my grumbly tummy) and decided we'd go to the seafood/steak house we had passed when we turned off the main street.

It looked fancy enough. Willie G.'s Seafood and Steaks was the name proudly emblazoned on the sign out front. Swanky lighting and fancy tablecloths promised a gourmet birthday meal. When am I gonna learn that beauty on the outside doesn't mean beauty on the inside.

We really should have left after we had to wait forever for the waitperson to take our dinner orders after bringing us water. Apparently because we didn't order drinks, she figured we weren't worth her time. But I was starving, and didn't want to go anywhere else.

Warm bread and butter arrived, which we devoured like it was our last meal. I ordered a house chopped salad, which was good, but had some unidentifiable spicy ingredient that would pop up every once in a while to make life interesting.

I don't remember what Dev ordered for dinner, but I ordered a sampler appetizer platter as my meal. The crab cakes were ok, but certainly not better than what I can make at home. The calamari was obviously prebreaded (I hate that. Calamari is so wonderful when it's lightly hand breaded and fried- why would you buy the prefabbed stuff?). There was one more thing, but considering I can't remember what it was, it wasn't all that.

We decided to have a piece of bourbon pecan pie for dessert. I thought the filling was way too strong, but the crust was heavenly. The pie crust was the best thing about the whole meal.

We were entertained by some very drunk, very loud guests sitting at a table near us. They lived in some little mountain town, and had come to Denver for the weekend (much like we had). They were in party mode. By the time they left, they had convinced the people at the table next to them to go bar hopping with them.

After paying for our less than satisfying meal, we headed out to walk back to the hotel. I still haven't figured out how to find the hidden gems that I know must exist in Denver. I've got to get in the know. It kills me to go to such a big city and have such a disappointing dining experience.

If anyone has any ideas for good places to eat, PLEASE leave a comment!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Happy Birthday to Me.......

Wow...it's been a while...again. Sometimes I really hate it that work gets in the way of all the things I like to do for fun.

So, I turned 42 on Friday. There. I said it. To be honest, it doesn't feel that different than 41.

It got off to a very good start shortly after I arrived at work on Friday morning. I complain about quite a few things associated with being a teacher (with good cause, mind you), but sometimes magic happens. You really haven't lived until you've had 200 8th graders sing Happy Birthday to you. It was a good feeling.

The good times continued during my reading class, when my wonderful husband sent one of his students to my room with 2 birthday cards: one from him and the other from our dog, Bear.

All throughout the day my students gave me hugs and birthday wishes. AND the day ended early as my teaching partner, Christi, and I got to leave school early to do some planning. Believe it or not, we actually got some good things accomplished.

Immediately after school, I took Bear to Silt, where we were having him boarded for the weekend. I felt guilty for a minute or two, but then I was ready for my big birthday weekend in Denver!

Dev and I ran home and packed a few more things. Just as we were ready to walk out the door, he gave me my birthday gifts. I am a huge Alton Brown fan, so Dev got me the second "Good Eats" book. He also got me a tripod and an underwater casing for my flip camera. He knows me so well!!

By 5pm we hit the road for Denver! Because he is the best husband on the planet, Dev had booked a VIP package for hotel and tickets to the King Tut exhibit at the Denver Art Museum. Seriously, it was the best present ever.

When we get back from school a little later, I'll tell you about the rest of my trip!!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Random Thoughts Source



This is the book I'm reading right now. It's the source of the random passages that are popping up on my facebook page and here on my blog. I'm loving this book right now. It seems like every other page contains something I want to underline or commit to memory. I'm thinking of buying a few copies and giving them to friends for Christmas. Really- so far it's that good.

Here's another example...

Food is as good a defense as any against the outside world. The way we prepare it and offer it to others says as much about who we are as the way we dress or talk.

Random Thought- September 19, 2010

Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Shrimp and Grits with Summer Veggies



This dish was amazing! I can't believe how great it tasted, especially considering I had no idea how I was going to do it when I came up with the idea this morning after breakfast.

So there is no recipe. I just used what I had in the icebox, but I think I can walk back through what I did.

I started by making some shrimp stock. This is one of those times when I'm glad I'm one of those weird people who save various and sundry animal parts to make stock from scratch. I really think it made all the difference in this dish. I had 2 quart ziplock bags of shrimp shells in the freezer, so I put them in a 2 quart sauce pan and filled it with water up to within an inch of the top. I put it on the heat and added 1 bay leaf, 4 smashed cloves of garlic (I didn't bother peeling it), a few stalks of celery, the heal of an onion and a few whole peppercorns. I brought it to a boil, then cut it back to simmer for about half an hour. If you had time, you could simmer it longer and concentrate it more, but I didn't.

I used 3 cups of the hot stock to make 4 servings of instant grits. Yes, I said instant grits. Don't give me any crap. I'm a busy person. :) After the grits cooked, I added 4 pats of organic butter, 2 tablespoons of cream cheese and about 3 glugs of organic heavy cream. I stirred it all together, put the lid back on and moved it to the back of the stove until everything else was ready.

I put about 3 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 tablespoon of bacon drippings and 2 pats of butter in my 12 inch skillet. I know, it sounds like a ton of fat, but when you're using flour to thicken something, there has to be fat, or it won't thicken. Anyhoo- I turned the pan on medium heat and rough chopped about 1/2 of a huge sweet onion. Then I added half of a polska kielbasa smoked sausage, sliced. I let the onion and sausage sizzle around for about 5 minutes, then I added a yellow squash, sliced in half moons, about 5 baby bella mushrooms, sliced, swiss chard, leaves and stems chopped, and about a dozen grape tomatoes. I let all the veggies cook down for about 10 minutes. After that, I put about 1/2 a pound of small frozen shrimp (raw) right out of the bag, I didn't even defrost them. After a couple of minutes, I deglazed the pan with some Vermouth. When the shrimp looked almost done, I added about a 1/4 cup of flour and mixed it around, letting it cook for about 1 minute or so. Then I added about 3/4 of a cup of warm shrimp stock and stirred it constantly until it began to thicken. It didn't take long, because the pan was still on medium heat. At that point I added several shakes of Frank's Red Hot sauce and about 1/4 cup of heavy cream. It was all looking rich and creamy and thick and yummie. I tasted it and added some salt and pepper and more hot sauce, then took it off the heat. At that point it was time for the ingredient that would take this whole mess over the top- dry sherry. I added just a few glugs to the pan and stirred it in.

I put some of the grits in the bottom of the bowl, then spooned on the veggie/shrimp/sausage mixture. I topped it with asiago cheese toasts.

The only change I'd make for next time is to use spicier sausage. I think anduille would be better, because the sauce would have better depth of flavor.

But just as it is...it didn't suck! :)

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Redemption!



I needed to be redeemed after last night's dinner. I had chicken salad (that won't be blogged because it was not good) and fried squash blossoms. They weren't bad, but for all the work, they weren't great, either. I will have to think about the stuffing and tweak it a bit for next time. Less cheese, more veggies.

Tonight had to be a grand slam. Dev picked some rainbow chard out of the garden this afternoon, and as luck would have it, I had seen a recipe for swiss chard lasagna in an issue of Food Network magazine. I assembled the ingredients and gave it a go.

It turned out really well. It has tons of cheesy goodness, and the chard keeps it light. Next time, however, I think I'll add some chopped fresh tomatoes just to cut through some of the cheesiness.

Here's the recipe:

Swiss Chard Lasagna

6 no-boil lasagna noodles (I used an 8x8 pan, so I only needed 4)
3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
1 bunch swiss chard, finely chopped, leaves and stems separated
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 large egg
2 Tbsp. grated parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 cups asiago cheese, grated
1/4 cup mozzarella cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 350. Soak the lasagna noodles in a bowl of hot water until they begin to soften, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the chard stems and garlic and cook until golden, about minutes. Add the chard leaves and cook until wilted, about 3 more minutes.
Mix the ricotta, cream egg, parmesan, basil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste in a small bowl.
Brush a 2 quart baking dish with oil and add 3 noodles in a single layer. Top with half of the ricotta mixture, chard and asiago. Repeat with the remaining noodles, ricotta mixture, chard and asiago.
Cover with foil and bake until cheese melts, about 20 minutes. Remove foil, sprinkle with mozzarella and bake until bubbly and golden, about 5 more minutes. Let sit 5 minutes before serving.

I also garnished mine with some tomato salad I had in the ice box.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Bear's Test Video

video

I got a Flipvideo camera this week! So I used it to film the first use of the "Furminator" on Bear. Hopefully this little device will help reduce the amount of hair we sweep off the floor every single day!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sometimes It's Good to be Weird...

I was going to title this post "Dinner When it's too Hot to Cook," but I decided I needed to give a little more background than that.

My love for food has been with me a long time. I don't remember a time when I wasn't aware of people in the kitchen, making wonderful things.

This life long love of food has given me eccentric tastes in food, and very peculiar shopping habits. And as a result of this weirdness, my icebox has a rather odd mix of things in it at any given time. I think this is a good thing. My husband sometimes doesn't agree. Although his objection isn't to the range of things. It's more a statement about the STATE of some of those things. I do tend to forget about the things that get pushed to the back. I have some interesting science experiments going on most days... :)

Oddness in my icebox brings me to tonight's dinner. There were 2 factors greatly influencing my choices for dinner: 1- it's hotter than blazes outside, and 2- Dev is at his parents' house, so I'm cooking for one.

I like to have sliced, toasted baguette slices on hand in my pantry. It's much cheaper than buying the toasts at the store, plus I can make them plain, or flavored if I want to. Plus, it's so easy, it seems silly to buy them. Slice the baguette, drizzle it with olive oil, flavor it if you want, then toast in a 400 degree oven for about 10 minutes. Let them cool and throw them in a ziplock bag til you need them.

I also picked up some marinated goat cheese at the Montrose Farmers' Market a few weeks ago. It's marinated in olive oil, lemon juice, fresh thyme and peppercorns.

As a result of a trip to the Nepal Restaurant earlier this week, I have roasted lamb pieces in a take out container, as well.

Another container has roasted roma tomatoes I made a few weeks ago- another nice thing to have on hand, and MUCH cheaper than buying sun dried tomatoes at the store.

So after perusing my icebox, I put this plate together:



There are two different bites here.

The first is a baguette slice with the marinated goat cheese, a slice of cold roasted lamb and a dab of mango chutney. It looks like this...



The second is a baguette slice with home made ricotta (seasoned with salt and pepper), a roasted roma tomato and a fresh basil leaf. Oh- and a drizzle of olive oil. It looks like this...



This was a delicious dinner. And one that would not have been possible had I not been so weird. So there. :)

The Nepal Restaurant

I am always on the look out for my new favorite restaurant! I love cooking, don't get me wrong. But sometimes I want to sit back and let someone else prepare the food. Unfortunately, I haven't had many wonderful dining experiences out here in Colorado.

Last week, however, Dev and I found a diamond in the rough. A while back (while we were looking for the perfect dog to adopt), we drove out to the animal shelter in Glenwood Springs, CO. At the turn off from the highway, I noticed a restaurant in this little strip mall called The Nepal Restaurant. I made a mental note of it and filed it away in the back of my mind.

Earlier this week, Dev and I were shopping around in Glenwood Springs (which is a fairly common occurence). For some reason, I remembered the little restaurant in the strip mall, and suggested we go eat there.

I am sooooo glad I did!

The restaurant itself is nothing fancy. The dining room is rather smallish. The decor consists mostly of posters of Mt. Everest and other Tibetan/Nepalize(sp) cultural items and traditional symbols. I noticed as we sat and waited for our meal, that everyone who came through the door seemed to know the staff, entering to welcoming hugs and questions about family members, or school. This, to me, is a very good sign!

I ordered chai right off the bat. And I was not disappointed. Every time I emptied my cup, a staff member appeared out of nowhere with a steaming hot pot, ready to refill my teacup. The downside of this was drinking 3 cups of chai before our food arrived. It also may be responsible for a tummy ache I had later that night!

I ordered the combo plate for an appetizer, because it had a little of almost everything on the appetizer section of the menu. Here's a pic...


On this platter we found: shrimp, chicken and vegetable Pakoda (a version of tempura using chickpea flour) and a Samosa. It was wonderful! The fried meat and veggies were crispy, but not mushy. The flavor of the chickpea flour is present, but not overwhelming. The samosa was especially good. I love fried pies, and this one was seasoned perfectly! Oh- andI almost forgot the Papad (crispy lentil wafer) and the Naan (flatbread). All the above was served with a grouping of sauces, ranging from sweet to spicy to a tzaziki-like yogurt based sauce.

I seriously should have stopped right there. I was fat and happy. But then our entrees arrived....

Dev had the Lamb Bhuteko (Seasoned lamb in dry tomato sauce with cooked onion)...



I wish I had ordered this. It was spicy and sweet and soft and crunchy all at the same time. I would have wrapped it all up in the garlic/cheese Naan we ordered to go with it. And I could have died a happy woman.

I ordered the Lamb Kawab (Marinated in yogurt and herbs overnight then cooked in Tandoori oven)...



My entree was really good, but it lacked that saucy smoothness I have come to expect from this kind of food. Normally I order a korma preparation. And I'm sure I'll order that next time. I have no doubt these people do an off the charts version of it. But this was really good. And if Dev hadn't ordered the Bhuteko, I probably would have waxed poetic about my entree. But as it stands, I liked his better. I did eat the pieces of roasted lamb and onion wrapped in the garlic/cheese naan. I have the leftovers in the ice box, and I think that will be my lunch, with a little homemade tzaziki topping it all off.

Needless to say, The Nepal Restaurant will definitely go into our regular rotation. Mondays are reserved for Taipei Tokyo...but this might become a weekend date night tradition!!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Blueberry Ricotta Pancakes



I am a very lucky girl. I married a guy who loves learning how to make cheese. I happen to love eating cheese. Works out well for me, huh?

I have been asking Dev to make a batch of fresh ricotta for a few days. I've seen several ricotta recipes on blogs and in magazines, and I prefer to use home made, because it is softer and sweeter than store bought ricotta.

I used the first of the batch on pizzas day before yesterday. This morning I used a little more to make something I've wanted to try for a long time- ricotta pancakes.

I saw a special on The Food Network about different chefs' favorite things to eat. On the breakfast episide, someone said they loved the ricotta pancakes at some fancy restaurant. I watched the process and figured there wasn't any rocket science involved and I could probably do just as well at home.

I started with my standard buttermilk pancake recipe.

I usually let the batter sit a few minutes while I plug in and heat up my electric griddle. Right before I was ready to ladle the batter on the grill, I added some ricotta cheese. I crumbled it in the batter in fairly small pieces. Then I cooked them like I normally do, adding fresh blueberries to each pancake before I flipped to the second side.

I didn't have any maple syrup, so I heated equal parts honey and butter and whisked them together until they were pale and light. I may never buy syrup again.

The pancakes were light and airy...and every once in a while you hit a little pocket of creamy ricotta cheese and a big, fat, juicy blueberry. The honey butter took it right over the top. What a great breakfast!

I think this would be good using almost any fruit...especially strawberries and sliced fresh peaches.

Anyhoo- you should try this immediately! Your family will thank you...

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Can She Bake a Cherry Pie, Billy Boy, Billy Boy?? Yes She Can!



Pie crust used to be on my list of things I was terrified of. My last attempt at making a pie crust ended badly. I ended up with a sore hand from repeatedly banging it on the counter and a frankenstein-looking pie crust that was dry and tough.

Fast forward 2 years. I am standing in my kitchen looking at 2 pounds of fresh cherries that are quickly going to start decaying if I don't do something with them fast. What to do?

I had no choice but to consider a pie application. No problem, I thought. I'll just go down to the basement freezer and pull out a handy dandy store bought pie crust. Wrong. No pie crusts in the freezer. Clock ticking on fresh cherries. How bad could it turn out this time?? I have 2 more years cooking experience under my belt. I can do this. Breathe. Concentrate. Suck it up. MAKE A PIE CRUST FROM SCRATCH.

I gathered my ingredients....2 1/2 cups of AP flour, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, and two sticks of cold butter- oh- and a glass of ice water. I assembled my food processor. I put the flour, sugar and salt in the processor and pulsed it a few times to sift and mix it. Then I added the butter, cut into pieces. I pulsed that until it looked all crumbly. Through the feed tube I added one tablespoon of cold water at a time until the dough started to stick to itself and form a ball in the machine. So far so good!

I dumped the crumbly mess on the counter and formed it into a ballish sort of thing. Then I cut it in half and formed each half into a disc shape. In the icebox it went for 30 minutes.

While that was happening, I made the filling. I had about a pound and a half of cherries (after I painstakingly pitted all of them). I mixed them in a bowl with 4 tablespoons of instant tapioca, a cup and a quarter of sugar, and a dash of salt. This needed to sit and soak for at least 15 minutes.

After 30 minutes, I took the discs out of the icebox and began rolling them out. To my utter surprise and shock, they rolled out beautifully. I was able to get the bottom crust in my pyrex pie dish without cursing or violence. I poured the cherry mixture in, put a few pats of butter on top, then rolled out the top crust and put it on top. I sealed the edges and cut a few vents. It went in a 400 degree oven for about an hour. Oh- and make sure you put a cookie sheet under it, because inevitably it will leak.

I even took the leftover dough scraps and rolled them out, cut them with a biscuit cutter, sprinkled sugar and cinnamon on them and baked them with the pie. The resulting cookies taste like really crispy shortbread. I almost wanted to make another batch of dough to make more cookies!

After an hour, I was rewarded with a really good cherry pie. Was it beautiful? No. Was it the best pie I've ever eaten? No. But I made it from scratch!

My next project will be a rhubarb, strawberry, blueberry pie!

A Variation on Eggs Benedict...



I love eggs benedict. I always have. Unfortunately, Devin doesn't, so if I make it at home I have to make some slight alterations in order to make it palatable to him. The only way he will eat eggs is scrambled. He is also not fond of hollandaise sauce.

On this particular morning I had lots of odds and ends sitting around in the icebox, and the craving for eggs benedict hit me right between the eyes when I woke up.

For the base (where the English muffin would normally be) I split and toasted a piece of garlic/jalapeno cheddar focaccia. On that I put a slice of capicola ham and a slice of juicy tomato. Atop that I perched the scrambled eggs. To guild the lily, I added some shrimp and mushrooms in a spicy sour cream sauce. I have to admit, I didn't make it, it was leftover from a trip to a local Mexican restaurant the night before. But let me tell you, it did the trick. This was seriously good. I might order the shrimp dish again just to have leftovers to make this!

Friday, July 16, 2010

We have a furry child!!!



This gorgeous guy is ours!! Last week we adopted Bear from the Rifle Animal Shelter. I can't say enough about the wonderful people who work there. They are truly dedicated to making life better for all the animals under their care.

Bear is a 2 year old black lab/New Foundland mix. At first he was quiet and shy, but now he has come out of his shell! He came to us house trained and crate trained. However...he does not walk on a leash well. Dev is working with him constantly and I'm sure he'll get the hang of it soon.

I'm sure there will be numerous future posts about Bear's exploits. Right now he's napping at our feet while we work on lesson plans and check email. I'm sure he'd rather be somewhere riding around or playing in some water. But then again, so would we!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Buffalo Chicken Sliders



This was dinner night before last. I got the idea in Rachael Ray's magazine. It was really good, and could be used with almost any kind of meat.

The process was fairly straight forward. I used some chicago steak seasoning on some boneless/skinless chicken thighs and threw them on the grill. When they were done, I tossed them with some hot sauce mixed with melted butter. I covered them with foil and let them rest while I mixed up the blue cheese sauce. It was sour cream, crumbled gorganzola, chopped chives and lime juice.

I served the buffalo chicken pieces open faced on a focaccia roll. I basted the roll with the hot sauce mixture, then put some fresh spinach on it, topped it with a piece of chicken and some of the blue cheese sauce. As a veggie side, I grilled some corn on the cob, brushed it with mayo and lime juice, and rolled it in crumbled feta. I also sauteed some fresh spinach with bacon and shallots.

It was a tasty meal, but next time instead of focaccia rolls, I'll buy dinner rolls or potato rolls. The focaccia was just too much bread.

Snacky Snacks



This is a pretty normal lunch for us during the summer. We both love cheese and sliced meats, and the bonus is no cooking or heating up the kitchen.

On this particular day I had a few slivers of mango left from some salsa I made the day before, a few slices of capicola ham, some pepperoni, cotswald cheddar, an apple and some other spreads I had made over the course of the week (greek spread and bruschetta). Over to the side you'll see the last of the veggie chips I bought at Fresh Market before we left Savannah.

I love meals like this, when you just sit around outside, sipping cold drinks and talking about nothing in particular. Here's to a whole summer full of them!

Spinach!



This is the first vegetable harvest from our garden! I ended up having to cut all the plants down, because it was starting to bolt by the time we got back from our conference last week.

So now I have about a ton of fresh spinach. I'll be coming up with ways to use this for breakfast, lunch and dinner!

Migas



I read a lot of food magazines. And a lot of food blogs. I ran into this idea somewhere in a magazine or on a blog, I honestly don't remember which. It's a breakfast dish, which makes it a ok in my book. I love trying new breakfast stuff.

The idea is great because it helps me clean out my ice box. I had a few corn tortillas left, so I cut them into small squares and sauteed them in a non stick skillet with some vegetable oil. After that I added some diced sweet onion. I let it go long enough to kinda crisp up the tortilla and soften the onion. Then I dumped my normal scrambled egg mixture in with it (4 eggs, a dash of half and half, a dash of sriracha hot sauce and a dash of salt). I scrambled the whole mess, then topped it with some pico de gallo.

This was really good. I'd do it again in a heart beat. And you could use any vegetable leftovers you had. You could even skip the corn tortillas and use the crumbly chips left in the bottom of the tortilla chip bag.

Try it, I bet you'll like it!

Asian Inspired Chicken Salad



Every so often you come across a recipe that whether you know it at the time or not, will become a regular in your meal line up. I ran into one of these types of recipes over 20 years ago, when I had dinner at the home of my college choir director.

I remember thinking his wife was one of the most exotic cooks I had ever met. Their ice box was full of condiments, but not regular, every day condiments...they had exotic stuff in there...gourmet ketchups and mustards, odd pickled veggies, etc. I ate asparagus for the first time at their table. I also learned a tomato based marinade for chicken that unfortunately, I don't remember and apparently never wrote down. But of all the wonderful things I consumed in their company, this salad recipe was my favorite. Perhaps because it started with something so lowly, so humble...a package of chicken flavored ramen noodles.

I think every college student on the planet has eaten ramen noodles. Most of us survived on them the majority of the time. But I had never eaten them like this.

The salad part is simple. The base is shredded napa cabbage. I always add some slivered sweet onion,some chopped scallions and sliced English cucumber. Other good things to add include toasted sesame seeds, sunflower seeds and toasted almonds. You even use the noodles, but instead of boiling them, you break them up and toast them with the almonds and sesame seeds. But the magic...the truly delicious part of this dish...is the dressing.
2 tbsp. sugar
4 tbsp. vinegar
1/2 c. salad oil
few shakes soy sauce
few shakes toasted sesame oil
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
Flavor pkg. from Ramen
Put all that in a mason jar or tightly sealed plastic bowl and shake the crap out of it. The better the emulsification, the better it will taste. Making it the day before makes it even better.

After you make the salad part, you toss everything with the dressing and serve. Over the years I've learned to keep the almonds and noodles separate. That way you can have leftover salad the next day and sprinkle the still crunchy noodles and almonds on it again. If you don't, the noodles and almonds will soften, which doesn't taste bad, but doesn't have the same flavor and texture impact. To make this a main dish (as I did in the above photo) just add grilled chicken or shrimp on top.

In my mind, this is the perfect summer dinner.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Home Again, Home Again

We are finally home from our trip to GA. Although it was hard to leave my family and friends, it is so good to be back home.

Over the next few days I will try to do some posts about the trip. I took several photos with my camera phone, so I need to upload them to my computer so I can post them.

The garden survived our absence quite well. Almost all the seeds we sowed before we left have come up. When we went out this evening and took stock, we have these things sprouting up: potatoes, tomatoes, squash (yellow), cucumbers, spinach, lettuce, carrots, swiss chard and sugar snap peas. We also have some bonus veggies coming up that we think must have been sown in gardens past: pumpkins and maybe some corn. Some of the lettuce and spinach is big enough to harvest, so perhaps tomorrow night we will eat the first fruits of our labor in an early summer salad!!

So stay tuned for trip photos, food pics and a restaurant review!!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Midnight Train to GA- Day 4

WE MADE IT HOME ALIVE!!!! YAY!!!!!

I am presently sitting in the Barnes and Noble at the mall in my hometown. The parenthood aren't quite in the 21st century yet, so we have no wifi there. All future postings will have to happen here or at Di's house (although she's in the process of moving, so even that's not a sure bet).

I'll post pics later, but the last day of driving was long. And we drove in and out of what I think was the same rainstorm all day. We got lost looking for a restaurant in Brunswick, GA.

And to answer Tammy's question about the Cosmo Quiz, I decided for the sake of marital bliss not to inflict that on Dev- yet. I'm saving that for the drive back... :)

Right now I'm focusing on the culinary adventures we shall have here in the smorgasbord of the South. I am contemplating middle eastern food for lunch, or maybe the cheese plate downtown at Galleria Espresso???? So many choices, so many calories, so little time!

Well, for now I must sign off. I need to go find Dev. He's probably passed out in the gardening section...or the magazines...or he's salivating at the Starbucks (mom and dad gave up caffeine a while ago and no longer make coffee- I know- cruel and unusual punishment, you're thinking). I'm sure he's over there somewhere thinking how lucky he is to have married me- NOT. I've drug him kicking and screaming to the hottest place on earth where there's no wifi or coffee at home. I'll try to make it up to him at lunch.

Stay tuned for more southern adventures!!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Midnight Train to GA- Day 3



Here's your random, out the window pic for the day. That is some bayou in Louisiana. We drove through quite a few today.

By far, today has been the roughest as far as travel goes. We drove in and out of thunderstorms most of the day, and hit some major traffic going through Baton Rouge. We didn't make very good time today at all. But that's ok.

We have stopped for the night in Gulfport, Mississippi. Dinner was at Koi Hibachi Grill. I love Japanese steak houses. Is that bad? How come stuff I grill at home doesn't taste like that? Probably because I don't use 2 pounds of butter flavored oil per pound of protein.

We are in for the night. Right after we checked in, we were treated to a summer thunderstorm. I loved it. We don't get many of those in Colorado. This was a real toad strangler- lightning, booming thunder and heavy, heavy rain. It's so good to be back in the South!!!!

Well, except for my hair. Right now it looks like a fro.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Oops Again

I forgot to talk about dinner.

We have stopped for the night in Huntsville, TX. And yes, we're still in Texas. I know TX is a big state. One look at any map will tell you that. However, until you are driving through it, you really don't appreciate how massive it is. It just keeps going forever and ever.

We stopped in a little town called Chillicothe, TX at a pecan stand. We didn't buy any regular pecans (because they were $10 for a quart sized baggie), but we did buy some Bourbon Praline Pecans. They were yummie, until we got down the road and looked at the list of ingredients. Bourbon flavoring was the last one. Bleh. I did see one of my friend Damon's cookbooks for sale there, though. That was cool.

And now I'm sitting at the Holiday Inn Express in Huntsville, TX, after having dinner at a local seafood place. I had a combo platter of fried shrimp and oysters. Dev had the grilled fish. Mine was good, but his was better. When am I going to get over the fried seafood thing?? You would think my culinary horizons had expanded a bit beyond that, huh? Apparently not.

Midnight Train to GA- Day 2

Day 2 of our cross country drive began having breakfast at our motel. We were staying at the Baymont Inn in Amarillo, TX. I don't recommend doing this. It was a less than favorable stay.

After getting our key from the front desk last night, we went to our room and were rather rudely greeted by the couple that already paid for that room. Back down to the desk we went....

Then at around 6:30am this morning, a little man came and banged on our door, delivering a machine to get rid of the stale cigarette smell in our "non-smoking" room. Nice.

The desk clerk told us we could come down between 6:30 and 9:30am for hot breakfast. We rolled down the stairs about 8:00, and took a look at what they had to offer.

There were institutionally oven baked scrambled egg (consistency somewhere between rubber door mat and foam mattress), biscuits, sausage gravy, sausage patties, apples, oranges, various pastries, cereal and a waffle maker. Not too bad, by motel standards, I guess. I had a few spoonfuls of rubber eggs, and a biscuit with a tad bit of gravy. I bypassed the sausage patties. Dev had the sausage and biscuits with gravy.

We were sandwiched in between several tables. Two of the tables had 2 very tired looking women and 7 (yes I said 7) kids. No husbands in sight. I hope they weren't sleeping up in the rooms. I'm fairly sure if I had to herd 3 kids down to breakfast, their other DNA donor would be there, helping me. The other table looked like something right out of "Deliverance." At the table sat several males, the most striking of whom was a very large old man wearing denim overalls. And a baseball cap. At breakfast. I think it was the most interesting breakfast I've ever had, from a sheerly people watching standpoint.

After breakfast, we hit the road. Here's what I see from my side of the truck most of the time...



Here's a pic of the spot we picked to have lunch today. It was at one of the Texas travel information centers. This one was really nice- covered picnic areas and a scenic view of the river.



And here's Dev under the Texas sign. Isn't he cute??

Oops!

The first and last picture on my last post are backwards. Oh well.

Midnight Train to GA- Day 1

So Dev and I are driving back home to GA over the next 4 days. My plan is to take a little time each night and chronicle the events of our days on the road.


That's the traditional "Sixteen Candles" pic we take before all road trips. Here's Dev attempting to remove all the bug entrails from the windshield during one of our pit stops...


We have another tradition on road trips. We always stop and take pics of each other standing near the state name signs. This is the one I took of Dev as we crossed from CO into NM.


The first day of the trip was relatively uneventful.

We breakfasted (is breakfast a verb? I guess it is now) on leftover pancakes. Believe it or not, I actually planned it that way. I wanted there to be minimal clean up. I love it when a plan actually works, don't you? Another totally out of character plan that seems to have worked thus far is packing a cooler so we can have picnic lunches. Traveling is ridiculously expensive, what with hotel stays, fuel and eating meals out. As a way to keep our costs down on the trip, I packed a cooler with canned drinks, several different kinds of cheese and crackers, cold cuts and sliced bread, some steamed sugar snap peas, and sliced cucumbers. Add a few condiments and biodegradable paper plates, and you've got yourself lunch! Four lunches, to be exact.

When we finally stopped for the evening, we were in Amarillo, TX. It was pretty late, and we were both tired, so we opted for Chilis for dinner. I really don't care much for Chilis, or any other chain like that, really. But it's so easy and cheap, I fell under it's spell. Dev even pointed out a local BBQ place, and I still opted for Chilis. What is wrong with me?? I am finally back in the South, and I bypass BBQ in favor of mass produced chain store food? I think I've been brainwashed. Needless to say, this mistake WILL NOT HAPPEN AGAIN!! You can bet on it.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Garden is In!!!!!





It has finally warmed up enough here to plant the garden! I was beginning to think it wasn't going to happen this year. We knew we had to get it planted before we left for GA, but the night time temps were still below freezing up until a few days ago.

We planted sugar snap peas, spinach, carrots, swiss chard, lettuce, potatoes (red and blue), tomatoes, squash and cucumbers. In the deck planter box we put grape tomatoes, basil and oregano. I also put in 2 lemon grass plants in the corner of the yard.

We've been composting since we moved in, and we were able to use quite a bit of it to till into the garden soil earlier in the spring. It made some beautiful soil.

Gardening is hard work. I've never planted a garden like this. I've lived in apartments most of my adult life, so my gardens have always been in containers- no weeding or hoeing necessary!

Hopefully I'll remember to take pics along the way as our garden begins to grow. Dev has been working like a mad man, and it will break his heart if it doesn't take off.

Wish us luck!!! Here are some pics of the set up...

A Different Twist on Breakfast for Dinner



So we worked in the garden all afternoon long. I was sorely tempted to order take out, but then I remembered I had eggs in the ice box- so why not have breakfast for dinner??

I have always been a big fan of this. Breakfast is comforting. Breakfast is usually easy. Just the ticket for tonight, after bending and stretching and playing in the dirt.

I brushed corn tortillas with olive oil and put them under a low broiler until slightly brown and crispy. I put sausage on Dev's and a slice of capicola ham mine. I topped the meat with custardy, rich scrambled egg (eggs, a splash of half and half, a dash of sriracha pepper sauce and some salt), grated pepper jack cheese and some of my pico de gallo from earlier this week.

So good and so easy. It just doesn't get much better.

Chicken Quesadillas



One of the great things about grilled chicken is making sure you grill enough to have leftovers to play with for the rest of the week.

These quesadillas were made Monday with the leftover chicken from Sunday. It doesn't get any easier than shredding the chicken and grilling it between two tortillas with some cheese. I made some pico de gallo (chopped tomato, chopped jalapeno, chopped red onion with a dash of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, then a liberal handful of chopped fresh cilantro) and topped it with some sliced avocado and sour cream. Very yummie.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

New Feature!

My husband started a blog for his class. This was good, because I learned about a new gadget I could install on my own blog. Now you can search for any post on this blog by typing a keyword in the search box on the upper right hand side of the main blog page.

So if you want to see the blog entries that deal with strawberry rhubarb, just type that in and it should pull up those posts. I guess this means I'm going to have to get better at labels. Sometimes I just forget to add them. Who am I kidding? Half the time I forget to post at all, much less with a tag....

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Hamburgers



Burgers are one of the things I find most challenging as a home cook. Every time I've tried to make a burger at home, it has always turned out dry. Then I try fillers and they taste like meatballs instead of burgers.

Today I decided to try something new to see what happened.

I went to City Market and bought a pork shoulder and some beef chuck steaks. I cubed up the meat, seasoned it with salt, pepper and BBQ seasonings and asked Dev to run it all through the grinder for me. I used half pork and half beef.

The resulting burgers were amazing! The pork kept the texture soft and juicy, but the beef flavor was still there. I topped mine with the BBQ sauce I made earlier. Normally I would also go for cheese, but tonight it was all about the meat.

I was really happy with the result. I can't wait to try other combinations of ground meats. Maybe next time I'll try a lamb/beef combo. I bet you could even saute some spinach and grind that in there as well. Hmmmmmm....

Ice Cream and Cobbler



Today was the day. I took my new ice cream maker for a spin. I used my tried and true vanilla ice cream recipe (from my "Ben and Jerry's" ice cream book.

I like the new machine. It's just as loud as my old machine, but a little easier to use. The lid has a much bigger opening for pouring in the ice cream base. It also has a larger capacity. When the ice cream was finished, it was also easier to scoop out into a container- I didn't waste as much.

I decided to use the last of the rhubarb in my freezer and make some cobbler. The filling was 1/2 lb. of strawberries, hulled and quartered, plus about 2 cups of sliced rhubarb. I mixed the fruit with 1/2 c. of sugar and 1 Tbsp. of cornstarch. I let it sit for a few minutes, then stirred and added about 1/4 c. of port. While that sat and festered, I mixed flour, oats, sugar, salt and pepper and pecans together, then poured on enough melted butter to stick it together. I put it in the freezer for a few minutes to firm up. I poured the filling into a greased 8x8 brownie pan, then crumbled the flour mixture over it. It baked at 375 degrees for the better part of an hour. I started watching it after 30 minutes, but it took longer to get brown and crispy on the top.

The cobbler made the perfect foil for the ice cream. The tartness of the rhubarb was perfect against the creamy sweetness of the ice cream. I like the picture I took because you can almost see the little speckles of vanilla in the ice cream.

I think the next flavor of ice cream I'll try will either be green tea or espresso. Which one do you prefer??

BBQ Sauce



I love this BBQ sauce. I've blogged about it before (click here to see the original post). It has a great smoky sweet flavor. I made it today because we were going to throw some burgers on the grill tonight and I like BBQ sauce on my burgers.

I don't think I'll ever buy bottled sauce again.

My next project is ketchup. I'd like to try my hand at making it, so I can control the amount of sugar in it. When I find a good recipe, I'll be sure to pass it along!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Veggie Lasagna


This weekend I made a big pot of marinara sauce, and what better way to use some of it than a small pan of veggie lasagna? I don't really have a recipe for this. It just happens every once in a while.

The marinara sauce is easy. I saute one small onion, some anchovy paste (shhhh- don't tell Dev), carrot and celery and red pepper flakes for a few minutes. I add a couple of cloves of chopped fresh garlic. Then I add about half a small can of tomato paste (or a few squirts of ketchup if I don't have tomato paste) and let it cook for about 5 minutes. After the tomato paste has had a chance to fester a few minutes I add a few glugs of red wine (if I have it) and let it reduce a little. A 28oz can of crushed tomatoes lands in the pot after that. I salt and pepper it and let it simmer on the stove top as long as I can stand it. This weekend's batch simmered about 3 hours.

For the lasagna I roasted some mushrooms, yellow squash, zucchini and red onion slices. When they were done, I layered them with lasagna noodles, marinara sauce and ricotta mixed with a little lemon zest, onion powder and garlic powder. I topped the lasagna with grated parmesan and mozzarella (sp) cheese.

It came out pretty well. A little loose, but after a night in the fridge, the leftovers were perfect!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Is It Summer Yet?

Wow. You'd think with a brand new computer I'd be blogging all over the place. Apparently not. I could blame in on the last few hectic weeks of school. And it is partly that. When we get home from school, we fix dinner and then fall into a semi-vegetative state in front of a baseball game or Top Gear or something else.

I've been cooking up a storm lately. This weekend I whipped up a batch of home made marinara and used it to make a pretty darn tasty veggie lasagna. I even made a swiss and bacon quiche to get a jumpstart on breakfasts this week. Tonight I made grilled chicken tacos with corn/jalapeno salsa. Tomorrow will be Santa Fe Quinoa Chicken Salad. Hopefully I'll remember to take some pics and blog the results. I did take pics of the lasagna. The tacos were gone by the time I even thought about the camera. Oh well, you can't win 'em all!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Brand New Toy!!

This is my first official blog post using my new MacBook Pro. So far I am very impressed. Well, except for one thing. I can't seem to get my iPod Touch to sync with it, because I already synced it with my school computer. I guess the Apple Tech who calls me tomorrow will have to explain that one to me.

Anyhoo...this is my test post for not only my MacBook, but also iPhoto. I uploaded some pictures I took of the yard a few weeks ago, and I have been wanting to post them here. So without further ado, here goes nothing......



Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Is It Friday Yet??

Some weeks are tough. But some weeks are even tougher.

This has been a tough week.

I lost a student. One of my 8th graders was killed in a car accident last Thursday. Even typing it doesn't feel right. It bounces around inside my brain and refuses to settle down.

Morgan was such a wonderful boy. He was sweet and always smiling. I never heard him say anything mean to any of his classmates, in spite of the fact that some of them treated him like dirt. He never once acted cool, but then again, he never worried about being cool. He was Morgan. He was extremely tall, and liked it that way. Everyone else was "shortie."

As a teacher, you see kids come and go every year. You never really think about something happening to one of them. But this is the second student I've lost since I started teaching in Colorado. Last year I lost a first grader to an ATV accident. It takes the wind out of your sails. It is exhausting to worry about what effect it will have on your other students. Will you be able to support them? Will you be able to concentrate and teach them anything?

I've been looking around for signs of spring, trying to pull myself out of the funk I'm in. I'll post some of the pics I took in the yard over the weekend later this week. By then, maybe my new toy (the MacBook Pro I bought with my tax refund) will be here and I can inaugurate it with a blog post.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Sushi Sasa

Poor Devin. Everytime we go to a new place, the first thing I want to do is scout out the sushi situation. I love sushi. I mean, I really LOVE sushi. And I really do feel guilty about dragging him along all the time, but not quite guilty enough not to do it. He assures me that he likes it and it's fine with him. But I'm not so sure sometimes. I love him for lying to me, though. :)

I did some advanced sushi research before we left for Denver, and Sushi Sasa showed up on several best of lists. And pretty much by accident, on Wednesday after we toured the Denver Museum of Contemporary Art, I asked the guy at the desk on the way out if there was any decent sushi nearby. And imagine my surprise when he mentioned Sushi Sasa was just around the corner!

Just to make sure I was good and hungry before we went in, we made a pilgrimage to the REI flagship store (which is just across the street from Sushi Sasa). This was a beautiful compromise for Devin and me. He gets to run around in outdoor store Makkah, and I get some very good sushi. Actually, he ended up not buying anything in REI, while I purchased a cute little handbag and 2 pairs of grown up socks (yes, Diane, REAL SOCKS). The ones I had on my feet were giving me blisters.

Anyhoo, after shopping at REI, we hopped across the street to Sushi Sasa. The girls at the front desk were fittingly snooty for a restaurant of its apparent caliber. When we told her two for dinner, she feigned disappointment and asked if we had a reservation. I answered no, we didn't, and would that be a problem? She showed us to a table, while telling us she had a reservation in an hour, would that be enough time? Enough time? Indeed. I made the most of my hour at Sushi Sasa.

I linked to their website, which includes their menu. We ordered edamame for a starter, then had the Big O Tempura, the BLT Roll and the Veggie Tempura Roll. I also had tuna and unagi nigiri.

It was indeed excellent sushi. And really, very reasonably priced. You'd think with the snooty service it would be more expensive!

I'm sure it will become a regular stop on all of our pilgrimages to the big city of Denver!

Vesta Dipping Grill

During my research for our trip to Denver, I came across the Vesta Dipping Grill on more than one list of the best restaurants in Denver. So I took a chance and booked a reservation there online.

The ambiance of the place is great. Our reservation was for 7:45pm, so it was all softly lit and candle-like, you know, romantical stuff.

The menu covers lots of territory. I linked to their page above, which lists their full menu. I had pretty much already decided what I wanted to get, but it took a little time there for Dev to make his decision.

I ordered as our appetizer the Vesta Roll, which was a tuna loin, rolled in toasted sesame seeds and panko, then quickly pan seared. It was perfect. A great way to start a meal...fresh and clean tasting. It was served with a sweetish-miso-soy dipping sauce.

For my entree, I ordered the duck breast. It was served with truffled farro and bacon sauteed brussel sprouts. Each entree comes with 3 sauces. You either take the ones suggested with it on the menu, or pick 3 from the list on the menu. I took 2 of the suggested sauces (black pepper aoli and cilantro pesto) but picked one of my own (coconut milk something). In my opinion, the sauces were completely unnecessary, which, I realize, is completely against the whole concept of the restaurant. But the meat was so perfectly cooked, and the sides were great the way they were. The sauces just seemed to mask the flavor of the main attraction. I really didn't use mine.

Dev ordered the smoked chicken served over bacon lentils. I don't remember his 3 sauces, but he didn't really use them, either.

The desserts were really good. I had sticky toffee pudding, served with creme anglais, chocolate ganache and strawberry coulis. Dev had the caramel apple, rolled in some kind of granola and caramel, then sliced and served with chocolate ganache drizzled over it.

The food was good, but next time I'd like to find a fondue restaurant, or something else a little more different, or exotic.

Denver Museum of Nature and Science



This is the view from the evening (event) entrance to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Dev and I visited Wednesday morning...along with every school aged child within 50 miles of Denver. Ironic for two teachers on spring break- TRYING TO AVOID REMEMBERING THAT THEY WORK WITH CHILDREN EVERYDAY. Oh well, you can't win 'em all.

What a neat museum! We went to see the iMax movie "Arabia." It was simply breathtaking! Narrated by Dame Helen Miren (sp), it was made by a young film maker from Saudi Arabia. He has been attending film school in Chicago, I think, for the last 7 years. It glossed over a bit of the uglier side of the regions history, but as a travel piece it was gorgeous.

The other exhibits at the museum included an Egyptian mummy room (really cool), regional diorama rooms for Africa, Australia, etc., a small insect exhibit, an educational room about space (with cool 3-d model projections and stuff like that), a Native American exhibit and a prehistoric look at the Denver area. I'm sure there was more stuff, but we had been there all morning, and we were getting a little tired of dodging children, so we left.

If you have kids, you really should take them there. Even if you don't have kids, you should go...just not during spring break. Go late in the afternoon. Just sayin'....

The Tattered Cover

Dev and I are both book store freaks. We simply can't walk by one without going in and killing an hour or two.

As we were both doing a little research before our trip to Denver, independently, mind you...we both ended up putting the Tattered Cover Bookstore on our lists. We didn't figure out until we were there that we both wanted to go.

We went to the downtown location, which has to be the coolest. It's in the 16th Street Mall area, on the corner of 16th and Wynkoop. It is huge, and it's covered with books. Plus, it has a cool coffee and tea shop right as you walk in the door.

We went twice during our visit, both times in the evening. I can't think of a better way to wind down after a full day of sightseeing. As usual, we separated the minute we walked in the door...Dev wanders off to case the joint...I walk directly to the cookbook section. An hour or two later, we will wander around and look for one another, just to check in.

We both showed remarkable constraint and didn't purchase anything (except t-shirts...his is a tattered cover one and mine just says "read.").

I feel sure that visits to the Tattered Cover will be a part of all subsequent Denver trips.

The Gregory Inn


When Dev and I began planning our trip to Denver a few weeks back, we discussed our itinerary before we discussed where we would stay. Remarkably forward thinking for us, actually. After looking at the map, we decided to stay in the "LoDo" area of Denver, which I think stands for the lower downtown district- or the older part of town. We looked up bed and breakfasts and came upon a little gem called The Gregory Inn. This picture is the view of the Denver skyline from our room.

I have to admit that as we drove off the highway to it, I was concerned. As in most American cities, the area of town where the Gregory is located was once a very posh address, but as the city has grown, the poshness left with it. To give you an idea, the Greyhound bus station is across the street. Nuff said.

But I'm so glad we hung with it. While you're inside, you completely forget where you are. We were met by the man that I assume is the owner (he lives in the house next door). I think he said his name was Stephen. I'll make sure to clarify that next time we go- and we will go again. Anyhoo- he was the nicest guy EVER. He let us into our room, showed us all the bells and whistles (gas fireplace, garden tub with massage jets, projection tv- already programmed to foodtv- a bag of ice in our freezer, etc). When we asked about walking around in the area, he told us that for the last 12 years they had had no problems. Then we asked about our dinner reservations and he recommended a very reasonably priced car service, as it would be very late when we would be getting back.

Our room was small, but so luxurious. The bed and linens were exquisite. When you sat on the bed, you just sank down into plushness and comfiness. The sheets were beautiful and so soft. There was a gas fireplace and a garden jet tub. After walking as much as we did the two days we were there, that tub was a wonderful thing to have. I didn't take any pics of the room because we were too busy enjoying it. I will next time, though!

We were able to walk to the 16th street mall area of town, which is a very trendy, shoppy place. It was about 7 or 8 blocks from the inn. If you prefer not to walk, there are public pay lots all around. On the mall you will find a shop for everything, as well as all kinds of bars and restaurants.

Speaking of pics, I did take some pics of the breakfast area of the inn. The place was very sumptuously decorated. It felt expensive, but comfortable. Take a look for yourself...







Now, let's talk about breakfast. The whole reason one stays at a bed and breakfast is for the extra service and the breakfast. The Gregory does not disappoint on either count. The first morning we were there, Tracey made vanilla silver dollar pancakes, ham and cheese omelettes, fresh fruit and blueberry vanilla yogurt parfaits. The second morning it was a crustless egg/green chile quiche with more fresh fruit and toast. It was heavenly. Next time we go, I want to trade breakfast recipes and take a peak in the kitchen!!

Next time you're planning a trip to Denver, I can not tell you how happy you will make yourself if you plan to stay at The Gregory Inn.
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