Category Archives: Cooking/Eating

A slightly different flavor…

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Last weekend was all about snow and winter and being chilly, and it was great! However, coming home to Grand Junction where it hasn’t been above 32 degrees since December 15 and where the inversion is trapping the cold and creating terrible air quality, was not quite as great. Another cold weekend was not in the cards for me. Luckily, Kyle was agreeable and we planned to drive over to the Front Range to bask in some beautiful sunshine and 40-plus weather!

When you hear “Front Range” most folks think Boulder or Fort Collins, Denver or Golden. Not us. We wanted warm sunny weather and lots of fun places to play. We headed to Colorado Springs. The forecast was calling for 50s and sunny, and Kyle found some great places to play. When we arrived, we immediately went to Red Rock Canyon Open Space, a city owned park that allows biking, running and dogs. Perfect!

This crazy rock formation was right outside town, and there were great running trails all around it.

This crazy rock formation was right outside town, and there were great running trails all around it.

This site used to be a sandstone quarry, look at the crazy shelves cut into the hogback. I’m not sure why the stairs were there…

It's the site of an old quarry. See the stairs carved into the rock?

It’s the site of an old quarry. See the stairs carved into the rock?

But Kyle figured it out. He did a couple laps during the run.

stairs

Kyle did some stairs during the run.

The area looked out over western Colorado Springs. See that huge rock fin in the distance behind me? That’s Garden of the Gods. Pretty cool.

I was excited to be wearing shorts!

I was excited to be wearing shorts!

After the run, we were both super hungry. We (almost unsuccessfully) navigated busy downtown Colorado Springs parking scene and found Phantom Canyon Brewing Company. We both had delicious salads, a cup of the most amazing green chili stew I’ve ever had, and some tasty beers.

We treated ourselves to dinner and delicious beer at the Phantom Canyon Brew Co.

We treated ourselves to dinner and delicious beer at the Phantom Canyon Brew Co.

That night we “camped” in the Walmart parking lot. We had grand plans of finding a nice spot up in the forest somewhere, but it got COLD, we got tired, and since we were planning to ride through Garden of the Gods in the morning, it didn’t make a lot of sense to go too far out of town.

The next morning we got up, ate some bananas and peanut butter, and drove to Garden of the Gods. I didn’t take enough picture of the park itself, but it’s a pretty great thing. In the early 1900’s, a man donated the whole park to the city and now it’s open to hiking, running, horseback riding, mountain biking and road biking. All for FREE! Amazing. However, Bailey was not stoked that she didn’t get to come.

Bailey's reaction to hearing she had to stay in the truck during our bike ride.

Bailey’s reaction to hearing she had to stay in the truck during our bike ride.

We started our ride from the Trading Post. There were these crazy/cool welded saguaros in the parking lot. Here’s my attempt to be artistic.

The cool decorative Saguaro's in front of the trading post.

The cool decorative Saguaro’s in front of the trading post.

The ride through the park only lasted a few miles, but it was scenic! These huge red rock fins jutted up from the ground, and there are whole networks of trails winding around, through and over them.

Gorgeous views in Garden of the Gods.

Gorgeous views in Garden of the Gods.

From there we continued riding through the city. Colorado Springs has a great network of bike paths, so not much of the ride was on roads. We finally popped out near Colorado College (my #2 choice after Whitman!) and it was fun to meander through campus and imagine being a student there.

CC has this crazy schedule where they take 1 class at a time for 3 1/2 weeks, then get 4 days off, then start the next class. As a budding anthropology major, I had visions of field trips and off-campus classes in places like northern Mexico or southern Utah. While I think CC would have been great, I’m so happy I went to Whitman. I got my fair share of field trips, and met some amazing people.

From there, we wound our way back up to Garden of the Gods and hopped off our bikes. We had lunch at the Marigold Cafe and Bakery, a delicious restaurant on the west side of town that I absolutely recommend if you’re in the area. I had a crab cake salad (what is better than that, seriously?) and Kyle had a spinach salmon salad with bacon and goat cheese. It was tasty! Then we headed up north to the Jared’s to pick up my engagement ring (we’d dropped it off to get sized the day before – now I don’t have to have that silly spacer in there!), and went back to Red Rock Canyon for an afternoon run. From there, we decided to hit the road to meet some friends in Avon for the evening/morning and make our drive the next day a little shorter. Bad decision.

We got caught in a NASTY snowstorm in the mountains. It took us 4+ hours to do a 2 1/2 hour drive, and Kyle was literally crawling around some of the corners on the passes. It was scary, but I was really glad he was driving. We finally got in at about 9:30 pm and got to spend some nice, relaxing time with our friends. The next morning we went to a fancy brunch at the Westin.

The decor and bar at the Westin.

The decor and bar at the Westin.

Our friends are about as laid-back and unpretentious as you can get, so it was funny to be in this incredibly fancy/expensive hotel with them eating brunch with the people who were spending $400+/night to stay there. But the food was amazing…eggs benedict with habanero hollandaise, huevos rancheros with avacado in little individual sized cast iron ramikins, goat cheese, zucchini and spinach frittata, french toast stuffed with marscapone and fruit preserves and on and on and on. It was amazing.

After a short walk around the golf course to let the dogs burn some energy, we headed home to Grand Junction where, miraculously, it was above 40 degrees and the snow had started to melt. What a great weekend!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tamales!

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First, can I just say that I love my engagement ring? I never thought I’d be that person, and really never thought I’d be excited about wearing a diamond, but this ring is beautiful, it’s Kyle’s great grandmother’s ring, and it’s so unique! I also love being engaged. In all reality, it’s not really that different, but it’s fun to think about the future with some degree of certainty (at least in one category)!

So pretty!

So pretty!

Ok, onto the real post 🙂 When I was a senior in college, I spent the fall semester traveling around the western US with 20 other Whitman students on a program called Semester In the West. I’ve previously written about this here. In addition to being incredibly instructive about life outside our small college bubble, it was also a great opportunity to learn how to cook! We were separated into 5 cook crews and took turns cooking dinner, lunch and breakfast every 5 days. Our food manager, (and my dear friend) Season, made a big effort to buy food from farmer’s markets, local butchers, and farmers whenever possible, so we were cooking with fresh, happy (our word for free range, grass fed, etc meat) food almost all the time. We made meals that could be easily produced in large numbers because, in addition to the 21 students and 3 staff, we often had visitors, instructors and family eating with us. Cooking and eating was very communal, and one of my favorite instances of this was making tamales. Because they’re so time consuming, we only made them on Thanksgiving, the day we had set aside entirely for cooking, but it was such a fun, family-style process that I remember it as one of the highlights of the time we spent cooking on SITW.

When I moved to Lee Vining, the tradition of making tamales continued. I had several friends (one who was vegetarian and one who was gluten and lactose intolerant, so tamales were the perfect solution!) who loved making them too. We’d set aside entire afternoons or evenings to making tamales, usually with beans, chiles, carrots and onions. Then we’d throw them in the freeze and have lunch for weeks!

This weekend I decided to embark on the tamales making adventure alone. I mentioned last week how I’m pretty busy these days and don’t have a lot of time to cook. Tamales seemed like the perfect solution to have delicious food on-the-go. So I went to the butcher and the local Mexican grocery and headed back to the house. I used this recipe which, overall, was pretty great. Also, I found these at the grocery store.

dried fish

 

Yes, I bought them – mostly because I forgot to bring my phone in and really wanted a picture, but also because I thought they’d be a fun treat for the dogs. Jewell was pretty grossed out at first, but when she Bailey devouring them she quickly hopped on board.

I started with 3 1/2 lbs of pork shoulder. Mine was tied with string, so I cut that before I threw it in a 5 qt sauce pan with 10 cups of water, a quartered onion and 5 cloves of minced garlic.

raw pork

 

After simmering on the stove for 2 1/2 hours, I pulled the pork out, strained the onions and garlic out, and set the broth outside to cool (it didn’t get above 15 degrees on Saturday). I pulled the pork apart with two forks and discarded the fat.

pulled pork

 

I made this chile sauce recipe with dried chiles from our garden last summer. Then, I added the pork to it and put this, covered, on the stove to simmer for 10 minutes. I was actually a little disappointed with the way the pork turned out. It didn’t have quite enough flavor for me. If I were to do this again, I’d add more garlic and more chiles (and I’m not one of those people that loves spicy foods, this just needed an extra kick).

I made up for that by sauteing carrots, onions and jalepeno slivers on the stove top for a few minutes to add to the mix. Before I started making the dough, I took a handfull (about 50) corn husks and soaked them in warm water.

Once the broth was cool, I was able to skim the fat off the top (there was A TON so I would definitely recommend that you do this!) Mix 6 cups of masa (corn flour), a couple teaspoons of salt and baking powder together and in a large bowl alternately add a little broth and a little masa mix, stirring as you go. Your final mixture should be a smooth paste.

assembly line

Finally, I set up my assembly line. The corn husks are unpictured, but everything else is in order. The masa mixture is at the top, then pork, then slivered carrots and jalepenos, then the steamer. Here’s one mid-contsruction.

construction

Sorry the picture is a little blurry, but you get the idea. You want the dough wide enough to meet at it’s edges when you roll the corn husk over itself, and short enough that you can fold the bottom of the husk up before it goes in the steamer. You can see why this is a great family activity – either make an assembly line or let everyone add what they want and give them different colored yarn to tie the ends. Since I was only making one kind – with everything on it – I just folded the ends. Pile them in the steamer and steam for 40 minutes, adding water occasionally. This batch made three steamer-fulls, and ended up being about 50 tamales. I anticipate that I’ll eat 2 and Kyle will eat 3-4 for a meal. Should last a couple weeks for dinner during class! What do you think? Ever made tamales? Anyone have unique ingredient ideas?

tamales

 

Operation: Physician Assistant

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Sometimes my Physician Assistant aspirations feel very far away. When I’m sitting in my office thinking about what the next five years will be like (5 years! It will be 5 years before I’m in any kind of career-type job again! That’s so intimidating!) it’s hard to picture what my day to day life will be like. I’ll be a student in Montana for awhile, then I’ll work somewhere for awhile, then I’ll (hopefully) be admitted to PA school somewhere. The unknowns that used to excite me now make me pretty uneasy. But things are finally starting to move here. After beginning the planning process in June – I got my acceptance to my pre-req program in Bozeman last month, and I recently started a CNA program here in Colorado so that when I start school (time permitting) I can also start to build up my clinical hours (most programs require at least 1000).

Starting yesterday, my normal day looks like this:

6:30 – wake up, feed dogs, shower, make breakfast and lunch

7:45 – go to work

4:00 – go home, eat dinner, let dogs out

4:45 – go to school

9:30 – get home from school, study

12:00 – go to bed

This is the most restrictive schedule I’ve ever been on – hardly any time in the day to much other than work, school, eat and study. As a result, I’ve become very reliant on my slow cooker. Seriously, when I have 45 min between getting home and leaving for school, I need dinner to be easy. So a few nights ago I threw a couple chicken breasts in with a can of beer, some salt, pepper and oregano. It isn’t the most delicious chicken I’ve ever had, but it’s been great on top of salads for lunch this week. Earlier last weekend I made some slow cooker Chicken Tikka Masala from Eat, Live, Run which was so delicious that I didn’t have time to take a picture of it before it all disappeared. But I wholeheartedly recommend Jenna’s recipe. (She also has a great book review up right now that I’m interested to check out.)

Our supplies on these meals were running low though, so this morning I got up to make Slow Cooker Chicken Noodle Soup. I found the recipe on Pinterest, but it originally comes from Daily Mothering. I chopped up some carrots, celery, leeks (which I substituted for the onions), threw some chicken breasts on top, sprinkled with salt, pepper and basil, and drizzled with a 1/2 cup of white wine.

chicken noodle soup

And then I walked away. I went to a doctor’s appointment, and then to work. When I get home tonight, I’ll pull the chicken out and tear it apart with a fork. I’ll dump the veggies and any juice into a stock pot with about 8 cups of stock, add some egg noodles, simmer for 10 min, add the chicken and then eat dinner! I can tell, during this time of crazy schedules and little free time, that my slow cooker and I are going to be very, very good friends.  Anyone have any must-try slow cooker recipes?

Adventures in cooking.

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Sometimes all I can think about is cooking. Trying new recipes, making the old familiar recipes that make me think of home, puttering around our kitchen mincing garlic and simmering tomato sauce and stirring batter. For some reason, that’s happening right now. I can’t get enough of reading cooking blogs, looking at new recipes and hanging out in the kitchen. Maybe it’s because it gets dark at 5:00 and it seems like that’s all there is to do all evening. Maybe it’s because we’re taking a break from Paleo so the recipe world has opened up. Maybe it’s the instinctual need to eat more during winter. I don’t know what it is, but the last few weeks have been fun!

A friend of mine from college has a really beautiful blog at ellensnorthwest.com. She works at a fancy Seattle restaurant, has fabulous taste in food and drink, and takes wonderful photos (of food, but other things too). On a recent perusal of her blog, I found a reference to Eat, Live, Run. I, just last week, brought Jenna’s book White Jacket Required home from the library and have been constantly poring over her recipes since (which may or may not have something to do with this move away from Paleo…) How did I not know about this blog before? Holy buckets, Jenna and her culinary adventures are amazing! After spending a few hours (!!!) on her blog yesterday, I found a recipe which was really intriguing to me – mostly because it sounded so weird! So when I got home from work last night, I decided to make her Olive Oil Cake. She describes it as the cake she takes to every get-together because it’s so easy and delicious, and she was right! While I don’t have a KitchenAid mixer, I found my hand mixer to be perfectly acceptable at beating the eggs and sugar to make this light, deliciously citrusy cake.

Here it is just out of the oven with an uneven dusting of powdered sugar on the top. And here is the piece I ate immediately after. It was delicious!

whole cake

piece of cake

This morning, because I was feeling particularly industrious, I got up a little early and put together this awesome looking Crock Pot Chicken Chili recipe that I found on Pinterest, but that originally comes from The Comfort of Cooking. Is it just me, or does raw chicken always look gross? A small price to pay for having yummy chili ready to eat when I get home from work!

raw chicken chili

Anyone else out there cooking up a storm lately? Any fun recipes to share? Happy December everyone!

Update: here is what dinner looks like! I’m pretty excited about it!

chili

*GASP* I don’t love Paleo *GASP*

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There it is: the simple truth. Kyle and I, for about 2.5 months, have been dabbling with the Paleo diet. This is not to say that we eat strictly Paleo at every meal BY ANY MEANS. Rather, our strategy has been to grocery shop Paleo and thus eat Paleo at home (with the exception of beer for him) and splurge on weekends or when we’re eating at someone else’s house. While I can absolutely get on board with the general idea of the Paleo diet (plus it was a fun new challenge to try cooking in a new way) I honestly just think it’s too hard, too restrictive to keep up in any kind of routine way. Sometimes I don’t have time to cook an egg at breakfast. Honestly, sometimes I just don’t want an egg at breakfast. On days when I’m in a rush, it’d be nice to throw together a quick sandwich on the go than have to make a salad and box up last night’s leftovers.

It’s funny that I’m even saying this because I’ve never been a carbs person. I don’t like bread that much, I almost never eat rice and the only dairy I usually consume is cheese. But the convenience factor is hard to deny. And I’m all about convenience right now when I’m working 40 hrs/week, playing in three volleyball leagues, taking an online class and trying to also have some unscheduled fun.

I want to appreciate food again, not pick it apart. I want to not feel  like every meal is a production, and I want to be able to make big production meals without poring over the ingredients list first. So I’m taking a break from Paleo. I’ll let you know how it goes!

In an effort to make this post a little less text heavy, I tried to find an image that did something other than pile praises on the Paleo diet. THEY DON’T EXIST. I googled “Paleo hater” “Dislike paleo diet” “Negative paleo” and other things. Apparently people everywhere completely adore the Paleo diet and I’m an anomoly. So instead, here are some really cute puppies!

puppies_icon

And the time flies.

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I’m surprised I’m still surprised at how quickly time passes. Suddenly it’s December, and just as suddenly it feels normal that it’s December. Normal, at least, until I look around and realize that there is no snow anywhere. Are we due for another winter like last? I hope not. Anyway, here’s the long-lost Thanksgiving post that I promised and never delivered on…

Last year, Kyle and I hosted both our families for Thanksgiving here in Colorado. Though we’d been dating for less than a year, the circumstances lined up well and we decided it would be too fun to feel awkward about. So Kyle’s mom, dad, aunt, uncle, two brothers and sister-in-law and my mom, dad, sister, sister’s boyfriend and aunt all piled into our 850 square foot house for the big feast. We had to put our couch out on the porch and rent a table and enough chairs to fit everyone, but it was a fun day with lots of delicious food, and it was wonderful to have both our families there to spend time with.

This year, Kyle’s brother and sister-in-law hosted in San Francisco. I haven’t spent much time in the city, but I’ve always heard amazing things so I was excited to make the trek. Plus, the weather in San Francisco this time of year is gorgeous. Because of our work schedules, we had to fly the morning of Thanksgiving which meant that things were happening by the time we got to their house! After watching some football and making the food assignments, we got going! Here is the weekend plan:

weekend plan

 

After lazing around a little more, we started cooking. We’d planned on a 5pm dinner, but there was lots to do before that happened. The first was figure out how to use the deep fryer:

thanksgiving boys

Here you see the boys standing around trying to figure out how they were going to measure the temperature of the hot oil without losing all the skin on their hands. The solution: a metal hanger! Meanwhile, in the kitchen we were working on mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, bacon maple brussel sprouts, green beans, cranberry sauce and bread. Finally, not too much after 5, everything was ready! Here’s a glimpse of our serving line (desserts not included).

 

thanksgiving food

 

And here’s a look at our table and the view. Kyle’s brother and sister-in-law live up on a hill almost above the Golden Gate Bridge, and from their house you can see a lot of the bay. It’s really spectacular!

 

thanksgiving window

 

What an awesome day! Afterward, we went on a long walk through the Presidio, around LucasFilm and back to the house. It was so nice to be surrounded with Kyle’s awesome family, I only wished my family could have been there too!

The next morning, Kyle and I got up to go for a quick run before we headed downtown. We crossed the bridge over to Marin and ran in the hills above the Golden Gate. The sun washes it out a little, but what an awesome setting for a morning run!

trail run city view

 

We spent the afternoon of black Friday (with about 100,000 other people) in Union Square. It was fun to walk around one of the best shopping districts in the country on the biggest shopping day of the year, but it didn’t take me long to get overwhelmed. There were police directing traffic because there were so many pedestrians! Finally, we went home and spent the evening watching more football, playing games and eating leftovers.

The next morning we got up and headed across the Golden Gate Bridge to Tiburon – the ferry dock for Angel Island. The day was beautiful and clear, with a breeze on the water. Here’s a view of the harbor.

angel island boat dock

 

Kyle and I before getting on the ferry:

angel island kyle and rosa

I didn’t know anything about Angel Island before this trip. What an interesting glimpse into West Coast history! For many years, the island served as a military camp or fort, and there are several historic buildings on the island. However, it is probably best known as the “Ellis Island of the West.” Between 1910 and 1940, Angel Island served as the immigration processing center during which time 1 million Asian immigrants were granted entry to the country. In the late 1950’s, the US military built a missile base on the island, but it was decommissioned not many years after it was built. Now the entire island is a state park and the only way you can reach it is by ferry. It’s a small island, but you can stay overnight and camp, explore the beaches and historic buildings, even take tours put on by the Parks employees. This is one of the old buildings on the island:

angel island building

And here is the view of the Golden Gate bridge. I just can’t get over how beautiful the weather was while we were there!

golden gate

 

We spent Sunday walking around the city with Kyle’s brother and sister-in-law, checking out some of the fun neighborhoods and taking advantage of the lively bar and restaurant scene that we don’t really get here in western Colorado. What a fun weekend! Did everyone else have a nice Thanksgiving?

 

Aside

Anyone else finding it impossible to do anything other than think about family and food this week? It’s ridiculously busy at work right now and all I can seem to do is look at cooking blogs and photos from our epic Thanksgiving last year (more on that next week…). I just looked at almost every recipe on this blog and they all look amazing! How about some pumpkin tres leches cake? Or some sundried tomato basil corn muffins? Holy buckets, I could stay on her website all day. Or what about Food Gawker? I could get lost there too among the recipes for sweet potato parmesan gratin or the cranberry poached pears with goat cheese. Seriously, how are we supposed to do anything other than cook and hang out with family this week? I can’t wait for Wednesday night to get here!

Family and food!