Each time we get to a new season in Colorado I think about how even though the season we're coming out of is great, the season we're going into is really my favorite. Winter and snow and skiing is amazing, but it's really great to bike and ski during spring. Spring with all the variety in weather has been exciting, but I'm really excited to sit by the pool and relax. Summer has been fun, but cooler Fall temperatures will be such a relief. And the cycle continues...Read More
As an experienced knitter, sometimes I think I can't find new challenges or new techniques to learn. There was a time when anything besides a knit or purl stitch was intimidating. Now I've tried and mastered stranded color knitting, lace patterns, knitting in the round, even entrelac. That's why I was so excited to find the stitch block cowl from Purl Bee.
Three new stitch patterns I've never tried before! A new cast on method! I started knitting the cowl in early February and it's been fun trying out some new techniques. Like most new techniques, they aren't really that hard once you try them. (And it helps that Purl Bee has really helpful pictures that illustrate the stitches.)Read More
"April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain."
April has felt more like a return to winter than the welcoming of spring this year. In Denver, we've had a blizzard warning and several inches of snow each week with a warm day mixed in here and there just to tease us. I've spent 2+ hours commuting to work (usually a 30 min drive) and am more inclined to reheat chili for dinner than cook anything new.
The weather has mirrored my mood and my ambition to do anything creative and has left me feeling lethargic, lazy and uninspired. I've been knitting here and there. I haven't cooked or baked anything new for a long time. I find myself watching TV and reading books and extending ski season as long as I can since I can't road bike yet.
So this weekend, in protest of yet another incoming snow storm, I decided to bake something springy. If winter won't go away, at least I can pretend it isn't 27 degrees outside while I'm eating a rhubarb square.
I dressed my rhubarb bars up with some wax paper and washi tape. Why? No special reason. I have some washi tape and figured I'd make these look a little extra special before sharing them tonight with friends. Washi tape isn't very sticky. I tried using parchment paper at first, but it wouldn't stick to that at all. Once I thought about it for more than a second, I realized parchment paper is supposed to be non-sticky. The wax paper worked much better.
This season of winter, this season where everything feels difficult and nothing seems to be going my way, it's just a season. I may not know how long it will last, but I know it will pass eventually. Until then, I'll make myself feel better by eating one of these pretty (and tasty) little bars.
Recipe for Rhubarb Curd and Rhubarb Squares from Lara Ferroni
It's starting to feel like winter in Denver. There's just a little bit of snow on the ground. I finally had to close my windows. My car is covered in frost each morning. I'm using gloves and hats and winter coats on a regular basis. And to make the transition complete, I now have my first (and hopefully last) winter sinus infection. I'm currently sitting on the couch, waiting for my Mom to bring over some soup (yes, your Mom can still bring you soup when you're sick, live alone and are almost 30 years old). And the only thing better than soup when you're sick is a Hot Toddy. These delicious winter drinks will help you feel better if you're fighting off a cold or if you're just plain cold from the winter weather.
There are so many different ways to make the Hot Toddy, making it a very versatile drink.
Here are a few Hot Toddy Recipes to keep you warm! (PS. Are you wondering whether it's wise to drink Bourbon when you're sick? I like to tell myself that the honey and vitamin C from the citrus more than compensates for the alcohol...)
The Traditional Hot Toddy
For me, this is a traditional hot toddy. It has cinnamon, cloves, lemon, honey and bourbon. Simply add hot water. It's warm, delicious and I'm not ashamed to admit I drank two of these last night...
See all the details from The Boulder Locavore
This hot toddy calls for spiced rum, tea bags and cayenne pepper in addition to the traditional ingredients. It sounds (as it's name would imply), intense. I'm not sure it's best for curing a cold, but it sounds like a fun little twist on the traditional version.
Find all the details for this hot toddy from Joylicious
I love love love grapefruit. Since a hot toddy works well with all citrus fruits, why not swap out lemon for grapefruit? I think I'm going to try this version tonight. Grapefruit + bourbon? How can you go wrong?
Edible Finger Lakes has all the specs for this drink
Gin or Tequila Hot Toddy
Traditionally, hot toddys are made with bourbon or rum. But if you're up for something a little more adventurous, check out these recipes from Shoot to Cook. One uses bitters, another gin and the last tequila. A tequila toddy doesn't sound too appealing to my sick body right now...but the gin and tequila options would be perfect as a fun holiday drink.
Blood Orange Toddy
One final hot toddy option uses Meyer Lemons and Blood Oranges. I love the color of this toddy. It has the look of a tropical drink, but the taste of winter.
You can find out more about this hot toddy from food52
Do you have a favorite version of the hot toddy?
Excuse me while I go blow my nose, eat my soup and boil some water for one of these...
I have some exciting knitting posts coming up soon...but until then, how about some links to recipes I've been loving lately? Fall is one of my favorite cooking seasons. After the heat of summer, it always seems like such a treat to dust off the crockpot and turn on the oven. Squash, pumpkins and soups abound. Chilly nights + warm food = delight
Here's what's been cooking in my kitchen lately:
Lazy Chilies Rellenos (from The Pioneer Woman)
Everything about hatch chilies evokes strong feelings of Fall. You can't get these everywhere (something I learned when I left Colorado the first time). Around late summer / early fall, these roadside stands popup that roast hatch chilies. Sometimes you can find them at farmer's markets, too. The roasters are large metal cylinders. You throw in a bunch of chilies and roast them over a flame until they're charbroiled and smell heavenly.
The smell, the sound the site, the taste = quintessential fall.
A few weeks ago, I went with my parents to a local stand and we bought a bushel of roasted peppers. The great thing about the peppers is that you can freeze them and use them all winter.
When I was a kid, I didn't like hatch chilies. They were too spicy for me to eat. But I still loved going to the chili stand with my Dad. One year, my brother and I were with him and my Dad was sampling the chilies. We happened to also be sharing a can of coke. The chili oils from my Dad's mouth transferred to the coke can and before we realized what was happening, we all had burning mouths. He was sampling the extra-spicy-make-you-cry-this-is-so-hot peppers.
All that to say that I made this recipe with some of my hatch chilies. And it was so good that I ate it for dinner, lunch, dinner, and lunch again.
I love love love brussel sprouts. But they seem like more of a fall / winter food. Sometimes I forget about them in the summer. I recently discovered a new way of making them that's super easy and simple and delicious.
All you do is tear off the leaves, place them on a baking sheet, lightly cover them in olive oil and sprinkle on salt and pepper. Cook them in the oven at 400 degrees until they're a little charred and crispy.
It took me approximately 3 minutes to devour this plate of sprouts. Mmmm.
(from How Crazy Cooks)
I've been making quite a few frittatas lately. The great thing about them is you can throw in whatever you have around. Peppers? Tomatoes? Cheese? Garlic? Sausage? Mix in a few eggs and voila--frittata.
I'm currently in week two of a brand new job. It's going well so far, but I've been feeling a little overwhelmed as I settle into a new routine, new job, new situation.
Before I started the job, I threw a big dinner party for 9 of my friends in my little apartment. I moved a few tables into the living room for a banquet style table. I borrowed chairs from neighbors. For some reason, I only have sets of 9. Nine chairs, nine wine glasses, nine plates. My neighbors (who also came to the dinner party) let me borrow one extra set of everything.
I decided to make an Italian feast to celebrate.
On the menu:
Red wine (lots of it)
Garlic rosemary flatbread (plus a gluten free variety)
Roasted pepper salad with capers, kalamata olives, and garlic
Pasta e Fagioli (my grandmother's recipe)
New York Cheese Cake with Cherry Topping (from Smitten Kitchen)
The recipe for pasta e fagioli (or pasta and beans) is a "recipe". My Mom just knows how to make it. She learned by watching her Italian grandmother and her Mother while growing up. When I asked her for the recipe a few years ago, she sent me a 3 page email describing how to make it. So I have a "recipe", but not in the traditional sense.
The pasta takes a long time to make, but it's worth every minute. It's a lot of work and I don't make it that often--definitely a special occasion treat. And apparently it was so good that I forgot to snap a picture of it. But believe me, it was enjoyed by all.
Someday, I'll sit down and turn my 3 page email into an actual recipe and post it here. But that day is not today. I need to get to bed early...it's supposed to snow tonight and I might need a little extra time to scrape the snow off my car and commute.
My dinner party was a success...in fact, it was so successful that my downstairs neighbor complained about the noise. I guess that's the true definition of a loud Italian feast!
My camera is sitting on a shelf in my living room. It isn't small. It's there staring me in the face every day. Yet I somehow managed to forget to take pictures of my last two knitting projects. It's a shame since they were both so cute. Maybe I was too excited to give them to an expectant mother and a mother of a newborn.
The first project I forgot to photograph is the Sunnyside Baby Sweater. I knitted it with grey wool and found the cutest little aqua buttons for it. This project knits up quickly since you make it all in one piece and attach the arms afterwards. Maybe I'll take a picture of the little guy wearing it when he's born in November.
The second project I forgot to photograph was for my neighbors. They had an adorable baby boy 2 weeks ago and I made him a simple Baby Beanie with self striping yarn. His parents put the hat on him when I went over to deliver food on Friday and he looked so handsome. (And even more exciting, the hat fit him well! I'm notorious for bad hat sizing.)
So enough about the things I didn't take pictures of...let me share something that I did manage to photograph!
I can't believe I've waited this long to share one of my favorite recipes. This has been a staple dessert for me since college. It's so easy, incredibly delicious and only uses a few ingredients (most of which you probably have in your pantry). Best of all, you can make this in about 30 minutes.
My favorite part about this dessert is that it looks and tastes like it took hours to make. No one will believe you when you tell them you made it saltines, butter, sugar and chocolate.
It's addictive. Just try to only have one piece.
About 40 saltine crackers (or enough to cover your baking sheet) *Note* I've also used matzo crackers. They produce a slightly different consistency, but are just as delicious.
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pinch of salt
1 package of chocolate chips (semi-sweet)
1 cup toasted almonds (optional)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet first with foil and then with parchment paper, making sure to cover the entire baking sheet.
In a medium saucepan, heat up the butter and brown sugar. Stir the mixture until it starts to boil over medium heat. The mixture will thicken as it heats, so make sure to stir it continuously. Once it starts to boil, continue to let it bubble for about 3 minutes.
Remove from heat and add vanilla and salt.
Quickly pour the mixture over the saltines. Spread it out so that the mixture covers the saltines evenly. It will begin to set pretty quickly, so work fast.
Bake the covered saltines for 15 minutes. Watch it closely so it doesn't burn. If the edges start getting dark, you can reduce the heat.
Remove from the oven and sprinkle on the chocolate chips. Let the chips sit for about 5 minutes or until they start to melt. Then use a rubber spatula to spread the chocolate out evenly over the crackers. Sprinkle on nuts.
Allow the chocolate to set. I typically put the entire sheet in the freezer.
Once the toffee is set, break it apart and serve!
Last week I helped my parents pack boxes and move out of the house they've lived in for the last 15 years. It's always sad to see the house empty. The furniture is gone, the walls are bare and the house echoes. It doesn't feel much like a home without the familiar comforts of home.
Moving is disruptive and exhausting and often bittersweet. I should know. I've moved 10 times in the last 10 years. It's pretty ridiculous that I move more than my brother, who is in the military.
In the midst of all my moving, I've always known that I had my parents' house in Colorado as my home or home away from home. I think that's why I'm so sad that it's gone. It has been my constant over the last 15 years. I just moved into a new apartment that doesn't quite feel like home yet. And now I don't have a home to go back to.
And all that brings us to homemade jam. (It's connected...just keep reading.)
I've never canned anything before. In fact, I've never had a desire to can anything. My grandparents used to can EVERYTHING and I saw what a long and laborious process it was. Buying canned goods from the store was fine by me.
But I found myself with pounds and pounds of grapes and making jam seemed like the best solution.
The grape vines in my parents' backyard yielded an abundance of grapes this year. The weather was hot and dry during the day and cooled off a night, so we had great grape growing weather. This particular vine only produced fruit every other year. A few years ago, bugs ate all the grapes. The only other time we had a useable harvest, my Mom made grape jam. I've been watching the grapes grow all summer and as my parents prepared to leave their house, I decided to take the grapes with me. Pounds and pounds of sweet grapes.
But what to do with pounds of green grapes? They weren't great for eating...I'm not the biggest fan of eating grapes with seeds. Plus, I wouldn't be able to eat them fast enough. They were ripe and ready to be used.
I left them in my fridge during my trip to Seattle and Saturday, after saying goodbye to the house, I decided to make jam.
Jam is hard work. It involves skinning the grapes, cooking them, removing the seeds, cooking the mixture again, canning, etc. I spent hours and hours doing all of this. Even though I wasn't too excited about making the jam, I didn't want to waste the only piece of the house we had left--it's fruit.
I made two types of jam--one is sweet, grape jam. I added in green tabasco sauce to half the mixture to make more of a pepper jam. I plan to use it on meats or with cream cheese on crackers. The pepper jam is my favorite. I love how the spicy flavor of the tabasco cuts down on the sweetness of the jam.
My jam isn't the most beautiful thing in the world. It looks a little like slime or ooze, but it tastes delicious. I'll enjoy it as I try to make my new apartment feel more like home. And I'll remember what my Mom said as we left the house, "This is just a house. Home is where your family is."
PS. I haven't stopped knitting...I have a few projects on my needles that I'll be sharing with you soon!
One of my friends describes cities as if they were his girlfriends. He says New York is the city he loves and wants to be with, but isn't sure would be good for him. He loves Denver and is having a good time here now, but isn't sure whether he wants to commit for the long term. If cities are people, then Seattle is my ex-boyfriend.
Whenever I go back to Seattle, I feel like I'm going back to my ex. Seattle is comfortable and familiar. It greets me with sunny skies, amazing lattes, fresh seafood, delicious produce from the market, a beautiful skyline. I only remember the good parts.
But the longer I'm there, the more I realize why I left. It's rainy and cloudy. It never gets very warm. It's passive aggressive. And while there are things I love about Seattle, there are things that never quite fit or feel right.
During the "I-love-Seattle-why-did-I-ever-leave" phase of my visit last week, walked to Pike Place Market on a perfect, sunny Seattle afternoon. I explored the rows of fresh berries, veggies and peaches. I bought berries to snack on, flowers for the friends I stayed with and some other things I knew would make it back to Denver in my carry-on suitcase.
Then I saw what I really wanted. Piles and piles of basil. Fresh basil. Basil that you can smell from 10 yards away. Basil with the roots still attached.
I paid $2 for a huge amount of basil that might have cost me $20 in Denver. And I figured that if it arrived back in Denver wilted and unusable, at least I tried.
Fortunately for me, it (mostly) survived the journey in my laptop bag. I knew it wouldn't last much longer before wilting, so what to do with tons and tons of fresh basil? Make pesto of course!
Fresh Basil Pesto RecipeIngredients:
2 cups fresh basil (packed down)
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup pine nuts (or walnuts work, too)
3 garlic cloves
Salt and pepper to tasteInstructions:
Combine basil and pine nuts in a food processor and pulse a few times to combine.
Add garlic and pulse a few times.
Add in olive oil and mix together.
Add in the grated cheese and mix until all the ingredients are blended together.
I thought this basil would last forever. I dreamed of making spaghetti sauce, pesto, bruschetta, pizza...but I only had enough for a double of the pesto recipe above. After using it on pasta and on crackers, I barely have any left. It certainly won't last me through the weekend. (Note: you can freeze pesto if you have more than you can eat. Or if you have more self-control than I do.)
My fling with Seattle and its food, cool weather, beautiful views, ferry rides, lattes and hipsters is over for now. I'm happy to be back in Denver. But that doesn't mean I won't be planning my culinary delights for my next visit to the Pacific Northwest!
While I'm not the biggest fan of heat and temperatures in the 90s, Summer certainly delivers by providing fresh fruit and vegetables. I've been eating blueberries by the fistful. Corn and peaches are in season. And last weekend I made a very simple pasta dish with homemade pasta, fresh tomatoes, fresh basil and goat cheese.
I'm quickly becoming spoiled for homemade pasta after receiving a pasta maker for my birthday in April. It's so delicious that I think I would eat it plain for dessert.
The amazing part about homemade pasta is how it comes together after you roll it out over and over. Initially, it looks crumbly and you question whether you followed the recipe well enough. The more you roll it, the more elastic it becomes and eventually, you're left with lovely strings of linguini. (see pictures below)
I don't have a pasta dryer, so I hung them to dry on the handle of my oven.
Fresh pasta tastes best (to me anyway) with simple ingredients that don't overpower the taste of the pasta. I didn't want to cook a sauce for this meal, so I found some ingredients in my fridge that looked good and put them together to make this dish.
fresh pasta with tomatoes and goat cheese
Serves 2 peopleIngredients:
1.5 cups semolina flour
baby tomatoes, cut in half
4 ounces of goat cheeseInstructions:
Make pasta (or cook pasta if using pre-made pasta) Mix eggs and flour together. Roll through a pasta maker or roll out by hand until it reaches the desired thickness. Let pasta dry before cooking.
Drain pasta. While it's still hot, transfer pasta to a large bowl. Mix in goat cheese, tomatoes and basil. Goat cheese will melt and coat pasta. Add salt and pepper to taste, pour a glass of wine and enjoy!