Thursday, December 24, 2009

Don't Follow Me, I'm Lost: A Memoir of Hampshire College in the  Twilight of the '80s Don't Follow Me, I'm Lost: A Memoir of Hampshire College in the Twilight of the '80s by Richard Rushfield

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I really enjoyed the book about a guy who started college the same year I did: 1986. While liberal, make-up-your-own-education Hampshire College is very different from the traditional, state school that I went to, he captures the "feeling" of that era very well. It made me nostalgic for some of the funnest years of my life.

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Confections of a Closet Master Baker Confections of a Closet Master Baker by Gesine Bullock-Prado

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A sweet, light read about a woman (who happens to be Sandra Bullock's sister) who gave up a profitable career in Hollywood to be a baker in Vermont. She cooks German style pastries and cakes and describes the joy of living out your dream, rather than doing what you're "supposed" to do.

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Wintergirls Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

My rating: 4 of 5 starsI wish I could give this 4 1/2 stars. It was a haunting and painful book that I know will stick with me for awhile. I listened to the CD version, which was produced very interestingly. It had "tricks" that annoyed me at first, but once I understood them, it really added to the experience. I found myself looking forward to my commute so that I could listen to this book.
It's a story about an 18 year old anorexic, self-mutilator, who is not only dealing with her illness(es) but the death of her ex-friend who died from binging. Not a book for the faint of heart, but beautifully written.
View all my reviews >

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Cranberry Bars

I've been terrible about blogging lately. I have lots of yummy things to post, and will hopefully get to it over the Christmas break.

Right now, I'm posting this recipe for posterity. I posted a link to it last Christmas and went back to get it today because it's holiday baking day in our house. Unfortunately, I had only posted a link and the magazine it was in is now defunct! That'll learn me. Thankfully, I found it posted somewhere else, but here it is. These are truly delicious and easy.

Cranberry Bars


1 C flour
1/3 C granulated sugar
1/2 C (1 stick) of cold butter, cut into tablespoons


2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 C packed light brown sugar
1/3 C flour
1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1/2 t vanilla extract
1 C whole berry or jellied cranberry sauce (I use whole berry)
1/2 C slivered almonds


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease the sides of an 8 inch square baking pan.

2. Make the crust: In a food processor, combine the flour and granulated sugar. Add the butter and pulse until evenly combined.

3. Press the mixture into the baking pan and bake for 35 minutes or until golden. Remove from the oven to add the topping, but leave the oven on.

4. Meanwhile, make the topping: In a bowl, with an electric mixer, beat the eggs and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the flour, baking powder, salt and vanilla. Stir in the cranberry sauce and almonds.

5. Pour the topping over the cooked shortbread bottom and return to the oven for 40 to 45 minutes, until set and evenly browned on top.

6. Let cool completely in the pan on a rack before cutting into 12 bars.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Pavement Reunion is Happening!

I think this is old news (from Sept.), but Pavement is really reuniting. There are 3 bands that I've always regretted not seeing back in the 80s: The Pixies, Pavement, and Bad Brains. I've seen the first several times now (although not going to the Denver shows this week). Now hopefully, I'll have my chance to see Pavement. So far, the only date announced that I can see is Sept. 2010 in Seattle. Anybody up for a trip to Seattle? Think I can take the kids to the show?

Pavement is headlining Sasquatch! 2010

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Peppery Pasta Carbonara with Poached Egg


I tried this dish from the second to last issue of Gourmet (sniff!), because I was in the need for some comfort food and I needed something for which I had all the ingredients on hand. It was super simple and very hearty and yummy. B really liked it too. I will definitely be adding it to the repertoire--especially the winter one.

I've doubled the ingredients to make it serve 2, since the original recipe is for 1 (weird!).

Peppery Pasta Carbonara with Poached Egg

4 bacon slices, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 pound spaghetti
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano plus additional for serving
2 to 4 tablespoons chopped tarragon OR ~2 teaspoons dried tarragon (can use parsley too)
2 - 4 large eggs, depending on how hungry you are (The original recipe called for 1 egg per person. There was a lot of pasta and we were hungry, so we ended up making 1 more for each of us.)

Cook bacon in a 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp. Transfer bacon with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain.

Meanwhile, cook spaghetti in a 4-quart saucepan of salted boiling water until al dente. Reserve 2/3 cup cooking water, then transfer spaghetti with tongs to a small bowl, shaking off excess water, and keep pan of water simmering.

Pour off all but 4 teaspoons bacon fat from skillet, then whisk butter into fat in skillet over medium heat. Add spaghetti, reserved cooking water, cheese, and a rounded 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring, until sauce is thickened and almost completely absorbed, 2 to 3 minutes. Add bacon and 1 - 2 teaspoon (if using dried - 1 tablespoon if using fresh) tarragon and toss. Season with salt and pepper.

Break egg into a cup and gently slide into water. Poach at a bare simmer to desired doneness (Gourmet says, "we prefer a firm white with a runny yolk, 2 to 3 minutes" and I do too!).

Serve pasta topped with egg (transfer using a slotted spoon). Sprinkle with remaining tarragon if desired.

Above is Gourmet's beautiful picture, because mine, while yummy, was kind of ugly. Comfort food doesn't have to be pretty, does it?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Processed Food May Contribute to Depression

I know a lot of it depresses me! But seriously, folks, I found this article interesting: "Processed Food Could Have Role in Depression, Says Study.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Stuffed Picnic Loaf With Pesto, Grilled Vegetables, Prosciutto and Provolone Cheese

It's not too late in the season to grill (actually, in our house it never really is, although our frequency decreases a lot in the colder months). Today's it's sunny and in the 60s and we're having friends over for dinner. I've made it for guests in the past (with and without prosciutto), and it's always a hit

I'll be making this recipe, which is from "The Vegetarian Grill: 200 Recipes for Inspired Flame-Kissed Meals" by Andrea Chesman. I'm making mine non-vegetarian by adding prosciutto.

Stuffed Picnic Loaf With Pesto, Grilled Vegetables, Prosciutto, and Provolone Cheese

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 large eggplant, peeled and sliced 3/8 inch thick
1 red or green bell pepper, quartered
1 sweet onion (such as Walla Walla sweet)
1 large loaf Italian or French country bread (1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds)
1/2 cup pesto (homemade or commercially prepared)
5 ounces provolone cheese, sliced
~ 1/4 # prosciutto
2 large vine-ripened tomatoes, sliced

Prepare a medium-hot fire in grill.

Grill vegetables, turning occasionally, until well browned, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove vegetables from grill as they are done.

Reduce grill's temperature by spreading out coals or reducing flame on a gas grill to low.

Slice the bread in half horizontally. Remove some of loaf's interior to create a hollow space for stuffing with vegetables. Brush loaf's inside with remaining olive oil and garlic, then spread with the pesto. Layer half of the provolone, grilled vegetables, the prosciutto, the tomatoes, and remaining provolone onto bottom piece of bread. Position top half of loaf in place. Wrap loaf in foil.

Place loaf on a low-heat spot on grill, away from direct heat, cover grill and bake until bread is lightly toasted and cheese is melted, about 10 minutes. Do not allow bread to scorch.

To serve, unwrap loaf. Slice into wedges and serve hot.

Makes 4 servings.

NOTE: This sandwich can be assembled up to a day in advance and refrigerated in its foil wrapper. To heat, bake over low coals, turning occasionally, for about 30 minutes. Or heat in oven at 350 F for about 30 minutes.

VARIATIONS: Possible variations on this theme are infinite. Substitute relish or tapenade for pesto. Use different vegetables, replacing some or all of the ones specified with grilled zucchini, yellow summer squash and mushrooms. Cheddar, fontina, Monterey Jack, Colby, Gouda — any semihard cheese with good melting properties — can replace provolone. Or use goat cheese and omit pesto and provolone.

In addition, I'm going to be serving "Rockin' Ginger and Wasabi Wings"--a recipe I got from Foodista this week. If they turn out well, I'll post the recipe and maybe even some pics. It sounds yummy, anyway!

I'm also making that delicious Sour Cream Peach Pecan Pie and I know my friends are bringing some delicious dishes.

Brian just got a keg (for the kegerator) of Avery IPA and I plan on getting into that bottle of Carlson Vineyards Cherry wine that we got in Palisade. I plan on serving it with chocolate-rimmed glasses (the Enstrom's that came with it).

Should be a feast!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Traveling with Pomegranates: A Mother-Daughter Story

Traveling with Pomegranates: A Mother-Daughter Story Traveling with Pomegranates: A Mother-Daughter Story by Sue Monk Kidd

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I really enjoyed this book by the author of "The Secret Life of Bees" and her daughter. It's part travel memoir, but more of a reflection on many feminine topics, including mother-daughter relationships; coming to terms with menopause, aging, and death; and feeling lost as a young adult. The book explores many feminine iconic themes: Demeter and Persephone, Joan of Arc, Athena, and the virgin Mary.

Both writers have beautiful voices and it was a very touching and thought provoking book.

View all my reviews >>

Thursday, October 15, 2009

What I Found In My Car This Morning


Apparently my husband wants me to fill up his Golden City Brewery growler. They're getting ready to tap their pumpkin ale - YUM!

It's good to see that safety is a priority.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

50 Ways to Never Waste Food Again

A good article I saw on Twitter: here. I have an almost irrational fear about wasting food and yet it still sometimes happens in our house. This article has some good ideas--most I've heard of (but they bear reminding) and some I'd never thought of.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Obama Proclaims this National School Lunch Week

You can see the proclamation here. Unfortunately, Congress pushed back updating the Child Nutrition Act, which includes the National School Lunch program, so I'm not sure what this does other than awareness.

My boys are taking their lunches to school this week, because the menu is not satisfactory. I hope that before they graduate they can get healthy lunches at school.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Ethnic Eats in Golden Part 2 - Empanada Express Grill

More recently, another ethnic restaurant opened up in Golden, Empanada Express Grill, which serves Venezuelan food. It's a tiny little restaurant on the end of a strip mall, and it was soon packed after we got there.

I first heard of it on Westword's Cafe Society. Apparently it used to be in a trailer and recently graduated to a more permanent home. I haven't had much in the way of Venezuelan food other than the americanized version of an empanada. But the flavors are familiar and I think even my kids might like the food--corn cakes, beans, plantains, cheese, etc. The food is inexpensive too. I got the most expensive thing on the menu, the "Taste of Venezuela" so I could try a lot of different things, and it was still only $10.99. You could eat a nice sized meal for $7 or so.

I broke my camera this week, so all I had was my blackberry. I think the Barbara Walters "soft light" effect is due to some lint on the lens, haha. If you know of any good deals on small, but decent quality cameras (I need one that I can carry in my purse at all times), let me know.


On this plate, you see clockwise from top: an arepa, a cachapa, two tequenos, some fried plaintains, and an empanada.

Empanadas are shaped like a turnover and made of corn meal. They let you choose any of their numerous fillings for the combo plate. I got the Reina Pepiada filled with white cheese, chicken salad and avocado. Arepas are also made of corn meal, but are circular corn cakes sliced in half and filled to make a sandwich. I got the La Gallina filled with shredded chicken, black beans, white cheese and sweet fried plantain. They were both good, but I definitely preferred the gallina over the chicken salad.

Tequenos are wheat flour dough sticks surrounding a melted white cheese center. Cachapas (Arepas De Choclo) are a Venezuelan pancake made with sweet kettle corn and served with melted cheese and butter.

They also serve fresh juices and I got the lime juice, served like a limeade. It was sweet, sour, and delicious. Definitely worth the $3. Unfortunately, they don't have a liquor license. The food would be so good with a beer!

I hope to return soon, explore the menu some more, and hopefully get some better pictures.

Ethnic Eats in Golden Part 1 - Sherpa House

I hate to say it, but Golden has long had a dearth of good dining. Restaurants come and go fairly quickly and many have had poor service, food, or both. But things are changing.



Earlier this year, Sherpa House opened up, serving Himalayan food (Nepalese, Tibetan, and Indian). It's located in a little house on Washington Street. When you first walk in, you're struck by its decor, as it also serves as a cultural center and is decorated as "an authentic representation of a typical Sherpa house in the Solu-Khumbu region of Nepal," complete with shrine.


There's a collection of photographs of Nepal and even a Yeti replica (that's my little ham).


Speaking of yetis, I recently received an email from them that they are hosting "Yeti Night in Golden" next Saturday, Oct. 15th. From the email:

"An exciting event is taking place in Historic Down Town Golden CO. On Saturday Oct. 15 2009, a group of big and small YETIS (ABOMINABLE SNOWMANS) will be walking through the Historic Down Town of Golden, CO. It will all start from the American Mountaineering center in Golden and end at Sherpa House Restaurant and Cultural Center. The event will start at 5:30 pm at the Mountaineering Center with a Yeti custom making contest. The winner will not only get some prizes, but also get a free dinner at Sherpa House. There will be story telling about the legendary snowman (YETI) and participants get to see the mountaineering library and museum. Once the contest is done, around 7:00 pm, all the Yetis will be walking to Sherpa House Restaurant for a party (five minute walk). Everyone in costume will get a discounted dinner and buy one get one drinks free. Free chai tea for every one."

The patio is lovely too and a fantastic place to hang out on a warm day. It's decorated with prayer flags, tibetan art, and a garden. They serve Golden City Brewery beer, another plus and great for patio-sitting.




But how is the food? Excellent! I always start with the chicken momo (they also have veggie and beef momo)--steamed dumplings with spiced, ground chicken, served with a spicy tomato dipping sauce:


One favorite entree is the Daal Bhat, a "traditional Nepali platter of rice and lentil soup served with a vegetable side dish and a Naan bread. Choice of vegetable, chicken, beef, lamb or yak meat." Yes, they serve yak! They have a number of dishes that you can get with yak. B ordered it once and it wasn't bad. The daal bhat comes with rice, lentil soup, steamed vegetables, and the entree in a curry sauce. A server told me one should mix it all together.

As it comes:


All mixed together:


Other favorites are the Chicken Tikka Masala (tender boneless chicken pieces broiled in a traditional clay oven and cooked in tomato, onion and cream sauce) and Chicken Makhani (marinated chicken pieces barbecued in a traditional clay oven and cooked with onions, tomatoes in a cream sauce). The descriptions, tastes, and even looks are pretty much the same, but both are good.

The Tikka Masala:


and the Makhani:


Occasionally, they'll have fish specials featuring tuna or salmon. I've had the salmon one and it was great. The sauce was so delicious. This picture is so yellow because we were sitting under a yellow awning at the time.


One thing we like about Sherpa House is that it has a kids menu, something which isn't always so common in ethnic restaurants. My 5 year old loves the momos, but my picky 7 year old sticks to the mac 'n' cheese (sad, isn't it?).

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sweet Potato Linguine with Garlic Red Pepper Sauce

Tonight's meal was fantastic. When we were at Colorado Winefest, we picked up some of Pastamore's Sweet Potato Linguine:


I wasn't sure what to do with it, so decided to keep it simple and it turns out that was probably my best bet, because the pasta is so flavorful, you don't want to mask it with a heavy sauce. You should have smelled it while it was boiling! The whole house smelled like Fall.

I decided to cook some chicken and zucchini (from my garden, of course!) and then make an easy "sauce" from olive oil, red pepper, garlic, and parsley (seasoned with some salt and pepper).

We paired it with Carlson Vineyard's Laughing Cat Gewurztraminer, which turned out to be just perfect.


The spicy, but homey linguine with the spicy, fruity wine...ahhhhhhh.....

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

One of My Favorite Meals of the Year

I've been meaning to post this for awhile, and since I've waited so long, you only have one more chance to get this meal: this Saturday.

We like to go to Golden's Farmers Market on Saturdays--the last one is this weekend, until next year. There is a tortilla stand there that sells tortillas and frozen tamals and meals, including quesadillas, burritos, tacos, and my favorite: pupusas. Pupusas are from El Salvadore and are a thick corn-based tortilla or flat bread, stuffed with goodness. I prefer the pork and cheese-filled ones from this stand. They serve it with a side of salsa and a salad of shredded lettuce, tomatoes, and chiles.

Get your pupusa (or other treat--I've tried the burritos, tamals, and quesadillas, and they're all good) to go. Then hop on over to nearby Golden City Brewery, where you can order a beer and sit at one of the picnic tables with your lunch. Recently they've had a seasonal brew that I adore called Golden Gose. Gose beer is a beer I'd never heard of--a wheat beer brewed with coriander and salt. GCB serves it with a shot of raspberry. Sounds gross, but is delicious! Truthfully, I can't taste the coriander and salt really, but the beer is light and perfect for a summer's day--it doesn't even really taste like beer. And it just happens to pair with the pupusas perfectly.

Another great thing about this perfect meal is that you can take the kids. Mine get hot dogs from the Farmers Market and buy a juice or pop at GCB. There's even a wooden train for the kids to play on at GCB. My boys love it.

In my picture of my perfect meal, you can see the wipes we brought for the kids and even a juice bag (or joosh bag, as we like to call them) in the upper corner. Shown here is my delicious pupusa with salsa and salad spread all over it--the best way to eat it, a pint of Golden Gose and some samples of other brews, which GCB is always happy to let you have.


So get on over there this Saturday! Maybe you'll see me.

ETA: and here are pictures from the last weekend (pardon the fuzzy camera phone quality). Gose is probably still available at GBC, so you can still check it out. I talked to the woman at the pupusa stand and she said they want to open a restaurant but don't know where or even what it will be called. So hopefully they'll be back at Golden Farmers Market next year.



Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sour Cream Peach Pecan Pie


This pie is SO good! We had the best dinner last night. I spent all afternoon cooking, but it was worth it. We had a roast chicken, roast potatoes, broccoli with a dijon vinaigrette (plus I put up the half bushel of peaches we bought in Palisade), and for dessert this pie.

The picture above is from the Taste of Home recipe link. My pie did NOT look pretty, but who cares when it tastes so good.

Sour Cream Peach Pecan Pie


Pastry for single-crust pie (9 inches)
4 cups sliced peeled peaches
2 tablespoons peach preserves
1 cup sugar
1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
3 egg yolks
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons chopped pecans
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup cold butter


Line a 9-in. pie plate with pastry; trim and flute edges.

In a large bowl, combine peaches and preserves. Transfer to pastry. In a small bowl, whisk the sugar, sour cream, egg yolks, flour and vanilla. Pour over peaches.

Bake at 425° for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the flour, sugars, pecans and cinnamon. Cut in butter until crumbly; sprinkle over pie. Cover edges of crust to prevent overbrowning.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean and topping is golden brown. Cool completely on a wire rack for 3 hours before serving. Store in the refrigerator.

I've had a favorite recipe for a "peaches and cream" pie, but this one will be replacing it. It's definitely one of my top pies now.

Picky 7 year old wouldn't eat it, but the 5 year old had two helpings. I wanted two, but controlled myself!

Colorado Mountain Winefest

Last weekend B and I went to the Colorado Mountain Winefest in Palisade as an early celebration for our anniversary (11 years on 10/2). We did this as a sort of follow up to our big 10 year anniversary trip to Napa/Sonoma last year.

It was packed! This will give you a little sense of the crowds.


This display of t-shirts gave me a giggle.


There were 52 wineries there each with numerous wines to sample. It was overwhelming! We hit the first table and tried each wine. We did the same at the second table. Then we realized that this strategy was not going to work--in fact it was a recipe for disaster! So from then on we only tasted award winners and wines that caught our eye. And we still tasted a lot. We also dumped anything we didn't immediately like. I hate the thought of wasting wine, but I was a dedicated dumper. I don't even know how much wine we must have consumed and dumped--bottles probably. By the end of the day we were definitely wined out. A good way to be! The festival was great for people watching too--especially as the day wore on. I generally hate crowds, but I didn't seem to mind it this day. I guess the wine put me in a good mood.

In our opinion--which is certainly not terribly knowledgeable, we just know what we like--Colorado does white, sweeter wines well, like Rieslings and Gewurztraminers. It does not do reds so well. The only red we bought was from Denver's own Balistreri winery. We ended up coming home with 15 bottles (3 were a gift). More on those later in this post.

On Friday, we visited St. Kathryn Cellars and Confre cellars (in the same building), the first tasting room off the road. It was the only one we went to before the festival, because we got to Palisade just a few minutes before 5 pm. The wines there were not our favorite, and they seemed to focus on fruit flavored wines, which I'm usually not too fond of. But there were a lot of wines to taste, so it's worth a stop if you're in Palisade.

We stayed in Grand Junction and tried a few restaurants in GJ and Palisade, but none that really excited us. On Friday, we tried Inari's in Palisade. The high point was sitting at our table under an umbrella in a hail storm (and sunny!). We were excited by the sample menu online which included "Southern Fried ½ Rabbit With edamame succotash and potato" and a "Colorado Leg of Lamb Braised for 9 hours with tomatoes and red wine." Yum! But the current menu had nothing like this and was fairly uninspired. B got a ho hum pasta bolognese and I got an even more ho hum fish cake dish. Here's my cutie:


And our calamari starter. It was okay. That "aioli" next to it tasted a lot like thousand island. That's a Colorado wine next to it, of course!


B's half eaten bolognese. I never got around to taking a picture of my dish. You can see the hail in this pic, which is why I'm posting, since it's not a particularly pretty table pic.


After we hit the town of Palisade. First we stopped at Peach Street Distillers, where they make all manner of booze: vodka, gin, brandies, and Colorado's first bourbon. They make everything from Olathe sweet corn. You can sample their wares and buy a number of mixed drinks, which they quaintly serve in jars. B had a bloody mary and I had a gin drink. Here you can see our drinks and the brewing casks (is that what they're called?).


This is not the best quality picture, but it shows the distillery's kitty, who was very friendly.


Check out these gorgeous bottles of pear and peach brandy. Yes, that's a pear in the bottle. There's grappa pictured too. The pear tasted like it needed to develop a bit more, but I think it will be quite good. And that bottle is beautiful! Look for the handmade beads in the shape of pears and peaches hanging from the bottle.


Here's the Colorado Straight Bourbon, "Colorado's first bourbon," also with a handmade bead. I bought a bottle.


As you can see, the distillery made me very happy.


The bar tender was very friendly and suggested we go meet her boyfriend who was tending bar at Palisade Brewery just a few buildings over. The beer there was quite good. Like the dragon decoration?



Later that evening we checked out 626 on Rood in Grand Junction for some late night snacks. The lighting was bad so I didn't get worthwhile pictures and the service was lacking, but the snacks were tasty. We got the seared Foie Gras with caramelized blood orange and Cointreau Noir sauce--the sauce was a little too sweet, but otherwise it was a good dish--and the cheese fries with white truffle oil and French sea salt--hard to ruin those and they most certainly did not. Yum!

On Saturday evening (after the festival), we went to Bin 707 Food and Wine, where we did NOT have any wine (we were actually sick of it). It was okay.

On Sunday, we visited wineries. We started out with a tasting at Whitewater Hill Vineyards. We particularly liked their Gewurztraminer, Muscat Canelli, and Zero Below, which I believe is an ice wine.

We then headed to Carlson Vineyards Winery.


My mom had asked me to buy them some of their Laughing Cat Riesling, saying it's one of the only wines my dad likes. It is really quite good, but I thought their Laughing Cat Gewurztraminer was fabulous. They had kitties in the winery too!

I know I said earlier that I don't generally like fruit flavored wines, but I really liked their Cherry Wine, which is made with pie cherries and tastes like it. They served it in a glass whose rim was dipped in chocolate and together they were just like chocolate covered cherries! They sold the wine with or without some meltable chocolate from Enstroms. I bet you can guess which one I bought.

We headed over to Plum Creek Winery, where we got a nice tour in addition to the tasting. Our tour guide, who takes care of the wines (can't remember what the title is), was really knowledgeable and was so nice. We joined the tour late and after he took just the two of us and "re-did" what we missed. Now that's some service!


I got some pictures of the vines and grapes too. That background scenery sure is different from California wine country.




Last but not least, we visited Garfield Estates winery, a small but lovely little place. Here's B here, showing his love for wine:


On our way out of town, we stopped at one of the roadside "stands" and bought a half bush of peaches (which I just put up today), some peach syrup, and some honey. This is from another stand down the road, but it was just too cute.


And last, but not least, a very Colorado picture of B at a rest stop we stopped at in Eagle. I can't believe I didn't get any pictures of the aspens! But they were in full swing. Gorgeous! It was a great weekend. Happy anniversary (early), honey!


Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry: Love, Laughter, and Tears at the World's Most Famous Cooking School

The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry: Love, Laughter, and Tears at the World's Most Famous Cooking School The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry: Love, Laughter, and Tears at the World's Most Famous Cooking School by Kathleen Flinn

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Another food memoir and another francophile book. I swear I've never been a real francophile, but I've read so many books focusing on Paris lately that I think I'm turning into one. It's just a coincidence too.

I listened to this book on CD and really enjoyed the reader, which is very important. The book is the memoir of a woman who leaves the advertising world (not by choice) and realizes her dream of studying at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. She does all 3 "courses:" basic, intermediate, and superieur. Great food writing and an engrossing memoir.

My only complaint is that the recipes seemed to be after thoughts. I suspect she couldn't use Le Cordon Bleu recipes due to copywright issues, but she could have tied in some of the recipes better. Some made sense with the chapter, some did not. Also, she seemed to use her book to "get back" at a few people she didn't like: difficult house guests, a competitive fellow student, etc. It seemed a little petty.

But I heartily recommend the book.

View all my reviews >>

Hothouse Flower and the Nine Plants of Desire: A Novel

Hothouse Flower and the Nine Plants of Desire: A Novel Hothouse Flower and the Nine Plants of Desire: A Novel by Margot Berwin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I really enjoyed this odd book about a woman who meets strange men who deal in plants and teach her about spirituality, love, and life. One sells her her first plant the other owns a laundromat, in which the floor is covered in moss, the washers and dryers covered in grass, and the place filled with plants. Together, they manage to send her to Mexico to obtain the Nine Plants of Desire.

Weird and grossly entertaining.

View all my reviews >>

Pasta with Bacon and Summer Vegetables


This recipe from Cooking Light has been a hit in our house (except for the picky 7 year old). The original recipe never mentions returning the bacon to the recipe--a MUST!

Cavatappi with Bacon and Summer Vegetables


8 ounces uncooked pasta like cavatappi or farfalle (I used the latter because it's what I had on hand)
4 slices center-cut bacon, chopped (sneak in an extra slice and you'll be happier)
2 teaspoons olive oil (just eye it)
1 cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 medium summer squash (original recipe calls for zucchini; I've used it and yellow squash), quartered lengthwise and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
1 cup fresh corn kernels (about 2 ears) (you could use frozen, but fresh from the cob is much better)
1 pint grape tomatoes (this time I used a mixture of grape and chopped larger tomatoes--I just grab whatever I have on hand in my garden)
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
1/4 cup small fresh basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper


Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt; drain.

While pasta cooks, cook bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat 5 minutes or until crisp. Remove bacon from pan with a slotted spoon, reserving drippings in pan.
Add oil to drippings. Add onion and garlic to pan; sauté 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add summer squash; cook 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Stir in corn and tomatoes; cook 5 minutes or until tomatoes burst, stirring occasionally.
Add pasta to tomato mixture; toss. Cook 1 minute or until thoroughly heated, stirring frequently.
Remove from heat. Add 1/4 cup cheese, basil, salt, and pepper AND BACON! Toss to combine. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Escoffier - The Game

Here's a fun little way to waste time on the computer: test your culinary knowledge with Foodista's game, "Escoffier."

They list 4 ingredients and 4 recipe titles and you have to pick which of the 4 recipes includes the ingredients. Addicting and fun.

Zucchini Brownies


These brownies are so ridiculously rich and delicious, that you'll never notice they have veggies in them. Even my picky 7 year old will eat them, which is truly A-MAY-ZING. I've made other yummy zucchini-containing desserts before and he wouldn't touch them. I think it's because he could see or feel the zucchini.

The key is to do more than just shred the zucchini. You have to totally pulverize it. I use the shredding mechanism on my food processor, then run it through the chopping one until it's zucchini pulp. I don't drain it at all. Since there are no eggs in the brownies, you'll need the moisture.

And these brownies are vegan too! Definitely vegan for the brownie part and if you use margarine (and consider it to be vegan) in the frosting, then that's vegan too. I use butter in the frosting, even though the original recipe calls for margarine, because...well...why use margarine when you have butter? I'm not a margarine kinda gal.

These make a more cake-like brownie. In fact, they remind me more of my mom's recipe for "Rich Chocolate Cake" than a brownie. But nevermind, they're delicious, no matter what you call them.

Zucchini Brownies

1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups shredded zucchini
1/2 cup chopped pecans (original recipe calls for walnuts)

6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup butter (original recipe calls for margarine)
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9x13 inch baking pan.
Pulverize the zucchini as directed above.
In a large bowl, mix together the oil, sugar and 2 teaspoons vanilla until well blended. Combine the flour, 1/2 cup cocoa, baking soda and salt; stir into the sugar mixture. Fold in the zucchini and nuts. Spread evenly into the prepared pan.
Bake for 25 to 35 minutes in the preheated oven, until brownies spring back when gently touched.
To make the frosting, melt together the 6 tablespoons of cocoa and butter in the microwave or in a saucepan; set aside to cool. In a medium bowl, blend together the confectioners' sugar, milk and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Stir in the cocoa mixture. Spread over cooled brownies before cutting into squares.