Friday, May 8, 2015

Rhubarb Margaritas


I made these for my articles club last week, and they are, in my opinion, a perfect spring cocktail. They are just a little bit sweet, and they pack a nice punch from the lime juice.

Rhubarb Margaritas

2 ounces rhubarb simple syrup
2 ounces tequila
1 ounce fresh lime juice
1/2 ounce Cointreau

Fill a glass with ice and add all ingredients. Mix well and serve. Garnish with lime slices.

Makes 1 drink.


Friday, May 1, 2015

April 2015 // This is How We Do


April has shaken things up. Past efforts, ideas and energy caught up with us (in a good way) this month. I'm not sure where all the balls that are in the air are going to land, but I'm certain that all this energy flowing is going to bring some big changes! It's so interesting how once you take a leap on one thing, all sorts of other things start unsticking themselves. It's exciting! 

I biked, happy houred, napped in the woods, bowled and sewed. I tidied up my stuff and donated and threw away bags and bags of unneeded things. Life is always lighter with less stuff weighing me down. 

About a year ago, we rearranged our house to have a whole room for working on creative projects in our living room, and this space has been fully used lately. The creative work space has even overflowed into the guest room. It feels good to be growing into our house and really making it work for our needs. 


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Weekend Getaway to Silver City, NM


Andrew and I recently took a weekend trip to Silver City in southwestern New Mexico, and it was just the ticket to help me feel refreshed and excited for spring. I wanted a quick trip to relax, spend some time outdoors, escape my spring allergies and really feel like we had gotten away from home. It felt so good to get out of town.

We took the scenic route through the Gila National Forest, which is absolutely stunning. Andrew had never been to Silver City, and I was excited to show him the charming little town.


We arrived late in the afternoon and checked into our room at the Murray Hotel, a recently renovated Art Deco hotel from the 1930s. It is still a little rough around the edges as the renovations continue, but I appreciated the fact that they didn't wait until everything is absolutely perfect before opening. We had a cute little corner room on the 4th floor, with a yellow and black tiled bathroom and a tiny closet. I had read reviews that the rooms were small, but it was the perfect amount of space for us.

I thought people in Santa Fe eat early, and in hindsight, it makes total sense that people in an even smaller town would eat earlier too, but I learned that 8:00 pm dinner reservations in Silver City means that you are shutting down the place. It also means that you'll be rewarded with extra food from the chef because it is the end of the last night of weekend service. We did a tasting menu at the Curious Kumquat. This place was highly rated, and the food was quite good, but it was also kind of odd and incongruous. They served us a vegetable tisane in red wine glasses (hello boiling hot water!) with our first course and that seemed downright weird. It was also so abrasive that it detracted from the other courses. I think if the chef had left that out, it would have been a much more enjoyable menu all around. The courses were small and rich and the entrees were enormous. We had plenty of leftovers and ended up having our desserts packed up, which was such a nice treat the next day after biking. We also ate dinner at Cafe 1Zero6. The chef posts the menu a few days in advance and we emailed in our order. We were there for an Italian night, but I would have like to have tried his Thai food. The food was very good and obviously made with love but very rich, and without realizing it, the two entrees we ordered had the same rich white sauce. The service was excellent, and we had a lot of fun chatting with our waiter about good spots for biking in the area. Other food highlights in Silver City included hoagie sandwiches from Diane's Deli and gelato from Alotta Gelato. I enjoyed peppermint bon bon with thin mint Girl Scout Cookie chunks. Yum!


The main focus of our trip was biking and trying some new trails. We wanted to ride trail networks since it was our first rides of the season, and it didn't seem wise to start out on a 25-mile trail straight away. Andrew found two nice networks for us to ride. The first is called Little Walnut and it is a short ten minute drive from town. The best part about this network is that it connects to the Great Divide Trail. It is a dream of Andrew's to ride the entire trail someday, and it was so fun to check it out. Also, we saw a javelina, which made my day! The CDT in this section is a dream, a well maintained, gorgeous trail. I was hoping we'd run into some bike packers, but we didn't see anyone on the trail at all. Where is everyone in Silver City on a Sunday afternoon?? After riding, we had a picnic of champagne, ancho rabbit, mole negro cauliflower, creamy mashed potatoes and kumquat cake with white chocolate under the large Ponderosa Pines. So perfect.

We also rode the Fort Bayard Trail System. We started from the Dragonfly Trailhead, which starts out easy and rolling and then drops down to single track near Twin Sisters Creek. The maps for the main loops were easy to follow, but we set off to explore and eventually ended up at Fort Bayard. We had a picnic under the trees, although this time it was granola bars and shot bloks. These are easy trails, but we love getting out and exploring and it's nice to ride side by side talking and scheming.

For maps, directions and tips, we found the folks at the Gila Hike & Bike to be very friendly and helpful.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Spanish Tapas Dinner Party Menu


 
marinated manchego
fennel and winter citrus salad
tapas meatballs


New Year's Eve 2014 

Spanish Tapas Dinner Menu

Empanadas Two Ways
Chicken, Chorizo and Olives
Roasted Sweet Potato, Caramelized Onion & Smoked Gouda

Marinated Manchego with Roasted Peppers

Patatas Bravas

Tapas Meatballs

Tomato Bread

Slow Roasted Tomatoes with Goat Cheese

Artichoke Olive Tapenade

Spanish Cheeses, Charcuterie and Olives

Fennel and Winter Citrus Salad

Dark Chocolate Tart with Gingersnap Crust

Cranberry Shrub Cocktails

Sparkling White Wine

...

This is one of my favorite menus and I think one of the best that I've planned and executed. Recipe notes and links after the jump. 

Monday, April 6, 2015

March 2015 // Burning off the Fog


March was pretty wonderful, especially after the heaviness of February.

The month started with spectacular skiing, pushing my personal limits and one last class with my favorite instructor. We took a fun weekend getaway to Silver City, continued Century training class and started doing our after-work mountain bike rides thanks to the extra daylight in the evenings. March felt like a good turning point to get off the cozy couch, out of the house and on the trails in the fresh air.


The only bummer was my seasonal allergies. Everyone in town seems to be suffering, even my poor puppy...

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Chicken Pot Pies


I know I should be focused on spring, but I have to share one last winter recipe before I let go of the cold weather. This recipe has been in my draft folder for months, and because it is really amazing and wonderful, I don't want to wait until next year to share it!

On the rare occasions that my mother was out of town when I was a kid, my dad would always rotate through a handful of easy dinners. Corned beef and hash, pork chops and rice, hot dogs and frozen pot pies. It wasn't until I was an adult that I had a homemade pot pie, and they are a far cry from those frozen ones. This recipe is a little time consuming, but it's not difficult and it is definitely worth it. They are the best homemade chicken pot pies I've ever had. The crust is buttery and flaky and the filling is rich and velvety. 

I spent a Sunday evening making these, and for old times sake, I turned on Swiss Family Robinson. Did anyone else watch the Sunday evening Disney movies with Michael Eisner every week when you were a kid?


Chicken Pot Pies

For the lid:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon fine sea or table salt
13 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, diced
6 tablespoons sour cream or Greek-style yogurt
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1/4 cup very cold water
1 egg, beaten with 1 teaspoon water, for egg wash

For the filling:
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 1/2 to 4 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken parts (breasts, thighs and drumsticks are ideal)
1 to 2 glugs olive oil
2 medium leeks, white and light green parts only, cut in half lengthwise and then into 1/2-inch slices (About 1 1/2 - 2 cups)
1 large onion, diced small
1/4 cup dry sherry (optional - I left this out)
3 cups homemade or low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup milk or heavy cream
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup fresh or frozen green peas (no need to defrost)
2 large carrots, diced small (about 1 cup)
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

For assembling and baking:
4 - 6 oven proof bowls

To make pastry lids:
In a large, wide bowl (preferably one that you can get your hands into), combine the flour and salt. Add the butter and, using a pastry blender or your fingertips, cut them up and into the flour mixture until it resembles little pebbles. Keep breaking up the bits of butter until the texture is closer to uncooked couscous.

In a small dish, whisk together the sour cream, vinegar, and water, and combine it with the butter-flour mixture. Using a flexible spatula, stir the wet and the dry together until a craggy dough forms. If needed, get your hands into the bowl to knead it a few times into one big ball (I needed to do this). Pat it into a flattish ball, wrap it in plastic wrap, and chill it in the fridge for 1 hour or up to 2 days.

Meanwhile make the filling:
Generously season all sides of the chicken parts with salt and freshly ground black pepper. If the chicken breasts are particularly large, you can half them to ensure they cook at the same pace at the other parts.

Heat first glug of olive oil over medium-high heat in the bottom of a large Dutch oven (minimum of 4 quarts). Brown chicken in two parts, cooking until golden on both sides. Transfer to a plate and repeat with second half of chicken. Set aside.

Heat second glug of olive oil in the same pot. Add onions and leeks, season with salt and pepper, and saute them until softened, about 7 minutes. If using, pour in sherry and use it to scrape up any bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Simmer until mostly cooked off. Add milk or cream, chicken broth, thyme and bay leaf and bring to a simmer. Nestle the browned chicken and any accumulated juices into the pot. Cover and gently simmer to 30 minutes, after which the chicken should be fully cooked and tender. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board to cool slightly.

Discard the bay leaf. Allow the sauce to settle for a few minutes, then skim the fat from the surface using a wide spoon; reserve it for another use, or this: In a medium bowl, mash butter (feel free to replace any part of it with skimmed chicken fat from the previous step) and flour together with a fork until a paste forms and no flour is still visibly dry. Pour one ladleful of filling over it, and whisk until smooth. Add a second ladleful, whisking again. Return this butter-flour-filling mixture to the larger pot, stir to combine, and bring mixture back to a simmer for 10 minutes. The brothy base should thicken to a gravy-like consistency. Adjust seasonings, if needed. Add carrots and peas to stew and simmer for 3 minutes, until firm-tender. Shred or dice the chicken, discarding the bones and skin or saving it for another use. Return chicken to stew and re-simmer for 1 minute. Stir in parsley.

To Assemble and bake pies:
Heat your oven to 375 degrees. Ladle filling into oven proof bowls, filling only to 1 to 1 1/2 inches below the rim to leave room for simmering. Depending on how big your bowls are, you will be able to fill 4 to 6 bowls. I filled five.

Divide chilled dough into a equal sections depending on how many bowls you have to cover. Roll each section of dough out into rounds that will cover your ovenproof bowls or baking dishes with a 1-inch overhang. Cut vents into rounds.  Whisk egg with water to make an egg wash. Brush edges of bowls with egg wash, or if you like lids that easily lift off your bowls and are willing to risk that they may slip slightly into the bowl when baking, you can skip this. Place a lid over each bowl, pressing gently to adhere it to the outer sides of the bowl. Brush the lids with egg wash.

Bake until crust is bronzed and filling is bubbling, 30 to 35 minutes.

Do ahead: The dough for the lids can be made up to 3 days in advance and chilled. The filling can be made up to a day in advance and re-warmed before assembling and baking the pot pies.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Maple Granola


I love having jars of homemade granola around the house both because it tastes good and because buying bags of it can really add up. Making granola at home is easy and affordable, and it's a good way to use up things from the pantry like flaxseed meal, sunflower seeds, chia seeds and various nuts.

This recipe isn't too sweet, and if you like a sweeter granola you can add more maple syrup. This recipe makes about two quarts of granola. I use this recipe as a base and the measurements are for reference, but when I'm making this I just estimate.


Maple Granola
From Smitten Kitchen found here

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup unsweetened shredded or flaked coconut
1 cup walnuts or pecans, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup toasted wheat germ
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 large egg white, whisked until frothy
1 1/2 cups dried fruit, chopped if large pieces (I leave this out because I don't like it)

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees, and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Combine all ingredients except the egg white and dried fruit in a large bowl, tossing to coat evenly. Stir the egg white into the granola mixture, distributing it throughout. Spread it in a single layer on the lined baking sheet.

Bake for 45 to 55 minutes. About halfway through the baking time, use a large spatula to turn over sections of the granola carefully, breaking them up as little as possible. Rotate the pan if granola is baking unevenly. When it is evenly browned and feels dry to the touch, transfer the pan from the oven to the cooling rack. Cool completely. Once it’s completely cool, break up granola into whatever size clusters you want. Sprinkle in dried fruit.

The granola keeps at room temperature in an airtight container for 2 weeks.
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