Friday, March 30, 2012

Is It The Weekend Yet??

This is about how I feel this week. It's been a rough one - broken down car, electrical problems at the house, vet visit for Lola (with not great news about her knee), night meetings, and terrible allergies - but I'm looking forward to relaxing this weekend (that is after I work Saturday morning...ugh!).

Happy Friday everyone!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Drinking Local: Gruet Sparkling Wine

I like to mark milestones and special occasions with a fun and festive glass of sparkling wine. Lucky for us, we've had lots of occasions to drink sparkling wine at our house lately - starting new jobs, skiing breakthroughs, New Mexico statehood, accomplishing goals, etc. We always drink Gruet sparkling wine - usually the Blanc de Noirs - but if you can find it, the Gruet Sauvage is my favorite. The Gruet Winery is located in New Mexico and run by a brother and sister team from the Champagne region of France. They grow their grapes on a vineyard near Truth or Consequences in Southern New Mexico.

Gruet's website describes the Blanc de Noirs as rich and toasty, balanced and superb. I find it light and pleasing, dry with just a hint of fruitiness and all around refreshing. A great way to celebrate any occasion!

This is a tasty and affordable sparking wine. It sells for $14.99 a bottle here, but I often find it on sale for $12.99. Unless I'm buying French Champagne, which I really can't afford, I stick with Gruet.

We served Gruet at our wedding, and it was a hit.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Craving: Salt Water

From the Etsy shop The Wheatfield
I LURVE the beach, and ever since we got back from Nicaragua, I've been dreaming of where we'll go next. Our next beach vacation won't be until 2013, but the planning and anticipation give me a great deal of pleasure.

Now that it is warmer, we like to sit on our front porch in the evenings and talk about where we'll go next. Here's what's currently at the top of our list.

A long weekend in Miami for fishing, art deco buildings and laying around on the beach. We'd also like to drive down to the Keys where we're betting that the fishing is killer.

And for our next big trip, hopefully in 2013, we're thinking of flying to Buenos Aires and then visiting the beaches in Uruguay. I have a feeling we might find ourselves in another our people place.

The Coast of Utopia
What about you? Any travel plans on the horizon? Have you been to any of these places?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

National Park Week: Canyonlands or Capitol Reef?

Did you all know that it is National Park Week from April 21-29? Admission is free to all parks during that week. We just found out about it ourselves, and we've decided to plan a quick camping trip to take advantage.

Moab 2007

We're trying to decide between going to Moab and visiting Canyonlands or going to Capitol Reef. Thoughts anyone??

I always love, love, love going to Moab, and we haven't been in almost two years. Andrew and I took our first camping trip there when we started dating. At the time, I had never been to Southern Utah, and we arrived late at night in the dark. When I unzipped the tent in the morning, I was blown away by the beauty and massiveness of the red rocks. It's one of the most beautiful places I've ever been. Plus, the last time we were there, we found a sweet and isolated camping spot near one of the entrances to Canyonlands.

Our other choice is Capitol Reef, which I've never visited.  We drove through on the way home from Portland several years ago, and we've been wanting to go ever since.

I don't think we can go wrong with this choice!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Last Day: Proud of Myself

Still can't believe I can do this!

Unless it snows again (we did get another 14 inches last week so it's still a possibility, I guess), Saturday was likely our last day of skiing for the season. (That picture above is NOT from this weekend. Most of that snow is gone now.) The snow is pretty slushy - not in the fun way, but in the sloppy, goopy, puddles way - and it is melting fast!

I felt emotional as we came down the mountain yesterday. I know I've written about this before, but I just can't get over how far I've come in the last three months. On our first day of the season,  I would not have believed that I'd be skiing black runs and moguls and having fun doing it. I literally couldn't even visualize myself skiing that stuff. I thought it was absolutely terrifying.

My goal for the season was to ski one black run, and I've completely surpassed that goal.  I can ski most of the mountain now, and I'm having so much fun! It was challenging and there were plenty of times when I wanted to quit and just go back to the groomers and make my turns and not challenge myself. I pushed myself way out of my comfort zone and kept practicing, and it all came together. And that feels really good. It's been a while since I learned something new, and it's hard work. This season has been a great accomplishment for me. I'm really proud of myself!

I'm having a hard time understanding how I'll get to my goal next year - skiing in the trees (eeee, sounds so scary!) - but after this season, I know I'll be able to do it. I can even (kind of) picture myself doing it.

Looking forward to next year...

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Risotto with Leeks and Shiitake Mushrooms

I haven't had a of lot time for cooking this winter with all the skiing taking up my weekends so I had resigned myself to letting spring come without having made risotto. BUT, we had a winter storm last weekend, and I snuck in another cold weather favorite.

This recipe is time consuming to prepare, but it is worth it if you enjoy eating delicious food (and cooking of course). Personally, I find making risotto relaxing and satisfying so I love spending an evening making it. I usually allow myself about two to two and half hours for leisurely making this, but if you multitask and work efficiently, I think you can prepare it in an hour and half or less.

Pour yourself a glass of wine, turn on some jazz, spend a couple hours in the kitchen, and enjoy!.

Risotto with Leeks and Shiitake Mushrooms 

2 large leeks (white and pale green parts only), halved, thinly sliced crosswise (about 2 cups)
3/4 cup whipping cream
1 pound shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, cut into 1/4- to 1/3-inch-thick slices
1 large onion, halved, thinly sliced lengthwise
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted
1 tablespoon white truffle oil
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, divided
1 large onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups arborio rice or medium-grain white rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
5 cups (or more) hot vegetable broth
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons shaved or chopped black truffle (optional) (I don't normally include this)
Chopped fresh parsley

For leeks:
Bring leeks and cream to boil in heavy medium saucepan. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until leeks are tender and cream is thick, stirring often, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Rewarm before continuing.
For mushrooms:
Preheat oven to 400°F. Toss all ingredients on rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast until mushrooms are tender and light brown around edges, stirring occasionally, about 45 minutes. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.
For risotto:
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Add rice; stir 1 minute. Add wine and stir until almost all liquid is absorbed, about 1 minute. Add 1 cup hot broth. Simmer until broth is almost absorbed, stirring often, about 4 minutes. Add more broth, 1 cup at a time, allowing each addition to be absorbed before adding next and stirring often, until rice is tender and mixture is creamy, about 20 minutes longer. Stir in leek mixture, mushroom mixture, remaining 2 tablespoons butter, cheese, and truffle. Transfer to large bowl, sprinkle with parsley, and serve.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Shrimp Scampi Pasta

Andrew really hates shrimp and won't go near it so when he was traveling for work last week I took advantage of the opportunity and made this indulgent pasta... on a weeknight! I rarely eat shrimp, but I like it once in a while, and it goes so well in this garlic-y, buttery dish. It is really easy and quick to prepare, and although it is simple, it feels like a real treat. I love the addition of the red pepper flakes to give it some kick. I made this exactly according to the directions with no modifications.

Shrimp Scampi Pasta

1/4 cup olive oil
1 lb peeled and deveined large shrimp (raw; 20 to 25 per lb)
4 large garlic cloves, left unpeeled and forced through a garlic press
1/2 teaspoon dried hot red-pepper flakes
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 lb capellini (angel-hair pasta)
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Bring a 6- to 8-quart pot of salted water to a boil. 

Meanwhile, heat oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté shrimp, turning over once, until just cooked through, about 2 minutes, and transfer with a slotted spoon to a large bowl. Add garlic to oil remaining in skillet along with red pepper flakes, wine, salt, and pepper and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, 1 minute. Add butter to skillet, stirring until melted, and stir in shrimp. Remove skillet from heat. 

Cook pasta in boiling water until just tender, about 3 minutes. Reserve 1 cup pasta-cooking water, then drain pasta in a colander. Toss pasta well with shrimp mixture and parsley in large bowl, adding some of reserved cooking water if necessary to keep moist.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Raspberry White Chocolate Scones

I woke up at five on Saturday morning and couldn't fall back asleep. I had been eying this recipe for raspberry scones all week, and I decided that I might as well get up and start our weekend off with some baked goodness. Unfortunately, the only grocery open that early wasn't very well stocked so I had to substitute low fat ricotta (ugh!) and use frozen raspberries, but these were still excellent.

Baking at 6:00 am. I promise it is worth it.

I'm not a huge fan of traditional scones. They are usually too dry for me, but these are moist and rich. In addition to being delicious, they are also really easy and quick to make. I usually don't like baking on weekend mornings because I find it so time consuming that it eats into my day, but these are a breeze.

The only modification I made was to add white chocolate chips to try to recreate scones from a restaurant in Albuquerque that we went to often for breakfast when we lived there.  They have amazing, moist, buttery raspberry scones with white chocolate. It's too far to go for scones now that we live in Santa Fe, but I was hoping so badly that these could live up to the Gold Street's scones. And they did! I think they even surpassed Gold Street!!

This is an awesome way to start any morning.

You'll be the envy of your friends!

 And they will make you and everyone you share them with happy!

Raspberry White Chocolate Scones

¾ cup whole milk ricotta
⅓ cup heavy cream
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
¼ cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon table salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 cup raspberries, fresh or frozen
½ cup white chocolate chips

Adjust a rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat. In a large measuring cup, combine the ricotta and heavy cream. Combine the flours, baking powder, sugar, and salt in the food processor. Add the butter and pulse until the butter is cut into pea-sized pieces. Add the raspberries and pulse a few times to break them down. Add the ricotta mixture and chocolate; pulse just until the dough is evenly moistened but still looks crumbly. 

Transfer the dough to a well-floured work surface and pat into a ball. Knead the dough a few times, then pat it out into a 7-inch square that is about 1-inch thick. Cut the dough into 9 squares. Transfer the scones to the prepared baking sheet. Bake until golden brown around the bottom edges, 16-20 minutes. Transfer the scones to a wire rack and cool about 10 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Springing Ahead

I’ve been rooting hard for winter this year - eating my fair share of crêpes to give winter vigeur, praying for more snow and planning lots of hearty après-ski dinners, but in a matter of days my entire state of mind has changed. Funny how it happens so fast.

We’ve been skiing every weekend since December and we just had another blizzard on Friday with 11 inches of snow so it has been a great winter, but I stayed home from the ski basin on Sunday and I was blown away by how warm it was in town.

I went to the garden store, planned out our SFG boxes, planted our seed starts and even hung out in the backyard where our bulbs are popping up. According to our water wise calendar we’re supposed to start watering this month, which felt impossible last week, but with the time change and warm sunny evenings this week, it really feels like spring.

I may be getting ahead of myself because we’re expecting another blizzard this weekend, and I’ll be honest, a few more weeks of skiing sounds pretty good. But, this week, I’ve been enjoying opening windows, propping the back door open, playing with the girls in the backyard and feeling like summer is just around the corner.

It feels so good to open the house up and let fresh air in!

I’m excited to start making our summer plans. We’re going to build a fence in our front yard, figure out what to do about the cabin, plant and eat lots of tasty veggies, finally try grilled pizza (Kelsey's tutorial last fall convinced me we can do it!), go on the Princeton trip, and bag a few peaks (so fun to say!). Unfortunately, we didn’t pull any rafting permits of our own this year, which is a real bummer, but it means that we’ll make some new friends tagging along on other peoples’ trips.

Happy springing ahead!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Comforts of Marriage

I am catching up on This American Life episodes, and I listened to the Valentine's Day show today at the gym. The theme is "What I Did For Love," and the first act features Kurt, a guy who dated his college girlfriend for 10+ years.  They met when they were 17 and started dating right away. When they are 30, they decide to take a month-long break from their relationship to sleep with other people before they get married. As you can imagine, this doesn't go as planned, and they end up breaking up.

At the end of the act, Kurt says he has a plan for marriage if he ever does marry. He wants to commit for seven years, and then after seven years, the marriage will end unless he and his wife decide to recommit and remarry. He thinks this will make the relationship stronger.

I had a same page moment with Ira Glass when he responded to Kurt's theory. Ira said that he disagreed because one of the comforts of marriage is knowing that there isn't a an out in seven years. Even if you're not getting along with your spouse right now in the short term it is okay because you've made a commitment and you know that you're going to work it out. Even if you are hating each other right now, it is comforting to know that you have time to work it out and that makes it easier. Same page, Ira, same page!

I remember before we got married, I had a couple of friends who were married tell me that it doesn't feel any different. That we'd wake up the next day and we'd be married, but we'd still have the same life. And, I wasn't expecting to feel all that different after our wedding, but you know, I feel a lot different being married than being engaged or dating. We are officially a family now, and we've committed to staying together for the rest of our lives. That really means something, and Ira is right, it is comforting to know that even if we have a spat or disagree about something, we will work it out like families do. We know we will and we have the time to do it and that is so comforting. For me, that is a big change from dating. Even if we're not on the same page about a particular issue we'll figure it out because we are on the same team.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

It's A Start

Lola is finally on the mend! Her torn ACL is bothering her less and less, and we can now go on short walks around the neighborhood. I know she’s dying to run free and wild (maybe to Paris? She does understand French after all), but this is a start.

p.s. do you read Duncan? I think he is too cute! Andrew gets this comic on his google page each morning and sends me the daily Duncan at work. It’s a fun way to start the day with a smile.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Chicken Tagine with Apricots and Almonds

This is soooo good, you guys! I've made it before using a cast iron pan and cover, but Andrew's dad gave me a tagine for Christmas this year. I'm finally getting around to using it and kicking myself for not breaking it in sooner because not only is it gorgeous, but the chicken was moist and tender and the flavor and fragrance was all around awesome. This would be a fun dish to serve to guests. I like to serve this with wild rice (Minnesotan wild rice, of course) because it goes well with the apricots.  Not very authentic, I'm sure, but it tastes good.

Chicken Tagine with Apricots and Almonds

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup olive oil
2-3 pounds skinless chicken tenders (depending on how much chicken you like. I used about 2 pounds)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 medium red onion, halved, then sliced 1/4 inch thick
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
5 fresh cilantro sprigs
5 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons mild honey
1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
1/2 cup dried Turkish apricots, coarsely chopped (you can substitute California apricots, which are less sweet)
1/2 cup slivered almonds

Stir together ground cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, pepper, 1 teaspoon salt, and 2 tablespoons oil in a large bowl. Add chicken and turn to coat well. 

Heat butter and 1 tablespoon oil in base of tagine (or you can substitute a skillet), uncovered, over moderate heat until hot but not smoking, then brown half of chicken, turning over once, 8 to 12 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Brown remaining chicken in same manner, adding any spice mixture left in bowl. 

Add onion and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt to tagine and cook, uncovered, stirring frequently, until soft, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, 3 minutes. Tie cilantro and parsley into a bundle with kitchen string and add to tagine along with 1/2 cup water, chicken, and any juices accumulated on plate. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, 30 minutes.

While chicken cooks, bring honey, remaining cup water, cinnamon stick, and apricots to a boil in a 1- to 2-quart heavy saucepan, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until apricots are very tender (add more water if necessary). Once apricots are tender, simmer until liquid is reduced to a glaze, 10 to 15 minutes. 

While apricots cook, toast almonds in a pan over medium heat until browned.

Ten minutes before chicken is done, add apricot mixture to tagine. Discard herbs and cinnamon stick, then serve chicken sprinkled with almonds on top.

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Desire to Hunker Down

I come from a place so wonderful and beautiful and perfect that most people don’t leave it. I was one of the fools who wandered off to try something new and ended up in the Land of Enchantment Entrapment. Yes, my people are a hunkering down people. With the exception of one cousin who lives in Washington, D.C. all of my people are still in Minnesota. I doubt my parents will ever leave Northeast Minneapolis, let alone Minnesota. I love the loyalty of Minnesotans, and even though I don’t actively live there anymore, I still consider it my home. As Andrew likes to say, I currently reside in New Mexico, but my heart lives in Minneapolis. I do love New Mexico, but it is a much different love than my love for Minnesota.

Andrew on the other hand comes from an opposite people. His mom is from Memphis, his dad from San Antonio, they met in Nashville, and have lived in Manhattan, Illinois, Salt Lake City, Seattle, and Portland during Andrew’s thirty years. His mom talks about moving to Africa or maybe Italy. Everyplace is on the table for them.

All of that moving growing up and not really having a home beyond where his parents are currently living has made Andrew a hunkering down people too. He moved to New Mexico with the plan to stay for a pretty long time and make his own home. I moved here with the plan to stay for two years of graduate school and move back to the wonderful land of milk and honey as quickly as possible. That was eight years ago.

So, here we are - two hunkering down people making a life in New Mexico. Sometimes I think about leaving and moving someplace new, and I wonder if we’ll ever do it. But, New Mexico is a place we both love and that makes us happy. I don’t’ know if we could find that balance somewhere else. Salt Lake City has been looking pretty appealing to me lately – being in a real city with lots of restaurants and entertainment, a bigger job market, more affordable housing choices and still with access to the mountains, amazing recreation opportunities, natural beauty. That seems like a pretty good place to hunker down too.

One thing is for sure, wherever we are, we’ll be hunkering down!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Going For It

Learning to ski has become a bit of an obsession. I find myself thinking about skiing a lot, mostly in the quiet times that I have to myself - in the shower, on walks, at night before I fall asleep. I dream about skiing too, and this morning, I dreamed about a new run I tried yesterday. In my dream, I passed another skier and heard him say, wow, she's really going for it. And I woke up this morning thinking isn't it great when you hear someone say, "wow, she's really going for it!" and you think "yeah, I can do this!" That was a pretty good way to start the day.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Needle Thursdays*

*so named by Andrew because I go to acupuncture followed by knitting club.

I came home from acupuncture tonight and felt great. I have no medical training, and I only know my personal experience, but I thought I'd share it with you. I went in this afternoon feeling grumpy and tired, and I left feeling happy and energized. It feels like a treat every time I go.

I suffered from terrible sinus trouble for half my life that made me feel like my head was in a cloud pretty much all of the time. There were a few clear days when I felt good, and it was remarkable because I realized just how badly I felt most of the time.

I started going to acupuncture about three years ago for my sinus pain and allergies. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I had gone to every type of doctor and specialist possible through my insurance in Western medicine. I was taking sudafed daily, and I knew that couldn't go on for the rest of my life, but I saw no relief in sight. A friend recommended her acupuncturist who conveniently accepted my insurance.

It took a few months of weekly visits for my body to expel whatever it was that was lodged in my sinuses, but it worked. As my acupuncturist said, you've had this problem for 15 years, it's not going to go away in a couple of weeks. It took my body a while to find its balance, but I'm happy to report that I haven't taken sudafed since! I feel soooo much better now than I did a few years ago when I constantly had sinus headaches and pain in my face, teeth and neck.

Since I started going three years ago, I've had treatments for more than just sinus pain and allergies. She can also boost my immune system and help rid my body of toxins, reduce stress, alleviate muscle pain, promote digestive health, and lots more. 

Going to acupuncture treatment is so relaxing and calming. The setting feels a lot like a spa, and she even gives me a neck massage before the treatment and a back massage after.

During the allergy season, I go every other week or so, and when it is really bad, I go every week. For the rest of the year, I go every two to three weeks for maintenance treatments. It is very affordable ($15 per visit with my insurance), and I feel much more comfortable with this treatment versus medication.

Do you go to acupuncture or use any other "alternative" medecines?
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