Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014: I CHOSE

A year ago, I picked the word CHOOSE as my word for 2014. I wanted to focus more on recognizing the agency I have and not let myself get caught up in feeling like things are happening to me. This is my life, this is it. It's not happening to me. I'm in the driver's seat.

I think I've done a good job of choosing and being aware of the results of my choices. One thing that has helped me is phrasing my decisions as priorities. Taking a culinary class in the spring was more of a priority than having my evenings free. Traveling for pleasure, family's and friends' huge milestones and work was more of a priority than taking a summer or fall class. Improving my mountain biking and spending as much time outside as possible this summer was more of a priority than planting a garden. Et cetera.

This year, I chose

adventure and travel

to pursue hobbies that make me healthier

to take it easier on myself and others

to have more fun

to be more generous

to worry less and let go of more

to take better care of myself

and to do things that I never thought I would do.

I made a lot of solid choices this year, and I'm happier, healthier and more focused than I was last year at this time. I'm looking forward to 2015!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Christmas 2014 in Photos + Christmas Dinner Menu

christmas morning
holiday cheer
stockings hung with care
lola realizing that there are treats in her stocking
ready to bury it in the back yard
pre-christmas zabars dinner
christmas chile
more red and green
braised endives with prosciutto 
squash and onion galette
pretty pomegranate
staying warm
lots of snoozing

and lots of lots of eating...

Christmas 2014 Menu


Radishes with Fancy Salted Butter

Main Course
Pan Seared Duck Breast

Veggie Sides
Braised Endives with Prosciutto
Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Galette

Arugula Salad with Fennel and Pomegranate

Lemon Sabayon with Grapefruit

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas at Home 2014

Every year, she tries to eat her headbands!
This is the second year in a row that Andrew and I will spend Christmas alone together in Santa Fe. I am sad to not be with our families and far-away friends, but I really love our holiday traditions at home too.

Santa Fe is a lovely place to spend the holidays. It is truly festive with a real spirit of holiday cheer in the air. I think it definitely helps me feel more festive to be able to spend time outdoors without being miserably cold.

No matter what we do for Christmas, I have found that the end of the year is always a little hectic and stressful. I usually find myself making unhealthy decisions this time of year and feeling guilty about it. This year, I tried to be very conscious of giving myself a break, not taking on too much and letting go of the guilt involved with over-eating, over-spending and over-indulging that comes with the holidays. I have only partially succeeded in being easier on myself, but it's a start!

This year has been busy and a bit overwhelming with so much traveling, but I wanted to have a fun and festive December so I made a list of the holiday activities that I wanted to do and tried to say no to everything else. This list includes decorating a tree, attending a holiday concert, skiing on Christmas Eve followed by the faralito walk on Canyon Road and party at our friends' house, watching Christmas movies, drinking Champagne and making a big Christmas dinner.

We decorated the house with mistletoe in the doorway, a wreath on the front door, Christmas stockings for the girls, twinkly lights and tiny ornaments on the rosemary plant and a big tree with a handmade skirt from Andrew's aunt. It was only a few years ago that we didn't have very many ornaments, but this year we bought a bigger tree to fit them all. We paid to have the guys at the Christmas tree lot install a tree stand. We usually use our own stand, and it is always an ordeal that often involves securing the tree to the wall with a cable. We decorated our tree, watched the Charlie Brown Christmas movie, drank Champagne and ate pizza. We woke up the next morning to discover that the tree stand was leaking! What a way to start the holidays! They gave us a new stand, and we successfully managed to switch them without having to take down all of our decorations.

We aren't big gift-givers in my family, but Andrew's family exchanges lots of gifts. This year he was in charge of buying gifts, and I was in charge of making gifts. Andrew picked out small but thoughtful gifts to buy for those on our list, and I made lavender linen spray, grapefruit soap, turtles and granola to send along in the packages.

I am ready for a cozy Christmas at home. Thank goodness it involves matching fleecies!

Merry Christmas 2014!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Pretzel Turtles

I made these to send to our families in their Christmas packages, but we have been sneaking them all week because they are so good. You can't go wrong with chocolate, caramel, pecans and salty pretzels.

Every year for Christmas for as long as I can remember, we give my dad a box of turtles, and I think it is one of his favorite gifts. Last year I sent our families all homemade gifts, and I didn't want to leave out the turtles for my dad so I found this recipe. These turtles are incredibly easy to make, which isn't usually a criteria I consider when planning my cooking adventures, but at this time of year with all the hubbub of the holidays, a quick recipe is really appreciated.

Pretzel Turtles

35 mini pretzels
35 individually wrapped caramel candies
35 whole pecan halves
10 ounces bittersweet chocolate

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place the pecan halves in a single layer on a baking sheet and put in the oven for 5 to 6 minutes, shaking the pan once halfway through, until they're lightly toasted. Remove them after they're toasted and put them on a plate to cool.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Arrange the pretzels neatly on the pan, then top each pretzel with an unwrapped caramel. Place the pan into the oven for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the caramels are softened but definitely not melting. Remove the pan from the oven. Gently press a pecan half onto each caramel, just enough for the caramel to fill the pretzel. Set them aside to cool.

Meanwhile, melt the chocolate in a double boiler. Spoon small dollops (1 1/2 teaspoons or so) of chocolate over each pretzel. Allow them to cool completely before serving.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Campari Love, Love


Campari love, everybody tells me so
Campari love, no, no, no! (Yes, yes, yes!)
(sung to the tune of Can't Buy Me Love by The Beatles)

Andrew sang this to me the other day at the liquor store when I bought a bottle of Campari. Moments like that always make me so thankful that we found each other!

Andrew is out of town this weekend, and I made myself a pamplemousse as an apéritif last night before eating the shrimp scampi pasta I have whenever he is out of town. Isn't it stunning? 

I've been trying to expand my palette for bitterness lately, and although a Negroni is a little much for me at this point, this cocktail is a good one to ease into liking Campari. Actually, it requires very, very little easing in because it is delicious. The Campari amplifies the flavor of the grapefruit, and it is as good as it is gorgeous. 

From Orangette

1/2 ounce Campari
2 ounces fresh squeezed grapefruit juice, strained
2 ounces dry white wine

Fill a shaker with ice, Campari, grapefruit juice, and wine. Shake and pour into a glass. 

Makes 1 drink.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Thanksgiving Scenes 2014

In typical fashion, I have zero photos of any people, some photos of the food and about a hundred photos of the cat, Madame. I can't resist an animal photo shoot!

We went to Albuquerque to have dinner at a friend's house. We drank sazeracs, and he made us catfish courtbouillon with fried shrimp, green beans, biscuits and a variety of pies.

For appetizers, I made olive oil crackers, beet dip, goat cheese with roasted garlic, kale pesto with pepitas and roasted butternut squash.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Cranberry Lemon Scones

I have been looking forward to baking with fresh cranberries since last Thanksgiving, and these scones were at the top of my list. The recipe is for biscuits, but these are really more of a scone. I love the tartness of the cranberries and the subtle freshness from the lemon. The original recipe calls for meyer lemon, but my grocery store didn't have them so I just used a regular lemon.

Cranberry Lemon Scones
Slightly adapted from Joy the Baker

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup cold buttermilk
1 cup fresh cranberries, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
1 beaten egg for brushing the tops of the scones before baking
Turbinado or granulated sugar for sprinkling on top before baking

Place a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, pinch of ginger, salt, and sugar. Cut in butter (using your fingers or a pastry cutter) until mixture resembles a coarse meal. Work the butter into the dry ingredients until some of the butter flakes are the size of peas and some are the size of oat flakes.

In another bowl, combine egg and milk and beat lightly with a fork. Add to flour mixture all at once, stirring enough to make a soft dough. Fold in the cranberries and zest.

Turn out onto a floured board and knead about 10 times. Roll or pat out into a 1-inch thickness. Cut into 2-inch rounds using a round cutter or cut into 2×2-inch squares. Reshape and roll dough to create more scones with excess scraps.

Place on an ungreased baking sheet. Brush lightly with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until golden brown on top. Serve warm.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Sunday Supper: Early Winter 2014


Menu planning is one of my favorite ways to pass my free time. We are spending Thanksgiving at a friend's house this year, and I am in serious Thanksgiving-menu-planning withdrawal. I've fed my addiction through planning other menus, including a hypothetical Thanksgiving dinner with slow roasted duck. That menu is a doozy, and I plan to save it for a special occasion dinner this winter. I've also been working on dinner party menus and our New Year's Eve party menu. We are doing Spanish tapas this year! All this planning can only satisfy me so much so this weekend, I put one of my menus into action and made a delicious Sunday supper.

We had a rack of ribs in the freezer that Andrew has asked to eat every weekend for at least two months so I started there. Since this menu involves grilling the ribs outside, this isn't the perfect main dish for this time of year, but I didn't want them to sit in the freezer all winter. We usually make these ribs in the summer after a long bike ride or hike, but trust me, they are tasty any time of year. The basting sauce has bourbon and apple cider so it feels fall-y at least. The ribs do require some planning ahead. I like to remove the membrane and apply the seasoning rub the night before. Check out this handy tutorial for removing the membrane - all you need is a butter knife and a paper towel and it is very quick and easy.

Brussels sprouts on the stalk are too hard to resist this time of year. I halved and roasted them. Simple and perfect. I also made a cauliflower gratin. When I was studying abroad, my host mother would make cauliflower gratiné often in the winter, and it is one of my great regrets that I never got her recipe. This one is spot on. Creamy, cheesy cauliflower gratin on a chilly night? There's not much better!

For dessert, I made an apple galette. I made apple tarts in culinary class, but they were too sweet. I actually printed out this recipe and replaced the one from our book in my standard prep manual in case I had to make it again in class. The dough is a dream - elastic and forgiving, easy to roll out thinly and light and flaky once baked. I used less than half of the sugar that the recipe called for, and to me, it was perfect. We served the galette with vanilla ice cream.

And because it is the end of November, we drank Beaujolais Nouveau, mostly for nostalgic reasons. It was actually pretty good this year, which is a big compliment, in my opinion.


Early Winter Sunday Supper

Brown Sugar and Bourbon Ribs

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Cauliflower Gratiné

Apple Galette


Recipes are after the jump.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Day Trip from Santa Fe: Pecos National Historic Park

This time of year is always hard - shorter days, no daylight after work to do anything fun outside, chilly weekend days and snowy mountain trails. Until ski season starts, I find it harder to be active and feel good, but this year we have been trying to take advantage of free weekend days to do some day trips that we've been wanting to try. I love visiting Pecos, about 30 minutes from Santa Fe, in the summer for fishing and hiking, but I had never taken the time to visit the ruins of the Pueblo and Spanish Mission until recently.

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