Friday, December 31, 2010

Year of the Tiger in review

I am so excited for 2011. I know there are internet servers groaning around the world because they have to support yet another blog post about how excited a blogger is looking forward to a New Year and a new start. Yet, I don't care. Because if there are servers out there that are annoyed, aka feeling feelings, then that's just bad news. At that point, we need to completely forget about my blog and do something about computers having emotions. Am I right? We are five sentences into this post and I am already off track, let's just blame it on the half and half in my coffee.

I have been referring to 2011 as "The Year of the Rabbit" because I want to cook rabbit for the first time this year and I think I'm so funny all the time. Wouldn't you know, this year is the actual Chinese Year of the Rabbit. Awesome.

Rather than share with you a list of resolutions that I will either complete within the week or abandon by late April for my "birthday resolutions" (which I absolutely do. I love resolutions.) I am going to look back at 2010 and share a few best of moments. Taking time to look through a new viewpoint is one of my favorite things to do when thinking about the last year. I'm kind of an old fashioned girl, I like history, I love nostalgia, I love remembering things, even if they just happened. Here is a little who, what, when, where and why about my perspective of 2010:

  • Who: I am tenacious. I learned that this year. I used to call that trait by a number a different names: obnoxious, stubborn, willful, uncompromising. One day, I looked at it from a different angle and called it tenacity, and suddenly the trait found a new purpose. There is a line and I occasionally cross it, but if I was afraid of the other edge of tenacity, there are a few things I would have completely missed out on this year. Things I love, like my job and learning to cook new foods, and that would be so sad. Is it good to recognize faults in ourselves? Sure. It is better, however, to look again and see how a fault can be crafted into a talent or a grace. Turn your attention and effort towards honing those skills, and the original fault will start to resemble the unpolished version of your newly discovered virtue-- that's all it ever was in the first place.

  • What: I like to think I have a pretty good memory, but in all honesty, I'm finding I need to write down more than I used to. Here are a few things I discovered in 2010 and most want to remember.
    • Nothing slows me down like watching sets of waves roll in. Nothing.
    • I like to show people I love them by cooking for them. I guess I think the way to everyone's heart is through their stomach.
    • I love hot air balloons, so much so that I woke up at 6 am every morning to watch them this summer. I love them. I'm like a kid. I'm not embarrassed.
  • When: One evening I sat on the steps that led to the beach while on vacation at the Oregon Coast. I just sat and watched the waves until it was too dark to see the ocean (and too dark to see the raccoon lurking in the bushes-but that is another story). There was no beautiful sunset, there wasn't even much conversation. There was, however, a misty grey fog hanging over a steel blue ocean, and the air was salty and damp. I sat there while my aunts and uncles talked about heart health, my cousins made up jokes and talked about vacations when we were younger, and my dad laughed just a little too loud. I still don't totally know what I felt at that moment, I can't really name it one thing or another. Even though I don't know the emotion I was feeling, I could see, smell, hear, touch and taste the moment. I could completely drink it all in.
  • Where: Traveling undeniably changes one's perspective. I think I have always assumed that the change in geography was enough to do that. Now, I think that you don't necessarily need to change location to have a totally new experience. Tyler and I started the year out with a weekend in Portland visiting friends and attending the Dogs in School art show. This weekend was so random because while Tyler and I went to the same city and the same art show, we were on totally different vacations. I stayed with my friend, Sarah, while he stayed with his brother. Sarah and I went to a show at the Doug Fir, the boys went to the Kennedy school. Sarah and I went to an office party in an old macaroni factory, and the boys caught up with old roommates and friends around the kitchen table. It was the perfect example of why travel is so exciting. You truly can visit the same place 1000 different ways. We returned to Portland later in the year with my whole family for our annual reunion and vacation (as you read above). We stayed out at the coast for about a week in a lovely beach house and then spent four days back in the city. That vacation was completely different from our "two vacations" earlier that year. Portland was a many faceted jewel for me in 2010.
  • Why: The year of the Rabbit (!) has some 20/20 vision on 2010. Here are 11 things that 2011 is definitely going to be filled with if I have anything to do about it:
      1. New travels.
      2. New foods. 
      3. Waves.
      4. Hot air balloons.
      5. Concerts.
      6. A little style (with a lot of help from Common Couture).
      7. Writing.
      8. Baking (fingers crossed!).
      9. Good books.
      10. Dinner parties. Lots and lots of dinner parties.
      11. My wonderful family and friends who always offer new perspective.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A choice courtship

If you've read more than a couple of posts on this blog, you may have noticed I love to cook. But the real deep-seated love belongs to food. I love food. I know what you're thinking, who doesn't love food? I promise, I won't toss out the F word- foodie. But, to be cliche and honest, I'm bananas about food. I have the great fortune of working a job that allows me to spend all day long thinking, researching, reading, writing, tasting and steeping in all things food. Isn't it great that as humans we have the opportunity to enjoy the something that fuels our bodies several times a day? It's brilliant.

Unfortunately, it is clear that not everyone shares this same regard for food. Which is actually quite strange because it is such a basic element in daily life. A walk through the local grocery store features end cap displays of food-like substances (to borrow words from Michael Pollan), solving the "problem" of cooking. Scanning a magazine or newspaper highlights the newest diet trend that vilifies  a single food group, and encourages people to avoid it at all costs.  To which I say, boo. There is no bad or good food in its own right. There is however, a good or bad relationship to food.

A good relationship with food goes beyond simply liking the food on your fork. It is an appreciation of the role food plays in our lives and the grand scheme of life overall. Food tells of a place, a history, a farmer, an animal, an environment. The more disconnected we are from our food the more likely we are to forget the central role it plays in many areas of culture and in our world.

I am going to begin sharing the juicy details of my little love affair with food with each upcoming post. I get it, we're busy. This is America after all. However, I really do believe that a healthy connection to our food is needed now more than ever. It isn't too late too shift our paradigm from food-as-fuel to food-as-fancy and affect some broken systems for the better as we do so. Bon appetit!

After publishing this post, I came across this article, "What Food Says About Class in America" by Lisa Miller at and found the following paragraph exemplifies exactly what I mentioned in the post:

"Claude Fischler, a French sociologist, believes that Americans can fight both obesity and food insecurity by being more, well, like the French. Americans take an approach to food and eating that is unlike any other people in history. For one thing, we regard food primarily as (good or bad) nutrition. When asked “What is eating well?” Americans generally answer in the language of daily allowances: they talk about calories and carbs, fats, and sugars. They don’t see eating as a social activity, and they don’t see food—as it has been seen for millennia—as a shared resource, like a loaf of bread passed around the table. When asked “What is eating well?” the French inevitably answer in terms of “conviviality”: togetherness, intimacy, and good tastes unfolding in a predictable way."
This is a great read and illustrates the parallels of food in our culture. I definitely recommend taking a few minutes to read it, especially as we head into Thanksgiving week.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Savory Oatmeal

The following recipe was inspired by a conversation with my boss about wether or not it's ok to have risotto for breakfast (the answer is of course, yes). It got me thinking about what breakfast risotto would be like, and bam, savory oatmeal was born!

On the stove:
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 small onion or shallot, diced
1/2 small green pepper, coarsely chopped
1 cup quick cooking rolled oats
2 cups water
1 or 2 eggs
Shaved cheddar
salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbsp olive oil

  1. Saute the garlic, onion, and green pepper in the olive oil in the bottom of a medium sauce pan, for about 5 minutes or until onion is translucent. 
  2. Add 2 cups of water to the pot and bring to a boil, add oats, reduce heat and cook 1-5 minutes.  Stir occasionally to prevent from sticking.  I like to wait until most of the excess water is cooked into the oats.
  3. While the oats are cooking, cook one or two eggs however you like them and serve over the oatmeal.
  4. Top with cheese and salt and pepper to taste.


  1. Prepare instant plan oats according to package.
  2. Mix in sauteed vegetables, top with eggs and season. 
Voila! Breakfast "risotto." 

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Bright Idea: A Fall Dinner Party

Like many current trends, I am heavily influenced by the AMC TV series Mad Men. It's not only one of the single best things on TV at the moment, it's causing this retrospective (zing!) transformation on pop-culture lately. From fashion to home design to etiquette, this show is reviving the 1960's- and I'm totally falling for it. Head over heels.

After watching Joan describe to her husband how Emily Post says to set a table ("You'll be at the head, and I am at the other end and it's boy-girl-boy-girl...I won't have your boss's wife thinking your wife doesn't know how to set a table.") I realized I desperately wanted to master the art of a dinner party.  Hospitality is a synonym for love in my book.

However, dinner parties are relatively hard on the wallet and I don't have a kitchen large enough to accommodate the task of cooking for more than a few (read: 1.5) people at once. How would I host a gathering of my closest friends?

While discussing the dilemma of wanting to throw a celebration of food and friends without independent wealth and a chef's kitchen, my friend Sarah had a brilliant idea. Why not share the load and thus share the fun? Suddenly, despite budgets, we had something in the works. In the words of Betty Draper, "Only boring people are bored."

The plan:
  • Find a menu that featured the flavors of fall and a wine pairing guide.
  • Invite foodie friends to select their course and commit to two bottles of wine to compliment their meal.
  • Secure a location and a date for the party.
The Menu (adapted from The Girl and the Fig cookbook):
  • Goat cheese stuffed figs with Gin martinis.
  • Artisan cheese course.
  • Heirloom tomato salad.
  • Chicken breasts with tarragon mustard sauce and Haricots vert.
  • Rosemary creme brulee.
The Scene:
  • Cocktail dress attire.
  • Frank Sinatra on vinyl.
  • Candles, cloth napkins and harvest themed centerpieces.
The Outcome:
  • One of my favorite nights to date

This night was an amazing success. I knew my friends loved to celebrate, but I did not realize how much. The night began with cocktails on the patio under a brightly festooned tree. Prom-style photos inevitably took place. But when you have so many beautiful people buffed-up and camera ready in one place, you really have no choice but to document it.

We dined for hours, with each course presented by the couple who prepared it. We wined as well, no glass was left empty-- though the frequency of refills varied per person. We toasted to the things we wanted to celebrate in each other, and we roasted the things that were 'ripe for parody.'

The pocketbook does not need to be deep for one to live richly.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Get Well Sooner

In Colorado, September kicked off with a few rough weeks.  The Fourmile fire, that began in the hills just to the west of Boulder, ended up being the costliest and most destructive fire in the state's history.  After a number of smaller-sized flare ups throughout the foothills and high temperatures keeping the landscape a dry tinderbox, the community was beyond ready for fall to come around and begin cooling things off.  

This past week brought us the first official day of fall, a few days of cooler temperatures and a even a couple of desperately needed rain-showers. However, as changing seasons often do, it also brought along an irritating cold. Now, don't get me wrong, I enjoy any excuse to watch SNL marathons on VH1- and believe me, I really do. However, sinus headaches really throw a kink in the plans.

Cue: Tyler's chicken, jalapeno and lime soup. 

2 cloves garlic, ¼-inch dice
2 tbsps olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
4 jalapenos, chopped and seeded (leave seeds to taste, more seeds mean more spice)
1 qt. chicken broth
4oz chicken breast, cubed
1 tomato, seeded and julienned
1/4 cup lime juice
cilantro to garnish
2 avocados, cubed

  1. Sauté the garlic in about 2 tbsps olive oil (about two swirls around an 6-qt stock pot) until lightly browned and slightly softened.
  2. Add chopped onions and jalapenos and continue sauté until softened.Add chicken, chicken broth, lime juice and the tomato. Bring soup to a boil, then reduce to medium-low heat and let simmer for 15 minutes.
  3. A few minutes before serving, add chopped cilantro to the soup. Ladle soup into bowls and top with avocado. Salt and pepper, to taste.

The soup is supposed to be super spicy, but you can control the heat by seeding the jalapenos or topping the soup with sour cream. When one of us is feeling a cold come on this soup never lets us down.

We paired the soup with Mesta Temparanillo table wine from Spain.  It is the the September red of the month at The Boulder Wine Merchant- which is always, always, always a great buy. I would love to say that the red wine did something scientific to benefit my cold, but the truth is, I just love this wine with spicy food because the bouquet of flavors stands up to spice really well. Thank you, Spain, for this wine win.

Finally, and this is not a typical addition to a meal for me, I enjoyed a pour of bourbon after dinner.  I attribute this bit of homeopathic knowledge to my Great-Grandmother, who strongly believes the answer to a sore throat or a cough comes in the form of a hot toddy. I am coming around to this logic, as I much prefer a pour of a drinkable alcohol I know the name of to a cherry-flavored alcohol syrup goo that I can barely choke down (I'm looking at you, Vick's). 

Not being a huge fan of whiskey (unlike my bourbon-collecting husband), I have to say that Dead Guy Whiskey, from Rogue Ales out of Newport, Oregon, is delicate enough to sip while powerful enough to, dare I say, give your immune system just the right amount of liquid-courage to knock out a cold. 


Eat, drink and be well!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Jazzy iced coffee

I had a recent conversation with a friend, wherein she told me that hanging out with me had led to her drinking coffee in the afternoon. After making sure that wasn't a euphemism for me being boring, I told her "you're welcome."  As far as I'm concerned, an increase in coffee consumption is a good thing, so long as you are savoring and enjoying this ancient beverage. Oh, I just love coffee.

More than loving coffee, I love really carefully crafted coffee. Artisan coffees have caught a bad rep over the years, in large part due to an unwieldy purveyor who has doused coffee in a slew of syrups and whipped cream and calling it gourmet. This is a bad rep that artisan coffee does not deserve.  A well-crafted cup of coffee reflects the thirsty work of a farmer, a roaster, a buyer and a barista who all love to understand the complex nature of a simple bean.  A good cup of coffee offers a sense of place, a story of cultivation and careful preparation and is a reliable friend on an early morning.  Oh, I really love coffee.

It was at a Blue Bottle kiosk at the Ferry Building farmers market that I first tried a New Orleans iced coffee, and people, it was worth the absurdly long line I waited in.  Cold brewed coffee with chicory, milk and simple syrup- safe to say it is a joie de vivre.  I was already suspicious that the baristas at Blue Bottle were apron-clad undercover angels, and when I discovered a recipe card for the NOLA coffee on my way out the door, I my suspicions were confirmed. Prep some of the coffee concentrate and keep it in the fridge for up to 5 days to really enjoy these last warm days.

New Orleans Iced Coffee adapted from Blue Bottle Coffee Co.
(we have had the worst time finding chicory in Boulder, so we have opted for the Cafe Du Monde coffee and chicory blend, and it has been a great runner runner up to the Blue Bottle version)
Prepare concentrate in a large enameled cast-iron stock pot with a lid. 
Add a full can of Cafe Du Monde Coffee and Chicory to the stock pot. Cover coffee with 2.5 quarts of cold water. Stir, cover, and let steep at room temp for about 8-12 hours (overnight is perfect). 
Strain the concentrate through a fine-mesh strainer.  You can line a strainer with a large coffee filter or cheese cloth to catch as much sediment as possible.  This will look like used motor oil and should yield about 4-5 cups. Mmmm motor oil. 
To make the simple syrup, combine 3 oz. sugar with 2/3 cup of water over low heat, stirring until dissolved. Agave is a good substitute for simple syrup, just use to taste since it's a little sweeter than sugar.
To serve, pour 3 oz. of coffee concentrate into a tall pint glass.  Stir in a splash of simple syrup and top with low-fat milk. Add in one or two ice cubes.  Put Louis Armstrong on the turntable and spend your coffee break in the French Quarter. 

Sunday, September 5, 2010

A Labor Day meal of epic proPORKtion

It deeply saddens me to say goodbye to the summer, which I suppose is a testament to how great this summer was to me, but shush babe-I hate goodbyes.  In order to soften the blow a little, I planned a special end-of-summer meal that we carted over to the park and grilled out on the picnic table.  Everything's just a little bit more enjoyable over a good meal.

This meal in particular was a stretch for me because I made (pause for dramatic effect) pork chops. Yes, as in swine.  I cooked it. I ate it. I even liked it. This is significant as I've had it out against pork since I was about 8 years old. I have a distinct memory, which I'll spare you the details of, where it ended in me declaring to the world: "I'll never eat pig again!" And I didn't. I ate Kosher. When I didn't eat Kosher I told people that I thought the animals were too cute to be food (lie). I had a bevy of reasons I wouldn't eat it, and for about 16 solid years I stuck to my guns. I saw no pork. I cooked no pork. I ate no pork. 

Sadly, Mr. LovelySplendid totally digs on swine and has long bargained with me and requested I branch out. That I please give pork a chance. Happy Labor Day to him.

As I was planning out the meals for the week I came across this absolutely lovely farm stand on Valmont and 75th called Munson Farm. (Which you have to visit if you are local, because it's totally awesome.) They were selling local peaches the size of softballs and the freshest ears of corn I've ever seen in real life. Once I loaded up on my side, all I needed was a good meat to round out a delicious summer meal. Well, lucky Mister, pork chops were on sale and I was feeling courageous.

Pork Chops with blue cheese, grilled peaches and corn on the cob (recipe for 2)

This recipe was not only delicious but also easy to tote over to the park for a picnic. Add 5 bonus points.

You'll need:

2 pork chops; we opted for smaller sized chops for the budget and my deep-seated fear of hating this dinner.
Roughly 3 tbsps Stoneground or dijon mustard (you can eyeball this)
2 cups water
salt and pepper to taste
Blue cheese to taste; I liked the Salemville Amish cows milk version, which is sold by the wedge at Whole Foods Market.
2 ears of corn
1 giant peach (a la James)

1. Rinse the pork chops under cool water and set aside.  In a large bag, combine the mustard, water, salt and pepper. Once you have your desired consistency and flavor for your brine*, place the pork chops in the bag and seal.  Place in fridge for 2-4 hours to chill and allow the flavors to fully marry. Place the bag in a baking pan in case the zipper lock gives way- unless, of course, you like to live dangerously.  
*Many people add an apple cider to their brine, but I wanted to keep it savory since we were going to be pairing the meat with peaches. 

2. Heat up a greased grill to a medium heat.  Place the pork chops on the grill and cook thoroughly, flipping as needed.  

3. While pork chops are cooking, place ears of corn still in husks directly on the grill. Cook for about 20-30 minutes, or until corn is fully cooked but still crisp in texture. To eat, pull back husks and use them as a handle. (add 5 kitsch points)

4. If you have additional room on the grill, slice peaches in half and place flesh-down the the grill.  Cook these to your desired consistency. I found a good indicator for me was the temperature of the skin. Once the skin began to feel warm to the touch and there were visible grill marks on the flesh of the peach I pulled them off the heat. You can experiment with this one, but probably want to stray away from over cooking since it makes the texture really stringy and saps much of the flavor.

5. About 5-10 minutes before pulling the pork chops off of the grill crumble the blue cheese over the meat so that it begins to soften and melt but is not runny or liquid in texture.

Arrange these items on your plate and pair with your favorite summer beer or wine.  Follow it up with a great conversation with your friends or a Lady GaGa sunset dance party.  Your choice.