friends. grilling. + artichokes.

You know how a recipe often tell you how long it should take to be made? “20 minutes active.” “35 minutes total.” It always takes me double the amount of time stated. At least. I tend to be slow. In all aspects of life. It takes me longer than my friends to get myself dressed and ready to go out the door. It most certainly takes me longer than my husband. I’m not quite sure why. I don’t think I’m that high-maintenance. I guess I’m just detail-oriented? I like to have everything just so. And that takes awhile? This trait is definitely not the best when it comes to cooking. It takes me a long time to get dinner on the table.

My dear friend Rachel and her husband Rob are in town visiting. Rachel is the exact opposite of me in the speediness realm. She’s the fastest person I know. I’m so thankful she’s my friend after so many years of having to wait for slowpoke me. She can look fabulous for a night out in about five minutes, and always finished her Chinese homework long before I did. After years of spending time with her, and many a meal cooked together, I may have improved slightly on my speed, but I’m still not that fast in the kitchen. She, on the other hand, can throw together a meal in minutes. It’s one of the many things I love about her.

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This past Sunday night, we found ourselves around the table in our backyard, eating in the warm, fresh spring air. Mismatched candles light our faces for precious moments of reminiscing, reconnecting, and laughter. We started with whole artichokes dipped in olive oil and lemon juice vinaigrette. Next off the grill was bison flank steak marinated in soy sauce, honey, and garlic. And thick-cut pork chops with paprika. Portabella mushroom caps with olive oil. Whole grilled asparagus and zucchini spears.

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Just a few hours prior, I’d had no idea what we were going to do for dinner. After a intended hike turned short walk in the woods, we decided we should grill that night. I mean, it was 80 degrees! We stopped at Whole Foods to pick up some ingredients, and not only had we not picked out any recipes beforehand, but we were tired, hungry, and a bit rattled by a baby that had been crying with extraordinary force in the car due to the windey mountain roads. Thank goodness for Rachel. She and Rob decisively picked out some vegetables and cuts of meat that I would never have known what to do with.

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Sometimes I’m too caught up on recipes. And doing things “just right.” Rachel reminded me that all you need for a wonderful night is good food, good company, some salt and pepper, olive oil, lemon juice, and spices. And a vintage port doesn’t hurt either.

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Steamed Artichokes
One of the many, many things Rachel has taught me.

1 whole artichoke per person
olive oil
lemon juice
salt + pepper

1. Trim stems off artichokes.
2. Place stem side down in a pan.
3. Add an inch or two of water. Bring water to boil, and steam until artichoke leaves are tender to bite.
4. Place each artichoke in a bowl, drizzle with vinaigrette made of lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper.

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vietnamese sandwiches

Um, have you ever had a bánh mì sandwich made with sausage? Because I hadn’t. Until this past weekend. And let me tell you, they’re on to something. The first time I made bánh mì with pork meatballs I thought it was genius. But those meatballs have nothing on sausage. Homemade handmade housemade sausage.

Let me back up a bit. Last Sunday, Dan and I headed out on our bikes for what I was calling “date day.” We’ve been out on a handful of “date nights” in recent months, but we felt like getting out in the sunshine and enjoying the city just the two of us. I planned a little bike excursion for us since we haven’t been able to bike together since W was born. We crusied along the bike trail alongside the Platte River, and our first stop was for some smoothies at Parsley. I’d heard they were the leaders in juicing in Denver, and some healthy drinks mid bike ride seemed like a good idea. Their smoothies were good, but they were nearly out of blueberries. So, they subbed in half raspberries for the “blueberry bliss” I ordered. It didn’t work out well. You can’t just mess up the integrity of your concoction, can you? I mean, I’m not in the juice business. But it seemed flawed.

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Anyway. Post smoothies and a stop in the park to play some catch, we ended our ride at the new Über Sausage in Lohi. They’d just opend a few days prior (no alcohol yet), but the place was shiny and new and the staff was über friendly. Ordering “The Vietnam” was a no brainer, and we also got “The Club” (rosemary chicken sausage with swiss, bacon, avacado, and tarragon aïoli). They let you pick if you want your sausage on a baguette, pita, or salad. I like the choice, but it also seems like your choice could mess up the overall taste. I mean obviously “The Greek” should be on a pita, but why would you get “The Vietnam” on a pita? We got the “The Cobb” as well, and ponied up $1.25 extra to have siracha mayo on our tater tots (um, how on earth can a little mayo and siracha cost $1.25!?).

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Both sausages were fantastic. The best part about The Vietnam was that the baguette was the perfect thickness and consistency. There’s nothing worse than a baguette that overwhelms the rest of the sandwich.

Moral of this story: if you’re in Denver, go to Über Sausage. If you don’t, buy yourself some appropriately flavored sausages and make your own bánh mì. Stat. Oh and get out on your bike this spring. Biking is fun.

GOOD LOOKIN’ VIETNAMESE SANDWICHES
Pork Meatball Bánh Mì
Saveur’s Banh Mi
Master Banh Mi Sandwich
Banh Mi with Lemongrass Pork
Vegetarian Spicy Banh Mi

great recipes. that your baby will like too.

Before having a baby, I hadn’t thought about many of the challenges that would come along with a little one. (The crying, for example. Oh my gosh the crying. I naïvely thought that babies only cried when they needed something and if their needs were met they didn’t cry much. Maybe this is the case for some magical babies out there, but not mine. I was not prepared for the crying.) One thing I did think a lot about, unsurprisingly, was food. I was barely pregnant when I was thinking daily about how my little one would not EVER be ordering off the “kids menu.” I read Hungry Monkey and French Kids Eat Everything, and formed a lot of strong opinions about how kids should be eating and what is wrong with how a lot of kids in our country are fed. Now, who knows what will actually happen…I’m sure there will unfortunately be quite a few chicken tenders in our future. But nevertheless, I set some mental goals for how I want to feed W, and how I hope she’ll eat. My main principle has been to try my  best to feed her whatever we’re eating, as early as possible.

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Since she started solids at 6 months, she’s tried quite a few new foods. I started off making purées of mostly vegetables (didn’t have her try fruits until after 7 months) but by 8 months she was pretty much done with purées. Despite not having any teeth, she wanted to eat whatever we were eating. Fantastic! Since this is what I wanted anyway. However, there are still some considerations that must be made when planning meals. I tend to make a lot of salads, and salad greens aren’t really something a toothless 10-month old can manage without gagging. But I’ve found a good number of meals that satisfy all members of the table. Including our dog, who gets lots of scraps these days.

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{enjoying some cantaloupe // we love her phil + ted’s high chair! it attachs anywhere so she’s part of the fun}

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bakedpolenta{whole wheat coconut waffles // baked polenta with tomato basil sauce}

FAVORITE RECIPES.
Black Bean Sweet Potato Enchiladas
(Cookie + Kate)
This is one of my all-time favorite recipes. I’ve written about it before. It’s just so easy. So healthy. So delicious. And on top of all that, it’s great for little ones. The sweet potatoes are so soft that they’re easy for little gums to chew, and the black beans with cheese make for yummy and nutritious bites as well.

Baked Polenta with Tomato Basil Sauce (Joy the Baker)
This is a delightful comfort dish. Lacking a bit on the nutrition side, but it’s still a good introduction to the taste of tomatoes and basil. I’d leave out some of the hot pepper flakes, or portion out some polenta before adding the pepper, depending how your kids feel about spicy. I figure kids all around the world are eating spicy food, so you might as well try giving it to them! Also note that this dish gets really hot. Make sure to let it cool before feeding your little one. (Yep, I maybe made that mistake. Felt like a terrible mother…)

Creamy Curried Cauliflower Soup (The Kitchn)
So good! So easy! Delicious for all members of the family. Also freezes well.

Market Fritatta (Lottie + Doof)
This is one of my favorite fritatta recipes. Easy and delicious. And eggs are great for little mouths. (I know some parents prefer to wait until a certain age to give eggs…I subscribe to the research that indicates there’s little evidence that waiting to give children certain food will prevent allergies and in fact being exposed to foods earlier rather than later may prevent some allergies. But of course do whatever you’re comfortable with!)

Red Lentil Dal with Tamarind and Asparagus (Food + Wine)
I make a lot of lentil/dal dishes for W. They’re easy to eat since they breakdown so much, and are also a good source of protien and fiber. I really liked this recipe though, because it introduces some new flavors – tamarind and asparagus. Asparagus tips are easily chewed. W wasn’t sure what to make of them at first, but started to like them after a few tries.

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I could go on an on…so many great recipes! Check out my pinterest pages for more ideas!