recently enjoyed moments

Life has been really good lately.

Life is always good, and often really good, but lately things have just been comfortably wonderful. Good food, family, fun outings, a lovely new house we’re settling into… I feel very lucky. Very happy. And even more are ahead: we have good friends coming to visit for the long weekend. And we got a new table so we can dine al fresco. I’m tellin’ ya, so much goodness. Happy Labor Day weekend!

IMAGE_780{denver brick. always makes my eyes happy.}

ODell brewery{beer tasting at odell brewery in fort collins // note the bib in my hand. classy.}

IMAGE_774{gnocchi at root down.}

IMAGE_775{“happier hour” with littles at BookBar}

IMAGE_756{hiking at white ranch park in golden, co}

IMAGE_776{these pancakes for weekend breakfast}

DSC_1985{a trip to the botanic gardens with nana and bobo. // photo by my mom.}

IMAGE_779{vintage shopping. i just had to make her sit in the car, and i’m so glad i did.}

Advertisements

bittersweet

Earlier this month, we celebrated our six year anniversary. (I’m not sure why, but six years feels a lot longer than five. More than half a decade?) Last year we had a two-month old, and so we stayed in and celebrated with a bottle of really good beer. This year, we were able to do it up with several festivities. First, we went to see Josh Ritter. On our actual anniversary, we were lucky enough to have lots of family over for a simple dinner of stacked enchiladas. And the night before that, we went out just the two of us to bittersweet.

IMAGE_771IMAGE_765
We’ve been on a bit of a cold streak with the Denver restaurant scene of late. I don’t want to throw a bunch of restaurants under the bus, but in the past couple months we’ve shelled out more money than we were comfortable with for mediocre fare. We really needed a win for our anniversary, and thankfully, bittersweet was just that! Every single dish we had was phenomenal. It’s always a good sign when you can’t decide which dish is your favorite.

IMAGE_766{fresh peach salad with burrata, proscuitto, and arugula pesto}

IMAGE_767{duck sausage with apricot sauce and red pepper and carrot slaw}

IMAGE_769
{grouper with corn hash, mustard, and spätzle}

The most unexpectedly delicious meal of the night was our dessert. After being wowed by so many dishes, we decided to go out on a limb and try an over-the-top sounding dish. I can’t remember the summation name, but it was a corn bread pudding over vanilla custard with maple ice cream, blackberries, micro greens, pecans, and fried duck skin. Needless to say, it had a lot going on. But the flavors came together perfectly and the duck skin provided just the right amount of salt.

IMAGE_773

IMAGE_770{they had a pretty glam bathroom too. felt like the right setting for a selfie.}

Yay for six years of marriage to my favorite dining companion!

rocky mountain table co.

We need a dining table.

It shouldn’t surprise you that I feel very strongly about bringing family and friends to the table to enjoy meals together. So we’ve been on the hunt for the perfect table. A couple weeks ago, through Etsy, we came across Rocky Mountain Table Co. They make all their tables in Denver, and have some of the most amazing styles. We were able to stop by their showroom this past weekend to check out some of their work. I found I couldn’t decide – all their tables were so beautiful! (Not to mention, their showroom was georgously designed in an old brick market in the Baker neighborhood. I kind of just wanted to plop down at a table, crack open a beer, and never leave.)

photo (6)

I hope one of their tables is in our future. But if you need a table, too, definitely check them out. Who can resist a table made locally from reclaimed wood!? (The real stuff too, not that silly wood that’s stained grey to look reclaimed.)

my 10 favorite kitchen items

With all the unpacking and organizing I’ve been doing of late, I’ve been thinking a lot about what items are essential and what things I don’t really need. The kitchen was the first room in the house that was unpacked. Both because it was a high priority and because it’s easy (there are already drawers and cupboards!). But nevertheless, there’s still room to spare in my kitchen. I have a few empty drawers, and my pantry has some holes. When it comes to kitchen items, you don’t need too many things, you just need the right things. (Whoever decided the engaged should register for SETS of pots and pans or knives was an IDIOT. No one needs both an 8″ and a 7″ chef’s knife. That’s just silly.) When I’m cooking I often grab the same items. These “must have” items are different for everyone depending on their cooking style, but below are the things I just couldn’t get by without in the kitchen. Some of them I insist on. Others are optional. What can’t you live without?

1. Citrus reamer
I didn’t have one of these until last Christmas. I’m not sure what I was thinking. I had one of those squeezy do-dads, but it just wasn’t doing the job. The reamer is where it’s at. If you like citrus juice, it’s a must have. I was gifted a second reamer and passed it along to a friend who was also reamer-less. She just texted me the other day to tell me how it’s changed her life. It’ll change yours too.

2. Le Creuset French Oven
I was lucky enough to recieve this as a wedding gift. It’s one of those things that people often register for that is spot-on. Every cook needs one but most people won’t buy it for themselves. I’m a big fan of one-pot meals, so the Le Creuset is great for those. I have the 5.5 quart one, and it’s perfect for meals for 2-4 people. If you have a larger crowd to feed, you might want a bigger one.

3. Electric Wok
My proclivity for cooking started in China. I took a one-on-one cooking class with a chef in Harbin when I was a junior in college studying abroad. In China, they have special burners that accomodate woks with round bottoms. Most of us don’t have those in the U.S., so we’re left with flat-bottomed woks, which just don’t do the trick. When you’re making Chinese food, you need that rounded bottom for the oil to pool. An electric wok takes up a lot of room in your cupboard, but it’s completely worth it if you make a lot of Asian food. And it heats up so quickly. And so hot! The one I have is Breville, but there are several cheaper options on the market.

4. Oxo mini chopper
You and I both can chop garlic. But sometimes you just don’t wanna. You want to have the mini chopper to it for you. And you want to get out the day’s stress by banging on the chopper.

5. WMF Manaos Bistro Flatware
I registered for the WORST dinnerware. I hate it. It’s from Pottery Barn and it chips and is oversized and is all the wrong colors and I can’t stand it. But. I registered for THE BEST flatware. I love it. It’s fantastic. It’s held up incredibly well and feels prefect in your hand. It isn’t back heavy, so it doesn’t fall off your plate. And it has tons of great serving utensils you can buy. It’s so great, in fact, that the kind friends who bought it for us for our wedding decided to buy a 2nd set for themselves. Yep. True story. So if you’re in need of new flatware, get yourself some WMF. You won’t be sorry. But do not no matter what buy plates from Pottery Barn. Seriously. Don’t.

6. Wüsthof Classic 4.5″ Santoku Knife
This is my favorite knife. I use it for everything. It’s big enough for chopping but small enough for minimal paring. Think about what your perfect knife might be, and get one. But whatever you do, DO NOT buy I knife set. You won’t use all those knives.

7. Wooden spoon
An obvious classic. A wooden spoon is perfect for stirring all sorts of foods, and won’t hurt your non-stick surfaces.

8. Oxo high heat spatula
My old spatula warped from heat. This one hasn’t. It’s great for all your spatula needs.

9. Anthropologie measuring cups
I have a set of measuring cups from Anthropologie that were a total splurge. I eyed them for at least a year before finally buying them. And I’m so glad I did. They’re shaped like mugs with little handles, and I use them for everything. They’re great for measuring (obviously) as well as just general prep bowls. And they’re so pretty, they make me happy while cooking.

10. Scanpan Professional 10″ Nonstick Pan
I invested in this as my new nonstick pan a few years ago, and have been totally pleased. It’s superbly nonstick, and so easy to clean. I use it all the time. Especially for breakfast. Eggs! Pancakes! Yum!

triple crème brie + josh ritter

I ate triple crème brie yesterday and it changed my life. Or at least my picnicking-life. I will never go back to regular brie. Or even double crème brie.

I love good food, but I’m also thrifty. I’m not usually cheap, I just like to use my money wisely. I don’t like to pay more for something that I could get for less. So when I buy brie at the grocery, I look at which one is the least expensive, or on sale, and that’s the one for me. But, yesterday, I went big. I was buying provisions for an evening picnic at the Botanic Gardens for a Josh Ritter concert. Special food was in order. So, despite it’s higher price per pound, I carefully picked out a wedge of triple crème brie.

IMAGE_596

Hours later, Dan and I were relaxing in the grass on a high in the UMB Amphitheater and discovered picnic perfection:

triple crème brie + Dalmatia fig spread + a baguette + white wine

Now, I recognize that this isn’t exactly revolutionary. Everyone who reads this blog has enjoyed some brie and fig spread on bread washed down with wine. But, I must ask, was it triple crème? Because having at least 75% butterfat content can be pretty important when you’re dining outdoors. For example, last night, an hour after we finished our picnic, when the skies opened up and poured rain for the entire concert, we were pretty pleased to have bellies full of that much fatty goodness.

IMAGE_597 IMAGE_598

The rain was the bummer of the evening. The highlights were the brie, the vintage French white wine we brought, and Josh Ritter’s always fantastic music. I highly recommend all of the above. Rain or shine.

IMAGE_600

My Favorite Josh Ritter songs:
Kathleen
Me & Jiggs
Lark
Girl in the War
To the Dogs or Whoever
Mind’s Eye
Joy to You Baby

cherry pie

Oh hey there. It’s almost mid-August? Where’d the summer go? Oh, right, we moved. That took some time. Still is. Yikes. Moving is the best and the worst, isn’t it? Those little piles around the house that you’re going to “get to” sometime but you just never seem to have the time…

Anyway, enough about that. I want to write about pie. Cherry pie. Last month, we set out on a quest to find some pie cherries. Dan grew up having cherry pie, and he really wanted to try to make one. Searching online, I found a farm in Brighton, Colorado that had “u-pick” cherries. Perfect. But it was not to be. First we tried to go on a day they were closed. Then we tried to go in the afternoon but they were only open in the morning. Finally we set out to go but saw on the website that their cherries were all picked out. We called, and they said they still had some for sale in their farm store. We jumped in the car as fast as possible, throwing Willa’s nap to the wind. They’d sold out, so Willa met some chickens.

IMAGE_588 IMAGE_587

A week or so later, Dan couldn’t shake his hankering for pie, so he decided to make a blueberry one. But his heart wasn’t in it. He cut corners. He rushed. The pie was edible, but barely. Major pie disaster. Let’s not even talk anymore about it.

But fear not our last-month selves. A cherry pie was still in our future! We were up in Estes Park for the wedding of my dear friend Gena, and on our drive home we saw the Colorado Cherry Company. They must have cherries, we said! And indeed, they did. We bought 2 pounds of sour pie cherries, and despite an absurdly long wait (perhaps their freezer was 7 floors underground?), it was all quite simple.

IMAGE_590 IMAGE_589
A week later, the pie baking commenced. This time, no corners were cut. Everything was carefully read and measured and thought-through. We combined recipes and advice from a few different baker-extraordinaries, and came up with what I dare say is one of the best pies ever. So, if you can figure out a way to get your hand on some pie cherries, I highly reccomend you make this bad boy. It’s a good one.

IMAGE_592 IMAGE_591
IMAGE_593

Our Elusive Cherry Pie

To prepare the crust dough:
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
1 cup butter
1/3 cup non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening
1 large egg
1T lemon juice
1/4 cup ice water

1. Sift the flour and salt together into a large mixing bowl.
2. Cut the butter and shortening into the flour mixture with two knives or a pastry blender.
3. In a separate bowl, beat the egg lightly. Stir in the lemon juice and add water.
4. Pour the wet mixture into the flour mixture.
5. Bring the dough together quickly using your hands.
6. Knead until smooth, either in the bowl or on a lightly floured surface.
7. Divide into two equal halves, wrap in plastic wrap/bags, and chill in fridge for 45 minutes.

To prepare the crust for the pie filling:
1. Remove one ball of dough from the fridge. Using a rolling pin (or empty wine bottle) on a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out until it is approximately an 1/8 inch thick and roughly the size of your pie pan.
2. Press carefully into a pie pan.
3. Freeze for 30 minutes.
4. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
5. After 30 minutes have passed, remove crust from freezer and cover with tin foil that has been lightly greased on the underside. Add dry beans of any variety to the top of the foil to add pressure to the crust to prevent it from puffing up.
6. Once oven is heated, bake crust for 10-12 minutes. Set aside.

For the pie filling:
5 cups tart pie cherries
2 2/3 Tablespoons instant tapioca
2/3 cup sugar
1.5 Tablespoons lemon juice
2 drops of almond extract (scant 1/8 teaspoon)

1. Mix cherries, tapioca, and sugar together in a medium bowl. Let sit for 15 minutes.
2. Add lemon juice and almond extract.
3. Transfer mixture to pie crust.
4. Increase oven temperature to 450 degrees.
5. Remove second ball of dough from the fridge. Roll it out until it is 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick (we like it a bit thicker).
6. Cut dough into 1 inch thick strips. Weave a lattice on top of the pie, pressing the end of each strip into the lower layer of pie crust and trimming off excess dough as necessary.
7. Bake pie at 450 for 10 minutes. Place a cookie sheet underneath pie to catch drippage.
8. Turn heat down to 350 degrees and bake for 40-45 minutes until crust is golden brown and cherries are bubbling.

IMAGE_594