labor day lamb ragù

My definition of what makes a good dinner has changed dramatically in the past year. The other night we had avocado toast and I felt accomplished for putting dinner on the table. Last night I was pleased to make spinach and gruyère quesadillas without burning myself as Willa clung to my legs.

Despite resigning myself to slightly simpler (yet hopefully still delicious) meals, I make sure to get a bit more extravagant from time to time. And if having friends in town for Labor Day weekend isn’t a reason to make a fancy meal, I’m not sure what is! So, Sunday night, after the littles were asleep, we sat outside and enjoyed Strozzapreti with Lamb Ragù.

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This was my first ragù. Dan regularly makes a spectacular red sauce, but I have not dabbled much in the meat sauces myself. I tend to be pretty scared of meat in the kitchen, but I can manage ground meat. And this recipe was not really that hard, but it did have me try some new techniques. For example, a spice packet. I’d never made a spice packet! (Obviously, since it required an extra trip to the store when I realized I didn’t have any cheesecloth.) And it held together through the entire simmering, which was the key to the flavorful sauce.

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It was a great dish to make with friends over, because after the inital prep, the sauce has to simmer for 2 hours, giving you plenty of time to drink, socialize, and set the table. Above all else, it was just nice to try a new recipe and enjoy it with good friends, wine, and adult conversation. (I did of course make sure Willa got to enjoy some leftovers for lunch the next day!)

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I was tempted to make this pasta dish too. Next time! What are your favorite “take more effort” meals?

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touring denver: a walk through lohi + lodo

Our dear friends Ted and Caroline and their daughter Mae are visiting! They arrived yesterday, and after a brief delay at the airport thanks to a lost carseat debacle, soon enough we were at the West End Tap House, sipping Colorado beers, eating fries, and chasing two 14-month olds around the patio. Bliss. The evening that followed consisted of several more Colorado brews, wonderful conversation, many hugs, and a mini dance party to our love Josh Ritter.

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Today, we headed out to show them some of the sights. When we had friends visit us in Seattle, there were so many places to go. Pike Place Market. The Space Needle. Golden Gardens Park. Ferries! But, here in Denver, we’re sometimes not sure what to do with out-of-town guests. There are the usual city things, like parks and museums and shopping, but nothing earth-shattering. However, after a handful of visitors, we’ve finally come up with a good plan: drive to LoHi, park, and continue on foot through LoHi and LoDo.

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It’s kind of perfect. You start and end right by Masterpiece Delicatessen and Über Sausage, so if you need food either before or after the walk you’re well taken care of. The route gives you views of downtown, the water of the Platte, and plenty of Denver brick. I love meandering along the pedestrian paths while discussing the merits of the bike share system and contemplating why everyone feels the need to walk over the grass in River Front Park despite the sign that very clearly asks you to go around.

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Once in LoDo, you can stop at the Tattered Cover Bookstore, and debate the pros and cons of city infastructure as you check out the progress of the Union Station redevelopment. There’s also a chance to stop at REI, because come on, we all need some overpriced outdoor gear at one point or another.

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We were so happy to show Ted, Caroline, and Mae a little piece of our new home. Just a few years back, we were all kidless and living in Seattle. The four of us had so much fun during those years (lots of it involving rainy nights and red wine….) but it’s so exciting to be where we are now. We’re each blessed with beautiful baby girls, and new adventures in our new cities. We all wish this visit could be longer or we could live in the same place so we didn’t have to squeeze so much into a long weekend, but we’re making the most of it. Old friends are the best.

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