Cooking + Baking

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Happy 2020! I hope your holiday celebrations were as lively and enjoyable as ours. This was our not-so-fancy Christmas dinner: pan roasted chicken thighs, roasted asparagus, sliced cranberry sauce, stuffing and gravy. No pie and lots of movie watching and puzzle making! It was the best day.

Fear not about the pie, however, as we spent Boxing Day with the local cousins (yay!), and our contribution was a ham, homemade fudge (walnut & cranberry pecan), homemade maple cream liqueur (scroll down for the recipe), spiced wine, and a bourbon pecan pie. You know, all the essential food groups.

It was a grand day of eating, chatting, D & D (our party continues to slay), more eating, a little drinking, and watching a couple episodes of The Mandalorian. We are actually in the know on a current event! Ha. That Baby Yoda is adorable.

We were also up late enough with weather fine enough for a midnight stroll (Juniper was ecstatic to be out so late, little cutie) to witness the annual AdAmAn display on top of Pike’s Peak. It only took three years! If you don’t know about it, it’s a group of climbers who endure a freezing hike the two days prior to New Year’s and set off fireworks at the stroke of midnight.

Greg and I are not generally keen on fireworks in a been-there-done-that kind of way, but this display really is something, illuminating the peak in spectacular fashion! Here’s looking forward to next year…

And to yesterday’s lunch – a zucchini, apple, dried cranberry, and feta salad, with a little apple cider vinegar reduction dressing. The tops! All the basic holiday food groups were a bit excessive, so we are doing a much needed reset. The body brims with gratitude.

And if you are any kind of maple fan, you will be grateful for this recipe! Our friend Alex is Canadian and gave us this delicious Maple Cream Liqueur from Cabot Trail. We absolutely love it, but it isn’t available in the United States. Sadly, there isn’t anything quite like it here, and as I scoured the internet for recipes, came up blank. So I did a bit of tinkering and ended up making a version I actually feel is superior. It is SO easy, too.

Maple Cream Liqueur

1 cup pure maple syrup

1 cup gold rum (I like Bacardi), whiskey would also be wonderful

1 cup heavy whipping cream

2 teaspoons cocoa powder

Mix maple, your booze of choice, and the cocoa powder in a mixer or with a hand blender until smooth. I tried to do this with a whisk, but the cocoa powder is super finicky and kept floating on top. Add the whipping cream and mix on low just until combined. You don’t want to make it frothy. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator, and serve over ice or in your favorite cup of coffee. I have no idea how long this keeps because it’s too good to not want to drink. Enjoy!!

Back when we lived in Portland, on some random channel I could never remember, I would watch Burns & Allen. I do remember that it was always in the hush of late evening, and that Gracie Allen was simply THE BEST of the whole darn show. She dazzled! This past weekend, I had the pleasure of seeing a rare and wonderful incarnation of her. Greg and I, after nearly four years in Colorado Springs, finally made it to the Millibo Art Theater, to see Yule Be Naughty. It’s a fun mix of silliness, cabaret, amazing aerials and acrobatics (seriously, wow!), and some pretty stellar Gracie Allen style story telling. If you are local and in need of an adult activity this weekend, go and be glad!

Before that, on Thursday, to be exact (thank you flexible work at home hours!!), we headed to our local castle, Glen Eyrie, for their Yule Tea. Greg made friends with a knight before the pair of us enjoyed every bite and sip.

The Big Horned Sheep was part of a herd grazing and relaxing on the lawn. Pretty cool!

dreaming of snow….

I am one of those people for whom it isn’t a complete holiday season without certain foods or events. On the event side, we must listen to Alice’s Restaurant, preferably on Thanksgiving, but, as was the case this year, the following day, despite talking about it and even queuing it up prior to dinner. The tamales, apparently, were just too exciting. We also must read Truman Capote’s A Christmas Memory, laughing and crying and delightedly sighing. That we did on Sunday, and loved it as much as ever.

As for the food and beverage side of the equation, I must have, in no particular order: stuffing with cranberries and celery, perfectly sliced canned cranberry sauce, egg nog (preferably with brandy, but whisky or rum will do), biscochitos (only my recipe will do – snob), fudge, and peppermint ice cream.

This summer, I learned the most amazing and delicious basic ice cream recipe. 8 oz heavy cream whipped to soft peaks & one can sweetened condensed milk – mixed gently together & frozen in a loaf pan. I made it with the addition of vanilla, a few tablespoons of my homemade peach & strawberry jam, chunky peanut butter & their delightful cups. Each was shockingly good considering the ease with which they were made. Seriously top shelf. And no churning or worrying! So, when it came time for the annual stroll down peppermint lane, the choice to make it myself was obvious. I added a half teaspoon of vanilla and five hammered to bits starlight mints. Divine.

Another lovely snow. It came in the smallest possible flakes, that fell and fell and fell. Champagne powder and Juniper’s dream come true!

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, as the song goes. I collected fallen limbs out walking, bought a few decorations (the cute trees are from Target!), and pulled out favorite treasures, so the house is nicely decked out and smelling lovely!

I also did a massive day of holiday sweet baking and making, with Biscochitos, Mexican Wedding Cookies, peanut butter yo-yos (which Daddy calls little burgers), pinon & rosemary caramels, amaretto & walnut fudges, cream cheese mints, and peppermint marshmallows. We’ve eaten and quite enjoyed a lot, but thankfully shared the majority to avoid sugar comas.

This past weekend, we enjoyed a little road trip to Denver to spend time with some of our favorite people. It was quite the whirlwind of tasty food, killer cocktails (Bananas & Bourbon!), games, and lovely company. As is often the norm at this time of year, it was frigid and sunny, with the bustle of humanity as jolly as the skies. We also had an easy drive both ways, which is always nice.

Just because they are so darn cute. Hope you are enjoying the holiday season!

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Hello friends! Happy day after Thanksgiving to you! It was a non-traditional feast for us this holiday, celebrating with our cousin Zach. We enjoyed each other’s very fine company, along with margaritas, guacamole, green & red chile, pork & three kinds of wee sweet tamales. All made by yours truly, which was quite the endeavor! I started on Tuesday, so I wouldn’t be a manic maniac Thursday.

Grandpa would be super proud, especially noting the pork to masa ratio, as he nearly always lamented a lack of meat. It was my first time making tamales on my own. The last time was in high school, helping my mom. Much thanks to Tamales 101 for all the history (did you know they were among the first MREs?) and helpful advice! Greg and I decided that they’re the best we’ve ever had, which is wonderful, when Moreno’s and La Choza set such a high bar.

It was also the first time we’d ever had sweet tamales, more out of necessity than forethought truth be told, because there was SO much masa. Seriously. I didn’t have enough ingredients to fill them savory style, even when improvising with green chiles and cheese. I flavored the masa with vanilla and sugar in one batch, cinnamon and sugar in another, and sugar and chocolate chips in the third. You’d think our resident chocoholic would have been most excited about those, but he was dubious. They turned out to be our favorite, which was rather sad, as I made the fewest of them. Next time! The chocolate laden one is our final incarnation, made with leftovers and a sauce on the fly this afternoon. Delicious.

Finally to Zach’s creme brulee! It was egg nog flavored and muy muy delicioso. He and Greg did a fine job on the brulee portion. FIRE!

Oh, and here is my “recipe” for margaritas – my favorite in the land. Make a single glass or enough for a party. The sparkling water makes it slightly unconventional, but it is muy potente without it. Besides, bubbles are fun! If you are lucky enough to have some prickly pear syrup on hand, add it to your liking and be glad. The flavor and color are fabulous.

  • 3 parts sparkling lemon, lime, or lemon-lime sparkling water
  • Two parts tequila
  • 1.5 parts lime juice, fresh squeezed or bottled
  • One part orange liqueur (I like Gran Gala)
  • 1/2 part agave nectar
  • salt

Stir everything but the sparkling water together in a glass or pitcher, and taste to see how you feel about it. Add whatever it needs before adding the water. Sometimes the lime isn’t as flavorful, and I end up having it in equal proportion to the tequila. Maybe you like it sweeter. It’s your margarita. Do what you like! Another way I let go of convention is by adding salt directly to the glass. Salting the rim is a major pain. Sprinkle some nice sea salt in, stir, and taste. Add more, if you want. Enjoy!

Hello! What a perfect light jacket with full sun kind of day. We sipped our Sunday coffee outside, while Juniper bounded around the yard, chasing balls, eating snow, and generally amusing herself in the warm sunshine.

I had apples that had gone a little wrinkly and decided to make the most of them with Martha Stewart’s apple rosemary tea bread, probably the first and best recipe of hers I ever tried, gotten from a Christmas book ages and ages ago. It is moist and delicious, toasts beautifully, and as the name indicates, is rather nice with tea. We (more accurately Greg) pretty much devoured it.

Chicken with orange zest and green olive gremolata – a stellar combination that was quite pretty, too.

Me and my girl! She is such an adorable love bug. Greg and I were cuddling in bed, talking about life this morning, how you never know what the future holds. We laughed aloud when we imagined our twenty-years-ago selves pondering life with a dog and a brick ranch in Colorado Springs. We have absolutely no complaints about the path that led us here.

I bought a rather smart coat in two of my favorite colors (army green and rust!). It has a liner that is also a perfect down jacket. The one caveat? It came with this wild maroon faux fur hood attachment. I might have considered it, as it does seem quite warm, but it completely obscured my vision. Juniper didn’t think much of it either, but how cute she is in her wondering, “What have you done to me?!”

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