Cooking + Baking

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Hello! Gah. It’s been a minute. Yeah. I kept getting sidetracked – shopping, errands, a weekend of gaming and eating with Jeffie, Thanksgiving, reading, making jewelry, doing puzzles, binge watching Reacher (he’s funny!) into the wee hours on a weeknight. You know, L I F E. Also, this feeling of letting the blog call to me when I’m ready.

That feeling is accompanied by a deep sense of appreciation. My dear friend Bebe, with whom I make jewelry, is nearly eighty. Her husband has cancer, and at our last get together (reindeer bracelets were made!), this truth really hit me. How much longer will we have the privilege of sharing time? This thought cascaded to just about everyone in my life. I want to eat up every last second. Which brings me back to this little blog. If I’m happy in the moment, especially if it is spent doing something I cherish, and especially with someone I cherish, it’s absolutely fine if there are gaps in my blogging.

It reminds me of a favorite scene in Serenity, the gloriously perfect, albeit very sad, end to the fabulous and short-lived Firefly, when Kaylee is finally given recognition by Simon. Her response? “To hell with this, I’m gonna live!” Yup. I want to live, peeps. Every single day.

To that living! As I mentioned, we had another memorable weekend gaming (Dune! Point Salad!) and eating with Jeff. We ate at one of our favorite places (Phantom Canyon Brewing), and I made a delightful Chinese takeout inspired meal, with crab Rangoon (baked, not fried), scallion cakes, and orange chicken (no breading or frying, orange juice instead of water, sugar cut in half!) with broccoli and bell pepper. It was pretty amazing and chuckle worthy because I defrosted our largest package of chicken and thought, well, it’s a lot, but leftovers are no problem. Dear readers, we ate every last bite that night, and practically licked the plate clean, too!

We had a sleepover at Michael and Mary’s for Thanksgiving, with walks and yoga, puzzle making, and a beautiful sweater vest handmade by Mary, just for ME. When I was hunting cookbooks for what to make besides pecan pie (duh), I found two very yummy and not-at-all Thanksgiving themed appetizers. Would it be a gut-buster if I made them, too? Perhaps, so Mary and I hatched a plan. It would be appetizer Thanksgiving, with a little turkey sandwich and stuffing situation for Michael, as that was important to him. Jalapeno popper wonton cups and a whipped cream cheese and feta dip with bacon jam and grape chutney (homemade and fabulous, of course), as that was important to us. So good. Since it is the time of year when I bake cookies, I also made biscochitos! Food, food, food…

Hope all is well in your world. Happy living…

Since I have been feeling kind of poorly for nearly a month, I have not done much in the kitchen. We’ve eaten a lot of cereal, grabbed meals at the grocery, and made a few fast food runs. On better days, there’s been salad and vegetables dipped in home made ranch, with handfuls of dried apricots and cherries.

I am still a library regular and love checking out new cookbooks. I found a very Colleen-style on my most recent trip, Snackable Bakes, which are pretty quick and easy. I was craving cupcakes and whipped up a small batch of vegan chocolate. I topped them with the marshmallow frosting in the book, and WOW! Super buttery yum.

White miso and mirin cod. Simply delicious.

Another craving, this time for alfredo sauce. I doubled down and made the pasta, too. And since poblanos are in season, I topped it with a fresh roasted. There were some sweet sighs at the lunch table!

Finally, another milk! Greg and I use our almond milk pretty much exclusively for coffee. We prefer the flavor, and it takes effort to make, so we want it to last. Pictured above is our cashew and rice blend. It comes together super quickly, doesn’t need to be strained, and is our go-to for cereal. Like the almond, it is super creamy and doesn’t separate. Here’s the recipe if you’d like to try it. It is easy to scale up, with a ratio of 1 part nut/rice to eight parts water.

1/4 cup raw cashews

2 tablespoons white rice (I’ve never tried brown)

filtered water

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum

To a large, high-speed blender jar, add the cashews, rice, and salt. Add 1.5 cups boiling water. Let sit for a minute or two, which kills bacteria and softens everything up. Blend on high for one minute. If you want to use it for cereal, or something else on the cold side, right away, add 1.5 cups ice water. If you can wait, use filtered water. Blend on high for another minute. Add the xanthan gum and blend on the lowest setting for one minute. Store in a sterilized glass container, and use within a week.

Hiya! After having quite a few friends and family ask how I make my super creamy barista style almond milk, I am here with a tutorial. There are a lot of directions, but don’t worry. It really isn’t very difficult.

First off, to toot my own horn, this almond milk is the best you will likely ever taste. Second, unlike many store bought milks, you choose the sweetness. I choose not at all, so you’ll have to figure out what you’d like to try and in what proportions on this front. Third, this milk doesn’t separate in the bottle or your favorite hot beverage. Finally, if lectins from almond skins make you break out in a rash, like they do my husband, or upset your tummy, like me, use blanched, as I do. They cost more but are totally worth it.

Now, for supplies:

A high speed blender is an absolute must

Large – 8 cup – glass measure

rubber gloves

glass container(s)

clean nut milk bag, cotton bag, or t-shirt


filtered water


xanthan gum

Just in case you are thinking, like I once did, that using your favorite stainless steel water bottle is a fine option for storage, please don’t. I have zero understanding of the chemistry, but no matter how freshly sanitized with boiling hot water, our precious milk promptly went bad. Giant sad face. Use glass. Read all of the directions, then get the proper sizes washed and ready.

Okay, let’s go! To make what we use over a week, we use these measurements, but, obviously, scale to your needs. The ratio is 1 part almonds to 4 parts water.

4 cups almonds, at room temperature

1 1/4 teaspoons salt (just over 1/4 teaspoon per cup of almonds)

3 cups boiling water, plus a little more

13 cups water

1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum (1/8 teaspoon per cup of almonds)

Now that you’ve decided on your ratio, wash your hands. If you’re using gloves, wash the gloves, too. Don’t chance the milk going bad. Put the almonds and salt (to help preserve it; I don’t know how it will last without it, and it won’t taste salty) in the blender. The almonds need to be room temperature, or your yield will drop. Add the boiling water. Let sit one minute.

While the almonds, salt, and boiling water sit (we’re softening them up and hopefully killing any stray nasties), pour the other bit of boiling water over whatever cloth you’ve decided to use and your glass containers. Swirl the water to get the sides and rim. Pour out. Add three cups of water to the blender, and turn on high. Blend for one minute.

Turn off the blender, and carefully pour the thick mixture into your bag or t-shirt over the large measuring cup. It will be HOT!! Use gloves if you are sensitive to heat. The amount you pour will vary, depending on the volume you made and size of the bag. This picture shows about half.

VERY gently squeeze the bag. If you are too aggressive at first, the almond solids can literally burst through the seams or the fabric. Squeeze until you feel the majority of milk is in the measuring cup. Pour that milk into your clean glass container. Add more of the almond water mix, if you have any remaining. Gently squeeze again. Pour into the glass container(s). Repeat until there’s no more almond mix. Pour some of the remaining water in the blender to get every bit off the sides and pour it over the solids in your bag. Now, pour the remaining water through the almond pulp, in whatever proportion works best, and pour that into your glass container. It’s okay to be agressive at this point. Use those muscles. We want to get every last drop!

Once you feel you’ve gotten all that you can, wash out the blender container. The next step is to add the xanthan gum. If you’re like us and use 16 cups of water, this will be done in two batches. Since there is less almond and more water with each progressive squeeze, we make sure to mix all of our glass containers equally into the blender, so none of the bottles are watery. Don’t worry about being exact, just do the best you can.

Alright, your blender should be full of almond milk. Sprinkle the xanthan gum over the top. If you are doing the full recipe, this will be 1/4 teaspoon. Put the lid on and blend on the lowest setting for one minute. Any higher, and you’ll make a frothy mess. Pour proportionally into your glass container(s). See photo below. Pour the remaining milk into the blender. Add the xanthan gum. Blend on the lowest setting for one minute. Fill your containers.

As you can see, there might be a little more than you initially intended. A bonus to drink first, since you probably did not pour boiling water over the container. Refrigerate. Use within a week. Most of all, ENJOY!

I simply cannot resist the beauty of a perfect burger, grilled by the G-Man, of course. I am grateful he took up the mantle. I bake, broil, braise, and saute with the best of them indoors, but do not enjoy outdoor cooking AT ALL. Number 1,460,000 we are a match made in heaven.

In an effort to use a plethora of petals and keep our high desert skin as dewy as possible, I found a recipe for easy hydrosols and made a batch of rose. It left behind this gorgeous pink rosewater, and, as you well know, I hate waste, so I whipped it into a lemonade. It was delicious, a singular flavor I fail to find the words to exactly describe.

Blueberry Lemonade Cookies, the perfect summer treat, even though we are almost full on Fall, eek! I used the Cloudy Kitchen Funfetti recipe, substituting 3/4 cup dried blueberries for the sprinkles, one tablespoon lemon juice for the vanilla, and the zest of one large lemon. Highly addictive, they are delightfully tart with a crispy edge and soft middle. Even Greg, mister chocolate, loves them.

It is canteloupe season! This year has been especially flavorful.

You know how sometimes you forget the resources you actually own and look for the new? In one such fit for salad recipes, I was scouring the interwebs before remembering a Williams-Sonoma cookbook sitting right on the living room shelf. This is my riff on their Caesar Style with Poblano Chiles (page 23). I didn’t have poblano but a plethora of diced green chiles and Costco shredded rotisserie breast, so here we are. It was most delicious! In true Southwest style, I paired it with a glass of fizzy prickly pear lemonade. Yum-yum.

As somewhat of an organization freak, I enjoy me a well tidied shelf and drawer. I had a hodge-podge of bottles, jars, and zip-top bags here, and it honestly made my head hurt. I found some snazzy jars with bees on them at Sierra (since they were closeouts and could run out at any moment, I am not including the link), bought a boat load, and got to work. I also have a slightly embarrassing number of washi tape rolls and made the most of a cute polka dot pattern. How wonderful to easily find what we are looking for!

Sunflowers, sunflowers, sunflowers!

The horsetail milkweed blossoms are so tiny in comparison to the bees but no less favored for their sweet nectar!

My mom gave me some old seed packets she had lying around, and this zinnia is one of the few that sprouted! It grew into an amazingly large bloom in a fuscia hue.

This plant-filled stock tank hides our unsightly gas meter and is looking its very best. Also, how cute is the volunteer marigold?!

In an effort to save birds from an untimely death by flying into our sliding door when we first moved in, I bought a roll of polka-dotted film that prevented the glass from reflecting. It worked quite well until this summer when it started to flake and peel. I found the rainbow reflecting adhesives (“sticking” with water!), and Greg and I did the not-so-fun job of removing the old and replacing it with the new. How about that beautiful rainbow in the morning light?!

The World War II Aviation Museum here in Colorado Springs flew these planes over the weekend. The first is a North American B-25 Mitchell, and the second is a Grumman TBM Avenger. Pretty cool! I love how they have the ability to keep this history alive.

I think Juniper knows, even in sleep, what the sound of a lens cap being removed means. Mama, are you trying to take my picture???

More garden shots for you. The desert willow has hundreds of blooms and a near constant stream of bees, hummingbirds, and hummingbird moths. I often sit mesmerized at the living room window watching the spectacle.

I can’t believe the robins and squirrels haven’t gobbled all of the choke cherries, but here we are with an intact bunch.

Aspen leaves quaking in the breeze. With an abundance of rain this season, this tree, transplanted from a sprout in the front garden, has grown an astounding three feet this year to make it about 10 feet tall. Fingers crossed it makes it through winter!

Our reddest sunflower. Have a wonderful week…

Hello there! Bebe’s son-in-law came for a visit and brought a whole passel of back yard pecans(!!). Greg and I are grateful she decided to share and equally so for the shells, as the work at getting them off prevents us from eating too many at once.

We’ve had quite a bit of Pacific Northwest style rain, as of late, greening pastures and shrouding Pike’s Peak with snow later than any time in our memory. How gorgeously fantastic it has been!

When my parents visited, my dad bought some orange juice and never drank it, so I fashioned cocktails, tequila sunrise style. Pretty and tasty!

After watching Leguizamo Does America, I was inspired to check out Diasporican, a book on Puerto Rican cooking. Especially intrigued by any endeavor that eliminates the need for wheat, I dove headlong into the making of a jibarito, a plantain sandwich created by Puerto Ricans living in Chicago. They deep fry their plantains, but I am not interested in any such mess or fuss, so I did a little pan fry. Next time I will pop those babies into the oven because it was still a little more work and oil than I was after. Anyhoo, the sandwich was muy delicioso, but very filling, so I’ll do it open-faced next time.

In the same cookbook, I saw a recipe for shrimp and chorizo over polenta. I returned the library book before I made it, so I was without an actual recipe, but Greg and I had no complaints about the end result. What a marvelous flavor combo.

A little garden tour completed while sipping my morning coffee. With all the rain we’ve been getting, it is looking rather lush.

The top blooms are penstemon that volunteered in the garden. My delight is magnified by the fact they are volunteers that I transplanted from another spot. They did some nail-biting dramatic drooping, but are super champs now. Huzzah!

The second photo is the stunner of a view from the back door. My heart swells each time I see it. The weird ring of rocks in the foreground surround a clutch of sunflower sprouts I hope to keep Juniper from trouncing.

Speaking of Juniper, how about our cute explorer? She’s simply the best. I’m wearing my space sandals, named so for their neon quality that is surely visible from on high.

A question: has any other fellow gardener had lousy luck with true red peonies? Three photos from the bottom are my three plants. All planted at the same time, the two on the left have been going like gangbusters, while the red one, just like it did in Portland, is minuscule. So disappointing.

Luckily there is much to keep me distracted from the peony plight, like the hollyhock grove in the bottom photo, all of which are also volunteers. I can’t wait for their colorful show!

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