Colorado never ceases to amaze me. It’s May and we’re still getting snow. Well, we got inches of snow last weekend, but still… SNOW! In MAY! What happened to Spring?
Oh well, before you know it the sun comes out and melts everything away. Plus, snow is an excuse for me to dust off the ol’ crock pot and make something that is warm and makes the entire house smell like awesome.
Like these scalloped potatoes for example. Oh my yum. These are hot, cheesy, and the perfect amount of salty from the ham. Just… drool-worthy. I burnt the roof of my mouth because I couldn’t wait to get this into my mouth.
Totally worth it.
Snow and scalloped potatoes… who needs Spring? Okay I do. But for now, I have these flowers.
3 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 large yellow onion, cut in half and sliced thin
1-1/4 cups heavy cream
1-1/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
4-1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
4 garlic gloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1-1/4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese (NOT extra-sharp cheddar)
3/4 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1-1/2 cups diced thick-cut ham, cooked
Prepare your slow-cooker: Fold a sheet of parchment paper into a 3-inch strip and place inside perimeter of slow-cooker insert (along the sides). Lightly spray parchment paper with cooking spray. This will prevent the potatoes around the edge of the cooker from burning.
Par-cook potatoes: Toss potatoes with 2 tablespoons cream in a large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave until the edges of potatoes are translucent, 6-8 minutes, shaking bowl (without moving plastic) to redistribute potatoes halfway through cooking.
Whisk broth and cornstarch in large liquid measuring cup until smooth. Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and thyme and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in broth mixture, remaining cream, salt and pepper and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring frequently, until thickened, about 1 minute. Off heat, add cheeses, whisking until smooth. Add ham and combine.
Pour half of sauce into slow-cooker insert. Arrange potatoes in even layer over sauce and pour remaining sauce over potatoes. Cover and cook on low until potatoes are tender, 5-6 hours. Let cool 20 minutes. Remove parchment and serve.
As M. Scott Peck said, “Until you value your time, you will not do anything with it.”
After long and careful consideration, I have decided to pack up my things and head back home to Wisconsin to spend time with family. I fear that I do not have very much time left to see and help my grandparents, so this is that time.
It took me a long time to come to this conclusion. There are many reasons why I love Colorado – the job opportunities, the sunny, mild winters, the gorgeous mountains and the lifestyle. I will miss all of these things, but I will miss my friends, who are like family, even more.
These crazy kids extended a hand and made me feel like I was one of the gang. We had some wild nights at company softball games and chill days at BBQs in the park. We’ve hiked for miles and stumbled out of bars. These are the type of friends you will have for a lifetime. You guys are absolutely the hardest part about leaving.
A special thank you for making my last day/weekend at my job something I will never forget. The weekend was chock full of celebratory drinks and stories with co-workers, an amazing seafoodfest (lobster tails, blue crab, gulf shrimp, clams, crayfish, etc.) hosted by one of the kindest, coolest, and most generous couples we know, 6-inches of snow, and we even kick started American Craft Beer Week at some of north Denver’s breweries.
It was a weekend fit for a queen. I’d love to do it all over again, but alas, I’m now tasked with packing, planning, and taking steps to get started with this new chapter of my life. T-minus 19 days!
Wow, thinking about that gives me total anxiety… time to get busy!
For the bacon part of this sandwich I did something a little different – I made a bacon weave. I cut my strips of bacon in half and made a 3×3 weave. It’s super simple and guarantees that every inch of your bread is covered by bacon. #winning
And don’t forget, brunch isn’t really brunch if you don’t have a mimosa or a bloody mary, so cheers to Sunday!
Bacon and Avocado Breakfast Sandwich with Sunny Side Up Egg
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Yields: 2 servings
Serving Size: 2 open face sandwiches
1 package of thick-cut bacon
4 large eggs
Toasted bread (your choice, we used whole wheat today)
Prepare a jelly roll pan with parchment paper. Cut 12 strips of bacon in half. Place 3 half slices of bacon on the parchment paper and weave in 3 more pieces, like a basket.
Pop the pan into a cold oven and set it to bake at 375 degrees. Set your timer for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, turn your jelly roll pan around in your oven. Set your timer for another 5-10 minutes or until the bacon is cooked. Remove from the oven and drain bacon on a paper towel.
As the bacon drains, cook your eggs. Take a few tablespoons of the bacon grease and place it in a medium pan. Heat the pan to medium heat and crack the eggs into it. Cover with a large lid and wait about three minute, or until the whites of the eggs are cooked but the yolks are still runny.
Make your sandwich: place the toasted bread on a plate, cover with slices of cool avocado, add your bacon weave and top with a hot egg. Serve with your favorite hot sauce. Enjoy!
Sweet, salty, chewy, crunchy… There are moments in my life when all I can think about is food. My job, my bills, my personal hygiene do not matter. I know that doesn’t come as a surprise to most of you who know me, but these moments are different. These are times where nothing else matters except my urge to satisfy my cravings. It’s like an overwhelming appetite for one particular thing that I can’t shake. I turn into an absolute CRAVE MONSTER!
Sometimes I crave chocolate. Sometimes I crave carbs. Other times I crave nothing but crunchy textures – which is probably weird but it happens often. These days I have a strong hankering for anything with cheese in it (not the powdered cheese, the real stuff!)
It’s weird that sometimes when I do give in and try to satisfy my cravings with a slice of chocolate cake or macaroni and cheese, my craving does not go away immediately. You would think that since I satisfied whatever urge it is I had, that it would vanish as soon as I ate whatever it is I had been craving. But that is not always the case. Does this happen to you too?
Attention pickle lovers – you MUST try Pickle Soup!!
I am 50% Polish and 50% Filipino. Probably haven’t heard of that one before, huh? My unique heritage could explain why I love so many different types of food (or maybe I just like to eat good food?) Every time I visit my family in Wisconsin I have to indulge in the local European cuisine. The same goes with my Filipino family in California… lumpia and pancit all the way. Today, my Polish heritage won out.
The process of pickling has been used to preserve foods for decades. In Poland and other parts of Eastern Europe, pickled baby cucumbers in hot broth was the winter counterpart to the summer offering of cold cucumber soup. Fun fact for the day. So pickle soup might sound weird to us, but it’s a big dish in Eastern Europe.
When I first tried this soup, one spoonful in and BLAMMO!!! I was hooked. This recipe may not have started in my family, but I will pass it on to my friends and family! It’s so stinkin’ good!
Because soup is very easy to make, you have no excuse NOT to make this. My recipe uses a cream base where others use a tomato base. You could also make this soup vegetarian by using vegetable broth instead of chicken broth. This is a good base recipe to work off of. I add carrots and celery to the broth when I have them on hand too. It’s a poor man’s soup, so anything goes really! Make it your own, just don’t forget the pickles!
2 large russet potatoes (about a pound), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 large carrots, peeled and diced
1 rib celery, diced
1 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon dill
1 tablespoon Old Bay seasoning
salt and pepper, to taste
Add olive oil and melt butter in a large stock pot over medium heat. Saute onion and garlic until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the flour and stir the thick mixture constantly for 2 minutes.
Add broth, potatoes and veggies. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Test and add salt and pepper, to taste.
In a small bowl, temper sour cream mixture with a little hot soup and whisk together. Pour the sour cream into the hot soup, whisking until combined. Reduce heat to low and simmer until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Add dill, old bay, pickle liquid and pickles. Adjust seasoning if necessary. The soup can be left chunky or pureed to a velvety consistency. Serve immediately with your favorite crusty bread or croutons.
2015 has already been such a busy year! It’s amazing how little the weather affects life here in Colorado. When there is snow, the people will play! When it’s warm and the sun is shining, which is almost every day, Coloradans are outside and enjoying the outdoors. I love being surrounded by people and places that are always hustling and bustling.
This is going to be a big year in regards to travel. We were already saving up for a trip to London but now two friends have announced their wedding dates and we have an opportunity to visit family in Florida on the “cheap.” That’s a lot of travel in one year for us (and a lot of $$$$ too)! I’ve had an itch for awhile to travel internationally, but with everything else that is going, we are really going to have to pinch our pennies to make that happen.
Doing my best to prepare, I have been budgeting and saying no to things I want to do on the regular. I know I need to nitpick and prioritize if I want to make every single one of my travel goals this year. I plan to make more meals at home and eat the leftovers for lunch for as long as they last. I will have to get creative with pantry ingredients too – like our very own series of Chopped! This Cheesy Polenta dish is definitely on the cheap and tastes like a million bucks!
The polenta was super easy to make, just use a whisk and add plenty of liquid to make it smooth. The Spinach adds a nice garlicky, spicy kick while adding some nutrients too. And the runny egg on top really adds some richness to bring it all together. Plus the egg adds some protein to help make this meal last longer.
When in doubt, put an egg on it!
I have always been good at budgeting, but this tight of a budget will be a challenge for me. No useless shopping, no overspending when I go out for coffee, no nothing…
It’s London (and two weddings and maybe Florida too) or bust!
Wish me luck!
P.S. Sorry about the quality of the photo. It’s off of my Instagram feed. My laptop is still fighting with my camera. I’ve put them both in a time-out so here’s hoping that changes something.
Cheesy Polenta with Garlicky Spinach and Runny Egg
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Yields: 2 servings
1/2 cup cornmeal and 2 cups water (or 1-lb pre made polenta)
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
4 cups fresh spinach or 1 cup frozen spinach, drained and roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes (or to taste)
Romano or Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1/2 cup corn kernels (optional)
salt and pepper
Prepare the polenta: Bring the water and salt to a boil in a medium-side pot, then turn the heat down to low and slowly pour in the polenta while stirring briskly with a wooden spoon or whisk (stirring while pouring is crutial to keep the polenta creamy and smooth - no lumps!) Once the cornmeal becomes smooth and thick, place a lid on the pot with the spoon still in it so the steam can escape. Allow to cook for 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, add a bit of olive oil to a pan on medium heat. Add the garlic and chili flakes. Let them cook until you can smell them, about 1 minute. Add spinach and toss. Allow to cook for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the spinach is wilted. Drain and place contents into a bowl. Cover with aluminum foil to keep warm.
Wipe the spinach pan with a paper towel and add a bit of olive oil then put it back on medium heat. Crack the two eggs into the pan and cover with a lid. This will steam them, making sunny-side-up eggs with fully cooked whites. You can also flip if you'd prefer over-easy eggs.
Add some romano and lots of salt and pepper to the polenta (to taste). Add the corn now if you are using it. Heat until the cheese is melted and scoop the polenta into a pair of bowls. Divide the spinach evenly between the two bowls and add an egg to each too. Enjoy!
Recipe adapted from Good and Cheap: http://bit.ly/1APscGu
I have always been drawn to travel-heavy careers. To have the ability to fly to a new location and experience new people, new cultures, new sights, sounds and tastes AND get paid for it would be an absolute dream come true.
It’s an adventure, and sometimes adventures have consequences.
Including security lines, bag checks, and delayed flights.
Reality check: I don’t have one of those jobs. I have a desk job where I sit on my butt most of the day sending emails to other people sitting at their desks. Sometimes I don’t even take a break. Terrible right?
I feel fortunate that I made it out of the United States in my teens. I was lucky enough to have enough common sense to join my high school music department and visit Australia. In retrospect I should have taken advantage of more of those group trips. I should have also studied abroad while I had the chance. Travel is just so much more expensive for me now – someone who is just trying to scrape by with her bills and somehow still plan for the future.
Oh the places I would go…
I have to admit, the more exotic the destination the better for me. I want to visit the cliff dwellings of Cappadocia. I want to feel the wacky, weird energy of Japan’s nightlife. I want to trek around the volcanic ice caves of Antarctica. I’m fascinated by all this world has to offer. I am a tiny speck on this huge rock and I’m ready to explore. I want to visit a place that few people think about going to.
I would love to taste meals in rural Thailand – sweet, sour, bitter, and savory, all in one bite. I want to sit on a patio in France and eat freshly baked pastries and sip espresso for an entire afternoon. I would love to enjoy a warm meal under the lights of the Northern Sky (I can’t even imagine the logistics behind something like this, but a girl can dream!)
I am even willing to put my American mind aside to try local “delicacies,” (use your imagination here). I’ve learned to be a better “yes” person more than a “no” person, especially on vacations. I don’t want ignorance to get in the way of experience. I realize that will be easier said than done when I’m faced with trying a plateful of insects, but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.
Who knows where I will end up. When I am in a foreign country, I am usually at the mercy of my hotel’s front desk clerk. GPS and internet can be expensive commodities to come by when traveling outside of the United States. I imagine the language barrier could be a challenge as well. Perhaps finding restaurants that use translation software before you leave the states ahead of time could help. It never hurts to ask a few locals about their favorite places to eat or visit too.
What about you? Where do you want to go if money were no option? Is there a place you feel like nobody else wants to visit but you? Are there any foods you wouldn’t try?
One morning I woke up to a text saying, “Is that cat still outside?” Half-awake and bewildered, I opened the front door and faced the bitter cold to find an orange stray cat, curled up in a ball and shivering on the stairs of our apartment building.
Someone was kind enough to put out some water for her. Mister put out some food for her as well. I gave her a towel and said hello and proceeded to get ready to go to work.
Time-lapse to 9 hours later…
I returned from a long day at the office to find the cat, in the same position, water and food untouched. The poor thing was either too cold to do anything or too scared.
So I brought the little’un inside the safety of our porch. I consulted my inner kid and built her a warm, cozy kitty fort, to shelter her from the cold and snow, until I could figure out what to do with her. She started doing things like this, so how could we say no to this curly little furball?
After a few trips to the vet and posting multiple Craigslist articles to find her original owners, we decided that she is now our very happy (and warm) fluffball. Look at those big paws!
So anyway, this is Benny and even when she’s not waking us up to feed her, or being a spaz, we’re happy she is a part of our cozy family.
Baby it’s cold outside! Denver’s forecasted high is 2 degrees today. I am so thankful to Santa for bringing us a heated blanket. I know we (and our kitty) appreciate the warmth on these bitter cold nights.
The holidays are typically a time of reflection for me. I think about what I have accomplished (or didn’t accomplish) during these last 12 months and make new goals for the new year. I also remember to show my appreciation to my family and make sure they feel the same warmth and love they make me feel, especially during these cold days. I also love to share in memories with my friends and extended family here in Colorado. There is nothing like cozying up to loved ones and talking over a mug of something warm.
If you love a cup of spicy chai tea as much as I do, then you will love these cookies. They have just enough spice to make everything nice and the pumpkin flavor really comes through too. I hope you enjoy and have a splendid new year!
Preheat your oven to 350°. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt in a bowl and set aside.
In a separate bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Beat in pumpkin, egg, and vanilla until creamy, then mix in dry ingredients until just combined.
Drop tablespoons of batter onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake cookies for 15–16 minutes, or until they begin to have just a hint of golden brown around the edges. Remove from oven and cool complete before frosting.
For the icing: Melt butter in a saucepan and add milk. Steep chai tea bags in the liquid for 5 minutes, then discard. Combine together with sugar, vanilla, and milk, and mix until a smooth icing forms. If the icing is too thick, add 1 tablespoon of milk at a time until you have a smooth, velvety glaze.
English chef Heston Blumenthal has never been short of creative ideas having wowed us with his culinary flair for many years. But what has set Blumenthal apart from many other world famous chefs, is his desire to continually reinvent himself and come up with edgy and industrious ideas.
Just recently Blumenthal went on a one-man mission to revolutionize the way food was served at London’s Heathrow Airport. First, he started with launching his latest addition to his ever-expanding array of restaurants: The Perfectionists’ Café.
Situated in the heart of the newly renovated Terminal 2, The Perfectionists’ Café serves a bevvy of “quintessential British dishes” with the innovative flair you’d expect from a Blumental restaurant.
On top of that, he has also released his range of bespoke on-board picnics for flyers that want to fly with the comfort of appetizing food as opposed to the processed food we are all served by ever airline in operation.
And Blumenthal could be forgiven for holding fire on any other potential projects for this year, with the workload of launching the previously mentioned lines and restaurant. But not, Blumenthal he has also announced the intentions of his next project, which is very much under way now.
The Michelin-starred chef has announced a partnership with the Crown in Melbourne, Australia. For those of you who are unfamiliar of the Crown, it’s one of the biggest casinos in Australia, and Blumenthal is set to launch his latest restaurant there.
Apparently, the project is well on its way but no one is yet to announce an opening date. The Crown Group has announced it will be located in the center of the casino next to its swimming pool, which is a major focal point of the casino.
The Crown Group, which is a major force in the gaming industry, has said that the restaurant will showcase “his distinctive gastronomy combinations next to the high rollers.”
The Crown Group has seen unrivaled success in Australia mainly due to offering its patrons a diverse entertainment experience in its many establishments. They see Blumenthal as the ideal figurehead to change the way casino food is perceived, and offer its clientele fine dining at its very best.
Since the uprising of online gaming through InterCasino in the late 90s, companies like the reputable Crown Group have succeeded because of ideas like getting Blumenthal’s brand associated with their casinos. It’s a clever marketing ploy that has driven a new clientele and looks like one that will thrive in one of the culinary capitals of the world.
As Blumenthal continues to reach new markets with his business and culinary acumen, 2015 is set to be another busy year for one of the most inspiring chefs on the planet.
– Disclaimer: This is a guest post by Hannah Baker.
Blog warning: This post is filled with extreme excitement. Only food lovers should continue.
I am a huge veggie burger fan. From Gardenburgers, to homemade Black Bean Burgers, I love veggie burgers of all shapes and sizes. I have eaten many veggie burgers in my day, too many to count, but this quinoa burger takes the cake.
I have to say, I’ve made many dishes that I have enjoyed. Heck, I love food so that’s not too difficult to understand, but to be honest, I haven’t been this passionate about a meal in quite awhile.
I’ve absolutely fallen in love with this crispy quinoa burger!! The combination of the sweet and tangy beer caramelized onions, gooey swiss cheese, runny egg and crunchy potato chips is extremely messy and completely SATISFYING! This is a burger that even a meat-eater will love.
This is definitely my new ‘go to’ when I am craving something comforting and vegetarian.
SO YUMMY! The egg comes highly recommended but whatever you do, don’t skimp on the potato chips. This burger needs that extra crunch!! Call these burgers QuinWOW burgers.
QuinWOW Burgers with Beer Caramelized Onions and Swiss
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Yields: 4-5 Burgers
Serving Size: 1 Burger
2 cups cooked quinoa (cooking your quinoa in vegetable broth will add a TON of flavor!)
1 cup cannellini beans, mashed
1/2 cup diced mushrooms, cooked (I used baby bellas)
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon chile powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 of your favorite burger buns (I used brioche), toasted
4 eggs cooked to your liking, optional but highly recommended
Potato chips, plain or salt and pepper chips are recommended
Beer caramelized onions
1 tablespoon butter
1 large sweet onions, thinly sliced
1 pinch of salt
1 cup or so beer (I used a lager)
In a bowl combine the quinoa, mashed cannellini beans, mushrooms, bread crumbs, egg, garlic, chile powder, salt and pepper. Mix well to moisten the ingredients and then mix in the shredded cheddar cheese. Mix well again and form into 4 or 5 equal burger patties. Place on a plate and put
Caramelize the onions. Heat a large skillet. Add 1 tablespoon butter over medium-high heat. Add onions and salt and cook for a minute or two, stirring frequently.
At this point you want to slowly add the beer, let it cook into the onions, add more and let it cook. Do this until the 1 cup of beer is gone or the onions are caramelized to your liking and the beer has mostly evaporated. Remove the onions from the skillet and keep warm.
In the same onion skillet add 3-4 tablespoons vegetable oil and heat to medium-high heat. Grab the quinoa burgers and smash them into the pan until they form a patties, about 1/2-inch in thickness. Cook until golden and crisp, about five minutes per side. During the last minute or so of cooking add the swiss cheese, cover the pan and cook 1-2 minutes or until the cheese has melted.
To assemble the burgers, place each burger on a toasted bun, top with equal amounts of caramelized onions, the runny egg and crispy potato chips. Grab some napkins and DEVOUR!
I customized a Marble Brewery 6-pack container to hold 4 mason jars and herb plants. Can you sense my level of pride?
I’m no expert by any means, but I am learning how to grow my garden better and better in the Denver area each and every year. This Small-Space Container Gardenings book is extremely helpful to get ideas for planters and has loads of tips, but I’ve learned some great advice from local gardeners too! So I wanted to share what I’ve learned during my beginning years of patio gardening in an arid climate.
In Colorado, the summers are extremely hot and dry. I’ve tried various containers and plants during the last few growing seasons, and found success with some more than others. Here are a few tips:
Don’t be fooled by those cheap clay pots. They are absolutely THE worst container you may ever use for your plants. I could hardly keep my soil wet long enough to water my plants. Clay pots absorb too much water and dry out very quickly. Avoid these at all costs.
Make sure that whatever container you’re using has drainage holes. You don’t want your plants to rot. If you find something you would like to use as a container and it doesn’t have any drainage holes, simply take a drill with the biggest drill bit you have handy and poke a few of those puppies in the bottom of it.
Shade, shade, shade! Even when your plants call for direct sunlight. The summers here are HOT, HOT, HOT! Plants that are able to survive in full-sized gardens in Colorado may not have the same luck in full sunlight on your patio. Find some partial shade for your babies.
When growing season is in full swing, water your plants at least once a day. Weather and temperature dependent, sometimes twice a day. I’ve noticed that lighter-colored plants tend to need more water than darker-colored plants (for example, basil plants need more watering than rosemary).
Grow lots of herbs. Herbs do extremely well in containers. They can also live with one another. You can put different breeds of herbs in one container. I’ve had the best luck with basil, rosemary, thyme, and chives.
Tomatoes are a challenge. If you want to grow tomatoes, they can be extremely challenging in containers. Make sure you have one large container per tomato plant, at least one gallon in size. You’ll need tall sticks or some sort of framing to hold the tomatoes up. I’ve had the best luck with a hybrid tomato plant actually called Patio Tomatoes. Your traditional tomato breeds need lots of dirt and water and pruning. Loads of attention for hardly any tomatoes. The Patio Tomato hybrid comes highly recommended if you want a lot of tomatoes.
Container plants love nutrients and will suck the nutrients dry from your soil quicker than you want them to. From time to time you should sprinkle in some Miracle Grow plant food or you can make your own by adding crushed egg shells onto your soil. Yes, you read that correctly – egg shells. Save your egg shells by rinsing them and allowing them to dry (they will not smell, trust me). When they are dry, toss them in a food processor or crush them by hand until they are finely broken up. Voila! You have free plant food!
I grow my plants from seed too. Seeds can be a pain because you need a lot of space to get them started, but starting your plants from seeds is definitely cheaper than buying grown plants. I start my seeds pretty early, usually the last week of March or the first week of April. I use a seed starter tray, carefully marking all of my pods, then I gently move them to larger containers until they are ready for the outdoors.
Well folks, those are some of the tips I’ve picked up on during the last few years of patio gardening here in Colorado. What other suggestions do you have? Let me know! I’m always looking for new advice from my fellow green thumbs!