Friday, February 26, 2010

Soundtrack delights...

For the past week I have been listening to two great soundtracks: An Education and Crazy Heart.  The soundtrack for An Education is of course my favorite of the two with its flirty 60's french vibe.  It is divine and would go perfectly with the St. Germain Manhattan.   Funny that two movies this year (An Education and A Single Man) have made me want to rock the 60's black eyeliner.    I have even bought a new tube of liquid liner and have been practicing, much to the chagrin of my coworkers who think I come to work ready to audition for the role of Cleopatra!

A Crazy Heart is a good sountrack that includes an exceptional song by Ryan Bingham who is from my home state.   I will be rooting for him next Sunday during the Oscars... I wonder if anyone from New Mexico has ever won an Oscar?

Cocktail... St. Germain Manhattan

So I mentioned earlier this week about having a delicious Manhattan at Indulge resturant last weekend.   So I worked on recreating it this week. 

St. Germain Manhattan
1 3/4 ounces of rye or bourbon
1 ounce of St. Germain
2 teaspoons of sweet vermouth
3 dashes of bitters (I used orange and on my second try peach)
1 orange twist
1 Maraschino or brandied cherry

Fill two-thirds of a pint glass with ice.   Add the rye or bourbon, St. Germain, sweet vermouth and bitters and stir or shake briskly for 30 secons to chill.   Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with the orange twist and cherry.

Been a bit distracted...

Been busy trying to help my sister with some wedding arrangements on this beautiful little island.   Which is why I have done nothing interesting this week... blame Piper.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Use the force...

Mac, You don't need to fly to work in a a frozen midwest city
These are the locations you are looking for
we can go sit on a beach
make reservations, make reservations

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Canning: Spiced Lemon Honey

This weekend I set out to try a Honey Lemon Jelly recipe but at the last minute I spied this Spiced Honey in The Ball Complete Book of Preservation. This is a quick easy recipe that I think everyone should try. I opened a jar immediately after I processed them and make a cup of earl grey tea. The honey was fresh and lightly spiced. I discovered an additional benefit to my spiced honey a few days later, canned in my small 4 oz jars they are portable for someone like me who wants a bit of honey at work to stir into my Greek yogurt.

The cinnamon I used came from the Villa Vanilla Spice Plantation that I visited this summer in Costa Rica. I brought back a few huge bags of Ceylon cinnamon bark and about 10 fat vanilla beans. Up until now I have only made tea with the cinnamon bark.

I plan on tracking the flavors of the honey as I open a new jar to see how they age, so I will update this post with incremental updates.

Spiced Honey
(from The Ball Complete Book of Preservation)
Makes 6 8oz jars

2 ¾ Cups of Honey
1 lemon, ends removed and sliced into 6 slices
4 cinnamon sticks broken into pieces
10 whole cloves
Sterilize jars per manufacture’s instruction.

Place two cloves into each lemon slice. Heat honey over medium heat with cinnamon sticks on medium heat until the honey softens. Add lemon slices and boil for 3 minutes.

Pour into jars leaving ¼ head room in the jars. Process jars in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes, depending upon your altitude.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Weekend... movies and eating

For the past four days it has done nothing but snow in Denver. I am so over winter right now I can hardly go outside... scraping my windows, wearing winter shoes, jackets and snow shoveling. YUCK. I did however leave the house because this weekend was the start of Restaurant Week here in Denver. It is an opportunity to try out different restaurants via a prix fix menu. This weekend we chose Indulge, a quaint little French restaurant that is serving delicious food.  My selections were: a beet and fennel salad, roasted duck and finished with poached pear and ice cream with a chocolate sauce (I just wish the chocolate sauce was dark not milk chocolate). Mac chose a crab and avocado salad, scallops and ended with a crème brulee duo. The food here was terrific. The roasted duck came with shoestring potatoes tossed in acidic dressing that was a perfect foil to the crispy rich duck. One of my favorite things about this menu was their version of a Manhattan. Now, if you know me you know I do not like whiskey, scotch or any of their kind. But this Manhattan was made with a splash of St. Germain Liqueur…I cannot even start to describe how fabulous this drink was - I can only say that it is just brilliant. I am going to try and make one at home and come up with a recipe for us all to enjoy.  Another side note the wine list at Indulge is outstanding….all French and all very well picked (and priced)!

I also tried out the new HBurger,. I went for a quick bite before a Sunday movie, we were rushed and didn’t get to try out their touted milkshakes. But, their burgers were delicious; we only had the regular 1/4lb burger, nothing fancy for us.  They had some technical difficulties with our order, but the manager and staff were courteous and apologetic.  I will definitely be coming back to try another.

I am close to the goal of having watched all of the  Oscar Nominated movies… Here is what we saw this weekend.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Machine...

I am in love with this album and can't stop listening to it... Florence and the Machine - Lungs.   Listen to some of it here.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Jar Love

In my furious reading of all books on canning and because stores in Denver haven't restocked canning jars for the summer season, I have started looking at online sources for canning supplies and lusting after these jars.  

(My Favorite - Weck Jars)

(More Weck)

(Leifheit Jars)

I realize that the USDA recommends:  Jars with wire bails and glass caps, clamp-on type lids, one piece lids, or old-fashioned rubber ring seals are no long considered safe for home canning. Old canning jars make a charming presentation or attractive storage containers for dry foods, but don't use them for canning. One-piece lids, Zinc lids or porcelain-lined caps are also no longer recommended. The latter are no longer manufactured, having been supplanted by modern, two piece vacuum lids with rubber seals built into them.   That being said I see their point (or should I say, I see their lawyers point) in recommending proper food saftey.  But... Europeans have used these jars for a gazillion years.   I'm just sayin'... I love raw milk cheese too!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Can Jam January: Citrus - Meyer Lemon Marmalade

I love pickles, I love kraut, I love chutneys, I love jam and I love to can. I am a reader of Tigress in a Jam and Tigress in a Pickle blogs and I recently came across her Can Jam challenge. Unfortunately, I was in a work coma during November and December and I missed the sign up for this challenge. Darn. But I am still trying to participate. Of course, I am now posting my January entry for this challenge. (You all must be thinking… this girl really needs to get it together.) I think it is the effort that counts in the end. I really never thought I would ever be canning anything in January… I should start a can of the month club to distribute these goodies. Anyway, here it is. Meyer Lemon Marmalade… ta-da

Meyer Lemon Marmalade
Adapted from Joy of Cooking

Makes 4-6 8-oz jars of marmalade

3 pounds Meyer Lemons, washed and dried
2 cups water
4 Meyer lemons, juiced and strained
2-3 cups sugar

Scrub and clean the lemons. Peel the Lemons removing as much as the zest as possible while leaving behind as much of the pith as possible. Chop the remaining zest. Peel remaining pith from each lemon. Cut the lemons in half; remove the seeds; and crush/juice them. Combine zest, pulp and 1 cup of water in a bowl and refrigerate overnight.

Combine 2 cups of sugar, pulp/zest, water and the juice of two lemons in a pot and boil until and cook until the marmalade reaches a temperature (as measured by a candy thermometer) of 220 – 222° Fahrenheit. Taste and stir marmalade occasionally during the cooking process and add sugar as needed “to taste”. I sweeten just over my “taste preference because at the end of cooking I add some more juice to “freshen” the lemon flavor. I usually am not a fan of commercial jams and marmalades because I think the use too much sugar and much of the fruit flavor is lost. So like all good cook I am constantly tasting and adding sugar (or other ingredients depending on the recipe) to taste. During this process wash your jars, lids and rings and then place in a pot of boiling water for 15 minutes.

Once you have reached 220 on your thermometer turn off the heat and add the juice of the other two lemons. Ladle marmalade into sterilized jars, leaving ¼ inch head room. Run a knife around the inside of the jars to remove air bubbles; wipe rims of jars to remove any marmalade that got on the top of jars because any residual marmalade will break the seal. Put rings and lids on the jars and tighten. Put jars upright in large pot of boiling water and make sure they are covered. Boil water and process for 15 minutes. Remove jars and leave on the counters, listening for the “pop” sound indicating that the jars are sealed. Once cooled check and make sure that lids have sealed and tighten the rings.

*I have not tried this recipe out since Joy of Cooking suggests letting the marmalade sit for two weeks before opening to allow the zest to soften. I will update this entry once I have tried the marmalade.

I have been pouring over canning books to make my February selection.  Here is a link to the rest of the participants results!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Valentine Weekend

Wow! Sometimes there are weekends you don’t want to end… this was one of them. On Friday night Mac and I met up with some friends to eat at a (new to me) restaurant called Steakhouse 10. It is a non-chain steakhouse with many Greek items on the menu and wine list. The restaurant was delicious and a nice change from the chain steakhouse.  I was especially fond of the flaming Kasseri cheese (Saganaki) and escargot on the appetizer menu; and the not to be forgotten Colorado lamb on the entrée menu. Absolutely delicious.

Saturday night we attended a party thrown in honor of our engagement. It was one of the best parties I have ever attended. Delicious food, wonderful company it was such a great time.   I got to see some friends I haven't seen in a while and just enjoyed the limelight for a bit.    (I am not so good with the limelight).

Sunday I went to a movie as I am still trying to catch up on my Oscar Nominated movie list, this week I watched - An Education. Good movie, fantastic clothes.   I did struggle through the movie because I thought Carrie Mulligan looked so much like Katie Holmes that it was distracting.

Monday, I caught up on all the Olympic activities and worked on taping and mudding my bathroom walls and pulling up some of the tiles we cracked when installing the cast iron tub - I really need to finish this remodel.   

As an added bonus, my Christmas amaryllis finally bloomed… both of them! I thought it was a lovely valentine.

P.S. I think I could watch snowboard cross for hours!

Potato and Leek Soup - Quick supper

(Image from Cooking Light)

Sometimes it’s hard to come home from a busy day and think about preparing dinner. I think American’s really need to focus more on cooking and the quality of the food they are consuming and less on other things. My theory is that dinner should be one of the priorities in our lives - not only will it provide you with quality family time but it will also help us all move away from corn and other processed foods. I have for many years been working on avoiding convenience foods but I know it is difficult with so many things going on in our lives to keep away from them. To help in this avoidance we all need to be armed with items that can be whipped up in a pinch whether it be from your pantry or from your fridge.   It has only been in the past few years that I have started buying leeks on a regular basis.   I have found that they add such great flavor to so many things and they keep for quite a while in your veggie drawer waiting for their turn.

This soup is delicious, comforting, quick and adaptable.   You can add any liquid you like or you can add other vegetables into it at will.  Sometimes I will add some broccoli or asparagus to it…

Potato and Leek Soup

2 leeks, remove hard outer leaves, split in half, washed well and chopped
1 clove of garlic minced
2 medium sized potatoes, peeled and in ½ cubes (used russet but have been known to use any
potato around the house)
2 cups of liquid – water, chicken stock, milk, half n half depending upon where your diet is at
that week (this comes out well regardless of the liquid used but I will always
use at least 1 cup of milk to give it some creaminess)
1 Tablespoon of butter
Salt and Pepper
Red Pepper flakes (optional, in case you want a bit of spice)

Melt butter in a Dutch oven over medium high. Add leeks and let them soften and begin to brown. Add garlic and let it soften for a minute. Add potatoes, liquid, salt and pepper (to taste) and let cook until potatoes soften, about 20 minutes. Once potatoes are soft, taste soup for seasoning and adjust, serve or use a masher to break up the potatoes a bit or puree it with a hand blender.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

My precious...

(photo Viking)

Isn't it beautiful?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Superbowl Snacking

I have really lost interest in watching football ever since I read an article that stated there is actually only 12 minutes of actual action in a football game. Talk about lending some perspective to sitting on the couch and watching life pass you by! I have too many things I want to do, books to read, movies to watch and friends to visit to sit and watch another game.  I do however, love listening to sports on the radio and I really love game time eating: superbowl snacks; ballpark hotdogs; and tailgating.

I recently read this article in Food and Wine magazine and dog-eared the page as a possible Super bowl snack selection. I loved the idea of offering a few different types of wings, but to be honest I had a hard time deciding on which to make. I finally made Mac choose: classic, ginger-honey, mango-curry, old bay and Thai green curry. Since it was just he and I snacking I only made a few of each type. The Thai green curry was replaced by peanut satay wings, because the green curry paste I used was super salty and disgusting - I just couldn't bring myself to pour it over the wings.  So I whipped up a quick satay sauce to toss them in.

The results were outstanding.  My favorites in order where: ginger-honey, mango-curry, classic, old-bay and satay.    One thing I loved about these recipes were that the wings were baked in the oven and not deep fried, yet they turned out crispy and delcious without any rubbery chicken skin!  

Classic Hot Wings
Ginger-Honey Wings
Mango-Curry Wings
Old Bay Wings
Thai Green Curry Wings

Wing recipes from the article which I didn't try, but will very soon!

Jamacian Jerk Wings
Maple Chipotle Wings
Sweet & Sticky Wings

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Houston's - Snowy Sunday Lunch

On Sunday a group of us ventured out in to the snowy streets to catch a 10 am showing of The Last Station. Now before I go into the meal that followed I must tell you The Last Station was the best movie I have seen all year! I love Helen MirrenChristopher Plummer who had his best moments ever on film; and I won't forget to mention the always overlooked and undervalued Mr. McAvoy.  Don’t stop, don’t pass go, and by all means please don’t go see Avatar and tell me it was the best movie you have ever seen… go to The Last Station.

After the movie, we were looking for a place to have lunch. I hadn’t done any pre-movie restaurant scouting, because I got the theater wrong and thought it was going to be showing in a different area of town.

We all decided to try out Houston’s which has recently come to Denver. Now I am not a fan of “trying out the new chain restaurant in town”. But since we are all huge fans of the Cherry Creek Grill; since CCG is part of the same company; and since it was snowy and cold - we thought we would overlook its chain status.

We started out with the spinach dip and were sadly disappointed. It is served in a large ramekin flanked by two smaller ramekins with sour cream and salsa. I found the accompaniments odd and the spinach dip boring.

Each of us had a different meal. Mac the French dip; Swooze the chicken tenders; Walsh had the chicken sandwich; and I had the inside out spicy tuna roll salad. Oddly, I didn’t try anyone else’s dish (weird I know). But everyone enjoyed their meal… the chicken nuggets were dipped in a tempura batter which I thought was weird, but just a preference.  My salad was heightened by their offering of Ponzu sauce (instead of soy) to dip my sushi in. I wanted to drink the Ponzu and am now obsessed with acquiring their recipe.

Overall Houston’s was good, but from now on I will stick to the Cherry Creek Grill.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Twisted Olive: Friday night dinner

Mac and I ate dinner out last Friday and we tried out a new(ish) restaurant Twisted Olive. It is in my neighborhood and sounded great - Twisted Olive: is an ultra lounge with a full service restaurant and bar. Nightly Features and Themes include Mediterranean dinner creations. We got to the restaurant at about 8:00 and were seated immediately, which is amazing because the restaurant has only around five non-bar tables, which might be an inaccurate estimate because of the live music and the crowd that was there. The live music was great, but not fun for a couple trying to have a relaxing Friday evening dinner (I can only blame myself for the lack of appropriate research.)   But the music was great and everyone seemed to be having a great time.  We were tucked away in cubby type tables, which were nice but not decorated for maximum comfort: there where high back chairs where there should have been upholstered benches and there were doors to the outside that were inside each cubby that were horribly drafty and I had to wear my coat the entire meal.

The drinks, were superb as advertised this place is a true martini bar.   There were a ton of martini's on the menu and every single one of them we tried was delicious.

The food, well despite the unusual dinner atmosphere the food was excellent. I had a hamburger Panini with one of the best ceasar salads and Mac had the grilled salmon (Salmon on Puff Pastry, topped with a White Wine Butter sauce, Tomatoes, Garlic, and Feta) which was amazing.   My only complaint about the food was dessert: I had the baked apple dessert, which was filled with what can only be described as canned apple filling and was raw and doughy in the middle. Mac had the strawberry ice cream sandwich, which was ice cream with strawberry meringue cookies and fresh strawberries.   When the plate arrived the strawberries that were on that plate were horrible, they looked like strawberries picked in January might.   They should have made a strawberry sauce instead which can be made with frozen strawberries then their would be a flavorful sauce and you wouldn't have to place a green-tasteless strawberries on a dessert plate.

Friday, February 5, 2010

My memory has just been sold

Struggling at work and life today.   Over indulged in wine with some girlfriends last night and found myself at midnight dancing and singing Centerfold by the J. Giles Band in Walsh's living room.  

I have nothing today, except a headache.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Phoenician Kabob aka dinner with Pikas

So, I am lucky.   I live in a town with one of my dearest high school friends, which may to many of you not sound like that big of a feat.   But, it is because we both went to a boarding school about 500 miles away.   I don't get to see her that often (even though we live about 5 miles from each other) because she has recently gone back to school to get her masters degree.   Pikas is a lovely individual to be around, she is: positive, creative and funny... plus she gets me, I guess that is what knowing each other for 25 years will do.  

Last night we had dinner at the Phoenician Kebab.   And I must say, including the company it was a PERFECT dining experience.   I happen to love middle eastern and mediterranean food, it is my favorite.   So the worst part of the evening was actually having to decide on what to eat.   I had the Sultans Combo - Gyros, chicken, falafel, hummus, baba gannouj, tabbouleh and stuffed grape leaves - which they should rename as Sultans Delight.   This meal pretty much encompassed everything that is declicious and right with this resturant... even the stuffed grape leaves were homemade.  

One other fantastic part of the evening was the owner's wife, the lovely school teacher Victoria, spoke with us numerous times to make sure our meal was delicious and to even tell us what was in their lovely garlic sauce, which Heather and I had been debating the contents of for at least 10 minutes.    Victoria also took down our email addresses and promised to email their specials to us. 

This is a not-to-be-missed resturant that I fear is being overlooked on this Denver dining scene because of its location.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Mixed Tape...

The making of a great compilation tape, like breaking up, is hard to do and takes ages longer than it might seem. You gotta kick off with a killer, to grab attention. Then you got to take it up a notch, but you don't wanna blow your wad, so then you got to cool it off a notch. There are a lot of rules.   - Rob Gordon, High Fidelity

I am a HUGE fan of the mix tape makin' process a' la John Cusack in High Fidelity. The charm of my teenage-80's obsession has never worn off.  So every month I compile together a collection of songs to listen to - usually new releases but always new to me.   As you might expect, some months are better than others based on the new selections available.  I have moved on to the mixed CD, but that isn't the only thing that has changed, like I no longer wait by the raido to push record at the perfect moment just to be disappointed when the radio jockey talks through the end of the song.   Also now, thankfully am all grown up and have a job, you know, to pay that I-Tunes bill every month.   

Oddly my cd compilations have not been that great for the past couple of months... I am not sure what is going on - if there is a serious music drought or maybe I was just too busy to listen.  I did, however, enjoy my January...

The Radio Dept. - Messy Enough
Jack Penate - Pull My Heart Away
Phoenix - 1901
Small Engine Repair - How Long
Holly Long - Trust Me
She Ain't Me - Carrie Rodriguez
Sonya Kitchell - For Every Drop
Charlene Soraia - Daffodils
Fink - This is the Thing
Rosi Golan - Come Around
Regina Specktor - Eet

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Order Seeds, check

Picture by Grow Girl

One task down, four million to go - I completed my seed ordering today. I am very excited about the promise of what these little packets will produce in the coming months. Every year I like to try planting something new - last year it was tomatillos and peanuts, which were a bit hit and failure respectively.  The new items in my garden this year are: potatoes and scallions and some unusual melons (below). I have also purchased different varieties of vegetables I regularly plant, like golden beets and Mexican Sour Gherkins, which I can hardly wait to put in a pickle jar!  Look at them (above) don't they look like mini watermelons?  I am so excited about them I can hardly stand it.   I have also resolved to be better about   making notes in my garden journal so that I can keep a more accurate record of my gardening.  

I bought some of my seeds, including the Fond Blanc Melon, through Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.   They describe the Fond Blanc as:  The most unique and beautiful French melon we sell! The fruit is 4-9 lbs., very flattened and ribbed, with warts and bumps. Melons have grey/green skin turning straw color; flesh is salmon-orange. Once one of the best known melons, it was mentioned in the 1860's, but it likely is much older. The flavor is very rich if picked at perfection and the fragrance is heavenly. This is a favorite melon of mine, almost unheard of in this country.  I haven't always had the best of luck with melons... I worry that my problem is that the melons don't have enough time to mature before they frost.   Enter the other melon I ordered from Baker - a Tigger Melon.

How fantastic is this melon?   Baker describes this melon as: The most amazing melon we have grown. The fruit are vibrant yellow with brilliant fire-red, zigzag stripes, (a few fruit may be solid yellow), simply beautiful! They are also the most fragrant melons we have tried, with a rich, sweet intoxicating aroma that will fill a room. The white flesh gets sweeter in dry climates. Small in size the fruits weigh up to 1 lb. - perfect for a single serving. The vigorous plants yield heavily, even in dry conditions. This heirloom came from an Armenian market located in a mountain valley. It was the most popular melon at our Garden Show last August and makes a unique specialty market variety.  I ordered this melon because someone from North Dakota commented that they were able to get this melon to mature before the first frost... and if they can do it so can I.

Aji Amarillo

Purple de Milpa Tomatillo

Dinosaur Kale
(Pictures from Seeds of Change)

Aztec Red Spinach
(photo from Underwood Gardens)

Strawberry Spinach
(photo from Underwood Gardens)

Violettta di Choggia Artichoke
(photo from Underwood Gardens)
Seeds I have purchased this season
White Wonder Cucumber, Rouge Vif’d Etampes Pumpkin, Golden Detroit Beet, Chantenay Royal Carrot, French Breakfast Radish, Italian Vegetable Marrow Squash, Cream of Saskatchewan Watermelon, Heirloom Salad Blend,
Dinosaur Kale, Orange Fantasia Chard, Purple de Milpa Tomatillo, Black Plum Tomato and Aji Amarillo Pepper.
French Gold Pole beans, Tricolor Bush beans (which are a combination of Golden Roc d'Or, Purple Queen, Green Slenderette Pole Beans)

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
Mexican Sour Gherkin, Rocky Top Lettuce Mix, Tigger Melon, Prescott Fond Blanc Melon.

Trade Wind Fruits
Bolivian Rainbow Pepper, Early Jalepeno Pepper, Costeno Amarillo Pepper, Ampuis Pepper, Violetta di Choggia Artichoke (Terroir Seeds)
Winder Bloomsdale Spinach, Strawberry Spinach, Aztec Red Spinach

On to the next task... which now might have to include moving to a house with a bigger yard!

Monday, February 1, 2010

A mess...

That is me.   A jumbled messy-messy mess.   In January I like to clean out closets and spring clean - none of that happened last month.   I need to get motivated and catch up.   I also need to get rid of this nasty cold that has been haunting me.   Then I will have to figure out... where to begin.