Friday, April 29, 2011

Project 365 - April 18-25

April 18 - Chocolate crepes at cooking school
April 19 - Crazy weather but a beautiful rainbow
April 20 - Received the photobooks I created for some of my 2010 trips
April 21 - Yet another good story by Lauraine Snelling
April 22 - I've never stacked a car, but there is always a first time.  Also saw African Cats in celebration of Earth Day.  April 23 - A recipe from Southern Living - Pecan Chicken.  A little bit of an experiment, but still tasty.
April 24 - The traditional Easter breakfast.  Very sad that we didn't see donuts at church, so we stopped at Winchell's on the way home.  After quite a few years of cooking a fancy Easter feast, we opted to see Rio at Movie Tavern.  A relaxing Easter afternoon.
April 25 - Chicken and Fruit salad.  A modification from a recipe in Southern Living.  Very simple, tastes great, and will make it again.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Traveler Goes to Cooking School: Aurora Recreation

 I don't think that I've been in a cooking class since college.  It college it was a bit of a running joke because I would come home with food and flower arrangements from my classes.  My roommates brought home 20th century music or microbiology homework.   For years I've been getting mailings from Aurora Recreation but have never enrolled in a class.  That changed last week when I went to the "Kitchen on the Green" for a class called Best Chocolate Desserts Ever.  They were pretty good.  The crepes on the left were my project start to finish, including the chocolate creme anglaise sauce on the plate and the chocolate souffle filling inside (you can't see it, but know it was delicious).   The chocolate cake was the product of some of my classmates.   The nice part about class?  Some ingredients like the chocolate was pre-measured.   There is a teacher's helper who primarily helps you find things and then washes your dishes.   We also make Chocolate Croquembouche, Mint Milk Chocolate Fondue and Mayan Chocolate Truffles.   I used a chocolate tempering machine and learned how to dip truffles so that they are smooth with a glossy finish.   

All those people who promote 'lifelong learning' are right! 

Recipe: Thin Mint Mini-Cheesecakes

I discovered another potentially delicious blog called Sticky Gooey Creamy Chewy this past weekend.   Maybe it was just coincidence that a large box of Girl Scout Cookies had come in the mail for my sister (they had been MIA for quite a while, finally we had a tracking number).   Maybe it was just coincidence that I had a box of Thin Mints already in my freezer from my local Girl Scouts (my sister 'imported' her cookies from a troop in Illinois).    In any case, I made a half batch of these Thin Mint Mini-Cheesecakes (click here for original recipe).  The half-recipe made 7 cakes.  Just enough for small desserts this week but not too many.  A few minor changes from the original recipe:  1) used reduced fat cream cheese 2) used jumbo chips (what was on hand) but chopped them.  I now feel that almost any cookie could be put into a mini-cheesecake.  And why not?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Channeling Grandma

My Grandma loved to bake and make candy.  Hmmm, wonder where I get it from?  When she passed away, my mom brought me all her candy molds.   I don't know that I realized that she had molds; all I ever saw was the finished product.  Pink and green bunnies in my Easter basket.  White chocolate snowmen for my birthday.  Peanut butter cups and chocolate covered cherries at Christmas time.  My sister and I broke them out, then hit Michael's to get some candy melts.   While we were there, we saw these molds to make chocolate covered oreos (above).   Candy molds make it very easy to make a professional looking product while being a complete amateur (the picture shows our fist effort...they got better with each round).   Needless to say, everyone who tried a bunny pop, chocolate egg or oreo was very happy.

Project 365 - April 14-17

It's hard to believe that it's almost May already.   Except for A-basin, this is the closing weekend for the last of the major ski resorts.   The weather keeps changing between sun and rain, and every once in a while you think we'll get more snow.

April 14 - Banana Pecan pancakes for dinner
April 15 - I did in fact recieve a message in a bottle
April 16 - My groupon addiction continues - this time we enjoyed lunch at Modmarket
This thin crust pizza has fig, goat cheese and arugula.  Yum.
April 16 (hours later) - Visiting friends and the bird just sits on the dog like it's no big deal
April 17 - Visiting one of my sister's friends north of downtown and went to Tocabe, a native American eatery specializing in fry bread. 
April 17 - Spring is here!  Flowering trees outside of church.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Project 365 - April 8-13 (Illinois Road Trip and Beyond)

Sadly the week of April 3 started with news in our family of two relatives passing away.  To be close to our mom and aunt during a time of sadness we traveled back to Illinois to attend a memorial service and to visit the small towns in Central Illinois where my mom and aunt visited as kids because that's where their grandparents and cousins lived.   We learned a lot of family stories that weekend (including the "Wedding Cake Scandal of 1973"). 

April 8 - We started our family journey in Champaign-Urbana. 
(left) Toasting in celebration of Dale's life
(right) Mom and I on the Quad at the U of I.  
We are both alums and it was Mom's Day weekend.  Very fitting.

 April 9 - After leaving C-U we headed up to our "family" towns of Mazon and Morris.   En route to Mazon we stopped in Dwight for a snack (giant sundae from That 50's Place).   Between Mazon and Morris we stopped at Goose Lake Prairie which has the largest stand of prairie grass in the state.  At one time the great state of Illinois was 60% prairie.   We saw the houses that mom's grandparents and aunt/uncle lived in in Mazon and visited family graves in Morris.  We had pre-dinner drinks at resaurant called the Rockwell Inn that has a bar from the Chicago World's Fair (and an entertaining bartender).  The menu didn't really appeal to us, so we hit up Dave's Dawgs, a casual place with great burgers, sandwiches and ice cream.   Shocking, twice in one day I had a giant ice cream sundae.  

April 10 - We were back in Naperville staying at my aunt's place.   We had breakfast at Colonial Cafe, home of the Kitchen Sink...and also this raffle to win your height in turtle sundaes.    There are very few things that we don't have in Denver, but one store that we don't have is Trader Joe's.  It may be sacrilidge, but I'd rather have a Trader Joe's than the Ikea that they are building by Park Meadows.  But that's because I love food more than furniture.  On Sunday night we met up with some of our Africa crew who lives in the area for an evening of pizza and wine.   Ann is still my hero and her stories about teaching at the Amka Afrika School and the O'Brien School for the Maasai are amazing.

April 11 - Southwest Airlines "punny" crackers

April 12 - Had dinner at Pizza Republica.  Service, food and company were all on point.  This is the Fresh Barrata.   Think olive oil, garlic and mozzarella in it's freshest state.

April 13 - And yet another Virgin River book by one of my fave authors

Monday, April 18, 2011

Recipe: Dijon Croque Monsieur

Drifted to the savory side after making candy with Easter molds on Saturday afternoon.   Yet another delicious recipe from Cooking Light (original recipe here).   I was tempted to put it on the George Foreman grill, but decided to keep to the original for the first go round.

1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon fat free mayo (used light)
8 slices Italian bread (I bought a long loaf)
6 oz thinly sliced ham
1 cup (4oz) shredded Gruyere cheese
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup egg substitute (used 2 eggs)
1/4 cup skim milk
cooking spray

Combine mustard and mayo together.   Spread on bottom slice, then layer ham, cheese and cracked pepper.  Spread mustard mix on top and put sandwich together.   Mix the egg and milk together.   Dip sandwich in egg mixture and then cook on a large nonstick griddle or skillet over medium eat.   Coat pan with cooking spray.  Cook 3 minutes on each side or until lightly browned and cheese melts.    Enjoy every bite.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Project 365 - April 1-7

So, April showers bring May flowers...or something.  Beginning of April had a day of 80 degree sun followed by snow.   Typical Colorado.

April 1 - Dinner at Saj.  We went to a presentation at Aspen Academy and the Streets of Southglenn were close by.   Very tasty dinner...and baklava!  We went to a presentation sponsored by Trading for Treasures (creating jobs for women in Rwanda by selling their handiwork here in the states) featuring Immaculee Ilibagiza, a survivor of the Rwandan genocide in 1994 who spent three months in a cramped 3x4 foot bathroom with 7 other women in the home of a pastor to avoid being killed.   She has a peace about her that is amazing.   One of the stories she told was about praying the rosary, the Lord's prayer specifically.   Knowing that Hutu's were killing Tutsi's right outside the house she struggled with the phrase "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us."  In her heart, she couldn't pray what she didn't believe, so she decided to omit that portion of the prayer.  God knew what was in her heart.   After a while she determined that she couldn't just eliminate a part of the Lord's Prayer.  Over time she prayed for her heart to be changed (she had lots of time to pray, since they couldn't speak during their time in the bathroom).    Immaculee had a great way of speaking that really put you in the moment, feeling her emotions (and I am not doing justice to it here).     One of the other great things she said was "if you have to choose between being right or being kind, choose being kind."

April 2 - An amazingly beautiful day.  We had brunch at Paris on the Platte.   Since it was free day at the DAM we went to check out the Blink exhibit on light and sound.
Cow sculpture outside the art museum - One of the exhibit rooms

April 3 - And then the weather changed....
April 4 - Baking for the youth talent show, yellow cake with key lime filling and lime cream cheese frosting...sprinkles inspired by a technique on Cupcake Wars
April 5 - Reading about Yellowstone in Budget Travel
April 6 - More baking for the youth
April 7 - Saturday Morning by Lauraine Snelling.   The first book I picked up from her at the library was a random find, but now I seek her out.  It was a great read that I finished over the weekend.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Recipe: Hot & Spicy Nuts

I found this recipe a few years ago and usually make it for company or ski trips.  It's really simple and makes a great snack.  Buy assorted nuts from the bulk bins at the store and gather these spices (or your favorites).

2 egg whites
6 cups mixed nuts
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons seasoning salt
2 teaspoons curry powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground cumin seat
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper

Preheat oven to 250.  Beat egg whites until foamy.  Add nuts and coat.  Add sugar/spices together, then toss with nuts.  Make sure all nuts are coated with the egg whites and spices.   Spread nuts on a greased baking sheet.  Bake 1 hour, stirring once.   Cool, break apart, then cool completely.   Store in an airtight container.


Project 365 - The End of March

March 26 - Beautiful morning skiing at Keystone followed by a visit to my favorite shop in Georgetown....followed by holding a 6 day old baby....followed by Juicy Lucy burgers, cookies and sangria.

March 27 - My sister was concerned that she had not yet had 'Colorado Style' pizza,
so we went to BeauJos
March 28 - Caution tape on the sidewalk...random
March 29 - Kickoff for the 2011 Relay for Life at Cap City Tavern.  The theme for this year's relay is the 50s so we played a game where you had to guess the tv show stuck to your back.  Mine was Flipper.  This was also the beginning of the 'let's go out every day this week' dinner plan.
March 30 - It's called happy hour when you spend it with friends.  This time at Paramount Cafe.  Below is the book I was reading this week.   It was written in 2006 about the Mt. St. Helen's eruption in 1980.  It's strange to read about a time with no cell phones and call waiting.  

March 31 - Celebrating a friend's birthday at Great Northern Tavern. I had the pasta with pesto, chicken, and sun dried tomato.  Yum!


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