Monday, April 23, 2012

bread that's worth the dough

    Where have I been, you ask? Well, my friends, I have been cooking! One of my dear friends Heather owns a charming bakery called Cheesecake Therapy that has great and incredibly imaginative flavors of cheesecake to offer in addition to incredible cupcakes, tarts, pies, scones, bread pudding, and whatever else she feels like whipping up that day. She called (read: Facebook messaged) me a couple months ago eagerly looking to start a Sunday brunch and asked if I would help her in the kitchen so that's been my fun new venture! Not only do I get to work with a wonderful woman in a fabulous bakery, I get to help plan menus and help cook classy, fun, unique, and delicious brunches!

Look at that fancy chef's jacket!
Also, look how cute that bakery is!

  Arvada is full of all sorts of wonderful little places to eat, too. They're hidden gems in the area because, if you know anything about that city, it's not like it's known for it's hip scene, but there have been some really cool new places popping up all around the Old Town Arvada area. (if you're not from Colorado, sorry. This one is pretty city specific!) In addition to Cheesecake Therapy, there is always the D Note which has great pizza and jazz, Scrumptious which is full of old and new candies of every variety, Mannekin Frittes which specializes in french fries, and one of my new favorite places, the Great Harvest Bread Company.
Ham and Gouda? Yes, please!

I discovered Great Harvest on accident when I spontaneously ended up at the Old Town Arvada St. Patrick's Day "festival." I put the word in quotes because it was about 1 block long (yet still managed to have a Scentsy booth. I swear that shit is like a CULT. I should know--my mom sells it. haha) and really the only thing to do there was drink green beer, eat free samples of indian food, and try the green bread that Great Harvest was selling. Then (since there was hardly anything else to look at) I noticed some other VERY EXCITING breads! I ended up buying a Stout and Gouda loaf and a Potato Dill loaf of bread because they looked so good and it was the BEST DECISION I'VE EVER MADE. Seriously. 

    So next time you're in Arvada and you're thinking, "I sure wish i had some delicious bread..." check these guys out. I went in a couple of weeks after the delicious Stout & Gouda loaf was gone to get another loaf of it and found out they run more "seasonal" flavors, so I ended up getting a Santa Fe Jalapeño Cheddar loaf for sandwiches and a Cinnamon Chip loaf for dessert/snacks/breakfast/anything because that was the best bread in the world. 

Cinnamon Chip loaf.
This is seriously like bread porn. See how tasty it looks?!

Sunday, February 19, 2012


My adventure this weekend - making delicious tacos from scratch!

Tortillas are way easier to make than I ever imagined. With the always lovely Julia rolling out the tortillas and shredding her heart out with chicken, the meal was fun to make, fun to eat, and delicious.

Handmade tortillas (you can clearly tell by the shape...), brined and seasoned shredded chicken, purple cabbage and radish ribbons tossed with crema mexicana, and queso fresco crumbled over the top all brought together with a squeeze of lime juice. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . I almost had to restrain myself to keep from eating until I fell in to a taco haze.

Something fresh, something fatty, something spicy, something with acid, all on a fun tortilla that was made minutes before we ate it!

Hipster Cupcake Friday!

Kettle Corn cupcake, complete with a piece on top. Exceptionally good!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Nutella Ice Cream!

Nutella: (n.) a delicious chocolately hazelnut spread that makes everything better. 

I've made chocolate cakes with nutella mousse and slathered nutella on just about everything one can conceive, and not surprisingly nutella ice cream was like magic. It was like soft serve poured directly out of a unicorn's horn.  Since I have the nicest boyfriend in the world (hoping he sees this and buys me nice things), I got a KitchenAid stand mixer for my birthday in October and have been admiring all of the fun things it can do. Not only does it mix anything and everything but it works as an ice cream maker, pasta roller, can wash the cat, iron your clothes, fold your socks, tell you where babies come from, and write a hit song*. 

Anyhow, here's the recipe for the nutella ice cream. It's so good you'll find yourself sleepwalking, waking up in the kitchen with a spoon in your mouth and a delicious creamy bite of ice cream sliding down your throat. 

Nutella Ice Cream, with thanks to Giada De Laurentiis (who i don't think actually eats anything she makes because she looks like a stick figure sim. you know, the sims? that computer game? anyhow... on with the recipe.)

i borrowed this picture because mine didn't come out as well.. :)


  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup sugar, plus 1/4 cup
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup Nutella
  • 1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts, crushed, for garnish


In a saucepan combine the milk, cream, and 1/2 cup sugar over medium heat. Cook until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl whip the egg yolks with the remaining sugar using an electric mixer until the eggs have become thick and pale yellow, about 4 minutes. Slowly pour 1/2 cup of the warm milk and cream mixture into the egg mixture and stir. This will help to warm your eggs so they don't scramble because no one wants to taste eggs in their ice cream. Add this mixture back into the saucepan. Cook over very low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture becomes thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon, about 7 to 10 minutes.
Place a strainer over a medium bowl and pour the warm custard mixture through the strainer. Stir in the vanilla and hazelnut spread until it dissolves. Chill mixture completely before pouring into an ice cream maker and follow manufacturer's instructions to freeze. To serve, scoop gelato into serving bowls and top with hazelnuts.

Happy cooking! Enjoy the ice cream!
*stand mixer may or may not actually do the functions listed. please consult the owner's manual for actual functionality. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

another quick and easy savory soup!

    Warm soup on a cold day, an enchanted meadow full of frolicking unicorns, winning $1,000 - all of these things are AWESOME. Literally. I was watching a comedian on comedy central a while back and he was talking about how if things were ACTUALLY awesome that everyone called awesome, everyone would walk around in constant astonishment. I don't think that C that you managed to pull in science is "awesome." I don't think that you running 3 heroic dungeons back to back is really all that "awesome," either. But I digress, SOUP!

    I first made this one for thanksgiving and I thought it was so delicious, I made up a big batch of it the next weekend too and ate it throughout the week. This sweet potato soup with buttered pecans is a fun way to have sweet potatoes on the table without your traditional disgusting can of yams, Grammy's delicious sweet potatoes (see previous post), or putting your whipped sweet potatoes right next to your mashed potatoes. And if nothing else, just make the buttered pecans. Butter really does make EVERYTHING better.

Sweet Potato Soup with Buttered Pecans

turns out i only took one TERRIBLE picture of this soup. Sorry!

time: total, about 1 hours, 30 mins active
makes: 8-10 servings

(for the soup)
3/4 c finely chopped onion
1 c finely chopped leek, WASHED WELL and drained (they pile mud around these to grow them, so don't skip the wash otherwise you'll have gritty leeks)
2 large garlic cloves, minced
3 large carrots, thinly sliced
1 bay leaf
3 tbsp unsalted butter
2 pounds (about 3 large) sweet potatoes, peeled, halved, and sliced thinly
a 1/2 pound russet (baking) potato
5 c chicken stock (plus additional if you want to thin the soup)
3/4 c dry white wine (i used Cupcake chardonnay... never use a wine to cook with that you wouldn't drink! and believe me, what didn't go in the soup went in my belly!)
1 1/2 c water

(for the buttered pecans)
3/4 c pecans (chopped or whole, depends how meaty you like your nuts. <snicker>)
2 tbsp unsalted butter

How to make the soup:

1. In a large stock pot, melt the butter and cook the onion, the leek, the garlic, and the carrots with the bay leaf over moderate heat until the vegetables are softened. Season with salt and pepper. Don't be shy about it either - I put about 2 tsp of salt in there because the potato will act as a bit of a salt eraser. The more well seasoned the base of your soup is, the more flavorful the soup will be overall.

2. Add the sweet potatoes, the russet potato, chicken stock, wine, and water. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer, covered, for 15 to 20 minutes until the potatoes are very tender. 

3. DISCARD THE BAY LEAF. Don't blend that bad boy up. No one wants a bay leaf chunk.

4. Just like in the carrot ginger soup, an immersion blender will make your life so easy here. If you have one, stick it in and get to work. If you don't: In your blender, puree the mixture in batches until it is very smooth, transferring it as it is pureed to a large saucepan. Add the additional broth to thin the soup to your desired consistency, and season it to taste with salt and pepper.

How to make the buttered pecans:

1. In a skillet, cook the pecans in the butter with a pinch of salt over moderate heat, stirring often for about 10 minutes or until they're golden brown. Transfer them to a paper towel to drain.

SO EASY! When you serve it, put the soup in a bowl and top with buttered pecans. If you'd like a little creamier soup, put a dollop of sour cream in there too and let it work its magic. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

easy holiday recipes!

    It's December! Happy holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyous Kwanzaa, Happy Solstice, or whatever you choose to celebrate or not celebrate during this time of year that may or may not be merry and bright for you.
    I found the most ridiculous list on the internets (they never fail to give you an endless load of things that can really piss you off and shake your faith in humanity) of stores that you NEED TO BOYCOTT because their ads don't say MERRY CHRISTMAS. They seem to find it 'un-American.' Yes, apparently the "american family association" as they call themselves frowns upon anyone who doesn't celebrate christmas. Sorry, Jews, you're not real american families. Any of you pagans that put the tree in your house to have the evergreen represent life through the dead season? You don't count either. Don't even get them started on the gays.

Look! A distraction! I made some awesome anise seed cookies!

    Speaking of poor vision (how do you like that transition there?), I also read an article that my good friend Lauren posted about how 85% of people don't take proper care of their contacts. "A new survey found that people have turned to beer, baby oil, Coke, petroleum jelly, lemonade, fruit juice, and butter as oh-so-wrong alternatives to contact lens solution. That was from an August 2011 survey in the United Kingdom by Bausch + Lomb, a lens solution manufacturer." WHAT ARE PEOPLE THINKING THAT ANY OF THOSE ARE ACCEPTABLE SOLUTIONS?! Now don't get me wrong, I love butter almost as much as Paula Deen, but DO NOT USE IT AS CONTACT LENS SOLUTION. 

    I seem to have gotten off topic. Christmas dinners! You need something to take, but you don't want to spend too long (or too much money!) but you still want to seem quite fancy. Well, my dear friend, I have 3 different recipes that will make you look like you're an amazing cook with only the smallest amount of effort involved!

#1 - Appetizer
    Courtesy of Anne Burrell and her amazing cookbook "Cook Like a Rock Star."

Figs stuffed with Gorgonzola & Walnuts
    (at this point you may be nervous with the words "fig" and "gorgonzola" used up there, but i've already made this for 3 separate events and they're always a huge hit!)

Takes about 15 minutes. SUPER EASY.

12 fresh Black Mission, Brown Turkish, or (in a pinch) dried figs
    I've always made them with dried Calmyrnia figs because i've never been able to find fresh figs. Best of luck.
balsamic vinegar
kosher salt
8 ounces Gorgonzola Dolce, at room temperature
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted for 5 minutes at 350º

1. Preheat the oven to 350º
2. Slice the figs in half lengthwise, place them on a baking sheet, and dig a little hole in the middle with your pinky finger. Drizzle the fig halves with 2 or 3 drops of balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with salt.
3. Fill each fig with Gorgonzola and top with a quarter of a walnut. Bake for 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly. 

Fig out!

I love her little notes like "fig out" or "eggs-tradorinary!" throughout her cookbook. Definitely one of the best i've bought this year!

BUT DAN, you're thinking, I NEED TO BRING SOMETHING MORE SUBSTANTIAL THAN FINGER FOOD! Ok, ok, but please stop yelling. The next super duper easy recipe is a hearty soup that you will love.

#2 - First Course

Carrot Ginger Soup
Prep: 30 mins
cook time: about an hour
makes about 8 servings

2 tbsp butter
2 onions, peeled and chopped (you can chop pretty coarsely, it's all getting blended later!
6 cups chicken stock
2 pounds carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
2 tbsp grated fresh ginger
1 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper
sour cram
fresh parsley

1. Put butter and onions in a big stock pot and cook them, stirring often, until onions are limp.
2. Add broth, carrots, and ginger. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until carrots are tender when pierced. (about 30 minutes)
3. If you have an immersion blender, your life is about to be incredibly easy. If you have a blender, it's not as easy, but still not hard. Remove from heat and let cool for 10 minutes. Transfer the soup IN BATCHES to the blender. Don't fill the blender more than halfway. COver the blender and then hold a kitchen towel over the top of the blender. Be careful when blending hot liquids as the mixture can spurt out of the blender HENCE WHY I TOLD YOU TO GET A TOWEL. Pulse the blender to start it and then puree until smooth. 
4. After it is all blended, return it to the pan and add the heavy cream, stirring it over high heat until it comes to a boil, then reduce and season to taste with salt and pepper. I even added about 1/2 tsp of allspice to help bring it together.
5. Ladle into bowls, add a dollop of sour cream, and garnish with fresh parsley. 

#3 - Side
    This recipe is courtesy of my Grammy. She's a badass. If she were an animal, she'd be a honey badger. A crazy honey badger that chairs political campaigns and cooks like a champ.

Grammy's Sweet Potatoes
prep: 30 mins
cook: 30 mins
makes 6-8 servings

6 sweet potatoes, peeled and quartered
1/2 cup Karo Corn Syrup (there's a "brown sugar" variety that is especially good on these)
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg (freshly grated, if available)

1. Preheat the oven to 325º
2. Boil the sweet potatoes until they're tender. Drain well.
3. Arrange sweet potatoes in a single layer in a 9x13 pan, bake at 325º for 15 minutes
4. In a sauce pan, combine corn syrup, brown sugar, heavy cream, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Stir frequently and bring to a boil over medium heat.
5. Pour mixture over sweet potatoes and baste frequently until glazed, about 15 more mins in the oven.

And there you go! 3 easy recipes that are inexpensive, easy, and really give you the most bang for your buck! If you make a soup people will already think you're a stud, and once they taste the soup, you may as well be Santa. My Grammy's sweet potatoes have made grown men cry, and figs are just exotic enough that you look classy and it will cost you under $10 and be greatly memorable.

I close with a picture of santa that I snapped a couple of years ago at a Colorado Mammoth lacrosse game. Merry Christmas to all, and to all some delicious food (and drinks!)

Monday, November 7, 2011

Brandied Peach Pork Chops


Did that get you a little excited? maybe a little scared? I'm sorry for toying with your emotions like this, but you're going to have to flambe for this one. DON'T PANIC. Dry those tears from your eyes and GET READY TO LIGHT SOME SHIT ON FIRE!

    So as you've probably noticed by now, I like pork chops. I think that they're delicious and they are so versatile that you can do just about anything with them so I am always on the lookout for delicious new pork recipes. When peaches were plentiful and cheap in the store, I thought to myself "I bet those would taste great with some choppies..." Naturally, I plugged Peach Pork Chops in to google and it turned me to epicurious and a delicious recipe for Brandied Peach Pork Chops. I read through with excitement and trepidation as they called for you to cook the pork chops, then start in on the peaches and ignite the brandy at the end, but apparently it's really easy and the excitement and flare it provides to a simple dinner is over the top. Here's the recipe - try it, enjoy it, and make sure there's nothing within four feet above your pan when you try this one!

Brandied Peach Pork Chops

serves 4
total time - about 40 minutes

4 pork chops
2 tbsp canola oil
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots
1 tsp finely chopped thyme
12 oz peaches, fresh or frozen
1/3 cup peach preserves
1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp brandy, divided (i recommend E&J X O extra smooth for its tones of caramel and vanilla - it's the best one I could find and it was all of like $10)

The Five Easy Steps!
1. Pat pork drops dry, then sprinkle on both sides with 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper total.
2. Heat oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat until it shimmers, then cook pork chops, turning once, until browned and just cooked through, 10-12 minutes total. Transfer to a plate and cover with foil to let your meat rest.
3. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the fat from the skillet. Heat the butter in the skillet until the foam subsides then cook shallots with thyme until tenter and golden brown, about 5 minutes.
4. Add 1/4 cup brandy to skillet and carefully ignite with a kitchen match (Be careful! The flames will shoot up!) then cook over medium heat, scraping bottom of skillet to loosen brown bits. When flames subside, add peaches, preserves, and 1/4 tsp each of salt and pepper. Cover and cook until the peaches are tenter and juicy, about 5 minutes.
5. Stir in remaining tablespoon brandy and then spoon over the pork chops. 

Only five steps? You get to use shallots?? YOU GET TO LIGHT THINGS ON FIRE??? To top it all off, it's also incredibly delicious. Another easy recipe to impress dinner guests (just make sure you get the payoff and that they're there for the fire part. Odds are they'll be so impressed they might start throwing money or jewelry or their underwear at you! It only gets awkward when your dinner guest is your grandmother...) 

What's that? the peaches look so good you want a close up? I hear you, you attractive food lover, you and I shall provide. Happy Cooking!