Wednesday, July 26, 2006

A Cheesy Review: Cotswald and Crackers

While out shopping today, we encountered the fabulous cheese counter at the Wild Oats store in Boulder. I was lucky enough to get the opinion of their cheese expert, who had personally tasted many of the cheeses.

When I selected Cotswald, she said it was one of her favorites. With a creamy, cheddar-like flavor, infused with onion, chive and other seasonings, it's easy to understand why!

This was an excellent cheese, good with fruit or plain.

But today, the Cotswald inspired me to bake some fresh crackers.

From How to Cook Everything
Makes about 4 servings

Time: About 15 minutes

Crackers are ridiculously easy to make, and once you produce your first batch you'll have little trouble figuring out how to create your favorites. Sprinkle them with salt, sesame seeds, or poppy seeds; work a tiny bit of garlic or herbs into the dough; or substitute whole wheat or rye flour for some or all of the white flour.

1 cup (about 4 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
About 1/4 cup water, plus more as needed

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Farenheit.
2. Place the flour, salt and butter together in a large bowl or in the container of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Blend with a fork or pulse, until the flour and better are combined. Add about 1/4 cup of water and blend, then continue to add water until the mixture holds together but is not sticky.
3. Roll out on a lightly floured surface until 1/4 inch thick, or even less. Don't worry about overhandling - add flour as needed, and keep rolling. Score lightly with a sharp knife or razor if you want to break these into nice squares or rectangles later on. Bake on a lightly floured baking sheet, or directly on baking stones, until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Cool on a rack; serve warm or room temperature, or store in a tin.

Cream Crackers: These are quite rich and yummy; you'll have no trouble eating them with no toppings at all. Increase the butter to 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick). Substitute milk or cream for the water. Proceed as above.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Spinach, Mushroom & Garlic Pizza and...Solitaire

Gosh, I guess that I've been on a bit of a pizza kick lately. I didn't realize it until now.

It must be the attraction of simple, summer food. Food that can be made at home or ordered from a restaurant with success.

For this recipe, I used the basic pizza dough recipe that I used in my focaccia recipe.

After that, I simply topped with a little store-bought pizza sauce, some Italian cheese blend and desired toppings. I used a frozen spinach for the right texture and lots of fresh garlic and thinly sliced mushrooms.

My son won his first games of solitaire this last week. He just learned how to play and he played nonstop until he won. As promised (he insisted this go up on the blog!), here is a picture of his winning piles:

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Stop the presses...I have a new bed!

Or, make that, I will have a new bed. Once they deliver it on Saturday.

And not only is it just any's a Heavenly Bed like they have at the Westin. We managed to get a pretty decent deal for the mattress only (we'll be getting a platform bed soon, at least, that's the hope!).

I don't want to get excited too early, but the prospect of sleeping on a new bed is just getting me all revved up!

Now, we just need a job!

Mattresses, bed...ugh!

Since I got to Colorado, three weeks ago tomorrow, we have been shopping for a bed. We didn't bring our old bed with us because it just wasn't it good shape, and planned on purchasing a bed right when we got here.

Well, we managed to purchase a bed. But then, we returned it. And ever since, we've been looking again. And of course, we're out about $300 for pillows and stuff that we had to purchase as well as the nonrefundable delivery fees.

First of all, we returned the last bed because the delivery people damaged it during delivery. It had high and low spots and the side was bowing out. It was a pocket-coil type bed, so I guess you have to be especially careful when you move those.

We were afraid that it'd be too easy to damage a new one, even the next time we moved it, so we flat-out returned it.

So. Back to the floor. I've only had one day of excruciating pain (in my shoulder) as a result, so I guess that I must be getting more used to it.

I say more because I woke up this morning with tingling feet.

The first thing on my agenda today is to go to yet another mattress store. Don't ask how many we've been to. Suffice it to say that we've been to every mattress chain except one.

Wish me luck!!! I need it!

And as far as a bed goes (the headboard, footboard, etc.), we couldn't agree on any style any time we've ever been in a store, except one. And this store is the store. It is all Amish furniture from Ohio and all handcrafted (without machines). It's the most amazing, beautiful, top-quality furniture that we've seen.

Too bad a bedroom set only costs about $3600 (on the very cheap end) up to about $6000 for some of the other sets! When we finally agree on the furniture, the only thing we know for sure is that we can't afford it.

My husband would like to just buy, charge, and pay later, but I think that I'll just let my practical side save us from that tragedy.

(for this next section, think Batman)
Will Craiglist save the dynamic duo from this neverending bed-buying torture? Tune in next week (no, not really, maybe tomorrow...besides, if I find a bed, I'll be so estatic that I'll be blogging ASAP) to find out!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

I am a Boston Creme Donut!

Nerissa over at Deetsa's Dining Room had this donut page up on her blog so I thought I'd find out what kind of donut I am.

You Are a Boston Creme Donut

You have a tough exterior. No one wants to mess with you.
But on the inside, you're a total pushover and completely soft.
You're a traditionalist, and you don't change easily.
You're likely to eat the same doughnut every morning, and pout if it's sold out.

Saturday, July 15, 2006


Many times, the recipes that I decide to try are foods that I've eaten at restaurants and love. That was the case when I decided that I needed some focaccia.

If you've ever eaten at a Macaroni Grill, then you have tried this bread. Brought to your table hot from the oven and served with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, it's one of the most welcome greetings I can recall among many restaurants.

It's salty and tastes of rosemary and wonderful, fragrant olive oil. The olive oil that you dip it in is like butter for a baguette and works perfectly.

And the variations are endless. Use a variety of herbs, or try any of the following as a topping:
1. thinly sliced tomato or reconstituted sun-dried tomatoes, or oven-dried tomatoes
2. caramelized onions
3. pitted black or green olives, or tapenade (black olive paste)
4. freshly grated parmesan cheese
5. thinly sliced mushrooms
6. strips of marinated, grilled, or broiled peppers
7. thin slices of prosciutto (added toward the end of cooking to prevent them from drying out)

Two things that occurred to me as a typed the recipe below:

First, do they really need to say "try not to tear the dough?" It reminds me of exercise videos where the perky blonde says, "don't forget to breathe!"

And Second, if you haven't gone out and gotten kosher salt yet (even after listening to AB go on and on about it, not to mention every other food show of that channel), go do it now. Invest the $2.50 on it and you'll be glad you did.

from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything, here is the recipe for Focaccia:
Makes 1 Focaccia

Time: About 3 hours, largely unattended

If you make a thick-crust pizza, dimple its surface with your fingertips, sprinkle it with olive oil and salt, and cool it until just warm or at room temperature, you have focaccia. Of course you can make more complex focaccia than that, just as you can make more complex pizza.

1 recipe Basic Pizza Dough (to follow), made with an extra tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons olive oil
Coarse Salt
Herbs (optional, add hardy herbs, such as rosemary at the beginning, fragile herbs such as sage or basil toward the end of cooking)

When the dough is readyj, knead it lightly, form it into a ball, and place it on a lightly floured surface. Sprinkle with a little more flour and cover with plastic wrap or a towel; let it rest for 20 minutes.

Use 1 tablespoon of the oil to grease an 11x17-inch jelly-roll pan. Press the dough into a small rectangle and place it in the pan. Let it relax in the pan for a few minutes. Press the dough to the edges of the pan. If it resists stretching, stretch it gently, then let it rest for a few minutes. Sometimes this takes a while, because the dough is so elastic. Don't fight it; just stretch, let it rest for 5 minutes, then stretch again. (Just a note, I had NO problem with mine stretching to the desired time, without waiting.) Try not to tear the dough.

Cover the dough and let it rise for at least 30 minutes or until somewhat puffy. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Uncover the dough and dimple the surface all over with your fingertips. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil and sprinkle with coarse salt.

Place in the oven, lower the temperature to 375 degrees F, and bake for about 30 minutes, or until the focaccia is golden. Remove and cool on a rack before serving. Cut focaccia into squares and serve with meals or as a snack. Or cust squares in half horizontally and use to make sandwiches. Focaccia, well wrapped (first in plastic, then in foil), freezes fairly well for 2 weeks or so. Reheat, straight from the freezer (unwrap, remove plastic, and then rewrap in foil), in a 350 degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes.

Basic Pizza Dough
1 teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast
3 cups (about 14 ounces) all-purpose or bread flour, plus more as needed
2 teaspoons coarse kosher or sea salt, plus extra for sprinkling
1 to 1 1/4 cups water
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil

Combine the yeast, flour, and 2 teaspoons salt in the container of a food processor. Turn the machine on and add 1 cup water and the 2 tablespoons of oil through the feed tube.

Process for about 30 seconds, adding more water, a little at a time, until the mixture forms a ball and is slightly sticky to the touch. If it is dry, add another tablespoon or two of water and process for another 10 seconds. (In the unlikely event that the mixture is too sticky, add flour, a tablespoon at a time.)

Turn the dough onto a floured work surface and knead by hand a few seconds to form a smooth, round dough ball. Grease a bowl with the remaining olive oil, and place the dough in it. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp cloth and let rise in warm, draft-free area until the dough doubles in size, 1 to 2 hours. You can cut this rising time short if you are in a hurry, or you can let the dough rise more slowly, in the refrigerator, for up to 6 or 8 hours.

Proceed with any pizza recipe below, or wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap and freeze for up to a month. Defrost in a covered bowl in the refrigerator or at room temperature.

To make this dough by hand: Combine half the flour with the salt and yeast and stir to blend. Add 1 cup water and the 2 tablespoons olive oil; stir with a wooden spoon until smooth. Add remaining flour a bit at a time; when the mixture becomes too stiff to stir with a spoon, begin kneading, adding as little flour as possible[md]just enough to keep the dough from being a sticky mess. Knead until smooth but still quite moist, about 10 minutes. Proceed as above.

To make this dough with a standing mixer: The machine must be fairly powerful or it will stall. Combine half the flour with the salt, yeast, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and 1 cup water; blend with the machine's paddle. With the machine on slow speed, add flour a little at a time, until the mixture has become a sticky ball that pulls away from the sides of the bowl (switch to the dough hook if necessary). Knead for a minute by hand, adding as little flour as possible, then proceed as above.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Butterflies at the Bank

There were two of these beautiful big monarchs outside my bank a couple of days ago.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Take and Bake Pizza (and my 100th post!)

We tried a place called Papa Murphy's a couple of days ago. They are one of a few local companies that specialize in the take and bake pizza.

We never had anything like this in California, but with slightly better prices than buying a cooked pizza, it was worth a try. We bought a family size (16-inch) Cowboy pizza which has pepperoni, sausage, black olives, and fresh mushrooms as the toppings. With coupon, it cost us $9.99 plus tax.

I could barely fit this pizza in this our oven! When it was done, it was fabulous! This was better than a lot of regular pizza places we have tried in the past. There was lots of cheese, toppings and the sauce and crust were great.

This was from:
Papa Murphy's
133 McCaslin Blvd., Ste. G
Louisville, CO 80027

By the way, this post is my 100th post (combined from my previous blog, and this one)!

Maybe I'll celebrate...donuts sound good (for some reason)!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Chicken and Dumplings

Yum. Let's just start there. Yum, yum, and more yum!

If you have ever cooked a recipe and had the result be, well, let's just say, less than satisfying, then you know my pain.

It's the pain of standing for hours, measuring and preheating, tempering or simmering, only to discover that the place with the yellow arches might have been a better dinner. (No, not really.)

But this recipe for Chicken and Dumplings from America's Test Kitchen, really was a wonderful surprise. When the meal was complete, it was exactly what I thought it would be. Which, is to say, it was wonderful.

And to top it off, both of my guys liked it. Which is something of a small miracle.

It is time consuming, but simple enough, and the result is enough food to feed a family of three for at least 2 hearty meals. Maybe more if you don't pig out like I did.

Chicken and Dumplings

Don't use low-fat or fat-free milk in this recipe. Start the dumpling dough only when you're ready to top the stew with the dumplings. Serves 6 to 8

5 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (I actually used the pcs of about a whole chicken, approx 4lbs)
Table salt and ground black pepper
4 teaspoons vegetable oil
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
4 carrots , peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 ribs celery , sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 large onion , minced
6 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup dry sherry
4 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
1 cup frozen green peas
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt
1 cup whole milk
3 tablespoons reserved chicken fat (or unsalted butter)

1. For the Stew: Pat the chicken dry with paper towels, then season with salt and pepper. Heat 2 teaspoons of the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add half of the chicken and cook until golden on both sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate and remove the browned skin. Pour off the chicken fat and reserve. Return the pot to medium-high heat and repeat with the remaining 2 teaspoons oil and the remaining chicken. Pour off and reserve any chicken fat.

2. Add the butter to the Dutch oven and melt over medium-high heat. Add the carrots, celery, onion, and 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook until softened, about 7 minutes. Stir in the flour. Whisk in the sherry, scraping up any browned bits. Stir in the broth, milk, thyme, and bay leaves. Nestle the chicken, with any accumulated juices, into the pot. Cover and simmer until the chicken is fully cooked and tender, about 1 hour.

3. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board. Discard the bay leaves. Allow the sauce to settle for a few minutes, then skim the fat from the surface using a wide spoon. Shred the chicken, discarding the bones, then return it to the stew.

4. For the Dumplings: Stir the flour, baking powder, and salt together. Microwave the milk and fat in a microwave-safe bowl on high until just warm (do not over-heat), about 1 minute. Stir the warmed milk mixture into the flour mixture with a wooden spoon until incorporated and smooth.

5. Return the stew to a simmer, stir in the peas and parsley, and season with salt and pepper. Following the photos below, drop golf-ball-sized dumplings over the top of the stew, about 1/4 inch apart (you should have about 18 dumplings). Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until the dumplings have doubled in size, 15 to 18 minutes. Serve.

Monday, July 10, 2006 to you!

Last night my son and I returned home from the grocery store, carrying frozen peas for our chicken and dumplings (will post tomorrow), and we came across a baby bird in the grass. I almost did't realize that it was a baby bird, mostly because it didn't move at all and blended in somehow.

As I got closer, I realized that the bird was so young that he didn't even have the ability to fly or hop away. So, I thought, he's waiting for his close-up (Mr. Demille)!

I dashed inside and retrieved the camera and here is the little dear. I hope that he makes it through the night and nobody bigger and hungrier comes along to meet him.

It occurred to me that when I was younger, I would've begged and cried to be able to bring that bird in the house. I would have laid awake wondering if he was okay and dashed outside first thing to see what happened while I slept. I guess that I've gotten older and have begun to accept that some things are up to nature and fate, if you will.

My son didn't beg or ask to take it inside. I guess either it's a girl thing or perhaps he's more Zen than I am when it comes to letting go. Either way, I am guessing he'll sleep better tonight than I will.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Coffee Cake Muffins

On Saturday, I tried a recipe from my new cookbook, How to Cook Everything, by Mark Bittman. They turned out well, and my husband even thought they were better than the coffee crumble cake from Starbucks.

The sugar in this muffin recipe is kept to a minimum, so if you prefer a sweeter muffin, you should increase to taste. I made it according to the recipe and I thought it was fine.

3 tablespoons melted butter or canola or other neutral oil, plus some for greasing the muffin tin
2 cups (about 9 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 egg
1 cup milk, plus more if needed

1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup finely chopped walnuts, pecans, or cashews
2 tablespoons melted butter

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Farenheit. Grease a standard 12-compartment muffin tin.

2. Mix together the dry ingredients in a bowl. Beat together the egg, milk, and butter or oil in a separate bowl. Mix together the brown sugar topping in a separate bowl. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients and half of the brown sugar-nut mix into it. Using a large spoon or rubber spatula, combine the ingredients swiftly, stirring and folding rather than beating, and stopping as soon as all the dry ingredients are moistened. The batter should be lumpy, not smooth, and thick but quite moist; add a little more milk or other liquid if necessary.

3. Spoon the batter into the muffin tins, filling them about two-thirds full and handling the batter as little as possible. (If you prefer igger muffins, fill the cups almost to the top. Pour 1/4 cup water into those cups left empty.) Bake 20 to 30 minutes, or until the muffins are nicely browned and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes before taking them out of the tin. Serve warm.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Boulder Famer's Market

It was raining all morning. There was enough rain for umbrellas, but it didn't stop the folks from coming out for the fresh veggies, fruits, honey, cheese, honey wine, and flowers.

This farmer's market is completely outdoors and goes on every Wednesday and Saturday in downtown Boulder, CO. The colors and smells are fabulous.

Golden Beets

Chiogga Beets and Red Beets

Green Onions

Fresh Bread Stand

I knew you weren't from around here...

Sometimes I feel like I am wearing a sign around my neck that says: kick me; I'm from California.

A serious influx of Californians to Colorado (and the attitudes and higher real estate prices that have come along with them) have created a "special" attitude towards them. Namely, they aren't liked.

Not that anyone would be rude to you, but you might notice a little more aggressiveness on the roads as you display your California plates.

And sometimes, when you're not even in your car, people still somehow know that you're not from here.

My neighbor Deanne knew that I wasn't from Colorado in an instant. "It's the club on your car," she claimed that gave me away. Apparently, car theft is not a problem here, so I stick out like a sore thumb with that on my vehicle. But, when she asked me a couple of days later if I gave up on it yet, I said, no...I'll keep my club, thanks. At least for a while. You see, that car was stolen once before, and like they say, once bitten, twice shy.

Which brings me to something that another Coloradoan said to me earlier this week. He said that it takes Californians about 10 years to calm down once they get here. It gave me a laugh, but I think that he was mostly serious.

I guess we'll see how long it takes. And all kidding aside, the people here really are friendly and nice, even to Californians.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

They did what?!

Yes, that's right. My friendly maintenance man in our apartment complex gave me about a third of a mason jar full of paint. So, just in case we happen to bang a dent in our wall, we can simply paint over the damage and voila! we have a perfect wall again. And, this was with the management's approval. Awesome, huh!?

Tonight we spent about two and a half hours shopping in one store for a dresser, a bookshelf and a coffee table. But you know what the worst part was? We found items that would work for each thing we needed...but didn't end up buying anything. Ugh! My husband decided he wanted to sleep on it, because he'd been overloaded with information and choices.

So, I guess that means that I have twenty-four hours to bend him to my will!

We went to several stores before entering the American Furniture Warehouse. It was immense, and we got lost several times. I think that it would take an average of 10 minutes just to walk straight through, not even looking at the furniture! And, of course, it has two floors, the top floor larger and more massive than the lower.

When we first entered the store, my husband startled me by half-yelling out, "Damn radio!" Oh-kay...I'm thinking he's hearing voices in his head and he's mad about it. Great. That's what I get for marrying an older man (well, he is 35!).

Well, apparently, he was able to hear the radio announcer tell the scores of the women's match at Wimbeldon, which he had Tivo'd and was planning on watching once we got home. Guess what I didn't have to sit through tonight? :-)

Overall, it was a good shopping day. I found an awesome bookshelf that I want for $129, a great coffee table that I want for $179 (the Robinson's May was selling the EXACT same model for $450- on sale!), and a pine dresser set for $299. And the company will deliver for 6%. Sold!

Well, I'll post an update after the purchase. More later from the front range. Dawn

Made it to Colorado

We have made it to Colorado! It was a long drive and a terribly exhausting move, but we are here. I have started fresh and will post the occasional hello...couple times a week, hopefully!

I am over at

Dawn (the new Coloradoan)

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

We have arrived!

Here we are...July 5, 2006.

After two long days of driving, including about five hours of incessant meow-ing by my female cat, we arrived in Louisville, Colorado on Friday, June 30.

The drive was exhausting and there was still unloading (upstairs, no less) and unpacking to be done. Thankfully, the apartment that welcomed us was freshly painted and spacious. The neighbors were friendly and parking was ample. So far, so good.

After spending the following several days shopping for food, a bed, and other miscellaneous items misplaced or left behind from the move, we reconfirmed my original opinion about the residents of Colorado (at least in this neck of the woods): they really are nice, normal people here. Courteous, polite and friendly, with the exception of a few teenagers displaying the attitude that tends to give teenagers a bad name, the folks in this area are top-notch.

Of course, there was still the Costco test: would the shoppers at Costco try to run me down without the slightest remorse, as did those in Southern California? Would they aggressively shove past me at high speeds, forcing me to grab my son from their path out of concern for his safety? Well, if that's what I was expecting, I was let down - in a fantastically incredible way. We shopped with leisure, politely moving out of the way for others, as they did for us. Children were corrected for climbing on the freezer cases and motioned to make way for others.

We had a pleasant exchange with a couple of shoppers who were laughing about one of their purchases, a high-flax cereal. The wife was buying it for the husband, and we all had a good chuckle about the ability of the cereal to keep it's consumers "regular." The husband laughed with a little bit of a cringe, though.

Yesterday, we went down to the picnic in the park, where we dined on free bratwursts cooked and served by the mayor and city council. My son played on the playground and found a new interest, bocce ball.

When we discovered early on that we didn't have our sunscreen, I set out to find some, amongst the vendors. As I headed out across the park, I was stopped by a girl asking if I would like to join a Colorado wildlife/land preservation group. When I explained that I was on a mission to find sunscreen, she said the other girl who was with her had some and off we went. She gave me her friend's sunscreen and I disappeared with it for about 15 minutes, applying the precious protection to my son's skin and mine and my husband's faces.

When I went back and returned the sunscreen, I offered her a couple of dollars for letting us use it, and she gladly accepted. No feigned refusal, out of a weak attempt at being civil or polite, just a gratified, "sure!" was all that met my offer. And, of course, she told me that she hoped we'd have fun at the park that day.

But, if you're from California (and your name isn't Aunt Stephanie) it is actually very boring here and the people really aren't so'd be much better off staying there. But, if your name happens to be Aunt Stephanie, you owe yourself a visit out to us (real soon)!