Wednesday, February 19, 2014

walking wednesday: florissant fossil bed national monument and ina's chipotle & rosemary roasted nuts

We've taken the kids on some pretty spectacular hikes in Colorado, but since my husband and I don’t ski or partake in winter sports (this will change next year when I take up Nordic/Cross Country), we never thought to take the boys on a winter hike in the snow or up in the higher elevations. When we do go on winter hikes, we opt for trails near and around Denver—which means that there isn’t much snow on the ground and temperatures are usually in the 50s and 60s. But this past weekend we wanted to try something new, and since the kids are getting better in the car we decided the 2 hour trip to Florissant Fossil Bed National Monument would work out well. What I didn’t realize, as I left the house dressed in a light cotton flannel, was that this hike is way up in the mountains (over 9500 feet) where it's about 20-30 degrees cooler than it is in Denver. I was obviously underdressed (thankfully the kids had extra layers in the car), so as we climbed up and up, and as we passed town after town without a suitable store to fix my little problem, I started to think this wouldn't work out so well. But we finally came upon what I'll call a larger “city”- and we spotted a Goodwill Store which I knew would have something suitable. I found what I was looking for in under 2 minutes - an “I Heart Colorado” sweatshirt with a hood! And just like that, for the low price of $3.99, I was outfitted for altitude…so we made our way to our final destination. 

Florrisant Fossil Beds National Monument contains the remains of an ancient Redwood forest dating back about 35 million years. Usually whenever I think of the Redwoods my brain immediately goes to the California coastline, but in fact millions of years ago the Colorado climate was actually much more hospitable to these ancient tress. (This would be a good time to tell you that in my pre-kids life I was an environmental lawyer and worked on a campaign to protect the Tillamook Forest in Oregon, so I tend to geek out on all things forest-related, and this trail had me jumping for joy.) Anyway, back when these enormous trees dotted the Colorado landscape, the climate was much warmer and much wetter, which meant that the habitat was perfect for forests and trees here could grow up to 230 feet high. It must have been something. The valley also saw its share of volcanic eruptions, an ever- changing landscape, and it was home to hunter-gatherers (the Paleo-Indians, the Ute and Jicarilla Apache peoples), early Pioneers and scientists. There's a lot of history here- that's what I'm trying to get at...
Unfortunately before the area was protected, much of the petrified wood was taken by tourist as trinkets and collectibles, so not much remains. But there are a few large stumps that you’ll see as you make your way through the 1 mile loop. And you can learn about the ancient fossil beds that contain the remnants of trees that no longer exist in Colorado (but some of which have modern-day relatives in Asia). 

The kids loved walking in the snow and though the temperatures were around 40-something degrees, the sun made us warm and the two little guys were real troopers and did most of the hiking themselves. Wet feet aside, it was the perfect way to spend the afternoon…

And this is what we snacked on...

Ina Garten's Chipotle & Rosemary Roasted Nuts
Serves 8 to 10
These are sweet, salty, and spicy--with lots of brown sugar, maple syrup, chipotle powder, and fresh rosemary. Roasting is the process that brings out the most flavor in nuts, and serving them warm is a particularly nice touch. 
Vegetable oil
3 cups whole roasted unsalted cashews (14 ounces)
2 cups whole walnut halves (7 ounces)
2 cups whole pecan halves (7 ounces)
1/2 cup whole almonds (3 ounces)
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
2 teaspoons ground chipotle powder* (I used 1 teaspoon)
4 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary leaves, divided
Kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Brush a sheet pan generously with vegetable oil. Combine the cashews, walnuts, pecans, almonds, 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil, the maple syrup, brown sugar, orange juice, and chipotle powder on the sheet pan. Toss to coat the nuts evenly. Add 2 tablespoons of the rosemary and 2 teaspoons of salt and toss again.
Spread the nuts in one layer. Roast the nuts for 25 minutes, stirring twice with a large metal spatula, until the nuts are glazed and golden brown. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with 2 more teaspoons of salt and the remaining 2 tablespoons of rosemary.
Toss well and set aside at room temperature, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking as they cool. Taste for seasoning. Serve warm or cool completely and store in airtight containers at room temperature.
* Chipotle chile powder is different from ordinary chili powder- it's ground dried smoked jalapeños and has a distinctive hot, smoky, sweet flavor.
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Friday, February 14, 2014

friday favorites: all things copper

Have I mentioned how much I love copper?  For this week's Friday Favorites I compiled a little round-up of the copper designs and products I'm loving right now…
Enjoy your weekend and see you on Monday!


1. Small Copper Spica by Iacoli & McAllister
2. Soapstone Stock Pot from Anthropologie 
3. Hex Champagne Bucket by Tom Dixon
4. Professional 620 Stand Mixer by KitchenAid
5. Moscow Mule Mug Set, Hammered Copper by Sertodo 
7. Vintage Copper Saucepan, from Food 52 Provisions
8. x3 watering can by Paul Loebach for Kontextür *
9. Copper Shade Pendant by Tom Dixon
10. Copper Cookware by Mauviel (Ruffoni Copper Cookware Set is pretty spectacular too!)
11. Copper Real Good Stool by BluDot 
12. Solid Copper Mule Mugs by Paykoc 
13. Copper Bicycle by Van Heesch Designs

Special thanks to Carly Loman, my colleague at DLD PR, for helping me with this collage.

* Note: The principal of my firm has a working relationship with Kontextur, but this is not a sponsored post. 

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Thursday, February 13, 2014

cook the book: the family table's macaroni + cheese

About two months ago, we flew back east for the wedding of my husband’s best friend. Andrew (the groom) and Matt (my husband) have known each other since they were in kindergarten. If you ask anyone who knows these two guys well, they would all agree that when Matt and Andy are in the same room- or even on the phone- they kind channel each other. Not in a creepy sort of way, but in a way that is a testament to over three decades of friendship. And their friendship is something special; it's something truly unique. 

Matt and Andy both love music, art, and searching for off-the-grid food spots. They also love road trips, and every summer that we were living in Brooklyn (7 to be exact) they embarked on journeys that took them to places as obscure as Centralia, PA and Morgantown, West Virginia. There was also the summer when they departed for Toronto and changed their voicemail message to inform callers they would be "traveling out of the country" - as if heading a few hours north constituted a major international excursion. They spent time boating around Lake Placid, and in Vermont where it rained non-stop the summer they visited, the two of them camped out at the Ben & Jerry’s Factory Store- which happens to be the most popular tourist destination in the state. Let's just say these two have spent a lot of time together and they know each other well. And since I've been in a relationship with Matt since 2002 (yikes, that's 12 years already), I've grown to know Andy too…and I love him just like a brother.

When Matt and I were trying to make this move to Colorado work, Andy let Matt camp out in his apartment. Andy’s kitchen (affectionately dubbed the "K-Room") was where Matt slept on a futon mattress for 8 months as he commuted back-and-forth between Brooklyn (where he was still working as a public defender for Legal Aid) and Denver (where he was applying for jobs). Did I mention that he crashed with Andy for 8 months?! Not many relationships would survive that duration or inconvenience, but their friendship grew stronger.

Anyway, back to Andy’s wedding. He married one of the nicest people I've ever met and their celebration was beautiful. We laughed, we cried, we ate, we danced…and yes, we drank and made toasts well into the late hours of the night (and early morning). When we got back from the wedding I felt homesick. So did Matt. Not for New York City as a place- for my lifestyle doesn’t really jive with the city anymore and I hardly recognize it as the place of my childhood- but for the people, our closest friends. Our relationships that span decades

Back in my Colorado kitchen I decided to make comfort food... and I couldn't think of anything more appropriate than the Family Table's mac and cheese. The Family Table is one of my favorite cookbooks and it's a collection of staff meals from the chefs and sous chefs at Danny Meyer's various NYC restaurants. This pasta dish reminds me of home, good friends and lots of laughter…and I'll have a big pan of bubbly, cheesy goodness waiting for Andy and his new wife Carly when they come to visit us again in Colorado. And I can't wait…

Happy eating,

“The Dish You Love The Best” Macaroni & Cheese
10 – 12 servings

For the Sauce:
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup thinly sliced shallots (3-4 medium)
3 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
Freshly ground black pepper
2 fresh thyme sprigs
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups good quality vegetable stock (the book has a recipe for stock, but I went with store-bought)
3 cups heavy cream
3 cups coarsely grate sharp cheddar (about 1 pound)
1 1/4 cups grated Grana Padano (about 7 ounces)*
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Kosher salt

Butter for the pan
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 pound penne, fusilli, or other short pasta
3/4 cup panko bread crumbs or fine dried bread crumbs
1/3 cup grated Grana Padano*

* The first time I made this I was able to find Grana Padano cheese. The second time I made this dish I couldn’t find any, so I picked up a very good quality Parmesan from Cured in Boulder and it worked beautifully.

TO MAKE THE SAUCE: Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the shallots, garlic, 1 teaspoon pepper, and the thyme, and cook, stirring, until the shallots are translucent, about 5-7 minutes.

Slowly add the flour, stirring constantly, and cook for 5 minutes, so that the flour loses its raw taste. Add the stock (very slowly), stirring constantly, then increase the heat to medium and bring to a boil. (If you add the stock too quickly, the roux will break.) Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, so the flavors come together.

Add the cream, bring to a simmer, and cook until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon, 7 to 10 minutes longer. Strain the sauce into a bowl.

Clean the saucepan, add the sauce, and return it to low heat. Add the cheeses and the mustard, stirring constantly. Once the cheese is completely melted, season to taste with salt and pepper and remove from heat. (You can make the sauce up to 1 day ahead, covered, and refrigerated. Bring it to room temperature and reheat slowly before using.)

TO ASSMEBLE AND BAKE: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Butter a 9-x-13-inch baking dish.

Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot and add the salt. Add the pasta to the boiling water, stir, and cook until just al dente. Drain well.

Combine the pasta with the sauce and pour it into a baking dish.

In a small bowl, combine the panko and the Grana Padano (or good quality Parmesan). Sprinkle it over the pasta. Bake until the top is golden brown and bubbling, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve (with a smile!).

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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

walking wednesdays: winter hikes in boulder

My dad is one of the kindest, soft-spoken, and gentle souls I’ve ever known. He’s been sick for many years, but in the past 6 months his condition has deteriorated and hospital rooms have become a big part of his life. There’s been rehab too, which provides only a bit of laughter as my brother and I joke that it’s not the kind of rehab Lindsay Lohan goes in-and-out of but the other kind…
My mother bares the brunt of the stress these days, for she is with him day in and day out. She advocates for him, feeds him, challenges doctors when they need to be challenged, and has put her life on hold in order to tend to his needs. My brother and I both left New York so my mother is the go-to-person. And while she has an incredibly tight-knit community and a large circle of friends, I can't stop worrying about them both. This has been the most difficult part of living in Colorado. I'm not there. 

I don't usually talk about how challenging this time period has been for everyone, or how depressing it can be to have a parent who is very, very ill. That's mostly because there isn't a lot that anyone can say or do to alleviate the pain, the frustration, or the anger.  But I do rely on a small group of friends and I'm thankful to have a loving husband and a wonderful family. I've also discovered a place I can go that gives me peace and a bit of calm

The mountains, being out in nature. It makes me feel like there is a bigger plan in play and that life is wonderful and beautiful even when there is sadness, stress and heartache. And for that I am grateful. I am hopeful that things will get easier and my father's health will improve. In the meantime I will focus on all the truly important things that matter in life and let the rest fall by the wayside...

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. 
Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. 
The winds will blow their own freshness into you, 
and the storms their energy, 
while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.
                                                                                                                          - John Muir  

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