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Yesterday Lauren and I were drooling over the idea of pumpkin muffins, so I thought I would make some.  There are a few culinary websites that I frequent, but I wasn’t having very good luck in finding a simple pumpkin muffin recipe.  I thought that seeing what Martha Stewart had would be a good default.  I found a recipe that was simple (I wasn’t looking for a pumpkin and … recipe; I wanted just pumpkin.)  I also found some instructions for making a pumpkin puree because I really wanted to make it all from scratch. 

I planned to make the puree last night and the muffins this morning before work.  The puree was time consuming.  Quarter a pumpkin, scrape the seeds and stringy mess out, (that’s what took so long) bake at 400 degrees for an hours or so, the pull the meat off the skin and push it through a food mill.  How about that, pumpkin puree.

This morning I woke up excited about making the muffins and being able to offer freshly baked muffins to Lauren this morning.  As I was looking at the recipe I realized that there was a discrepancy between the ingredient list and the directions.  The directions told you to mix the dry ingredients together, and then to mix the wet ingredients together.   The problem was that the directions told you to mix oil with the other ingredients, but the ingredients list didn’t list any oil.  I went back to the website to see if I had missed something when it was printed out, but the website was the same.  I didn’t know what to do.  Should I make it with out any oil?  Should I guess about how much oil to put in it?  Well I look up a few other muffin recipes and they all called for oil or butter.  I took a stab at it and added 1/4 c. veggie oil. 

I mixed everything together, and pulled out the muffin tin to get that ready.  The recipe told me to brush the tin with oil.  Ok that make sense.  I usually use a Pam type spay that is made for baking, but I can do it your way, Martha.  I scooped the muffin goop into the tins, slid it into the oven, and set the timer for 35 minutes.  35 minutes later I peek into the oven to see flat-topped muffins.  Something isn’t right here.  I pulled them out and checked them with a toothpick; nope not done yet.  Back in the oven for another 10 minutes.  Timer goes off.  Are they done? Nope, still squishy in the middle.  7 more minutes and I giving up on them.  7 minutes goes by and they are still soft in the middle and flat on top.  I pulled them out of the oven and as I tried to get them out of the tin I realize that they are baked to the tin.  The oil I brushed on didn’t keep the muffins from sticking.

Damn you, Martha.  Damn you!

I don’t really know what all went wrong.  But I have a feeling that it was more then just the 1/4 c. of oil that I added.  Regardless, I have lost faith in Martha.  This is the first and last recipe I try from her website without a recommendation.  I expected more for her. 

If your interested in some goopy pumpkin muffins, let me know.  Cheers

It’s days like today that are perfect examples of why I love the fall. 

63 degrees. Shorts and a long sleeve shirt.  Pants and a t-shirt.  Sweaters in the evenings. 
Clear skies.  Deep blue fading into softer color. 
Snow on distant peaks prophetically whispering about the near future.
The wafts of fireplaces and bonfires.  Nutmeg.  Spiced Apples.  Pumpkins.

Let the good times roll.

As I was leaving from work, last Wednesday, I saw a recipe in the Denver Post.  I looked at the ingredients and thought it was worth a shot.  It was a recipe for fish that called for 12 oz. of beer, so I knew it couldn’t be that bad.  To be specific, it suggested a “light pale ale.”  I knew at that moment that a Spotted Cow would be perfect for “Beer Braised Talipia.”

 Lauren and I had been in the mood for fish, so I wonder if it was a sign that I saw the recipe in the newspaper.  I was in the mood for beer, so I knew it was destiny.  It was fairly simple. Cumin, salt, and chili powder make up a rub for the fish.  Mushrooms, an onion, diced tomato (in the can so you can use the juice), some Tabasco, and the Spotted Cow go in a skillet to simmer.  Sear the fish, add it to the skillet, let it sit for 5 minutes, and it’s done.  Because of the liquid (the 12 oz. of beer and the tomato juice from the can) the meal turns out more like a stew.  I didn’t anticipate this; if I had I would have added more fish.  But it was wonderful. 

We ate like royalty that night.  Along with the Beer Braised Talipia, we made a salad filled with all Colorado grown veggies, a baked potato with broccoli and cheese, and some yellow squash roasted with black pepper.  We were stuffed.

Of course, the crisp sweet flavor of the Spotted Cow worked wonderfully in the recipe and to tie it all together I cracked open another Spotted Cow to drink.  I know what you’re thinking.  Two Spotted Cow’s in one meal?  Yes, two Spotted Cow’s.  I finished off the left-overs today for lunch.  I wondered if it would have lost so much of its flavor sitting in the fridge, but it didn’t

The meal was great last Saturday, but with the warm weather today, I think it tasted a little better.

cheers.

This morning for breakfast I brewed a cup of NOVO coffee and ate a zucchini muffin with mango/raspberry jam.  I didn’t make the coffee, but I did make the muffin and jam.

I was talking with Lauren’s dad last night and he asked me if the was a type of food that I see as my Holy Grail of cooking.  I thought for a moment and told him, “more than a particular food group I am awaiting the day when I can have a meal on the table of food solely that I (read: we) grew and raised.”

This morning felt like a start to that.

cheers.

There have been a few times when, in a weaker state, I would have opened the second Spotted Cow, but I was able to remind myself that I really did want to enjoy each bottle during a significant moment.  That’s a lot of weight for a simple beer to carry, and to then add on top of that the weight of writing about each time I enjoy one creates an even larger burden.  Chapter 2 has suffered a little under that burden.  After enjoying the second Spotted Cow I waited a couple days to write about it.  When I sat down to write I couldn’t find the words I wanted to use, so I put it off.  The result is that I don’t remember all of the details.  Please offer me grace as I may need to fabricate some of the details.

The start of any school year forces life back into the rhythm that was lost throughout the freedom of the summer break.  Three weeks ago Lauren began her fall semester and that rhythm began.  She has classes four days a week.  Her Monday and Wednesday classes allow her to be home a little bit before I get home from work, but on Tuesdays and Thursdays she had a class that keeps her on campus until 8:15pm.  The first few weeks of this new rhythm can be awkward because it takes a while to get used to the amount of time that it takes to get from home to school, class to class, etc.  And while I feel like I’m speaking for Lauren right now, I can attest to the fact that there is a new rhythm for me too.  My rhythm doesn’t involve bus and class schedules, but it is different from the summer.

It was on a Wednesday during one of these first weeks that I decided to try a new recipe for a “Mediterranean Chicken Pasta.”  I was a very simple recipe-chicken, penne pasta, spinach, roasted red pepper, parmesan cheese, garlic, and that’s about it.  I substituted tofu for the chicken but other than that I kept the recipe the same.  Like I said, it was very simple.  Cook the pasta according to the box.  Add some ground black pepper and salt to the tofu and then seer it and set it aside.  (I used “firm” tofu and boiled it for 10 minutes to firm it up a little more.)  Pour some olive oil into a hot pan and add the crushed garlic, pepper, and spinach and cook until the spinach wilts.  Then add the tofu and pasta to the pan and let that cook for a few minutes.  Spoon into a bowl and sprinkle some parmesan cheese on top, and serve.   The deep green of the spinach and the rich red of the peppers offer wonderful color to this dish.  I cooked some sweet corn to serve as a side dish.  You can’t go wrong with sweet corn this time of year.

I could think of only three things that would make this meal complete.  The first thing is quite obvious.  I needed to share this meal with my best friend and wife.  Check.  Second, we would need to sit and watch “The Last Comic Standing,” since it was a Wednesday night.  Check.  And third, we would need to share a Spotted Cow.  Check

Cheers

It started this year, I think. I’m not really sure. It’s a hard thing to pin down and say, “this is when it began,” but it’s been on my mind for a while. I’m sure that it started in part because I listen to NPR and other liberal media. I’m sure your all on pins and needles now, so I should just come out with it.

I’ve become increasingly concerned with where my food comes from.

There. I said it. I feel a lot better. I’d like to explain a little bit of what I mean by that, but it’s a hard things to fully explain because it been growing in my mind for a while now. The best I can do is offer a few “dots” and hope that they will all connect to help you see the whole picture. This might take a few posts, but this first “dot” might be the best place to start.

  • I spent most of my growing up years in Wisconsin in a town of 7000 people. Everywhere I went I would drive past farms filled with fields of cows, pigs, corn, soybeans, alfalfa, wheat, oats, and the list goes on. I became so familiar with seeing those fields grow all season. Near the end of my time living in Wisconsin I could read the corn pretty well and know how long till the harvest. I became used to the growing cycles.Since I’ve moved to Colorado, my interaction to farm land is limited to driving through the eastern plains as I leave the state. I miss seeing those farms. I miss the smell of agriculture. Now, the closest thing to cattle grazing that I see is on the rare occasion that I stop in a fast food restaurant. OK, I know, that wasn’t fair; it just sat there in my mind, I had to let it out. When I lived in Wisconsin I held a sense of pride about living where I was. I felt like I knew where my food was coming from. I realize that most of my meals didn’t come from the produce grown on those farms, but there was something about living in that type of community that made me feel that way.

    I started to look at tags on the fruit and vegetables I was buying from the grocery store. Have you ever noticed them? Avocados from Ecuador. Bananas from Honduras. Apples from Washington. Oranges from Mexico. Take a look the next time you go grocery shopping. Where did the food in the store come from? (warning: potential liberal thoughts ahead) Then I started to think of the amount of energy expended to get that banana into the store.  After thinking about those thoughts for a while I start to think about the “freshness factor” of food that’s been trucked all the way from Honduras.  Those thoughts lead to thoughts about the chemicals used to help the banana stay fresh until it reaches the store.  And then my thoughts start to spiral out of control because I really like bananas.

In light of all this going on in my mind, I realized that I couldn’t just think about these things any more.  I needed to start doing something about it.  So last Saturday I stopped at a farmers market.  I’ve been looking for one for a few weeks and finally realized that there was one near our apartment.  Here’s what I bought:

4 ears of sweet corn
1 head of lettuce
2 yellow squash
1 lb of green beans
1 eggplant
4 peaches

Purchased for less then $12, and all grown in Colorado.  I like that.
I think I’ve written enough for now.  I’ll try to add a few dots in the weeks to come.

What do you think?  Am I going hippie-liberal in my thinking?  Is the thought of eating local food ridiculous?

This morning ushers in the unofficial start of the fall season, and I couldn’t be more excited about it. A week or so ago, I was talking with Gabe about our views of a years time. I told him that I don’t really think about a year within a calender time frame, rather I view a year based on the seasonal changes. For me, the transition away from summer and into fall is my new year. This makes sense for people who are in school and live according to a school’s calender, but I haven’t been in school for four years. I did come up with two significant reasons why I feel this way.

1. In August 2004 I moved to Arvada, Colorado to work at a church for a year. I never expected to stay in Colorado after my year commitment, well in all reality I didn’t know what to expect. Three years later I’m still here. And married.
I believe that a large part of my view of a year comes from this transition from “life before Colorado,” to “life in Colorado.”

2. I feel more alive during fall than I do during any other time of the year. It’s hard to explain; and I realize that it’s strange that the season where the earth is in decay is the season that gives me life. I love the cooler weather. I love the ability to wear shorts and a fleece or pants and a t-shirt. I love the cold mornings and the 60 degree days. I love the colors. I could go on, but I’ll leave this list rather short.

So here’s a question for you:
when is your new year? and why ?

cheers

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