Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A Week in the Mile High State…Part II


Tuesday started out a rainy and dreary–albeit hot—day and Sister, Mom and I went to Arvada to go to the retail store for Penzeys Spices. I'm kind of a spice nut as I really don't like using salt and feel almost any meal can be made better with the right spice. I had my eye on getting really good cinnamon and found the Extra Fancy Vietnamese Cassia (not a true cinnamon by the way). I enjoy it so much I put it in my coffee as well as breakfast smoothies.

I would definitely recommend going to this store if you have the time. My family each bought a number of bags, then divided them up into the jars, which they sell at the shop. I walked away with about 15 new spices to try out.


Fresh gingerbread. This recipe is super moist, but now that I've made it I'll be changing up some of the ingredients. First, I'll be substituting most of the butter with applesauce, doubling the cinnamon and ginger and serving it with hot coffee. Delicious! The recipe as modified is below.

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 2 tablespoons softened butter
  • 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup mild molasses (not robust or blackstrap)
  • 3/4 cup well-shaken buttermilk (I used 3/4 Tbsp lemon juice and 1%milk to make 3/4 cup)
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • Preheat oven to 350ºF with rack in middle. Butter a 9-inch square baking pan.
  • Whisk together flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl. Beat applesauce, butter and sugar with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy. Beat in egg until blended, then beat in molasses and buttermilk. Mix in flour mixture on low speed until smooth, then add hot water and beat 1 minute (batter may look curdled.)
  • Spread batter evenly in pan and bake until a wooded pick inserted into center comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack.
Next up: Estes Park, CO.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A week in the Mile High State…Part I

The week started off with a trip to the Butterfly Pavillion just outside of Denver. I had read on their front door that this was an invertebrate museum, and knew fully well that all species of insects would be found here. I had already made up my mind, that no way, no how am I letting a tarantula touch my hand—I don't care if they are fuzzy and light and don't bite or are not poisonous. Yikes! No way! We walked into the main building and of course, this is where all the spiders, scorpions and cockroaches are. I actually had to leave the room for a few minutes after seeing this guy! I don't know exactly how big this was, but if memory serves me right it was something like 10 feet across.

After leaving the room for a bit, I finally worked up the nerve to let Rosie walk across my hand. I was literally shaking from SpiderFreakoutis™, but let her walk across me. Light, fuzzy and not that bad. I still don't want one in my house, but not the most horrifying experience in the world. Of course, Mom didn't get my camera to work so all I have is a sticker for proof and a picture of the insect walking on her hand. I will admit, my camera does funny things sometimes.

Next up were the cockroaches. They don't bother me nearly as much as the spiders and what is even weirder still, I had butterflies land on me left and right and had no problem at all with them. The top image is the Madagascar Hissing Cockroach and for the life of me, I cannot remember the name of the roaches on the bottom image. They're actually quite pretty in person.

After visiting the Arthropods, you get to see a few creatures of the ocean—starfish and horseshoe crabs. I didn't take any pictures of them as I was still getting my shaking hands under control after "petting" Rosie. After all the interior sections, you get to go out into a huge arboretum where all the butterflies and plants are. All of them were quite pretty and very active as the day was rather warm.


Up next… Penzies Spice Company in Arvada Colorado.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

To celebrate, Lindsay and I made a few of our more favorite Mexican style dishes. Chile Verde, Nacho Dip and Key Lime Pie.

Chile Verde (This is a variation of my chile verde, found HERE)

  • 2 Lbs. pork rib meat
  • 1 Lb. tomtatillos
  • 2 jalapeños
  • 3 green chile peppers
  • 1 Small chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup cilantro
  • pork rub or seasoning
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 2 cans white beans
  • Cumin to taste (I use about 1/4 cup!)
  • Cubed jack cheese
  • White jasmine rice


Roast chili peppers, jalapeños and tomatillos under broiler until skins turn brown and bubbly, then place peppers in covered container for approx. 10 minutes for skins to loosen.

While vegetables are broiling, place pork in crock pot and season with desired seasoning.

After removing skins, combine peppers, tomatillos, cilantro, garlic and onion in blender and blend until smooth. Poor mixture over pork and add in bay leaf; cook covered until pork is tender and can be pulled apart with a fork.


After shredding pork, add in white beans and cumin and cook an additional hour.

Serve with cubed jack cheese and rice if desired.

Nacho Dip

  • 1 can refried black beans
  • 2 Tbsp. chili powder
  • 1 cup guacamole
  • 1 cup light sour cream
  • 1 small can chopped olives
  • 1 small chopped onion
  • 1 small can chopped jalapeños
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar/jack mix
  • Tortilla chips

Mix refried beans with chili powder and spread in 9" casserole.
Layer remaining ingredients in order and top with shredded cheese.


Serve with tortilla chips.

Key Lime Pie (as adapted from Gourmet, May 2003)
For crust
  • 18 graham cracker squares; crumbed
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For filling
  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 20 Key Limes; juiced

For topping
  • 3/4 cup chilled heavy cream

Make crust:

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Stir together graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and butter in a bowl with a fork until combined well, then press mixture evenly onto bottom and up side of a 9-inch (4-cup) glass pie plate.

Bake crust in middle of oven 10 minutes and cool in pie plate on a rack. Leave oven on.

Make filling and bake pie:
Whisk together condensed milk and yolks in a bowl until combined well. Add juice and whisk until combined well (mixture will thicken slightly).

Pour filling into crust and bake in middle of oven 15 minutes. Cool pie completely on rack (filling will set as it cools), then chill, covered, at least 8 hours.

Make topping:
Just before serving, beat cream in a bowl with an electric mixer until it just holds stiff peaks. Serve pie topped with cream.