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Entries in Colorado (17)


Nutella & Sea Salt Fudge

It’s been a wonderful fall for us here in Colorado.  Aside from work travel, we spent the entire month of October in Colorado and were treated with stunning fall foliage (I think our house might look its best in fall - see below), gorgeous weather, and the first two snows of the coming winter (a bit earlier than normal).  The first snow was on my 33rd birthday (gasp).

I absolutely love birthdays, even if I might prefer the numbers 28 or 29 to 33.  This one was particularly special for reasons I’ll get into in another post, but we celebrated with friends and Rob treated me to a day in Boulder doing things that I love (having brunch, visiting the farmer’s market, going for a trail run, having lunch at one of my favorite restaurants’s, the Kitchen, and even making a stop at Whole Foods).  What a guy!
My birthday weekend was followed by a visit from our dear friends from Boston and their two kiddos (one of whom is my Goddaughter).  We left Boston just before my Goddaughter, E, was born, and this was the first time I was able to spend a long amount of time with her.  It was so fun to do things in Denver that we would otherwise not do and to see the world through her eyes where things I take for granted are new and exciting (e.g., a corn hole board and bags (although not played the normal way), a pumpkin, a slide, our poor cat, making macaroni and cheese, and band-aids).  If you are ever in Denver with kids in the fall, you should check out the Botanic Gardens at Chatfield and visit their pumpkin patch and corn maze.  It was quite a scene and E loved it.
The simplicity of things that kept E entertained reminded me that often, simple is best.  Whether it’s entertaining kiddos or in the kitchen, life doesn’t always have to be complicated or a big production.  I love embarking on huge projects from time to time, but lately I’m making a concerted effort not to overcomplicate life and to spend the “extra” time doing something I love.  
In that vein, I threw this fudge together on a whim with delicious results.  You dirty only one bowl making it and because it is extremely rich, you can serve many people with one batch (25 to 36 pieces of fudge depending on how small you cut the squares).  It would have been perfect for a Halloween party (next year!).

Nutella & Sea Salt Fudge
Recipe from Tasty Kitchen 
Yield = 25-36 pieces depending on how you slice the fudge


  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter (for greasing the dish)
  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 8 ounces bittersweet (60%) chocolate chips (about 1 1/4 cups)
  • 1 cup Nutella 
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter (softened to room temperature), cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • ½ tsp (approximately) Sea Salt


1. Grease the bottom and sides of an 8- by 8-inch baking pan with butter. Line the pan with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overlap on the sides.

2. In a medium glass or stainless steel bowl, stir together sweetened condensed milk, vanilla, bittersweet chocolate chips, Nutella, and butter.

3. Form a double-boiler by setting the bowl over a medium pot of gently simmering water. The water level should be low enough that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Stir until the chocolate chips are melted and the mixture is smooth, 5 to 7 minutes.

4. Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan, spread the top smooth with a spatula, and sprinkle with sea salt. Refrigerate until the fudge is firm, at least 2 hours.

5. Once the fudge is chilled, run a knife under hot water, dry it off, and run it around the edges of the pan to loosen the fudge. Using the overhanging parchment paper, lift the fudge out. Peel off the parchment paper. Cut the fudge into 3/4-inch squares. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container or wrapped well in plastic wrap and foil.


Cinnamon-Raisin Bread

There are some recipes that I return to over and over, that never get old, and that I can almost make without the recipe at all.  This Cinnamon-Raisin Bread is one of them.  Ali introduced me to Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, which is indispensable if you enjoy making homemade bread.  The technique is simple and the end result is tasty homemade bread baking in your oven with relatively little work. 

I usually start the day with a slice of this bread slathered with butter, but this weekend I used it for peanut butter sandwiches for an awesome mountain bike ride we did through the Mt. Zirkel Wilderness.  If you ever find yourself in Steamboat Springs, its worth driving a little farther north to check out this area - it's filled with wildflowers, lakes, rivers, and craggy mountains... and we even saw two moose.  The bread tasted even better when looking at views like the one below!

Cinnamon-Raisin Bread
Adapted slightly from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day 
Yield = Three 1½-lb. loaves

For the bread:
2 cups lukewarm water
1 cup buttermilk
1½ tablespoons yeast
1½ tablespoons sugar
1½ tablespoons kosher salt
6½ cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
butter for greasing the pan
For the filling:
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/3 cup sugar
1½ cups raisins
egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water)


1. Mixing and storing the dough: Mix the yeast, salt and sugar with the water and buttermilk in a 5-quart mixing bowl or a lidded (not airtight) food container.

2. Mix in the flour without kneading, using a spoon, a 14-cup capacity food processor (with dough attachment) or a heavy-duty stand mixer with dough hook. If you’re not using a machine, you may have to use wet hands to incorporate the last bit of flour.  I find that the easiest way to do this is in my stand mixer.

3. Cover (not airtight) and allow to rest at room temperature until the dough rises and collapses or flattens on top, approximately 2 hours.  The dough can be used immediately after the initial rise, though it is easier to handle when cold. Refrigerate in a lidded (not airtight) container and use over the next 7 days.

4. On baking day, lightly grease a 9x4x3-inch non-stick loaf pan and line it with parchment paper (this isn't absolutely necessary but I always bake with parchment - it makes it much easier to remove the bread after it bakes). Set aside.  Measure out your raisins, place them in a bowl, and cover them with just enough hot water to cover the raisins, and then cover the bowl (I like to reconstitute the raisins, which this does).  Set aside.  Dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut off a 1½-pound (grapefruit-size) piece.  Dust the piece of dough with more flour and quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go.  Elongate the ball into an oval.

5. With a rolling pin, roll out the dough to an 18×16-inch rectangle about ¼-inch thick, dusting the board and rolling pin with flour as needed. 

6. Using a pastry brush (this is my favorite), cover the surface of the dough lightly with the egg wash.  Mix together the sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle the mixture evenly over the dough.  It seemed like a lot to me, but do use it all! Drain the water from the raisins and then sprinkle them evenly over the dough.

7. Starting from the short side, roll it up jelly-roll style. Pinch the edges and ends together, tucking the ends under. Place the loaf seam-side down in the prepared pan. Allow to rest 1 hour and 40 minutes (or just 40 minutes if you’re using fresh, unrefrigerated dough).

8. Twenty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 375ºF. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from pan and allow to cool before slicing.


Baingan Bharta & the Colorado Get Movin' Challenge


Hello, August!  It's been a full month since I last blogged.  The intention to post has been there -- I have at least ten e-mails to myself in my inbox with post ideas, I've been cooking, and I was totally inspired by a trip to the Pacific Northwest.  But then… crickets.  

I'm hoping to turn things around this month, starting with my role as an Ambassador for the LiveWell Colorado Get Movin' Challenge.  For the month of August, I've committed to exercising for at least 30 minutes a day and am hoping to inspire others to join me.  If you live in Colorado, please join the challenge today!  Since the Ironman last fall, I've been a bit lax about exercising and I think this month's challenge will help me get back into gear.  Every time I exercise, I feel better mentally and physically but it is still SO hard to get out there and do it every day.  I've included a few photos in this post from my favorite places to work out on the Front Range - Centennial Cone, Bergen Peak, and North Table Mountain.  Coloradans have no excuse when it comes to working out -- we should be out there taking advantage of our spectacular surroundings every day!
I'm in San Francisco for work for a few days so I'm kicking off the challenge with a run to the Presidio from my hotel.  In addition to exercising more, I'm going to make a concerted effort to eat healthier this month.  To get started, I made a tasty eggplant dish courtesy of Mark Bittman.  Eggplants hold such promise with their shiny purple skin and fun shape, but I am never thrilled with the outcome.  The dishes I've made in the past tend to be bland and I had basically written off ever making something as tasty as what you get in a restaurant.  In Indian restaurants, Baingan Bharta is my go-to dish.
Baingan Bharta is a traditionally a South Asian dish that includes the spice blend Garam Masala, which varies by region but typically includes cinnamon, black and white peppercorns, cloves, cumin seeds, and cardamom pods.  An added bonus to making this is that I was able to use a jalapeño pepper from my own garden!  I started small this year and just planted jalapeño peppers, tomatoes, basil, and a lone eggplant, but it has been so fun harvesting everything.  We'll be eating pesto well into the winter… as for the jalapeños (10 on the plant and counting), I've yet to figure out what to do with all of them.  Any ideas?
Baingan Bharta
Yield = 4 servings
Notes - One of the coolest things about this recipe was grilling whole eggplant, which I'd never done before.  I was worried that I wouldn't know when they were done, but it was obvious when the eggplant "collapsed" and was cooked inside.  After about 10 minutes, they were cool enough to peel and it really was a breeze.  I'll be using this method again!  I served this with naan that I picked up at the grocery store - it wasn't great, but you do want to serve this with something for "scooping."  Pita bread would work well, too, but be sure to warm it up just prior to serving.
  • 2 pounds eggplant (approximately 3 medium-sized eggplants)
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 fresh hot green chile like a jalapeño, or more to taste, diced (discard seeds for less heat)
  • 1 pound fresh tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt or to taste
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro, thin stems included
  • 2 tablespoons garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder (if you enjoy extra heat)

1.  Prick the eggplant with a thin-blade knife all over. Grill over or next to very high heat, turning as necessary until the skin is blackened and the eggplant collapses. Or broil, or roast on a heated cast-iron pan in the hottest possible oven. It will take about 20 minutes.

2.  When the eggplant is cool enough to handle, peel (this will be easy) and trim away the hard stem. Chop or mash in a bowl, with lime juice.

3.  Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat; add the onion. Cook, stirring often, until the onion is golden brown, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and chiles and cook for another minute. Add the tomato, turmeric and salt. Cook until the tomato is soft, 5 minutes or so.

4.  Stir in the eggplant purée and cook, stirring, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the cilantro, garam masala, paprika, and chili powder (if you are using it) and turn off the heat. Serve hot with warm naan bread or pita, or over rice.


Chickpea & Tomato Salad

Rob and I celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary last weekend by watching two dear friends tie the knot in Breckenridge, Colorado. It was a classic Colorado weekend - sunny with blue skies, the threat of afternoon thunderstorms, and then the perfect evening of chilly mountain air combined with more stars in the sky than you thought existed. It was fun to reminisce about our wedding while celebrating another one, particularly one where the bride and groom incorporated so many thoughtful touches. The most thoughtful? Each of us received a Mason jar for our beverages for the night and with our table number attached... and tied to each jar was a hand-written note about your relationship with the bride and/or groom. Mine brought me to tears...

On the whole, the weekend was a reminder that it is the simple things in life that usually bring us the most joy. The company of good friends and family, a hand-written note letting someone know they are in your thoughts, a bike ride on a summer's day...

This dish definitely falls into the category of simple. It uses four main ingredients and a few others you most likely have in your pantry. It makes a delicious side dish, perfect for backyard gatherings.

Chickpea & Tomato Salad with Fresh Mozzarella
Adapted from Green Lite Bites

1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved (my tomatoes were particularly tiny so I didn't halve them)
25 large basil leaves, chopped
6 ounces fresh mozzarella (I used the bite-size Ciliegine mozzarella)
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tsp olive oil
1/2 tbsp honey
Salt and pepper to taste

Toss all ingredients together and chill for at least 20 minutes, allowing all the flavors to merge. This still tastes great the next day, but the basil will start to look wilted so I recommend serving this immediately after you make it or adding the basil immediately prior to serving.


Becoming Van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh, Self-Portrait with Straw Hat, 1887, Oil on canvas, 16 1/8 x 13 inches (41 x 33 cm); Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation).

If you live in Denver or are passing through sometime before January 20, 2013, be sure to see the "Becoming Van Gogh" exhibit at the Denver Art Museum.  The exhibit displays van Gogh's art from when he first decided to become an artist (after pursuing a number of other careers) to his more famous later works.  It is fascinating to see his evolution as an artist and to learn about how he really committed himself to his craft and was largely self-taught.  Image credit to the Denver Art Museum.