18.9.16

Our Colorado Trip


Hi friends--sorry for the long absence. Between packing, moving, un-packing, starting a new job, and house-hunting, life has been pretty crazy around here. 

I wasn't cooking much for a while, which made me sad, but in the last couple weeks I've been venturing into the kitchen more. I made this spinach and cheese strata and this banana bread, and then these Mexican sweet potato skins and my mom's spaghetti sauce recipe. (I need to share that one with you!) I'm finally feeling more like myself now that I'm cooking at least a couple times a week, and soon I hope to have a new recipe to share with you.  

In the meantime, here is a recap of our August trip to Colorado!

As I know I've mentioned on the blog before, I've been wanting to go to Colorado for a long time.  I don't know why exactly--it just always seemed grand and beautiful and different. 

And, after a summer spent inside studying for the bar, I knew I would want to be outside in the fresh air as much as possible. 

Vail/Avon/Glenwood Springs


To Do: 

We spent our first three days at a resort in Avon, Colorado, which is about 10 minutes west of Vail.  We spent one day exploring Avon and the nearby Beaver Creek, and the next day we made the 50 minute drive to Hanging Lake--one of the highlights of the trip. 


This is a very popular tourist destination, and there is only one small parking lot that fills up fast.  If you go on a Saturday, like we did, you might end up having to walk an extra two miles to get there if the parking lot is full, but it's worth it. 


It is a 1.5 mile hike up to Hanging Lake, and there are lots of smaller water falls along the way to the top. 


We only spent part of one day in Vail, but I wish we could have spent at least two. I LOVED it. 


We happened to go there on a Sunday, which is Farmer's Market day, and there were so many stalls set up with delicious food and local artwork.


Vail definitely has some German influences in the architecture.


And the cuisine.  These German pastries were absolutely stunning.


We took the Gondola up to the top of Vail Mountain. The price is sort of ridiculous, but it's just something you have to experience.


The views from the top were breathtaking.


I didn't want to leave!


To Eat: 

Crespelle in Vail--The casual crepe place was the perfect stop after coming back down the mountain.  We got the dirty hippy (kale, spinach, bacon, tomato & avocado) and the crespelle (nutella, banana, strawberry & chocolate pearls). I still dream about that nutella crepe....



Colorado Springs

To Do: 

We did some more hiking and hit all the big touristy spots in Colorado Springs. 

Seven Falls--It's 250 steps up to the top of the falls, but the views are great. 



Once you get to the top, there are also several hiking trails with more panoramic views.


Garden of the Gods--We opted to hike a loop around the park, which allowed us to see the rocks from all different angles.


Air Force Academy--This stop was definitely more for Adam than for me, but the chapel was absolutely beautiful.


Pike's Peak--the drive to the top was terrifying and exhilarating. (We were literally driving on the edge of a cliff!) 


I was so happy when we made it to the top. Their famous doughnuts were pretty good too.


As were the views. . .


To Eat: 

Ola Juice Bar--Although we were only in Colorado Springs 3 days we ate here twice. I was obsessed! Their acai bowls were delicious and so refreshing after hiking. 


This salad was yummy and filling with quinoa, spinach, carrots, peppers, red onions, pine nuts, and a peanut ginger dressing.


Other highlights: 

Josh & John's Ice Cream--delicious homemade ice cream in downtown Colorado Springs. 

Red Leg Brewing--great craft brewery with food trucks. We loved the Cambodian cuisine we tried at the Awaken Food Truck that was there one night. 


Denver 

To Do: 

After doing so much hiking on the other parts of our trip, we decided to do mostly museums in Denver.

Denver Art Museum--This one was our very favorite. It's huge, with lots of great exhibits.



Museum of Contemporary Art--This museum was smaller, but still cool. We enjoyed the rooftop bar at the top.

Museum of Nature & Science--This was a typical science museum for me, and the amount of kids and people there was a bit overwhelming.  If you go, definitely visit the City Park right nearby. It's a lovely place to walk around with great views of downtown.


To Eat: 

Root Down--This was by far the best meal of our trip. The sweet corn risotto was amazing.

Denver Biscuit Co--crazy big and good biscuits. The cinnamon roll biscuit with cream cheese frosting was decadent, but so worth it.

via 

Los Chingones--unique tacos, margaritas, and a rooftop view. What else do you need? I hope to recreate one of the tacos we had here in a later blog post.


Union Lodge--period era cocktails in a fun speakeasy setting. A must-try!



Colorado, you did not disappoint, and we are already ready to go back. 
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14.8.16

Simple Eggplant and Tomato Stew


Hi! I've missed you. I've missed blogging. I've missed cooking. 

It's been a bit of a miserable summer of bar studying, but it's finally, finally OVER. 


Summer is always one of my favorite seasons for cooking because of the fresh fruits and vegetables everywhere, so it was hard not to have much time for cooking this summer.  I ate a lot of cereal and take-out. Not great.

Although our squash plants didn't end up having much of a harvest, we've had a ton of cherry tomatoes and cucumbers. I did manage to make refrigerator pickles and some simple pasta dishes with tomatoes.

Now that I'm easing my way back into the kitchen, I knew I had to make something with cherry tomatoes, and once my mom gave me this beautiful Japanese eggplant from her garden, I knew just the thing: simple eggplant and tomato stew.


This recipe is inspired from one of my very favorite dishes at Med Deli in Chapel Hill--their eggplant, squash and tomato stew.  It's essentially eggplant, tomato, and onion that are cooked for a long time until everything is disintegrated and delicious.

I'm not sure if everyone is a fan of vegetables cooked until they're totally falling apart, but I can assure that in this instance, it's wonderful.

The recipe here is very loose here--feel free to add more or less of what I have, or add in other vegetables as well. There's no way to mess it up.  To take it in the mediterranean direction, add cumin and paprika and maybe sprinkle it with feta cheese at the end. To take it in the Italian direction, add parmesan cheese and fresh basil at the end.  Either way, serve it with some bread for dipping. It makes the whole experience.


Unfortunately, after just finishing a busy season of studying, I'm now about to enter another season of busyness. In the next week, I'll be starting my new job and we'll be moving. We haven't found a permanent home yet, so we're moving into a sort of temporary housing situation, which we just learned doesn't have a full kitchen.  :(

What this means for the blog, I'm not sure. BUT, Adam and I also just returned from a wonderful trip to Colorado, and I have lots to share about what we did and where we ate. 

Thank you, as always, for reading along. 



Simple Eggplant and Tomato Stew


Ingredients:
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 a medium onion
pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
1-2 small eggplants, chopped
1 green pepper chopped
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
~1/2 cup water
salt and pepper

For serving:
fresh basil
parmesan cheese
naan or pita bread for dipping

Directions:
Add butter and olive oil to a large saucepan over medium heat.  Once butter is melted, add the onions. Cook for a minute or so and then reduce heat to medium low. Continue to caramelize the onions, stirring every few minutes, as you prepare the other ingredients.

Once the onions have caramelized to your liking (I cooked mine for 15 minutes or so, you can do longer if you have more patience), add the cherry tomatoes. Raise heat to medium and cook tomatoes and onions for an additional 5 minutes, or until the tomatoes have softened and started to burst.

Add the chopped green pepper, eggplant, and garlic. Stir to combine, then cover. Continue cooking the vegetable mixture for about 20 minutes.  Every few minutes, remove the lid and stir. The tomatoes should have produced lots of liquid, but as the liquid starts to evaporate, add water.

I consider the dish complete when the eggplant pieces have started to disintegrate and the whole mixture resembles something you want to scoop up with pita bread. Be sure to season liberally with salt and pepper.

Serve with pita bread or naan and chopped basil and grated parmesan cheese, if desired.


22.6.16

Checking in


Hey friends! I'm sorry for the long absence. I thought I would be able to post at least occasionally during the first part of bar studying, but I underestimated how all-consuming studying would be.  This will probably be my past post until August, but I wanted to check in with a few recipes and restaurants that I'm loving lately. 

Despite spending most of my waking hours studying, I've managed to find time to check out a couple new places around town.  A new favorite is Honeysuckle Tea House, where I got the beautiful smoothie bowl above. This one had banana, dates, mango, coconut milk, bee pollen, and edible flowers!


Adam and I have also become obsessed with Ponysaurus, a new brewery in Durham.  It has a great outdoor space, including this rooftop with string lights. It's a great place to watch the sunset, sip a beer, and maybe work on making notecards.... 

They have sweet and salty snacks on hand and a local food truck is usually there too.


Because most of my mental energy has gone toward studying, I haven't attempted any new recipes lately, but we're still making our favorites.  A big hit recently was my panang curry recipe served over rice noodles instead of rice. It's SOO good. Please try it.

I've also made greek chicken pitas (with grocery store rotisserie chicken) and my favorite chopped salad.


I'm so excited for later in the summer when some of the veggies from our garden are ready for harvest. So far we have lots of baby squash (aren't they the cutest??) and some green cherry tomatoes. Watering the garden everyday has been a good study break for me, and I think it's helping my sanity just a little bit.


What recipes or restaurants are you loving this summer? Any favorite squash recipes? I think we're going to have a lot. . .

Happy Summer!  

22.5.16

Small Batch Kettle Corn (with video!)


If you've been reading for a while, you know that I have a tendency to become obsessed with particular street foods and then seek to recreate them at home.  First it was arepas, then soft pretzels. Today, it's kettle corn. 


I've always been a fan of kettle corn.  It's my go-to at the state fair and the air show, and any other event with vendor food.  Adam and I have been on a homemade popcorn kick for the past few months, but I neglected to make kettle corn until just recently.  I assumed it required special equipment or long baking times, but it doesn't!

Now, because I don't have a real kettle or specialty corn kernels, this isn't exactly like the kettle corn you'd buy at the fair, but I think the favor and texture is pretty darn close. 

Also, because we're nerds, and because I have one more day of freedom before bar studying starts, Adam and I made you a how-to video: 


I call this small batch kettle corn because it makes enough for 2-3 servings, which is perfect for us. Enjoy!



Small Batch Kettle Corn


Ingredients:
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/4 cup corn kernels
2 tablespoons sugar
salt for sprinkling

Directions:
Add canola oil to a medium-sized saucepan with a tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat.  Add three corn kernels and place lid on the pot. Listen carefully.

Once one of the kernels has popped, quickly add the remaining corn kernels and sugar. Shake the pan to evenly coat the kernels in oil and sugar. Continue cooking over medium heat for 1-2 minutes. Once the popping slows, remove from heat quickly to avoid burning.

Spread popcorn out over parchment paper and sprinkle with salt. Let cool and dig in!

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