Foster Dog and Friends

Meet sweet pea Penny!  I found her at the Denver Animal Shelter by accident and decided she needed some major TLC.  When I first met Penny, it was’t love at first sight at least for her…but I do think it was love at first smell!  See Penny really couldn’t see, because her hair was so long and matted that it covered her eyes.  She also had abrasions from scratching at it so much that she looked sad and pathetic; I knew then, I had to rescue this fur-ball and get that hair out of her eyes and get some meat on her bones.  She was 8.5 pounds and is now a healthy 11.5 pounds after one month of eating well and exercising.  

Her favorite playmate is this mystery man (is that Cyrus under that hoodie?).  She just loves to cuddle and give hugs when she is not blitzing circles around us or getting into trouble.

One evening, we decided to try out our new grill and make salmon burgers and hang out on our patio with Penny.  This was what we saw next and on the first night our guest Shaun was in town…

This guy was a little too late to the cookout!  This cinnamon bear is our first bear sighting at our new house!  We were so excited that we got up and quietly ran after it to get a better look and see what Bear was up to on the other side of our house.

The following weekend we saw another bear, but this one was black and didn’t come for a cookout; he was just passing by out in the yard.

That same weekend Cyrus and I rode our bikes into town and attended the Fathers’ Day/Rodeo Parade.  This is the life, living in small town Evergreen.  Parades, bears, elk and deer – one of these is usually holding up traffic.

Second weekend with our guests in town from Austin: Tina, Shaun, Mila, Daisy, and Miss Bunny

One day we decided to introduce them to Idaho Springs and had lunch at Tommyknocker Brewery.  Their flight of beers were quite phenomenal, especially the Palisade Peachwood Cream Ale and Tundrabeary Summer Ale

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Posted in animals, beer, brew pub, breweries, brewery, Colorado, dining, dinner, Drinks, falls, Food, friends, lunch, Nature, outdoors, parties, Wildlife | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Crust-less Quiche

A sort of recipe for you…
Potato Crusted Quiche
What you’ll need:
Eggs
Milk or cream
onions
potatoes (I use the organic multicolored little bag of potatoes from Whole Foods–love the purple ones!)
garlic
brussel sprouts
kale (optional)
tomatoes
cotija cheese
salt
pepper
Served with a side of avocado, cottage cheese, and Louisiana hot sauce (I like to put it on almost everything, so definitely not needed for this tasty crust-less pie)
I think I cooked this on convection Bake 400 for about 30-35 minutes, but yours could take more than 45 with more eggs/feeding a whole family.  I oiled my pie pan with a garlic oil (Toum) that I made, but any butter or oil of your preference will be just as good (and just add fresh garlic on top of the potatoes if you like).  I used my mandoline thin slicer blade and shaved slices of the potatoes and layered them into about three layers on bottom of pie pan to make the crust.  Then I shaved onions with same blade on top of the potatoes.  I also shaved brussel sprouts (same blade and put these aside until the end).  Crack the appropriate amount of eggs into a bowl.  **I estimate about 1-2 per person–max of 6 because will take too long to cook.  For the two of us, I used about 4 eggs. ~We at the whole thing in one setting~** Then whisk in about 1/3-1/2 cup milk, salt, and pepper to eggs; pour mixture over unbaked potato onion “crust”.  Place shaved brussel sprouts, torn kale, basil, chives, or any fresh herbs lightly on top of the egg mixture in pie pan.  After cooking for about 8-10 minutes or so add sliced tomatoes on top and grate a little of your favorite cheese (optional).  I just topped it with crumbled up bits of Cotija cheese, because–just the Louisiana hot sauce addition–I love Cotija on anything.  Please excuse the crazy directions, as I don’t like to measure ingredients…call me a rebel if you will.
Pictures to follow soon…
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The New Orleans of Colombia

Only two things went wrong on our first trip together during our 8 days in Colombia, South America:

  1. mice
  2. men

Mice and men made for more entertaining stories on this trip.  I am getting to the mice on this post; bad men will come into play in Medellin.

Let’s begin with what went right, choosing to visit the musical, colorful, coastal town of Cartagena was a fantastic idea.  We flew into Bogota and flew right back up to the Caribbean coast of Colombia to check out Cartagena for a few days.  I don’t know where to begin from here, we just explored and ate gelato every chance we got.  There were two restaurants that stood out to me: Cuba 1940’s (I will explain later with pictures) and Demente Tapas Bar (the best al fresco atmosphere, small plates, and cocktails).  Our favorite gelateria spot was Gelateria Tramonte.  I will never forget the look on Cyrus’s face when he went in for a big lick of his anticipated gelato just as it plopped off the cone onto the ground–what a sad moment.  No worries, I immediately made it better and went back up for the replacement cone.  I also can’t leave out how delicious the plantains and coconut rice were, not only in Cartagena.

We discovered Cafe San Alberto–the coffee temple!–upon arrival.  This place made one of the fanciest and tastiest coffees I have ever cupped my hands around, and had the most charming atmosphere and quaint little loft.  I normally don’t even like Colombian beans (I thought), but I will give them another chance after this experience.  I am still regretting not buying a big bag of beans to take home and continue to enjoy.  Why oh why did I not take beans on the fly?

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Check out their menu, they even draw the options out for you!IMG_2767IMG_2768IMG_2769IMG_2773

The village part of Cartagena surrounding our Airbnb, loaded with gelaterias

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We decided to stay an extra night but not in our lovely Airbnb in the heart of Cartagena, but on this day we took a “launcha” boat out to our unknown accommodation to spend a night in Playa Blanca.  We ventured out to the island with all bags in tow on a mission to find a hut.  We chose the first enticing, friendly hut we saw with alluring hammocks and coconut drinks–Hostal (the Spanish spelling for hostel) Brenely.  A room right on the beach complete with a balcony and the most beautiful view of the tranquil blue sea was offered for a very small price.  We had the whole day ahead of us to walk up and down the beach to find which (hostel) restaurant had the best coconut drinks, coconut rice and plantains, relaxed with our books on the sand, and conversed with some fellow travelers from the states.

I have never experienced anything like this before, especially what comes next: our visitors in the middle of the night.  We were awakened by some startling thumps on our hut roof and some shuffling noises enough to make us almost jump out of our pjs.  This happened a couple times before the gigantic mice (perhaps beach rats?) were practically joining us in the ragged old sheets.  They were crawling up the side of the bed, the side of the wall, and around the top of the ceiling–at least two of them!  I think we both scared them off with our shrieks of surprise after Cyrus pulled the old spotlight trick.

Beautiful sunsets over the sea, island cuisine, mice in our bed, and the amusing launcha rides–almost throwing us out of the boat in between soaking most of the passengers–made for amazing memories on the Cartagena and Playa Blanca adventure.IMG_2820IMG_2825IMG_2823

This is our beach “hostal”.  The room in the far corner of the balcony was ours situated right next to a nice and very chill lady couple from California that has been staying here on the island for days.IMG_2822IMG_2821IMG_2830IMG_2865IMG_2866IMG_2836There is happy Cyrus trying to shield himself from the cold sea spray and the strong sun beams on the launcha ride back to Cartagena.IMG_2837

We took one last stroll before catching the cab back to the airport for our evening flight to Medellin.  While flaneuring the town, we ran into a nice tourist that suggested we try Cuba 1940’s to soak our feet and eat, what!?  What a fabulous suggestion!  This restaurant in the cutest part of Cartagena is located in the San Diego district (with less tricks turning on the streets) in the most popular town square for the ritzier folk.  We had a wonderful Cuban lunch with mojitos and espresso while soaking our sunburned legs in the cold little soaking pool IN THE RESTAURANT!!  This was the perfect ending to our trip to the coast of Colombia.  On to the next Colombian city-

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Posted in animals, Beach, beaches, beer, cocktails, coffee, coffee shops, Colombia, Colorado, Cyrus, dining, dinner, Drinks, Food, ice cream, island, lunch, Nature, outdoors, restaurants, the good life, traveling, vacation, Wildlife | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Strawberry Scone Sunday

Strawberries n Cream Scones (with vanilla bean lavender sugar)

3 c flour
3/4 c sugar
1 T baking powder
1/2 t salt
10 T unsalted butter (chilled, chopped)
1 c heavy cream
3/4 c whole milk (or all heavy cream, if preferred)
1/2 t vanilla extract
1/2 t almond extract
1 heaping c strawberries (hulled and chopped in fourths)

Set oven to Bake at 425 degrees.  Process the flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder.  Then add butter in slices until mixture becomes crumbly.  Mix cream/milk with extracts and pour slowly while mixer or food processor is going until the dough starts to all come together to hand form a big ball.  Carefully fold and press strawberries into dough.  Then pat out on well floured surface (not handling dough too much) to about 3/4 an inch circles.  Makes about four big batches, like circle cut with pizza cutter below.  Slice and bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden. For the ultimate delicious scone experience here, serve warm and fresh out of the oven.  I lightly sprinkled the scones with lavender vanilla bean sugar but no icing needed for this one!  Almost had the consistently of a slightly moist biscuit–not as dry as your typical scone.

…and a delicious strawberry, grapefruit, avocado, arugula salad with a light garlic olive oil and macadamia oil drizzle.  

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Banana Cake with Browned Buttercream Frosting

I was leaving town for a week so had to use up my 4.5 bananas.  I decided to make my first banana cake and made it with a twist.  I added dark chocolate chips and made a browned butter frosting.  I toasted walnuts to layer and top off the cake and added bit o’ toffee brickle in with the toasted walnuts.  This recipe out of my Sweet & Simple Gooseberry Patch Recipe book was a hit!

Browned Butter Frosting 

2 cups powdered sugar 

1 teaspoon vanilla extract 

1-2 tablespoons of heavy cream or milk

1/2 cup browned butter (re-cooled until solid)

**Adjustments to the cake recipe in book: I reduced the sugar just slightly under 1-2/3 cup and substituted 1/4-1/3 cup of sugar for equal amount of coconut sugar.  I also added 1/4-1/3 cup of Ghiradelli dark chocolate chips to the batter.

If making into three cake pans, reduce the time by about 10 mins.

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Hikes Around Evergreen

This beautiful view is found just a few miles up from my house on the way to Evergreen Mountain.  This is my new friend and hiking partner Katie (the wife of our realtor).IMG_2727I packed a thermos of hot tea to enjoy at the peak of our hike.  Here is where we stopped to take in the tea and the view Evergreen Mountain shared with us on this wonderful winter afternoon.IMG_2730IMG_2731The following week, I found myself at Lair o’ the Bear for a solo hike on the hunt for a glimpse of the enchanting Dunafon Castle.  Bear Creek is still frozen so there was some running (in slush)  as well as some slipping and sliding into the best angles with my camera.IMG_2740IMG_2742IMG_2745

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IMG_2749Every morning on the way to work I would drive by wondering what was beyond the driveway sign with the castle crest…finally the mystery of the hidden castle is revealed!  Just across the trout filled Bear Creek are the walls of a stunning castle where weddings and charity events take place half of the year and a residence remains for the full-time caretaker.  The castle is comprised of 17 acres with 14 bedrooms, a fruit and wine cave, two upper roof tops overlooking the large trout ponds and spectacular views of the property (ideal for cocktail parties, dances, or an elegant dinners), a nostalgic old wooden water wheel, and 1500 feet of private trout ponds -just to name a few details.IMG_2750

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Tea time out of my vintage plaid Thermos at the end of a long hike is a lovely reward.  I am so grateful for this morning.  IMG_2752Post hike I met up with my two new mountain biker friends and their dog (all whom I just met on this trail) for a smokey lunch at one of my top favorite local eats, Switchback Smokehouse to continue enjoying the day “al fresco” style.

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Nature’s Majesty

Another day another bird…  This is the cute little Pine Siskin.  I was not familiar with this bird, so I had to look it up to identify it.  I think that is the male up higher and the female is below him with less yellow in her plumage.  A cool fact about these guys is the male feeds and provides for the female during incubation, how sweet.img_2989img_2992Lots of Junco around here!img_2999img_3004As most people that live anywhere near the mountains know, this is the vibrant Stellar’s Jay.  Look closely and you’ll see the white markings on forehead and eyebrow stripe.  This means it is not a juvenile as juvenile Stellar’s lack these white facial markings.  Also, the male and female in this species are the same in appearance.  In general, other male birds are more colorful than their counterparts mainly for purpose of attracting their mates (sexually dimorphic, meaning “two forms”).img_3005img_3008img_3010This is the Mountain Chickadee.  It is said to be one of the top ten abundant birds in Colorado as it thrives in the state’s conifer forest preferring old growth spruce, fir and Lodgepole Pine forest.img_3011img_3012img_3014This is a Downy or a Hairy Woodpecker, almost identical birds but difference in size, so hard to tell unless they are side by side.  Actually seeing it feed with the Junco, I would guess it’s the Hairy.  The Hairy Woodpecker is said to be 9″, and this one looks quite a bit bigger than the Junco which is around 5.5″ in size.  The Downy Woodpecker is only an inch bigger than the Junco.img_3020img_3021img_3022I tried to cut down on the sunset pictures…I am not sorry!img_3026img_3029img_3035

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Evergreen Has My Heart

My favorite place to hang out in the chalet is the living room nestled up by the fire or standing at the back door off the kitchen/living room directly behind the bird feeder situated in the center of the backyard.  The view gawking from that sliding glass door is a splendid one and displays a panoramic of the entire backyard.  This isn’t just any back yard, this is the land where the spooked elk run through the evergreens, the squirrels frolic in the snow, the deer eat the fallen pine, and the birds snack on their seeds.  Any given day, we are guaranteed to be entertained by at least two of these majesties of nature.  I have shared pictures of a few of the moments I caught on camera and some new birds I’ve learned.img_2914Grey-headed Junco or Dark-eyed Junco: female img_2918Pygmy Nuthatchimg_2922Male Dark-eyed Juncoimg_2925img_2927img_2944img_2945img_2947img_2950img_2951img_2953img_2954img_2956This is the hot tub we often enjoy even when snow is falling…img_2957My favorite little deer is this sweet fawn with one floppy ear.img_2960img_2961img_2962img_2963img_2967img_2968img_2971img_2974img_2976img_2978

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Christmas Time in Mountain Country

This is our first Christmas in Evergreen.  The Christmas season in this community brings elves, mulled wine, apple cider, hot chocolate, horse carriage rides, ice-skating, ice melt contests, ice fishing on the town lake, Christmas Carolers and music, the “Lighting of the Tree” town festival, open fires, reindeer costumes, joy, togetherness, and cheer.

My home-made winter time wreathe!  img_2060The neighborhood img_2082img_2094img_2101This is the start of the “Lighting of the Tree Festival”.  It was a wonderful experience, but we never saw them make a spectacle of any Christmas tree lighting; maybe we missed it.  We parked at the church to catch the shuttle down the hill to avoid any parking mess.  We got on board with a bunch of young moms, dads, and kids.  It was a bitter sweet experience.  I hope to be there on that shuttle with our own some day but enjoyed watching the families interact and get excited about the festival.

Christmas Carolsimg_2103Elderly Elvesimg_2105Gathering around the open fires with hot apple cider, mulled wine, and hot chocolate is delightful!  We decided on the mulled wine.img_2108This is where you find the apple cider, hot chocolate, and “Ice Melt Contest” tickets.img_2109This is where the “Muddy Buck” resides and also our preferred coffee shop hang out on the weekends.  Next door is the “Little Bear Saloon” where wild nights of dancing and pitchers of beer are enjoyed while listening to live music.img_2114img_2113Finally, there are the two horse open sleigh rides.img_2115Back home we get lots of snow and love it even when cabin bound!img_2205img_2208img_2209It seems the snow brings out more wildlife or makes them more active.  We enjoy having close up moments, watching them come right up to our patio.img_2227img_2229img_2231img_2233img_2242img_2246img_2256My favorite Tomato Blue Cheese soupimg_2264I brought home some beers from Tulsa, Oklahoma’s new brewery American Solara.  We think their sours are absolutely on point!img_2267

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Fleur de sel Caramel Apple Cheesecake Pie

When my mom got home from a couple of weeks in Provence, she came to visit us in Evergreen, CO.  She came bearing gifts, presenting us with some thoughtful native French trinkets including a monogrammed sachet of Lavender, a small postcard of Picasso’s wedding art, and some sea salt hand harvested in France.  Just a week or two later I figured out the perfect thing to make with one of these mementos.  I used my Fleur de sel to make the tastiest salted caramel I have ever had.  I really think the salt made the caramel!

HOMEMADE SALTED CARAMEL SAUCE

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups organic granulated sugar
  • 12 tablespoons organic unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces
  • 1 cup organic heavy cream, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon fleur de sel (or any other flaky sea salt)

DIRECTIONS:

1. Add the sugar in an even layer over the bottom of a medium heavy saucepan.  Heat the sugar over medium-high heat, whisking it as it begins to melt.  You’ll see that the sugar will begin to form clumps, just keep whisking.  As it continues to cook, they will melt back down.  Stop whisking once all of the sugar has melted, and swirl the pan occasionally while the sugar cooks.

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2. Continue cooking until the sugar has reached a deep amber color and a slight toasted aroma.  This is the point where caramel can go from perfect to burnt in a matter of seconds, so keep a close eye.  If you are using an instant-read thermometer, cook the sugar until it reaches 350 degrees F.

3. As soon as the caramel reaches this toasted amber stage or  350 degrees, add the butter all at once.  The caramel will bubble up when the butter is added.  Whisk the butter into the caramel until it is completely melted.img_1979

4. Remove the pan from the heat and slowly whisk the cream into the caramel. img_1983img_1985

5. Whisk until smooth, then add the Fleur de sel whisking until all incorporated.

6. Set the sauce aside to cool slightly, and then pour into glass jar.  Let cool to room temperature before sealing.

Sauce makes great gifts or store the sauce for later use, up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator.  This caramel is good in espresso, ice cream, cookies, apples, bananas, made into icing, or just by the spoonful!  Warm sauce back up before each indulgence.  img_1988

This caramel is amazing in this Fleur de sel Caramel Apple Cheesecake Pie.  Brown Eyed Baker has it down!  I usually tweak other recipes to make them more into my own when using them, but I really didn’t recall changing a thing in this one except the name.  Thanks Brown Eyes!  I will let her take the cred from here.img_1990img_1991img_1992img_2011img_2013img_2014Notice the layers of this delicious creation…img_2016

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