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archive for November 2013

rolled, not layered

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

Recipe: pistachio rolled baklava

I’ve been so wrapped up with work the past few weeks that I kept missing sunsets and sunrises, except to notice that I missed them. While I walked Kaweah Monday evening, I had one eye on the dog and another eye on the sky. A few clouds overhead began to tint gold as we walked back to the house and I got antsy. Potentially good colors. “Come on, little girl. We need to get moving.” But Kaweah was intent on sniffing every single twig, pine cone, and rock for at least ten seconds apiece. I glanced up and noted that the yellow had become intense with hints of orange. Looking further east, the clouds were orange and pink. I placed my hand on Kaweah’s side and tried gently guiding her in the direction of the house only to have her take interest in the next rock. Determined not to miss yet another sunset, I scooped her up in my arms and carried her across the yard into the house. “I’ll make it up to you with unlimited sniffing tomorrow,” I said, patting her belly as I set her down at the door.


i got my sunset



It’s easy to get sucked into work. Too easy. And that usually comes at the expense of other things. I got together with a bunch of girlfriends for a potluck this past weekend and realized that I hadn’t seen most of them in over a year. But I’m so glad I went because it was nice to just chill out, cook, and talk. I watched my friend’s son playing in the yard while we adults ate lunch on the patio. That carefree kind of play. I think carefree play has been missing from my life these days. Gotta fix that.

the joys of sweet youth



The dish I brought to the potluck was a dessert. Actually, I brought two desserts – some huckleberry ice cream and baklava. Baklava, I can make in my sleep. I’ve been making it since fourth grade which is… a long time. This time, the same old baklava just didn’t appeal to me, so I tried to mix it up a little.

butter, phyllo dough, sugar, pistachios, orange blossom water, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, extra pistachios

place the pistachios, spices, sugar, and orange blossom water in a food processor

pulse it to coarse sand texture



Pistachios cost much more than walnuts, but they are worth it. They are treasured for the gorgeous green color as much as for the flavor. I used organic raw unsalted pistachios to get the best results and added cardamom, nutmeg, and orange blossom water to the usual cinnamon. The motivation was that these additional flavors would complement the pistachios.

keep the phyllo sheets under a damp towel

brush butter on one half of a sheet

fold the sheet in half and butter the top



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a bounty for the heart and tummy

Monday, November 11th, 2013

Recipe: herbed garlic knots

Of all the friends I have made through blogging, the two people I hold dearest in my heart are Todd and Diane. The first time I met them in person was shortly after I finished my radiation treatment when I had a mere hint of fuzz on my head and my face was still puffy and swollen from chemotherapy. They invited me and Jeremy into their home and paradise of a garden for an evening of amazing food, great conversation, puppy time, many laughs, and a generosity that touched our hearts. Todd and Diane are my favorite kind of people – no bullshit, honest, straight shooters. We think of them as family. We weep over their losses and we celebrate their successes. I was beaming with pride when I opened up my copy of their cookbook Bountiful.

Disclosure: I received a free review copy of the book from the publisher with no obligation. Opinions are entirely my own.


todd and diane visiting us in crested butte this past september

300 pages of awesome



As I flipped through the pages of this hefty tome, I muttered, “They should have called it ‘Beautiful’.” And it IS beautiful, filled with their signature stunning photography and equally wonderful recipes. If you’ve been a reader of use real butter for any length of time, you’ll know that I draw much inspiration (and recipes) from Todd and Diane. They are always willing to share their incredible food and knowledge, making everything as accessible to others as possible. The book itself is organized by families of fruits and vegetables that they grow in their lush Southern California garden. I tagged so many recipes to try, but there was no question which one I wanted to make first. I’ve been eyeing these garlic knots for years and now I had zero excuse not to bake them.

the dough: flour, salt, yeast, sugar, olive oil, water

combine the warm water, yeast, sugar, salt, and olive oil in a large vessel

add the flour when the yeast is dissolved

let the dough rise, covered in a warm location



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pear-fect weather

Thursday, November 7th, 2013

Recipe: pear upside down gingerbread cake

Pears have been around for a few months, but I’ve only really taken notice of them in the past few weeks. I’ve always had a mild fear of pears. I know that sounds silly, but hear me out. The Chinese say it’s bad luck to split a pear between two people. One person eating a pear is fine. Three or more people sharing a pear is fine too. Two people should not split a pear. Because splitting a pear in Chinese is fen li and that is the same sound as the phrase for separation. But I figured, if I put the pears in a cake and shared it around with lots of people – I’d be in the clear.


bosc pears

the topping: pears, butter, light brown sugar

the cake: flour, brown sugar, molasses, butter, water, candied ginger, egg, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves



It’s the perfect time around here for a pear upside down gingerbread cake, don’t you think? Gingerbread stirs that festive holiday mood and pears are in season. Also – it’s 11°F outside, so turning on the oven is a wonderful, awesome, very good thing to do.

peel, core, and slice the pears into eighths

sprinkle brown sugar over the melted butter and let cook

arrange the pear slices over the butter-sugar mixture



First, you begin at the stove with a cast iron skillet or other non-stick ovenproof frying pan. These recipes always call for a 10-inch skillet and I only have a 12-inch cast iron skillet. So I sliced up four pears instead of the 2.5 from the recipe to make up for the added volume. Besides, I really like a higher fruit to cake ratio. Start with melting the butter then add the brown sugar. Mine did not melt much at all, it just kind of sat there. But when I added the pear slices, it started turning into this beautiful caramel colored melty syrup. Even if it doesn’t start melting, never fear – it will definitely melt in the oven. But you have to make the batter before you can pop this into the oven.

whisk the flour, baking soda, salt, and spices together

beat the sugar, butter, and egg together

whisk the molasses into the boiling hot water



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