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archive for December 2012

gettin’ real

Sunday, December 9th, 2012

Recipe: homemade orange milano cookies

It snowed this weekend. It.Finally.Snowed. I don’t mean a dusting of white stuff either, because when I say snow I mean “skiable” snow. At first it came down in big fluffy flakes all day Friday.

at first kaweah didn’t notice

then it started to accumulate on her schnoz

sniffing the air – winter is here!

There were some strong winds blowing which sent most of the snow into the next county for a couple of days. But Sunday morning we woke to a familiar glow through our windows – the glow of freshly fallen snow covering everything. It was 8°F and completely calm. Magical conditions. The snow was feathery and dry. I’ve been waiting since September (okay, really since May) to feel the familiar glide of skis on snow under my feet. I am recharged.

perfect snow

ski touring our local mountains

Two summers ago, Jeremy and I were in Washington state to visit with good people and backpack in Olympic National Park. We enjoyed an amazing lunch at Sitka and Spruce with my friend, Lara Ferroni. She told us about a book she was working on – making all of those favorite snacky junk foods of our youth from scratch without all of the junk. I told her I would love to see a copy when she was finished.

my review copy arrived in the post a few months ago courtesy of sasquatch books

Lara’s book was a traipse through my childhood memories of Twinkies, Chocolate Cupcakes, Ding Dongs, Oreos, Doritos, Goldfish crackers, Hot Pockets, potato chips, tater tots, and so much more. She manages all of these with normal ingredients and without preservatives, artificial colorings, or artificial flavors. In addition to the healthier recipes for these snacks, she provides gluten-free, as well as vegan, versions. At the back of the book she includes recipes for some basic pantry staples like confectioner’s sugar, sweetened condensed milk, marshmallow crème, and even sprinkles! I let Jeremy choose the recipe to make, since he was going to be eating them. He went with the Chocolate and Orange Wafers (aka orange milanos).

flours, powdered sugar, chocolate, salt, baking powder, butter, eggs, cream, orange (zest), vanilla extract

zest and juice the orange

sift the flours, salt, and baking powder

Lara gives lots of options on ingredients like white whole wheat flour, spelt flour, ground millet, all-purpose flour, and cake flour. I went with what I had on hand at the time (all-purpose and cake flours) for the cookies, but there is a good deal of flexibility so you can experiment with healthier mixes.

beat the powdered sugar and butter together

adding egg whites

beating in the orange juice

add the dry mix, beating until just combined

**Jump for more butter**

little snacks

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

Recipe: chinese curried beef pastries

Mom and Dad returned home last week. As we all get older, I tend to feel a hint of sadness whenever we say goodbye, but let me tell you who was the saddest about their absence…

yes, kaweah

I kinda love that picture because it’s so funny and it’s also incredibly sweet. Kaweah is utterly devoted to my dad and to be honest, I don’t think anyone adores him more than she does. In the days that followed my parents’ visit, Kaweah was mopier than usual, but she has since resumed her normal schedule of chasing bunnies in her dreams, eating, pretending she hasn’t eaten yet, and tracking the sun across the living room each day. As for me, my sights are set skyward once again, rather than on the road from a car. We’ve had some great cloud porn of late – especially the combination of stacked lenticulars and wave clouds.

sunset gold

a final rosy blush

dramatic mid-morning wave cloud front right over my driveway

Living on the leeward side of a high mountain range that abuts a flat topography (the Colorado Front Range or the Eastern Sierra Nevada, for example) provides opportunities to witness some amazing cloud formations and to appreciate the beauty of fluid dynamics and optical phenomena. Oh, and if you mosey an hour east of where I live, you can actually find decent dim sum! And by decent, I mean, it could pass for the average dim sum joint in California’s Bay Area. As I’ve said before, I don’t venture to Denver often, but when I do, there has to be good food involved. Add good folks like Kat and Cindi, and it’s a grand old time.

dim sum at superstar asian in denver (iphone)

cindi made custom whee one toys of our pets! (iphone)

kaweah and her doppelgänger (before she tried to eat it)

And look, December has not forsaken me, after all. I’m willing to forgive the sunny and 70°F weather in December in Colorado if I can finally get the skis out…

yes, please

Dim sum means “snacks”, which got me thinking about all manner of Chinese snacks or treats I grew up sampling. It’s been my long-term goal to learn to make some of these treats, partly out of curiosity and mostly because I can’t get them around here. One of my favorites is a savory curried beef pastry – curried browned beef with onions wrapped in a flaky, golden pastry.

beef, soy sauce, onion, curry powder, salt, flour, egg yolk, butter

dice the onion

sauté onion with curry powder

**Jump for more butter**

know the code

Monday, December 3rd, 2012

Recipe: roasted butternut squash with moroccan spices

Well well well, if it isn’t December. How have you been, December? You certainly haven’t been very snowy lately, at least not in Colorado. While December has been acting more like August around here, I’ve noticed a frenzy of gift shopping going on all around me for the impending holidays. I’ve gone and done a little hunting myself. That is, I’ve gone and gathered up a few dealios on some lovely gift ideas just for my readers. I know a few kickass ladies who happen to run their own small businesses and turn out beautiful, high-quality products. Each one gave me a code for a discount or a free gift for my readers!

cmh design (code through December 20, 2012: HOLIDAYSHIP)

Cindi Miller Herleman is the Denver-based artist and boss lady at cmh design. She handcrafts adorable squee-worthy stuffed toys and other items for kids, big and small. I recently ordered a Whee One from Cindi for a present, and got two little security bunnies to gift to a couple of children in need. It was tough just ordering the gifts and not picking out a few for myself – like the zombies, frankensteins, and draculas! Cindi even makes scary monsters cuddly and sweet. She also maintains a collection of brightly-colored whimsical bibs and burpies for the littlest kids as well as pillows and knit hats.

cmh design is carried in physical stores around Denver as well as in Seal Beach, California and in New York City (see listings). But don’t fret if you can’t get to those places, Cindi has an Etsy store where she graciously set up a discount code for all use real butter readers. Enter HOLIDAYSHIP on your order BEFORE DECEMBER 20, 2012 to receive free shipping on your order. Go check out the cuteness and see her latest creations on the cmh design Facebook page.

spotted dog farm (code through December 31, 2012: BUTTER)

Hopping over to Asheville, North Carolina, you will find Sumner Smith, the proprietor of Spotted Dog Farm. Sumner has mastered handmade botanical resin jewelry – real flowers or delicate leaves suspended and preserved in resin. She has a most gorgeous selection of pendants, rings, earrings, and bangles in a delightful array of colors and designs. Browsing the jewelry on offer is like a walk through a field of summer wildflowers. These lovely pieces make fantastic gifts for others or… for yourself!

You can peruse the handmade botanical resin jewelry at the Spotted Dog Farm Etsy store. Sumner has kindly provided free shipping to all use real butter readers through DECEMBER 31, 2012. Just enter BUTTER to get free shipping on your order. Keep up with the latest on the Spotted Dog Farm Facebook page.

helliemae’s (code through December 24, 2012: mobutter)

And last, but certainly not least, is my dear Ellen Daehnick, the owner and caramel pusher at Helliemae’s in Denver, Colorado. Helliemae’s caramels are rich, creamy, buttery (how could we not be friends?!), salted, and dark – dark as in burnt caramel. They are luxurious and indulgent treats that melt in your mouth. Ellen constantly experiments with new flavors, testing products to her exacting standards and treating the rest of us to seasonal favorites like apple caramels in the fall, candy cane caramels for the holidays, jasmine tea caramels for Mother’s Day, and Atticus caramels (Stranahan’s Colorado whiskey, cane syrup, and bourbon barrel smoked salt) for Father’s Day. These punctuate the year-round goodness of classic salt caramels, coffee caramels, Chili-Palmer caramels (cinnamon, chili, salt), cardamom caramels, caramel sauce, and heavenly Magnolia Praline Crunch (pecan praline crunch with sea salt, black pepper, and grapefruit zest – oh my word…).

So here’s the deal that Helliemae’s has for use real butter readers: order $50 or more, add a 2-ounce box of classic salt caramels to your cart, enter mobutter at checkout, and you will receive the 2-ounce gift box of tiny caramels ($10 value) for free through DECEMBER 24, 2012. Stay on top of the latest in caramel flavor goodness at the Helliemae’s Facebook page or follow Helliemae’s on Twitter @helliemaes.

Full disclosure: I was not asked, given stuff, nor paid by these fine ladies to feature their products. It’s all about sharing the awesome with you.

Whew! That’s a lot of fabulousness on one page, kids. Let’s wrap it up with a recipe. I call it a sleeper recipe because people tend to ignore vegetables, as if they were the shy nerd in the hall. Truth is, that nerd just needs a little olive oil, some spices, and suddenly it owns dinner! That’s right. Butternut squash never ceases to thrill me with its sweetness, nuttiness, and versatility.

salt, pepper, olive oil, spices, and a butternut squash

cumin, coriander, chile, paprika, cinnamon, allspice, ginger, cayenne, cloves

mix the spices together and use a teaspoon

**Jump for more butter**