makan malaysian cafe

I found a happy place on Saturday. A place that made me giddy. I place I wanted to stay awhile. A place I plan to go back to many, many times in the future.

Dan and I were able to go out for dinner just the two of us for the first time in a long while. Life has been pretty full lately, and we hadn't been out on a "date" in over a month.

While looking for available reservation times on OpenTable, I saw a listing for Makan Malaysian Cafe. I'd never heard of it, so immediately I checked the reviews. (How did I miss a Malaysian restaurant open almost 2 years!? Shame on me!) People had great things to say, so we obviously had to try it. It's down on South Pearl street, near Park Burger, in a strip of small restaurants and shops interspersed with houses. A friendly waitress and modern Ikea and Asian decor welcomed us into to the mostly empty restaurant. We were seated next to the open kitchen on one side, and a cheery lime green wall on the other.

We could not decide what to order. The menu was packed with all the most well-known Malaysian dishes. From Char Kuih Tiao to Mee Siam and Roti Canai, they had it all. We were tempted by the $60 for 2 tasting menu, but ultimately decided against it.

Each dish was prepared in a wok just a few feet away, and then promptly brought to our table. It was homestyle food in the best possible way. Everything was piping hot and completely fresh. And each dish was cooked all at once -- no flavorless protein thrown in at the last minute. Not only were all our dishes superb, but everything that came out to the other tables made me envious. Why didn't we order that!? 

^^popiah appetizer.^^

^^nasi goreng with tofu // char kuih tiao^^

^^sambal green beans.^^

It wasn't just us loving the food. The restaurant filled up from 6:30 on, and everyone around us was raving about their dishes. A regular next to us talked about how he'd come every Sunday since back when the owner just had a cart at the farmers' market. This place is good.

I was most impressed with the fact the menu didn't include any dishes to appease an American audience. Every dish on there is something I'd seen served in Malaysia. The menu does have long descriptions of each dish, so no experience with Malaysian food is necessary. But good luck trying to decide between all the great options! And the drink menu was enticing too: Australian-style coffees and Malaysian Tea Tarik as well as wine and beer. This would be a great brunch place. Plus they have a happy hour menu where you can get "mini" versions of dishes like Laksa. Must go back for that, too.

Also! If you sign up for their "club," you get a card that give you 10% of everything for a year! No restrictions.

Happy place.

mex-itali tacos

I don't typically gravitate towards pre-prepared food options. In fact, I've probably been known in the past to scoff at them. But we all know the only constant in life is change, and since having a baby my approach to dinner has definitely morphed a bit. Yet I still think it's super important to gather around the table for a somewhat homecooked, somewhat healthy, dinner. But I'm now occasionally okay with spending a bit more money on convenience foods to make my life a tad bit easier.

As I was wandering around Costco on Sunday (why I went to Costco on a Sunday, who knows), my cart ended up containing a big bag of "super greens" and a jar of pre-made pesto. Both had caught my eye as delicious and healthy looking items, and I had the inspiration to use them together to make tacos some night this week.

Dan was a bit skeptical as he saw me prepping dinner, but I must say the end result far exceeded even my own expecations. Apparently there might be some potential for Mexican-Italian fusion?

Mex-Itali Tacos (aka Costco tacos) Serves 2-4

tortillas (~2 per person, depending on size)
olive oil
20oz prepared "super greens"
1c cannelleni beans
1/2c crumbled queso fresco
1/4c sliced radishes
lime wedges

1. Sauté greens in a generous glug of olive oil.

2. Meanwhile, char tortillas on an open flame, or warm in oven.

3. Place other ingredients in bowls, and put everything on the table, for everyone to make their own taco.

uncle = overwhelmingly wonderful

I've found that the older I get, the less frequently I'm blown away by a good meal. It sometimes makes me sad: I'm only 30 and I've already experienced most of the good food the world has to offer!? Often, it's my own fault: I'm so excited to try a new place, I build it up and up and up in my head and then by the time I finally get to experience it, it doesn't live up to the place in my head. But, come on, it would be absolutely ridiculous if I was really going to claim this as a problem. There is plenty of good food and amazing restaurants out there. I just have to keep going to new places, trying new things, and improving my own cooking. Also, I've been working on lowering my expectations. Not in an insulting way, just ever so slightly so I don't get disappointed. I did this before going to Uncle. I was beyond excited to try the delicious momofuku-esque noodle house (confession: I've never even been to a momofuku, which is kind of absurd given my love of all things noodle and it's role in modern food scene.). A few months ago, we had planned to go to there for dinner, but right before our babysitter arrived, Willa threw up all over me. So.

But finally, right before the holidays, we made it to Uncle. And oh my goodness. I was blown away. So good. Beyond good. I could go back and eat there every day. Seriously.

The vibe was great. The noodle-house decor evoked a Japanese feel but also seemed right at home in LoHi. We sat at a "community table" which was really just a table for six that had one other couple at the other end. A big jar of chopsticks and house-made sriracha sat in the middle. Servers wore no sort of uniform, so it felt like they were just your friends stopping by to ask what kind of noodles they could bring your way. Our gal was super friendly and helpful but not overwhelmingly so.

We started with the brussels sprouts. Those darn mini cabbages. They're so ubiquitous these days but I can't stop myself from ordering them. They're just so, so good. And this was a stunning preparation: nước chấm, fresh herbs, peanuts, and a copious amount of dried shrimp. Piping hot, they didn't last more than a minute at our table.

Deciding which noodle bowl to get was quite the challenge. They all looked very promising. In the end, we opted for the chili mazeman with spicy ground pork, zucchini, crispy shallot, and sichuan pepper, as well as the bibimbap with garlic steak, spicy cucumbers, arugula, soft egg, and gochujang. Rice and noodles. They were both fantastic. The steak was exceptional: well-seasoned and perfectly cooked. But I can never not love spicy ground pork over noodles. There's really nothing more comforting.

Perhaps what I liked most about Uncle was their willingness to put A LOT of dried shrimp on their dishes. I can imagine some restaurants opting to go light on the shrimp so as not to scare away a crowd who probably doesn't consume that many miniature crustaceans on a daily basis. But not Uncle. They were like, BAM. Have some noodles with your dried shrimp. They didn't care how you felt about it, because they knew they were right. The salt and fishy flavor dried shrimp adds is key.

Dearest Uncle, thank you for overwhelming me. Nice work.

(Oh, and also, we saw Joel Coen and Frances McDormand there! They somehow had a reserved table although Uncle doesn't do reservations so that made us realize it was someone important. And then they just sat down and ordered who knows what but undoubtedly enjoyed it. Nothing like a celeb sighting to further validate your restaurant choice, right?)

the source

A couple of years ago in Seattle, Melrose Market opened on Capitol Hill. It was pretty darn awesome, but not that notably unique for Seattle's food scene. Several food purveyors and restaurateurs devoted to all things artisanal opened up in a building that was formerly an auto-repair shop. Locally-focused, trendy, and so Seattle, I of course loved it. My favorite Seattle restaurant, Sitka & Spruce was one of the main features of the market (it'd relocated from its previous space by Lake Union), and Dan and I went there for our first night out after Willa was born.

Since moving to Denver, I've missed Seattle's food culture. And places like Melrose Market. But Denver continues to surprise me, and months ago I was estatic to hear news of The Source. When I read about the project, I knew it'd be very similiar to Melrose. I've been dying to check it out for the past few months, and I finally got there the other day. My sister was still in town (which was awesome) and I thought The Source would be a fun place to spend a few hours. And thankfully, but not surprisingly, it was.

The Source does, indeed, have all the same fantastic traits as Melrose, but with a Denver flair. In a converted factory building-- it's BIG. There's apparently room for 25 vendors, but the dozen or so that currently occupy the space already offer up a great deal. It was kind of an amusment park for people who love food. Coffee! Fresh bread! Meats! Beer! Kombucha! All local. All delicious. And actually, shockingly, all reasonably priced.

^^lunch at acorn^^

^^high five from the butcher!^^

^^these photos make me so happy. it was such a lovely morning; family and food. good times. we'll definitely be back. often.^^

pork fried rice + life reminders from a christmas roast

I've never been much of one for resolutions, but the holidays have a way of making you think about life, don't they? Or maybe it's just turning 30 that's finally catching up with me. Either way, I keep thinking about just how necessary it is to do--and try, and feel--new things. The first two decades of my life were definitely characterized by seeking out new challenges and having new experiences. Pushing myself. And while the past five or ten years have certainly not been lacking in the new experiences realm, the focus of my life is no longer all about me. There's a "we." An "us." A "her." Yet, still, I need to remember the "me." I need to cultivate my interests and find new ones. I have to encourage myself to try things. Things that might be a little bit scary. (So many clichés I could use here!) I have pork roast to thank for that reminder.


Yep, pork. I made a pork roast for Christmas. Roasted Pork Loin with Cardamon-Currant Jelly Sauce. It was a giant hunk of meat with six bones sticking out the top (side?). I had to use a meat thermometer. (Well, I actually made my husband use a meat thermometer, and we somehow managed to break two of them.) I should have used a roasting pan, but I don't have one. A baking dish was a good stand in.

It was exciting to cook something I've never made before. I felt pretty darn accomplished to take an unknown cut of pig all the way from the Whole Foods meat counter to the Christmas dinner table. And guess what? It was delicious. I left my comfort zone and didn't fail. That was a Christmas joy.

But you can't stay out of your comfort zone too long. It's good to return to what's easy and known. Fried rice, my friends. Fried rice. The day after Christmas we went out to dinner, but the next night, I used the leftovers in the fridge to feed the crowd. I knew I could make something serviceable. But the fried rice that ended up on the table, steaming hot in the electric wok, was notable. It was a fried rice I'd like to eat over and over again. And a mighty fine way to use up holiday leftovers.

Fried Rice with Pork and Brussels Sprouts

Measurements are approximate. The best thing about fried rice is it doesn't matter if the proportions are a little off; more rice, more veggies, more meat, it's all good. Use up what you have, and tweak the amounts to your liking. Don't skimp on the eggs though, they're key!

peanut or sesame oil, for frying
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1T fresh ginger, minced
2c leftover cooked pork, chopped into cubes
2c brussels sprouts, thinly sliced lengthwise
1c asparagus, chopped
1c shiitake mushrooms (soaked if dry), chopped
5c cooked rice
5 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2c cilantro, chopped
soy sauce
sesame oil
sriracha or other hot sauce

1. Heat 2-3 tablespoons of oil in a wok or other large pan. Once hot, add the aromatics and stir for 30 seconds or so. Add pork and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned.

2. Add brussels sprouts and asparagus. Stir-fry until vegetables are cooked through and starting to brown.

3. Add mushrooms and continue to cook for 1-2 minutes.

4. Add rice and stir to combine.

5. Once rice is incorporated, move the entire mixture to side and pour in the eggs. Allow to cook, undisturbed, for a few minutes. Once they begin to set, use a spoon or spatula to scramble them on the side. When they are almost cooked through, stir them into the rice mixture. Mix well.

6. Remove from heat and stir in cilantro. Season to taste with soy sauce and sesame oil.

the many noodles of boston

Since Thanksgiving, Dan's birthday, my birthday, Christmas, and New Year's didn't seem like enough for a one-and-a-half-month period, we thought we'd squeeze in a trip to Boston in the middle! (Because when else but December would you go to New England!? It's not cold at all or anything.) We've been meaning to make a trip back for ages to visit with friends, and we finally made it. We stayed with Rachel and Rob in South Boston, but were able to reconnect with several other great folks, and even made a quick little trip to Rhode Island.

Back in college, Rachel and I studied abroad together in China. Harbin, China to be more specific. (A city most Americans have never heard of even though it's population is larger than New York City's.) In Harbin, we ate a lot of dumplings, noodles, and fried rice. Fried rice with an egg on top. The best thing ever. A lot of bonding happened over those meals. And so, 10 years later, when Rachel and I get together, there pretty much has to be Chinese food involved. This visit was no exception:

^^The day after we arrived, we hit the subway and the streets with Willa in the Ergo and made our way to Gene's Chinese Flatbread Cafe. The name is a bit odd in English, but even if we'd been worried Rachel would lead us astray (which we weren't), the crowd packed into the tiny Xi'an noodle shop assured us this was the place to be. We contemplated leaving, but ultimately stuck it out and hoped some table space would open up once we'd ordered. Thankfully it did, and we were able to inhale our noodles before they got cold. There are few things that could taste better on a cold winter's day than hand-pulled noodles. I had their simple "Hand-Pulled Noodle," while everyone else tried the Cumin Lamb Hand-Pulled Noodles. Both were delectable. My only complaint was that mine could have had a few more vegetables to accompany the noodles. Molar-less Willa couldn't tackle the doughy noodles, but she enjoyed the tea eggs and the flatbread pork sandwich. She did her eating standing up on a stool at the high counter. It was a tad bit stressful, but the noodles eased our nerves.^^

^^On Saturday morning we hit up Great Taste in Chinatown for dim sum. We were luckily able to get a table on our second try. They were full when we got there, but then the second place we tried essentially refused to seat us due to our littlest diner. So we went back to Great Taste, and they had the perfect table and a high chair. And thank goodness it all worked out how it did, because it was some of the best dim sum I've ever had. Dumplings, taro cakes, scallion noodles with tofu, crab rolls, Chinese broccoli, steamed buns, milk tea...^^

^^We stayed in one evening, but there were still Asian noodles in play. We cooked Phat Thai out of the new Pok Pok cookbook. In the past I haven't had much success making Pad Thai...getting the tamarind paste just right is so tricky! But this recipe was spot on (no surprise there!) and we thoroughly enjoyed two batches of hot, sweet-spicy noodles. Cooking in batches in a wok is the best; just when you're sad it's all gone, you fire up another round! (We also made the Herb Salad from the same cookbook, and it was equally if not more delicious.)^^

^^We didn't eat only Asian: one night we went to the South End and enjoyed a dinner at Coppa. Everything we ordered was delicious, but my favorite dish by far was a chestnut pasta with rabbit, kabocha squash, cranberries, and bianco sardo. I definitely ate more than my fair share.^^

^^Not only were R&R fantastic hosts and friends, as always, but they also taught Willa lots of new things. And introduced her to her first lobster.^^

P.S. The trip brought Willa's state count up to 17, which kind of boggles my mind but makes me quite pleased as well.

a thanksgiving by the bay

We just got back from five days in California. Glorious! It is super sunny in Denver but there's just something about that California sunshine. And the palm trees. And all the water. It makes sense so many people want to live there. (And that there's so much gosh darn traffic.) But anyway! Yes. We spent Thanksgiving in Marin county, north of San Francisco. It was a long weekend full of all the things Thanksgiving long weekends are supposed to include: family, wine, turkey, football, walks, runs, laughs, games, fires, pies, coffee, hugs, dishes, and of course brussels sprouts.

This Thanksgiving was extra special, too, because it was Willa's first Thanksgiving dinner. Last Thanksgiving she made an appearance of course, but it was after a nap that took up most of dinnertime and at just five-months old, there was obviously no turkey or even gravy enjoyed. This year, she sat with us at the table and ate some bites of most of the dishes. Her favorite by far was the pumpkin pie! She tried, not so stealthily, to grab bites by the fistful. It was impossible not to laugh hysterically before composing ourselves and enforcing appropriate manners.

^^ it's going to be a beautiful thanksgiving! ^^

^^ eating cheese appetizers and meeting new friends ^^

^^ one of willa's favorite things to do all weekend was to watch the "ducks," which pretty much meant any and all birds. ^^

^^ bergström pinot noir. and the much-enjoyed cheese plate. ^^

^^ ready to eat! ^^

^^ a beautifully arranged plate of thanksgiving fare, if i do say so myself. many thanks to the hardworking and magnificent chef! as well as those of us who de-leafed brussels sprouts! ^^

^^ willa was really into "cheers"-ing everyone on the deck as we enjoyed post-dinner/pre-dessert wine. it was a real crowd-pleaser. ^^

^^ pumpkin pie face ^^

I also had a great success this year: I'm pretty sure it was the first year in all my Thanksgiving history that I did not stuff myself silly. I ate a full-sized plate of food and went back for seconds. I ate two of the three pies offered. I had several glasses of wine. But I did not feel ill. It was delightful. The reason, I think, was plenty of vegetables. I loaded up on brussels sprouts and squash and cabbage and mushroom stuffing. Patting myself on the back...although, as I'm writing this, I'm kind of wishing I could go back in time and eat a bit more. Gosh I love turkey dinner.


our 36 hours: steamboat springs

We got away last weekend. For a whole weekend. Two nights. Two days. No diapers to wash or highchair to clean. I definitely did miss my smiling, running, chatting, comprehending toddler. But I didn't miss wiping up crumbs off the floor. As is always the case with vacation, it was delightful to get away from the day-to-day stuff and just take a deep breath while soaking in new experiences.

The drive to Steamboat Springs from Denver was beautiful. Rolling hills, snow-capped mountains, and rusty old pick-up trucks leading us into the wilderness. The mountain passes were just a bit snowy, and when we arrived in town it was sunny and clear. We checked in at the Mariposa Lodge, which really didn't entail much besides getting our key and putting our stuff down. I easily found champagne flutes in the kitchen and in moments we were drinking prosecco on the back porch.

The Mariposa was slightly less picturesque than the website suggested, but as advertised, the key upside was that it was perfect walking distance to town. On Friday night we made our way to Laundry, a new-ish gastro pub inhabiting an old laundromat. The bar was bustling but the dining room was relatively empty. We assumed it'd fill up later in the evening, but it never did.

The highlight of Laundry was definitely their cocktails. The food was decent, but nothing remarkable. The drinks however, were keepers. I first tried their "daily infusion" which was a basil and blackberry infused bourbon mixed with...something. It was fruity and light without being overpowered by sweetness as too many cocktails are. After that I enjoyed a "Kentucky Fall" which was rye whiskey, cider, and ginger peppercorn syrup. Again, not too sweet and perfectly balanced. Plus it had an extra-large ice cube which gets me every time.


Saturday morning I quickly decided I love the "breakfast" part of "bed and breakfast." At 7:55am I rolled out of bed and moments later I was being handed a cup of coffee and a plate of homemade muffin, asparagus souffle, and fresh fruit. The food was good fuel for a hike at Fish Creek Falls, which we started at 9am. Surprisingly, we were the first car in the parking lot and so the whole way up we had the morning sunshine and snowy views all to ourselves. The hike took just over 3 hours roundtrip and passed two waterfalls. One at the very top. It afforded great views of Steamboat and the surrounding hills. Those aspen trees! So pretty.

We clearly needed to replenish the calories burned on the hike, so upon returning to town we went straight to Winona's to try one of their "world famous" cinnamon rolls. Lucky for us, by that point in the day they were 1/2 off! Score. The cinnamon roll took up an entire dinner plate, and was smothered in sweet, non-cream cheese frosting. Sweet heaven! (We ordered a sandwich too just to make it seem more like lunch, but that was really a waste of money. Just get the cinnamon roll.)

A trip to Steamboat wouldn't be complete without a plunge into the hot springs, so on Saturday afternoon we made our way out to Strawberry Park Hot Springs. There were a few more people there than I would have liked, but I was still able to find some peacefulness in the hot pools of natural water. The setting was beautiful: snowy mountain trees and fresh, crisp, autumn air. The admission of $10 seemed a bit steep to me, but by the time we left I was too relaxed to really care about it.

We got our splurge on for dinner Saturday night and headed to bistro c.v. We ended up downtown a bit early for our reservation, so we decided to grab a beer at the Mahogany Ridge Brewery beforehand. Gosh I wish we hadn't. I never, EVER, don't finish a drink, but I could not bring myself to drink their Alpenglow in its entirety. For their sake I hope I got the dregs of a keg or something. It tasted like a homebrew gone wrong.

Thankfully, bistro c.v. erased all bad memories of that beer. What a meal! Every dish we had was spectacular. We started with a steak tartare and a yellowtail crudo, followed by their grilled romaine salad. The trio of lamb and house made whole wheat pasta with fresh mushrooms did not disappoint as entrees, and we closed things out with decadent cappuccinos. Some of the best food I've had in Colorado.

Sunday morning was another tasty breakfast at the Mariposa and a run through town and along Spring Creek trail before heading back to reality. What a weekend. Thanks, Steamboat Springs! We will definitely be back.

khao soi

A few months ago, I discovered the Burmese-influenced Thai dish khao soi (khao soy / kaw soy). It would be a much cooler story if I could say I ate it on our trip to Southeast Asia in 2011, like Char Kuih Kak, but that'd be a lie. I discovered khao soi at the Denver Thai restaurant, Swing Thai. I was sick of our usual orders and wanted to try something new. Kaw soy sounded promising. It's now pretty much the only thing we order.

Once I enjoy a dish out in the world, I feel compelled to figure out how to recreate it at home. Sometimes, it's a total flop. Some things just don't taste as good when they're made at home. Khao soi is not one of them. It's even better made at home. Because here's the thing: you simmer the protein in the sauce. Think about it. When you go to your favorite Thai or Indian or Chinese restaurant, every dish can be ordered with the choice of chicken, beef, or tofu. And maybe shrimp or pork too. How does that meat get incorporated into the dish? It gets thrown in at the last minute. So what does it taste like? Not much. Even the delicious Swing Thai is guilty of this. Their kaw soy sauce is superb, but the protein? Lackluster.

So go on, try and make your favorite curry dish at home. Maybe it's not khao soi. But you should still make it. It's good. And easy. Someday I'll eat it in Thailand. Gotta get to Chiang Mai. I bet I can find a place where the meat is simmered in the sauce. Right?

Khao Soi
Adapted from The Kitchn

4T peanut oil
4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
2 shallots, chopped
3-4T Thai red curry paste
2T yellow curry powder (see recipe below)
1 can full-fat coconut milk
1 cup vegetable broth
1lb boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-size pieces
2t fish sauce
3t sugar
15 ounces fresh egg noodles (don't read the ingredients, a little yellow 5 won't hurt you now and then!)
Chopped peanuts
Lime wedges
Chopped green onion
Pickled cabbage

1. Heat oil in a large saucepan or wok over medium heat. Add the garlic and shallot and cook until fragrant; about 30 seconds. Add the curry paste and powder and cook for another 30 seconds. Add coconut milk, broth, chicken, fish sauce, and sugar.

2. Bring to a boil. Simmer for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add a bit more broth if desired.

3. Meanwhile, boil water and cook noodles according to package directions. If fresh, noodles shouldn't take more than 1 minute to cook.

4. Put noodles in individual bowls and top with curry. Add garnishes.

Yellow Curry Powder
4t ground coriander
2t turmeric
2t yellow mustard powder
1.5t adobo chile powder (use any chili powder, but just make sure it's just ground up chiles, no other spices)
1.5t cayenne pepper
1t ground cumin
1t cardamon


After a failed attempt to have a late lunch or early dinner at Lao Wang Noodle House ("Come back Wednesday." -- Apparently they close earlier on Sundays than Yelp indicated. Reminder: never put too much trust in Yelp.), we ended up at a place we know would welcome us with spectacular service and delicious cuisine: DaLat Vietnamese Cuisine.

We first tried DaLat several months ago, after Eater alerted me to its existence with their list of "Denver's Hottest Ethnic Restaurants." And yet, despite this press, we were the only people in the restaurant during both visits. People of Denver, where are you? You are missing out! DaLat is some of the best Southeast Asian food I've had outside of Southeast Asia. And the ambiance is great; casual and warm. They make you feel very welcome there. Even when your toddler is dropping noodles on the floor.

Their menu is extensive, so it's hard to know if you're ordering the "right thing," but everything that comes out of the kitchen has explosive and complex flavors that perfectly complement whatever other ingredients are in the dish. Both times we ordered the Chicken Salad, which is essentially Larb, and a perfect starter. Today Dan felt a bit adventurous, ordering the Goat Curry special. I was skeptical, but was undeniably proven wrong. It was unbelievable. Hearty; with the perfect balance of sweet, salty, and spicy. It was served with rice but also had rice noodles mixed in the curry, which added a nice thickness to the sauce.

I enjoyed the Tofu Noodle Bowl, which could have been a bit more spicy (the Siracha was missing from our table and I didn't realize it was on others), but the tofu was well-seasoned with lemongrass and the ratio of vegetables to noodles was perfect. And the Vietnamese coffee with condensed milk hit the spot, obviously. But if you're not there midday like we were, I highly recommend a "33" beer. Whatever you order, I'm pretty convinced you can't go wrong. They know what they're doing at DaLat.

the best tortillas + chorizo seitan = great tacos

Since moving to Denver, I've been cooking a lot more Mexican food. For awhile, I wasn't sure why. Is it the abundant sunshine making me crave guacamole? Or the closer geographic proximity? While those are both good guesses, they're not the answer. The real reason is that shortly after moving here, I happened upon the best tortillas ever: La Tortilla Factory's "Hand Made Style Corn Tortillas."

The packaging tells consumers that they're made from "a unique blend of corn and wheat" and that they're "soft, flexible, & whole grain." They're not lying. They are super flexible. They don't break when you roll an enchilada. And they don't dry out over time (make sure to store them in the cupboard, though, not the fridge). They're relatively healthy. But most importantly, they're delicious. They come in two sizes, and four varieties: white corn, yellow corn, green chile, and chipotle. All good.

The other night I took these tortillas' goodness to an even higher level. I charred them over an open burner before serving them as soft tacos. I'd never done that before. It was exciting. It felt very adventurous on a Monday night; smoking tortillas over an open flame. If you haven't done it before, you should try it.

Combined with some fancy Upton's chorizo seitan I'd picked up at Whole Foods, these tacos were memorable. The main component (aside from the tortillas) was eggs, but I refuse to call them breakfast tacos. First of all, we ate them for dinner. Second of all, who says eggs have to be a breakfast item? That's just narrow-minded. So yes, these are egg tacos, but eat them anytime of day. They'd be great for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or perhaps best as a midnight snack. Either way, make sure to use great tortillas and char them up!

Egg + Chorizo Seitan Tacos You can certainly use regular chorizo instead of chorizo seitan. I'm sure that would be equally (if not more?) delicious. But less healthy, let's be honest. Also, I did steps 4 + 5 simultaneously, but it was a bit touch and go at moments with the tortilla charring. If you'd prefer to play it safe, you might want focus your attention on each individual step. 

2-4 tortillas
5 eggs
4oz chorizo seitan, crumbled
4oz mushrooms, diced
1/2 red onion, diced
1 avocado, cut into bite-sized chunks
feta or goat cheese cilantro, roughly chopped
hot sauce
olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 175 degrees, for keeping ingredients warm until serving.

2. In a non-stick pan, sauté the mushrooms and onion in a dash of olive oil until softened. Place in heat proof bowl and keep warm in the oven.

3. In the same pan, sauté the chorizo until lightly browned. Place in bowl and keep in oven.

4. Prep tortillas: place each tortilla on a burner and char for 1-2 minutes per side. (I kept my burner at medium-low, and it worked pretty well. Meaning, I got charring but did not light anything on fire.) Wrap tortillas in a clean dishtowel to keep warm and soft.

5. Scramble eggs. Add some chopped cilantro when the eggs are nearly done. Move to bowl and keep warm in oven.

6. Take everything to the table and make your tacos! To the amazing tortillas, add egg, veggies, chorizo seitan, avocadocilantro, feta, and hot sauce.

// Serves 2.5

labor day lamb ragù

My definition of what makes a good dinner has changed dramatically in the past year. The other night we had avocado toast and I felt accomplished for putting dinner on the table. Last night I was pleased to make spinach and gruyère quesadillas without burning myself as Willa clung to my legs. Despite resigning myself to slightly simpler (yet hopefully still delicious) meals, I make sure to get a bit more extravagant from time to time. And if having friends in town for Labor Day weekend isn't a reason to make a fancy meal, I'm not sure what is! So, Sunday night, after the littles were asleep, we sat outside and enjoyed Strozzapreti with Lamb Ragù.

This was my first ragù. Dan regularly makes a spectacular red sauce, but I have not dabbled much in the meat sauces myself. I tend to be pretty scared of meat in the kitchen, but I can manage ground meat. And this recipe was not really that hard, but it did have me try some new techniques. For example, a spice packet. I'd never made a spice packet! (Obviously, since it required an extra trip to the store when I realized I didn't have any cheesecloth.) And it held together through the entire simmering, which was the key to the flavorful sauce.

It was a great dish to make with friends over, because after the inital prep, the sauce has to simmer for 2 hours, giving you plenty of time to drink, socialize, and set the table. Above all else, it was just nice to try a new recipe and enjoy it with good friends, wine, and adult conversation. (I did of course make sure Willa got to enjoy some leftovers for lunch the next day!)

I was tempted to make this pasta dish too. Next time! What are your favorite "take more effort" meals?

recently enjoyed moments

Life has been really good lately.

Life is always good, and often really good, but lately things have just been comfortably wonderful. Good food, family, fun outings, a lovely new house we're settling into... I feel very lucky. Very happy. And even more are ahead: we have good friends coming to visit for the long weekend. And we got a new table so we can dine al fresco. I'm tellin' ya, so much goodness. Happy Labor Day weekend!

{denver brick. always makes my eyes happy.}

{beer tasting at odell brewery in fort collins // note the bib in my hand. classy.}

{gnocchi at root down.}

{"happier hour" with littles at BookBar}

{hiking at white ranch park in golden, co}

{these pancakes for weekend breakfast}

{a trip to the botanic gardens with nana and bobo. // photo by my mom.}

{vintage shopping. i just had to make her sit in the car, and i'm so glad i did.}


Earlier this month, we celebrated our six year anniversary. (I'm not sure why, but six years feels a lot longer than five. More than half a decade?)

Last year we had a two-month old, and so we stayed in and celebrated with a bottle of really good beer. This year, we were able to do it up with several festivities. First, we went to see Josh Ritter. On our actual anniversary, we were lucky enough to have lots of family over for a simple dinner of stacked enchiladas. And the night before that, we went out just the two of us to bittersweet. We've been on a bit of a cold streak with the Denver restaurant scene of late. I don't want to throw a bunch of restaurants under the bus, but in the past couple months we've shelled out more money than we were comfortable with for mediocre fare. We really needed a win for our anniversary, and thankfully, bittersweet was just that! Every single dish we had was phenomenal. It's always a good sign when you can't decide which dish is your favorite.

{fresh peach salad with burrata, proscuitto, and arugula pesto}

{duck sausage with apricot sauce and red pepper and carrot slaw}

{grouper with corn hash, mustard, and spätzle}

The most unexpectedly delicious meal of the night was our dessert. After being wowed by so many dishes, we decided to go out on a limb and try an over-the-top sounding dish. I can't remember the summation name, but it was a corn bread pudding over vanilla custard with maple ice cream, blackberries, micro greens, pecans, and fried duck skin. Needless to say, it had a lot going on. But the flavors came together perfectly and the duck skin provided just the right amount of salt.

{they had a pretty glam bathroom too. felt like the right setting for a selfie.}

Yay for six years of marriage to my favorite dining companion!

a housewarming fritatta

When we first started daydreaming about home ownership a few years ago, I articulated that I didn't want a house exactly, but rather "a really nice kitchen with some other rooms around it." I started repeating this over the years, especially when we'd watch HGTV and see house with itty bitty kitchens in the very back of the house.

On Tuesday, we closed on our first house. (!) And I definitely got what I wanted. A kitchen that is the center of the living space. A big countertop with room for family and friends to pull up a chair and chat while we cook. And eat. Obviously.

Tuesday night, after closing, we fired up the new oven and made an American Flatbread pizza (if you eat any other kind of frozen pizza you're seriously missing out on frozen pizza's full potential). I'd loaded stools into the back of the car, along with Willa's carseat, and so we pulled ourselves up the counter and had our first meal in our first house.


As good as it is, frozen pizza doesn't exactly count as a first dinner in a new kitchen. So, on Thursday night, we made our way up there again, and I used not only the oven, but the stovetop as well. Given our transitional state, I couldn't make anything too elaborate. But I wanted it to be a "real" dinner, so I opted for a fritatta. A summery one, filled to the brim with zucchini. It wasn't anything fancy, but it was easy and pretty to look at. I'm pretty sure the kitchen was the only room I was in that night.


Zucchini Fritatta

2 small zucchini
1 yellow onion
4 large eggs
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
olive oil
fresh parsley, coarsely chopped

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

2. Chop the onions and zucchini. Lightly beat eggs with salt and pepper in a small bowl.

3. Heat a tablespoon or so in an ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat.

4. Add onion, and cook until it starts to brown, stirring occasionally.

5. Add zucchini to pan, and cook until softened. Spread zucchini out evenly in pan, smoothing the top with a spatula.

6. Turn heat down to medium, and pour eggs evenly over the zucchini. Allow to cook, undisturbed, until bottom is set.

7. Sprinkle top with feta cheese and a little parsley, and move to oven. Bake until top is set and starting to brown.

8. Cool fritatta at least 5 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with more parsley and a drizzle of olive oil.