a lost balloon

Last night we went to a birthday party. Willa’s friend was turning two, and it was a beautiful summer evening for a gathering. Willa and her little friends played inside and out while the adults socialized over yummy food and drinks.

At one point in the evening, the kids grabbed a few helium-filled balloons and started running around the yard with them, pulling at their strings and watching them bounce back up towards the sky. Moments after the above picture was taken, Willa accidentally let go of the string on her balloon, and it floated up, just out of my reach. I glanced at the balloon floating up into the sky, first thinking about how we’d lost one of the party decorations, and then about how balloons are probably not the best thing for the atmosphere. But after those thoughts quickly came and went, I looked back to Willa, and immediately recognized in her her face complete disappointment. She looked so sad. Tears filled her eyes as she whimpered, “my balloon...”

Over the next hour, the party saw a few more balloons lost into the sky. At one point a cluster of several balloons floated up, up, up. Willa couldn’t take it. She cried and fussed and told us that she “was sad.” Once home and getting ready for bed, she repeated how sad she was about the balloons.

This is a new stage of parenting. Experiencing the world through a young child’s eyes. Seeing her highs and lows as she learns about all the little things that can make up a day. It’s so wonderful to see her joy, but I’m sensing this is just the beginning of having to also endure her sadness.

32nd ave farmers' market

Thankfully, my annoying sickness only lasted about 24 hours, so by Saturday I was back in action and my parents came down for a re-do last hurrah. There was no baseball game, but we made our own fun. We enjoyed sushi takeout for dinner on Saturday (before they return to the land of no sushi) and on Sunday morning we decided to hit up the 32nd Avenue farmers' market. We've been super excited that a farmers' market opened in our 'hood this year, but hadn't yet had a chance to really check it out. I went down there with Willa and the dog a few weeks ago, but despite their omnipresence at every farmers' market in the nation, navigating a market with a dog and a toddler is NOT easy. Also, when I was there I'd just had a big breakfast, so I didn't need anything to eat. And I didn't have any cash, which doesn't really fly at a farmers' market.

So this time we left the dog at home, had plenty of adults to wrangle the toddler, and purposefully went hungry. There were so many good things to try! Lots of samples from people making their own jams and pierogis and whatnot (all "handmade" with "local ingredients" of course!) and several food trucks. There were also a few cool coffee carts/vans/wagons that I'll try next time. (Reminder to self: must go to the market both hungry and uncaffeinated.)

^^willa's in the middle of saying, "let's go get some food!" and that's indeed what we were about to do. we hit up the japanese hawaiian truck, pacific bonsai, and it was superb!^^

^^top: blackened mahi mahi lettuce wrap / BBQ pork slider. bottom: beer battered fish taco / chicken katsu and egg breakfast taco. my favorite was the lettuce wrap. it was all the right kinds of flavorful: spicy, sweet, and grilled.^^

^^a rare family shot!^^

^^aiko pops for dessert. willa and my mom loved the coconut nutella, but dan and i were partial to the coconut anise. only problem was they melted even faster than the average pop on a hot day. willa didn't seem to mind though!^^

Overall it was an awesome place to spend a couple hours; lots going on but at the same time not overwhelmingly crowded. And we had a lovely time with my parents.

My only complaint: they need to get recycle bins! It hurt my heart to see so much paper and plastic being thrown away.

i whine

Here's Willa a week or so ago in a photo my Mom took. She got to go to a cool petting zoo with Nana in Fort Collins. Apparently she drove this tractor "through town."

She's looking a bit more disheveled this week. On Monday, she was sick. It was the very first time (well, since she was a few weeks old) that she snuggled with me and slept the day away. Yep, one whole day of a low-energy toddler. I enjoyed the bonding but, man, was she was cranky too. Although who isn't when they're sick?

A few days later, I was still feeling good and thought I'd managed to escape the bug (despite the intimate moment when she'd spit in my mouth after declaring the juice I gave her was "spicy"). But nope, no such luck. Late yesterday I felt a tickle in my throat and by this morning I was couldn't-get-out-of-bed sick. The worst. I see why Willa had been forced to take a break from her usual antics.

When I get sick, I act about 5 years old. I cry and kick and scream that I can't go to my friend's house. Or in this case, playschool at the Botanic Gardens and a Rockies game with my parents. We'd had it planned for weeks! Willa was going to stay up late! Life's not fair!

Good news is that Dan had a light day at work so he could be home with Willa today. Apparently she wasn't as in to lying on the bed with me all day as I was with her. Geesh. But the bad news is my parents are heading back East in just a few days, and the game was supposed to be one of our last hurrahs. Sad face.

But anyway, enough whining. Instead I want to do one of those fun lists where I chronicle some of the little things in my life of late:

Eating :: Lots of berries. Avocado toast for breakfast most days. Summer salads. Drinking :: A cup of half-caff coffee every morning. And a Q or Dry soda in the evenings. Learning :: How to garden. My plants are either exploding (tomatoes) or all done (cilantro). Wanting :: Filson tote Reading :: Breakfast with Buddha Wearing :: Maxi dresses. Working :: A little bit more. Cleaning :: Not as much as I should. How do people do it? Trying :: To let the little things go.

Here's to being less sick tomorrow. Hope everyone's having a more exciting Friday!

denver art museum

I read a lot of blogs. Well, actually, I'm not sure what constitutes a lot. But I like to read blogs. Food blogs, "lifestyle" blogs, parenting blogs, ya know. I didn't read many "mom blogs" before having my own child, but after she was born I felt like it was a good way to put what I was going though in perspective and also to get ideas about how to do things or activities or whatever. However. The blog world is weird. Some blogs are so rosy and cheery you want to puke. Others are so negative and whiney it drives me crazy. Comparison is inevitable, but then again comparison is the thief of joy so we should try to avoid it all costs. Right? Hmmm.

But still, I read some blogs where the author's kids seem to be running around happy all day long, and I think to myself, "what's up with my kid?"

Willa is great. Fantastic. Obviously. But she is certainly not happy all day long. And often, the day I organize a special outing is the day she's happy for the shortest period of time. But stil, we get out there. We do things. We live life! You have to, no? Because the happy is sometimes even less when we're trapped in the house!

Last week, we met up with our playschool friends for a morning at the Denver Art Museum. And while for some the idea of taking kids to a museum might not be the most appealing, let me tell you, it was awesome! Museums these days are so hip. They have activities for kids wherever you look. And sure, some are a ways above the toddler level, but there's so much to see and explore and do. It made for a really fun morning. Most importantly, Willa was completely full of happy! Even when I put her in her swimsuit so we could play in the outdoor splash fountains on our way out but they'd inexplicably turned off. She just jumped in the water next to face-down sculpted man and was happy as a clam. So take that blog-world. My kid is smiling while out and about on the town too!

In other fabulous news, I got to go back to the museum a few days later with my Dad, and he taught me a great deal about all the superb Western art they have on display. The Denver Art Museum really made my week. I look forward to going back again.

P.S. That last picture is Willa air high-fiving the giant cow sculptures. She's pretty much the awesomest.

SOME OF MY FAVORITE BLOGS LATELY
Love Taza
Hey Natalie Jean
Expatria, Baby
Camp Patton
Shutterbean
my name is yeh
The Hot Pot Blog

fourth of july weekend!

The past two July 4th holidays in Denver, I realized something: most people leave town. If ever there was a "let's all go to the mountains" weekend, this one must take the cake. The streets are deserted; many restaurants close for "vacation." It's a bit weird, but at the same time, kind of wonderful. We went to the pool on the 4th, and pretty much had the place to ourselves. We snagged a last minute dinner reservation at a place we wouldn't usually be able to book. However, come late night on the 4th, things didn't seem quite so quiet. Firework booms came from every direction until the wee hours of the morning. As if to say, "Don't worry! We're all still here! Happy 4th of July!"

Happy 4th, indeed.

^^cherry pie! dan made one around this time last year, and we decided it'd be a solid 4th of july tradition. he used about 1/3 tart cherries from the tree he planted last summer, and the rest were frozen ones from costco. we greatly enjoyed eating it all weekend long. with bourbon vanilla ice cream from brooklyn of course.^^

^^between thunderstorms we biked to the neighborhood pool for willa's continued swim lessons. ok, that's not true at all. we just let her do whatever she's comfortable with but it's exciting to watch as each time she gets more and more interested in the "big kids' pool."^^

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^^a virgin mule / date night dinner @ lower48^^

^^all dressed up for lunch out with friends.^^

^^ending the weekend with a splash (pad)!^^

a night in vail!

Last Saturday, Dan and I headed west on I-70. Destination: Vail. My parents kindly offered to watch Willa for a night, and after contemplating camping or some other more adventurous outing, we decided to just book a night in a hotel in Vail, and spend time relaxing and exploring the village. Let’s be honest; I needed some rest.

When we arrived in Vail, we first headed out on a hike along the Gore Creek Trail. The hike takes you to Gore Lake after about 4 miles, but we knew we wouldn’t make it that far. Still, it was a beautiful hike along the creek and it was kind of liberating to be hiking with no dog or toddler in tow.

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After the hike we made our way into town to the Tivoli Lodge, which we’d booked without much research, but it ended up being just perfect. Our room was quite and peaceful with a nice balcony and mountain views.

We went out for the most fantastic dinner. A quick search on Vail restaurants led me to the relatively-new Mountain Standard. When I saw the menu and the partitioned pig graphic on the website, I knew it was a good fit for us. They didn’t have any reservations available, so I wasn’t sure if we’d get in, but we easily got a table at around 6pm.

Every single dish we ordered was superb. We hesitated before ordering the $7 “coal-roasted” olives, but figured, “hey, we’re on a mini vacation!” And boy did we make the right choice. I’ve never had olives so good. They were piping hot, and served with toasted pine nuts and golden raisins. I honestly had no idea olives could be so delicious.

Our other appetizers were shrimp and grits and a stone fruit salad. Both were fantastic; one in a hearty, rich, and spicy sort of way while the other was light, fresh, and sweet. We had Rocky Mountain trout for an entrée, as well as a rotisserie chicken salad. The salad was perhaps the lowlight of the night, but by no means bad, just lacking that something special. The trout, on the other hand, was splendid. For some reason it’s hard to find local-ish trout in Denver restaurants, so it was a nice treat.

We hesitated about ordering dessert. We were pretty satiated and thought about just walking around town and finding some ice cream, but the peanut butter pie sounded pretty good, and we definitely made the right call. It was the perfect end to a perfect meal.

On Sunday morning we slept in a bit, and then hit up the Vail Farmers’ Market. We scored some goat cheese curds to eat with a fresh bagel on the way home...quite good, but I think I’ll stick to cow’s milk ones. Goat cheese is too soft! But I of course still had no problem eating them.

We got home Sunday just in time to deal with transitioning Willa to a toddler bed. Of course she would decide to start climbing out of her crib the night we're trying take some time off. Parenthood!

willa's birthday

We decided not to have a big birthday party for Willa this year. I always love a good party, but we just felt like taking this year off since we'd had lots of other festivities and such going on lately. Her party last year was such fun, but she of course really didn't "get" what was going on. This year, she totally understood that it was a special day. So much so that at moments I thought she looked like her head might explode. We spent her birthday just the three of us; Dan had the morning off which was so nice. We made blueberry pancakes for breakfast and went to Larkburger for lunch. After a much-needed afternoon rest, we had leftovers and birthday cake for dinner (which ended up being perfect because the power went out for several hours!). Willa spent a lot of the day playing with the kitchen Dan and I gave her as her birthday gift. We thought it'd be a toy she'd like, you never know with toys!

Over the weekend, my parents came down to celebrate more, and she was showered with even more fun gifts: a wading pool, pool toys, clothes, and kitchen accessories. More cake was eaten and it was delightful to have family around. Part of me felt badly we didn't "do more," but Willa couldn't have cared less. A good lesson for us all, really: love (and cake!) are pretty much all you need for a wonderful birthday celebration!

^^helping daddy make blueberry pancakes for breakfast. aka eating all the frozen blueberries.^^

^^a beautiful june day!^^

^^milkshake mustache!^^

^^i called this a "rustic" berry cake. the absurd frosting is partly due to not having regular sugar and being too lazy to go to the store, and also because willa helped me frost the cake. it was a real challenge keeping her from eating all the frosting. "i need a little bit," she kept saying!^^

^^yep, there she is eating all the frosting off her piece.^^

^^day two of celebrations: excited and overwhelemed by all the awesome stuff for her new toy kitchen.^^

^^taking her new scooter for a walk / trying it out at the park.^^

^^pizza making / cheese & flour eating^^

lair o' the bear

A few weekends ago, we headed up to Morrison, Colorado for a morning hike at Lair o' the Bear Park. It's always so nice to get out of the city and enjoy the fresh, mountain-y air.

The hike was prefect for Willa, who likes to walk a bit and then be carried for a bit. The first mile or two is a flat path with only slight elevation gain as it runs along the river. Once it ends, you can continue on a more challenging trail that climbs upwards. We didn't see any turtles as Willa hoped we would, but it was still a beautiful day.

When we lived in Seattle, we always felt like we should be doing more outdoorsy things, even though we did do a good amount. In places like Denver and Seattle, the culture is such that people are always "going out to the mountains" and doing some type of activity. We love being outside, but sometimes life seems to get in the way. There are always so many things that need doing on the weekends, right? For us, the key is planning ahead. If we pick out where we're going to go the night before, and decide on an approximate departure time, we are usually all set.

I read recently that the average American spends 95% of their time indoors. Yikes. I've been holding that in the back of my mind. It's always a great idea to spend time outdoors.

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?

triple crème brie + josh ritter

I ate triple crème brie yesterday and it changed my life. Or at least my picnicking-life. I will never go back to regular brie. Or even double crème brie. I love good food, but I'm also thrifty. I'm not usually cheap, I just like to use my money wisely. I don't like to pay more for something that I could get for less. So when I buy brie at the grocery, I look at which one is the least expensive, or on sale, and that's the one for me. But, yesterday, I went big. I was buying provisions for an evening picnic at the Botanic Gardens for a Josh Ritter concert. Special food was in order. So, despite it's higher price per pound, I carefully picked out a wedge of triple crème brie.

Hours later, Dan and I were relaxing in the grass on a high in the UMB Amphitheater and discovered picnic perfection:

triple crème brie + Dalmatia fig spread + a baguette + white wine

Now, I recognize that this isn't exactly revolutionary. Everyone who reads this blog has enjoyed some brie and fig spread on bread washed down with wine. But, I must ask, was it triple crème? Because having at least 75% butterfat content can be pretty important when you're dining outdoors. For example, last night, an hour after we finished our picnic, when the skies opened up and poured rain for the entire concert, we were pretty pleased to have bellies full of that much fatty goodness.

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The rain was the bummer of the evening. The highlights were the brie, the vintage French white wine we brought, and Josh Ritter's always fantastic music. I highly recommend all of the above. Rain or shine.

My Favorite Josh Ritter songs:
Kathleen
Me & Jiggs
Lark
Girl in the War
To the Dogs or Whoever
Mind's Eye
Joy to You Baby

cherry pie

Oh hey there. It's almost mid-August? Where'd the summer go? Oh, right, we moved. That took some time. Still is. Yikes. Moving is the best and the worst, isn't it? Those little piles around the house that you're going to "get to" sometime but you just never seem to have the time... Anyway, enough about that. I want to write about pie. Cherry pie. Last month, we set out on a quest to find some pie cherries. Dan grew up having cherry pie, and he really wanted to try to make one. Searching online, I found a farm in Brighton, Colorado that had "u-pick" cherries. Perfect. But it was not to be. First we tried to go on a day they were closed. Then we tried to go in the afternoon but they were only open in the morning. Finally we set out to go but saw on the website that their cherries were all picked out. We called, and they said they still had some for sale in their farm store. We jumped in the car as fast as possible, throwing Willa's nap to the wind. They'd sold out, so Willa met some chickens.

A week or so later, Dan couldn't shake his hankering for pie, so he decided to make a blueberry one. But his heart wasn't in it. He cut corners. He rushed. The pie was edible, but barely. Major pie disaster. Let's not even talk anymore about it.

But fear not our last-month selves. A cherry pie was still in our future! We were up in Estes Park for the wedding of my dear friend Gena, and on our drive home we saw the Colorado Cherry Company. They must have cherries, we said! And indeed, they did. We bought 2 pounds of sour pie cherries, and despite an absurdly long wait (perhaps their freezer was 7 floors underground?), it was all quite simple.

A week later, the pie baking commenced. This time, no corners were cut. Everything was carefully read and measured and thought-through. We combined recipes and advice from a few different baker-extraordinaries, and came up with what I dare say is one of the best pies ever. So, if you can figure out a way to get your hand on some pie cherries, I highly reccomend you make this bad boy. It's a good one.

Our Elusive Cherry Pie

To prepare the crust dough:
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
1 cup butter
1/3 cup non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening
1 large egg
1T lemon juice
1/4 cup ice water

1. Sift the flour and salt together into a large mixing bowl.

2. Cut the butter and shortening into the flour mixture with two knives or a pastry blender.

3. In a separate bowl, beat the egg lightly. Stir in the lemon juice and add water.

4. Pour the wet mixture into the flour mixture.

5. Bring the dough together quickly using your hands.

6. Knead until smooth, either in the bowl or on a lightly floured surface.

7. Divide into two equal halves, wrap in plastic wrap/bags, and chill in fridge for 45 minutes.

//

To prepare the crust for the pie filling:

1. Remove one ball of dough from the fridge. Using a rolling pin (or empty wine bottle) on a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out until it is approximately an 1/8 inch thick and roughly the size of your pie pan.

2. Press carefully into a pie pan.

3. Freeze for 30 minutes.

4. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

5. After 30 minutes have passed, remove crust from freezer and cover with tin foil that has been lightly greased on the underside. Add dry beans of any variety to the top of the foil to add pressure to the crust to prevent it from puffing up.

6. Once oven is heated, bake crust for 10-12 minutes. Set aside.

//

For the pie filling:
5 cups tart pie cherries
2 2/3 Tablespoons instant tapioca
2/3 cup sugar
1.5 Tablespoons lemon juice
2 drops of almond extract (scant 1/8 teaspoon)

1. Mix cherries, tapioca, and sugar together in a medium bowl. Let sit for 15 minutes.

2. Add lemon juice and almond extract.

3. Transfer mixture to pie crust.

4. Increase oven temperature to 450 degrees.

5. Remove second ball of dough from the fridge. Roll it out until it is 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick (we like it a bit thicker).

6. Cut dough into 1 inch thick strips. Weave a lattice on top of the pie, pressing the end of each strip into the lower layer of pie crust and trimming off excess dough as necessary.

7. Bake pie at 450 for 10 minutes. Place a cookie sheet underneath pie to catch drippage.

8. Turn heat down to 350 degrees and bake for 40-45 minutes until crust is golden brown and cherries are bubbling.

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.

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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.

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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.

raspbarb basil cocktail

Seattle is a bit indecisive when it comes to seasons. It tries to give us the appropriate seasonal weather, but it too often succumbs to the urge to revert back to homeostasis: 50s and rainy. So, when planning a party, I'm never quite sure what food and drink will be appropriate. Will it be 70 and sunny? Or 55 and rainy? I was in this predicament this week. The weather has been going back and forth, but I wanted to plan the party's menu three days in advance. Thankfully, I found a drink that sounded like it could work on a cool spring day as well as in the hot summer sun. Unthankfully, the recipe didn't work well as written. Ick. But I had two great friends who helped me tweak the combination until we got it just right. Yum.

These pink drinks were just the thing to get our clothing exchange party started.  Everyone had one (always a good sign!) and sipped, enjoyed, and chatted before we dove into trying on recycled outfits. If they worked at a clothing exchange, I'm pretty sure they'll work just fine for any occasion!

Raspbarb Basil Cocktailadapted from The Kitchn

  • 2c raspberry rhubarb purée (see below)
  • 10-12 basil leaves, sliced thinly
  • 8oz vodka
  • ice cubes
  • ~1 liter club soda or seltzer

Place basil leaves in the bottom of a large pitcher, and add a touch of vodka or soda. Using a muddler or wooden spoon, muddle the basil to release flavor. Add the purée, vodka, and ice. Top with soda. Adjust according to your (and your guests') taste. Serve in lowball glasses, or mason jars if you want to be all trendy. Garnish each glass with a small piece of basil.

For the purée:

  • 4 rhubarb stalks
  • 1/4c sugar
  • 2T water
  • 2c frozen raspberries
  • Agave nectar (alternatively, more sugar)

Chop rhubarb and place in a small saucepan with sugar and water. Bring a boil and then cook, covered, over medium heat for approximately 10 minutes, until rhubarb has broken down. Stir in raspberries. Use an immersion blender (or transfer to a regular blender) to purée the entire mixture. Adjust sweetness to taste with agave. Let cool. Purée will keep for up to a week in the fridge. But it's tastier when it's fresh.

farmers market orzo salad

I don't go to farmers markets as much as I'd like to. I often wish I was as committed to markets as so many other people seem to be. It's so romantic to think about waking up, grabbing your basket, and heading to the local farmer's market where you see what looks good and buy it while sipping your hand-crafted espresso drink. Produce and other local goodies in hand, you head back home to make a delightful feast for your closest friends. By the time they arrive you have perfect appetizers and specialty drinks set out on the patio that is decorated in lights and fresh flowers straight out of a Bon Appétit magazine photo shoot... Maybe someday that might be my life, but it's certainly not now. I don't go to the farmers market that often. Things get busy. Weekends go by too quickly. It just doesn't happen. It's a bit embarrassing to admit (an acquaintance was once telling me how great a local QFC is, and I asked what the price of an English cucumber is there, since it's a fridge staple of mine, and he replied "Oh. I have no idea. I don't buy produce at the grocery store. We get all our produce from farmers markets. Why of course. Silly me.). I beat myself up about it a good amount. I tell myself that if I was really a foodie, I would be a market regular. Sigh.

So when I do get to the market, I get really excited. Last Sunday, I was giddy to be at the Ballard Farmers Market, and at the top of my list was spring onions, closely followed by rhubarb. After taking in some options, I settled on one vendor with beautiful rhubarb, and he happened to be offering a 2 for $5 deal on his bundles of gorgeous green and white guys. I'm always a sucker for a deal, so I went out of there with approximately 20 onions when I only need 3 for that night's recipe. Yikes.

After using a few in my favorite recipe, the remaining several hung out in my fridge all week long. By last night it was getting sad. They were withering. I needed to use them or they were SOL. And not using the produce I scored at the farmers market would make me feel even worse about myself than I already did for not going to farmers markets enough. I need to make things right. I perused the blogosphere for some inspiration, and settled on making an Asian flavored orzo salad. I was very pleased with the result. It was good enough to make me feel better about myself. I might not go to the farmers market as much as I "should," but I can still whip up a healthy, fresh meal.

Sesame Orzo Salad with Green Onions + Broccoli

  • 1 cup whole wheat orzo
  • 1 small head broccoli
  • lots of scallions (I used about 12)
  • 1/2 cucumber
  • 2T sesame seeds
  • 2T sesame oil (1T x 2)
  • 1T soy sauce
  • Siracha

1. Toast sesame seeds in a dry pan over medium-low heat. Stir frequently. When light brown, remove from heat and let cool.

2. Chop broccoli and scallions into bite-sized pieces. (A lot of people discard the stems of each, but I always try to use as much of vegetables as possible.)

3. Bring water to a boil and add orzo. Cook to desired al dente-ness. Make sure you don't cut the cooking time short; crunchy orzo is no good.

4. When orzo is near done, add the broccoli to the water. Drain all and rinse in cold water to stop the cooking.

5. Heat 1T sesame oil in a non-stick pan or wok over high heat. When oil is hot but not smoking, add scallions and cook, stirring frequently, until they are lightly browned and charred in places. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

6. In a large boil, combine sesame seeds, sesame oil, soy sauce, and a dash of siracha. Chop cucumber and add to bowl. Add orzo and broccoli. Mix well. Add additional siracha and salt + pepper as desired.

Serves 2-3; easily doubled.

spring drinks

Today is my sister’s birthday. Some might know today as Cinco de Mayo, but seriously people, how many of you can tell me the meaning of the holiday? Googling it today taught me it's an American Civil War holiday, but I'm still not convinced it's a necessary festivity. But I might just be being stubborn since I have more important things to celebrate on May 5th. But either way, today does come at a time of the year when everyone is anxious to throw off the winter blues and bust out with some spring cheer. In most some parts of the country, the sun has peaked out and temperatures have risen. Here in Seattle, we have some glimmers of spring, but not much yet. It’s coming though. We can taste it. I plan to be fully prepared for evenings on the deck celebrating a multitude of events, big and small. There are several drinks I look forward to having in my glass as I raise it for a toast, and one of them just might be enjoyed tonight. To wish my sister a HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

SPRING DRINKS
tried and true & some to try

Gimlet Soda.
4 oz. vodka
2 oz. fresh squeezed lime juice
~1/2t agave nectar
top with seltzer or club soda

Vinho Verde.
Traditionally (always?) from Portugal, Vinho Verde wine is light and refreshing, with a lower alcohol content than many other white wines. It’s usually relatively cheap – I like the Broadbent Vihno Verde which is less than $10.

Skinnygirl margarita.
For a long time I thought I hated margaritas. Turns out I just hate José Cuervo margarita mix. And all other mixes for that matter. But, Skinnygirl, the brainchild of BravoTV star Bethenny Frankel, is different. It’s a classy margarita in a wine bottle – really just tequila with some lime juice and agave. A bit hard to find in Seattle, but it’s readily available on the east coast, and absolutely delicious. (I have some on hand because my sister sent it to me. Have I mentioned she's the greatest?)

Boozy Cucumber Cooler.
Shutterbean created a boozed-up verison of a drink from Heidi Swanson’s new cookbook Super Natural Everyday.

Salud. ; )