Operation: Take Parents Rock Climbing

First of all, I can’t believe I haven’t posted since JULY!!! To be fair, it’s been a crazy busy August. My parents and Casey’s parents and brother visited at the same time so they all met and had numerous dinners and bonding activities together, one of which was rock climbing, hence this post.

Then, I drove to Crested Butte and back in one day to pick up my sister Daniela and her cat and all of her belongings. She stayed with me for a week before (insert wistful sigh) she moved back home to Washington, D.C. for grad school. It was a week of many fun things, including eating a lot, an epic beer pairing dinner at BRU, rock climbing, mountain biking and sister-sister bonding.

Next up: my annual Chicago trip. A food pilgrimage of sorts motivated by my desire to see my best buds in Chitown. I wrote a cover story for work on a new Basque/Spanish restaurant there, crossed eating at Stephanie Izard’s Girl & the Goat off my eating bucket list, paddle boarded on Lake Michigan, took the touristy and fun architecture boat tour, and just generally stuffed my face. I’ll be returning in the spring for my bachelorette party.

My uber-urban weekend was followed by a girls’ mountain biking/camping trip to Fruita, wherein we biked nearly 60 miles of incredible desert trails and slick rock. More on that later.

Anyway, those are my lame excuses, but I’m back on track for fall! So, as Casey and I planned our parents/in-laws weekend, we thought, what better way to level the playing field and bond then to take everyone rock climbing? So we headed to Clear Creek’s Canal Zone at the early hour of 9:30am, thinking we’d be preempting the lazy climbers who might steal the beginner routes we had in mind.

What fools we be! When will we learn?! This is the front range, and the Canal Zone–along with most climbing areas–are always crowded to our great irritation. So of course, we were relegated to a virgin ascent of a dicey 5.9 on the far right side of the wall. I led it and it turned out to be pretty smooth, though definitely not ideal for first time climbing. Marc & Marsha and Diana & Gary, however, were great sports. Actually, Marsha (my mom) didn’t attempt to climb, having already been prodded up the rock by me a few years back with little success. But she was a great sport and cheerleader.

Here we have Marc Silver attempting a 5.8, approximately one-fifth of his way up the route–a commendable performance for sure.

IMG_0231

And here Diana Coleman gets a strong start on the 5.9 with Casey at right belaying.

Clear Creek climbing

 

 

 

Sourdough Carrot Cake Muffins

sourdough carrot cake muffins

These look fit for a horse or dog, but they’re actually quite tasty to humans, too.

I’m going to start with an apology for this unfortunate photo. I really need to kick the fluorescent lighting in my kitchen. And get a better camera.

Anywho, I prepped my sourdough starter for my first naturally leavened sourdough bread and ended up feeding it so much that I had more than double the amount I needed. You see, it said take a 1/4 cup out and feed it twice, letting it rest in between feedings overnight. But to make room in the bowl for the next feeding and for it to bubble up, I ended up having to discard a large portion. And by the end I had probably 3 times the amount of starter necessary for my bread.

Not wanting to throw away more starter, I decided to make sourdough muffins again. I debated for awhile between making sourdough carrot cake or muffins and went for the individually portioned choice.

Amazingly, these muffins are healthy and tasty all at once. I can thank King Arthur Flour for both the flour and the recipe inspiration.

 

Sourdough Carrot Cake Muffins

makes 12 gigantic muffins

 

1 c olive oil
1/4 c coconut oil
1.5 c sugar
1-1/4 c sourdough starter, refreshed to 100-percent hydration
3 eggs
2 Tbsp Greek yogurt
2-1/2 c grated carrots
2 tsp vanilla
2-1/2 c King Arthur white whole wheat flour
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 c white chocolate chips (or nuts, coconut flakes, or other addition)

 

Whisk togther oil and sugar, and stir in sourdough starter. Mix in eggs, beating well after each. Fold in carrots, vanilla and chocolate chips.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, spices, salt and baking soda. Fold dry ingredients into wet ingredients.

Divide batter into lined muffin tin. Bake in a preheated 350°F oven for 25 minutes, or until moist crumbs attach to tester. Remove cake from oven and cool completely on a wire rack.

I made a Greek yogurt frosting/glaze for these with yogurt, butter and confectioner’s sugar that I decided was unnecessary and would only impeded efficient early AM muffin eating. So instead, I ate out of the jar for a week with a spoon. You could glaze or frost these however to make them into more of a dessert.

 

Fish ‘n’ Pancakes

fish

I think it’s safe to say that chicken ‘n’ waffles have swept foodies nationwide off their feet in the  past year or two. It all started in Harlem when jazz musicians finished performing late in the evening without having ate dinner. Famished, they craved savory supper food, yet–in the wee hours of those mornings–also pined for breakfast. And so, chicken and waffles was born.

Singer Gladys Knight (one of the pioneering consumers of chicken and waffles) and her son Ron have catapulted the dish to fame with their Atlanta-based chain Gladys Knight & Ron’s Chicken and Waffles, which serves more than their namesake entrée. I am somewhat sorry to say that I have yet to sample the combination, partly because I don’t really ever eat fried chicken or waffles. But you can bet that this trending dish appears on the brunch menu of just about any self-respecting foodie joint in a major city these days.

I’m more of a fish and pancakes gal, so I decided to make just that. First I had planned to make cornbread to go with the fish. So my reasoning was that if cornbread paired with fish, why not corn pancakes? Initially, this made Casey a bit wary. Pancakes for dinner? With the redundantly dubbed Mahi Mahi fillets from the freezer? But he ate a short stack, and then some, and it was a meal soon to be repeated.

 

Maya Silver’s Mahi Mahi and Corn Flap Jacks

Corn pancakes (recipe adapted from Food & Wine):

  • 1/2 c all-purpose flour
  • 1 c masa harina (corn flour)
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 c buttermilk
  • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 Tbsp Greek yogurt
  • 1 c corn kernels (fresh, canned & drained, or frozen & defrosted)
  • 1 c shredded cheddar cheese
  • 3 scallions, minced

Whisk together dry ingredients in one bowl, and wet ingredients in another bowl. Fold wet ingredients, corn, cheese and scallions into dry ingredients just until combined. Let batter sit 10-15 minutes.

Pre-heat a cast-iron or other skillet to medium heat. Cook pancakes about 2 minutes or until set and golden brown on one side, then flip and cook until golden brown on the other side. Keep warm in an oven preheated to 250-degrees.

Oven-Roasted Mahi Mahi in Tomato-Vermouth Sauce:

  • 2 fillets Mahi Mahi, fresh or frozen and defrosted
  • 1/2 c vermouth
  • 1/4 c red wine
  • 1/4 c olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 heirloom tomatoes, diced

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place Mahi Mahi in a small pan. Whisk together the liquid ingredients and pour over the fish. Let marinate at room temp for 30 minutes. Cover with foil and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes, or until fish is cooked through and nice and flakey.

To serve: Put two pancakes on plate, setting a fillet atop or aside. Pour sauce into a small saucepan, bring to a boil, and simmer until thickened. Pour sauce over fillet. I served with oven-roasted potatoes and mixed greens.

 

 

 

Everything Potato Buns

Everything Potato Buns

These buns were of much higher quality than this jaundiced photo.

Potato Everything Buns: you are my everything. Can’t you see? You mean so much to me. Without you, my road trip breakfast sandwich would have been consumed upon two limp and lackluster slices of store-bought multi-grain bread.

The inspiration for these buns stemmed from a recent visit to Denver steakhouse Guard & Grace from local visionary Chef Troy Guard. I sipped up on a perfectly dirty martini, while Casey enjoyed a beer. We split a fanciful beet salad. Then came the steak. Casey, experienced meat-eater that he is, always says, “At a real steakhouse, the meat doesn’t come with sides. You have to order them separately.” And here, this was so.

When my adorably petite filet mignon and his ridiculously huge rib-eye  with an order of mashed potatoes arrived, a most notable accompaniment came, too: a small plate with two rolls and a pat of butter. While the steaks were phenomenal, the rolls are what made the most indelible mark in my mind’s palate.

An ever-so-subtlely chewy crust that gave way to the tenderest of crumbs–buttery, soft, melt-in-your-mouth BREAD! I asked the waiter for the recipe. He asked a chef, presumably, and returned to inform me that it was too complicated. Psh, please.

I futilely tried using other avenues to procure this complex recipe (e.g. requesting it through Bon Appetit, using my DiningOut role to request it for print, etc.). Alas, I was on my own.

So I found a potato roll recipe online that produced great rolls, but definitely incomparable to the ones at Guard & Grace. Next time, I’m thinking way more butter and maybe, I don’t know, cake flour.

Since these rolls were going to be vehicles for breakfast sandwiches that would include another much-loved meat of Casey’s–authentic Taylor ham shipped straight from dirty Jersey, offered at salt & grinder, a deli that recently opened near my office–I said to myself, these buns must be everything buns. Like everything bagels. To be authentic.

The Everything Potato Bun Taylor Ham, Egg, Spicy Cheddar, and Avocado breakfast sandwiches were enjoyed en route to Crested Butte, a four-hour journey that commenced at the ungodly hour of 4:40am. And they made that ride a hell of a lot better.

 

Everything Potato Buns

adapted from The Boastful Baker

makes 18-20 XXL rolls 

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup mashed potatoes (approximately 1 large russet will do the trick)
  • 2/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1-1/2 cup warmed buttermilk
  • 2.5 cups bread flour
  • 2.5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2-1/4 tablespoons dry active yeast
  • egg
  • poppy seeds, sesame seeds, dried granulated garlic, kosher salt, and dried minced onion for topping (optional)

Directions

  1. Cook potato until tender. Mash, rice, or grate potatoes and measure 1 cup for rolls. Cool to room temperature.
  2. Dissolve yeast in the lukewarm buttermilk. Proof for 5-10 minutes.
  3. Combine mashed potatoes, butter, eggs, sugar, honey and salt in a bowl of a stand mixer or by hand until well-integrated.
  4. Add the yeast-milk mixture to the potato mixture. Mix until blended.
  5. Gradually add flour (one cup at a time) until a soft dough forms.
  6. Knead until dough is smooth and cohesive.
  7. Place dough in lightly oiled bowl. Put dough is a warm place, cover and let rise until doubled, 1-2 hours.
  8. Punch down dough and shape into rolls, weighing to ensure they’re of even size. Place rolls about  1 1/2 inches apart on parchment paper lined baking sheets and let rise again until doubled, about 1 hour.
  9. Whisk egg with 1 tablespoon of water and brush onto rolls. Sprinkle rolls with toppings.
  10. Bake in a preheated oven set at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes, until golden-brown, rotating pan halfway through. Bonus: spray rolls with water when you first insert them into oven, or pour boiling water into a pan in the oven when you insert the pans in.

To make breakfast sandwiches, melt shredded or sliced spicy cheddar on bun bottoms in a 300 degree oven. Cook to eggs over medium. Warm Taylor ham on a lightly oiled skillet. Layer ham, eggs, avocado, and tomato on the melted cheese and top with the other half of the bun. Squirt of hot sauce is optional and recommended.

401 minus the k

Big mid-ride smiles

Big mid-ride smiles

This past weekend, I went to Crested Butte for the long July 4 weekend and made sure to squeeze in as much Crested Butte-ness as possibly. Mainly, getting into the mountains. Yes, of course, we have mountains near Golden, but it’s just not the same. They’re less colorful, less remote, oftentimes, less big. And the trails and crags are packed with people! That last part is perhaps the biggest problem, the most significant detractor from calling Golden home.

You ride a trail and end up pulling over every 100 feet for a group of hikers, bikers going in the other direction, or if you’re slow like me, bikers passing you. You try to take your dog for a hike and find that everyone else and their pooch had the same idea. The result is that rather than taking your dog for a walk, your large, must-say-hi-to-every-animal dog ends up towing you through the dust. You aim for a nice afternoon of climbing, and ascend the face shoulder-to-shoulder with parties on either side, occasionally even waiting in line for a popular climb. Hello, urban outdoor living.

Sure there are boatloads of tourists pouring into Crested Butte from Texas and other southern states in summer and winter, but the land is sprawling and the tourists aren’t in large enough numbers to pack every recreational opportunity afoot. Many aren’t willing to venture far from town or the most popular trails either.

So, on day 1, my sister Daniela and I rode Trail 401 during the 4th of July Parade, when we suspected the crowds would be kept at bay. It was my second time on this CB classic, and Daniela’s first. The beginning is a grunt up the unrelenting twisting hills of Gothic Road. The worst part was the poor condition of the unpaved road. At times, so dusty that the surface is almost like soft sand you might find at the beach–the kind that your tires sink into, and makes the journey upward even more challenging. To boot, every passing car leaves you in a temporary fog of orange dust that coats your eyeballs, makes you sneeze and leaves an unpleasant film on your teeth. When the road dips, between hills, large territories of muddy water collect. I made the poor decision of skirting one by hopping through a grassy patch to the side, which was deceptively just as muddy, leaving my bike shoes a solid brown and drenched.

There are reprieves, however. The elation that comes with the conquer of each hill. A sparkling, bright green Emerald Lake that reminds you why you’re enduring aerobic suffering. And a fun wide snow bank that you walk your bike over while cooling off and reminiscing about winter.

At the top of the road, you veer right on a singletrack uphill through the trees. We rode 401 against the advice of several who noted that this section was unridable–it was. Every 50 feet at least, we encountered snow banks or sinking mud. After awhile, getting back on the bike for the short patches of dry trail became futile, and we hiked our bikes up the whole mile.

At last, the trees grow sparse and you’re flashing through a field of green grass, often almost falling due to the distracting views of mountaintops and high alpine waterfalls surrounding you. Down precipitous switchbacks, you zig zag through corn lillies and the first blossoming wildflowers–Indian paintbrush, some lupines.

All was well until we bottomed out at Rustler’s Gulch, got our feet wet again in a creek crossing, and realized that the trail was headed uphill once more. The first time I rode 401, Casey and I skipped this section. And the first time you ride a trail, a second unexpected bout of uphill like this can leave you pretty hangry. We hadn’t taken enough rests, we hadn’t eaten enough food, and we were tired. We put our heads down and took each hill with a grain of sugar–Bee Stinger energy chews sugar to be precise. When we finally reached the last short bit of downhill, and rode our brakes down Copper Creek Road to the car, we were psyched. Four hours later, covered in mud, no serious injuries between us, and we’d done it.

The next day was climbing at Spring Creek. One of the best things about Spring Creek is that the nasty approaches keep the crowds at bay. Trails are just about nonexistent here, so instead, you hike up  loose dirt filled with rocks small and large alike. The bigs ones might look sturdy and it’s tempting to claw onto them for balance as you go up or come down, but they’re loose too and will slide or tumble down faster than you can say “Move!” Then there are the thorny plants and the many bugs. But the climbing is well worth it. We did a blocky 5.9 arete, then a 5.9 that had some slab and a fun roof. Next up was a 5.11+ that I did not actually climb. I awkwardly stumbled my way up move by move, veering off route, and hanging on the rope between each pathetically small advance. My belayer had to more or less pull me to the top. Finally, I did a 5.10 that I realized I’d done years before. Straightforward, perfect amount of challenge, and toward-the-upper-end of my leading ability.

Day 3 was another mountain bike ride–a shortie since I was leaving early. I felt bad because Daniela was clearly exhausted and I had made her rise at the appallingly early hour of 8am after we’d gone out the night before. We rode an easy gorgeous little singletrack called Lupine Trail and connected it to the lower loop. As I waited for Daniela after a stretch of trail, it seemed that she was taking a particularly long time. Then, three runners crested a small hill and informed me she’d fallen but was okay. I biked back to her and found that she’d taken quite the spill! Blood spilled down her leg and one elbow had been skinned. She was clearly mad at me and nothing I could say would change that. And that’s what you get for pushing your sister too hard.

 

 

The Daily Schedules of Genius

Ever wondered how your favorite author or artist spent their day? Podio, a software company, charted the days of a number of philosophers, writers and artists. In some ways, this is comforting to see that nearly none spent their entire days engaged in creative work. They slept  (many retiring early). They exercised (long walks seem to be the aerobic activity of choice). They cooked and some even went out. Several had day jobs, mostly relevant to their creative work.

In my schedule, I do feel that something has to give. I would estimate on average 8 hours of sleep, 1-2 hours of exercise, 4 hours of leisure (cooking, eating, going out), 8 hours of day jobbing, 1 hour of other (cleaning, hobbies, playing with Uinta), and a variable 1-3 hours creative writing, but that’s only maybe 1-2 times per week! At the max time ranges, this may add up to more than 24 hours in a day. If only that were the case in reality. See, I don’t want to give anything up. I wish I could live parallel lives–one where I continue to have many fun, exciting, and life-affirming experiences, and another when I sat at a quiet, distractionless desk and wrote. The obvious solution is to give up my day job.

genius schedules

Sourdough Noir Muffins

chocolate sourdough muffins

Muffins these intense typically hang out in the shadows.

If these muffins were actors, they would star in Double Indemnity. They’re brooding. They only dress in black. And they’ve got a seriously sour side.
That’s because when life gives you sourdough starter, you make sourdough baked goods. Or, to be more precise, when you decide to keep a sourdough starter alive in your fridge, you bake something with sourdough at least once a month, or else spoon out that probiotic deliciousness into the trash can when you feed it.
Here’s the thing about sourdough. While I want to make breads that rise from sourdough alone–no yeast, no proofing, just sourdough–it scares me. And I’m waiting to work toward this goal until I have more time, more motivation and perhaps am at home more often. One day, if I work from home, or am a stay-at-home mom briefly, or sustain an injury that keeps my weekends less active, I’ll make real sourdough.
In the meantime, yeast gives my breads rise, and the starter gives them tang (and maybe a little extra push, too). And sometimes, I don’t have time or availability to go through the process of raising bread over the course of several hours. Or I already have enough bread in the house. In those cases, I scour the internet for non-bread sourdough recipes and I make things like Chocolate Muffins with a sourdough skip in their step.
I considered adding things like ground coffee, coconut flakes and nuts, but ultimately decided to leave it simple. Sourdough in chocolate muffins is out-there enough as is for these.
Sourdough Noir Muffins
makes a dozen
Ingredients
  • 1 c active sourdough starter
  • 1/2 c water
  • 3/4 c whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 c unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1/2 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/3 c cocoa
  • 1/4 c honey
  • 1/4 c sugar
  • 1/4 c. butter, melted
  • 2 Tbsp buttermilk
  • 2 Tbsp Greek yogurt or sour cream
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 c chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease and flour muffin tin or Whisk together starter, water and flours until well-incorporated. If desired, you can mix this together the evening before and let sit in the fridge. Whisk in baking soda, baking powder, cocoa powder and salt.

In a separate bowl, whisk honey, sugar, butter, buttermilk, yogurt, egg and vanilla until frothy. Fold liquid mixture and chocolate chips into sourdough-flour mixture gently. Divide batter amongst muffin cups and bake for 20ish minutes (took me a bit less), or until a toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs.

Recipes adapted from Reformation Acres.

 

 

Beef Lingua Taco with Crickets

Beef Lingua Taco with Crickets

At a recent Taco Fest, I fulfilled my longtime desire to try bugs. Not because I thought they would taste awesome–this is a curiosity-driven mission. Plus, what if one day there’s a food crisis and I have to eat bugs? Might as well start preparing for that remote possibility now.

I popped the cricket into my mouth solo to get the full experience. It tasted like burnt, grainy rice with a hint of … bile? rust? Hard to say. It took me too long to chew and I didn’t like it as much as I wanted to.

Ice Climbing at the South Korea Winter Olympics?

ice climbing

The rule of lead ice climbing is: don’t fall.

This past winter, I watched the Olympics religiously. I like the variety the Olympics offers compared to other major televised sporting events. Instead of watching football game after football game, or soccer match after soccer match, you get to watch the best athletes in the world go head-to-head in many types of sports. You can literally never get bored. Unless you’re stuck on the ice dancing marathon.

The one winter sporting event that I wished was part of the Winter Olympics is ice climbing. It’s incredibly challenging and a blast to watch. If you’ve ever been to the Ouray Ice Fest and watched ridiculous climbers like this, then you would agree. My performance in the Lake City ice climbing fest, on the other hand, is not a great example … let’s just say I kept apace with the slow-jam reggae blasting from a nearby pick-up truck sound system.

Anyway, I was thrilled to come across this article yesterday about the fact that there is actually a push to make ice climbing an Olympic sport!

In fact, ice climbing was at Sochi this past year, only as a sort of festival on the premises. New, lumbering climbers and spider-like machines alike climbed the frozen column of ice!

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/87265354″>Ice Climbing Festival | Highlights</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/uiaa”>UIAA – Mountaineering &amp; Climbing</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

So while my other winter Olympic wish list picks (24/7 ice fishing feed! extreme dogsledding! extreme skiing–probably has the best chance!) may never make it, maybe ice climbing will get its way in edgewise for South Korea 2018!

 

Ingenious Mead-ieval Beverage Makes a Comeback!

Just when you thought a culinary tradition was locked away in the vaults of time forever, a clever hipster breaks in and discovers it.

Modern mead in spiffy packaging. Pour yourself a glass in a Mason jar!

Modern mead in spiffy packaging. Pour yourself a glass in a Mason jar!

In this case, that culinary tradition is mead, an alcoholic drink of fermented honey and water. Legend has it, it was first discovered by monks who drank rainwater from a beehive–a risky move if you ask me. While stings didn’t ensue, drunkenness did. And so, in their ample spare time, monks began brewing mead.

Fun fact: It was once tradition that a newly married husband and wife would drink mead on their wedding and for one month afterward. This is where the term honeymoon comes from.

Until recently, mead had all but been banished from the drinking habits of imbibers worldwide. Perhaps you’d find a flask at a Renaissance Fair or your weird aunt might keep a dusty bottle in her liquor cabinet.

But now, thanks to hipsters, mead has returned in all its overly sweet, historic glory! People are even making a hobby of brewing mead at home.

So what makes this Medieval mixture ingenious? Well, it’s made many an appearance in literature. Chaucer referenced mead in his Canterbury Tales as an aphrodisiac.

A fountain of mead a garden party makes!

A fountain of mead a garden party makes!

The Greek version, Ambrosia aka Nectar of the Gods, is something I tried to drink awhile back here when I was living the genius habits of Sir Isaac Newton. I don’t know what recipe I looked up for Ambrosia though because according to that post it appears that it called for a concoction of brandys, raspberry syrup, and  Champagne. My version

Ambrosia

The makings of my ambrosia: Andre champagne, whiskey, and cider

had whiskey and Andre sparkling wine thrown in and I can assure you it was delicious!

Anyway, get thee to a liquor store forthwith that doth stock obscure bottles and sip upon some mead on the morrow.

And before hipsters lay claim to the following historic culinary traditions, I want to note that I anticipated their re-popularization here first:

  • Stewed pigeons
  • Clay pot cookery
  • Drinking from goat horns (a la Vikings)
  • Milk of the Poppy (a la Game of Thrones)

 

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