Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Goodbye Summer, Hello Pie

I know summer isn't technically over yet, as there are still 18 days until the autumnal equinox, but Labor Day definitely seems to socially and culturally recognize the changing of the seasons. This past Labor Day weekend in Colorado was simply BEAUTIFUL. Last week's cooler breezes led to a drop in temperature, registering city highs more than 10 degrees below the constant 85 pluses entered in the record books every day for the past two months, and it almost reached freezing in the mountains (woo hoo!). I had grand hiking plans scheduled for this weekend and last, but thanks to a pesky summer cold, I stayed home and took respite in my city, my neighborhood, and cozy abode just before a very busy fall begins.

Crisp and quiet mornings, no longer humming with swamp cooler and fan vibrations, led to early morning phone conversations with Mama while still under my covers. Plentiful sunshine inspired yard work and a sense of ownership, even if I'm just a longer term renter. Time to actually relax and not rush, rush, rush anywhere allowed for walks to coffee, sidewalk chats with strangers, leisurely shopping, homemade cookies, friends in the park, and more than a few movies, that all resulted in a return to whole health and a deep appreciation for each and every thing that makes Colorado my home. It's been 9 years now. Wow.

One of the most welcome additions to The Spectacular Summer of 2011 was "Family Dinner." A friend of mine invited me to join her group of weekly, home cooked, family style meals. Before I got sick, I got to host. We had two extra guests to our usual group of five and feasted on a fresh green salad, chicken kabobs, mushroom and asparagus risotto, and wayyyyyy too much wine :) What did we have for dessert you ask? We had pie. Delicious, fresh and easy, strawberry pie.

Jenni's Shortbread Crust & Strawberry Pie
Makes 1, 9 inch pie

3 TBS sugar
1 tsp salt
4 TBS unsalted butter
1 large egg yolk (freeze your white in a glass jar and save it for later!)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
large pie plate
small bowl
2 TBS cornstarch
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
1 (3 oz) package strawberry jello
1 quart fresh organic strawberries (why organic? this is why)
small sauce pan
silicone spatula

1. Make you crust first!
2. Turn on oven to 375
3. Add sugar and salt to your small bowl and mix briefly with a fork
4. Add butter and mix with fork until it's evenly incorporated
5. Add egg and vanilla and mix with fork again until you have a shortbread crumble that looks like this:
6. Press this crumble into your pie plate, starting in the middle and working your way up the sides until it looks like this:

7. Cook in oven for 10 minutes
8. Rotate dish and cook for 10 more minutes OR until the crust just starts to brown

9. Remove from oven and cool on wire rack
10. Now make the filling!
11. Add cornstarch and water to a sauce pan on a stove
12. Turn burner on to medium heat
13. Mix with a fork until no more clumps of starch remain and the water is uniformly cloudy
14. Add sugar and stir until boiling
15. Remove from heat and add jello

16. Mix until no more clumps remain and your pan is full of red, transparent goo
17. Set aside and let cool to room temperature
18. Rinse your strawberries, remove their tops, and cut in half

19. Place strawberries in the crust and arrange, evenly spaced and (if you like) cut side down (the pretty way)
20. Pour the red goo mixture over the strawberries slowly, letting it settle throughout the dish and not come over the edge of your crust
21. Chill for at least 4 hours
22. Serve with whipped cream!

Make a strawberry pie now before the last fresh harvests of the summer. Berry season ends soon. Then Autumn, you may come. I am rested and ready for you!

Next up is lots of weekend work, a big birthday bash, and most importantly, S N O W.

Thank you summer for so much fun. Thank you Labor Day for some much needed rest. Thank you Colorado for being my beloved home. Thank you Earth for your delicious bounty!

Okay. I'm done now. Peace out :)

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Vegan Frontier

Welp, I finally have a night off and am seated comfortably on the floor of my bedroom, between my bed and wall. This is the spot in my house where my cell phone works best, fresh breezes carrying the scent of grass and shrubs and backyard blooms float in, and blog posts are typed.

I know, I know, I've talked about them several times now but the wait is finally over - vegan cupcakes are here! After 3 batches, a slew of solicited advice, and these new ingredients in my reserves,

they are ready for you! Keep these recipes handy for granolas, animal lovers, and anyone who can't eat dairy.

Jenni's White Vegan Cupcakes
Makes 18, can double or triple.

1 TBS apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 c almond milk
2 c unbleached all purpose flour
1 c white sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c coconut oil
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
2 c or larger glass measuring cup
small bowl
medium bowl
silicone spatula
a small sauce pan, only if your coconut oil is solid
3 6-cup or 2 12-cup muffin pans
wire cooling racks

1. Line 18 mufin cups with paper liners and set aside (I used these - excellent quality!)
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
*If your coconut oil is still solid in its jar, scoop into saucepan and heat on low, constantly stirring until liquefied*
3. Add the vinegar and almond milk to a glass measuring cup, and set aside until curdled (about 5 minutes)
4. In medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
5. In small bowl, whisk together coconut oil, vanilla and almond extracts.
6. Add the vinegar milk mixture to the small bowl and whisk again.
7. Pour liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir JUST until combined with no dry lumps
8. Spoon batter into the lined muffin cups (a quarter cup measure works just about perfect for me!)
9. Bake for 18 minutes or before any browing occurs
10. Remove from oven and cool pan on wire racks completely
11. Remove cupcakes from pan and frost!
12. Use my frosting recipe below :)

Jenni's Fluffy Vegan Citrus Frosting
Makes enough to frost 18 cupcakes with a tip. If you will just use a knife, cut recipe in half.

1 orange
1 lemon
1 lime
1 c Earth Balance Buttery Sticks room temperature or slightly melted
6 c-ish powdered sugar (more if it's hot or your citrus is extra zesty!)
2/3 c almond milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
a citrus zester or the smallest side of a cheese grater (this is the BEST to zest!)
large bowl
silicone spatula
standing or hand held mixer

1. Wash your citrus well to remove all of the commercially applied wax
2. Zest your cirtus and set aside. Don't know how to zest? Learn here.
3. In large bowl, beat buttery sticks on high speed for 10 seconds
4. Add 2 c sugar and mix on low for 10 seconds, scraping down the side of the bowl as you go
5. Increase mixer speed to high and continue incorporating sugar until smooth
6. Add 1/3 c milk and mix for 10 seconds
7. Repeat steps 3 and 4
8. Add the vanilla
9. Repeat step 4
10. Add the citrus zest and mix on high for a last 30-60 seconds until evenly incorporated
11. Frost your cupcakes!
12. Serve to wedding guests ;)

P.S. For plain 'ole vanilla frosting simply leave out the zest. The frosting will actually set up a bit better and look more like this:

Strawberry pie will is next but now it's time to switch from yoga clothes to pj's, settle into bed with my book, and let the crickets and cicadas send me off to sleep. G'night!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

I Have the Most Awesome Friends

Really. I do. I often times feel like the most fortunate person in the world. And I don't just have one or two. I have a lot. And they are all awesome. I never seem to be able to find enough words or occasions to tell them all how much I love them and how much they mean to me. So I hope some of you read this:

I love you and I wouldn't be complete without you. You are my family and I feel so lucky to know and share this wonderful life with you :)

I have a new VEGAN recipe to post but I'm feeling overly sentimental today, so that will have to wait...

These are some of my friends.
They often times taste my baked creations first. Thank you Acorns for your tummies and taste buds!

Now check out these two.
They got married last weekend. My vegan cupcakes were perfected and presented at their welcome bbq (no, not the ones in these pictures). Aww, aren't they cute?
I think the key to having awesome friends is to only surround yourself with relationships that truly matter. Those based on shared values, shared respect, and shared fun. I think this pair works because they are best friends.
Ha! Obvious, no?

Now go call a friend you haven't talked to in a while. Or make a new one. It will make your day. Promise ;)

Friday, August 12, 2011

Guanella Pass Pancakes

Last weekend, after working at Summit Lake on Mt. Evans, I went camping with Claire and Linnea. We drove up through Georgetown towards Guanella Pass to the sweetest little campground between two creeks. We had an amazing dinner and then turned in pretty early, but not before seeing a spectacular shooting star!

The next morning we had AWESOME pancakes for breakfast. Made over a fire. From scratch. Yummmmmmm :) This recipe is great for car camping. Prepare your ingredients ahead of time for easy cooking at camp, less mess and warmer hands at altitude.

Jenni's Guanella Pass Pancakes
Makes 2-3 servings, can double

1 cup unbleached flour
1 TBS brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 dash salt
1 large egg
1 cup buttermilk
2 small bowls
toppings of your choice
leakproof containers
mess kit
campfire with grate
camping pan

1. Whisk all dry ingredients together in bowl and pack for travel
2. Whisk 1 egg in another bowl and pack in leakproof container
3. Add your dry mix, egg, butter, toppings, buttermilk, mess kit, pan, and spatula to your gear pile.
4. Go camping!

1. Level your fire grate
2. Add some butter to your pan and heat over fire
3. Empty dry pancake ingredients into bowl
4. Add 1 cup buttermilk to dry ingredients and mix with fork, just until combined
5. Make pancakes over the fire!
6. Add a little more butter to the pan between each batch and enjoy.

I cut up 1 quart of organic strawberries and froze them the night before leaving home. By the time we were ready to eat them, they had juiced and thawed and were the perfect topping for these light, fluffy, buttery pancakes.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Dog Days of Summer

It's August already? What happened to summer? Where have all my baked goods gone?

I love white cake and I've been working on some variations. The moist and tender crumb of Linnea's strawberry layered cake was just about perfect, even if it was a bit lopsided.

Casey's 4 layer lemon blueberry cake was practically perfectly stacked and the flavor was sophisticated, but the crumb a bit dry.

Now, you're probably thinking, next she'll say, "Third time's a charm!" But no, it's still too hot. I skipped the stuffy kitchen and tedious layer slicing to make Jason a cool and creamy cheesecake that had a hard time coming out of its pan.

So all in all, I am not yet ready to give you the recipes. They still need some work and my kitchen is still too hot...

Continued yoga and hiking has granted me the ability to eat extra, guilt free baked goods this summer so I have been sampling as many as possible! Thus far the standout has been an almond croissant from the Butterhorn Bakery in Frisco. I was also pleasantly surprised to find a few baked good booths at the South Pearl Street Farmers Market, and MANY samples.

I would never say I could compete with Watercourse but think it would be possible to outdo the cookie and giant cupcake ladies...

My summer has not been filled with long, lazy days. I'm a grownup. But it has been exTREMEly fun. On the counter is homemade pancake mix, made especially for camping, and vegan vanilla cupcakes. Stay cool and stay tuned :)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Cool Treats Only, Please

It is HOT in Denver. Today was 100. When it's hot I don't like to bake. But if an occasion calls for it, I wait until the sun has gone down and the house has cooled off...

This post has been a long time coming. I put the recipe together two years ago and was originally thrilled to hear key lime connoisseur Kate say it was the "best key lime pie ever!" I'll go ahead and agree with that because it's usually a hit with everyone, even those who don't usually like key lime. And today Fletcher ate half of one himself ;) Go ahead and try this recipe - it will work at all altitudes and is as easy as pie!

Jenni's Key Lime Pie
Makes 1 large pie

1 cup finely ground pecans
1 cup graham cracker crumbs (about 12 squares or 6 rectangles, depending on the brand)
6 TBS melted butter
2 eggs
2 egg whites
1 14 oz can fat free sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup Nellie & Joe's Key West Lime Juice
large bowl
rolling pin
large platter or clean counter surface
large pie dish (10 inches at least)
standing or hand held mixer
medium bowl
silicone spatula

**The key to success with this pie is these ingredients: fresh pecans and Nellie & Joe's Key West Lime Juice. Don't substitute!**

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Use a rolling pin to ground your graham crackers into a fine crumb. I like to do this on a large plastic serving platter so my crumbs don't go everywhere. You can also buy a box of crumbs but I prefer to get an arm workout buy pulverizing the corn syrup free natural version found at my favorite grocery store.

3. Add your finely ground pecans and melted butter to your crumbs.
4. Mash with fork until the butter is evenly distributed among the dry ingredients.
5. Press into your pie dish with your hands by starting in the middle and then out and up the sides. Making an even crust can take a bit of practice but it honestly doesn't matter that much.
6. Bake for 10 minutes.
7. Remove from oven and let cool completely on a wire rack before filling.

8. Beat eggs and egg whites at medium speed until well blended.
9. Gradually add milk and juice to egg mixture bu continuing to beat on medium speed until well blended.
10. Pour mixture into crust and bake for 20 minutes or until the center is almost set.

11. Remove from oven and cool completely on wire rack.
12. Cover and chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours.
13. Just before serving, evenly spread with whip cream.
14. Consider garnishing with pecans and or lime slices and eat up!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Website Designer Wanted!

Well actually, more like a blog helper :) I've decided it's time to ditch the schizo-background changes and commit to something a bit more professional and identifiable, but still keep all of the shabby/nature-y/sometimes sparkly things I love - can you help? I will pay you in catered-quality baked goods for you next celebration!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Who Has Time for Homemade Bread?

Practically no one, or at least that's what I'm pretty sure 99.9% of you would say (and me half the time). I have been sampling new varieties of store bought bread recently. Not new like they've never existed before, but new to me. I decided to forego the papery, never mold versions a long time ago and now look for those that don't contain preservatives, are made right here in Colorado, and are full of whole grains. So far Rudi's Multigrain Oat has come out on top. The texture is similar to my homemade bread and the slices are heavy and thick. So when it's on sale I'll pick up a loaf and skip the bread baking to hike. Peanut butter and banana sandwiches on top of mountains are the BEST :)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

For Real

So I think I'm really back. For real this time, look.
I even put on the apron again, after being convinced NOT to give it away. Thanks Lil :)

First I threw some chewy chocolate chip cookies together to take to Red Rocks for a Dispatch show last weekend, and last night I used up the last of my frozen fruit (yay for the start of growing season!) and mouth watering peach preserves. I almost forgot I had the homemade treat, made from Palisade peaches and canned by Claire and Linnea last fall, after originally eating a quarter of its contents straight from the jar with a spoon.
Yep, my mouth is watering while I type...

Anywho, go ahead and try out the recipe below. It will work at every altitude, is easy, and can be adjusted to your taste by using what ever kind of preserves, frozen fruit, and nuts you have on hand. Enjoy!

Oat Nut Fruit Bars
Makes 24

1 3/4 cup rolled, steel cut, or old fashioned oats
1 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup salted butter, melted
1 cup peach preserves
1/4 cup frozen blue berries, warm rinsed and drip dried
9x13 inch pan
vegetable oil non-stick spray
large bowl
medium whisk

1. Turn on oven to 350 degrees
2. Coat your baking pan with vegetable oil spray
3. If need be, coarsely chop your nuts. I needed to because I buy mine in bulk. Hint: the less chopped they are, the cheaper they will be, hence the need to chop at home.
4. Combine oats, flour, sugar, nuts, and baking soda in bowl.
5. Whisk together until all ingredients are evenly combined
6. Add melted butter
7. Use fork to blend butter into a wet mixture until no loose dry ingredients remain
8. Remove a 3/4 cup of the wet oat mixture and set aside
9. Press the rest of the oat mixture into your baking pan, making sure it's even and the edges and corners are well covered
10. Bake for 10 minutes
11. Remove from oven and spread the preserves over the partially baked base ONLY to within 1/4 inch from the edge (you don't want them to cook out and burn on the pan)
12. Spread your blueberries evenly
13. Sprinkle the remaining 3/4 cup of oat mixture over the preserves and fruit
14. Bake for an additional 20 minutes or until you can see the top starting to brown
15. Cool pan on wire rack
16. Enjoy for breakfast, a snack, or with vanilla ice cream!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing

Sheep come in a variety of shape's and sizes. They can present themselves as calm, warm, and comforting. Sometimes fluffy. Baked goods also fit this description.

Wolves (the stereotype, NOT the intriguing Canis lupus so often regarded as something it's not) are complex, tricky, and conniving.

A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing = Sweets!

They just look so good and make me feel like once I eat them, the present moment will immediately be better. What is WRONG with me? Am I addicted?! Multiple baked goods per day, boxes of candy, bowls of ice cream (I don't really even LIKE ice cream) and terrible guilt are PLAGuing me. So good for the heartbreak diet and blossoming yoga practice. My appetite is insatiable. I'm still too lazy to bake and have moved on from apathy to crazy person anger but all of that aside and lucky for you, this leads to more reviews.

The regionally famous WaterCourse Bakery Scout Cookie = sheep in wolf's clothing.
It looks like one big bad cookie but guess what? It's not - it's vegan AND gluten free! For those of you who say it tastes like a Girl Scout Samoa, you're wrong. Those cookies are gross and this one is WONderful. I feel like I'm eating something healthy (even though I'm not) and I get to lick chocolate off my fingers :) You can find them at my favorite coffee shop and other fun places around Denver.

No need to tell you about the Crushery's ridiculously amazing chocolate chip cookie again because the last time I went and had one, the 5 doctors I was eating with came to the same conclusion SO, case closed. Go get one. Next stop? The Pajama Baking Company just down the street. It smelled like cinnamon rolls as we walked up so after having lunch I shared and smapled 3 of their try-it sized treats with some VOC peeps.
Our taste tests revealed that the Chocolate Chip Macaroon was the best, followed by a yummy Peanut Butter Brownie and then a disappointingly mediocre Chocolate Brownie. They each cost a dollar or less and my group of 6 was able to have a taste of each one. SUPER deal. Check 'em out.

Later that same day I finally had the pleasure of experiencing the Denver Cupcake Truck.
Jamie had the Red Velvet but said the frosting was better than the cake. Isn't that always the problem with red velvet? I had the Denver Snowball and loved it. Almond cake, chocolate buttercream, and coconut. Mmmm, delicious.

And I almost forgot Flour. How could I? I returned to my beloved bakery while on an escape to Boston last month and tried 2 new items. The Maple Walnut Scone won out over the Granola Bar packed with cranberry-apricot-apple jam only because it had more sugar. What can I say. I am addicted.

Maybe this should have been several posts. Maybe I should stick to baking instead of publishing a blog full of feelings. Maybe tomorrow the reality of wolves in sheep clothing won't bother me so much. Maybe wolves should just leave the disguises behind and admit to themselves and everyone else that they have been deceptive. Deception = dishonesty. Being dishonest is the same thing as lying. Lying is wrong.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Happy Monday

I have neglected my blog. First because I was too busy. Then too sad. Blogging and the associated forms of social media have a history of igniting a great variety of emotions in me. Previously honest generosity. Recently hate. Currently somewhere in between. Maybe apathy.

Happy Monday? Questionable. But whatever.

Onward? I suppose. I have been saving pictures to share with you so alright, let's start by revisiting February.

Any baker that can produce fluffy cake at 9,500 feet deserves some credit so check out Rocky Mountain Cupcakes the next time you're in Breckenridge. I sampled four of their creations while on the Kiriakos family's annual ski vacation a few months ago. This is what I remember:

Mint Chocolate chip? Meh, I don't think mint flavored buttercream is my thing.

Red Velvet? Great presentation but no flavor.

Chai latte? This one was a hit all around. Unique and deliciously spiced.

My favorite was their signature, the Rocky Mountain Cupcake. It was a rich chocolate cupcake with a divine cream filling. I think I ate a whole one myself.