Turn It Into Croutons

Don’t throw away your bread if it gets a bit too hard and crusty. No, no, no. Turn it in to croutons instead. When the bread is a bit to crusty on its own, just add some olive oil and seasonings and turn it into croutons. Crusty bread is just perfect for that.

The ends of my maple, bacon and shallot bread started to get a bit too hard to really enjoy on their own Maple, Bacon and Shallot Bread so rather than throwing them away, I just cut them off and coated them with olive oil, pepper, roasted garlic and parsley, then roasted them until they were nice, golden brown croutons. When they were done, I added them to the salad. Delicious! The lunch, the salad and the croutons got rave reviews.

Preheat the oven to 400-425* F or 200-210* C.

I cut the ends off the bread and cubed them. You can make your croutons any size you like, just try to make them fairly even in size so they all cook properly and evenly.

Once the bread is cubed, coat it in olive oil and add the seasonings of your choice. Mix them up a bit. Croutons never have to be the same. This time I used dried roasted garlic, black pepper and parsley. Thoroughly coat the bread with the oil and the seasonings, then place it in a single layer on a baking sheet or in a baking pan.

Roast them for about 30-40 minutes, making sure to turn them and stir them at about the half way point. When they are golden brown and crunchy, they are ready to toss into your favorite salad; or, you can just munch on them one by one by themselves too. I think I munched on as many by themselves as I put into the salad. 🙂

Stay safe and stay well Everyone. ‘Til next time.

Pork Chops the Rocky Mountain Way

Here in Colorado, we live life on OUR terms and we make our own rules. This philosophy is carried out in our cooking as well. We use whatever we have and cook things up just how we want, with big, bold flavors and combinations that others wouldn’t even dare to think about. Sure, there are recipes that don’t always work out as expected, but this is true with anything and any style of cooking. But more so than not, things work out just perfectly and the results are AWESOME! In case you haven’t figured it out already, I am a REBEL! Always have been and always will be too. Maybe this is why I love my adopted state so much. It just fits my personality and my persona. In the kitchen, I am FEARLESS (although this is pretty true in all aspects of my life too). I take bold, rebellious recipes and tweak them even more, giving them my own personality and my own twist. This recipe is no different. I add things; I delete things; I change the cooking methods; you name it, and I am going to find some way to tweak just about everything I make. That’s just who I am and just what I do. 🙂

It was time for some pork in our meat rotation. For some reason, I was really craving something with a honey mustard base, but I also wanted something bigger and bolder too. I went to my Colorado cookbooks and instantly found something that fit the bill – roasted pork chops with olives and artichokes. It uses simple, basic ingredients, but it mixes them together in a different way.

(Sorry for the poor quality of this photo. I couldn’t get it any clearer).

Rocky Mountain Pork Chops with Olives and Artichokes

2 lbs of pork, either chops or tenderloin

2 TBSP garlic, divided

2 TBSP lemon juice, divided

1 tsp lemon and/or lime zest – I used both

3 TBSP honey

2 TBSP Dijon mustard

1/2 red onion, diced fine

1 tsp dried, crushed rosemary

salt to taste

1 tsp black pepper

1 cup of mixed olives – I used 1/2 cup of Kalamata and 1/2 cup of Greek green olives

2 cans artichoke hearts, cut in 1/2, reserve the juice

3/4 cup dry white wine

1 tsp cornstarch

olive oil

Mix 1 TBSP of garlic with the honey, mustard, lemon or lime zest and most of the lemon juice and use as a marinade for the pork. (You can also use this for chicken too). Let it marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours before cooking.

When you are ready to cook the meat, preheat the oven to 375* F or about 190* C. Roast the meat for about 30 minutes or until the internal temperature is 160* F.

While the pork is cooking, make the sauce. Saute the onions and the other TBSP of garlic in the hot olive oil for about 3-5 minutes or until the onions are soft and translucent.

Add the remaining lemon juice, salt, pepper, rosemary, olives, and the artichokes with their juice. I also added the rest of my marinade too, but you do not have to do this if you do not want to. Combine everything together well.

Combine the cornstarch and the wine, and add to the mixture. Bring everything to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and continue to cook for an additional 10-15 minutes, stirring frequently.

When the pork is completely cooked, serve it over either rice or pasta and spoon the sauce over the pork. This meal has it all. You have your protein, your starch and your vegetables, so no need to really serve it with anything else, unless you want to. I served it all along side some warmed bread with an olive oil dipping sauce and, of course, more of the same dry white wine I used for the sauce.

Welcome to the Rocky Mountain style of cooking. One bite and you will definitely be hooked, coming back for more.

Stay safe and stay well Everyone. ‘Til next time.

Nature Walks – More Squirrels

This season, I have seen more squirrels than I have seen in a long time. They are everywhere and it seems like I am seeing a whole bunch just about everyday. They always seem so curious and seem like they are having so much fun. Sometimes they are running along fences and walls and other times they are playing in the trees. And every now and then, I see them rustling through the leaves on the ground. They just love posing for my camera too.

Be like the squirrels and no matter what you do or how you do it, enjoy your days. 🙂

A Trip to Guadalajara

I wish it was a real trip to Guadalajara, but instead it was only a day trip to the restaurant Guadalajara with my friend Kathy. Kathy and I needed a break and we needed some good girlfriend time, so we decided on going out to lunch. We wanted to go some place new, so I literally just went to the “net” and searched for restaurants close by. We decided on Guadalajara in Westminster, not knowing anything about it at all. We were both very pleased with our choice. Guadalajara is an authentic, family owned and operated restaurant that has been in business for 16 years and counting. Business is booming too. The restaurant was started by Mr. Montes in 2004. Mr. Montes and his staff pride themselves on serving “some of the most authentic Mexican food in Colorado. Many of [their] recipes have been passed down from generation to generation giving old school traditional Mexican food straight from grandma’s kitchen” and some have been given a modern twist by their chef. Mr. Montes was born in Guadalajara, Mexico and when he came to Colorado he brought some of his favorite traditional recipes to share with us, in his restaurant Guadalajara, named after and to honor his birth place.

Like a lot of restaurants now, they have gone to a log in, virtual menu. I am not a fan of those, but then I am also a dinosaur too. These logs are good for some people, and definitely have their place, I suppose, but NOT everyone is comfortable with or has the capability to have this as the only type of menu to read from. I definitely fall into this category. You can also read a more traditional menu online and as we found out as we were leaving, they also have a traditional menu outside and on the wall above the kitchen too. This is good to know for next time, and there will definitely be a next time.

As soon as we walked through the doors, the staff greeted us with big smiles. They were very friendly and very helpful. The restaurant was spotlessly clean too. It was all very inviting and welcoming.

After munching on fresh made, warm chips and a delicious spicy fresh salsa, Kathy ordered the #1 – which was a combination plate that included a bean burrito, a beef tamale and a chili relleno.

I ordered something a little different. As you know, I am all about trying new things. So I ordered the #13, which was a roasted pork and bean burrito. The pork is actually served outside of the burrito, for an interesting change of pace.

Both dishes were fabulous, and the homemade freshness made them even better. Everything is made from scratch and made fresh everyday. As you can see, the portions are HUGE! You will definitely NOT leave the restaurant hungry, that’s for sure. Needless to say, we both brought home doggie boxes, and there was still plenty left over for us to enjoy yet another time.

Guadalajara is located at 2835 W. 72nd Avenue in Westminster, Co 80030. You can call ahead and order for either pick-up or dine in at (303) 426-9540, or you can contact them online at guaralajaramexicanrest.com. But just like any restaurant, the best experience comes when you enjoy it in person. Kathy and I both decided we will most definitely be going back for more. Thank you for a much needed break and a delicious dining experience.

Nature Walks – The Hawk

I’ve been busy these past couple of days, and haven’t been in the kitchen or on the computer much. But I have been out walking. For the past two days, there has been a gorgeous red-tailed hawk perched on the roof of one our neighbor’s house. He stands so proud and so majestic. At first I thought he was a golden eagle, but then I realized he was too small and had too much white on him to be a golden eagle. None-the-less, he is still proud, majestic and beautiful.

Don’t be afraid to spread your wings and fly. Soar as high as you can go. The sky is the limit.

Nature Walks – A Winter’s Walk

All the seasons have their beauty and charm. I love taking them all in. My favorite seasons are most definitely Spring and Fall, but I love the warm weather of the summer and the cool, chilly snow covered grounds of the winter too. We are lucky here in Colorado. We certainly get a lot of snow, but unlike many other snowy areas, our snow usually melts off in just a couple of days, bringing us back to sunshine and blue skies. Here are some shots that capture the blue skies and the snow covered grounds all at once.

Our lakes are blanketed in various stages of of snow and ice.

The geese are walking on the waters of the lakes.

Even the prairie dogs are out and about, running and playing in the snow.

Who knows what tomorrow will bring, so enjoy it all and make the most of everyday.

A Quick and Easy Dessert

Because I have just exploded and gotten so fat, I am really trying my best not to eat a lot of desserts. Have you noticed that there haven’t been many desserts on my blog lately? But when people come over for dinner, I feel it is almost an obligation to offer something sweet after we eat. I guess that is just the hostess in me. I guess that part will just never change.

When Elizabeth came over, I needed to make a dessert, but I didn’t want to make too much because we headed out for Hays early the next morning. Ahi Tuna with a Creamy Southwestern Sauce She had brought over some caramel vodka a while ago and wanted to know what to do with it. So for dessert, I just threw something together real quick and used some of the caramel vodka in the sauce. One of my neighbors had given me a carrot raisin loaf, so I heated that up, added some ice cream and made a caramel sauce, using the caramel vodka as well. It was a win/win. Dessert doesn’t have to be fancy to taste good.

Actually, I had Elizabeth make the sauce.

Caramel Cream Sauce

1 1/2 cups sugar

3/4 cup heavy whipping cream

4 oz butter

3 TBSP caramel vodka, optional

Mix everything together in a heavy saucepan. Cook on a medium high heat, stirring constantly in a figure 8 pattern. Cook until everything melts completely and the sauce turns a golden caramel color.

When the sauce is done, add the caramel vodka, if using, and mix in thoroughly.

This sauce can be used for any dessert you want to liven up a bit. You can make anything saucy. 🙂

Stay safe and stay well Everyone. Til next time.

Ahi Tuna with a Creamy Southwestern Sauce

My friend Elizabeth and I were once again in the kitchen cooking together. She is always so much fun in the kitchen because she loves to cook and try just about everything. She has a long list of things she would like to learn how to make. Every time we scratch one thing off the list, about 10 more new things appear. This time, she wanted to try her hand at making Southwestern Ahi Tuna steaks. So we did.

I marinated the tuna steaks in some cumin, sage, cayenne pepper and olive oil for about 30 minutes or so before Elizabeth arrived. Then we made the sauce together. As usual, it only takes a few basic and simple items that we almost always have on hand. I served the tuna steaks over wild rice, with green beans on the side, then topped it with our creamy corn and roasted Hatch pepper chili sauce.

Creamy Southwestern Sauce

This sauce can be used to top just about anything that can handle a bold and strong sauce. It would be great on chicken, steaks, pork, and as you can see, Ahi tuna or swordfish as well.

2 cups corn

1 red bell pepper, diced fine

1 -1 1/2 TBSP garlic

4 roasted Hatch chilies or 1- 2 jalapenos, diced fine

1/2 red onion, diced fine

1/3 cup lime juice

1-11/2 cups heavy whipping cream

1 tsp cayenne pepper or to taste

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp dried sage or 1 TBSP fresh sage, chopped fine

1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped fine

2-3 TBSP butter

oliver oil for cooking

Elizabeth is hard at work, cutting everything to perfection. She always has this big infectious smile, no matter what she is doing. 🙂

Cook the corn, onions, bell pepper and garlic together in the olive oil for about 2-3 minutes, or until the pepper and onions soften.

Add the lime juice and seasonings, and continue to cook until most of the liquid has evaporated. Add the cream and the roasted Hatch chilies and combine thoroughly. Bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer, and continue to cook for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the cilantro and the butter towards the end of the cooking process.

Elizabeth is tasting the final product to make sure all the seasonings and flavors are just right before we serve it over our tuna steaks.

Perfection! It’s ready to go over the tuna. We also let it flow over our green beans as well. I served it with a buttery chardonnay to make the meal complete.

Stay safe and stay well Everyone. ‘Til next time.

Baby Juneau

We just returned home a little while ago. The funeral was a beautiful service and tribute with a military salute since Larry’s brother Jim was a Vietnam Vet. Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers. They mean so much.

On a positive note … We got to meet Baby Juneau, or Juni Bug, today on the way home from Hays. She and her siblings were born in Edson, KS, which was right on the way home, so we stopped in to meet our new baby girl. It was love at first sight. She is absolutely beautiful, just as we already knew she would be, as are her siblings and her momma and her daddy. Momma Kiera came over and gave us her stamp of approval. She knows we will be a good mommy and daddy to her baby girl. But the best news is that she will come home to us this Saturday. WHOOOOO HOOOOOOOO!!!! She will be just 6 weeks old. Here are the pictures we took of our new baby girl. Yes, we are definitely proud parents. 🙂

This is the first picture we got of her.

Momma Kiera with all her babies. Baby Juneau is the gray one on the far right.

Baby Juneau is already snuggling with Daddy.

Mommy is holding Baby Juneau and Daddy is holding one of her sisters. If I could, I would bring her home too.

Mommy and her baby Juni Bug.

Yes, there is no doubt about it. We are proud new parents. But Vinnie is still our number one big boy.

Stay safe and stay well. ‘Til next time.

The Kitchen Will Be Closed for a Few Days

Larry is the youngest of 9, and his oldest brother Jim passed away suddenly on Monday. We will be back in hays for a few days for the funeral. The Kitchen will be closed for a few days until we return home. RIP Jim. You will be missed.

This is Larry and the five of his brothers on our wedding day. Jim is the 2nd to the right.