I’m Off Again

I am “Leaving On A Jet Plane” once again, though I do know when I will be back again. We will only be gone for a little over a week. (Don’t worry, I ALWAYS have someone staying at the house to take care of all the kids when we are gone). We are leaving for the East Coast tomorrow, to celebrate our nephew’s nuptials and to explore the East Coast. Our nephew got married last year, but because of COVID, they put off their big celebration until this year. They are big Star Wars fans, and got married on May 4th, so their reception will also be May 4th – May the 4th be with you. Their celebration will be in West Virginia, but we are flying into Charlotte, North Carolina and will be doing a driving tour all around, seeing as much of the area as we can. One of Larry’s sisters and her family live in Maryland (it is her eldest son that got married).

I will not be posting while we are gone, but you all know I will have a lot of fun and interesting things to share once I get back. So ….. Stay tuned. Don’t touch that dial. 🙂

Nature Walks – The Elegance and Grace of the Egrets

My egrets are back for the season now, and they are looking just as good and elegant and graceful as ever. Maybe it is just me, but I think the egrets are just such elegant, graceful, beautiful birds. I love seeing them, especially when they are wading around in the reeds.

Sometimes the egrets like to hang out with the pelicans, but most of the time, they are pretty solitary and are perfectly happy being by themselves, doing their own thing.

There is beauty in everything, everywhere. Don’t ever get to busy to take it all in. Look around and you’ll be surprised how much beauty is all around you, if you just allow yourself to see it.

Cod a la Romesco

I must have been a Spaniard in another life, though I have no Spanish or Latin blood in my DNA at all. I say this because I seem to always be drawn to all things Spanish, especially its food and music. I love all the passion that goes into everything Spanish.


I wasn’t intentionally looking for a Spanish sauce to go with my cod the other day. I was just looking for a good flavorful sauce that would compliment my fish. But lo and behold, once again, I was drawn to a Spanish sauce that was the perfect choice. I chose a romesco sauce.

Romesco sauce originated in a city called Tarragona, in Catalonia, in the 1400’s. Tarragona is in the northeastern-most region of Spain that touches France. Tarragona is a port city, and the fishermen there made romesco sauce to liven up the day’s catches. The basic ingredients are tomatoes, nuts and garlic, but just like anything you can spice it up and change it around however you like. There is never just one way to make something, especially something that has been around for hundreds of years. There are always going to be many different and delicious variations. It is made with simple, everyday ingredients but it livens up anything it is served with.

I used cod this time around because this is what I had, but the sauce is good over any white fish or anything else for that matter. Romesco is a rustic, ruddy-hued, all-purpose sauce from Catalonia that is served with fish, poultry, meats and vegetables, and in stews.

Spanish Romesco Sauce

3-4 ripe tomatoes

1 TBSP garlic

2 dried ancho chilies

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

1/2 cup water

5 TBSP red wine vinegar

1/4 cup olive oil

1-2 slices dried bread or about 1/4 cup breadcrumbs

1/4 cup almond slivers and/or hazelnuts

1 tsp paprika

salt & pepper to taste

fresh parsley

Combine the water, red pepper flakes, 3 TBSP of the vinegar and the dried chilies in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cover then let it cook for about 10 minutes. Once it has cooked, turn off the heat and just allow it to steep for at least 30 minutes. Then slice open the chilies and remove the seeds.

You can roast your tomatoes, or not. The choice is yours. This particular time, I did not roast my tomatoes because I used some tomatoes that were a little to soft to roast this time around. As always, I like to mix and match my tomatoes too. I just think it adds more layers to the flavor.

Once the chilies are done and the seeds have been removed, place them and all the rest of the ingredients into the food processor and pulse everything together until you have a thick sauce.

Allow the sauce to sit for at least an hour so all the flavors can blend in together before serving, then use it on whatever you like.

I served it over cod. This time I pan-fried my cod. I coated it in flour and salt & pepper then fried it up to a golden, crispy perfection.

Once my fish was done, it was time to serve everything up. I served it over pasta with some green beans and mushrooms, warmed bread and an olive oil dipping sauce, with a light chardonnay on the side. I topped it with a little Parmigiano cheese, chopped parsley and some toasted almonds. !Delicioso!

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

Nature Walks – Pelicans on the Ponds

We are already seeing so many of our great big, beautiful pelicans and it is still very early into the season as well. You don’t realize just how big they are until you see them up close and/or with their wings spanned, like when they are in flight or coming in for the landing. I always love seeing the pelicans on the ponds. Yesterday, there was a big group of them all swimming around together. I think we counted 16 all grouped together.

Sometimes they are swimming as an inclusive group and other times, they are swimming around with friends too. Lately, there have been a couple of cormorants joining them for a swim.

When they have had their swim some will take off for other ponds and places unknown.

While others will stay to enjoy a leisurely day.

I just love it when the pelicans come to play. They can stay all day, and come everyday.

A Polish Feast

The other day, we got together with Julia and Bruce for lunch. As much as Julia and I both love to cook, every now and then we like to take a break from our own kitchens to see what’s cooking in other kitchens as well. And we love trying new ethnic and exotic foods too. This time we decided to go Polish, and we chose to go to Cracovia Polish American Restaurant and Bar, in Westminster, Colorado. It had been a very long time since I was last there, and Larry had never been at all. The food was even better than I remembered. It was AWESOME and amazing and quite a spectacular feast!!!!!

At first, we were the only ones in the restaurant, which means we were really taken care of well. It didn’t take long though before more people started coming in.

Cracovia boasts of offering almost 100 types of vodka, and counting. Obviously, I did NOT try all of those varieties, but I did have to try at least a couple. I mean after all, when in Poland, do as the Polish do, right?!

Our server Melissa was so fun and so friendly, and one of the vodkas offered was called Melissa Vodka, so in her honor, that was one of the vodkas I tried, along with the Huckleberry vodka. Both were good, but I really liked the Huckleberry vodka a lot. I only had a tiny smidgeon of each though. They came to me in ice-chilled shot glasses.

However, I did enjoy a full glass of the Polish Kiss which was made with lavender vodka and had lavender sugar rimmed around the glass. Again, when in Poland ….. This was very tasty.

We kind of went a little overboard when it came to ordering the food, and I think we literally got to sample most of the menu. All of it was totally scrumptious too! We even got to meet and visit with Chef Jutta. She was a lot of fun.

OMG!!!!!!!! Everything was so good, and the food just kept on coming. When I say we feasted, believe me we FEASTED. For as much food as there was, we didn’t leave much behind at all. We must have been really, really hungry. 🙂

Everything is made in-house, using recipes passed down many generations. We started off with the sausage sampler platter that came with a spicy homemade mustard on a sizzling platter.

The sausage sampler platter was the first of many dishes that were brought to the table. Now mind you, we all SPLIT everything, and only had little bits of everything, but a lot of little bits still adds up to A LOT OF FOOD.

Everything came with either soup or salad. There was a pickle soup, the traditional beet soup and the house salad that was topped with cucumber and Mandarin orange slices.

These were followed by the pierogi samplers, with both fried and poached pierogis, and cabbage rolls, again, both fried and poached. They came with plain beets, horseradish beets, a chilled sour cream and dill dip, sour cream, bacon, mushroom gravy and tomato sauce.

We didn’t stop there. Oh no, no, no. There was still a lot more food yet to come our way. Next came the goulash pancake with mashed potatoes. And we ate everything Melissa placed in front of us too.

And then came a grilled meat and rib platter and a fruit drink that was a palette cleanser and more mustard sauce.

And last but not least, a delicious custard filled donut. We barely had room enough to split it four ways, but we did. We just had to try it. It was the perfect ending to a perfect lunch.

Melissa kept offering the back room for us so we could stretch out and “sleep it all off”. We were very tempted to take her up on her offer too. I think we all needed to be rolled out in wheelbarrows. We were SOOOOO full, but as I said, everything was absolutely DELICIOUS! Bruce and Julia said they did not eat anything else for the rest of the day, and the only thing we had, and it was much, much later, was popcorn.

Cracovia Restaurant & Bar is a family-owned and operated restaurant that prides itself on being the most authentic Polish-American restaurant in Colorado. [They} use only the finest ingredients in [their] kitchen and ensure each dish has the warmth of a traditional home-cooked meal.  The owners are the executive chefs, immigrating from Poland about 27 years ago and bringing with them over 20 years of cooking experience. [They] have been recognized by Urbanspoon’s Best of Denver, Yellow Scene, The Denver Post, The Best of Yelp, Westword and other publications. [They] have also been labeled Best Polish Restaurant Denver, as well as Best Polish Restaurant in Colorado!”

Cracovia Restaurant opened in September of 2008 at the peak of the recession, in hopes of uniting the Polish community that is dispersed through out the metro area. Owners Lester and Maria Rodzen escaped from Communist Poland in the 80’s in hopes for a better life. Shortly after, they started their own business in real estate. After the fall of the housing market, it was time to return back to what they knew. They started the first Polish newspaper in Denver called Echa Kolorado. Soon after, they began to envision a place where people from the community could come enjoy great food, strong drinks, live music, and talk about their polish roots. It didn’t take long to put the plan into action. In less than one year, the front doors of Cracovia Restaurant opened!”

“The name Cracovia is derived from the second largest city in Poland. Krakow, is a culturally vibrant metropolis, where Lester & Maria first met. Specifically, Cracovia means that something is “of the essence of Krakow”. If you should ever visit the beautiful city, you will find an abundance of hotels and restaurants with a similar name”.

A big HUGE thank you to Melissa, Chef Jutta, and Cracovia for welcoming us into your “home” and for treating us like royalty. It was such a fun lunch and you all made it very special as well.

Cracovia Polish Restaurant and Bar is located at 8121 West 94th Avenue, Westminster, Colorado 80021. You can call them at (303) 484-9388 or visit them online at http://www.CracoviaRestaurant.com. When you go, bring your appetites, your sense of fun and adventure and good friends or family to help share the meal. We ordered the variety sampler platters, and you can see how much food we got. Everything was FANTASTIC! We will definitely be going back again very soon.

Life in Caldwell

This is the last of my posts about Idaho. These pictures are from my last day there. Scott and Traci took us into Downtown Caldwell. They live in Caldwell too, but more towards the rural area. What a beautiful, charming place. I could easily live here.

There was everything from beautiful, artistic sculptures, paintings and bridges,

to a fun, musical playground for both kids and adults to enjoy,

to a little vineyard showcasing the types of grapes grown in the area.

Swiffer enjoyed his day downtown too.

There were also colorful displays of Caldwell’s history all over as well.

On the way back to Scott and Traci’s house, this is what we saw. We passed the dairy farm and even saw some goats too. This is definitely living the good life in small town Americana.

Bye-bye Idaho. I had such a fun time touring all around, seeing your sights and visiting with my great, long-time friends Scott, Traci and Karen. I will definitely be back for more.

This beautiful sculpture hangs in the Boise airport.

Time For Gumbo

Not to long ago, we started watching “America’s Test Kitchen“. They have some great ideas. I have not watched to many episodes yet, but so far, I have learned something new from each episode we’ve watched. My latest lesson from them was about making a dry roux and using it for gumbo. I love gumbo and just had to give this recipe a try. It was deliciously rich with flavor. I served it with red beans and rice, some rolls and a smooth velvety malbec on the side.

There are many types of gumbo, and I have made quite a few. I love gumbo. But this is the first time I made it with a dry roux. To make a dry roux, you roast the flour in the oven for an hour at 425* F or about 270* C. When you remove the flour from the oven, it is a rich cinnamon/nutmeg color. Don’t over cook it and burn it or it will taste like burnt coffee. When cooked properly, it will have a very nutty aroma too. I did not add anything to the flour at all; just time in the oven.

Once the flour was out of the oven to cool, I made everything else for the gumbo.

Gumbo

1 cup flour roasted in the oven to a dark cinnamon or nutmeg color

1 onion, diced fine

2-3 celery sticks, diced fine

1 bell pepper, diced fine

1 TBSP garlic

1 lb Andouille sausage, sliced

1 jalapeno, diced fine

2 lbs chicken breast, cut into large chunks

1 TBSP fresh thyme, chopped fine

5-6 cups chicken broth

1 tsp cayenne pepper

2 bay leaves

1 TBSP paprika

salt & pepper to taste

Cajun or Creole seasoning to taste

olive oil for cooking

The onion, green bell pepper and celery are known as the “Holy Trinity” in Cajun or Creole cooking and are the basics for ALL Cajun or Creole recipes. I also added the jalapeno because we like things with a bit of a kick, so I call it the Holy Trinity plus one. Saute all of these along with the garlic and the bay leaves in olive oil for about 5 minutes, or until the onions are translucent.

Add the chicken, Andouille sausage, seasonings, and about 4 cups of the chicken broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and continue to cook for about 10 minutes.

Combine the rest of the chicken broth with the browned flour, by slowing pouring it over the flour and whisking it in. Once the flour and broth are combined to make a thick slurry, add it to the rest of the gumbo mixture.

Once everything is added, add the fresh thyme, combine everything together thoroughly, cover and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and continue to cook for about an hour, stirring occasionally.

When the gumbo is ready serve it either over plain rice or red beans and rice and laissez le bontemps roulez!

Let the good times roll and enjoy them all. Stay safe and stay well Everyone. ‘Til next time.

Boise in Bloom

I had such a great time up in Boise with my friends Scott, Traci and Karen. Even though we were only there for a few short days, we did a whole bunch of things and saw so much. Everything was so beautiful, particularly since everything was in bloom and all the colors were coming to life.

These tulips were so big and bright and colorful. We took a lot of pictures of them. This is in Downtown Boise.

There were also a bunch of daffodils mixed in with all the tulips too.

The flowers were all in bloom and in full color. They were so vibrant.

The trees were also proudly displaying their full colors. These trees were everywhere and oh so beautiful.

No matter where you are or what you are doing, always take time to stop and smell the flowers. Enjoy all the little things life offers and make the time to share it with family, friends and loved ones.

Breadsticks with Peppercorns and Parmigiano

I LOVE breads of all kinds. I could easily make a meal of nothing but bread, and have many times too. Many years ago, when I lived in the San Francisco area, I used to buy a mini baguette everyday while walking from the bus stop to my office and I had it timed just perfectly where I would finish it just as I walked into the building. That was breakfast, and often times lunch for the day too. That was back in the days where EVERY penny was counted and I had to make things stretch as far as I could just to make ends meet. But I digress. Back to breads and back to the present.

I LOVE breads of all kinds. If something is breaded, it is almost always guaranteed that I am going to love it. For whatever reason, I don’t make breadsticks all that often though and I really don’t know why either. They are no more difficult to make than any other kind of bread, and they taste great too. I did, however, make some very tasty breadsticks the other day. I took them “wining” with us when we went to InVINtions. These particular breadsticks are loaded with flavor and have just enough kick to them to wake up your taste buds a bit. I made them with crushed peppercorns, a dash of cayenne pepper and Parmigiano cheese. They paired perfectly with wine, but then just about everything does in my book. 🙂

As with so many of the things I cook, this recipe only requires a few simple, basic ingredients that most of us have on our shelves at all times.

Parmigiano and Peppercorn Breadsticks

2 tsp dry active yeast

3 1/2 cups flour

1 1/2 cups warm water

2 tsp salt

2 1/2 TBSP crushed black peppercorns

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

2 TBSP olive oil +more for cooking

1 cup grated or shredded Parmigiano cheese

1/2 cup semolina flour

Make your starter first by combining the yeast with 1/2 cup of water and 1/2 cup of flour. Mix them together and let stand for about 30 minutes. You want it to become thick and frothy.

Combine the rest of the regular flour, salt, cayenne pepper, crushed peppercorns, Parmigiano cheese, water and the 2 TBSP of olive oil and mix everything together thoroughly. Then add the starter and incorporate it into the mix.

Once everything is fully combined, on a lightly floured surface, shape the dough into a 15×5 rectangular shape, brush with olive oil, cover it loosely with plastic wrap and let it rise for 1 1/4 hours.

Preheat the oven to 450* F or about 230* C.

On a lightly floured surface, punch the dough down and sprinkle the semolina flour generously on both sides of the dough. Cut the dough into 5 equal portions, and then divide each of those portions into 5 more equal portions and roll into dough balls. You will have 25 dough balls.

Roll each dough ball out into a thin pencil shape, about 8-10 inches long.

Coat your baking sheets in olive oil then roll each dough stick with the olive oil by rolling them on the pan. Spread them out about an inch apart. Bake for about 10-15 minutes or until they are golden and crispy. The key to good breadsticks is to make them nice and crispy. I kept them in the oven, with the oven off, and let them “cool” on their own in the oven to help crisp them up.

These are very good as is, or served with either pesto or marinara sauce on the side. I made a pesto this time and served them with that. Man cannot live on bread alone; sometimes you need a sauce to go with it. These breadsticks were a big hit with everyone and they all quickly disappeared too.

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

Chicken Stuffed with Krab and Spinach

I have been back home and have been cooking in my kitchen again. I had been eating a lot of beef and heavier foods lately, and I was craving chicken. But you know me, I am never going to have “just chicken”, and I love stuff in my stuff, so I created something different and dressed it up a little. I had a few containers of little bits of this and little bits of that I had to use up, including some krab (imitation crab) and spinach that needed to be used, so I mixed them together and added some shallots and garlic and stuffed my chicken with it. Then I made a creamy sauce to top it and served it over wild rice.

Look closely. You will see my kitchen thief in her corner, waiting for the perfect opportunity to steal what I have on the counter. She didn’t get anything this time, but she did a couple of days later. She is most definitely an opportunist. 🙂

It is amazing what you can do with just a few simple ingredients. All you have to do is add some creativity and imagination and just see what you come up with. 🙂

Chicken Stuffed with Crab and Spinach

2 lbs chicken breasts

2 cups fresh baby spinach, stems removed

1 cup either crab or krab, diced medium

3 oz cheese – I used jalapeno jack

1 TBSP garlic

1 shallot, minced fine

olive oil

salt & pepper to taste

1/2 cup flour

1/3 -1/2 cup vinaigrette

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

2 tsp fresh herbs, chopped fine – I used fresh thyme and chives this time around

1 TBSP Peruvian peppers, optional

Mix the flour with the salt & pepper and thoroughly coat the chicken with it.

Mix the shallots, spinach, garlic, crab or krab and the salt & pepper.

Heat some olive oil in a hot skillet and add the chicken. Cook it for about 4 minutes per side or until it is browned on both sides. Once it has browned, remove the chicken from the heat and allow it to cool for a bit. Once it has cooled, slice a pocket in the middle.

Preheat the oven to 375* F or about 190* C.

Spray a baking dish with cooking spray.

While the chicken is cooling, saute the krab and spinach mixture for about 5 minutes, or until the shallots are cooked and the spinach is wilted. When it is done, add the cheese into the chicken pockets, then fill them with the krab and spinach mixture. Fill them up well. Then place them in the prepared baking dish and drizzle some olive oil on top of the chicken breasts. Bake uncovered for about 30-40 minutes, or until the chicken is completely cooked and the juices are running clear.

To make the sauce, I used some leftover champagne vinaigrette I had, but you can use lemon juice, lime juice or wine too. I was just cleaning out my leftovers. Add it to the skillet and bring to a boil to deglaze the pan. Allow most of the liquid to evaporate then add the heavy whipping cream and adjust the seasonings as needed. Bring to a boil once again, then reduce the heat to a simmer and continue to cook for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly.

I added some more lime juice because I wanted a little more zip. But this is optional. Then finish the sauce with about 2 TBSP of butter.

Once the chicken and sauce are done, serve it over rice and top the chicken with the sauce. I used wild rice, but white rice or brown rice are just fine too. I topped my chicken and sauce with the fresh herbs and the Peruvian peppers and voila! All I needed was some bread and a light white wine to go with it, and dinner was done.

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