Summer, Fall or Winter?

In the past 24 hours, Colorado’s weather has been all over the place.  Yesterday, the temperature was about 80* F and I was quite comfortable in shorts.  Last night, when I left swim practice, the wind was howling and the temperature had dropped about 25*.  This morning, it was cold, but not terrible and no snow.  Thursdays are my busy class days, and I had a break in between classes this morning, so my boss sent me on a coffee run to Starbucks.  From the time I first got into work until the time I left for coffee, the sky had dropped about 4″ of fresh snow, and it is still snowing.  This is our first snow of the season too.  It’s a little early, but not unheard of. But for this being our first snow, we are getting hit pretty hard.  It’s like Fall was only here for a short time and then all of a sudden – B-O-O-M!!!! Winter hit, out of nowhere.  I cancelled my other two classes for today, and believe me, I am very glad I did too.  The roads were a mess, and there were quite a few accidents.  Some roads have already been closed.  My car thermometer read 19* F when I got home.  It is very cold outside, but at least I made it home safe and sound.  I am enjoying another “cuppa” as I write, to help “warm the cockles of my heart”.

This is what it looks like right now at my house.

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I knew the snow was coming, but I did not expect so much. Last night was a cold night too, but nothing like today.  I was prepared though and made a hearty Shepherd’s pie.  When I first mentioned it to Larry, he was not so keen on the idea because he thought it was to warm to make it, but when we were eating it last night, he was glad I made that choice.  It really helped warm us up.  It was just a simple meal of my Shepherd’s pie with some warmed sourdough bread and red wine.  This is one of our wines that we made.  (I know, I had a smudge on my lens, but I have since cleaned it off).

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Jeanne’s Shepherd’s Pie

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2-3 lbs ground hamburger

1/2 onion, diced fine

1 carrot, diced fine

1 cup of frozen peas

3 potatoes, one cut into a small dice for the filling and the other two for mashed potatoes

1 TBSP garlic

1 cup of green beans, cut small – I used fresh, frozen are fine too.

1/2 cup flour

1 cup heavy whipping cream – about 1/2 cup for the filling and the rest for the mashed potatoes

salt & pepper to taste

fresh thyme

butter/olive oil for cooking and more butter for the mashed potatoes

 

Cook one potato, the garlic, onions and vegetables in the butter/olive oil until the potatoes are soft, about 10 minutes, then add the ground beef, mix in thoroughly and continue to cook until the beef is completely cooked.  Add the seasonings and the thyme and mix together thoroughly.

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Once the meat is completely cooked, add the flour and the cream and mix in well to make your sauce and to bind everything together.

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When the sauce is made, continue to cook for about 5 minutes, at a reduced heat.  Then spoon the mixture either into a baking pan or individual ramekins sprayed with cooking spray.

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While the filling is cooking, boil the other potatoes to make the mashed potatoes.  Normally, I like my mashed potatoes a little heavier, but for this dish, I made them nice and creamy so I could pipe them onto the filling.  I make my mashed potatoes with heavy whipping cream, but you can make them however you like.  When the potatoes are cooked, mash them up, making sure to get all the lumps out.  You can either spoon them onto the filling or pipe them with a piping bag.  I like to pipe mine.  Once the filling has been topped with the potatoes, bake at 350* F or 180* C for about 30-40 minutes, or until the potatoes are lightly golden on top and have a little bit of a crust to them.  Then, eat away and enjoy the simple goodness of Shepherd’s Pie.

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The RiNo Art Walk

Part of how Janet wanted to celebrate her birthday was by strolling along in the RiNo District to see all the street art.  We did that before dinner at Barcelona.  Birthday Celebrations – Part 2 – Barcelona.  Some of the art is just amazing.  There are some very talented artists who have painted their work on anything that stands.  Some of the streets have art work, most of the building do, and even some of the gates and electrical boxes do as well.  It’s really pretty fascinating to see what a lot of imagination and some paint will do to add personality to a place.

The RiNo District, or River North District of Denver, is an interesting blend of urban charm and unique industrial revival that has become quite the tourist destination for things to do in Denver.  It is on the Top 10 list of U.S. neighborhoods to visit.  Old historic warehouses and factories have been converted to restaurants, bars, jazz and night clubs, and homes where people live. The people that live and work in the RiNo are a diverse mix of creative people and business owners ranging from visual artists, designers and furniture makers, to craft distillers and brewers, winemakers, creators of unique outdoor gear and small-batch coffee roasters.   The “RiNo District is playing center stage for the resurgent arts and cultural scenes that have transformed D-Town into the cultural dynamo of the American West.”  – Greg Benchwick.  Once you get there, park the car and walk the area to really experience all it has to offer and to see all its charm and beauty.

The Rhino, or RiNo, as it is known in these parts, has become the symbol for the District.

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Here is just a sampling of some of the art on display in the RiNo.  There are some truly amazing artists in this community.  There are NO rules, and the artists have created whatever their muses spoke to them with.

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If you look at this picture one way, you see a boy.

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If you look at it from the other direction, you see a girl.

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Even our state flag made the murals.

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Some of the artists in action.

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These are but a few fantastic samples.  You have to go to the RiNo and see all the art for yourself, up close and in person, to fully appreciate it.  I hope you all enjoyed this little artistic diversion.

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Reblog: Janine Strange: Thanks to a Vietnam Vet

What a great idea to all those who served in Vietnam. Thank you. YOU ARE ALL greatly appreciated.

e-Quips

…and now for MISSION 38: Send Welcome Home love and Birthday wishes to Sgt Dennis Degnan USMC, Ret.

Like so many of our Vietnam Veterans, Dennis did not receive a warm welcome home. Not until 30 years after he returned from Vietnam, did someone welcome him home and thank him for his service. His wife sent this:

Dennis joined the Marine Corps at age 17 to  pay for college. Then after boot camp, he agreed to go to Vietnam  because they told him it would shorten his enlistment period. They  also told him he would be a typist, which was originally true. So he agreed. Upon arrival in the Danang airport, his orders were changed from typist to sniper and he found himself in the jungle a couple of days later. About 10 months later, he was shot 3 times and airlifted out. He spent 9 months in Bethesda Naval…

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Birthday Celebrations – Part 2 – Barcelona

Even though it seems as though I have not been cooking in my own kitchen much these days, I really have been cooking here at home too.  The things I have been preparing are “repeats” of dishes and recipes you have already seen though, so I have not been posting about those.  We’ve been to busy celebrating.  There has been a lot to celebrate lately; our anniversary and 2 birthdays.

We celebrated yet another birthday this week.  This time it was my friend Janet’s birthday.   She chose to go to Barcelona, a Spanish Tapas restaurant that has an ever-changing menu of different tapas and Spanish dishes that highlight the ever-changing seasons of Colorado.  Barcelona is also known as a wine bar, and “offers an award-winning selection of wines from Spain and South America—and boasts one of the largest Spanish wine programs in the U.S”.  We once again ate in the Spanish way and embraced the Spanish tapas tradition of sharing it with friends and wine.   We ordered a variety of different tapas plates to share around the table and a couple of bottles of Spanish wines, including 1 Temperanillo and 1 Albarino, and a couple of glasses of sangria as well.  We all ate to much, but we all had a great time, especially the birthday girl.

Here we are in front of the wine room.  We are ready to party.

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All the tapas from which to choose.  So many from which to choose and not nearly enough room in our tummies.

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Chef Riley even came to the table.  Chef Riley and Chef Jeanne were exchanging ideas.  It turns out he is a new “neighbor” of mine.  He just bought a house very close to where I live.

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And the real stars ….. the tapas.

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Of course there was wine too.  Milo, our server, presenting the Albarino I chose.  It was an excellent choice too, I have to say.

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We even had cake.  Milo brought out a special goat cheese cheesecake with cherries for the birthday girl, Janet.

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We all had a fabulous time.  It was a perfect evening.  Barcelona Wine Bar is a definite must when visiting Denver, and particularly the RiNo district, also known as the River North District.

Barcelona Wine Bar is located at 2900 Larimer Street, Denver, CO 80205.  You can reach them online at barcelonawinebar.com or on facebook at facebook.com/bwbrino or just give them a call at (303) 816-3300.  The location may say Denver, but your heart will definitely say Spain.

 

 

 

Birthday Celebrations – Part 1 – 5280 Burger Bar/5280 Ice Cream

Denver, Colorado is known for many things.  One of those things is that Denver is lovingly called the mile high city because the City of Denver sits a mile above sea level.  One mile = 5,280 feet which = 1600 meters which = 1.6 km.   As a swimmer, and a distance swimmer at that, I have swam (and still do) many, many millions of miles and meters, so I am very familiar with all these numbers, but I digress.  We have many bars, restaurants, magazines, and all sorts of other businesses that have 5280 in their names.  One such local restaurant is called 5280 Burger Bar and they also have an ice cream shop attached to the restaurant known as 5280 Ice Cream.  Currently there are 2 5280 Burger Bars, one in Denver and the other one is Westminster.

The other day we had the pleasure of going to 5280 Burger Bar in Westminster to celebrate Nadeen’s birthday.  Nadeen is the exchange student who is living with our friends Janet and Bob for the year.  She comes from a small town in Israel, and she is quickly getting used to life here in America.  It’s all a brand new world to her.  Since none of us had ever been to 5280 Burger Bar before, but we had been planning on going for quite some time, we thought Nadeen’s birthday was a perfect opportunity to go try it out.

5280 Burger Bar and Ice Cream was an idea that was “conceived by two guys who simply love great burgers”.  The owners and creators of 5280 Burger Bar and Ice Cream are Don Redlinger and Clay McPhail.  Their concept was to create a gourmet, hand-crafted burger bar, restaurant, and ice cream shop, using all the freshest and best local ingredients around.  The first restaurant opened in Downtown Denver, in the Denver Pavilions area.  All the beef and and produce come from locally owned and operated farmers and producers and they offer 12 locally brewed Colorado beers on tap.  This is truly a home grown and local business, and it is a win/win that helps everyone in the community.  Everything on the menu is hand made from scratch everyday, including the buns for the burgers, and they offer a variety of different buns too.  The burgers include everything from beef to buffalo to veggie and vegan burgers, as well as salmon, tuna and chicken for the non beef eaters.  There really is something for everyone.  5280 Burger Bar and Ice Cream’s motto is “Whether you’re looking for a hand-crafted burger, house-made ice cream, brew or signature drink, we welcome you and look forward to serving you soon!”  This motto was definitely being honored when we visited.

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The decor of the restaurant is modern and hip, and is very friendly and welcoming to everyone.  Once we sat down, Quinn, our server, came over and made all of us feel right at home.  She was so much fun and so full of personality.  Quinn was a true delight.

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We all ordered our burgers and salads, which of course, were amazing.  You could definitely taste all the freshness in every bite.  As you can see, The Denver Broncos were playing that day, and we locals were showing our support for our team, even though they ended up losing at the last minute.  Quinn was so cute.  How could she not notice we were Bronco fans, and when they lost, she even drew a picture of Traveler (the horse) on our check and said she was sorry our team lost.  We all ordered the sliders, which were big burgers all on their own, and they came with delicious salads too.  And of course we had to order some of the delicious home made fries as well.  We all had a fantastic feast.

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During our meal, EJ, aka Enermy Jean, the General Manager, came over to introduce himself to us.  He is another gem and real asset to the restaurant.  He, like Quinn, was also a lot of fun and beaming with personality.  When we told him we were celebrating Nadeen’s birthday, he invited next door to 5280 Ice Cream after we finished our meal, for some amazing home-made ice cream for dessert.  We were already very full, but how could we resist?!

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There were so many different flavors that it was hard to choose.  I was so full, I actually had to pass, but I enjoyed the few bites I stole from Larry’s ice cream.  Once again, it was huge hit and all the flavors were out of this world.

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Whether you are in Denver or in Westminster, visiting 5280 Burger Bar and Ice Cream is a definite must.  You and your taste buds will be very happy indeed.

We went to 5280 Burger Bar in Westminster, located at 4301 Main Street, Westminster, CO 80031.  Their phone number is (720) 887-5970.  I am sure we will be frequent visitors, since this is literally just down the street from us.

The Denver location is 500 16th Street Mall, #160, Denver, CO 80202 and their phone number is (303) 825-1020.

5280 Burger Bar and Ice Cream get 5***** in my book.  We are so glad we went and you will be too.

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Red, Red Rice

Red rice, or arroz rojo, is a very popular side dish for just about any Mexican or Southwestern meal around.  Red rice is also known as both Spanish rice or Mexican rice, although they do not traditionally eat red rice in Spain.  So how did it become known as Spanish rice then if they don’t eat it in Spain?  Well, there are a couple of theories.  The first is that since it was introduced to Mexico by the Spanish through their conquests in Asia and the Philippines, it was called Spanish rice.  The second theory is because they speak Spanish in Mexico, and this is a traditional dish in Northern Mexico, it is called Spanish rice. This dish is eaten almost daily by most people who live in Northern Mexico yet in Southern Mexico, the people eat white rice instead.  The red color comes from using either pureed tomatoes or tomato sauce or ketchup.   There are many different ways to make this traditional Mexican dish, but it almost always is made with chicken broth, tomatoes, garlic, chilis and onions.  Everything else is just a bonus.

I made my red rice to serve with my chipotle mushrooms Chipotle Mushrooms and empanadas.  Pork and Pumpkin Empanadas.  It made for a perfect Southwestern meal.

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Red Rice

This is but one of countless versions of this dish.  This is one of the easiest ways to prepare red, Spanish or Mexican rice.

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2 cans chicken broth – I made my own

1/2 tsp cumin

1 TBSP garlic

1/4 onion, chopped fine

1/2 tsp

chili lime seasoning

1 /2 tsp coriander

1 tsp each  fresh oregano and thyme, chopped fine

1 cup rice

salt & pepper to taste

3 TBSP butter

3 TBSP ketchup or tomato paste

 

Mix the seasonings, chicken broth and ketchup together and set aside.

 

Saute the onions and garlic in the butter in a sauce pan for about 2-3 minutes, then add the rice and mix it in thoroughly.  Toast it slightly for about 2-3 minutes, then add the chicken broth mixture.

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Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer and continue to cook for about 20 minutes, or until the liquid has evaporated and the rice is cooked and tender.  Add the oregano and thyme to the mixture once you have reduced the heat.

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When the rice is done, serve it up with your favorite Mexican or Southwestern cuisine and enjoy.  !Desfruita!

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Chipotle Mushrooms

Mushrooms have been a popular food around the world for centuries.  They have also been used for medicinal purposes for centuries as well.  It is estimated there are between 300-2000 different types of mushrooms, but in the United States, there are only about 10 types that are grown commercially.  Mushrooms for culinary purposes were first  introduced to the United States in the 19th century, from France, where they had been cultivated since the 1600’s.  Today, the United States is second only to China in mushroom production.

There are many health benefits associated with eating mushrooms.  Not only are they used medicinally, but they also contain a lot of protein and fiber, and are loaded with minerals such as copper, potassium and selenium, which helps prevent cell and tissue damage as well as helps to support the immune system.  Mushrooms also contain  vitamins such as vitamins B and D and are high in anti-oxidants.

I have always been a big fan of mushrooms, long before I found out how healthy they are for us.  I can and will eat them no matter how they are cooked.  I could easily put mushrooms in everything, or just eat them all on their own.  I cook with a lot of mushrooms.

The last time I made empanadas  Pork and Pumpkin Empanadas,  I froze some.  I took those out of the freezer for dinner last night.  I was looking for some quick and easy side dishes that would go well with the empanadas, and decided on some chipotle mushrooms and red rice or arroz rojo.  I also had some leftover roasted pepper sauce that I used to top the empanadas, which was a very nice accompaniment.

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Chipotle Mushrooms

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2 chipotle peppers with sauce, chopped fine

1/4 cup butter

1/2 yellow onion, chopped fine.

1 TBSP garlic

1 lb mushrooms, stems removed, but kept whole

1/2 cup grape tomatoes, quartered

1-2 tsp fresh oregano, chopped fine

 

Saute the onions, peppers and garlic together in the butter for about 5-7 minutes, or until the onions are translucent.  Then add the mushrooms, bottoms down and stir into the mixture.

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Cook for about 5 minutes, then turn the mushrooms face down and continue to cook for about another 5 minutes.  Add the tomatoes and cook for just a couple minutes more.  Add the oregano and mix into the sauce right before serving.

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The mushrooms went very nicely with the red rice or the arroz rojo.  It was a perfect early fall meal.  Delicioso!

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