Saturday, February 27, 2010


The moment I laid eyes on a squash blossom necklace it was the beginning of the end for me - I simply HAD to have one.

This epiphany occurred during my first Frontier Days a couple years ago in the Indian Village.  Everywhere you turn there is amazing Western jewelry and hanging everywhere are squash blossom necklaces.

It's out of control - kind of like my longing for one.  Every time I pass a display case with them in it I stop in my tracks and just want to die with desperation for it.  I lovingly run my fingers over them.  I try them on.  And ultimately, at generally upwards of $700 a pop, I put them back...walking sadly away.

Todd has even said he thinks he might have to give me an engagement squash blossom versus a ring.

The thought gave me pause.

Then one day, a month or so back, Todd and I went to the Eclectic Elephant, an antiques place in town.  And there in the display case lay a beautiful turquoise squash blossom - and a sign saying all jewelry 50 percent off.

O - M - G.

I knew I still couldn't justify the price, but I had the sales lady pull it out just the same.  I just HAD to see what the discount would knock the price down to...



I was momentarily stunned - could I have some crazy, CRAZY find on my hands?? - before my good sense came back and I knew, with great disappointment, it wasn't real.

But did I care?  I had to ask myself if I could in good conscience wear an IMPOSTER.  Wouldn't I be a poser?  A total wanna-be?  Yes.

But I told myself I wouldn't wear it around town.  I'd only wear it in states outside the Western ones. Nobody would know then...

I bought it.  I just couldn't help it.  How in the gol-darn world could I pass it up??  I put it on in the car and wore it ALL night long.  Todd told me I was like a kid who couldn't wait to play with a new toy.  I'm ok with that.

And one day...not being able to take it staring at me from my dresser any more...I wore it to work!

I was apprehensive.  What would I say when people inevitably ask me where I got my squash blossom - because people always do.  And they did.  So, I came clean. But nobody judged.  Instead, they cooed over it!  One coworker even told me I should have it examined to see if it's worth more because, she said, she would never guessed it to be a FAKE.

What does it look like...?  Take a gander... The flash lighting is really annoying, but you can still see it.



I still don't think I'll have the guts to pull it out during Frontier Days, but who knows?  I'm so crazy happy about it I'm becoming almost brazen about wearing it.

Who'll know?

Friday, February 26, 2010

Beef Bourgin-WHAT?

(Note: In a first-time ever move on the blog there is a co-poster!  Linds H. will share her perspective of our adventure! Linds' commentary will appear in italics.)

I've seen the movie and read the book Julie and Julia, have read Julia Child's biography, have even seen the exhibit of her kitchen at the Smithsonian American History Museum (my fave of those museums, BTW), but...
I have never made a Julia Child recipe in my life.

There.  A kitchenista's scarlet letter confession.

I've wanted to...but have just never done it.  So, when Linds proposed making Julia's famous Boeuf Bourguignon (a word I can NOT say to save my life.  Truly.  If my life depended on it, I would be dead.) (Say it with me, people - bore-geen-yon - not that hard) I excitedly jumped at the chance.  Not just because it was my first Julia recipe, but because Linds and I have never really cooked together - and of our girlfriend group of four we're the two that really cook a lot!  I just thought it would be fun since Kim would be at my house for the day and overnight, and give us something to do indoors besides *just* drink.  Turns out, it was the perfect recipe as it called for an entire bottle of wine.

The Great Book.  I will be purchasing a copy of this soon... (Your birthday is coming - please don't.)

The famous recipe...The recipe is really quite simple and we were going to follow it to a T.  I felt that, for my first foray in to French Cooking, the recipe shouldn't be messed with.  I wanted to know what it was like when Julia made it...

Now, you would think for two gals who spend as much time cooking as we do we'd have very few questions.  But right off the bat Linds and I had to confer on what we thought Julia was referring to as the bacon rind.  We figured it was the fat, but exactly which section of fat? We finally agreed to just cut away everything but the actual meat.  The recipe calls for the rind later, so we'd just use it then. 

Except we couldn't.  Linds unthinkingly threw it away.  Oops.  Oh well.  It saved us a few calories, which is not very Julia-like, I know! 

Linds and I had to confer once again about the browning of the meat.  She was concerned it wasn't browned enough; I thought it was.  Linds said they're supposed to be "super browned", but the recipe only says "nicely browned."  I thought her need for something to be so brown was strange given she and her husband's opinion on what constitutes toast.  They like warm bread, I believe in some color.  It was a complete role-reversal for us!  I said I would take the blame if the recipe was ruined...  I take serious offense at that toast comment.  Kim, the word "blackened" is usually only attached to things like shrimp, or tuna.  Not bread. 

Don't these look yum?  

At this point we've added some salt and pepper, and some flour.  The above browned veggies are in the pot and it's simmering nicely in the oven.  Time for a break!  Linds decided to take a pull from the bottle.  We're fun in the kitchen and don't you forget it!

Not wanting to be outdone, I did the same.  Only biting, as Linds said, "seductively," on a leftover piece of bacon.  Wine, bacon and babes!  Sounds like late-night Cinemax...  Don't be fooled, though.  Nothing remotely sexy about this.  We at a lot of bacon that day. We didn't even have eye makeup on.  It was Sunday for Pete's sake.

Ok. Back to the recipe.  Next we threw in some crushed garlic, fresh thyme, the three cups of wine from the bottle sampled above, and some tomato paste you can see stuck to Linds' finger here.  She should've been a hand model, don't you think...?

Now it's into the oven!  Julia wants you to, "monitor the heat constantly"...but forget that!  It has to simmer for three hours!  We went shopping.

And when we came back - empty handed - we got to work on the next part: Preparing the mushrooms and more onions.  Look at these beauties!  I absolutely love, love, love sauteed mushrooms...

And the pearl onions.  Don't they look delish? They were my favorite part.

The mushrooms and onions get dumped in to the simmering goodness, and that's all supposed to get strained to separate the juice from the solids.  Then you're supposed to simmer the juice on its own, skimming the fat off the top.  But there wasn't any.  Oh yeah...!  That's where the rind came in.  Oh well.   That rind would not have made a bit of difference.  I meant to throw it out.

Finally!  Only five hours later...voila!!

Linds boiled up some egg noodles to serve it over.  Here's the plated version...

And the taste?

I think Linds' face says it all... Or maybe the way Nate is hunkered down over his bowl....

I am very happy with our experience and the finished dish.  It was fun!  And I finally feel like I've become a part of an elite-but-not-really group of Julia Child cooks; as though my kitchen resume has been bolstered.

I've made Boeuf Bourguignon!  I'm so accomplished.   Now, if only you could pronounce it.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Coming and going

I love having a house in Cheyenne for one big reason: Lots of friends and family pass through town and stop by.  

Over the last couple of months we've had lots of visitors with more to come.  My parents, Candice, Kristy, Jenn and Mike, Jes`us, Lori, Elly, Todd's best friend next week, and maybe my sister and her kids at the end of March.

It's nice to be able to see everyone as frequently as I have.  

Lori and Elly came over the week after my parents were here.  We had pizza and Old Fashioneds, a Todd speciality, and I made them eat the rest of the German chocolate cake I made for my dad.

What good guests! made the blog!!  :)

Sunday, February 21, 2010


Or more accurately, acquired: My Trailheads hat.

I couldn't actually find my old hat, so I had to order a new one.

Its arrival was one of the most exciting things EVER!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Silence and noise

I came home from work tonight and the house was just...silent.

That's because Todd left this morning for a weekend of work and took Rigby with him.

I kind of felt like I didn't know what to do with myself - I've grown so accustomed to having a presence in the house, human or dog, that it was weird to be here just me, myself and I.

It's funny to feel that way though.  I've spent the majority of my years post-parental-nest living alone, and I could usually always find lots of ways to occupy myself, as I eventually did tonight. 

I guess I just miss my boys a little.

But there is one thing both Todd and I agree is a positive about this weekend: The extra room to sprawl in bed! 

Full size just doesn't cut it.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Very neighborly

Todd and I have a neighbor, Angie, who is straight from Greece.  She is the sweetest, little ol' lady who loves to invite us over for Greek coffee.

She called today to see what we were up to, soon after which we were sitting around her table with cups of chocolaty tasting coffee eating biscotti-like Greek breads.  But not until she gave us a tour of the upstairs of her house - and a shot of Ouzo.

That's right.  Todd simply asked about two vases she had in her kitchen window wondering if they were maybe for oil or vinegar.  They were, in fact, empty Ouzo liquor bottles.  That kind of makes her sound like a drunk, which I really don't believe she is.  I think she's just had them for a long time, doling out shots to visitors and not taking "no" for an answer.  She also told Todd to take the vase and me a leftover parting gift from a wedding, and wouldn't hear otherwise.

Angie is always baking and cooking Greek foods that she lavishes on us: breads, dolmas, a snack kind of like granola only made with wheatberries, and soon to come, she says: spanakopita, something I LOVE.

And she has offered several times for us to go back to Athens with her and stay in the apartment she still owns there - within walking distance from the Acropolis!

Now, that's neighborly!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Hangin' it up

My dad's been longing to retire for a while now; and after over 30 years in the coal biz he's finally hung it up.

His last day was at the end of December, but my parents live in Missouri, so getting back for a lil' retirement shindig hasn't been easy to figure out.  So, with my parents visiting this last week, I thought I could do a little something here at the house.

I decided to make a German Chocolate Cake.

This is something I've never made before, but it's my dad's favorite and I desperately wanted to have one made by the time they arrived Monday night. 

So, on Sunday I did a quick search for GCC online and found one on Rachel Ray's site.  It was Trisha Yearwood's special recipe, one she makes for Garth Brooks every year on his birthday.  It looked easy enough - there was even video of Trisha baking it - and, from the looks of Garth these days, I figured it was really delicious! 

Extenuating circumstances kept me from baking the cake on Sunday.  There was cleaning for my parents' arrival, and the Superbowl...and the fact I forgot to sit the butter I needed out BEFORE the Superbowl so it would be appropriately softened by the time we got home.  Oops.

Clearly not getting done Sunday night, I decided to get up early and bake it Monday morning before work.  This is something I have done several times, and I never seem to learn: Making desserts before work...will never, ever work.

I did it anyway.

And, as to be predicted, everything was so frustrating.  It took forever.  It got so annoying at one point I called Trisha Yearwood a liar.  She promised the cake wouldn't run over the pans...with the many whipped egg whites it would be fluffy and would rise ABOVE the pans but would settle back down.

Well, that didn't happen.  Instead, chocolate cake ran all over the bottom of my oven, burning to little crunchy crisps that basically set on fire causing the smoke alarm to screech.

It was easiest to blame Trisha, and not the fact I probably overfilled the pans.  Or that I went against my better judgment and didn't put the pans on cookie sheets.  Instead, it was all Trisha's fault.

I didn't have time to make the icing over lunch, so, of course, it had to be made quickly before my parents got here.

Needless to say, the cake got iced while my dad wasn't looking.

And Trisha Yearwood isn't a liar.  It's delicious.  And my dad loved it.

My dad reading his retirement card with the cake and the six-pack of Cutthroat Porter Todd gave him...

My dad loves the Cutthroat Porter because it has fish on the packaging and bottles.  I think he likes the taste too... 

Happy retirement!  To a rest well-deserved! 

Trisha Yearwood's Not a Liar German Chocolate Cake
  • 4 ounces sweet dark chocolate (Baker's brand has a German Chocolate flavor. This is what I used. I would also suggest breaking it up a bit so it melts a little faster.)
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature (This is what I didn't do before the Superbowl - and you gotta.)
  • 1/4 cup warm milk
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 5 medium egg whites (Save your yolks! They come in two ingredients down!!)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 5 medium egg yolks (Here you go...)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk, well shaken
  • For the coconut frosting:
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 medium egg yolks (These are additional yolks.  I separated the eggs and saved the whites for a different recipe.)
  • 1 cup evaporated milk (I used the skim kind)
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 10 ounces grated coconut (Check that the coconut shreds are kind of finely shredded.  If they aren't you might want to SLIGHTLY chop them in a blender a bit.  I think it helps the cake ice better.) 
  • 1 1/2 cups finely ground pecans (Do NOT chop these in a blender for too'll end up with pecan butter.  Which was pretty delicious too.  Just not right for the recipe.)

Melt the chocolate in either the top of a double boiler, or if you're like me and don't have one: Put a heat-proof glass bowl in a saucepan and add water to the saucepan - not the bowl! - so the water comes half-way up the sides of the bowl - but not in!  Heat the water on the stove to a low boil and place the chocolate chunks in the bowl.  This will melt the chocolate without fear of burning it. 

Stir the chocolate until it's smooth. Add 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) of the butter and stir until it is melted and blended. Add 1/4 cup of warm milk and stir until smooth. Set the chocolate aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

Line the bottoms only of three 9-inch cake pans (I only have two, so I tried to make cupcakes with the remaining batter.  Do not overfill the tins or they will run out too - just like the cakes did!  Ugh.) with circles of wax paper, or grease only the bottom of each pan with solid shortening/butter and dust lightly with flour.

Sift or whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.

Whip the egg whites until stiff using the wire beater of a mixer.  This takes about five minutes.  They will get big and foamy.  Treat them gently!  You don't want them to fall!  Transfer the beaten whites to a separate bowl and set aside.

In the mixer bowl, cream the remaining 1 1/2 sticks of butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the melted, cooled chocolate and the vanilla. Mix well.

With the mixer on very low, stir in the flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk. Do this by adding about a third of the flour and slowly stirring it in completely. Then add about half the buttermilk and stir it in. Continue adding flour and buttermilk in this manner, ending with flour. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl and stir again.

With a long-handled spoon or spatula, GENTLY fold and stir the beaten egg whites into the batter until the batter is smooth with no visible clumps of whites.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans (this means less than half full or you'll be scrapping burnt cake bits off the bottom of your oven in the middle of blow drying your hair for work) and bake for 30-40 minutes.  (I'd also set them on cookie sheets IN CASE it still happens to run over.  May as well cover your butt.) 

Bake on the middle rack of the oven, allowing at least 1/4-inch clearance between the pans and the oven walls. The cake will rise above the pan edges as it bakes but will not spill over and will settle back down as it continues to bake. The cake is done when it begins to pull away from the sides of the pans and springs back to a light touch. Cool layers in the pans for about 8 minutes.

Run a knife around the edges of each pan and turn the layers out. Cool layers completely before frosting.  

To make the frosting, Tricia suggests combining the sugar, egg yolks, and evaporated milk in the top of a double boiler, but I say this doesn't work. This mixture needs more of a direct heat to get the desired consistency.  I'd just dump it all directly into a saucepan and watch it so it doesn't burn.  Just stir it frequently.

Stir with a wire whisk until the yolks are fully incorporated. Add the butter.  Simmer for 12-15 minutes longer, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens. Add the vanilla, coconut, and nuts. Cool. Completely.  Take it from me: if this is even remotely warm you're going to have a heck of a time keeping it on your cake.

To assemble the cake, place one layer on a cake stand and spread with frosting. Frost each layer completely, top and sides, as it is added to the cake.



You can have it for breakfast like my parents did this week.  And for a snack...and...


I've been pretty remiss in updating the blog the past...oh...over a week! 

That's because my parents were here...and I had a couple meetings in the evenings...

The blog just didn't fit in.

But I've been collecting post ideas, so I have an arsenal of things to share.  Yippee!

Away we go!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

An anniversary

It's crazy to think Todd and I had our first date one year ago today!

How did the magic all begin?

My volleyball team played his, and separately our teams ended up at the same bar to have a beer. 

That sounds so...something-you-wouldn't-tell-your-kids-when-they-ask-how-you-and-dad-met, but it was innocent and fun - and we had already noticed each other across the court. 

He sat next to me and we hit it off, chatting and joking the night away.  He asked for my number, saying he would call the next day, and lo and behold - he did! 

I was impressed...what guy actually calls the next day?

Our first date?

Dinner at Burger King sushi, karaoke with my friends at Old Chicago, and a Bloody Mary at The Four Winds.  With much foresight my friend Brandon told me that night I was going to have to marry this guy because he actually sings! 

A year later we have a house, and a dog, and hopes of many more years together.

I really don't like volleyball, but am I sure glad I signed up (to be our team cheerleader) last year!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Wyoming wear

This just made my day!

My ol' friend Mike and his son sporting some Wyoming wear I sent them.  They live on the East Coast and have never visited the Cowboy State.  

They love their Wyoming gear though, just like all us Wyoming folks do here.

Oh, man...the bucking horse and rider!!