After all the eating we did, the following day we went out in search for our Christmas Tree. It was another perfect Silverton day which made the hunt so enjoyable, exercise and sunshine. I don't move as quick as I use too, but Booker was always there by my side-basically waiting on me.
We drove all around, getting out and hiking in search for the perfect tree for our quaint living space. We brought a picnic of cheese and crusty bread along with delicious homemade hot chocolate to enjoy. Just up the road from the Epic Silverton Mountain we found a nice selection of trees, but would this one fit in our place? Michael brought his small hand saw to do the job and small piece of rope to drag it out. The work out came when we were thigh deep snow hiking out and back down to our truck with the tree. Thank goodness, because I sure could use it. When we arrived home, we turned on some Christmas tunes and put the tree up near the front window and began to decorate. Michael took care of the lights as I put hooks on the ornaments and began strategically placing the memories on the branches. We were so lucky to receive a big box of sparkling bulbs and essential decorations from Michael's Mom just the other day, or our tree would have been a bit bare, but not this year! Now all we need is some presents......I will be putting a red bow on her and placing her near the tree when she arrives-as she is the sweetest gift of all. Can you tell I am in love already?
We couldn't have asked for a more perfect day to enjoy cooking and eating with friends. We ended up with twenty people joining together that evening bringing a little something to the table, savory, sweet, or refreshing. The day began with lox and bagels, easing ourselves into lunch that included a delicious meat pie that honored family tradition from the east coast, a white bean and elk sausage soup utilizing the Italian sausage we had made. The table continued to grow with an array of french cheeses, elk liver pate, and pork rillette, venison and elk carpaccio with drizzles of truffle oil, seasoned with salt and garnished with pea shoots, Jalapeno filled with a bacon cream cheese breaded in panko then deep fried, and lastly homemade chips and salsa. It was an art to this day of eating, that being to eat slowly and taste a little bit of everything not wanting to miss out on all the unique flavors.
That brings us to the main event: the deep fried Turkey that had been previously brined, patted dry, and trussed. But that wasn't the only meat, we also partook in a slow braised lamb leg, roasted lamb roast, and grilled elk back strap. The accompaniments could stand on there own as they were truly amazing in itself that being; Garlic mashed potatoes, Corn bread and sausage stuffing, wild and foraged Boletus mushroom gravy, an over the top macaroni and cheese of homemade pasta, cheese and green chillies, topped with strips of smoked bacon and green chillies and finished in the oven. We had some roasted carrots and Brussel sprouts, a creamy corn and green chilli to balance our plate with some healthy vegetables. Ha.
If you made it through that course you didn't want to miss out on the array of desserts featured. I decided to make a traditional apple pie with a bourbon whip cream, pumpkin tiramisu layered with gingersnap cookies, and a chocolate cake for the non-pie eaters. We also had the option of a pecan pie, a buttermilk pie, and a pumpkin pie along with chocolate covered almond butter, chocolate covered peanut butter and banana bites, and some cookies. Please no more food, no more sweets, just a bed. I couldn't believe the amount of food that could be brought together and all contain a wow factor, explosions of continual flavor and even when you think you couldn't take another bite, you do.
A quiet day in the kitchen while the husband is out skinning up a mountain and having fun in some deep Powder! Fun for me: to hang out -with my music playing loud and getting my baking list checked off. Peppermint bark and toffee is ready, baked off 2 dozen gingersnaps, and 3 dozen biscotti yesterday and this morning two round crusty breads baked in the dutch oven. Cranberry sauce is ready and on to skillet cornbread for Thanksgiving stuffing. Still searching for another cookie to add to the box, wanting something festive and special to make the package complete. When I woke up around 4 am hungry and after eating a small bowl of cereal in the darkness of my kitchen I hoped to easily fall back to sleep, but with the lists running through my head all I could think about was cookies and pies.
It started one evening around the table enjoying braised lamb with roasted acorn squash and golden potatoes with plenty of garlic and onions. It was also served with a side of wilted kale, something bitter to counter balance the sweet and aromatic lamb that was seasoned with turmeric, curry, and citrus. Our food-loving friends began talking about what the Thanksgiving menu was going to be like as we shared favorites that reminds us of childhood or past dishes we have enjoyed. We all had a common theme- plenty of tasteful and unique food. The menu seemed to grow throughout the evening as one concept led to another. It is so great to be around friends that enjoy talking about food as much as us.
The Holidays is always a pastry chef ‘s favorite time of year. It is time for baking cookies, candies, Holiday pies, and other fun treats that makes everyone giddy. Even if you don’t have a sweet tooth there is something about this time to bring out the kid in you. When you are cooking for a group of friends you want to have a nice display of desserts that each will enjoy. This year, with new friends to divulge into course after course, I want the final course to be simple but exciting having something everyone will enjoy.
I found a recipe on Food and Wine today that was a great example of a favorite combination of pumpkin and a traditional Italian dessert – a Tiramisu. Then for those who love pie I will include a traditional apple with a lattice top, because they are just so beautiful, but maybe I spice it up with fresh ginger and bourbon. At last a cake for those who don’t like pie, but that could be chocolate or carrot, I haven’t quite decided.
Being pregnant and preparing for the holidays has been a challenge, since at 37 weeks now my energy is not quite like it was before. I have also been planning my Christmas cookie list and hopefully will be complete with that before our little girl graces us with her presence. I decided on the Christmas treats to include the Peppermint bark, Hazelnut Toffee, Almond biscotti, butter cookie sandwiched with lemon curd, and a gooey-buttery pecan bar. I wanted a combination of treats that would delight anyone's pallet. So here we go, back to the kitchen with a new Mixer (Merry Christmas to Me), and the time to enjoy the simple goodness of baking while watching the snow fall.
Stay tune for the Thanksgiving menu!
The Journey Home Sometimes life will hand you surprises that make you re-think what is important in your life. Just before my thirty-third birthday we found out that I was pregnant. Fast-forward a few months, the baby thing was becoming a reality as I was beginning to show, and we started to think what the future was going to hold, as we become parents and balancing family with work. Few more months roll by and we are faced with some decisions; will we stay working for another two years as private chefs or should we move back to states and start something new? I don’t think I have ever felt so overwhelmed with decisions before then in those weeks.
That leads us to the Journey Home. We packed our things, or what we could pack in our suitcases and sport bags and flew back to Indiana where our wonderful dog and truck were waiting for us. All we knew now was we were going home to have a baby girl and we couldn’t be more excited. We made the trek across the great-plains, Kansas being always a favorite of mine, but managed to pass through it when the sun wasn’t up so we made it less mundane. We arrived In Colorado a crisp cool morning watching the sunrise behind us with excitement whelming inside. The first task as we hit Denver was to find a Cabela’s, to buy Michael a rifle so he could hunt an elk and hopefully have some meat for the Winter Season. I was a little unsure at first, as it was a big investment after just leaving a job, but I knew it was a long-term investment and couldn’t really think of a reason why not. Who doesn’t like a little elk meat, or really a whole lot!
The journey continued down I70 stopping to visit some friends and carry on picking up some essentials before heading over the pass to Silverton. The Truck couldn’t fit one more thing and the sun was beginning to descend behind the San Jaun Mountain and we could only wonder what our new home was going to be like.
At this point we have only seen a few pictures of the quaint little space on the Internet, but so great full to have a place that was furnished and had a wood-burning stove. Booker, our smart red-healer, realized where he was and began to get excited as were we at the sight of the quiet little town that we will always call home.
Within the first week of being back and quickly unpacking our things that had been storage for the last two years, Michael headed out early mornings and right before sunset to hunt an elk. When he saw the lonely bull elk standing on the side of the hill on Red Mountain, he took one look and took his shot. I believe it was confirmation that we made the right decision and in the right place. Now onto cooking some beautiful meals with our elk and sharing it with our friends in Silverton. We are very happy, content and thankful for all of Gods Provisions in our life as He continues to guide us each day.
Here are some meals and moments we have enjoyed in the last week:
Michael and I have welcomed this year with another incredible ski trip but this time we flew West and touched down in Nelson, Canada. After a year living so far from mountains, snow and simply cool weather we were searching for something pact full of deep powder, endless terrain to explore and a new town to discover! We couldn't have ever expected to find Nelson, Canada, to be so inviting by the locals and the food to surprise us with every restaurant, pub, or cafe we visited. Because, as most know about us a ski vacation isn't complete with out great food to compliment the overall experience. We chose right, with having some time at White Water in Nelson and also its sister mountain Red in Rossland. We have been charmed and delighted.
So what do we look for when visiting a new restaurant, and truly what we crave when we are skiing and snowboarding most of the day? Well, first we are starved and need something comforting and savory. With out any direction on our first day found ourselves in the local spot called' Mikes Place' surrounded by an array of skiers, older and young with a lot of energy and action to keep one from being alone or bored. They had specials and usually something for any type of craving. If you like curries, Canada is very familiar with the flavor profiles and spices. Along with hamburgers that are only made of local meat, topped with a local cheese and captured in a wholesome bun that is of course locally made. Soup of the day is usually borscht or another hardy concoction that seems irresistible when you are chilled.
Nelson also has your Cafes and bistros that will definitely impress any food loving visitor. We started each morning at this bustling cafe called Oso Negro meaning 'black paw' that roasted their beans daily and offered an array of organic, vegan, wheat-free pastries and muffins along with take away Oso baguettes filled with local goat or smoked cheddar, basil, sun dried tomatoes and cucumbers. For a warm and hearty breakfast there are the 'breakfast bun'; which included organic free-ranged eggs, cheddar cheese, sprouts on a spelt bun. You could add bacon, banana peppers and nut spread which likely we did. So basically every day we would join the locals with a hot cup of dark roast coffee a gluten free blueberry corn muffin or breakfast bun, sit and read the paper and talk about the day. Lunch was kept simple with either picking up a baguette at the cafe or enjoying something at the base of White Water. Michael and I are use to the overpriced hamburgers and sandwiches that is typical fare at most mountain lodges but again surprised by the very well balanced menu they offered along with local beer and wines by the glass. We went with a bowl of chili con carne that we shared and served with a delicious chunk of corn bread. The chile was your basic formula of corn, kidney beans, ground beef, green peppers and chunky tomato stewed to perfection but hit the spot for both of us as we were eager to get back out on the mountain. Another afternoon we shared the yam fries with a garlic chipotle aioli. Not the most healthy, but with the amount of activity we were enjoying we thought why not, it sounded perfect and it really met the craving of sweet and salty as the aioli really made it special. These were house made yam fries and not just a bag from the freezer and the aioli was made with eggs and not just mayonnaise and you really could taste the difference.
Après food was another story for us, we generally would try to wait a bit later but sometimes you need something right away and in that case it was a steak sandwich from Mikes place and or honey cajun wings that were then baked and then served. The steak sandwich was served open faced on garlic toast with crispy onion wings and sauteed mushrooms and it came with a potato and leek soup. Delicious and all-around very satisfying in all degrees. The wings were served very hot and with just a nice balance of sweet and spicy that kept you wanting just one more. The meat was tender and juicy as you sunk your teeth into the crispy skin that had the kick of cajun. Okay, so we weren't eating the most fancy and healthy off the menu but it was all fresh and done well, so we enjoy those simple delights when we aren't in the kitchen.
A little nicer dinner we enjoyed was at this home that was turned into a cozy little bistro called Bibo that sat on the side of the hill just off Baker street. We were drawn by the chalk board sign on the corner of the street that said charcuterie and cheeses, so that is exactly what we ordered. After choosing a nice glass of red wine we were brought a board of cured meats-locally made, and three different types of cheese; Gorgonzola, raclette, and a brie. The cured meats were sliced thinly as they should and piled individually; one was similar to a prosciutto with a great fat line, another a saucisson with a hint of clove, and the third reminded me of bresaola dried cured beef. Dividing the meats from the cheeses was a thick line of Dijon mustard, then a nice apple chutney to one side, roasted and sweetened mix nuts, and a dish of olives and pickled peppers. A basket of sliced baguette was served on the side of this one incredible board of Michael and I favorite nibbles. Since we were just enjoying the simple tastes of cheeses and meats we went for the foie gras rillettes with crostini and wild blueberry compote to finish the evening with our wine. The rillette was served classically in a small crock with crispy endive leaves and toast points. This was our second night and Nelson and we were on a vacation high at this point. Great snow, great people, and great food what more could we ask for?
After several visits to the local watering hole for pub-fare we decided for out last night in Nelson we would go shopping and stay in. That evening we stopped over at the local fish market two blocks down from our place and picked up some fresh PEI mussels, manilla clams, and a filet of Rock Fish, than walked down to the co-op for fresh black kale, mixed greens for a salad that would be dressed by a locally made dressing, and I splurged on a nice semi-soft sheep and cow cheese to snack on while we prepared dinner at home. Michael picked out the Tomato and roasted red pepper soup, and the essentials; garlic, shallot, and a nice bottle of white wine to accompany the shell fish.
When we returned home with our ingredients and walk around Baker St. Michael got a pot out and starting heating a little oil, chopping the shallot and mincing and smashing the garlic clove and adding it to the pot, immediately the room began to smell of something great. Mussels and clams went right in since they were beautifully cleaned previously and then the tomato soup. The mollusks started simmering and opening up, as a great sign of very fresh shell fish, and not one didn't open. He also sliced up a stick of spicy pepperoni and added it to the pot contributing a flavorful heat balancing out the sweet and creaminess of the soup. In the mean time, I cleaned the black Kale, tearing the leaves away from the spine so Michael could rough chop it and add it into the soup, sliced the cheese for snacking and poured two glasses of white wine. The Rock fish was seasoned and seared in the pan with the extra chopped Kale that we then added the 'free creamers' from the fridge to add a touch of fat and round out the fibrous leaf. In about 20 minutes we were sitting at the table with each a bowl of mussels and clams nestled in a rich tomato soup surrounded by wilted kale and pieces of pepperoni, along with a mixed green salad dressed and served on the side of our pan seared Rock fish and creamy wilted kale. Amazing dinner, by my amazing chef husband who can bring together a five star meal with little accessories and ingredients. Mussels being one of my favorite foods that I usually eat when I am visiting my favorite restaurant in Avon, Co, I was in heaven. We were completely satisfied and full not wanting anything more but another sip of the white wine that was from the BC area. What a perfect way to finish off a great week of skiing in Nelson.
Pies are baked.
It took me time to decide (because decision making is not my strong suit) on which desserts I would be preparing this year for Thanksgiving. Many variables came to mind: those on a diet, those who don't like fruit pies, and if you are serving a sweet potato casserole how do you eat a slice of pumpkin pie after that? Well, I came to a conclusion that a gluten free clafoutis with brown butter apples would be the semi-healthy choice that is comprised of almond flour and unsweetened coconut milk along with cooked apples and reduce apple juice with a vanilla seeds infused. Second choice would be a house favorite, Key lime pie but this time the crust would be crushed mint chocolate cookies instead of graham crackers. The third dessert had to be my favorite to make next to cheesecake and that's a traditional apple pie with a top crust.
Having the day before to finish the desserts and also have the cranberry sauce set and chilled before tomorrow was a relief. Its known to most pastry chefs that if you don't get into the kitchen early or plan far in advance you will be fighting for oven space and most likely endure more stress than needed when you have many other details to think about. For me a daily routine besides assisting Michael in the kitchen is making and serving drinks, setting the table, and keeping a clean kitchen which allows Michael to continue to make his magic happen without having to be interrupted.
That being said, having the day to enjoy peeling and slicing apples and tossing them with raw sugar and lemon juice and waiting for them to create their juices before spooning them into a pre-baked pie shell was almost relaxing. I honestly can say I saved the apple pie to bake last because it is my favorite. I even let out a congenial sigh when I took the key lime pie out and put the clafouti in to the oven and turned to the fridge to remove the pie dough disk and begin rolling out the bottom crust. I had a smile on my face when I proudly walked it over to the freezer to let chill for 15 minutes before baking. I knew I was on my way to baking an apple pie. I sound crazy I suppose and crazy to be proud that when I reached into the oven to check on the crust, I burned myself-careless move some would say but for me it was a sign that I was baking and not just one quick dessert on the fly but multiple and that is a good day to me. I was hoping that it wasn't going to take me most of the afternoon but I wasn't completely alone in the kitchen, there is always visitors, workers, and occasional kid running around.
Thanksgiving is truly a family holiday, it is not the same unless you are sharing your table with those you love. That can just be your spouse, child or best-friend, but when you are passing around the mashed potatoes and stuffing, you can't help to think how thankful you are for that person you are sharing this meal with and being thankful for moments like this that you reflect on the year and all that surrounds you that truly a blessing.
I am thankful for many things, and as hard as it is being so far away from my family as they gather together on Thursday, I am glad to have this opportunity to cook with my husband and share our gift with new people each year. We have the freedom to prepare our favorite dishes along with theirs and be a part of someone elses tradition.
We are thankful for the strength each day God has given us and the talent to create something special and tasteful for a family that has truly opened their home to us, we are not just the chefs but sometimes a friend.
A passionate food lover writing about life and meals from a small mountain town in Silverton Colorado and beyond.