Thursday, November 18, 2010

Gluten free Thanksgiving- Darcy's Stuffing

My Aunt Darcy has the best stuffing recipe!  You HAVE to try it!  Back in the day when I actually went through the huge hassle of flying home for both Christmas AND Thanksgiving, Darcy would bring the stuffing fixings and we would use some on my gluten free croutons so I could have my own stuffing.  I've been making this on my own for a few years now and am planning on making it this year for the big day. The nice thing about it is that you throw it in your crock pot and while it warms up, you can forget about it until your other dishes are ready to go for dinner. 

Phase 1: 
1 loaf gluten free white bread
1 tsp onion powder
1 Tbsp sage

My first step this weekend will be to get some Udi's gluten free white bread from King Soopers (also available here).  (I have also used Whole Foods gluten free white bread.)  With your sharpest serrated bread knife, cut the loaf into small cubes (about 1cm X 1cm cubes).  Throw the cubes on a cookie sheet and sprinkle with onion powder and large amounts of sage.  Toast these in your oven at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.  Let them cool off and dry out completely before storing them in a ziplock and set them aside for the big day.

For a gluten-filled version of this recipe, apparently you can buy sage and onion croutons already made.  

Phase II:  This next phase can also be done before Thanksgiving and stored, or can also be made the day of.
1 cup butter
2 cups celery finely chopped
2 cups onions finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley finely chopped
1 lb fresh mushrooms diced
1 lb ground pork

In a large pan, melt butter and saute celery and onions in the butter.  Once these are looking somewhat transparent, add the mushrooms and parsley and let them loose their moisture and let that moisture cook off.   Set this aside.  In the same pan, brown the ground pork and drain any excess grease. Combine all of this in a Tupperware for storage until you're ready for phase III. 

Phase III:
2 eggs
4 cups chicken broth (or 4 tsp chicken bouillon and 4 cups water)
1 cup raisins (optional)

On the big day, 2 hours before Thanksgiving dinner, grease your crock pot.  Beat two eggs in a bowl.  Throw your croutons in the crock pot and pour the eggs over the top.  Add the Phase II mixture and four cups of chicken broth.  I like to use "Better than bouillon."  This is a moist bullion that is gluten free.  I then just combine 1 tsp of this with each cup of hot water to dissolve it and make my own faux chicken broth. The fancy organic boxed broth is usually labeled gluten free as well.  Stir your stuffing and put your crock pot on high for 2 hours or low for 4 hours, stir once or twice during this process and serve when dinner is ready!  

This year I'm going to make a vegetarian version of this by leaving out the ground pork and switching to a vegetarian, gluten free bouillon called "Not chick'n".  I'm thinking it will be equally as awesome! 

A note on raisins-- some people don't care for raisins in their stuffing or better yet, have never heard of anyone doing this.  I love them.  Darcy usually made two crockpots, one with, on without (we have a massive family!).  I say, if you don't like the raisins, then don't eat them. 


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Grid's Candied Yams

Yeah, Grid's yams are pretty sweet, but let's talk about food.  Last year Dave made his specialty for me on Thanksgiving, candied yams.  Somehow, my family seems to have missed out on this amazing recipe, so it was a new one for me and, wow, these things just melt in your mouth!  He will definitely be in charge of making these from now on. 

This is an easy, low-prep recipe that you can make just before the meal is ready to serve (not to take away from Dave and his cooking talents, the boy can cook). 

Grid's candied yams
one huge can yams (sorry, I don't have one on hand to check the oz.)
3 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp gluten-free flour to thicken (or corn starch)
coconut for topping
marshmallows for topping

Take the liquid from the can of yams and whisk in the flour or corn starch.  Melt butter and add to yam liquid.  Grease your oven-safe pan and pour yams in, pour liquid over the top, top with marshmallows and coconut, and bake at 350 degrees until bubbling (about 20 minutes).  I'm not a huge fan of coconut texture, so Dave made half without coconut for me. 

Friday, November 5, 2010

Gluten Free Thanksgiving- Green Bean Casserole

Halloween was great and all, me as Tinkerbell (again) and Dave as Buckethead (again), but upon turning my Google calendar over to November, I was pleasantly surprised to find that fall break is only two weeks away, which means Turkey Day is just a bit beyond that.  It's time to be thankful, but it's also time to cook!

Thanksgiving is a holiday that revolves around eating.  Unfortunately, us gluten free folk can usually be left with nothing to eat except mashed potatoes if the chefs use traditional preparation methods.  Through a few easy changes, and a few not-so-easy ones, you can replicate a traditional thanksgiving meal that is 100% gluten free and safe for us Celiacs.  Unfortunately, much of my traditional recipes are not vegetarian, but feel free to play around with adjustments on these recipes as your heart desires.  Also, these recipes can be made more easily with gluten and they are worth trying for you normal eaters out there!

Last year, Dave and I ended up at our new place for Thanksgiving.  We were still in disarray from our recent move, trying to build a pantry, putting shelving in closets, trying to buy a couch, and the general chaos that was my first semester of teaching four new college classes.  I was very excited to cook for the two of us and have a relaxing day.  I mapped out a whole menu and got the timing down so I could prep a few things ahead of time, but on the day of, only cook for about two hours and be ready to chow down. I planned and I thought a lot about the timing of one oven and six dishes and I had fun doing the actual cooking. 

First, here is my Thanksgiving Day menu.  I'll try to post my family recipes now in gluten free form as we get closer to the big day.

Turkey and gravy
Mashed potatoes
Candied Yams
Green Bean Casserole
Pumpkin pie
Hard Apple Cider

Dave insists that Thanksgiving requires cranberry sauce.  I don't remember this being a part of any of my traditional family meals, but if I find a fun alternative to pouring the stuff out of a can, I'll be sure to let you know, or, better yet, YOU let ME know.

Thanksgiving spread 2009.  Now that is a small table, but the base is from the Stanley Hotel.  Spooky! 
Today's recipe is Gluten Free Green Bean Casserole. The standard, easy green bean casserole requires two ingredients that are filled with gluten:  cream of mushroom soup and French's fried onions.  My recipe is copied and altered from Alton Brown, the nerdy chef from Food Network.  Original Recipe

My onions got a little over done.  Also, this was a pretty huge batch for two people.  I'd cut back for small crowds.

2 onions
1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp gluten free flour
Handful of gluten free bread crumbs
Kosher salt
2 Tbsp butter
12 oz mushrooms
2 cloves garlic
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 cup gluten free chicken broth (or gluten free chicken bullion and water)
1 cup half and half
1/2 tsp pepper
 3 cans green beans (cut or whole, whichever you prefer)

First, start by making the onion topping.  Take two good sized onions and slice them (don't dice) so you have long strips.  Take these strips and toss them in 1/4 cup gluten free flour (I prefer Jules Gluten Free) as well as some large bread crumbs (take these from your stuffing bread crumbs that you'll make, we'll discuss these at a later date), and a large pinch of kosher salt.  Once the onions are coated, grease a cookie sheet and spread the onions out and bake at 475 for 30 minutes, tossing them twice during that time.  You can see mine got a little too well done, so be sure to keep an eye on them!

Next, in a frying pan, melt 2 Tbsp butter, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, and add 12 ounces of diced mushrooms.  Let these heat up for about 5 minutes.  Then add 2 cloves of minced garlic and 1/4 tsp nutmeg, wait two minutes.  Now add 1 cup of chicken broth (I use "Better than Bullion," which is gluten free and create my own broth by taking a tsp of that and 1 cup of water**.  Be careful with your bullion brand, this is where gluten can creep into your recipe.)  Add 2 Tbsp gluten free flour, stir, and bring to simmer.  (**Note, if you don't have gluten free flour on hand, feel free to use corn starch instead.  In this case, you'd add 2 Tbsp corn starch to your cold cup of water, this keeps it from clumping like it would if you added it directly to the heated mix, you could, theoretically, replace your flour on the onions with corn starch as well).  Now add 1 cup of half-and-half and let thicken for 8 minutes.  Take three cans of drained green beans, 1/4 of your cooked onions and stir them into your mushroom and cream mixture.  Pour this into an oven-safe container.  Put the rest of the onions on top.  Bake 15 minutes at 400 degrees.  Serve!

Stay tuned for more gluten free Thanksgiving  Recipes!

For the record, I wrote this about a month ago.  I am SWAMPED at work this week!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

This will be on TV Thursday at 7:00 Mountain time.  Check your listings (there's no rhyme or reason to how this translates to other time zones).  ABC.  Yay!

The Simpson's Halloween specials will have to wait 'till post-world series, watch for it the Sunday after Halloween.  

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Pumpkin carving and raosting pumpkin seeds

A little pre-Halloween fun...

Dave's first face (he did a pirate on side two, but I don't have any pics!)  He looks soooo sad!!!!

Mine.  He won the award for most French.

Brent's.  Creepiest pumpkin EVER.
The back side of Frenchy

Roasting pumpkin seeds

Rinse your pumpkin seeds, let them dry, toss them in just a small amount of olive oil, salt, and throw in the oven at 350 for an hour or more.  Keep dry until you eat them!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


This past weekend I decided to officially give up on my garden and outdoor plants.  I'll move a few of the herbs inside for winter, but went back and forth on the basil plant.  Instead of bringing it in, I thought, why not strip it, see if it lives, and then if it keeps going, bring it in.  I took every green leaf I could get my hands on and made fresh pesto!  Still no frost here, despite the high elevation and the fact that, well, check out the pictures from two posts ago.
Sometimes my food pictures don't look so bad.  Sometimes they look like barf.  You make the call. 
The pesto is really only half of the story in this picture.  Gluten free cheese raviolis?!?!  Sure enough!  For a price, you can get anything your heart desires.  These gluten free raviolis were like $7 for maybe 10 of them.  Seriously.  Dave got enough pasta to last a year with his $7.  Luckily, I have a little pasta squeezer that attaches to my Kitchen Aid.  Unfortunately, I'm not very patient, nor do I have gobs of time on my hands, and trying to get gluten free dough to stay together through a pasta press is not something I'm willing to do on a regular basis.  Dave successfully made me cheese raviolis once using this contraption and it was positively to die for.  I usually use quinoa pasta elbows.  I highly recommend it, it's the only pasta that has the right texture and it is good for you too.  Look for the teal box in your organic section.  Go supergrains!

Before I get to the pesto recipe, speaking of gluten free food, I literally just realized a day ago that there is a P.F. Changs a block from the bus station I've been using for the last 14 months.  P.F. Changs is well known for its fabulous gluten free food, but I've never been to one!  I need to start varying my walking route, who knows what other treasures I'll find!

Pesto Recipe (off the top of my head, but probably ripped off from Bittman, serves 2-3)
2 cups fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup olive oil
2 small cloves garlic (less if you're worried about your breath)
2 Tbsp roasted pine nuts (these are expensive, only buy what you need in the bulk section, then roast in a pan)
Pinch salt
1/2 cup grated parmesan or pecorino romano cheese

Throw everything in your food processor except the cheese and have at it!  Once it's all blended (you'll have to whip out your rubber spatula and scrape the sides a few times), throw it in a bowl, add the cheese and stir.  Oh, give it a taste, too, and see if it needs more salt.  Toss your gluten free pasta of choice in the pesto and put some extra grated cheese on the table for topping.  Enjoy, but be sure to serve mints for desert! 

Spiked and Spiced Apple Cider

Give this a try for your next social event!  Break out your crock pot, or just do this on the stove.  Warm up a bunch of apple juice, throw in a few Celestial Seasonings Cinnamon Apple Spice tea bags.  Once it's hot, throw in some spiced rum and serve in mugs!  A little brown sugar also makes a nice addition.  YUM! 

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Halloween Nostalgia and The Moving Story of 2009

Things that make me nostalgic might not do the trick for you, but here's my attempt to give you some warm fuzzies. 

With the "Holiday Season" around the corner, and by that I mean fall, Halloween, Turkey Day, Christmas, and New Years, there are plenty of chances to remember fun holiday times from your childhood, carry on old traditions, and make new ones.

First off, fall is a time to pick apples, make caramel apples, bake pies, and hang out in pumpkin patches.  Having grown up surrounded by these things on an orchard, the cool weather brings back memories of these fun times.  I highly recommend taking a trip to your nearest orchard! 

Halloween always included three very important traditions:
1.  Carving pumpkins and baking the seeds, salting them, and eating them.  Yum!  I have big plans to do this these next two weekends. 

Halloween 2009
2.  Going trick-or-treating.  We lived out in the middle of no where, so my mom, brother, and I used to travel to town to Cousins Cassie, Nici, and Ben's house to go trick-or-treating in the 'burbs.  We had so much fun getting dressed up and collecting bags filled with candy, then sorting it afterwards on the dining room floor.

3.  Watching "Disney's Halloween Treat".  Folks, this is a classic compilation of the scary parts from all of the Disney movies before 1982 strewn together in a cute way and narrated by either a pumpkin in later versions of this, or by the magic mirror in my favorite version.  A good friend got me a copy of this a few years ago, but it can be hard to come by the original!  This goes for $200 on amazon, but luckily for us, we can watch it on youTube: 

The Big Moving Story
And finally, as long as we're taking a trip down memory lane, in recent memory, last year about this time, Dave and I moved in together!  I spent a week or two packing everything I owned into boxes in my living room, and then the big moving day came.  Good friends Matt, Yolanda, and Josh helped with the big move.  We rented a Uhaul, grabbed a load from Dave's place, unloaded it, grabbed a HUGE load from my place, and just as we pulled up to our new place, it started raining... and then the rain turned into snow.  By the next day, we had almost two feet of snow at our new home! I had to clean out the old place because new folks were moving in that very next morning.  I spent the whole day scrubbing and getting rid of the last of the odds and ends at the old apartment. 
Wedge the chinchilla.
The interesting part came when Dave left for a Phish festival in California the day after the snowstorm.  Luckily, he was able to get out, although I believe he was delayed a few hours.  The thing is, before he left, while we were unpacking, we realized that we had a little spider problem in our new place.  Okay, it wasn't little.  We pretty much had aggressive hobo spiders running out in all directions, as well as webs  and sacks just about everywhere.  It was straight out of a horror movie.  Rather than continue to unpack, we agreed that chemicals might need to be involved.  Now, we are both educated people, and we realize that these these chemicals are not only toxic, but may be linked to certain types of cancer.  We took a trip to McGuckins, got some help from the men who know everything, and decided on the least dangerous fogger we could find.  Dave left for his trip and I evacuated our plants, covered our fish, and took the chinchilla in his carrier to my car.  I put a fogger in three rooms, most of which had just furniture and boxes, let them off, and left with nothing but a change of clothes, plants, and the chinchilla, Wedge.

It was late, I didn't really have any plans on where I was going to go, so I went and grabbed a pizza, then realized that I'd be welcome at Dave's place, which still had lingering supplies that hadn't been moved.  I showed up on their doorstep with Wedge and they welcomed me.  I hung out, ate my pizza, and showered.  Oh did that shower feel good!  I blew up Dave's air mattress and slept a good night's sleep with Wedge hanging out in a makeshift cage next to me.  The next day, I was ready to return to the house and get rid of the spiders that should now be dead.  Unfortunately, I had left all of the plants in the car overnight, and most of them froze overnight and died.  Oops!

From there, things got better.  I aired everything out and vacuumed the whole place and was finally ready to start unpacking.  I went out with friends for Halloween and had a good time.  I also saw a VERY scary movie at the theater with friends and was a bit scared to be at home alone in the new place.  Dave returned a few days later from his trip and we finished moving the rest of his stuff in between working.  

The whole move was well worth the trouble.  I went from a very small place downtown to a cozy place near open space and the mountains, with lots of room and a garage, and of course I get to come home every day to my goofball boyfriend who still makes me laugh.
View from the back of our building.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Bus woes and my favorite podcasts

Some days you win, some days you loose.  Some days you drive to the park and ride, the bus arrives within seconds, it makes one stop, heads to the city of my workplace, I get off at the first stop, walk onto the light rail, which takes off immediately, then I end up comfortably at the front door of my office building, dry, room temperature, not even breaking a sweat. 

Then there's days like today.  Today was my "late" day (class at 10).  I'm about to walk out the door and realize I'm running three minutes late, which makes all the difference with the bus, so I decide to hold back and take the next bus.  This gives me time to finish drying my hair.  Last night was the first Phish-concertless night since last Friday.  Although I wasn't attending DURING the work week, on Saturday we had a mishap with the bus and didn't get home until 2:30 AM (just in time to make some dinner and go to bed at 3).  Sunday through Wednesday morning I was waiting up for Dave and John, one night having to pick them up, other nights, being in bed, but not quite sleeping when they returned.  This staying up past my bed time, yet still having to work caught up with me and I nearly lost my mind on Wednesday, so I decided to go to bed early and sleep in. 

I drive the two miles to the park and ride, get there exactly on time, wander to the bus stop, and wait.  And wait.  And wait.  Was the bus early?  Did I miss it by seconds?  Finally, about 45 minutes after the bus I usually take, my bus pulls up.  It is very full and I grab one of the last remaining seats in the front.  (Sitting in the back occasionally involves my using a barf bag).  We stop at three more stops, each filled with pissed off people who then have to stand for the 40 minute bus ride.  The bus driver never offers us an apology or an explanation as to why he is 20 minutes late.  Finally, a very angry woman asks him why all of us are going to be late to work.  He tells us that the handicap door got stuck open at one of his first stops and they had to send another bus.  Okay, I'll forgive him. 

We get to our destination and I jump off the bus and start wandering towards the light rail, that seemingly wasn't there yet.  Turns out, this late in the day, the light rail is only a few cars long and it was there, hiding behind two buses!  As soon as I spot it, I start sprinting with my rolly bag in tow.  I get to it, push the magic button, the doors open, and seconds later, we're taking off and I'm the only person from my packed bus to make it.  A quick stop at the office, a sprint to class, and I arrive only five minutes late, but severely out of breath and looking somewhat crazy. 

On my commute home, I manage to miss the light rail by about 10 seconds and was left waiting for 15 minutes until the next one.  Let's add this up. 

To work
10 minutes to park and ride
30 minute wait for bus
40 minute bus ride
1 minute sprint
5 minute light rail
5-10 minute jog

Return trip
15 minutes waiting for the light rail
5 minute light rail ride
2 minute walk to bus
40 minute bus ride home
10 minute drive home

That's 2 hours and 48 minutes of commuting.  Of course during the day I also spend 30 minutes walking for each class I teach (15 minutes there from the office, 15 minutes back.  This will change December 8 when I get a new office.)  I've definitely had many more good bus experiences than bad, but when they are bad, they are very noteworthy:  waiting in the snow and below zero weather for an hour waiting for a bus, the bus not showing up on the day of my current-job interview and my having to drive during rush hour, riding a bus who had chains on and decided to keep them on down the interstate, and many more.

Now, my intention here isn't entirely to complain to you.  Clearly, it's my fault that the only job I want is in a city that I don't want to live in, and that I live with someone employed in the city we DO live in, and I'll deal with it. 

While I'm spending a good portion of my life commuting, I get a lot of time to think.  Some people read on the bus, but this makes me nauseated as hell.  I occasionally am able to work on the bus if I'm sitting in front and looking up every few seconds.  This means I spend a significant portion of my day listening to my ipod.  Rather than listening to the same tunes over and over and over again, I listen to podcasts.  Without these, I would have lost my mind long ago. 

Here are my favorites
1.  This American Life-- an hour of pure bliss, usually three stories on one theme, but they only put out one of these a week, and I've already listened to all of the old ones I can get my hands on, so I save these purely for Monday mornings when I need it most.

2.  Radiolab -- this is a sciency podcast that dives into a topic in one of the most entertaining ways I've heard.  It is very professionally done.

3.  Skeptic's Guide to the Universe (your escape to reality)-- this podcast helps you think like a true scientist.  They analyze the latest science news stories and through listening, you learn how to go through life not being duped by stupid stuff with no evidence to back it up.  (Homeopathy is a big scam.)  They are also pretty funny.

4.  NPR Culturetopia-- this is good filler on new books, movies, tv shows, etc.  Recently, they've started doing happy hour podcasts with the most hilariously flamboyant men talking mostly about TV shows.  Now, I don't actually watch TV, but yet I find this commentary positively grin inducing.

5.  NPR On Science-- this is like a voice version of the science daily website.  They summarize the latest science news in a way that makes it accessible to scientists outside of a specific field.  However, I wouldn't recommend this to people who find NPR-type talking boring.

6.  TED talks (ideas worth spreading)-- If you've never listened to these, go back to the very beginning.  The older ones are the most inspiring.

7.  Get-it-done-guy's quick and dirty tips to work less and do more.  These are short, 5 minute, well-scripted comedic blips on ways to make your life more efficient.

There are a few Celiac/gluten-free podcasts, but thus far, none that I'll listen to on a regular basis.  Keep in mind that all of these are all free and available through an easy search in the iTunes store.  

I've been dying to get a book on tape to listen to, but my one shot at it got me a super boring read and I was uninspired to go back for more.   Plus, if not through the library, then usually not so free. 

What are your favorite podcasts?  Any I should check out to get me through my next commute?  I'm all about learning while commuting!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Phish at Broomfield Art Postcards Made by Dave

Dave has been working on some art for the big series of Phish concerts in Broomfield, CO Sunday-Tuesday.  He has a sweet collection of Phish art that he has accumulated from the shows he's attended in the last year or two.  This time, he was inspired to make his own art.

Dave thought he'd create a small version of the screen prints he collects from concerts by doing block (linoleum) printing.  Now, I remember doing something like this back in third grade.  We got some thick cork board, carved out some stuff, then put paint on what was left and smacked it on a sheet of paper.  Dave did just that, only on a more sophisticated level.  He worked on a sketch, then decided how to do it in three colors.  He then carved three 5X7 linoleum pieces.

Dave carving the black linoleum block.  (Note another hobby-- making his own t-shirts)
The red block.

He practiced a few times, carved some more, then everything was ready to go.  He bought some paper and tons of paint.  He cut the paper, then one night printed all of the yellow.

Please note our sweet Alice in Wonderland Art.  Let me know if you need the artist's name, it escapes me at the moment.

The next night, he printed all of the red ontop of the yellow.

The final night, he printed the black.
Dave's apron reads, "Vance" and "King Soopers."  Get it?  Bagger Vance?  Yeah, this was his costume to a movie theme party.
The final product (sorry for the glare!)

These are the Flatirons that are near our place.  The concert is just southeast of us, so it made sense to use this recognizable image.  You can see that he didn't succumb to the pressure to use a 'ph' for the 'f'' in Broomfield.  He did, however, hide a X, XI, and XII in the foreground to show the dates in October that the concert is taking place.  I'm also a big fan of the CO, OCtober play with the letters.  They are 5X7 because it seemed like a good starting size for someone who's never printed before.  The intention is for them to be a postcard from the show.  (We recently got a Phish DVD set of the Clifford Ball in 1996 and it came with 5X7 postcards from the show that triggered this idea).  Now the prints (about 50 of them) are just hanging out and waiting to be sold at any one of the three Phish shows in Broomfield this weekend!

I think they are sweet!  I LOVE the colors.  It's fall-like, but also Halloweeny in a way.  I think it would make a cool remembrance for a sweet concert.

Speaking of concerts, I'm going to see Phish for the first time on Saturday, which isn't actually a Phish show, but a whole bunch of bands are putting on a show for the Fourmile Canyon Fire at the Broomfield Event Center.  String Cheese Incident and Yonder Mountain String Band are also playing.  I'm excited!  I may not be your typical Phishead, but I live with one, so I have to take the plunge. 

What do you think?  Do you like them?  How much should he charge?

Monday, September 13, 2010

National Celiac Awareness Day and Chinese Food Recipes

Today is National Celiac Awareness Day, so let's all be aware of Celiac Disease.  If you're pooping your brains out, you may want to consider going to the doctor and get tested.  It's also good to be aware that some people can't eat gluten, so don't be a dick about it.  :)  Meanwhile, go check out my LAST blog article and COMMENT.  Thanks!

P.F. Changs has some recipes for us gluten-free Chinese food eaters.  Happy day to us!  Check them out here:

Friday, September 10, 2010

Boulder Wildfire

Please note, I have no new news regarding the wildfire.  If you reached this page via google, this is simply my personal account of an event taking place in my town.  I feel awful for the people directly affected by the wildfire, am thankful for all of the firemen and other people keeping us safe, and wish I could do something to help.

Last Saturday, Labor Day weekend, six of us and one dog headed to Rainbow Lakes in the Indian Peaks to go backpacking for one night.  We packed up our gear and despite the last-minuteness of the trip, the only thing I forgot was a raincoat.  We arrived at the trail head around 1:00 in the afternoon and hiked in along an easy trail with several beautiful lakes.  Our organizer had gotten our permit as well as directions on where to stay that night, so we went off trail with a hand-held GPS, compass, and men with amazing senses of direction.

While hiking off trail we all started to realize how dry everything was.  The downed trees that we climbed over just disintegrated under our feet.  Pine needles were everywhere, and with the exception of a small creek, the whole place was just brutally dry.  After lots of bushwhacking and climbing through boulder fields with full packs, we finally found our destination, a cute meadow with two small ponds.  We set up camp, the boys fly fished for a bit in the ponds with no luck (I insist there weren't actually fish in the ponds), and eventually started dinner.  We used our backpacking stoves and were careful to keep things out in the open because our permit very specifically told us not to start a campfire.  There was evidence that the campers before us had not followed this rule because we found several fire pits near our camp.  We enjoyed clear skies, a moonless night, and therefore, an amazing display of stars.  We roped up all of our smelly food/toiletries and hung them on trees away from our camp, just in case a bear might wander by.  Finally, we went to sleep.  I was wearing several layers of clothing, expecting the temperature to drop, but instead, the winds picked up.  I have no way of knowing how strong the winds were that night, but gusty winds inside a tent are never comfortable.  Back in May we had a similar night, but in the desert of Utah.  We were all thankful that at least this time, there wasn't sand falling on our faces all night.  I had a hard time sleeping and woke up at one point thirsty, sweating, and concerned that I had heard an animal outside sniffing. Dave calmed me down, assured me there was no bear, and I spent the rest of the night tossing and turning in the tent because of the wind.

The next day we hiked to a very high ridge right next to the Arapaho Glacier and three beautiful lakes, which are off limits due to them containing our city's water.
Arapaho Glacier with Dave and I enduring gusty winds.
From this ridge, looking east, we could see the city of Boulder in the distance and the plains behind. We ate lunch and hiked down to our camp where our backpacks awaited us. 
Hiking down from the ridge.  That's me in orange!  The two ponds left-center are in the meadow we camped in.  Looking left in the distance is the site of the Fourmile Canyon Wildfire that would start the next day. 
We hiked out through the dry brush again and fly fished some more at one of the more popular lakes. Somewhere along the line I must have set down Dave's trekking poles, because when I got to the end, I no longer had them with me.  Oops!  (First the ipod, now the trekking poles?  I'm really going for girlfriend of the year here.)  We enjoyed a beer (cider) at the trail head, then headed home to Boulder, exhausted from the hike and not sleeping much the night before.

Monday morning Dave and I wandered out to the garage to put our backpacking supplies away.  Dave was opening the garage and looked at me and his eyes wandered to the sky.  I don't remember the exact words out of his mouth, but I turned and was shocked by what I saw.  Through my sunglasses was what looked like a cloud made out of the dirtiest cloud condensation nuclei known to man.  I quickly realized that this was a smoke plume.  It was so huge, so brown, and so close to us that I ran mountain ward for a closer look at the situation.  From my view, which is quite close to the foothills/flatirons, pictured below, the fire source looked too close for comfort.  (I'd later learn that my point of view distorted things and I was one canyon off when describing to Dave where it was coming from.)  We learned quickly that there was a massive fire burning between Boulder Canyon, the canyon we had just taken home the night before, and Lefthand canyon, further north.  It started around 10:00am that day, Labor Day.  Dave is very familiar with this area due to his road biking through these canyons over the past several years and quickly explained to me what I was really looking at.  The winds that had kept me awake all night on Saturday were still howling and caused the fire to spread very quickly.  Of course the ample amounts of dry fuel in the area didn't hurt matters either.  Thus far, there is no confirmed cause of the fire.  

View of the smoke plume on Monday from my "backyard."  Behind these trees are flatirons. 

View from Arapahoe Ave going west from Lafayette. 
 Monday night at 3:14AM I woke up in a panic.  I had been dreaming about a fire and when I came to my senses, I quickly realized why:  our entire condo was filled with the deep, dark smell of thick smoke.  The smell was very intense and I was concerned that I would have breathing problems from it.  Of course we both have healthy lungs/hearts, so my concerns were unfounded.  I popped out of bed and began shutting all of the windows.  (With no air conditioning, we learned to cool our place down nightly.)  The smell was unbearable.  I was able to wake up Dave (this is rare, he is such a heavy sleeper, but I think he could sense my panic) and he explained to me how to turn on the filtering settings on each of his fancy fans.  I decided just to focus on the bedroom and hope that the rest of the house would slowly filter as well.  I hadn't bothered to go online to see if there were new updates and just hoped that if I was going to be evacuated, that someone would knock loudly enough for me to hear them over the buzzing fans.  I woke up for school the next morning to find that the fans had worked.  However, the smell outside was just awful!  The whole city was sitting in a brown cloud due to an inversion, which just happened to be the topic of my classes that day.

That same night, this amazing time lapse video was taken from Flagstaff Mountain, just up the road from us.
Fire from Flagstaff

Wednesday I returned from work to find it was pouring rain in Boulder and after running to the grocery store, this beautiful display of nature showed itself not briefly, but for at least a half an hour.  Had the fire area received the pouring rain?  Probably not as much as we got at my place, unfortunately. 

 Thursday I was searching for more material on the fire for teaching purposes and found that a Red Flag Warning was going into effect for the fire area and Boulder.  This meant that a windstorm was on the way.  Sure enough, it kicked in last night and just roared outside.  Weather observations claim 30mph gusts up by me.  Warnings went out to the city of Boulder:  if you live west of Broadway, it's possible that you may need to evacuate, should the fire expand eastward.  The city cut the grass and cleared brush as an attempt to create a barrier against the possible inferno.  Now, I live south of town and knew that this didn't affect me, but nonetheless, it got me thinking, what would I do if I had minutes to evacuate in the middle of the night?  I went online and found some great links with checkoff lists for fire evacuation, should you have time to prepare.  A few things stuck me as good thinking:  turn on your lights so firemen can see your place at night, put propane tanks in plain view away from structures, fill up pails and garbage cans with water, and have your hose out in plain view for firemen.  Of course it also suggested which belongings to take with you.  A few hours later they clarified the area for possible evacuation and it no longer included my place, which eased my anxiety a bit.

We woke up this morning to find that the wind storm had not caused the fire to spread and the city was safe.  Winds will continue to gust today, although weaker, and winds will become northwesterly any minute, making us, for the first time since it started that I know of, downwind of the fire.  Several evacuees were allowed to return to their homes this morning, but the fire still burns, only 30% contained.  169 homes destroyed, others damaged, and nearly 7,000 acres burned/burning.  Included in this are a few of my colleagues/friends who were either evacuated all week or are waiting in limbo to find out if their house, right in the center of the burn area, was lost.  My heart goes out to them. 

Source:  Boulder County:
The planes continue to fly overhead on their way from the airport southeast of us to the fire northwest of us to drop flame retardant on the fire.  This map shows the evacuation area in red, and current fire perimeter in orange.  The red spots include the reported damaged structures (burned homes, mostly).  We were camping just above the word "Legend" on the left of the map.  We live in the bottom right near where it says "Table Mesa" on a little orange road.  The evacuation for the upper right area of this map has been lifted since it was made.  The concentration of roads in the center right is the city of Boulder, the northwest portion of which was under warning for a possible evacuation last night. 

Before I leave you with a few links to pictures and news on the fire, I ask you this:  if you got an evacuation call (reverse 911) and had minutes to grab what you could before you drove off, with each second you take putting you further in danger, what three things would you take with you?

Live google map

Monday, September 6, 2010

Mexican Caviar

Mexican Caviar is a staple at all of my family's summertime gatherings.  It is a sweet bean and pepper salsa served on tortilla chips.  Although, we have also thrown it into tacos and fajitas.  This stuff is addicting and pretty healthy.  I threw together a batch of this for a softball party we attended last weekend.  I had made a few substitutions for missing ingredients, but the original recipe is the best!

Mexican Caviar
1 can pinto beans
1 can black beans
1 can black eyed peas (found near the canned beans)
1 can shoepeg corn (found near the canned corn)
1 can diced/sliced jalapeno peppers

1 bunch green onions
1 green pepper
1 red pepper

1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. olive oil
1/2 c. cider vinegar


1.  Bring cider vinegar, olive oil, and sugar to a boil. Whisk to dissolve the sugar.  Remove from heat immediately and let cool to at least room temperature.
2.  Pour pinto beans, black beans, and black eyed peas into a colander and rinse. 
3.  Check out the size of the jalapeno peppers and dice if necessary.
4.  Dice green and red pepper. 
5.  Dice green onion.
6.  Toss all ingredients into a large Tupperware bowl with a tight-fitting cover.
7.  Add the cooled vinegar dressing and stir.
8.  Let this sit over night, or at least for a few hours before serving.

Serve with your favorite corn tortilla chips or Fritos.  This will keep for about a week, which is a good thing because it makes a huge batch!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Update and Mini Caprese Salads

After I returned to Boulder from my trip to Wisconsin on a Saturday (remember, before Wisconsin, I only had four days in Boulder after my trip to NJ), Dave left for a Phish concert in Telluride on Sunday with his buddies.  Wednesday he returned to Boulder and Friday his parents arrived for a last-minute trip to take care of some family stuff.  They were fun and easy house guests and after spending several days with them and Dave's aunts and cousins, they all left town on Wednesday, my first day of work.  The next day at 7:00 am, Dave left for a wedding in San Diego.  Monday I had my first day of classes and Dave returned that evening.  A week and a half later, things finally feel like they are settling down.  Since we left for NJ on July 15, summer just whizzed by.

Now my semester has started.  I'm teaching four classes, one new, very upper level class and two other subjects that I have taught before.  Luckily, amidst my vacationing this summer, I was able to organize and prep the classes I have taught before by revamping my old materials, and I got a start on my new class.  This has made my first two weeks of class a breeze.  Well, that and the fact that my schedule is infinitely better than the schedules I dealt with last year. (Here, teach a night class, then an early morning class the next day, oh, and it won't be in a subject matter you know anything about, and you have two lab classes, and, by the way, I'll let you know what classes you're teaching 48 hours before the first day of class.)  Things are going to start kicking in to gear next week, but for the time being, I'm enjoying everything going as planned. 

While Dave was out of town I had a freak-out moment when I figured my life was going to go from peaceful to insanity once classes started and I decided to stock up on the necessities, should I never have time to run an errand until Thanksgiving.  Amidst my errands I found a two-pack of fresh mozzarella at Costco and a basil plant for sale at Soopers.  These, plus cherry tomatoes from my tub plants, all contributed to making a fun recipe I saw on another blog-- mini caprese salads! 

Just slice two ends off of your cherry tomato, one to make the thing stand up, and the other to clean out a little of the runny insides.  Then stuff your cherry tomato with a small piece of fresh mozzarella, top with a slice of basil, fresh cracked pepper, salt, and a drizzle of olive oil.  These little guys are cute as hell, but frankly, not worth the work if you're just feeding yourself.  In that case, a regular old caprese salad will do the trick.  However, I imagine these would be fun to bring to a party as finger food.  Sorry friends, I have kept this treat to myself!


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Meteor Shower Tonight

 "PERSEID METEOR SHOWER:  The annual Perseid meteor shower is underway. Earth is passing through a wide stream of debris from Comet Swift-Tuttle, and each time a fleck of comet dust hits Earth's atmosphere--flash!--there is a meteor.  Forecasters say the shower will peak on Thursday, August 12th, and Friday, August 13th.  You can see Perseids flitting across the sky at any time between about 10 pm on Thursday evening and sunrise on Friday morning. Observers who get away from city lights can expect to count dozens of meteors per hour, especially during the dark hours before dawn.

Last night, Brian A. Klimowski caught this Perseid streaking over the San Francisco Peaks near Flagstaff, Arizona.

BONUS:  If you go outside a little early on Thursday evening, around sunset, you'll see a beautiful gathering of planets in the sunset sky--Venus, Mars, Saturn and the crescent Moon.  It's a nice way to start a meteor watch.  Sky maps may be found at"

It's always fun getting these e-mails!  Hopefully there are few clouds and the insane amount of light pollution where all of us live is at a minimum. 

Sorry for the unpersonalized post.  Dave just returned from a trip to Telluride (think I can get him to write a guest post telling us about his trip?) and I'm in hard core class-prep mode. 

And no, a meteorologist does not study meteors, but you'd be surprised how many people ask me that!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Back to School

All I want to do is take a trip to Target and pretend that I have back to school supplies to buy, just to be a part of the chaos that is a university town filled with new freshman and their parents during dorm move in.  Yes, we have little kids in this town too, so I'm sure I could enjoy the glue-buying crowd as well.  I really have zero things I need from Target, so I will just stay home and work on my own back to school stuff. 

The week in between my vacations I had a meeting with my fellow professors where I had an "Oh yeah, I have a real job that starts up soon" moment.  The moment lasted no more than an hour and I skipped off to vacation #2 and didn't crack a textbook the whole trip.  Really, this is very unlike me.  During the school year I was working 14 hour days and almost all weekends.  It definitely all caught up with me and slacker/vacation mode suited me better than I ever could have known.  Having a month off was something I don't think I've ever had, ever.  Although I could have been working diligently to make my life that much easier in the future, I really did not do much work in July.

I returned home this weekend and spent the first two days doing everything I could think of that didn't involve actually cracking a book (unpacking, cleaning, figuring out my bus schedule for the fall).  Well, yesterday I finally took a hard look at my calendar and had a little flip-flop in my stomach.  Apparently this is what it takes to force me to get down to business.  I have very few work days left before classes start and for my new, very upper level class, I have only prepped about 1/20th of the semester, and not well.  Luckily, my other three classes I have taught before and spent the beginning half of the summer perfecting my materials for those.  I guess I'm down to the wire and today will be spent not surfing the internet for fun blogs, but actually creating some hard-core lectures. 

Life is good, I feel refreshed, I'm stoked about my new job, but it's time to get down to business so my stress levels don't go through the roof once school starts!

I'll leave you with my last picture taken on my trip to New Jersey.  I'll call it, "Vacation's over."  As we got through security at Newark, we looked out the window and saw the sun rise over NYC.  And now, back to reality.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Soft Pretzels and Doughnuts!!!

Dave and I ventured to a gluten-free food fair in Denver one Saturday last summer where we were treated to gobs of cakes, breads, crackers, and other such gluten-free goodies. One of the ideas that really sold to me was Jules Gluten-Free flour. Rather than buying a $6.00 chocolate cake mix any time I want to make a cake, why not use my grandma's chocolate cake recipe and just substitute the typical all purpose flour for gluten-free flour? Well, normally this is a no-no because you can't just throw in rice flour and expect your cake to actually have the texture of cake, but with the Jules Gluten-Free flour, you can use it in any recipe you want because it is formulated to act like regular all purpose flour!

The next weekend I started experimenting with my new (and pricey) flour after Jules e-mailed me a recipe for soft pretzels. AMAZING!  Try it here: Jules Gluten Free Soft Pretzel Recipe.

My first soft pretzel in years
Okay, so if I can use her flour for one of her recipes and make something that tastes guiltily glutenous, the next test was to see if I could use the flour for a random recipe. Somehow doughnuts came up. Back in the hay-day of eating whatever I pleased, I could easily put back a bag of powder sugar doughnuts or enjoy a Krispy Kreme or two when I was in Milwaukee. I've definitely gone without this treat since being diagnosed with Celiac Disease and I thought I should give it a try with my new flour.

I made doughnuts and doughnut holes and glazed, rather than frosted them.

I found a copy cat recipe for Krispy Kreme-style doughnuts. I cut the recipe in half (something you should always do with caution when baking) and still had enough for about two cookie sheets full of doughnuts. Check out the recipe here:  Krispy Kreme Doughnuts Copy Cat.  Just sub the Jules Gluten Free flour for the flour!  Believe it or not, I don't have doughnut cookie-cutters lying around, so I just used a wide glass and a large shot glass for the doughnut shape.  Also, make sure your yeast is not old!  I tried this at my parents' house and had no success with some yeast I found in the fridge.  This recipe is time consuming, so give yourself a few hours for the whole process while letting the pastry rise a few times.  I started at about 8:00pm and finished just before midnight with this project, so I'm sporting my PJs.  These were delicious!  My mouth is watering just thinking about them!