A Denver Home Companion | sweet treats at the populist

this girl loves her some dessert. if you have a sweet tooth yourself, head to the populist to check out what desserts she’s been gobbling up.

 

A Denver Home Companion | nourish meal plans

though i’m married to a chef who has taught me a lot about the beauty of a home-cooked meal, i am not the best at putting together my own dishes. i am notorious for eating whatever is leftover in the fridge or subsisting on sandwiches (tuna, pb&j, egg salad, deli meat) and mac and cheese. this was all well and fine until ramona started eating more and more regular food and was getting sick of her purees and roasted sweet potatoes and i needed ideas of nutritious foods to give her that i could also enjoy eating. i was also gaining weight (after i had lost more than what i had put on while pregnant!). so something had to give. i needed ideas for small family meals (though ramona eats what i eat, i’m essentially cooking for one) that consisted of healthy, in-season whole foods.

in comes chef karolina, a fellow sakura bloom mama, who offered to let me try out her new meal plan service. i was so excited! each thursday, a meal plan arrives in my inbox. it gives me three dinners, one lunch, one breakfast, and one snack (or bonus) meal. the recipes are written plainly and clearly and there’s a complete and concise grocery shopping list in the back. hooray! also, each week focuses on one main ingredient and different ways to incorporate it into your food. the first week was asparagus  then there was leafy greens, then garlic, then spinach. from this approach i’ve learned how to use up all my produce (i am so guilty of letting good stuff go rotten from not using it all up) and how to appreciate the versatility of these seasonal items.

there’s just the right amount of leftovers, interesting seasonings, and so far everything ramona loves every single dish i have offered her.

if you’re needing a little help figuring out what to make for yourself or your family (she’s got meal plans for singlets, larger families, pregnant women, and baby too!), please visit her website to find out more.

pictured above is her Farro Salad with Kale, Cherries, and Feta. i’d suggest doubling the recipe so you can have yummy leftovers. not sure if i was supposed to, but i ate this all in one sitting!

what you need:

  • 1/2 cup farro
  • 1 1/4 cups, chicken or veggie stock
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 lb kale, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 lb cherries (dried or fresh, pitted and chopped)
  • 1 T red wine vinegar
  • ground pepper
  • sea salt
  • 2 oz feta cheese (can also use goat cheese)

what you do:

1. In a saucepan, put farro, stock, and 1 T oil bring to a boil.

2. Bring heat to a low setting and cover pan. Simmer for roughly 30 minutes or until done.

3. Meanwhile, heat 2 T of oil in a skillet. When oil is hot, add chopped kale and sprinkle with salt.

4. Turn down heat to medium hot and, while stirring frequently, cook the kale so it is almost crispy without burning. About 4-5 minutes. Set aside.

5. In a small bowl or jar, combine remainder of oil, vinegar, salt and pepper and whisk/shake.

6. When farro is done, combine it with the cooked kale, cherries, dressing and feta. Toss well and serve.

thanks, karolina! your food is so so scrumptious.

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this week’s guest post is from jenny stockton. she reads, she bakes, she travels, she does lots of good for this world. she certainly seems quite wonderful! (we’ve never met but denver just keeps getting smaller and smaller: we do have some mutual friends.) go check her out. i especially love her discuss posts — thoughtful links to stuff worth knowing about.

if you ask me where i want go out to eat, chances are pretty good i’ll be suggesting any place that serves a big ass margarita and endless bowls of chips and salsas. that will be my request for my last meal. so when jenny came to me w an idea for a guest post that involved letting us all in on the secret of her favorite mexican restaurant, well, i couldn’t wait to see just how big those margaritas are.

A Denver Home Companion | la loma

I first ate at La Loma almost ten years ago, when some West Denver natives took me for dinner. I was volunteering with a youth organization, tutoring and mentoring teens, and the folks I was working with were intent on teaching me about all the best food the Westside had to offer.

One of my favorite things about La Loma is that it’s been around for so long, serving excellent authentic Mexican food. I’d even go so far as to say it’s the best Mexican food in Denver. 

When my husband and I went for dinner recently, we had the honor of sharing the experience with my baby brother for the first time. By the end of the meal, the two were cracking each other (and themselves) up with jokes about how La Loma “is no Casa Bonita but…”

There are three main reasons to eat at La Loma: green chile, tortillas, and tequila.

If you are a tequila connoisseur (I am not), La Loma has something to offer you. If you are a margarita enjoyer (I am), you should probably get a medium and make your underage baby brother drive you home (I did). I like margaritas on the rocks with salt, and La Loma uses only “tequila reposado 100% de agave”, which means it’s aged no less than two months but no more than a year and is made with no glucose or fructose sugars. The margarita de la casa is the perfect balance of flavors – tart and citrusy without being too sweet or sugary.

A Denver Home Companion | la loma

The flour tortillas are made from scratch, which is really probably all you need to know.

Luckily, the green chile comes as a side option with a number of the dishes. I have been known to order a bowl of it with tortillas for my dinner. Either way, you really shouldn’t ever leave without having at least a spoonful (or dipping one of your tortillas in the bowl your brother got as a side with his chimichangas).

If you have room for dessert, the sopapillas are some of the best. They’re light and crispy, but soft and fluffy enough to fill with pockets of honey.

So the next time you find yourself in Denver craving good, authentic Mexican food, go to La Loma. You won’t be disappointed.

A Denver Home Companion | la loma

 

thanks, jenny! i’ll be trying to talk jp into margaritas and burritos for lunch today!

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this week’s contributor is bowen from Bowen Appétit. bowen and i went to high school together and i was thrilled when she reached out to me after she stumbled upon my blog (friend of a friend’s twitter or some such loveliness like that!). bowen caught me up on her going-ons since we last saw each other over ten years ago(!), explaining that she’s taught cooking classes in LA, worked professional sustainability jobs, and over the last year, has started publishing essays, articles, and recipes in various places. her writing is all about food, focusing on homestyle, sustainable cooking, and how important all of that is. currently, her and her hubby are at the end of a 13-month trip around the world on some pretty amazing adventures (you can read their travel blog: a world of gemütlichkeit). in a month or two, they’ll be making their new home in madison, WI. today she writes about how cooking their own food was given them a way to make a home no matter where they are. enjoy!

A Denver Home Companion | bowen appetit

Ten months ago, my husband and I took a giant leap of faith – we quit our jobs, sold or gave away most of our belongings and packed up the rest, and embarked on 13 months of travel in the United States and around the world. We worked incredibly hard to be able to do this, saving up and discussing it for years before we finally made the decision, and last July we embarked on this incredible, terrifying, and life-altering journey.

So for most of the last year, we’ve lived out of suitcases, backpacks, boxes, and the trunk of our car. We’ve slept in a tent on an icefield in Canada, in a grass hut on the edge of the Amazon Jungle, and an open-air house in the middle of a rice paddy in Indonesia (we’ve also slept on a tile airport floor in Chile, in a bed with wet sheets in Bangkok, and more windowless hostel rooms and uncomfortable overnight buses than I care to remember). We’ve gone kayaking in Halong Bay in Vietnam, hiked up mountains in Peru to see the sun rise, and watched one of our best friends perform a solo at Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. Before we got to where we are right now (Vienna, Austria, where we’re staying for five weeks), we hadn’t slept in the same city for more than six nights consecutively, and even that’s happened only a handful of times.  We’ve seen and done and experienced an incredible array of things, and it’s hard to believe there’s only a few months left.

A Denver Home Companion | bowen appetit

But I do miss having a home. I miss having space to myself, and having a normal daily routine, and choosing from more than four shirts when I get dressed in the morning. Living out of suitcases and backpacks and boxes for over a year isn’t always easy. Arriving in a new city every few days can be isolating and exhausting, and staying in hostels and hotels and homestays and campsites and all the other sorts of places we’ve stayed can leave us feeling untethered and restless. Each day is different than the one before it, and while most have been absolutely amazing, there are definitely days I wish I were home (wherever that might be).  

A Denver Home Companion | bowen appetit

The one thing we’ve found that helps us feel more at home is to cook for ourselves. We cook whenever we can; whenever we have access to a kitchen and can use it without feeling like we’re missing out on important local culinary experiences. Sometimes the process of getting what we need to cook – figuring out what ingredients and tools are available to us – can be stressful, but it’s given us some of our best travel experiences since it usually means we’re interacting with people and going places tourists don’t normally go. We’ve cooked in hostel and hotel kitchens, at campsites, at friends’ houses, and wherever else we can (on our road trip across Canada last fall we definitely cooked on our camping stove out of the trunk of the car in motel parking lots, at least a few times). Most of the time the meals are far more simple than things we’d cook at home, but sitting down to a meal we’ve prepared for ourselves – even in the most disappointing of hostels, the most barren of campsites, and the most understocked little rental apartment kitchens – takes us away from the constant sensory overload of restaurants, cafes, and street stands and helps time slow down a bit. We’re finally able to focus on ourselves and on each other and to have the sort of normal, everyday mealtime conversations like we used to in our actual home. It makes us feel like we are home, even if we’re in a place for just one night.  I love cooking for my husband and he loves cooking for me, and in a life where we’re not always able to do things for each other the way we used to, preparing food together has become an important way for us to connect.

A Denver Home Companion | bowen appetit

A big reason we decided to take this year of travel was to figure out more about what sort of home we wanted. We hadn’t been particularly happy living where we were before, and we often talked about why that was so that we could pick somewhere better for the next time. We talked about having friends nearby, green places to go hiking, good grocery stores and farmers’ markets. We talked about not having to drive everywhere and about building a good community of folks around us for when we decide to have kids. We talked about bike paths and weather and cost of living and open-mindedness and all kinds of other things that would make living in a place enjoyable, meaningful, and easy. Then we went around the world to experience all kinds of different neighborhoods, communities, and landscapes and to see how we might spend our time when we didn’t have work and other daily life to deal with, and we’ve learned a lot about ourselves and what we want our life and our home to look like.

We’ve learned, for instance, that while that other stuff is definitely nice and we’ll certainly enjoy having it at our new home, what we love most is sitting at a table with each other and our loved ones, eating something we’ve prepared.  It’s the center of our home, wherever we are.

thank you so much, bowen! what an adventure you’ve been on and i wish you the best of luck as you venture into settling down and doing some homesteading. safe travels!

if you are interested in contributing to A Denver Home Companion, please submit original writing (or ideas!) to emily [at] adenverhomecompanion [dot] com. though i may not be able to publish everything, i certainly consider all of them.

this week’s contributor is erin from an appetite for color. erin is a former denverite who, it turns out, i’ve met a couple of times out and about before i knew about her blog. well, i’m a dedicated reader now. those stunning photos! her simple and thoughtful recipes. her family’s dedication to living the good life. sheesh. it’s all quite wonderful. in her guest post today, she generously provides us w a tasty and nutritious recipe for warm-weather cold treats that little ones will love. recipes such as these are becoming more and more important to me as i find ways to get ramona excited about eating and eating well. enjoy…

Blackberry bliss stains her fingers and lips, before staining this moment ours, forever.  I make a mental promise to never forget her sparkling eyes, impatient tummy, and smitten dimpled cheeks. These are the moments I was made for…A Denver Home Companion | an appetite for color

I come from a long line of sweet aficionados, and so my affinity for treats comes quite naturally. My father –a man with infectious passion, which does not stop with treats– left me no choice but to follow in his footsteps.  I have an inkling that our history has already left my daughter, Octave, with no choice as well. Some of my most fond childhood memories revolve around root beer floats and mint chip ice cream.  However, years later I find myself a whole-food enthusiast, bearing the responsibility and delighting in the honor of nourishing a little belly.  I believe food is so essential that I find myself planning my life around food rather than food around my life.

I want Octave to experience joy and enthusiasm for the colors and tastes that fill her belly just as I did as a child.  I believe her joy can be doubled when those colors and tastes come from real whole foods. Mindful treats are high on my list of importance and I have dedicated many adventurous experiments to creating just that. These blackberry creamsicles were dreamed up just in time for summer: creamy but dairy free, sweet yet free of processed sugar, and perfectly purple, just like all happy things are. Enjoy these tasty (a little more nutritious,) treats with your little ones and savor their eager, sticky hands with happy, messy faces. Because even after all these years, the moments surrounding special treats are the ones I remember and cherish most.    

A Denver Home Companion | an appetite for colorA Denver Home Companion | an appetite for colorA Denver Home Companion | an appetite for colorA Denver Home Companion | an appetite for color

Blackberry Creamsicles (makes 6) 

what you need:

  • popsicles molds
  • 1 ½ cup fresh or frozen blackberries
  • 1 cup of raw cashews
  • 1 cup fresh squeezed orange juice (2-3 oranges)
  • 1/4 cup raw local honey
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 4 tbsp. chia seeds (these, along w the bee pollen below, can be found at your local natural foods store)
  • 2 tsp. bee pollen, divided for garnish & enjoyed as sprinkles:)

what to do:

  1. Soak cashews in a bowl of water, preferably overnight but an hour or two will do.   
  2. When you’re ready to start making your creamsicles, melt coconut oil and honey in a small saucepan.  Set it aside to cool for a few minutes.
  3. Drain the water from the cashews and place them in a food processor or high-powered blender.  Add orange juice, honey, coconut oil, and vanilla.  Blend for 5-8 minutes or until super smooth.  It may take a little longer than you would think, depending on the quality of your blender or processor, but just be patient. 
  4. Add blackberries and blend for another minute. 
  5. Pour in chia seeds, and, using a spatula, fold seeds into mixture.
  6. Sprinkle a few pieces of bee pollen in the bottom of each popsicle mold.
  7. Pour the mixture into the molds and place in the freezer for 4-6 hours or until completely frozen.
  8. Enjoy!

thank you so much, erin! i cannot wait to get my hands on some molds and make this for ramona. though, i’m thinking i will have to hide them from jp who’s been known to put down a stash of iced treats when it’s hot enough outside ;) cheers!

if you are interested in contributing to A Denver Home Companion, please submit original writing (or ideas!) to emily [at] adenverhomecompanion [dot] com. though i may not be able to publish everything, i certainly consider all of them.

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