52 To Do – Top 10

January 1, 2012 § 1 Comment

When I tell people about my blog they always ask what my favorite week has been. It’s always hard to pick a favorite but I can name my top 10. If you’re looking for some fun, interesting things to try out for 2012, here were my favorites from this past year in no particular order:

1. Learning to roast coffee – If you claim to love or live on coffee, this is something you have to try. Unfortunately for those who live in apartments where it’s hard to get outside this may not be ideal for you (there’s smoke). Sweet Maria’s has a great starter kit for $45.

It will seriously become your favorite cup of coffee. Ever.

2. Ice fishing (or something that seems completely out of your range of possibility) – We spent the day with friends trying something none of us had ever tried before. While we didn’t catch any fish, we did arguably have the best laugh of 2011.

Getting out and doing things I’d never done before to embrace winter made a huge difference living here in Boulder.

3. Researching my ancestry – I definitely looked at my life differently after understanding more about where I came from. Plus it is a great thing to do with your family. I spent the week with my family going through old pictures and hearing old stories, many I had not heard before. It was a nice way to spend time together.

It was good to get my parents to talk about what they remember. I only wish my grandparents were still around. I have so many questions for them.

4. Churn homemade ice cream with friends – I bought a hand churn ice cream maker (White Mountain 4 qt. hand crank) and this proved to be a fun summer activity with friends. If you do get the hand churn one, you pretty much need the extra help since it isn’t easy!

My friend Jess (who also accompanied me on lots of blog adventures) gave me a great ice cream recipe book that did us right. It was a toss up between the goat cheese ice cream and the roasted coffee ice cream (we of course used fresh home roasted coffee for that) as to which was the best.

5. Learning about wine – I owe a huge thanks to my friends at Frasca Food & Wine in Boulder. James Beard award winner, Bobby Stuckey, welcomed my project early on letting me shadow his amazing crew of sommeliers on what it’s like to live for wine. I’ve made lots of new wine buddies through Frasca and the Boulder Wine Merchant. With more Master Sommeliers per capita than any city in the U.S. Boulder is a good place to be to learn about wine.

6. Hike a 14er – In 2011 I officially became a Coloradan by climbing my first 14,000 foot mountain with my friend Alicia (another partner in crime with many blog projects).

You likely won’t have mountains like that around but maybe there’s another physical feat to try that makes you equally feel a part of where you’re living. Boston marathon? Rowing the Thames? Surfing in Santa Monica?

7. Learning how to knit – This was a favorite for multiple reasons. I gained a new skill that is incredibly relaxing. I made some beautiful cowls that served as well-received holiday presents and to top it off I made a new friend in the process.

I also found a gem of a local store (Shuttles, Spindles and Skeins) where I will continue going for yarn and pearls of wisdom from the fantastic crew of ladies that work there.

8. Shooting a gun – I will likely never own a gun but I am glad I learned how to shoot one this year (target range only). It is an experience you could never understand without actually doing it. I now know just how powerful and dangerous they are.

It was something totally foreign to me and outside of my comfort zone, but I felt like it was something I should try once in my lifetime. Plus it was a great way to spend the afternoon with my husband and his twin brothers in Portland.

9. Pasta making – Pasta is one of those staples around the house and making it yourself is not only easy but worth the little bit of effort. The difference in taste is amazing.

I’ve continued along with it and for New Year’s Day dinner tonight I’ll be making some homemade orchiette I learned to make from Brian, another Frasca friend.

10. Reading about philosophy and religion – One of the best outcomes of the year was learning to think for myself again. It was a great exercise to dust off some books on philosophy and religion and to challenge my thinking in that regard a bit again.

It’s easy to get caught up in day to day issues and worries and can be enlightening to realize we’re just a blip on the radar when it comes to humanity. We are trying to answer many of the same questions people have been trying to answer for centuries.

Inspired by Frasca Food & Wine

October 15, 2011 § 1 Comment

Earlier in the year I spent a week with the Frasca learning about how to be a Sommelier. This week Bobby Stuckey was gracious enough to let me come back and watch them in their pasta making glory. I spent a few hours with Sean who showed me how to cut pappardelle, how to make ravioli dough and how to make gnocchi (one of my favorites). He made it all look effortless but also confided he’s been doing it awhile so he has it down to a science, or I should say, an art.

Pappardelle is one of my favorite pastas. We’ll actually be trying to make it tonight. It was great to see how Sean handled it & cut it. Getting started with pasta, it can be hard to figure out how to handle it & how dry/wet it should be. He was pretty generous with dusting it with semolina to keep it from sticking. He said it’s important to keep its “toothiness”. The pasta was a beautiful golden color. In a matter of minutes he had cut a gorgeous tray full of pappardelle.
After showing me how to make their ravioli pasta, Sean moved onto the gnocchi. I’ve always heard it can be hard to make and touchy because of the consistency of the potatoes. Sean said his first few attempts weren’t his best but now it’s second hand. One thing about pasta is that it does come from the simplest of ingredients. With gnocchi you start with a good old baked potato. They bake them in a bed of sea salt to help with moisture.

With gnocchi Sean said it’s important to get the right consistency with the potatoes so he uses a food mill to make the potato uniform in size.
He couldn’t share their recipe secrets, but one he did share they include is rosemary infused butter and cream which makes the gnocchi have a rich texture and wonderful fragrance. It smelled amazing.

After adding the remaining ingredients he gently mixed the dough on a well floured board. He didn’t fuss with it too much.

Then the mesmerizing gnocchi production began. He piped out 5 long rolls of gnocchi across a huge cutting board surface which made me contemplate a kitchen remodel. Again it was well floured. I’m glad I got to see this because I would probably have been much more worried about how much flour I was using. Sean then masterfully cut them into perfectly uniform little pillows which would later be hand formed one by one.
 Sean then sifted out a bit of the flour and voila! I was pretty hungry at that point since it was lunchtime and I love gnocchi. The raw dough smelled amazing.

Luckily my parents were in town this weekend so we paid Frasca a visit on Friday night to enjoy their tasting menu. As a surprise they brought us an extra course of their gnocchi which were incredible.

I still have a few pastas to try before I feel brave enough to make gnocchi but I was definitely inspired by watching Sean make some of the best gnocchi I’ve ever had.

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