Banana Cake with Browned Buttercream Frosting

I was leaving town for a week so had to use up my 4.5 bananas.  I decided to make my first banana cake and made it with a twist.  I added dark chocolate chips and made a browned butter frosting.  I toasted walnuts to layer and top off the cake and added bit o’ toffee brickle in with the toasted walnuts.  This recipe out of my Sweet & Simple Gooseberry Patch Recipe book was a hit!

Browned Butter Frosting 

2 cups powdered sugar 

1 teaspoon vanilla extract 

1-2 tablespoons of heavy cream or milk

1/2 cup browned butter (re-cooled until solid)

**Adjustments to the cake recipe in book: I reduced the sugar just slightly under 1-2/3 cup and substituted 1/4-1/3 cup of sugar for equal amount of coconut sugar.  I also added 1/4-1/3 cup of Ghiradelli dark chocolate chips to the batter.

If making into three cake pans, reduce the time by about 10 mins.

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Hikes Around Evergreen

This beautiful view is found just a few miles up from my house on the way to Evergreen Mountain.  This is my new friend and hiking partner Katie (the wife of our realtor).IMG_2727I packed a thermos of hot tea to enjoy at the peak of our hike.  Here is where we stopped to take in the tea and the view Evergreen Mountain shared with us on this wonderful winter afternoon.IMG_2730IMG_2731The following week, I found myself at Lair o’ the Bear for a solo hike on the hunt for a glimpse of the enchanting Dunafon Castle.  Bear Creek is still frozen so there was some running (in slush)  as well as some slipping and sliding into the best angles with my camera.IMG_2740IMG_2742IMG_2745

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IMG_2749Every morning on the way to work I would drive by wondering what was beyond the driveway sign with the castle crest…finally the mystery of the hidden castle is revealed!  Just across the trout filled Bear Creek are the walls of a stunning castle where weddings and charity events take place half of the year and a residence remains for the full-time caretaker.  The castle is comprised of 17 acres with 14 bedrooms, a fruit and wine cave, two upper roof tops overlooking the large trout ponds and spectacular views of the property (ideal for cocktail parties, dances, or an elegant dinners), a nostalgic old wooden water wheel, and 1500 feet of private trout ponds -just to name a few details.IMG_2750

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Tea time out of my vintage plaid Thermos at the end of a long hike is a lovely reward.  I am so grateful for this morning.  IMG_2752Post hike I met up with my two new mountain biker friends and their dog (all whom I just met on this trail) for a smokey lunch at one of my top favorite local eats, Switchback Smokehouse to continue enjoying the day “al fresco” style.

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Nature’s Majesty

Another day another bird…  This is the cute little Pine Siskin.  I was not familiar with this bird, so I had to look it up to identify it.  I think that is the male up higher and the female is below him with less yellow in her plumage.  A cool fact about these guys is the male feeds and provides for the female during incubation, how sweet.img_2989img_2992img_2993Lots of Junco around here!img_2999img_3001img_3004As most people that live anywhere near the mountains know, this is the vibrant Stellar’s Jay.  Look closely and you’ll see the white markings on forehead and eyebrow stripe.  This means it is not a juvenile as juvenile Stellar’s lack these white facial markings.  Also, the male and female in this species are the same in appearance.  In general, other male birds are more colorful than their counterparts mainly for purpose of attracting their mates (sexually dimorphic, meaning “two forms”).img_3005img_3006img_3008img_3010This is the Mountain Chickadee.  It is said to be one of the top ten abundant birds in Colorado as it thrives in the state’s conifer forest preferring old growth spruce, fir and Lodgepole Pine forest.img_3011img_3012img_3014img_3015This is a Downy or a Hairy Woodpecker, almost identical birds but difference in size, so hard to tell unless they are side by side.  Actually seeing it feed with the Junco, I would guess it’s the Hairy.  The Hairy Woodpecker is said to be 9″, and this one looks quite a bit bigger than the Junco which is around 5.5″ in size.  The Downy Woodpecker is only an inch bigger than the Junco.img_3017img_3018img_3019img_3020img_3021img_3022I tried to cut down on the sunset pictures…I am not sorry!img_3026img_3029img_3035img_3036

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Evergreen Has My Heart

My favorite place to hang out in the chalet is the living room nestled up by the fire or standing at the back door off the kitchen/living room directly behind the bird feeder situated in the center of the backyard.  The view gawking from that sliding glass door is a splendid one and displays a panoramic of the entire backyard.  This isn’t just any back yard, this is the land where the spooked elk run through the evergreens, the squirrels frolic in the snow, the deer eat the fallen pine, and the birds snack on their seeds.  Any given day, we are guaranteed to be entertained by at least two of these majesties of nature.  I have shared pictures of a few of the moments I caught on camera and some new birds I’ve learned.img_2914Grey-headed Junco or Dark-eyed Junco: female img_2918Pygmy Nuthatchimg_2922Male Dark-eyed Juncoimg_2925img_2927img_2944img_2945img_2947img_2950img_2951img_2953img_2954img_2956This is the hot tub we often enjoy even when snow is falling…img_2957My favorite little deer is this sweet fawn with one floppy ear.img_2960img_2961img_2962img_2963img_2967img_2968img_2971img_2974img_2976img_2978

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Christmas Time in Mountain Country

This is our first Christmas in Evergreen.  The Christmas season in this community brings elves, mulled wine, apple cider, hot chocolate, horse carriage rides, ice-skating, ice melt contests, ice fishing on the town lake, Christmas Carolers and music, the “Lighting of the Tree” town festival, open fires, reindeer costumes, joy, togetherness, and cheer.

My home-made winter time wreathe!  img_2060The neighborhood img_2082img_2094img_2101This is the start of the “Lighting of the Tree Festival”.  It was a wonderful experience, but we never saw them make a spectacle of any Christmas tree lighting; maybe we missed it.  We parked at the church to catch the shuttle down the hill to avoid any parking mess.  We got on board with a bunch of young moms, dads, and kids.  It was a bitter sweet experience.  I hope to be there on that shuttle with our own some day but enjoyed watching the families interact and get excited about the festival.

Christmas Carolsimg_2103Elderly Elvesimg_2105Gathering around the open fires with hot apple cider, mulled wine, and hot chocolate is delightful!  We decided on the mulled wine.img_2108This is where you find the apple cider, hot chocolate, and “Ice Melt Contest” tickets.img_2109This is where the “Muddy Buck” resides and also our preferred coffee shop hang out on the weekends.  Next door is the “Little Bear Saloon” where wild nights of dancing and pitchers of beer are enjoyed while listening to live music.img_2114img_2113Finally, there are the two horse open sleigh rides.img_2115Back home we get lots of snow and love it even when cabin bound!img_2205img_2208img_2209It seems the snow brings out more wildlife or makes them more active.  We enjoy having close up moments, watching them come right up to our patio.img_2227img_2229img_2231img_2233img_2242img_2246img_2256My favorite Tomato Blue Cheese soupimg_2264I brought home some beers from Tulsa, Oklahoma’s new brewery American Solara.  We think their sours are absolutely on point!img_2267

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Fleur de sel Caramel Apple Cheesecake Pie

When my mom got home from a couple of weeks in Provence, she came to visit us in Evergreen, CO.  She came bearing gifts, presenting us with some thoughtful native French trinkets including a monogrammed sachet of Lavender, a small postcard of Picasso’s wedding art, and some sea salt hand harvested in France.  Just a week or two later I figured out the perfect thing to make with one of these mementos.  I used my Fleur de sel to make the tastiest salted caramel I have ever had.  I really think the salt made the caramel!

HOMEMADE SALTED CARAMEL SAUCE

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups organic granulated sugar
  • 12 tablespoons organic unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces
  • 1 cup organic heavy cream, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon fleur de sel (or any other flaky sea salt)

DIRECTIONS:

1. Add the sugar in an even layer over the bottom of a medium heavy saucepan.  Heat the sugar over medium-high heat, whisking it as it begins to melt.  You’ll see that the sugar will begin to form clumps, just keep whisking.  As it continues to cook, they will melt back down.  Stop whisking once all of the sugar has melted, and swirl the pan occasionally while the sugar cooks.

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2. Continue cooking until the sugar has reached a deep amber color and a slight toasted aroma.  This is the point where caramel can go from perfect to burnt in a matter of seconds, so keep a close eye.  If you are using an instant-read thermometer, cook the sugar until it reaches 350 degrees F.

3. As soon as the caramel reaches this toasted amber stage or  350 degrees, add the butter all at once.  The caramel will bubble up when the butter is added.  Whisk the butter into the caramel until it is completely melted.img_1979

4. Remove the pan from the heat and slowly whisk the cream into the caramel. img_1983img_1985

5. Whisk until smooth, then add the Fleur de sel whisking until all incorporated.

6. Set the sauce aside to cool slightly, and then pour into glass jar.  Let cool to room temperature before sealing.

Sauce makes great gifts or store the sauce for later use, up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator.  This caramel is good in espresso, ice cream, cookies, apples, bananas, made into icing, or just by the spoonful!  Warm sauce back up before each indulgence.  img_1988

This caramel is amazing in this Fleur de sel Caramel Apple Cheesecake Pie.  Brown Eyed Baker has it down!  I usually tweak other recipes to make them more into my own when using them, but I really didn’t recall changing a thing in this one except the name.  Thanks Brown Eyes!  I will let her take the cred from here.img_1990img_1991img_1992img_2011img_2013img_2014Notice the layers of this delicious creation…img_2016

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Cuisine in the Chalet

Now that I have my kitchen somewhat organized and am settled in the new house, I am cooking any chance I get.  It is so peaceful and quiet out there that once I get home from my long commute everyday and even on the weekends, I hardly want to leave.  Last weekend I made Pumpkin Parfaits for the dinner party, and they were a hit!  I sprinkled a bit of cinnamon in the layers and added toffee brickle too.  I wanted to add roasted pecans to the layers but ran out of time.  I made the bottom crust out of crumbled up blondie brownies I made the night prior.  Thanks to “anightowlblog.com” for the idea and base recipe.  Freshly shaved nutmeg would look and taste great on top too!

Quick Pumpkin Cheesecake Parfaits

Ingredients

  • 1 8-oz package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • Heath Bits O’ Brickle Toffee Bits
  • 1 pint of heavy whipping cream
  • 1/3-1/2 cup sugar/brown sugar/coconut sugar
  • ½ tsp pumpkin pie spice (or a combo of cinnamon, cloves, and ginger)
  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted
  • **an alternative for the crust is crumbled up chunks of brownies/blondies
  • **see whipped cream recipe below
Instructions:
  1. Cream together softened cream cheese and sugar in a medium bowl.
  2. Add in pumpkin puree and pumpkin pie spice until thoroughly combined.
  3. Fold 1/2 of whipped cream into pumpkin cream cheese mixture and refrigerate.
  4. When ready to serve, stir together graham cracker crumbs with melted butter.
  5. Layer graham cracker crumbs first, pumpkin cheesecake, whipped cream, toffee brickle (best sprinkled in between each layer), and top with remaining whipped cream, freshly shaved nutmeg, cinnamon, crushed graham cracker, and toffee brickle.

Whipped Cream

  • Heavy whipping cream
  • granulated or confectioners sugar
  • vanilla extract

A good ratio is 3 T sugar and 1 t vanilla per 1 cup whipping cream.  Whisk by hand or by electric mixer until soft peaks start to form.

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I love these, especially the Pump Action and the Ninkasi Sleigh’r

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Our new beautiful custom coffee table

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Tomato Bell Pepper Gouda Soup with Red Wine

Fresh Veggie Pad Thai with Zucchini Noodles

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Premier Family Visit in Evergreen!

Well, we had our first overnight visitors for a few days.  My brother, niece, and mom came to stay at our new house, and we enjoyed every minute of their time here .  The three nights actually flew by too fast.  On Friday morning, I took the fam over to Breckenridge for the day.  We enjoyed walking the main street and stopped for some fun pics in the park after having some lunch at C.B. & Potts and stopping for cookies at my favorite Mary’s Mountain Cookies.img_1820img_1816img_1817img_1819img_1801This was the best little toy store, cram packed with toys filling every square inch, complete with an sea octopus playground!  I especially appreciated the selection of stuffed toy foxes!img_1796

Cyrus, Brad, Bryce, Mom and I tried out the local (in Kittredge) barbecue spot called Switchback Smokehouse.  It was an overall delightful experience!  They even had smoked salmon for those Pescatarians out there that still want to enjoy some barbecue:)img_1794

Mom and Bryce exploring the area not far from here around Red Rocks while Aunt Amy is at workimg_1790

I made a little aperitif for the guests.  I see someone that is excited about this.img_1811

In preparation for the guests, we incorporated a little character into the guest rooms with fun bedding and pillows hoping kids will be around to appreciate it even more!img_1966

Poor lighting from the temporary lamp in here doesn’t portray the classy crisp white with grey windowpane duvet with the grey light wool throw.img_1969

One morning we went to Denver for brunch to meet up with Brad’s friend.  Cyrus and Bryce enjoyed some coloring time together at the table on the rooftop–I enjoyed the view.img_1812img_1806

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A Fruitful Foodful Weekend in Denver

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Pre-gaming all by myself with my favorite cocktail, the Pisco Sour anticipating Cyrus’ arrival for dinner

Pisco Sour

  • 3-4 oz Pisco
  • 1-2 oz squeezed lemon juice (I like lemon, but lime works just the same & is great too)
  • 1 egg white
  • 3/4 oz homemade simple syrup (I prefer to use Mauritian sugar cubes or use my fine homemade vanilla sugar)

Drinkrections:  Shake it til you can’t shake it no mo’!~  Then add ice and give it another shake-a-roo.  This method ensures the best white frothy foamy effect from the egg white.  Top it off with a few drops of Angostura Bitters and don’t be scared to be creative with a nice tooth-picked design.

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While waiting for my sauce to cook, I went out on the balcony to light my chiminea and take a peak at the dark silhouette of my distant mountain view just after sunset.

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Veggie Lasagna

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Added apples to soup for a little tinge of tartness…meanwhile, cooking the potatoes and making veggie broth for the soup

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Sauteed zucchini, onions, and leeks, with roasted eggplant and garlic set aside for layering into the lasagna

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Reserving some leeks, garlic, and onions for special toppings

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In the Vitamix…

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Leek, Roasted Garlic, Potato Soup!

I garnished the soup with basil from my patio plant, sun-dried tomato, and muddled basil infused olive oil.

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My new copper wine glasses I got for my birthday from my sweet aunts, Dynda and Lisa

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Boule Toast with caramelized leeks, onions, and garlic atop mozzarella

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After all that food we had last night, I still had a hankering to make Pumpkin Waffles before taking a steamy dip in the jacuzzi.

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Pumpkin waffles to die for, so will follow with recipe

Pumpkin Waffles

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
4 large eggs, separated
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups homemade buttermilk (see below)
1 cup canned solid-pack pumpkin
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
Butter or oil to apply to waffle iron for non-stick

Preheat oven to 250°F if keeping some warm and warm evenly on both sides as will get soggy quickly.

Preheat waffle iron. Sift together flour, brown sugar, baking powder and soda, salt, and spices. Whisk egg yolks in a large bowl with vanilla, buttermilk, pumpkin, and butter until smooth. Whisk in dry ingredients just until combined.

In a mixing bowl with a whisk attachment, whisk the egg whites until they hold soft peaks (as in, far softer than the over-beaten whites you’ll see in my picture above). Folk them gently into the waffle batter, until just combined.

Brush waffle iron lightly with oil and spoon batter into waffle iron, spreading quickly. Cook to your preference.  Serves up to 4 hungry people!  I split this recipe and is perfect amount for two people with no waste.

**Homemade Buttermilk

Measure out the 2 cups whipping cream (future buttermilk) and add about 2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice and 1-2 T apple cider vinegar and stir.  Let sit for at least 10 mins and will begin to curdle quickly.  I like this better than store bought buttermilk…plus it’s fun to watch the transformation of the cream and smells delicious!

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Pumpkin waffles served with Great Aunt Priscilla and Cork’s Homemade Apple Butter I scored at the family reunion auction

I served the waffles with Jalapeno Onion Home-fries that left a spicy aroma that lingered in my apartment for days.

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My entree at beautiful Bittersweet

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Special longtime friends Alex and Lindsey Cyrus grew up with in Texas that also live in Denver

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Cyrus with the “Midas Touch”–Cyrus and I took a stroll on Sunday to walk off the Bittersweet celebrations last night.  It was a great relaxing way to end the weekend.

Did I mention we also walked around the lake to my favorite neighborhood coffee shop -Coda – and enjoyed a cold coffee bevi on the back patio?  Then we spontaneously decided to try the much anticipated local Thai cafe next door where I threw a small fit, because I ordered the wrong item getting the “Pak U.S. Thai” instead of the PAD Thai I thought I ordered.  I was almost drooling over everyone else’s noodles for about 20 minutes as everyone around me seemed to be enjoying that PAD Thai.  The solution being, I ordered us a third meal; suffice it to say, no doggie bag needed.  On our way back, we didn’t get too far before we strolled up to Joyride Brewing, getting lured in by enticing open air atmosphere to share a pint of their seasonal Scarecrow Pumpkin Ale.  This was a fabulous weekend!

 

Posted in baking, beer, breakfast, cocktails, coffee, coffee shops, cooking, Denver, dessert, dining, dinner, Drinks, Food, friends, Mountains, Nature, outdoors, parties, random, recipe, Recipes, restaurants, salmon, soup, the good life, Wildlife, wine | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Denver Urban Homestead Tour

As I have mentioned in a previous post or two, Cyrus and I bought a house and will soon be moving into our first home!  He has been doing most of the gardening research and pre-planning as I have been studying how to raise chickens.  I found out about this self guided Urban Homestead Tour in the Denver Metro area so we mapped out our preferred route and decided to participate and check out the attractions.  We saw great examples of food production, chicken keeping, beekeeping, natural building, composting, sustainable design (including re-using grey water from washing clothes outdoors to water plants), and more applied in various spaces and neighborhoods.  Eventually we will be building our own garden in hopes to become self-sufficient with a sustainable set up.  It will be a lifelong learning process and something we can definitely grow on together, get it? 🙂I believe this is the salvaged 1920’s farmhouse.  I went gaga over it and the bark walls you will see on the back of the house and encompassing the shed.We must have a pumpkin trellis next fall season!Busy bees and their hives

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