Friday, January 31

Orange and Blue, Through and Through

My grandmother always made these wings for special occasions.  Birthdays, holidays, parties, or just because.  In our house, the Super Bowl is a pretty special occasion.  And since I live with just about the biggest Denver Broncos fan ever, Sunday's game is nothing short of monumental!  I mean, more important than my birthday, and much bigger than Christmas.  My husband is orange and blue, through and through!  There will be a lot of cheering, a whole lot of screaming, and an embarrassing amount of testosterone fueled fist-pumping and couch-punching.  Despite what my family may think, I'm not a huge football fan (but don't tell them that!).  I'd much rather don my apron and take cover in the kitchen.  Planning a Super Bowl party is always fun.  This is the one and only time that the kids are allowed to eat in front of the TV, and that makes it even more exciting.  This year, I'm turning our Super Bowl spread orange and blue, in honor of our hometown team.

My husband has taken to calling these wings, Seahawk wings . . . and then, with a threatening growl, he devours them in one bite.  They're sweet, salty and sticky.  Have plenty of napkins on hand.  I marinate them in soy sauce and brown sugar for several hours, and then bake them to sticky perfection.  With the wings, I decided to serve these adorable baby bell peppers which I found in the market a few days ago, stuffed with blue cheese.  Blue and orange peppers, how fun is that?  Of course, every Super Bowl party needs a super cool treat, so I'm making these Orange Creamsicle Sandwich Cookies.  Sprinkled with orange and blue sugar, naturally, and filled with creamy frosting to match. You could, in fact, make them any color you like (even navy and green, I won't tell).  Sweet orange and creamy vanilla, they remind me of the orange creamsicles I used to love as a child.

Tuesday, January 28

The Bleak Mid-Winter

There are several small ponds that connect with the river that runs behind our house.  In the winter, they're a haven for thousands of geese which fly down from Canada.  In the summertime, we like to walk there late in the afternoon when it's cool and the sun is low. The kids splash in the water at the edge of one pond and chase huge bullfrogs into its murky depths.  The fishy smell of algae and vegetation envelope us and, though it's strong, it's not a bad smell.  In flashes of turquoise, sapphire and topaz, dragonflies dart between the cattails growing tall along the shore.  Turtles sun themselves on a rotting branch caught among some stones and ducks paddle leisurely through the still water, occasionally dunking their emerald heads beneath the surface for a tasty bite of something floating by.  The whole place buzzes with energy, vitality, and life.  

In winter, when cabin fever sets in, we bundle up in our heaviest jackets, scarves, and rain boots and drive to our favourite pond; it's much too cold to walk.  Just a quick visit.  How different she looks in the winter!  The muddy ground is hard as iron, the water is still as stone.  It's as if our pond is sleeping, peaceful under her pearly blanket of snow.  I get the eerie feeling that we are eavesdropping on a friend.  She doesn't know we're there, and we feel we must tip-toe so as not to wake her.  The stillness is overwhelming, the only sound we hear is the rustle of wind through the bare tree branches and, from somewhere unseen, the haunting call of geese.  The bitter wind stings our noses as we say goodbye to our sleeping friend and trudge back through the snow to the car.  On the way home I hear the words of this song deep in the back of my mind:
In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
Long ago.
-Christina Rossetti (1830 - 1894)

Bleak is a very good word to describe this winter.  I think most of us would agree, all this snow and cold has us longing for spring.  It's a long way off, I know.  In Colorado the heaviest snow falls in March and April.  Thick, wet blankets of spring snow that break tree limbs and paralyze the city.  So I must devise ways to bring the happy, sunny flavors of spring inside.  As I write this, our boots sit in a puddle by the back door, the icicles on our coats are melting, and the bright smell of lemon and thyme permeate every corner of my kitchen.  It smells like spring!

Monday, January 20

Little Hands

My grandmother had a picture that hung in her kitchen until the day she died.  It was a framed, decoupage print of my 4 year old hands, dripping in blue finger paint.  Something my creative mother made for her as a Christmas present long, long ago.  Below the messy blue hand prints she stenciled this poem:

Sometimes you get discouraged
Because I am so small,
And always leave my fingerprints
On furniture and walls.
But everyday I'm growing,
I'll be grown up someday,
And all these tiny hand prints
Will simply fade away.
So here's a final hand print
Just so you can recall,
Exactly how my fingers looked
When I was very small.

holding little hands last summer at the river that runs near our house

Throughout my childhood years I would frequently hold my hands up to the glass covering that picture, comparing them to the little hands in the frame.  I would watch, in wonder, as my tiny hands grew, until one day my finger tips stretched to the edge of the frame and I was grown up.

Friday, January 10

A Love Letter

On our first date, my husband and I enjoyed a midnight snack of dates and red wine on a silk Persian rug stretched out beneath the April stars.  That rug, which he picked up in a market in Iran, is dusty plum with brilliant orange and blue flowers running across the surface like the fine lines of a calligrapher's pen.  It now hangs in our living room.  On the day he proposed, we took a trip to the mountains and celebrated with dates and champagne, which my husband served out of the bed of his pick-up truck in Waterford flutes purchased just for the occasion.  On our honeymoon in Las Vegas, we sent the hotel kitchen staff scrambling when we called room service to order a plate of dates and black coffee laced with cardamom late one evening.  The night before my daughter's birth we ate candied dates at a smoky, Middle Eastern restaurant, while belly dancers swished between the tables, they're coin belts and gold bangles clinking with the music.  A hypnotic whir of colour and sound. 

It's amazing, the recollections which are conjured up by food!  Just one bite will flood you with a lifetime of memories!  So, it was for my husband, that I created this cake.  A love letter, of sorts, in so much as a cake can be called a love letter.  It's an homage to a food that has laced our years together.  Something that connects our past to our present, weaving us together like the fine, purple thread that runs through that rug.  The date.

My husband fell in love with dates while living in the Middle East.  He'd bring back huge bags of them for his family at Christmastime.  It's said that in ancient times, middle eastern men would eat up to 6 pounds of dates each day!  This doesn't surprise me.  I know my husband could eat twice as many.  My kids have come to love dates just as much as their father.  Eve asks me to pack them whenever it's her turn to bring the class snack.  Consequently, she's turned her entire class into date-lovers.

Sunday, January 5


Necessity, they say, is the mother of invention.  And so this dish was born, out of necessity, last week when we returned home from a road trip with two very hungry children and a kitchen that was nearly void of food.

I have a tendency to plan these last minute road trips and just barely squeeze them into the time when the children are off of school.  So last week, during the final days of winter break, we packed up the car and headed south to Santa Fe, New Mexico, about six hours away.  Just doable with two small children, as long as there are plenty of breaks and a good, long picnic halfway through.

In winter, New Mexico is magical.  Most people imagine that it's hot, but in the high mountains it has the feel of a ghostly winter wonderland.  The red rocks of the mesas glow brilliantly in the setting sun, as if lit from within.  The heady smell of piñon smoke settles in the valleys, and patches of untouched snow shimmer like a thousand lakes on the dessert floor.