Friday, November 18, 2011

Giving Thanks Cinnamon Bread

In Nicholas Kristof’s recent article, “Girls Just Want to Go to School,” he tells the story of Vietnam’s Dao Ngoc Phung, a malnourished 14-year old girl who is raising her siblings. Her mother has died, and her father must travel long distances for work so she must be the family’s mother.

Yet, despite the odds, Phung gets up at 3AM to study each day. She dreams of being an accountant.

This story, like so many of Kristof’s stories, inspired me and forced me to question: How can we live a life where we keep Phung’s story in mind?

This year, I’m turning my Thanksgiving into more of a New Year’s box of resolutions. I want to give thanks for what I already have.  I want to complain less and appreciate more. And I want to slow down and weed out the things that really don’t matter like un-vacuumed floors and responding to every email. (Those are on the same plane for me.)

Instead, I want to make more time for my family. And for patience. And for thinking of people like Phung. And for baking bread like this one below.

Andy and I like to make this cinnamon raison bread and give it out to friends. I call it happiness swirl bread. My friend Cindy calls a cinnamon bun in disguise. Whatever you call it, I hope that you find time to make it and to do whatever else truly matters in your life. We’ve got it pretty good….

Brown Sugar-Raisin Bread (adapted from William Sonoma Bread)
Makes two 9-by-5- inch loaves

1 tablespoon active dry yeast
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 ¼ cups warm water
1 cup warm milk
3 tablespoons butter, melted, plus a bit more for greasing
1 tablespoon salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
6 cups bread flour, plus a bit more for kneading
1 ½ cups raisins

For the filling:
2/3 cup brown sugar mixed with 4 ½ teaspoons of cinnamon

Mix the yeast with a ½ cup of the water and a sprinkle of sugar. Let rest about 10 minutes or until bubbly.

In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine yeast mixture with remaining water, remaining sugar, salt, egg, milk, and 2 cups of flour. For about 1 minute, beat on medium speed. Add ½ cup flour and raisins. Beat in remaining flour, ½ cup at a time. Dough should be moist and pulling away from the sides of the mixer

Switch to dough hook and mix on medium-low for about 4 more minutes. Hand kneed for a few more minutes and turn dough into large greased bowl. Cover bowl loosely in plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place for about an hour or until doubled.

Grease two 9-by-5 inch bread pans. Divide dough in half and roll each piece out onto floured surface into an 8-by-12-inch rectangle. Sprinkle rectangles with cinnamon-sugar mixture and roll into logs, pinching ends to seal sugar in. Place each log seam-side down in a prepared pan. Let rise for an hour or until doubled.

Preheat oven to 350 °F. Bake for about 35 minutes or until loaves are golden. Turn bread out onto racks. When cool, slice into and spread with butter. Think happy thoughts.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Cold Weather Curry

It’s the time of year that I dream about cooking. Telluride's morning temperatures hover around 10 ºF, yet there's not enough snow to ski. If you asked me, I'd probably lie and tell you that I love off-season in Telluride. The truth, however, hovers somewhere in between that and late night searches for cheap flights to someplace tropical. What exactly I’d do with my job or my family if I found a $400 flight to Fiji isn’t really important; the thrill is in the hunt.

Barring the discovery of cheap travel to someplace warm, I’ll continue to dream about and actually make curries. Curries allow me to remember. I smell the salt and the spice and the heat of Thailand, and I remember a favorite day I spent with Andy years ago.

In the memory, the day begins as all of the best mornings do: at the market. There are baskets of chilies, mangoes, and coconuts everywhere we turn. The smell is somewhat smoky—grilled squid, somewhat sweet like tamarind, and somewhat stinky—call it durian meets dried fish. The essence of Thailand.

This dish is a variation of a curry I learned in a Chiang Mai cooking class over a decade ago. Make it while you wait for the snow to fall and the skiing to begin. May it carry you away to a warmer place.

Chicken Green Curry

serves 4


12 oz boneless chicken thighs, thinly sliced
2 cans of coconut milk (keep 2 tablespoons to use as a garnish, don’t shake the cans)
3 tablespoons green curry paste ( we like Mae Ploy, but Thai Kitchen is fine)
1/2 cup of Thai eggplants sliced in half (if you can find them)
1 small can of bamboo shoots
2 tablespoons palm sugar (or brown sugar)
2 tablespoons fish sauce
4 kaffir lime leaves (or 1 tablespoon of lime juice)
1 handful of sweet basil leaves, chopped
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 jalapeño pepper, sliced (optional)

Scoop 3 tablespoons of the thick coconut milk into a hot wok. Stir continuously until the milk separates and forms an oil. It’s very important to smile as you do this, or the oil won’t separate. Add curry paste and fry for 1-2 minutes. Add chicken and fry until the outside of the chicken turns white. Then add the rest of the coconut milk (minus the 2 T for the final garnish), the fish sauce, sugar, lime leaves, red peppers, and eggplants. Simmer until the eggplants and peppers are thoroughly cooked. Add half of the basil leaves and simmer for another minute.

Serve with steamed rice. Garnish with a few basil leaves, sliced jalapenos, and the reserved coconut milk. 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Telluride Mountain School Descends into Dark Canyon

Telluride Mountain School got the chance to travel into Dark Canyon once again, this time with their 7th grade class. The week-long adventure was one of the many fantastic experiential education trips the Telluride Mountain School takes its students on every year.

Traveling into Dark Canyon is like stepping back in time. The canyons are silent minus the sounds of ravens overhead and the river below. Few people ever go there.

That the Telluride Mountain School is able to take middle school kids to such remote places is truly amazing. Students learn desert ecology and backcountry skills such as working together as a team and taking care of their basic needs of food, water, shelter, and companionship.

But perhaps what is more amazing is the self-awareness that students gain. After a challenging descent into the canyon, one 12-year old, Aidan Green, put it this way:

"The hike down into the canyon was a struggle for all of us. People fell, slipped, and tumbled. It was one of the steepest hikes I have ever done. The beating hot sun that felt like I was being thrown into a furnace. It took every thing out of me. The 35-pound backpack on my back weighing me down made everything more difficult. I felt dead, but I kept on going. 

When I made it to the bottom, I removed my pack. My body felt so light that I could float. Then I took off my big heavy boots that were now damp with sweat on the inside, and I felt delighted because my feet could breathe."

Telluride Mountain School's trips aren't just about seeing great places. After a backcountry trip such as this, students learn that nature is another kind of home for them. Esme Fahnestock, another student, said this of the trip: "Now I know a place where I can go to escape the stress of modern life. I slip on my backpack and walk. In nature, I find a place that's my home."

If you want to go too, check out this brief write-up at

Thursday, October 20, 2011

8 Ways to Get Outside More

There’s so much talk in this country about how much time children spend watching TV and playing video games. We hear the statistics—four to six hours a day, a quarter of their childhood spent on screens.

Rarely, however do we talk about the alternative: getting kids outside more. Recent studies show that children ages 6-13 spend only 6% of their week outside alone. Children ride their bikes less (down 31% since 1995), and Aquatic Adventures in San Diego discovered that 90% of inner city kids did not know how to swim, and that 34% of them had never been to the beach.

Author Richard Louv has spoken often about the nature deficit in this country and the value of getting outside: happy, healthy children, kids with ADD who find that nature becomes their Ritalin, and children who gain a sense of place.

Often, however, it’s hard to find the time to get outside. In addition to increased screen time, our kids’ days are packed with extracurricular activities.

Author Kim Painter offers suggestions for 5 simple ways to get outside with your kids—taking homework out of the house, tracking the seasons, carving a pumpkin, going outside after dark, and leading the way.

Here are a few more:

1.    Take your meals outside. Even if you’re only sitting on the front steps with a plate in your lap. You’ll feel more relaxed. Plus your food will taste better.
2.    Go on a hunt. Have your kids find a rock, a leaf, a cloud that they love.
3.    Exercise with your kids. I’m guilty of this. So often my time exercising is my only time to clear my head. But recently on a sunny day, I ran while my kids biked. It was a rare light beaming into my life as a parent—we could all play together.

Happy Fall-- Get after it outside.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Canyon Cookies: Exploring Comb Wash, Utah with Some Sweets in Tow

Last weekend, we decided to slip out of Telluride and go to Comb Wash and the Cedar Mesa Plateau in Southwest Utah. We weren’t ready for summer to be over and all the glorious things that go along with it—camping outside, time together, and good weather.

Utah is this little added gem for those of us who call the West home. The weather stays good longer than it does in the mountains, and it has fabulous places to explore. Comb Wash, just southwest of Blanding, is one of our favorites.

There are fantastic ruins to check out, and the camping is easy and beautiful. Hikes in Comb Wash are also very accessible with kids. We did a 3-mile loop to one the best ruins, Fire House, and everyone, even our 2-year old, had an awesome time hiking.

That said, we did find that these granola and chocolate chip packed cookies helped to motivate everyone along. I adapted this recipe for Canyon Cookies from one I found in Gourmet. I’ve included my own granola recipe but if you’re short on time, a commercial granola like Cascadian Farms will work just fine! Enjoy.

Canyon Cookies

makes about 2 dozen cookies

1 cup flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 stick butter
¾ cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 ½ cups granola
¼ cup dried cranberries, chopped
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. With an electric mix, in another bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Beat in flour mixture and stir in remaining ingredients.
Drop dough by rounded tablespoons 2 inches apart onto buttered baking sheets and bake in batches for 7 and ½ minutes. Cool cookies on racks.
Serve to tired children (and their parents). Goes well with red wine after children are hopefully sleeping.

Em’s Granola

Makes about 12 cups

4 cups old-fashioned oats
1 1/2 cup whole almonds, halved
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1-cup raw cashews
2/3 cup (packed) brown sugar
3 teaspoons ground allspice
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
4 tablespoons honey

Add after you bake granola:  2 cups chopped pitted dates, raisons, dried cherries, or cranberries

Preheat oven to 300∞F. Mix first 7 ingredients in large bowl. Melt butter with honey in heavy small saucepan over low heat. Pour over granola mixture and toss well. Spread out mixture on baking sheet. Bake 30 minutes, making sure to stir often. Add dates; mix to separate any clumps. Continue to bake until granola is golden brown. Cool and add dried fruit.

Thanks Jon Cornforth for sharing the fire house ruin shot.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Picking Apples in Telluride

Today the snow finally cleared, and Andy, Siri, Quincy, and I got out and picked apples. We had to wade through the snow but the effort was worth it: we filled our bags with apples from a neighbor's tree.

We discovered this tree years ago by accident. On a grey day, we wandered out to the eastern edge of town and there it was, a tree we'd wandered by a thousand times before and never noticed. We'd filled our bag that day and continue to every fall about this time of year.

We eat them as is and make apple sauce. When we're lucky, Andy uses some of those apples to make one of my favorite dishes: baked apples with sausage, cheddar cheese, and maple syrup. I’ve included the recipe below. Happy Fall.

Andy’s Favorite Fall Breakfast

1/2 lb bulk breakfast sausage
Mess of apples (about 4 cups) cored and cut into bite sized chunks
1/4 cup maple syrup
6 oz. white cheddar, grated
1/4 t. cinnamon, allspice, ginger (optional, to taste)

Sauté the sausage until the it begins to brown.  Add the apples and continue until the apples are golden.  Add maple syrup and spices, cover, turn down and simmer until the apples have fully softened (about 10 mins.).
Just before serving, stir in the grated cheddar

Serve as a topping for pancakes and waffles or enjoy by itself.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Winter Arrives Today in Telluride

Last week in Telluride it was summer. Yesterday it was fall. Today it was winter. Siri, who’s five, stood over my bed at 6:50 this morning squealing “My pumpkin’s covered in snow!”

At first I was cranky at being woken up early. Andy’s chili last night had been hotter than a steel rod in full sun, and all night, my gut had turned as if the rod had found its final resting place in my intestines.

But when I looked out the window with Siri, it was hard not to smile. Our little town had been transformed into a snowy hamlet over night. Snow dripped from the aspens still full with the green leaves of summer. The tips of the mountains had vanished, and all that remained were the bands of yellowed aspens glowing like a fire beneath the heavy mist.

And for now, they were the only thing glowing. The power had gone out as it often does in Telluride when a storm blows in quickly. The house was dark, as dark as I imagine miner’s cabins were when they first moved here in search of gold. I lit a candle to find my way to the shower, frustrated that I wouldn’t be able to use my computer all day. Power outages in Telluride like to stick around all day. Sometimes, all week.

Siri meanwhile rushed downstairs to dig out her snowpants and boots. “Can I go outside? Can we go ice skating later? Please, please, PLEASE?!”

I looked at her and once again, threw off my bad mood. Winter had arrived, at least for today. How could we not celebrate? After all, all of us here choose to live at close to 9000 feet. Might as well enjoy it. But ice skating? Siri will have to hold off a few more weeks.