June 30, 2011

Mario Batali's Pennette with Swiss Chard Ragu

I tried this recipe from Mario Batali's newest book Molto Gusto and it was fabulous! I use swiss chard almost every day in my green juice but this is the first time I've cooked with it. I'm trying to grow rainbow chard this year so hopefully I can make this again with my own greens. I highly recommend this book - it is all about simple Italian meals with a vegetarian focus. I find this fits with the food philosophy I'm most drawn to - eat good food, real food, a little less of it, and enjoy every bite!
Pennette w/Swiss Chard Ragu by Mario Batali
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil 
1 small white onion, halved, peeled and sliced 1/4-inch thick
3 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
1 pound Swiss chard trimmed and sliced 1/4-inch thick
Maldon or other flaky sea salt
4 tablespoons butter, cut into four pieces
Coarsely ground black pepper
Kosher salt
1 pound pennette (small penne)
¾ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus extra for serving
1/2 cup coarse fresh bread crumbs, fried in olive oil until golden brown (recipe below)
Serves 6

Combine the oil, onion, garlic, and chard in a large pot and cook over medium high heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion and chard are beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Season well with Maldon salt, add 1/4 cup water, cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the chard is very tender, about 20 minutes. Add the butter, stirring until it melts, then season with pepper and remove from the heat. While your ragu is cooking, cook your pasta al dente (add 3T kosher salt to the water after it boils). Reserve 1/2c+ of the pasta water!
this picture is during the first 5 minutes, I didn't take one of the finished ragu
the ragu can be prepared up to 2 days ahead, let cool, then cover and refrigerate
reheat in a large pot over medium-low heat before adding the pasta.

Add the pasta and 1/4 cup of the reserved pasta water to the chard ragu and stir and toss over medium heat until the pasta is well coated (add more pasta water if needed to loosen the sauce). Stir in the cheese. Transfer to a serving bowl and top with the bread crumbs and grated Parm. 

Bread Crumbs
Don't skip this step & don't buy the bread crumbs - it totally made this dish awesome. I ground up baguette in my mini food processor until it was on the coarse/chunky side. Mario says put them in the food processor until they "are about 1/4 inch in size"

Heat 1T olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat until hot. Add 1/2 cup coarse fresh bread crumbs, and cook, stirring occasionally until golden brown. Transfer to a plate and let cool.

June 27, 2011

City Park Fountain

My husband looooovvvvvveeeeeeesssssss the fountains in Denver's City Park. Our park. So I did a little research...

It appears the original Electric Prismatic Fountain in Ferril Lake was completed in 1908 just in time for the Democratic National Convention. 100 years later, the new Electric Fountain has been operational since 2008, also in time for the DNC, and is a historically accurate re-creation of the original 1908 fountain according to the Friends of the Electric Fountain. We didn't even know our fountain had friends! Bernie has probably looked out at the fountain a hundred times and said, "I should go take pictures of the fountain." And finally, after two years, he did! He took some pretty great shots too and it was fun to compare them to the old Electric Fountain of a hundred years ago.

the original 1908 fountain
historical pictures borrowed from the Friends of the Electric Fountain
Courtesy, Denver Public Library Western History Collection
Photo ID: MCC-924
Bernie Hoffman 2011
 1919 postcard
Bernie Hoffman 2011
the fountain might be the same but the skyline and the surrounding area certainly has changed since 1908!

June 26, 2011


This very well might be my favorite sandwich of all time. Tom Colicchio's roasted asparagus with red onions, basil, and Vacherin. As if the sandwich wasn't good enough, I do love me some Tom Colicchio. (Leah, you reading? I know how you love yourself a bald man). My boy Tom makes his sandwich open-faced, I however, do not. Before his Wichcraft book hit the shelves he made this recipe on (you guessed it) The Today Show - and it was not open-faced. He also calls for Vacherin cheese. I'm a bit of a cheesemonger and I have yet to locate Vacherin. Anywhere. So I use Camembert. I've tried Brie, not as good.  Tom says you can use any good melting cheese. This is basically how I make Tom's sandwich...
 remember, these ingredients are for 4 open-faced sandwiches
this recipe doesn't have to be anywhere near exact, I stopped measuring long ago
I use my Mario Batalli panini pan that I got for xmas several years back
I get the pan good and hot on medium-high heat
toss the asparagus, onion, oil, s&p in a bowl
cook in your hot grill pan for 5-10min until slightly charred
toss once or twice while cooking
 while that's cooking....
slice up your cheese, I probably use .3oz for two sandwiches
that's a lotta cheese
not too thick or it doesn't melt good
get everything a little brown
when everything is grilled, put it back in the same bowl and toss with the vinegar and basil 
(I use a lot more basil)
I use the fresh baked bread from Whole Foods
you need something hearty to withstand the grilling
I use either regular or rosemary sourdough
a layer of cheese and then the toppings followed by more cheese
I spray the outsides of the sandwich with spray olive oil and sprinkle with Miracle Blend
I find the salt helps the bread from sticking to the pan
(skip the salt unless you lurve it like I do)

I grill both sides in my panini pan around 3 minutes per side
if you grill too long the Camembert melts and runs all over
now here is where the love comes in....
peel a garlic clove and cut in half, rub the raw garlic on each side of the bread
it adds a little something special, so don't forget that part
cut in half and enjoy! 
we pretty much moan "yummmmmm" the entire time we're eating
no lie

June 24, 2011

Jazz in the Park

For the last 25 years City Park Jazz has been organizing free concerts in Denver's City Park every Sunday during the summer. Conveniently this is right across the street from our house. Funny enough, we didn't even know about Jazz in the Park until we moved in. People have been gathering around the City Park bandstand on Ferril Lake for concerts for over 125 years!

The official hours are 6-8pm but a steady stream of people start walking by our house around 2pm with strollers, coolers, tents, dogs and a million other things in tow. Last week we ate our dinner on the front porch and watched the craziness.
We invited people over a few weeks ago to see Hazel Miller. To be honest I can't stand jazz, it's true. Bernie loves it. Its nothing but noise to my ears. In spite of the jazz, hanging out with friends and having some wine and cheese picnic-style is always a good time. And seeing all of the crazy set-ups people have is entertainment in itself - it must take hours of prep to make some of this stuff happen. BBQ's, fondue sets, tents, volleyball nets, you name it. I much prefer strolling over at 6pm and plopping down in any open spot. This year I picked up an awesome cooler on wheels form Costco to make the trip over easy peasy. Because, you know, the 1/4 mile walk is killer! So many people go every Sunday it is amazing! Makes me feel good about where we live and lucky to be right next to the park. Too bad I never got off our blanket to take any pictures of the crowd or the actual performance...ummmm, maybe next time...

Claire, Dom & Gino
 Chelsea & Kenny
 Bernie & Cooper (and the cooler!)
 sadly I didn't get good pics of the other half of our crew
Randy, Logan, Kari & Polly
Bernie & Randy
the dogs came too - Cooper showed a lot of restraint with the food
and so did I: 2 parts fruits and veggies, 1 part yummy goodness
Cooper's buddy Gino, he is working on his restraint for next time
Brian's had enough for one day

A note to the Sewing Sisters - that striped "blanket" was the only thing I had ever sewed until now. A family friend helped me. I was in college and got two flannel Polo sheets on clearance and put some batting in between. Voila! My first quilt. And it is still going strong :)

June 8, 2011

Grow Dammit Grow

The Hoffman garden is off to a slow start in 2011. Cold weather, lots of rain, and too much Spring travel on my part. Everything was in almost a month earlier last year. This year most of my garden will be heirloom varieties started from seeds from the Hudson Valley Seed Library: lettuce, kale, chard, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, herbs, spinach. This year I'm trying some free garden planning software, I don't think it gives me anything more than my handwritten version though. I wouldn't pay for it that's for sure.

our water front view
the beds and the containers are ready for planting
5 of the tomato plants are in: 
Amish Paste, Mama Leone, red pear, a local bi-color cherry & yellow pear
the hanging baskets are up, I didn't realize they didn't match until I got home
the garlic doubled in size since last time I posted a picture
I'm limiting the number of veggies we are growing this year to give everything more room. Last year I could hardly pick a tomato they were jammed in their so tight. I'm going to concentrate on the big dollar items and things I juice with every day like kale, chard, lettuce, cukes, etc. Some things took up too much room for too little reward (broccoli, Brussels sprouts). The crazy indeterminate tomatoes are getting twice the space and they will be getting regular pruning. We would hear people walk by our house last year and say, "Holy Shit! Look at those tomatoes!" They were mutant. They grew up over the fence and all the way to the ground on more than one occasion. I brought a seedling to a friend for her garden in Michigan...this year she told me I can keep my tomato plants. No winter squash this year either. Our grass is still recovering from last year's squash. Just two plants took over a huge area of our lawn. 

So that's the plan, more to come when things start to sprout.

June 7, 2011

Lovin These

These cutie patootie bookends are my new go-to baby gift. Too bad most of my friends are off the baby train. Not cheap, but ohhhhh so cute! They are from my new favorite store, Serena & Lily. I got a catalog in the mail a month or so ago. I'm not sure where the hell this store came from but they just went on a huge media blitz and left us all at home drooling over their catalogs asking where the eff have you been?

lovin these too

A couple of tips - I'm on their email list and they have 20% off events. And after I placed my first order they sent me a $25 off coupon. Your welcome.

June 6, 2011

Pickel's Quilt

I have to tell you a little story about a girl named Pickel and one of the best ideas I have ever heard for a new baby gift. When I saw her latest blog post I just had to share. Pickel aka Nicole is a BFF of my sister-in-law, the other Mrs. Hoffman. Most of us met her at this wedding (Pickel is in the "American Gothic" pic on the right). That should have been the end of it right? Enter Facebook and the whole Hoffman-Knapp clan became fast friends with Pickel. Should I even mention that I'm so naturally bitchy I was all why is this girl that I met once friending me on Facebook??? It's true, I'm not friendly. Until you know me. And even then it can be hit or miss. Pickel is obviously the exact opposite of me. She was in the Peace Corps for crying out loud. And she's a teacher. 

Flash forward 2 years and we're friends. Now she has an Etsy shop and I have a frickin sewing machine. Long stories.

When Pickel and her Mister found out they were expecting, she launched an impressive plan for a quilt for their baby. It was a beautiful idea: send in a fabric square and a "wish" for the baby and she would take care of the rest. She then blogged about all the lovely fabric she was getting from all corners of the world and her progress on putting it all together.
read about the finished quilt here
my fabric

She not only concocted this plan and sewed a hugeassbeautiful quilt while pregnant but she took the time to write a little blurb about all of us with pictures of the fabrics we sent in. Oh, and there were 40 of us and she's like 10 months pregnant. See each of the circles here.

I'm #33
my sister-in-law Anne Marie is #19
my cousin-in-law Marija is #6
my friend Karin who hasn't yet even met Pickel is #28

I started typing this post just a little while ago. And I started thinking, what if Pickel is having her baby as I type this??? Sure enough, it's a boy! Congrats to Pickel and her Mister. And to my other friends Jodie and Michael who had a beautiful baby girl today.

June 2, 2011

Oh Cooper...

this is our dog Cooper
he is a greater swiss mountain dog
he loves to be loved and never leaves our side
he has awesome eyebrows
he talks, loudly, especially to Bernie
and every morning he lets out a huge loud and long yawn
he's very handsome and very sweet


he stinks (bad) and sheds (a lot) and snores (like an old man)
his hair collects on the floor like tumbleweeds that we call dog bunnies
we wonder why he still insists on being a bull in a china shop at 7 and a half years old
we have to put rugs everywhere because he can't walk like a normal dog
our 105 year old wood floors have never seen the likes of Cooper and it shows
when he farts it scares him like someone jabbed him with a stick
he jumps up and races away and lately it's been oh so rank

Cooper, we love you, but please stop farting. Thanks.
just as I finished this post he ripped a loud one and ran off

June 1, 2011

June Challenge!!!

I have been seriously lacking in the blog inspiration department! It's been two weeks - ugh! Some months I have buckets of ideas and some months nada, zip, zilch. I did have a few great posts over on my Dad's Blog from my visit last month if you want to check them out.

On May 1, faced with the 4 MONTHS TO PARIS!!! reality, I set up some weight loss goals for myself. After almost 8 solid weeks on the road I had finally stopped traveling and had a lot more control over my diet and more time for exercise. So how much did I lose? Nada, zip, zilch. I did get some killer workouts in but went a whole month and made no progress - disappointing.

So as June 1 approached I decided that it was time to get serious. I work best with a partner in crime so I enlisted my friend, and fellow frustrated Loser, Claire. We hatched our similar but individual plans and decided to start right away instead of the usual let's plan it all out this week, have a final hurrah, and start on Monday! bullshit that we all are guilty of. And you know what? I'm super pumped up! Just committing to someone and writing out my plan was really motivating. I used my lunch hour yesterday to take a 3 mile power walk around our park and tonight I'm working out with my trainer Heather. I even scheduled a 6am yoga class on Friday with my friends Carolina and Anita (gulp). This way I'm not tempted to skip. Being accountable to someone really works!

Below are the plans we are following. We'll be checking in with each other daily and we are going to recommit at the end of each week so the one month time frame doesn't seem so daunting. Join us! We aren't doing any formal Biggest Loser thing, but we will let you know how we're doing and you're welcome to check in with me. The more the merrier!

Timing: June 1 - June 30

Claire's Plan:
  • In bed (not heading to bed, but physically in bed, lights out) at 9p every week night
  • Hot tea and juice for breakfast
  • Juice for mid-morning snack
  • Greek yogurt for lunch
  • Hot tea midday
  • At least 72oz of water while at work (typically another 32oz at home, plus 40oz juice and 16oz tea)
  • Raw carrots and almonds for a snack
  • Dinner- whatever D cooks, but light, no chemicals (I often use spray butter and bottled dressings…), no salt
  • No soda (easy)
  • No coffee (easy)
  • NO BOOZE (WHA??)
  • No heavily processed foods- realistically, I’ll end up having a processed salad dressing here and there, but no need to have a hot dog or pizza or nachos!!
Keeping Honest:
  • Daily check-in with Ker
  • Three “easy” runs per week (3-5mi)
  • One long run per week (5+mi)
  • Two at-home strength workouts per week
  • One Heather workout per week
  • One Ker workout (we should meet at that park!!) per week
  • One yoga class (at work) per week
  • Three 1mi or more walks w/ G after work per week
Keri's Plan:
  • Hot Tea for breakfast
  • Green Juice for lunch
  • Salad or Green smoothie for late lunch or pre/post workout snack
  • Vegetarian dinner - quinoa pasta, homemade pizza, soup or something but with lots of veggies
  • No soda (easy enough)
  • No coffee (gasp)
  • Alcohol only 1 day per week max! (OMG)
  • Eggs/toast only 2 times per week if super hungry, but only after tea (usually if I drink my tea it quells my hunger) or if before a morning workout
  • No bad processed food, will have some all natural tortilla chips with guac
  • No chocolate for at least the first two weeks to get out of my post dinner sweet habit
Keeping Myself Honest:
  • Use my journal
  • Check in with Claire every day, good or bad
  • Plan my workouts and put them on the calendar
  • Invite people to workout so I can't skip it
  • Plan my meals and shop accordingly
  • 2 workouts/week with Heather
  • 1-2 yoga workouts/week
  • 2+ cardio per week (walking, start running)
  • 1 workout per week with Claire


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