Wednesday, October 29, 2008

They Should Give Us a Food Network Show.

Amidst hunting for jobs and trying to find our way in the current economic climate (i.e. save money and watch for a sure sign that we should pull our money out of the bank and hide it in Elsa's mattress), we have been trying to do some home cooking. It helps that the weather finally started to turn a little chilly, giving me the inspiration I needed for soups and breads and cookies and comforty-type foods. Warning: The following recipes are not what you would call "health conscious." They are, however, delicious.

And so here are the highlights of two weeks at the Lewis dinner table.

Corn Chowder, served with Beer Bread and Pear & Spiced Pecan Salad:

I got the corn chowder recipe from my friend Kristin, who made it for Bret and I the last time we had dinner at the Whitneys'. She combined a more fattening version with a healthy one for a mixture of yummy taste and waistline savings. It was the first cold weekend of Fall when we made it for ourselves and I admit, we ignored the healthy parts and went straight for the heavy cream.

The beer bread is about the easiest thing ever. Bret got the recipe from his old friend Mark. It is best served fresh from the oven, as it does tend to harden by the time you serve up leftovers.

The salad is one of our favorite combos: Butter lettuce, ripe pears, spiced pecans, blue cheese crumbles and blue cheese dressing. (We use one of the "Super" or "Ultimate" blue cheese dressings that you find refrigerated in the produce section.)

Corn Chowder

5 slices bacon, diced
1 large onion, chopped
4 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
5 cups chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste
1 (11 ounce) can cream-style corn
1 (10 ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

In a large pot over medium-high heat, cook and stir the bacon until crisp. Drain off grease, leaving about 1 tablespoon in the pot. Break the bacon into pieces in the pot.
Place the onion in the pot, and cook until transparent. Mix in the potatoes, and cook until lightly browned on the outside. Stir in the chicken broth, and season with oregano, salt and pepper. Cover and simmer over low heat for about 30 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft. Pour in the cream-style corn and whole kernel corn, and cook for 10 more minutes.
Stir in the cream, Monterey Jack cheese, and Cheddar cheese over low heat. Do not boil. Remove from the heat, and serve.

Beer Bread:

3 c. self-rising flour
1/2 c. sugar
1-12 oz. beer of your choosing

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter the inside of the loaf pan. Combine the first three ingredients and stir together until batter forms. Pour into buttered pan and bake in oven for 55 minutes. Melt butter in microwave (enough to pour over top of loaf). Remove bread from oven and pour melted butter all over top. Bake for 5 more minutes.

For dessert, I made Oatmeal Scotchies - recipe on the back of Nestle Tollhouse Butterscotch chips and here.
The Ultimate Crispy Fried Chicken

And speaking of deliciously fattening foods, this was our foray into home-cooked friiiiiiiied chicken. Oh man, was it delicious. A mess in the kitchen, but worth the effort (which was mainly Bret's). Rather than reproduce the recipe here, which we got out of an issue of Cook's Illustrated, I'll just provide this link, and these photos:

Served with Grandma Lewis-style mashed potatoes, steamed green beans, and Grands biscuits.

One more chicken recipe for you, and this one is relatively healthy....

Chicken Breast with Lemon & Capers
This is an old standby for Bret and I. It was the first recipe I cooked single-handedly for my parents, and later, one of the first meals Bret and I ever cooked together. It is surprisingly delicious, especially if you like capers, and very easy.

1/4 c. flour
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, halved & pounded to 1/4-inch thickness
5 teaspoons corn oil
1/4 c. low sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons capers, drained
4-6 thin slices of lemon

Combine the flour, pepper & paprika on a plate. Press the chicken breasts into the mixture, coating them evenly and shaking off excess.

In 10-inch skillet, heat the corn oil over moderately high heat for 1 minute. Add the breasts and cook about 3 minutes on each side; do not overcook. Transfer breasts to heated and/or covered platter.

Add the chicken broth to the skillet, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom. Stir in the lemon juice and capers and heat through. Add the thin slices of lemon and heat through. Pour the sauce over the breasts and serve.

We like this with steamed fingerling potatoes with butter and chives, or, of course Grandma's mashed potatoes.

Don't get me wrong, I'm no Heather Steele, with her super-human cooking feats, but we have been trying to cook at home more - in part for the cost savings, and in part because, well, it's a distraction from tax and politics and jobs and everything else. It also keeps the house all warm and cozy!

Monday, October 13, 2008

More Fall, Before It's Winter

At an Overlook off of Trail Ridge Road

Last weekend (the weekend BEFORE bar results came out), we decided we needed some fresh air. The air in our house was starting to feel heavy and stagnant with stress, and Elsa requested, in her own little way, some outdoor time. And so, when we realized that Elk Fest coincided with a weekend when we had no other obligations, we booked a campsite in the Moraine Park area of Rocky Mountain National Park.

It was a beautiful, crisp weekend, and, though we had heard about the Elk from some friends, we were nonetheless amazed. Driving through the park, you see hundreds of them -- sometimes mere feet from the road -- and you can pull off to the side and wander right into the meadows. They bugle loudly to one another all through the day and evening. And if you're lucky, you can see bulls competing for a harem of lady elks (cows? I should have blogged this sooner after our trip, when I had more elk knowledge) off in the distance.

Since our campground was right off of one of the alpine meadows where a couple of dozen elk were grazing, Elsa came frighteningly close to an Elk cow (that's right, by the way...I just googled it). And by that I mean there were about 5 elk cows standing in the middle of the road we were walking on, and one of them looked right at Elsa and started intently walking toward her. While I was intrigued by the prospect of a cute meeting, and Elsa seemed game for it, I opted instead to head back to our campsite (at a jogging pace).

Speaking of our campsite, here's a shot of the view from our site:

Here is our new enormous tent, on top of the hill that allowed for such a gorgeous, almost completely unobstructed view:

The view was almost, but not quite, worth the fact that being on a hill offers little (read: NO) shelter from the wind, and we spent a large part of the night hoping we didn't wake up somewhere in the meadow amidst the elk (read: not sleeping).

Despite a not-so-restful night of sleep in our new ginormous tent, we went for a short hike before heading home on Sunday. And in spite of the hike's relative shortness (we were not climbing a mountain, as Bret had planned/hoped we would), we still put Elsa's brand new pack on her (1) because it was so adorable, and (2) so she could carry our water (and hers, to be fair).

Snapshots from our hike:

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The One where Jaimy Passes the Bar

I awoke at 8 am this morning from a not-so-restful night of sleep (it felt kind of like Christmas Eve when I was little, except not really at all). I brushed my teeth, dropped in some contact solution, grabbed my computer from where I had stored it, battery fully charged, next to the bed, and settled into the Colorado Board of Law Examiners website. And so my morning began this way.....refresh....refresh...refresh....refresh....

Then I started getting e-mails: "Hey, are we supposed to get Bar results today?"



9:16 am:
"Hello, Board of Law Examiners. Can I help you?"

"Yes. Are July results going to be posted today?"

"Yes, but we aren't sure what time. We're waiting for the Supreme Court."

"OK, thanks. Because I didn't want to waste my day pressing 'refresh' for no reason."

"No problem. Goodbye."

9:17 am:

When I glanced down at my cell phone, I had received a text from a friend and fellow Colorado Bar taker that read: "Congratulations!" Hmmmmm......

While I took that to mean I had passed, I obviously checked for myself. Celebration is on hold until Bret gets home from some meetings at school. (Elsa is surprisingly unenthused.)

It is an odd feeling after months of studying and weeks of waiting (not so) patiently. Such an immense relief.

Thank you so very much for all of your thoughts and prayers over the past few months! Please keep them coming as we strive to find the path that our lives are meant to follow.