When we lived in Texas we shopped at Kroger. They had the best bran muffins. Back in my airline days, they were my go to breakfast. Portable, filling, perfect on a 15 minute break. These Yogurt Bran Muffins are pretty close.
I like mine really plain. No raisins, no nuts, not too sweet, no crunchy topping and not too heavy. This recipe is very, very close. The addition of speculoos spice mix adds a subtile zing that you will miss if you leave it out. In a pinch substitute a bit of cinnamon. You can by all means add all that stuff if you like but I am a bran muffin purist. Make a batch over the weekend and keep them in the fridge for breakfast all week. I think they actually taste better after the first day.
I had hoped to have this Speculoos Biscuit recipe out to you this past weekend but the Accidental Cowboy and I both came down with a nasty bug. The good news, is that we both lost some weight just in time to put it back on for the Holidays.
This cookie recipe is adapted from a cookbook I found in Belgium. Juliette’s Biscuit Bakery is just off the main square in Bruges. I was lucky enough to snap up a copy her cookbook in English. The addition of authentic Belgian speculoos spice mix gives these cookies a much more distinct gingerbread flavor than say Biscoff cookies you buy in the store. So if you are looking for traditional speculoos cookies or biscuits, this is the real deal.
Speculoos Spice, straight from Belgium. This is the spice mix that begs to be used during the holidays. Think of gingerbread. Now think about that blend in pumpkin pie or sweet potatoes or bran muffins. Go out on a limb and think of it giving your whipped cream a bit of extra zing. A blend of cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, cardamom and yes, black pepper. Biscoff spread? Use this mix and you have the real Belgian taste.
The holidays are right around the corner so I thought it might be enlightening to hear from everyone what some of your favorite cooking tools are. I’m sure there are some great things that every cook doesn’t even know he or she needs. Maybe we can all get some great gift ideas.
Good tools can make all the difference in how much you enjoy completing a task. I think a lot of people who don’t like to cook have never had the right tools. So I will get us started off with five of my favorites. The rules of this little adventure do not include appliances. That’s a whole different subject.
Locking Tongs – stainless steel with scalloped heads. You can lock and unlock them with one hand.
A Swiss Peeler, it has a short handle and a blade like a potato peeler. I find it a bit more versatile and easier to use than a standard potato peeler. I use it to peel everything. It’s especially good for butternut squash.
A Berard French Olive Wood Handcrafted Wood Spatula. I bought mine in Paris decades ago. I use it everyday and I think it still looks pretty fantastic. It’s fine for non-stick pans and of course cast iron which can get really hot. I like it better than metal or silicon.
A Mini Measuring Cup. I picked this cute little shot glass up a few years ago on a whim. It measures tablespoons, teaspoons, ounces and milliliters. I find it much handier than measuring spoons. One handy little cup for all those different types of measures. I love it.
Ok, let me hear from you in the comments section below.
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On a weekend, don’t you just want something that takes a few minutes to prepare, can cook for however long (as in the time is flexible), and will serve a good number of people? Well here is one possibility. Tortilla soup cooked in a crockpot. Vegetables, protein, starch, all cooked in the slow cooker. Just add a few fresh toppings like green onions and cilantro if you like, but avocado and cheese are a must along with crushed up tortilla chips.
I see all sorts of sauces these days in the grocery store both jarred and dry mixes. While I am sure they are convenient, I am guessing they have their share of stabilizers and chemicals and a bunch of salt. I prefer to make my own. Pan sauces are incredibly easy, and the secret to thickening them is Beurre Manié.
A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of traveling with my sweet mum to her hometown of Buena Vista, Colorado. I had never been there before and it was such a delight to see it with the historical perspective that she could provide. Mom was a small girl during the Great Depression, she remembers the troop trains passing through the middle of town during World War II. Remembers when the locomotives passing through town transitioned from steam to diesel. There are so many more stories that get told in the place where they happened. This trip is one I will always cherish. Mom left in 1952 to move to the big city of Denver. Although Buena Vista has grown from a “sleepy little town” to an outdoor recreation destination it is still very quaint. East Main Street is still the heart of town and the vast majority of buildings date back to the late 1800’s.
“Buenie” as she calls it, is located on the headwaters of the Arkansas river. Nestled in the valley bordered on the west by the towering Collegiate Peaks. The area sports some of the best river rafting in the nation. From class I to IV rapids. Multiple companies offer trips down different stretches of the river and include guided 1/2 day, 1 day or multiple day trips. There are outfitters that give lessons and professional training in kayaking, rafting and stand up paddle boarding. Rafting season runs from mid-May though early September.
We were so fortunate when we went. The Colorado fall colors were at their peak. The aspens were brilliant yellow contrasted by the small patches of deep copper and reds that I believe were oaks. We saw loads of big mule deer. A lot of them right in the middle of town. It is not unheard of to have bears mosey through but we did not see any.
Now of course for me, the food was as important as the scenery and history. We had a wonderful meal at Simple Eatery. I was absolutely charmed by the innovative menu and delightful staff. Housed in the old Highway Department building on East Main Street, where my mom remembered the giant snow plow trucks being housed. The high ceilings, large front windows and original brick interior walls make the atmosphere both airy and yet cozy.
They bake their own bread and pretzels daily and sell it by the loaf. The same bread is used in their diverse menu ranging from their Chicken and Brie Panini on sour dough to the Elk Burger served on a pretzel bread bun to pasta dishes. They also serve a signature Rainbow Trout which I must try next time.
Simple Eatery Elk Burger
Mom had the Elk Burger. Cooked to perfection, tender and juicy. I have had a lot of elk that was rather dry. This was not. Just a bit stronger taste than beef. And the bun – so good. Crisp, crunchy crust and then a soft yet toothsome center. For the side, rather than fries mom chose the combo option of Heirloom Tomato Bisque. Very sweet but substantial tomato taste. Just enough cream to give it a velvety mouth feel.
Simple Eatery Bison Ravioli
I had the Bison Ravioli. The ravioli was very al dente. The robust flavor of the meat was balanced by a subtly sweet cream-sage sauce made with a whisper of orange and even less lemon. The plate is dotted with a bit of peppery arugula and a few sweet heirloom tomatoes, giving the whole dish a really nice juxtaposition of flavors.
Of course I got to talking food with the staff and they were kind enough to bring me several soup samples, all of which were amazing. Especially so for the carrot coconut soup. I have to try to make that one! Sweet carrots, vegetable broth a hint of warm ginger and creamy coconut milk.
During peak season this place is hopping, but you can order online and specify a time for pickup. Don’t make a trip to or through Buena Vista without giving this place a try.
I am hard pressed to decide that if I had to live off just one food, would it be pasta or tortilla chips and salsa. Well chips and salsa are two things but, you get my point. It is very unfortunate that these foods are not slimming. Why is that? Why couldn’t I crave celery sticks instead.
Anyway, this puttanesca sauce can be considered very healthy. This recipe started out as a marinara sauce, but I am a tinkerer. I just couldn’t help myself. I can better justify pasta with a sauce that is full of good low cal vegetables. Right? So technically now this sauce is a puttanesca.