BABA GANOUSH, this week’s Cook-the-Book-Fridays recipe. Delicious.

In my last post I discussed my summer responsibilities as a volunteer USFS wilderness ranger in Colorado’s White River National Forest. “With full-on fire restrictions already in place,” I wrote, “we’ll be on the lookout [for fire].”

Of major concern were lightening strikes, tossed cigarette butts or campground mishaps caused by uninformed tourists. We never considered a fire being kindled by two local 22/23 years-old residents getting their kicks late Tuesday afternoon by shooting illegal tracer rounds (a burning bullet) at a shooting range located a mile from Basalt. Sulfur bullets are illegal. Always.

Wednesday night, 4th of July, Willits Town Center with Whole Foods in the center. Katie Baum Hueth
Eagle County Sheriff’s Office

Their mischief sparked what is now a 5,263 acre fire, with 0% containment, threatening the small communities nearby. Most of my good friends live down valley in that area. Several have been evacuated with no return date promised. More than 300 firefighters, using the most advanced equipment available, are fighting this fire but three homes have already been lost.

Jane Carey and I are preparing to feed some hungry men and women.

Last night, Thursday, I answered an appeal from my church and volunteered to help serve dinner to the firefighters at the Salvation Army’s Mobile Canteen in El Jebel. The meal was catered by Whole Foods, one of the businesses threatened the night before by an erratic wind change. I asked my friend, Jane Carey, a caterer who knows her way around a food truck, to join me. In a helpless situation where one can just step back as the firefighters tackle a monster fire, it was good for our psych to do something helpful. For me, this fire is personal.

Grabbing drinks before picking up their plates – at one point we had 50 firefighters lined up and patiently waiting their turn.

By 5pm, along with two volunteers from Vail, we began chopping, slicing and mixing together enough salad for 300 ravenous firefighters. At 6:30pm, Whole Foods delivered our meal – beef, pork, mac and cheese, meat and cheese lasagnas, pinto and black beans, rolls and cake – all sealed in small bags and packed into portable warming ovens. Joined by two others volunteers, Jane got our stations organized and a well-honed serving system established with the 6 of us jammed into the mobile canteen. We were good to go with a hot, delicious dinner as these heroic firemen came down off the mountain.

Between 7:30pm and 9:30pm, when the last crew checked in, we fed 302 hungry, tired and sooty, men/women. They were polite and grateful. I’ve never been “thank-you-ed” so much in my life. Of course, keep in mind, I was the Mac-and-Cheese Lady! I think there could be a Food Truck in my future.

With Aspen’s nearby communities in pain and so many friends feeling fearful, I hesitated about blogging this week? But I decided to tell my story in this week’s post and also share our Cook-the-Book-Fridays recipe, Baba Ganoush (better than hummus) and add some happy local news. I will ask, however, that you find a little space to hold everyone dealing with this catastrophe in your hearts.

It will be a long time before I can look at another plate of macaroni and cheese.


The Aspen Ideas and Spotlight Health Festival which just concluded is, using the Aspen Institute’s words, “the nation’s premier, public gathering place for leaders from around the globe and across many disciplines to engage in deep and inquisitive discussion of the ideas and issues that shape our lives and challenge our times. Some 450 presenters, 400 sessions, and 3,000 attendees comprised the 2018 annual ten-day Festival.”

Team Doerr-Hosier: During Spotlight and Ideas, I volunteered at the Doerr-Hosier Center located on the Aspen Institute’s campus. I was very fortunate to take my orders from these capable young women. L to R: Margot, me, Azalea, Annie and Christian.

Launched in 2005, I’ve attended nearly all of them and have always considered it the most important thing I do for myself every summer. For the last 3 years I’ve volunteered for the event. That, surprisingly, has become an even better learning experience. This year three of the eight program tracks especially interested me: The Genius of Animals; Leadership in a Time of Change; and Freedom of Speech and the Marketplace of Ideas. . What was particularly impressive during the ten days was hearing from an assortment of creative, breathtakingly brilliant and diverse group of young presenters prepared to put right again the world they are inheriting. Get ready for it, folks.

4th of July Parade


Our recipe this week is David Lebovitz’s delicious Baba Ganoush, which is similar to and served like hummus. Instead of chickpeas, it has mashed eggplant (grilled or roasted) which is mixed into tahini, olive oil, and various seasonings.

BABA GANOUSH (MOUTABAL) by David Lebovitz, My Paris Kitchen

Serves 6-8


2 globe eggplants (21/2pounds )
1/2 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt or kosher salt
3 tablespoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper or smoked chile powder
1/8 teaspoon of cumin
1 tablespoon olive oil plus more for drizzling
2 tablespoons finely-chopped parsley
coarsely chopped fresh herbs or seeds for garnish


1. Preheat the oven to 375F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, brush it with olive oil and sprinkle it with salt.

2. Use a sharp knife to prick each eggplant a few times. Char the outside of the eggplants on a grill or by placing them directly on the flame of a gas burner. As the skin chars, turn them until the eggplants are uniformly-charred on the outside, about 5-10 minutes. (If you don’t have a gas stove or grill, you can char them under the broiler.)

3. When cool enough to handle, trim the stems off and split the eggplants lengthwise. Place the eggplants cut-side down on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes until they’re completely soft. You should be able to easily poke a paring knife into them and meet no resistance.

4. Remove from oven and let cool.

5. Scrape out the pulpit the bowl of a food processor and puree the pulp with all the other ingredients added until smooth. (You may also mash the eggplants with a fork in a large bowl with the other ingredients.)

6. Taste, and season with additional salt and lemon juice, if necessary.

7. Serve in a shallow bowl, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with herbs or seeds. Serve at room temperature or chilled with crackers, sliced baguette, or toasted pita chips.

Storage: Baba Ganoush can be made and refrigerated for up to three days prior to serving.





Memorial Day is now a memory. Hopefully, a joyful one. Now it’s time to get serious about summer. That’s why I just made my first batch of ice cream. This past winter I treated myself to more scoops at Berthillon’s (Paris most famous glacier) than necessary and regretted not one lick. Missing that occasional flavor burst in a cone, I mixed together Lemon-Speculoos ice cream this week. It’s ridiculously creamy and delicious. Why not pull out your ice cream machine? Show some love to those you love.

I showed some love to the evening crew at The Gant’s front desk with Lemon-Speculoos Ice Cream Waffle Bowls.

This week’s Cook-the-Book-Fridays recipe choice is Porc Fumé Façon Barbecue. We Iowans translate that to Smoky Barbecue-Style Pulled Pork. Although I’ve made Pork chops, loin, shoulder, tenderloin, sausage and ham and bacon, I’ve never “pulled pork.”


Ten years ago I successfully relied on You Tube for a tutorial on How To Set a Mousetrap. Perhaps, I decided, this called for another You Tube adventure. Readers, if I had viewed all the available You Tube videos on “pulling pork,” I wouldn’t have had the time to “pull” this pork. I watched three videos. I conquered pulling pork which produced perfect sandwiches for Memorial Day.


We first moved to Aspen in 1988. Each morning when I can wake up in this beautiful place, I never forget or take for granted how fortunate I am to live here. My photos in this week’s post especially offer a glimpse into why this is so. I dusted off my gratitude journal last month and plan to express visually what I often express with words. Where does it say that a gratitude journal has to be loaded with lists?

Hopefully you feel that same joy living in your chosen homeplace. Imagine what photos you might take to represent the gratitude of that. “Life is like ice cream, enjoy it before it melts.”

On Memorial Day I always walk through Ute Cemetery, listed on the National Register of Historic Places and located a few minutes from my condo. Of the 175 people buried there, 39 are the Civil War veterans memorialized on this stone.

After the war, many Civil War veterans settled in the West. These 39 veterans are buried on the crest of a ridge in the cemetery, one row above another. Our local war veterans always place flags at their stones every Memorial Day. Honor. Respect. We never forget.

On Memorial Day Donna Grauer and I also visited Aspen Grove Cemetery where many of Aspen’s early community movers and shakers and 12 more Civil War veterans are buried. Donna spotted this broken, discarded statue leaning against a ponderosa pine.

Ever the volunteer Ranger whether in or out of uniform, Donna climbed down into the woods to check out the statue. She found the head and we managed to put it together so we can safely secure it later. St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of ecologists, rises again to watch over his flock.


Thanks to advice and assistance from my new Gant neighbor, Nancy Ferrillo, I now have a balcony filled with five flower boxes and four hummingbird feeders. First time ever. Six years and a very-determined-neighbor later, the hummers are deliriously happy and I have the balcony of my dreams.

Besides completing that project this week, I also began my USFS volunteer ranger duties. The highlight of my week, however, was a full-day Spring Migration Birding Trip led by Rebecca Weiss, the naturalist specializing in birds and botany at the Aspen Center of Environmental Studies and photographer Mark Fuller, newly retired after 37 years as director of the Ruedi Water and Power Authority. Although I’ve been on countless day-long birding excursions, this was an unbelievable and beautiful day with 53 different species sightings. I’ve only honor and respect for these wondrous creatures.

We started our day e-a-r-l-y at Rock Bottom Ranch in Carbondale. Our leaders, Rebecca and Mark.

For the past two years Rebecca and Mark have collaborated on this long-anticipated book which will be published in mid-July.

We looked up and saw a raptor flying overhead. It turned out to be a Golden Eagle. Not one. Not two. But, three. Three majestic eagles flew slowly by and disappeared over the ridge. Amazing. Dale Armstrong Photo

Look carefully to find the three eagles flying over our Rockies. (Whoops, one eagle has “flown the coop,” and gone over the ridge. My bad. This is a correction.) Dale Armstrong Photo

Say, what?

A raccoon at rest… a Cottonwood tree.

A warbling vireo sits on the nest. Dale Armstrong photo.

A peacock. Chickens. Rock Bottom Ranch. What can I say?

LEMON-SPECULOOS ICE CREAM by David Lebovitz, The Perfect Scoop


3 large lemons
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
Pinch of salt
5 egg yolks
1 1/2 cups crumbled Speculoos or gingersnap cookies


1. Zest the lemons directly into a food processor or blender.  Add the sugar and blend until the lemon zest is very fine.  

2. Warm the milk with the lemon-scented sugar, 1/2 cup of the heavy cream, and the salt in a heavy saucepan.  Cover, remove from heat, and let infuse for one hour. 

3. Rewarm the lemon-infused mixture. 

4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks.  Slowly pour warm lemon-infused milk into the egg yolks, whisking constantly. Then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.  

5. Pour the remaining 1 1/2 cups cream into a large bowl and set a mesh strainer on top. 

6. Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula.  Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the cream.  Discard the lemon zest and stir until cool over an ice bath. 

7. Chill the mixture thoroughly in your refrigerator for 2 to 3 hours or overnight.

8. Freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.  As you remove it from the ice cream maker, stir in the cookie bits and put in a freezer container.

9. Put into freezer until ready to serve.

TIP: Speculoos is A biscuit-like cookie made popular in Belgium. It’s very similar in flavor to a gingersnap. If you cannot find Speculoos in your grocery store, gingersnaps are a fine substitute.



“May, more than any other month of the year, wants us to feel most alive.” Fennel Huston


Today’s post is a full-on Happy Meal. I need that, don’t you? This week Mother Nature shot Springtime out of a cannon into the High Country. We went to bed in Winter and miraculously woke up to this glorious season of rebirth.


During winter our highway that winds from Aspen over Independence Pass is closed. Since this is the last week before it’s opening to traffic, a friend and I planned one last quiet hike up the Pass. We were not alone. This beautiful fox, carrying not one but two bagels, trotted by. A Papa, probably, but this fox was on a mission to reach the den.


Every week I include one simple and delicious user-friendly recipe. Because I enjoy discovering new chefs (to me), using unfamiliar spices and trying unknown techniques, another post recipe may be more complicated. With my Cook-the-Book-Fridays group I’m cooking through David’s Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen. As a group, we commit to making every recipe in his cookbook. This week I covered all three bases.


1) Throughout the summer I need quick supper recipes. I’m a volunteer USFS ranger again this summer. If Smokey still wants me, I’m In. On days that I “work,” I return home hungry and tired. (Make that starved and exhausted.) This week I pulled up Barbara Kafka’s Creamy Lemon Pasta recipe which she first introduced in a March, 1999 New York Times column, Secrets of a Lemon Lover In a Season of Plenty. Almost 20 years later Food52 website considers it a Genius Recipe.

2) It was my Clara’s 15th birthday this week. Although I wasn’t in California for the family celebration, I still could make merry by baking Yotam Ottolenghi’s Beet, Ginger and Sour Cream Cake. I poured a glass of champagne, toasted my precious youngest granddaughter and discovered beets and bubbly bond beautifully.

Ready for the oven…

3) This week’s Cook-the-Book-Fridays recipe choice is David Lebovitz’s tasty Cheese, Bacon and Arugula Soufflé. Loyal Readers, may I be blunt? Some recipes, like Bûche de Noël, Turdunken and Baked Alaska, should be left to the pros. While this soufflé doesn’t rise to the difficulty of these examples, it is complicated, labor-intensive and high altitude-resistant.

Truthfully, this soufflé was very, very good.


It’s always exciting to spot a colorful Western Tanager.

I went birding with another ranger yesterday. It was a gorgeous, sunny morning and we were reminded how totally amazing these winged creatures are. Yellow warblers are migrating back from Central and northern South America. Hummers are flying in from Mexico. The Great Blue Herons are back in residence at the North Star Preserve and Rock Bottom Ranch and a pair of ospreys have returned to their traditional nesting site near the Rio Grande Trail in mid-valley.

Who doesn’t love a chubby American Robin?

The American Kestrel is the smallest and most common falcon in North America

There was drama of the fowl kind in California today also. My daughter, Melissa, like her mother, is an early riser. This morning she discovered an injured adult finch on their front walkway. Although Clara did not inherit the early-riser gene, she is an intern at Wildcare Eastern Sierra and always “on call.”

“Help me,” says the frightened finch.

The lucky baby received Clara Care until they dropped it at the sanctuary before school. Our worldwide bird population, a ‘vital gauge of our ecosystem’s health’ is in peril. The Trump administration is also rapidly rolling back environmental laws and protections for all migratory and endangered birds. Proud of my family. Every feathered friend is worth saving.

We don’t see many Turkey Vultures in the area except in flight. This guy, who was just hanging out on a low branch, startled us as we walked by.



CREAM LEMON PASTA by Barbara Kafka

Yield: 6 servings.


12 ounces wide egg noodles (or, any pasta of your choice)
Zest and Juice of 2 lemons. Cut zest in very thin strips 1 inch long
1 cup heavy cream
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper.


1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add noodles and stir to separate. Cook for 8 minutes or until tender. Drain, then return to the cooking pot.

2. Just before noodles are done, combine the lemon zest, cream, salt and pepper in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat for 2 minutes or until cream comes to a boil.

3. Pour cream mixture over drained noodles and add the lemon juice. Stir to coat. Cook over medium heat, stirring 1 or 2 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed. Season with additional pepper, if desired.


1. Start by using 3 TBSP of lemon juice and add more to taste;

2. The variations and add-ins to this pasta dish are numerous: green veggies (peas, of course); mushrooms; kalamata olives; onions; chicken, sausage or tuna. Or, use the pasta as a small side with steak, shrimp or white fish.


BEET, GINGER & SOUR CREAM CAKE by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh, Sweet cookbook

The cake is ready for the oven. I used an 8-inch springform pan but an 8″ round or square pan works also.

David Lebovitz wrote a wonderful post about baking this cake. Get the recipe and see his comments here.




For the previous four winters I’ve emptied my Aspen condo of personal belongings, parking them in my down valley storage unit, and handed my keys to The Gant’s front office personnel. There’s no way to make this easy. Physically, it’s double-duty difficult, packing for a 51/2-month journey while converting my home into rental space. Mentally, it’s always been way outside my comfort zone. I just couldn’t get my head around the process.


Usually I return to Colorado, as I did last week, dreading the re-entry chores awaiting me. But this year, compared to the past, that has seemed less daunting. If I weren’t dieting, I would call it “a piece of cake.” In four years I’ve apparently morphed from hunter-gatherer to true believer, less is more, keep it simple. My mantra is if I take something out, don’t bring something else in.

MADELEINES au SARRASIN by David Lebovitz

Every year it seems my less becomes less, my simple is simpler. It may be, as someone suggested, I’ve stepped so far outside my comfort zone I’ve forgotten how to climb back in. If that translates to lightening my load, I vote yes.

SPRINGTIME in the ROCKIES (no grumbling, we desperately need the moisture).

After a 3-month hiatus from cooking, hanging out in my kitchen says Welcome Home. Since we’re into comfort zones, being inside and out, I’m thinking this blog sorta teeters on the edge. Dear Readers, when did you last do something brand spanking new? Something that nudged you outside the familiar. That’s the true test.


This blog has forced me into a deep dive of unknown recipes, techniques and ingredients. Every week it’s a learning experience with more failures than I will ever admit. In fact I’ve become quite comfortable with failing. Oops!

This week I’ve baked three newbies which I guarantee you bakers will be trying. My new bestie is buckwheat flour, not only healthy but hearty. You’ll see me using it in more recipes this summer. Although I’ve never waded through Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, I can now bake madeleines. Hooray for me. Thank you, Dorie Greenspan and David Lebovitz.

Two of my favorite bloggers, Liz, That Skinny Chick Can Bake, and Chris, Café Sucre & Farine, are the stars of two recipes. They’re keepers, both the bloggers and the recipes. It’s Cook the Book Fridays with Madeleines au Sarrasin from David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen. Here are the recipes:

CHERRY CHOCOLATE PECAN COOKIES by Liz Berg, That Skinny Chick Can Bake

Each summer I need a tasty, freezable drop cookie recipe for snacks and to share. This chunk of sweetness loaded with two kinds of chocolate, roasted nuts and dried cherries is quick, simple and delicious.

 YIELD: 36


1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup coarsely chopped white chocolate
1/2 cup coarsely chopped milk chocolate
1 cup dried tart cherries
1/2 cup coarsely chopped, roasted pecans


1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Line baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fit with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla extract, and beat to combine, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
4. Mix in flour, baking soda, and salt. Mix in cherries, white and milk chocolate, and roasted pecans either in the mixer or with a wooden spoon.
5. With a cookie scoop or tablespoon, drop 2 tablespoonfuls of dough and place about 2 inches apart on the baking sheets.
6. Bake until just set and golden, about 12-14 minutes.
7. Let cool on baking sheets for about 5 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to finish cooling.

TIP: Store in an airtight container for about 3 days or freeze for up to a month

MADELEINES au SARRASIN (Buckwheat Madeleines) by David Lebovitz, My Paris Kitchen

Besides the madeleines, I also used the leftover batter to make delicious mini-muffins.

David’s take on madeleines using buckwheat flour is genius in a hearty, more healthy manner. It’s less sophisticated and refined than its white flour sister but the guys at The Gant’s front desk loved these “seashells.” In fact James told me, “My mom used to make these every Christmas.”

YIELD: 18 madeleines


8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter, cubed
2/3 cup buckwheat flour
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons aluminum-free baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup egg whites (usually about 4 large eggs)

1 tablespoon dark honey

When crepes are made with buckwheat flour, they are called Galettes. We recently ordered this Galette at Breizh Cafe in Paris.


1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

2. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. As the butter cooks, it will sputter a bit and then it will settle down. Cook the butter until it’s the color of maple syrup and smells toasty. It’s about a 5-minute process. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. (See the How-To below in TIPS.)

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir in the egg whites and honey. Stir in one-third of the browned butter and gradually add the rest of the butter, including all the dark bits, without scraping the bottom of the pan. Mix until the batter is smooth.

3. In a madeleine mold, brush the indentations with melted butter. Fill the molds three-quarters full with the batter. Bake for 9-10 minutes, until the spring back lightly when you touch them in the center. Because of the color of the buckwheat flour, color is not a good indication of doneness.

4. Remove from oven, wait 30 seconds, then tip out onto cooling rack. Madeleines are best eaten warm, or on the same day they are made. Sprinkle confectioners sugar on the tips if you wish.

TIPS: Here’s a great link to browning butter 101 by Joy the Baker (Love, love, love Joy the Baker). Personally I would take my butter to a deeper brown, a maple syrup color, than Joy suggests.

ONE BOWL BUTTERMILK BRAN MUFFINS by Chris at The Café Sucre & Farine


For most of my adult life I have searched for a tasty bran muffin. I like the idea of a bran muffin and the taste. Unfortunately I’ve never met a bran muffin that isn’t dry. With that first bite, I’m always hopeful. By the third bite, dry, crumbly, no flavor. Chris’ bran muffin passed the dry test. In my opinion the honey-butter glaze is the magic. Before you glaze the warm muffins, why not poke it with three small holes so the glaze will seep through.

Here’s Chris’ link. Besides the recipe, she offers many tips, a must-read.

CooktheBookFridays is a international group virtually cooking through My Paris Kitchen by David Lebovitz. Join us by clicking here.




Can we agree that seven years of blogging about food is worth 250 calories? Thus, the cake.

Lately I’ve been reflecting on this lifetime of growing, cooking, eating and sharing food, realizing it’s the frame work I’ve used to build and re-build my life. Most of my happy memories are in some way attached to food.

– From my childhood I still crave Mom’s Apple Crisp, Helen Shelley’s Whipped Cream and Oreo Cookie Pudding, Millie Potter’s Molasses Cookies and Carole Renken’s mom’s Rice Krispie Bars. There are so many memories attached to each of those cravings.

– As for silly family memories, this rises to the top. The turkey wouldn’t gobble if I didn’t bring a huge batch of Chex Mix to my family on Thanksgiving. Every year my granddaughters wonder aloud if Grandma will remember. It’s always a week before the holidays when I get the call.

“Hi, Mom. It’s Missy. (long pause) Mom, now I am serious, please, please don’t put so much butter in the Chex Mix this year.”

Okay, Missy,”

Mom, Mom, I really mean it this year.”

I know Missy.”

When I arrive the girls are quick to spy the Chex Mix canisters in the car. I only doubled the butter,” I whisper to them.

They giggle and run in to tell their Mom. I do penance. Eleven years. Same story.

Take a look at the potato plant, just dug from of the soil. Potatoes are now grown in the Valley by Woody Creek Distillers who make acclaimed craft spirits including 100% Potato Vodka. WCD Photo

– One of my favorite Michael Memories is our annual potato harvest. We Iowans could not successfully grow tomatoes in Aspen but our potato crop was gangbusters. Each fall Michael would make the call. It was time. He’d grab his pitchfork to dig up the plants as I got down and dirty to retrieve those spuds. Since I experimented with different varieties, there was lots of ooh & aah-ing as we spotted each one. And God help that man if he mistakenly speared and damaged one of those tubers. Our harvest’s success dictated the number of guests invited to our boisterous potato parties which followed.

In Las Vegas, where I’ve spent the holidays, some people go High Brow and some go Low. I favor the Low – my favorite burger joint on Eastern Avenue.

My long-lasting friendships, whether in Iowa, Nevada or Colorado were nourished and nurtured in the kitchen and around the table. This experience of the past seven years of cooking virtually only raised the bar. In an instance of serendipity I joined French Fridays with Dorie, arguably among the first virtual cook-the-book food groups.

This exposure to kindred spirits throughout the world was an unexpected gift. C.S. Lewis nailed it, “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.

LV now has a big box IKEA. Since I had never visited an Ikea I stopped by to taste their iconic Allemansrätten meatballs with mashed potatoes & gravy and lingonberry sauce.

A Bargain.

For me, every week I make time to plan, cook, click and write. My measuring cup runneth over.

There are none of the long lines here in Las Vegas as reported at Danny Meyer’s popular Shake Shacks in New York City.

Still worth a stop for the ‘Shroom Burger, a crisp-fried portobello mushroom filled with melted meunster and cheddar cheeses, topped with lettuce, tomato, and ShackSauce. Tasted mighty fine with french fries and a salted caramel shake.


On Thursday I am flying to San Miguel de Allende, located in central Mexico, for a 5-week visit. Designated as an UNESCO World Heritage Site, SMA joins other historical cities like Venice, Florence, Salzburg and Prague as the most historically and culturally significant in the world.

I will be living near the centro histórico, the city’s 500-year-old downtown district. For the next few weeks of posting I’ll be trading David Lebovitz’s recipes for those of Diana Kennedy, aka the “Julia Child of Mexico,” and Señora Trini, the reigning cook in my hosts’ cocina.

Gracias, Readers, for a wonderful seven years with you.



During the Thanksgiving holiday my friend Meredith explored Patagonia, a meandering territory in the southern tip of South America. This rugged area of spectacular national parks in the Andes mountain range is shared by Chile and Argentina. Forty years ago English author Bruce Chatwin wrote IN PATAGONIA, ‘a masterpiece of travel writing that revolutionized the genre’ and introduced that slice of South America to the world. Game on.

My Anthem Country Club friends and neighbors got together for dinner to welcome me back to Henderson. Laughter and happy memories, that’s for sure.

But, I digress….. As her vacation ended, beginning a lengthy 32-hour trek home, I asked that she check in when safely home in Atlanta. Here’s the text I received: BUS: Natales to Arenas; PLANES: Arenas-Santiago-Dallas-Atlanta; TRAIN: Marta; WALK: Home. Travel is not for sissies. As you know!”

Our Clara is a math whiz which translates to precision and perfection. It’s a strength that Melissa, Emma and I don’t share. She’s the baker in the family and dished up a Cherry Pie and Pumpkin Cheesecake. Beyond tasty.

Clara bought fresh cherries, pitted them and stored them in the freezer until Thanksgiving. Her filling was delicious but my, oh my, her crust. The best ever. The cheesecake, her first try, was just so good.

When she walked through the door, Meredith later told me, she headed for the freezer to pull out a stash of her Red Beans and Rice, a Louisiana Creole cuisine classic. While it bubbled on the burner, she unpacked, threw a load of dirty laundry in the washer, probably changed into sweats, and voila……breakfast/lunch/dinner poured into one big bowl of comfort food.

To make Celery Root Soup with Horseradish Cream and Bacon Chips, you start at the source.

While my 1200-mile holiday adventures were not as exotic, my hunger pangs tilted toward comfort after spending Thanksgiving in California with my family. This week’s post highlights some easy eats of mine – a grilled cheese sandwich with a side of piping hot soup. Comfort medicine for the soul.

Full stop. Before leaving Colorado I paused to share the road with two young mountain sheep who’d lost their way. Their herd was a mile down the road.

I’m taking it up a notch but still keeping it simple with Everything Spice Grilled Cheese Sandwiches and CooktheBookFridays recipe, Soupe de Céleri-Rave à la Crème de Raifort et Chips de Jambon. Even after months of immersion study at the Institut de Français, that’s an American mouthful. Translated simply, celery soup, unique and darn tasty.

The American West. Beaver, Utah 11/18/17 (Day 1 of my journey. Love this photo. )


This marks the fourth year of my winter hiatus from Aspen. Surprisingly, my sad pangs tugged stronger this year. Although escaping the High Country’s hearty winters is a great option, it wasn’t until Green River, 250 miles out, that I’d again convinced myself of this. Maybe what feels so right and happy just gets harder to leave.

My last lunch with friends before leaving Aspen. Char McLain( L) and Donna Grauer (R). Their husbands were at work in the kitchen!

In the winter, when my life is more gypsy than residential, it’s pretty important that every day be comfort food, figuratively not literally. Silly as it sounds, when traveling alone my world spins better if surrounded by my comfort cache. A bag of tricks? A security blanket in disguise? If stranded on a desert island, I could amuse myself. Here’s what I pack…..

1. Books and Kindle Paperwhite. Current Favorite: Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson;
2. Four Boxes of Nabisco’s Honey Maid Graham Crackers;
3. Memberships in Hulu, Netflix, CBS Access, MHZ Choice and Acorn.
Current Favorites: Mannon and The Great British Baking Show;
4. Five Jigsaw Puzzles;
5. Lumosity, daily on-line brain games Membership;
6. Computer and iPhone – lifeline to family and friends;
7. 4 Spiral Notebooks, 3 Packages of Pens;
8. Educational Courses: Mythology, Spanish and French;
9. 2 Boxes of Nestle’s Coffee Nips;
10.Yoga Mat and Tapes.

This is the same Pumpkin Spice Bundt Cake with Buttermilk Frosting that I baked for my previous post. By changing up the bundt pan and the frosting decoration, it showed off differently for Thanksgiving. (Recipe in my last post.)



adapted from Tieghan Gerard,

Serves 2


Although parmesan and cheddar are the cheeses of choice, use whatever hard cheese you have available for the rest of the mixture.

4 slices thickly cut country bread (I prefer sourdough)
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
3/4 combo cup of shredded havarti, fontina cheese and/or gruyere
4 tablespoons salted butter, at room temperature
1/2-3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese


1. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add enough butter to coat pan. Cook one sandwich at a time.

2. Spread the outside of each slice of bread with butter and arrange the grated cheeses on one inside slice of each sandwich. Sprinkle the spice over both buttered outsides of the bread, pressing the spice mix gently into the bread to adhere. Sprinkle half the parmesan on top of each sandwich’s outside slice as you grill the sandwich.

3. Place the sandwiches, one at a time, parmesan cheese side up, in the skillet. (When you flip it, sprinkle the remaining parmesan cheese on the top.) Cook until golden on each side, about 4-5 minutes per side.

TIPS: 1. Use any combination of available cheeses in your fridge for your filling mixture.
2. I am making these again but will mix my own bagel spice, eliminating the garlic.



3 tablespoons toasted white or black sesame seeds
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
2 teaspoons dried onion
2 teaspoons dried garlic (Optional)
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more if needed

DIRECTIONS Combine everything in a small bowl or glass jar. Keep stored in a cool, dry place. If needed, season to taste with more salt.

CELERY ROOT SOUP with HORSERADISH CREAM and BACON CHIPS, My Paris Kitchen by David Lebovitz

If you’ve never used celery root before, make this soup. Think of it being a neglected vegetable giving goodness. Save some steps by purchasing the horseradish cream and using bacon chips (instead of ham chips). Or simply drizzle with olive or nut oil.

Serves 6


6 tablespoons salted or unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 large leeks, cleaned and chopped
21/2 teaspoons sea salt or kosher salt
11/2 pounds celery root, peeled and cubed
6 cups (750ml) water
1/2 teaspoons white pepper
1 bay leaf
6 sprigs of thyme
minced fresh chives for garnish


1. Place a large stock pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat and add the olive oil. Add the leeks and a big pinch of salt. Saute for 7-10 minutes or until the leeks have started to turn translucent and a bit of color has started to develop on the bottom of the pot. Stir occasionally.

2. Add the cubed celery root to the pot along with the bay leaf, thyme and 6 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, covered, until the celery root is tender, about 30-40 minutes. (A sharp paring knife should easily pierce a cube.)

3. Pluck out the bay leaf and thyme and let the soup cool to tepid. Add the white pepper. Puree with an immersion blender or remove the pot from the heat and carefully transfer, in small batches, to a regular blender and puree until smooth. Always be careful pureeing hot liquids. If the consistency of the soup is too thick, add water, a little at a time, as needed. Add white pepper or salt, to taste.

4. To serve the soup, reheat the soup and ladle into serving bowls. Add a generous dollop of horseradish cream, available at your local market, and crumble crispy bacon over the top, finishing each bowl with a sprinkling of chives.

OR, drizzle hazelnut, walnut or plain olive oil in the soup for garnish. Finish each bowl with a pinch of fleur de sel, or smoked sea salt.