Souvlaki-Style Chicken Breast with Crema and Arugala Feta Salad

Rainy Sunday Morning Greetings from D.C.

For the past twelve years of my wanting a respite from Aspen’s high-alpine and occasionally bone-chilling winter climate, I’ve escaped for four months to warmer winter destinations.

Jose Andres’ Spanish Diner located in Bethesda
Betsy and her husband, Howard, recently moved from Boston to the DC area. We were in “French Fridays with Dorie” together.

This winter I’m in Washington DC, renting a one-bedroom condo in nearby Bethesda. While DC doesn’t promise Colorado’s 300 days of sunshine and hangs between a humid 35-40 degrees Fahrenheit in winter, it’s immersed with cultural and historical charm. Flying, as I did, during the weekend of January’s major snowstorm, there were issues. Instead of flying non-stop from Denver to DC, I was re-booked to Orlando with the Disney World crowd.

Lentejas Guisadas, Spanish lentils stewed with carrots, potatoes, mushrooms, artichokes & piparra pepper
Patatas bravas, Fried potatoes with spicy tomato sauce and garlicky alioli

Miraculously, in my two days of travel with cancellations, delays, packed airports and horrible weather, I only witnessed good behavior. United was doing its best. Its customers weren’t complaining. When United personnel kept apologizing because of the extra time needed to de-ice planes, I was not the only one who said, “Take all the time you need.”

My landlord had recommended using a small, locally-owned shuttle service to meet me at Dulles. Landing in a strange city, after dark, at 9 pm, 4-5 hours late, was not a good look! But I had kept in touch with my shuttle service driver throughout the day and could only hope this meet-up would work. As I walked out of the airport, having collected my bags, voila, there he was. It was snowing, the roads were slick and our drive took twice as long, an hour, to get to Bethesda. But the house was lit up, Erika, my landlord, walked out to meet us and Gerald, as relieved as I was to be there safely, carried my bags to the door. The End

I Live Here.


Like all my winter adventures, I’ll try to take advantage and make the most of every opportunity I’m given. They’ve all been wonderfully successful adventures but this will be my last. I miss my friends, my book club, my Gant family, my life in the mountains. I’ll still travel but just differently, One of those long-time friends, Cathy O’Connell

Although I’ve been in Bethesda for two weeks, I haven’t visited DC yet. Next week I plan to visit the International Spy Museum, the National Air and Space Museum, the National Museum of Women in the Arts and weather permitting, walk to the Vietnam Memorial and other outside statues and monuments. There are 21 Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo.

During my first five to six days here, the weather was brutal. In between snowstorms, I had lunch at Jose Andres’ “Spanish Diner” with Betsy, my French Fridays with Dorie colleague, shopped at Trader Joe’s, purchased my Metro SmartTrip card, registered for a library card and joined Home Chef Meal Delivery Service, a top meal kit delivery service.

A meal service??? These services are reputed to be time-saving options for an over-scheduled public and are more than a 5 billion dollar business. Since I’ve always been curious about them, this is a opportune time for me to sign up and easy to cancel.

To purchase my Metro Smarttrip Card, I had to go down there!
Since I didn’t have a library card yet, Betsy loaned me three of her favorite books to read now: “The Stationery Shop,” a novel by Marjan Kamali; “Killers of a Certain Age” by Deanna Raybourn and “The Giver of Stars” by Jojo Moyes. We got my card after our lunch.

For those of you unfamiliar with how these services work, I make three meal choices every week. Once a week Home Chef delivers three meal. Each choice, packaged with all the measured ingredients, takes about 30 minutes to prepare. For me, whose cupboards really are bare, this is an opportunity to choose, prepare, make and eat a variety of meals I normally wouldn’t. This first week I’ve already prepared Souvlaki-style Chicken Breast (delicious) with Crema and Arugula Feta Salad. (pictured above). Today I’m looking forward to pulling together Turkey Meatballs and Lemon Crema with Garlicky Spinach Orzo and will finish off my first box early next week with Creamy Pesto Chicken Flautas and Tomato and Green Onion Salsa. I always have leftovers.

Below is my own recipe for Chimichurri Dry Rub. A favor, please? Make this meal.



4 teaspoons dried parsley
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried lemon zest (see notes)
¼ teaspoon garlic powder

Makes 2 TBS.

Pat, dry and rub 2 6 oz. boneless, skinless chicken breast with the Chimichurri Dry Rub and a pinch of salt and pepper. Place on medium non-stick pan over medium heat and add 2 tsp. olive oil. Add chicken to the hot pan, SEASONED SIDE DOWN. Cook until browned, about 6-7 minutes PER SIDE. Remove from burner, transfer chicken to the plate and tent with foil. While chicken continues to cook under the foil, make the rest of your meal.

This recipe works with 5-6oz. sirloin steaks as well.

CREMA, Recipe by Lisa Bryan, Downshiftology


8 ounces sour cream
1 lime or lemon, zested and juiced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon Salt

Combine and mix together until creamy. Use immediately or tightly cover and put in refrigerator overnight. It will thicken overnight.




Recently I was invited to a dinner party. There would be eight. I asked the hostess what I could bring. “Oh,” she said casually, “just bring a simple dessert.”

With the holiday season in high octane I decided my s-i-m-p-l-e indulgent contribution would be a CHERRY DUMP CAKE. What can be easier than dumping three to five ingredients in a 9×13” cake dish, baking it for 50-60 minutes and topping it with a slab of ice cream before serving. Apparently this recipe was in community and church cookbooks beginning in the 1960s. The official name came from a Duncan Hines recipe published in 1980 but I remember making this in the late Sixties, probably picked up from a dessert my Mom made for bridge club..

With its five chairlifts and 600 acres of steep challenging terrain peaking at 12,392′, welcome to Aspen Highlands. Thanks in part to a hundred or so intrepid volunteer boot packers working the past few weeks, Highland Bowl, this mountain’s crown jewel, is open. Holding on to ropes, each armed with avalanche rescue beacons and working 8am to 4pm days, they packed down terrain for safety’s sake where machines can’t reach. Whether for bragging rights or earning skiing vouchers, with a 48-degree vertical climb, it’s a brutal task. Two of our very fit Gant guys, Aaron Watchmaker and Aaron Lee, on a windy day last week.
Last week I joined a group invited to see the stunning holiday decorations and lights at Eagle’s Rise Ranch in Old Snowmass. The 70 acre ranch is a world class training facility for dressage horses. This big boy, Ziggy, a world-class competitor, now retired, liked my fur more than his oats.
Emma (L), a first-year in Med School at Duke and Clara, a junior at Rose-Hulman, will be glad to spend the holidays together at home in California. (2023 Thanksgiving in Durham, North Carolina)

During this sugary and candy-coated season if you hit the holiday wall or want to detour from traditional seasonal treats, surprise your guests or family with a Dump Cake. Need to entertain kids or grandchildren? What sounds more fun than baking a Dump Cake. Or, during the cocktail hour at an adult party, put the non-cooking guests in charge. If they can dump, they can pull this dessert together, bake it during dinner and add a slab of ice cream before serving. Voilà. That is kinda joy-to-the-world merrymaking.

This is what off-season looks like at The Gant, never-ending log deliveries to be dropped off at each condo.
This young moose pays one last visit to The Gant before heading for higher country. Gant Photo

As I write this, another “modest” Dump of the white variety is forecast in the mountains on Christmas Eve. It’s been a beautiful fall season followed by some glorious snowfalls to kick off the skiing season. I’ll be spending the winter living in Bethesda and exploring/working in DC. My bags are packed, my condo emptied and ‘free of me’ for the next four months. There is nothing simple about doing that and every year I vow it’s my last! In the past ten years I’ve wintered in Paris, London, Maui, San Diego, Cambria and Las Vegas and loved each destination and experience. I am admittedly apprehensive about this year’s choice, a ‘we’ll see’ four months I’ll share with all of you.

This Pine Marten may look cute and cuddly but don’t be fooled, he is not. Related to weasels, ferrets and otters, they are very comfortable but elusive in the High Country. Photo thanks to Joelle McDonough.


With just 5 ingredients and 5 minutes of prep, dessert doesn’t get easier than this Cherry Dump Cake. Serve with some vanilla ice cream for a quick but crazy-delicious treat. Need variety? The Internet is overwhelmed with variations to the basic recipe. Fun Fact: Both Comstock (available in the South and East Coast) and Wilderness (available in the Midwest and Pacific Coast) pie-filling products are owned by Duncan Hines.

Serves 12


Cherry Dump Cake
Adding maraschino cherry juice to the pie filling.

2 cans cherry pie filling or any filling of your choice (21 ounces each)

1/3 cup maraschino cherry juice, the juice amount in a 6oz jar of cherries (optional)

1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract (optional)

1 box yellow cake mix (I used Duncan Hines but any yellow or white mix will work.)

After pouring the cake mix into the pan, pour the melted butter on top. Do not mix.

3/4 to 1 cup butter, melted and cooled


Preheat the oven to 350°F.

  1. Spray a 9×13 baking dish with nonstick spray.
  2. Pour the cherry pie filling into the baking dish.

  3. Add the maraschino cherry juice and vanilla or almond extract. Stir to combine and smooth out the filling into an even layer. DO NOT STIR THE INGREDIENTS AGAIN.

  4. Sprinkle the cake mix evenly over the filling.
  5. Pour the melted butter over the top. Try to saturate as much of the cake mix as possible. DO NOT STIR.
  6. Bake for 50-60 minutes until golden brown on top and bubbly.
  7. Let sit for 15 minutes. Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.




During the past many decades, The Washington Post has published more than 10,000 online recipes.  This year they asked readers to pick their all-time favorites. On October 26th they published the winning 30 of those recipes. I chose three of them to make for a mid-week dinner, PORK CHOPS & MINI-GNOCCHI with MUSTARD CREAM SAUCE (2020), FAST FOCACCIA (2019) and Dorie Greenspan’s CUSTARDY APPLE SQUARES (2015). But first…


Last week we celebrated our first major snowstorm in the High Country. Even those of us who don’t love snow, icy roads and anything below zero are relieved to watch those serious flakes cover our peaks. For the past ten years this is when I forsake my condo in search of temps that don’t include wind chill advisories and blizzard warnings. Although packing up my digs is not a choice but a necessity, it’s become easier. Less is more.

Pine Squirrels, Hurrying, Scurrying to bury cones/seed caches. G. Oliphant photo.

For me it’s mostly been an adventure. I’ve spent the early winter months in  California, Las Vegas or Maui. Later, in February, I’d fly to Paris or London. During Covid I was relieved to hunker down in Boulder near good friends. Over a lifetime I’ve learned to bloom where I’m planted but during my travels there always are some “What was I thinking moments.” That’s when I remind myself this was always and only MY idea.

A Birthday(s) Luncheon on a chilly and snowy winter day. Gracie Oliphant Photo

This year I’m spending winter in the tropical paradise of Washington D.C. (Honestly, dear Readers, six months ago this seemed like a brilliant idea!) Summer in Aspen does not play nicely in the sandbox with completing my writing project. I’m hoping the upcoming winter in Washington will. Although the deadline is self-imposed, it’s still a deadline. 

For Linda’s birthday I baked a Double Chocolate Kahlua Bundt. Because it had snowed the night before, a light snowfall that didn’t hang around, I tried to frost the cake to resemble the hit-and-miss, remaining snowfall. One side of the cake was perfectly frosted and then there’s the sunny side you see where snow melted quickly. Sun/No Sun. I really didn’t pull that off. Me being clever. My Bad.

Balancing work and play, the many to see-and-do’s, will not be a chore. D.C. is an embarrassment of riches and sometimes, yes, an embarrassment. Wanting to sometimes leave logistics to others, I’ve enrolled in a week-long foreign-service/American diplomacy program and another about the capitol city itself. I will admit to being apprehensive. 

Emma and her bestie, Katie, bonding over matching Anatomy Class uniforms.
Author Walter Isaacson, former President/CEO of the Aspen Institute returned “home” to sign books and talk about Elon Musk.

I want to re-recommend Beaverland by Leila Philip. Our entire book club was unanimously and enthusiastically all in. Author Walter Isaacson’s Elon Musk, a New York Times best-seller for the past seven weeks, is a must-read. Really, you must. Called ‘a fascinating and controversial innovator’ and ‘rule-breaking visionary,’ by the author, this is brilliantly researched and Isaacson-readable.

Our book group went to Ashcroft to explore a fully exposed, abandoned beaver lodge, the victim of a breached dam. We also spotted the small lodge where our furry friends had moved, we think. Beavers are a keystone species due to their ability to shape freshwater habitats.

I just picked up Jamie Beck’s gorgeous An American in Provence,  Art, Life and Photography.  She was an unknown to me. Not anymore.   

Duck Confit with Crispy Herb Potatoes


In the Top 30, The Post also featured Dorie Greenspan’s Custardy Apple Squares (2015) from Baking Chez Moi which I baked for my blog. Here’s a Link to that recipe:

Custardy-covered apple slices for Dorie’s Apple Squares

The pork chops and fast focaccia recipes are below in the Link of reader favorites.

For an Iowa girl who grew up in a small farm community, cracking an egg open to discover two yolks was a thing. Eggs with two yolks are fairly rare. You might find them in 1 of every 1,000 eggs. And that’s no yolk!

Is it Bison or Buffalo? Ask Ken Burns.

Is it Bison or Buffalo? Ask Ken Burns.

Bison Chili

I don’t often do whims. Scheduled and organized fit me best. I’m not suggesting that’s the way to roll but it’s my way. That’s why paying $13.13 (senior rate) for a 7pm ticket to Aspen’s premiere showing of Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour film turned into a last-minute whim moment. I did later discover that the $13.13 price was because 13 is Taylor’s favorite number. 

Although I knew nothing about the tour, I did understand she’d just wrapped up the U.S. leg of 52 concerts in 19 states. Her upcoming international dates will close in November, 2024.

My friend, Sharon, decided to see Taylor also. Since 7p.m. was sold out, she grabbed an 8p.m. ticket and received some advice from the ticket seller. “What’s a friendship bracelet?” she called to ask, “I’m supposed to wear one.” (I had no idea.) 

“What are you wearing?” she wondered. “They suggested I wear sequins.”

And then the kicker, “Do you know it’s three-hours long?”

Not believing it was 3-hours long, I took my sequin-less self to the Isis Theatre. Everyone else, primarily girls with moms, teenage girl gangs and some couples, were dressed to the nines. I quickly discovered if you want to dress the era, go online and find outfits to fit every genre!  American capitalism at its best!

Sharon, who didn’t understand what a friendship bracelet was, given one by another film attendee. End Game was a song Swift wrote for her 2017 album, Reputation.

I was lucky with my seat partners though. On my left was a nice guy and his very quiet girlfriend. He was a tall drink of water, stood and swayed throughout the concert and was in and out of his seat all evening. Where did he go? I never asked. On my right were a young woman, mid-20s and her boyfriend. 

This young lady had an impressive set of pipes. When Taylor began to sing each of her 40 songs, she did also. The majority of the audience was encouraged to participate but she was, hands down, the blue-ribbon loudest. It wasn’t annoying. It was amazing. Throughout the evening she would hear the first few chords and was on it, never missing a beat or conjunction or preposition!  

This month’s reading, “Elon Musk” by Walter Isaacson, published in late September and “Beaver Land” by Leila Philip, our book club’s choice for October.

About this production. Taylor Swift is exquisite as is her writing, singing, energy and joy. The fact she’s a savvy business women, at 33, who manages herself and her responsibilities well is most impressive. She seems to understand and realize she’s a role model for hundred of millions of young women of all ages. She carries that mantle well albeit with glamour and flair. A phenom.

Nice to know you better, Taylor.

The delectable Apple Cider Spice Bundt Cake with Cinnamon Sugar

Ken Burns

Today’s menu choice is to honor “The American Buffalo,” Ken Burns newest PBS documentary. Burns calls it ’the continent’s most magnificent species, an improbable, shaggy beast that nonetheless has found itself at the center of many of our nation’s most thrilling, mythic, and sometimes heartbreaking tales.’  

While Burns uses the words “buffalo” and  “bison” interchangeably, I would respectfully suggest to him they are not. They are two different animals. He knows that but most Americans do not. I am guessing he made that choice based on clarity. Nevertheless, like all Burns’ documentaries, this is well-worth four hours of your time.

Bison Chili tastes even better when it’s made in my Old Wagner Ware Magnalite Dutch Oven, a prized heirloom.

This hearty Bison Chili with Avocado Toast topped off by a slab of Apple Cider Spice Bundt Cake makes for a substantial lunch or soul satisfying dinner. Making this bowl of delicious is as easy as 1,2,3, Sauté, Simmer and Serve. 

Avocado Toast, simply made with a ripe avocado, mashed, lemon, squeezed, salt and pepper. Serve on toast.

Bison is leaner than beef. If you’re looking to reduce your calorie or fat intake it’s a healthier choice. Most grocery store chains carry grass-fed lean bison. If available, and it usually is, I always buy it instead of ground beef or ground chuck.


Servings: 8-10

Adapted from Kim & Kim’s Cravings


¼ cup olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 green pepper, minced
1 pound ground bison
1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans, do not rinse
1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans, do not rise,
1 (15-ounce) can black beans do not rinse
1 (28-ounce) can tomato purée
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2 cups beef broth
1 tablespoon thyme
1 tablespoon rosemary
4 to 6 tablespoons Hatch Diced Green Chiles, Mild
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon salt, plus more to taste
1 tablespoon pepper, plus more to taste

Cilantro, for topping (optional)


  1. In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat. Sauté the onion and green pepper until softened, about 3-5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about a minute longer.
  2. Add the bison meat and crumble into very small pieces while it browns. Cook until no longer pink, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the pinto, kidney, and black beans to the mixture, undrained, then add the tomato purée and crushed tomatoes and stir to combine. Add the beef broth, thyme, rosemary, and chiles, and stir well.
  4. Bring to a simmer, then turn the heat to low and cover. Cook for at least 20 minutes, but ideally cook for up to 2 hours to allow the flavors to meld.
    If the chili gets too thick (it tends to do that the next day), add beef broth.
  5. When ready to serve, remove from the heat. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Sprinkle cilantro on top of each serving if desired.

Apple Cider Spice Bundt Cake with Ice Cream topped with Apple Cide Glaze


Adapted from Jennifer Fishkind
Serves 12 (10-inch-12-inch bundt pan)


 1 box of Duncan Hines Perfectly Moist Spice Cake mix OR 1 box of Betty Crocker Super Moist Spice Cake mix

1 cup apple cider  (NOT apple juice)

½ cup apple sauce or cinnamon apple sauce (NOT chunky)

3 large eggs, room temperature

¼-tsp cinnamon

 1 tbsp brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla

Cinnamon Sugar Topping

2 tablespoons cinnamon depending on how much cinnamon you prefer
¼ cup sugar
1/4 cup melted butter (to be brushed on cake before sprinkling cinnamon sugar)

Glaze for Ice Cream (OPTIONAL)

1 cup powdered sugar

¼ cup apple cider


1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2.In a large mixing bowl, beat the dry cake mix, apple cider, apple sauce, and eggs. Add in the cinnamon (¼ tsp,) brown sugar and vanilla to the cake mix batter.
3. Pour mix into a well greased & floured bundt pan (I spread on soft butter and then lightly use spray Baker’s Joy for the addition of flour.
4. Place bundt pan on center rack and bake for 40-45 minutes. Test with a toothpick by sticking into the middle of the cake, if it comes out clean it is ready. Remove from heat and allow to cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes.
5. In a separate bowl, mix cinnamon with sugar.
6. Once the cake has cooled, brush the entire surface with melted butter. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar mixture over the cake until evenly coated.
7.Prepare apple cider glaze if using.. Add powdered sugar and 1/4 cup apple cider to a small bowl and whisk to desired consistency. Drizzle glaze on ice cream.

How do you like them apples?

How do you like them apples?

Marie-Hélène’s Apple Cake


A decade ago I was inspired by a do-better nudge from a woman I met only once. The memory of that has served me well. I hope my story will inspire you to come up with your own. We all have stories to tell. In this week’s blog there are some summer pictures tossed into the mix and after a three-month absence, a recipe. I’ve been writing this food blog for eleven years, Marie-Hélène’s Apple Cake, a Dorie Greenspan-Genius Recipe is the only one I repeat every fall. It’s that delicious.

The Summer always begins with the Aspen Institute’s week-long IDEAS Festival.

It was in late October 2014 when I first met Connie Harvey. We were in the midst of a group gathered at Aspen’s Hotel Jerome to toss a Hail Mary into Colorado Senator Mark Udall’s re-election campaign. The numbers weren’t good and, as expected, Cory Gardner won easily, upsetting Udall. But that sad morning turned into a North Star moment for me which has pestered and prodded me ever since.

Ranger behaving badly!

Since the late 1990’s when I first became a volunteer wilderness ranger, I’ve realized it’s thanks to three gritty, irritatingly persistent women, Dottie Fox, Joy Caudill and Connie, known as the “Maroon Belles,” that this gorgeous place I call my “office” can exist. When I was in college and with the passage in 1964 of the Wilderness Act, these ladies became fierce wilderness advocates and are credited with “doubling the size of the Maroon Bells Wilderness Area and securing protection for the Hunter-Fryingpan, Collegiate Peaks, Raggeds and West Elk wilderness areas.”*

Although I never met Dottie or Joy, I did take the opportunity that chilly, blustery October day to thank Connie. As our morning get-together was breaking up, our host started putting together groups of 2 or 3 to go out and canvas Aspen neighborhoods. Whoaaa. Didn’t know that was on the agenda. I don’t like to canvas at all but especially on cold, windy Aspen mornings. Just as I had 3 legitimate NO reasons ready to roll off my tongue, Connie walked over to a Udall staffer and asked, “Who do you want me to go with?” Keeping in mind that this woman was 83 years old and I was not. I joined a group. That dratted Shame on Me lesson is still my constant do-better reminder.

When we decided to drive up to Independence Pass last August 13th to see the Perseid meteor shower, it seemed like a good idea. At 3am on that bone-chilling, dark Sunday morning, good idea became a bad choice, But we soldiered on, encountering one porcupine and a deer who knew better, stepping back into the bushes. We reached the Pass just at daybreak. It was a perfect place to be. When it was light and the shower over, we flagged down (meaning standing in the middle of Highway 82 waving our arms) two guys in a pick-up truck to take this photo.. It was a fireball of a good time.

Great Horned Owls are difficult to spot but on various birding excursions, my birding groups found three of these feathered friends.
This little guy is about a yard from my balcony. We startled each other. He was stuck and didn’t want to go down the tree backward. Finally he began slowly turning himself around so his tiny face was pointed downward. In a flash he was down and gone

And, wouldn’t you know, this summer just as I am thinking about stepping aside and doing less, Dr. Jane Goodall shows up.
(Pardon the Pix) Although I take pride in the photos I post, I was thrilled to even snap this shot of Dr. Jane Goodall with her beloved stuffed octopus, her constant companion. Harris Hall, Aspen 9/23

In late September, due to extraordinary support from the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, renown scientist, conservationist, and humanitarian Goodall, came to our Valley to deliver the ACES Community Youth Lecture and visit local schools. During her Youth Lecture she shared her amazing life story with a quietly attentive young audience. “Every single one of us makes an impact on the planet every single day” she said, “and everybody in this room, we have a choice about what sort of impact we make.” 

At 89 years of age, she travels throughout the world 300 days a year raising money and environmental awareness. (Please re-read that last sentence.) I will never know the impact she made on those kids but, as a long-time Hero of mine, her presence managed to rock my world in a lovely manner.

The Apple Cake, included in a sweet medley of Fall desserts


If you have ever dreamed of being called a genius (I’m raising my hand.), this is the recipe for you.

I first baked Marie-Hélène’s Apple Cake on December 8, 2012 when I was a member of French Fridays with Dorie. Every week we would make a group recipe choice, bake it and write up a post about it on our blogs. Every since then I’ve baked at least 10 of these cakes each year. This apple cake was my favorite recipe in the book and the favorite of many “Dorista’s.”
Later it was celebrated in the first of the Food52 Genius Cookbooks, Genius Recipes: 100 Recipes That Will Change the Way You Cook.  At the time, one of its editors wrote, ‘know that apples cobbled together with gently boozed up, custardy cake are going to be well received.’


SERVES: 8 pieces

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. baking powder
Pinch of salt
4 large apples (If you can, choose 4 different kinds)
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
3 Tbs. dark rum (optional)
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
8 Tbs. (1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled)


1.Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter an 8-inch springform pan. If you use a larger pan, it will lose some of its height but it will still be delicious.

2. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a small bowl.

3. Peel the apples, cut them in half and remove the cores. Cut the apples into 1- to 2-inch chunks. If possible, use 4 different apples of any kind.

4. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs until foamy. Pour in the sugar and whisk for a minute or so to blend. Whisk in the rum and vanilla. Whisk in half the flour and when it is incorporated, add half the melted butter, followed by the rest of the flour and the remaining butter, mixing gently after each addition so that you have a smooth, rather thick batter. Switch to a rubber spatula and fold in the apples, turning the fruit so that it’s coated with batter. Scrape the mix into the pan and poke it around a little with the spatula so that it’s “evenish.” (Is that a word?) Bang the pan on the counter 2-3 times to remove air bubbles.

5. Slide the pan into the oven and bake for 50 to 60 to 70 minutes, or until the top of the cake is golden brown and a knife inserted deep into the center comes out clean. The cake may pull away from the sides of the pan. Transfer to a cooling rack and let rest for 5 minutes.

6. Carefully run a blunt knife around the edges of the cake and remove the sides of the springform pan. (Open the springform slowly, and before it’s fully opened, make sure there aren’t any apples stuck to it.) Allow the cake to cool until it is just slightly warm or at room temperature. If you want to remove the cake from the bottom of the springform pan, wait until the cake is almost cooled, then run a long spatula between the cake and the pan, cover the top of the cake with a piece of parchment or wax paper, and invert it onto a rack. Carefully remove the bottom of the pan and turn the cake over onto a serving dish.

SERVING: The cake can be served warm or at room temperature, with or without a little softly whipped, barely sweetened heavy cream or a spoonful of ice cream. Marie-Hélène served her cake with cinnamon ice cream. It was a terrific combination.

STORING: The cake will keep for about 2 days at room temperature. (It won’t last that long.) It’s best not to cover it tightly because it’s too moist. Leave the cake on its plate and just press a piece of plastic wrap or wax paper against the cut surfaces.

Forest Conservancy Saturday at the Aspen Farmer’s Market. Smokey’s here for it.

*Harvey information from Aspen Hall of Fame Organization.




It may take a village to raise a child but it only takes two professional cooks and an adaptive amateur to pull together a celebratory Baked Ziti (Ziti al Formo). Call it a casserole or pure comfort food but please do not call it lasagna. Like most food I serve, Baked Ziti is neither fussy nor fancy but honestly, neither am I.  “So delicious.” “I LOVE this.” “A great meal.” That’s really what I like to hear.

For the past 3 years the Pandemic followed by some must-do knee surgery has sidelined what I like to do best, invite friends over and feed them. This summer, with the kitchen settled and pantry re-stocked after my 4-month absence, happy days are back at D-203. Welcome, Normal. During the winter I fiddled with new recipes that sounded as good as I hoped they would taste. This Baked Ziti is one of those. 

By mashing together pasta creations from bloggers Jennifer Segal, Once Upon a Chef and Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman and adding a few tweaks of my own, make-ahead Baked Ziti is a pasta perfect meal. Disclaimer: Although Italian cooking is not my forté, I’m betting if you mix up a leafy green salad and add a baguette, you’ll agree. Despite the season, we’re dealing with some wacky weather these days, it always works.  Baked Ziti is an all-weather provider.  

My friend, Deb, joined me for my first patrol of the year on the Conundrum Creek Trail. We’re just about to enter the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness. (Yes, we realize we’re no fashion plates, just rugged women in men’s clothing!)
Calypso Orchids, also called Fairy Slippers. This dainty orchid is in decline in North America. We always are thrilled to spot a few of these tiny beauties on Conundrum.

I’ve also returned to neglected favorites. If a ‘recipe is a story that ends with a good meal,’* those neglected, greasy-smudged recipes are a precious stroll down memory lane. Here’s hoping these examples will encourage you to come up with your own.

Conundrum Creek was roaring on Tuesday. Colorado’s spring runoff season with it’s swollen rivers running high is here.
Another river running high, Castle Creek located near Ashcroft in the White River National Forest.

Here’s what I still make often and when I first started: Sour Cream Coffee Cake (Ramada Inn, Scottsburg, Indiana, Bon Appetite 1978);  Traditional French Garbure (Cuisine Cooking School, Marysue Salmon, late ’70’s);  Old-Fashioned Meat Loaf (Gourmet Magazine, April 1994);  Marie-Hélène’s Apple Cake and Gougeres, Dorie Greenspan, “Around My French Table” 2010).  

French Braised Lentils with Herbs de Provence & Pork Tenderloin (The Cafe Sucre Farine, Chris&Scott  2014);  Mrs. Bing’s Irish Soda Bread (Sweet Paul Vitale, 2013);  Easy Kahlua Bundt Cake ( Liz Berg, That Skinny Chick Can Bake 2014);  Guacamole  (Josefina Howard, Rose Mexicana, NYC, 2015); Cauliflower Parmesan, Melissa Clark  (NYT Cooking, 2015).

Happy Birthday, Bernie

BAKED ZITI, adapted from Jennifer Segal, Once Upon a Chef and Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman

“Life is a combination of magic and pasta.” Italian movie director, Federico Fellini.

Serves: 12 


2 tbsp. olive oil

1 whole large onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 lb. sweet or spicy Italian sausage

1 lb. ground beef

28 oz. can whole tomatoes, with juice

1 24-oz. jar marinara sauce (I suggest RAO’s Homemade)

2 tsp. Italian seasoning

1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes (or not, your choice)

16 oz. ziti or mostaccioli, cooked until not quite al dente (I suggest Penne Ziti Rigate)

15 oz. tub whole milk ricotta cheese

1 1/2 lb. whole milk mozzarella cheese, grated and divided

1 c. pecorino Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated and divided

1 whole egg

Kosher salt, to taste

Ground pepper, to taste


1. Heat the olive oil in a pot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté for several minutes, or until starting to soften. Add the Italian sausage and ground beef and cook until browned. Drain off fat, leaving a bit behind for flavor and moisture.

2. Add the tomatoes, tomato juice, salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, and red pepper flakes (I don’t think red pepper was necessary.). Stir and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes. After that time, remove 3 to 4 cups of the sauce to a different bowl to cool down. 

3. Preheat oven to 375˚. 

4. Mix together the ricotta cheese, 2 cups of the grated mozzarella, parmesan, egg, salt, and pepper in a separate bowl. Stir together just a couple of times (do not mix completely).

5. Drain the pasta and rinse under cool water to stop the cooking and cool it down. Pour it into the bowl with the cheese mixture and toss to slightly combine (there should still be large lumps.) Add the cooled meat sauce and toss to combine. 

6. Add half of the coated pasta to a large casserole dish. Spoon half of the remaining sauce over the top, then top with half of the remaining mozzarella cheese. Repeat with another layer of the coated pasta, the sauce, and the mozzarella. (This is where you can freeze or stick in the fridge for up to two days.) Bake for 20 minutes, or until bubbling. Remove from oven and let stand 5 minutes before serving.

TIP: Depending on where you live, sometimes Ziti is difficult to find. I mail-ordered mine from Amazon. 

*Thanks to Pat Conroy for the quote