Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Krisana Park's Mid-Century Modern (and Candy Buckeye)

Photo Credit: DWR
I've been known to day dream about mid-century modern design. And when the most recent catalog from Design Within Reach came through my mail slot, all I could think about was Saarinen, Eames, Jacobsen and Eichler. (Oh they would all look so good in our rental!) Then, almost immediately, I remembered two words: Krisana Park
In this tiny south-east Denver neighborhood there are Eichler-inspired, California-style, mid-century modern homes that were built between 1953 and 1955. It's right next to the Virginia Vale neighborhood, which is not too far from where we are living now. Someone had mentioned Krisana Park to me a while back, but it slipped my mind. I was reminded of it because of the catalog (see, aren't catalogs handy), so I strapped the boys into their cars seats and we set off in search of these mid-century gems. 

About 5 minutes later we turned onto a quiet street and that's when my head nearly exploded! This place is a mid-century dream. 
We took our time walking through the neighborhood. I tried my best to get a look inside these architectural stunners, but I didn't want to pry too much, so we stayed on the sidewalk (mostly). I had a quick flashback to the last time I tried to take a look inside someone's house just to size up the interiors. I (incorrectly) assumed the house was empty, but it wasn't. A man in his mid-40's popped into the window frame just as I was pushing my face onto his glass window to get a better look. He stood there staring at me, shaking his head back-and-forth in disbelief, and gave me a look of general disapproval. It was a bit uncomfortable for everyone, especially since I had the kids in tow. But this time I knew better...
Some of the mid-mods have "popped their top" or been modernized even further.

After walking around for a few hours I started getting hungry. I thought about food-- in particular, mid-century food.
I did a search for 1950's recipes and in the process I stumbled upon two really cool websites: Cheftalk and foodtimeline.org.

Here's what was happening in American grocery stores halfway through the last century, post WWII (basically the beginning of processed and frozen foods):
  • 1953: 
    • Cheeze Whiz (Kraft)went on sale
    • Swanson debuted TV dinners
    • Pepperidge Farm butter cookies
    • Star-Kist brand (canned tuna)
    • Eggo Frozen Waffles
  • 1954
    • Trix (General Mills)
    • Stouffer's frozen meals (Stouffer)
    • Nonfat dry milk (Carnation Co.)
    • Peanut M&Ms (Hershey's)
    • Marshmallow Peeps (Just Born)
    • FYI: Fast food chain Burger King was born
  • 1955
    • Special K breakfast food (Kellogg's)
    • Pepperidge Farm cookies (Bordeauz, Lido, Milano, Orleans)
    • FYI: The first McDonalds (Kroc style)franchise opened and Kentucky Fried Chicken(Colonel Sanders)started selling chicken.

Initially I thought I would whip up a 1950's dip or something thematic that would compliment the architectural nature of this post. But after considering the options I decided not to. I toyed with the idea of making a Spinach-Artichoke dip, but then bagged it because I wasn't really in the mood for an app. Bu you don't have to eat like you're living in the 1950's to live in one of these houses, right? I hear a few of them are on the market...(did I mention that we are house-hunting!)
* * *
The day before I wrote this post, I went over to a friend's house for a cookie bake swap. I made Nutella-Stuffed Brown-Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies with Sea Salt from  Ambitious Kitchen. My friend Mizzy made Oreo and Peanut Butter Brownies (her recipe will be posting shortly). And our friend Joy made these Candy Buckeyes- a non-cook recipe that has its roots firmly planted in Ohio's culinary history. 
The confection is a peanut butter ball dipped in melted chocolate. It ends up resembling the shiny, dark nut of the Buckeye tree-- which happens to be the state tree of Ohio. As I just learned (yesterday), that's why OSU football fans are called Buckeyes. 
These treats are a distinct Ohio tradition and they are totally 
delicious. We had a whole bag and now there is only one left. Time to me more? Yup! Enjoy.  

Store them in your freezer-- they keep longer and taste great.
(Recipe courtesy of Joy Z's mom)
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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Autumn Walks and Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

This isn't the first walking tour I've done of Country Club, an historic neighborhood in Denver. But it's been almost a year since I took the kids on a walk through the area's winding streets, which are chock-full of stately homes...and I was in need of colorful leaves for a crafting project. I knew that Country Club would do the trick.(It's also nice to stroll by turn of the century Tudors, classic French Chateaus, Colonials, and even some of the mid-mods that have been thrown in to the mix...)

We started off the day at Washington Park, where most of the leaves had already fallen, dried and turned brown. Rumor had it that other parts of town still had gorgeous leaves-- red, yellow and orange--perfect for seasonal crafts. So after an hour of playground fun, swings and the jungle gym, it was time start our walking tour. We got in the car, drove about 5 minutes and disembarked. 
The leaves were gorgeous and the weather was spectacular. The architecture was pretty stellar too. 

Our walking tour took place a few days before Election Day, so there were lawn signs everywhere. In addition to all the presidential placards (Romney was the clear favorite in this part of town), there were also local issues galvanizing the electorate: namely, bond measures/funding for public schools(passed), and an amendement legalizing marijuana in the State (passed). 

...we did find a few Obama signs (!)...
"Vote Film." The Denver Film Festival takes place in early November...
After we finished our walking tour and collected our leaves (which I put in a ziplock bag to keep them fresh and prevent drying), it was time for some baking. And what says "autumn" more than Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread?! Anything? No, I don't think so.
I found this recipe on Allrecipes and it got rave reviews. I took a look at the ingredients and it sounded great. But I almost fell over when I saw that the bread contained three cups of sugar. But upon closer examination I discovered that original recipe makes 3 loaves, so I stopped sweating the sugar. I decided to make the entire recipe-- keeping one loaf for our family and sharing the other two with friends. I'd say they were grateful. 
Since this is likely my last post before Thanksgiving, happy holidays to you and yours! xo -Batya
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread(Courtesy of Allrecipes)
Yield: 3 loaves (You can use their calculator to change the serving size.)

3 cups white sugar
1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
1 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup water
4 eggs
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped walnuts(optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour three 1 pound size coffee cans, or three 9x5 inch loaf pans. (I went with the loaf pans.)
In a large bowl, combine sugar, pumpkin, oil, water, and eggs. Beat until smooth. Blend in flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, and salt. Fold in chocolate chips and nuts. Fill cans 1/2 to 3/4 full.
Bake for 1 hour, or until an inserted knife comes out clean. Cool on wire racks before removing from cans or pans.

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Weather, Soup Season and Edamame Wonton Soup

Here in Denver, the local news pretty much covers two subjects: the weather and the Broncos. Sure, there might be a report on a random act of violence or a political clip. Maybe you'll tune in when there's a rescue story of a cat who was stuck in a tree (isn't there always one of those), but a good deal of the news coverage in this part of Colorado is dedicated to the weather and football. My husband and I joke that even in the off-season, Broncos coverage hardly wanes, and you'll find out everything you ever needed to know about training camp, recaps of last season and projections for the upcoming one. This is Broncos country and it's close to a religion here. After the Broncos, people want to know about the weather. 
Now I'm hardly a meteorologist, but I too find myself obsessing about the weather. The fluctuation in temperature this time of year is something particular to this part of the country. Since Denver is "high dessert" you might start a morning jog in a parka, spend lunch in a t-shirt, and then crave a big bowl of soup as the temperature drops like a stone once the sun goes down. But during the day it's usually around 50 or 60 degrees, 
and it can feel warm because of the high elevation and the strong sun. That means you can spend a lot of time outdoors. 
That said, the Fahrenheit dips pretty low at night. And all this back-and-forth, up-and-down makes me a bit sniffly. That's when I start craving soup...often, and almost daily. 
So I've stared making a list of the soups I'll be making this month: Mark Bittman's mushroom barley is looking good, so does this one for broccoli-cheddar, and of course I will get a big pot of pesto-minestrone going next week. I've dusted off my copy of Love Soup and I'm looking through it to see what is calling my name...
But I stared my soup season with this edamame wonton soup from The Sprouted Kitchen cookbook. (It's worth buying. Yes, it's that good.)
I made this soup a few weeks ago and revisited it again today. I used mushroom stock last time, and this time around I used a good quality vegetable stock (but not low-sodium like the recipe suggests). But play around with this recipe. I think there are lots of possibilities.
Enjoy this one on a chilly autumn night...and happy soup season!
The Sprouted Kitchen by Sara Forte,© 2012.) 
  • 4 green onions, white and green parts, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • ¼ cup fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cups shelled edamame, cooked and drained
  • 2 tablespoons regular or vegan sour cream
  • Dash of hot sauce (I used sriracha)
  • 40 round wonton wrappers
  • 4 cups mushroom or low-sodium vegetable broth (I used a non-low-sodium, so I diluted it with 1 cup of water)
  • 1 lemongrass stalk
  • 2 tablespoons mirin
  • 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • Toasted sesame seeds, for garnish
  • Microgreens or pea shoots, for garnish


  • Combine the green onions, sesame oil, basil, edamame, sour cream, and hot sauce in a food processor. Process to a puree.  
    • On a lightly floured work surface, place a heaping tablespoonful of the edamame filling in the center of a wonton wrapper.
    • Use your finger to wipe a bit of water around the edge of the wrapper. 
    • Place another wonton wrapper on top of the filling and press down along the edges to adhere. 
    • Repeat with remaining wrappers and filling. 
    • To make the broth, warm the mushroom broth in a pot over medium-low heat. 
    • Pound the lemongrass with the back of a heavy knife to release its oils and discard the tough outer layer. 
    • Mince the inner, pale portion of the bottom of the stalk and add it to the broth along with the mirin and soy sauce. 
    • Gently simmer for 10 minutes to combine the flavors. 
    • Cover and turn the heat to low to keep warm. 
    • Add enough of the broth to a saucepan to cover the bottom, about 1 cup, and add a single layer of wontons (you will probably need to do this in two batches). 
    • Cover and steam over medium-low heat until the wontons are warmed, about 2 minutes. 
    • To serve, divide the wontons among four shallow bowls and pour about ½ cup of the remaining broth on top. 
    • Garnish with a sprinkle of the toasted sesame seeds and sprouts and serve hot.
    A great variation to this recipe can be found on Love and Lemons here.
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