Friday, July 25, 2014

Sweet Colorado Camping!

Sweet Colorado Camping!!!

Well, it's that time of year again! And I love it! Not only is Colorado the perfect place to wander around our magical landscape but you also get to come up with all kinds of clever little hacks for delicious recipes and making your life easier while living outdoors! 

In this post, I'm gonna share some of the inventions we've either come up with or found on the interwebs that any camper would enjoy, share with you some easy campfire grub and show you the awesome spot we landed in! (Don't forget to go all the way to the bottom for the awesome "Toads-in-a-hole" that I made! They're CRAZY good!)

Grand Lake, CO

Our first of many trips we have planned for this season will be a quick one night camp-out somewhere near Grand Lake, CO. I'm always looking for a nice spot near a swimming hole so you can get a brisk wake-up swim in the morning and cool off after a hot hike in the afternoon. Let's see if we end up finding one!
You may be saying, "One night?!? Are you crazy? Why go through all the trouble for just one night?" Well, it's simple…we have a hog-roast to attend the next day at a friend's cabin in the area and saw it as a perfect opportunity to get our feet wet. Figure out what you need/don't need for next time.

Arapaho Valley Ranch!!!
We ended up staying at the magnificent Arapaho Valley Ranch. As my husband informed me the next day, I must've said "hidden gem" about a dozen times over the next few days…well, it was! Just an amazing piece of land. The Gold's have owned this property for 41 years but just recently, have Todd and his lovely wife, Emily taken it over and are kind enough to share it with the rest of the world. It's 300 acres or so of the most Colorado-esque property you can find. With around 30 acres of actual "usable" acres, the rest of it is all vertical. Hugging you on both sides into a lush little valley. Complete with a gorgeous little lake where there were always at least 2, sometimes 4 or 5, deer drinking from the fresh mountain run-off. Yeah…paradise.

Upon arrival, a super happy lil fellow named Lee helped us in thru the gate and gave us a tour of the facilities. They have everything you would ever need. Whether you wanna rough it or glamp it up a bit. Tipis, cabins, paddle boats... a lodge with bathrooms, a kitchen, pool tables AND the smallest, coolest bar in all of Colorado. It's a fully legal bar with only 4 bar stools. Sometimes bringing in campers from many of the surrounding campsites and has the friendliest bartender for MILES around. I'll bet that spot gets pretty interesting on a good night. This was the place I probably uttered "hidden gem" the most ;)

Todd and Lee making us feel right at home

I wish I would've gotten better pictures of this spot but there's only so much you can do with such an intimate space. I was really much more wrapped up in the moment anyway. Guess you'll just have to come see it for yourself! 
 On the back side of this gorgeous little lake is where the deer would pop in for a drink. 

 These are some of the awesome cabins on the property, you can't stay in them at the moment but maybe someday soon. They do have really cool tipis you can stay in though if you're not in the mood to rough it and somehow, I didn't get any pix of those. BUT I'm gonna steal a few from their website…I have a feeling they won't really mind ;)

 Just picture your whole posse held up here for a few days. Comfort and roughing it all in one!

The lodge is awesome and super inviting. With smooth tunes from a bygone era playing in the background, I felt like I was in an episode of Twin Peaks…perfect!

 We didn't get the chance to chill in here but I bet it's a sweet spot to sip on some cocktails and warm up by the fire.

They're in the process of restoring this old dance hall, trying to keep as much of it intact as possible. What an awesome old building! Can't wait to see what it looks like when they're finished. 

 This little dude was our mascot the whole time. Every time I looked over, I saw his lil head pokin out and he'd look away really quick like, "Oh, I wasn't lookin at you!" There are marmots everywhere and they're harmless to look at, just don't try to pet em.

It's Groundhog Day!!
Well…marmot day, really.

 Not a bad spot to set up shop, eh?

A little about our hosts……..

 How gorgeous are these two?!? And they couldn't have been better hosts! I fully fell in love with their adorable children and they have another on the way. Their love for this place in just infectious and they're more than happy to share all the magical stories about the history of the property with you.

Do yourself a favor and go stay at AVR! They host tons of events and can accommodate anyone from you and your sweetheart to a huge family reunion! It's about 2 1/2 hours from Denver and it's such a beautiful drive! Lake Granby alone will blow your mind! Check out their website for deets. And tell em Neicy sent ya! ;)

The best lil bar in Texas…I mean, Colorado!

 Now for some awesome Campfire Recipes!!!!

Savory Campfire Waffle Sandwiches!!

I actually found this on Pinterest, but seeing as we're not really into sweet things for breakfast, I thought I'd put my own little twist on it and do some Savory Waffle Sandwiches! Instead of high fat and sugary ingredients, it makes more sense to start off your day with some protein and just a little yumminess. I'm thinking maybe sliced turkey or chicken, a rich cheese like brie or gruyere, maybe some bacon and heaps of spinach. A little homemade pesto might be good in here too!

 UPDATE!! These were AMAZING!!!

I put a savory twist on mine and put a small amount of cream cheese on one side and Fig Butter on the other topped with fresh rosemary sprigs from my garden. Complete with some apple slices, turkey and cheddar cheese. Then I wrapped it in wax paper so the cheese wouldn't stick to the foil and wrapped it in tin foil. Toss it on the grill for about 15 minutes and you get a crunchy waffle with oozy gooey yummy cheese oozing out the sides! Yum! It was DELICIOUS!!

First, I lightly toasted the waffles. Then I spread a little cream cheese on one side and fig butter on the other. Apple butter would be awesome too. Then I chopped up some fresh rosemary and sprinkled it on the fig.

 Topped with some thinly sliced apples. 

 Then some colby cheddar cheese on one side...

And sliced turkey breast on the other. 

I then sliced em down the middle so they'd be easier to eat later. Just picture them all crunchy and melty…yum!

Wrap first in wax paper...

Then in foil! Then toss em on the grill when you get to camp!

We ate these so fast and so late that I never got pix of the finished product. But trust me…they were amazing! Guess I'll just have to make em again…darn! ;)

But I have to say the best meal of the whole trip was breakfast! I made "Toads-in-a-hole" and they were glorious!

 I cooked bacon in this pan first and then poured off most of the grease (don't forget to bring an empty coffee can with a lid to pour the grease into, I'm sure the bears would LOVE a pile of bacon grease on the ground to slurp up!) then put the bread slices in the pan on medium heat. 
I used french bread and cut it in 1" pieces so the egg would have a nice deep place to rest.
 Just make a little hole in the center of your bread with 2 spoons and just kinda pull the bread open.

Then just drop the eggs into the hole.

It looked like the bread was cooking a lot faster than the eggs were so I added a little olive oil so it wouldn't burn and used another pan upside down as a lid to help the eggs to cook.

Then I decided to flip em for a few seconds and I'm so glad I did! Because it sealed them into the finest lil pocket of goodness!

Pretty sure this is why he married me! ;)

I mean, just look into this cavern of perfectly sunny yolk!
 It was almost like french toast filled with egg yolk, awesome!!

 Good to the last bite!

Handy hacks!

The first one I've come up with, I actually found on Pinterest. A clever little kindling hack where you stuff dryer lint (Well, I have heaps o that!) into toilet paper rolls (Those too!). It's sposta really help get your fire going. I'll let you know!
(We actually never needed to build a fire since we brought our stove so we'll try this next time.)

Found this one on Pinterest too! You just wrap a headlamp around a gallon of water for an instant lantern…totally works!!

There's also one where you throw glow sticks into a bottle of water but we didn't get the chance to try that one either…next time!

Just some extra pix! 

All those years of playing Tetris finally paid off! A perfectly packed cooler with plenty of room for ice…or more beer ;)

2 bugs in a rug!

This is actually from a trip last summer but hey, it's a camping shot! :)
Fresh campin steez

"The eye of God"
Todd and Emily xoxo
The kid makin a fire

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Juicy, delicious homemade SANGRIA!!

On your way to a refreshing day!

Gather your fruit!
Get yourself a nice deep pitcher! I like a clear one so that you can see all the fruit.

Sangria is definitely a place for experimenting, go traditional with cinnamon sticks and brandy or put your own twist on it and add watermelon schnapps and fresh mango!
Making a delicious and refreshing pitcher of Sangria is easy as pie! Actually, it's much MUCH easier!
I've been experimenting with sangria recipes for years now and have discovered that you really can't go wrong. (Are you starting to sense a theme here?) I love dishes and drinks that are fun to play with and hard to screw up! Playing around with the easy stuff will help build your kitchen confidence so when it comes time to make things like Beef Bourguignon you'll have no problem channelling your inner Julia Child!

The following is a very loose recipe. I just add ingredients until it tastes the way I like it to, some people like a sweeter sangria, some like more of an effervescent sangria, it's totally up to you! I like this one!
6 Cups bottle of Red Wine 
2  Cups or more Peach Schnapps
1 Cup Fruit Juice
1/2 Cup Soda Water (only if serving immediatley)
1 or 3 Oranges, apples, pears, peaches (whatever you'd like)
a handful or 2 of fresh berries
Garnish with fresh mint sprigs and drink it!!
Cut thick slices of oranges, lemons, limes and large chunks of apples, peaches, pears for a more stimulating presentation!
Some people like to cut their fruit into very small cubes, I don't like this method for two reasons...first, the large beautiful slices are more visually stimulating when seen thru the glass pitcher (presentation is always huge no matter what you're making!) and secondly, it's a lot easier to suck that juice down if you don't have to sift it thru all the tiny pieces!
Now choose your fruit.  Again, you really can't go wrong here. I like to include a variety of oranges, lemons, limes, peaches, pears or apples. And always feel free to throw in mango, pineapples, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, or even watermelon!

Now for the booze!! Start off with a decent red wine. No need to spend top dollar here because it'll just get lost with all of the other wonderful flavors. But don't go too cheap either. I like to stay around $10 for one of the big 1.5L bottles, like a Rex Goliath or Little Penguin Cab will do just fine. Some people stick strictly with chianti but I think this is another area where personal taste comes into play, experiment and see what you like best.

Many recipes call for triple sec but I think Peach Schnapps is much better and gives it a nice rich flavor.  Next add some type of juice, I like a little orange juice or a can of pineapple, peach, pear or mango jumex. Again, just try it and see what you like, I've used limeade too and it was delicious! The beauty of sangria is that you can add whatever fruit or juice you have around the house and it's gonna taste great!

If adding berries always wait until the end, that way they don't get destroyed when you're stirring it up and tweaking your flavor!
If serving immediately, add a little sparkling water or ginger ale to give it a lil spunk! If I'm just going to keep it in the fridge for a week, I leave it out.

Garnish with a fresh sprig o mint and suck it down!!