My Top 12 | Holiday Cookies

November 28, 2017

Hope you had a Happy Thanksgiving gathered around the table with familiar faces and maybe some new ones too. After all, ‘Tis the Season to take it easy and enjoy the company of friends and family. To eat, drink and be merry. So don’t be silly and start a diet, keep the ball rolling and let’s be 100% Christmas!

To kick off the Christmas season my sister and I are hosting a cookie swap this weekend and in preparation I’ve selected my top 12 picks for 2017. There’s a good mix here. Some healthy, others not so much. Different shapes and sizes that will fill a platter nicely. I also tried to select recipes that seemed quick and easy so I could whip up a couple different kinds. I made number 9 last night while dinner was cooking.

I would love to hear which ones you try and if they were the first to disappear. 🙂

1.    Chocolate + Peanut Butter Fudge.

2.   Slice n Bake Vanilla Brown Butter and Pecan Cookies….Dipped in Chocolate.

3.   Ultimate Ginger Cookie.

4.   Rocky Road Bars.

5.   Chai Spiced Cookies.

6.   Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Balls.

7.   Nut Quinoa and Chocolate Bars.

8.   Peanut Butter Blossoms.

9.   Coconut Macarons.

10.   Peanut Butter Bliss Balls.

11.   Brown Butter Shortbread.

12.   Peanut Butter and Pretzel Bars.



Highlands Egg Nog Cocktail. It’s not a cookie but I am quite certain it would pair perfectly with these holiday treats. Cheers!

Yellowstone National Park |10|10|10|

February 2, 2016

WY 9

A couple years ago my girlfriend had this great idea to winter vacation in Canada. Not quite the type of vacation I had in mind. But she’s a California girl and wanted a change of seasons. So she did some major arm twisting and my sister and I met her in Montreal and Quebec City. When I returned I swore the only winter vacations I would be taking again would require sun, sand and salt water. So when Luke’s mom asked if we would join her in Yellowstone National Park for a winter vacation, I was a little hesitant. Why does everyone want to vacation in the snow? People I live and work in the snow, I don’t want to play in it too. However I have to say I am thankful that Jayne planned this trip. Yellowstone is the place to visit in the winter. I’m serious it’s magical. Just don’t tell everyone! So I thought I what share my 10|10|10 and of course a handful of my favorite shots.


1. Numbers are low. Yes temperature, but also tourists. If you want to see Old Faithful front and center or drive through the park without road rage then this is probably the best reason to visit the park in the winter. A ranger told me that 4.1 million people visited the park last year with the majority vacationing from late spring to early autumn. So let me paint a picture for you; the people of Montana could visit the park 3 times and still wouldn’t exceed the total number of visitors from last year. There’s just something to be said about visiting the park when there’s probably more bison and elk then homo sapiens.

2. Photography.  Whether you are a professional or novice behind the lens, I swear you can’t take a bad picture during the winter months. The animals pop against the white backdrop and the landscape is so mysterious with steaming geysers.

3. Bombardiers. Have you seen these retro snow coaches before? They were originally used for military snow operations but now they chauffeur you around to different areas of the park. Rumor has it they are going to retire but I don’t believe it. They’re iconic. Bring a blanket and keep a lookout for wildlife!

4. Grizzlies. Or lack of. Don’t get me wrong, it would be pretty wild to see a grizzly but that’s more excitement than I care for on the trail. So I enjoy the peace of mind that comes with winter hibernation.

5. No traffic. Most the park is closed to vehicular traffic which means you can head out for a quiet ski on a road that would normally be bustling in the summer. The park is your playground.

6. Old Faithful. No need to rub elbows with tourists. I hate to say it but I actually enjoyed browsing through the very interactive interpretive center until a couple minutes before when I watched the eruption through the floor to ceiling windows. I was warm and had a clear path. What more could I ask for?

7. Ice skating. Who doesn’t like the idea of skating around a rink hand in hand with your husband. Luke took me ice skating once and I have a feeling that was a first and last. But that shouldn’t stop you from dragging your significant other on the ice. The Snow Lodge has a nice setup out back with lights and a burning fire plus you can borrow a pair of skates for free!

8. The Boiling River. Soak in a natural hot springs on the Gardiner River. Trust me your body will thank you after all that skiing. Suits required so don’t be that guy.

9. Wildlife. With a white backdrop the animals are easier to spot. Plus they are more concentrated in certain areas of the park in the winter. I have yet to see a wolf but I hear odds are higher in the winter since they are more active. And again, the white backdrop.

10. Frozen waterfalls. There are a couple trails in the park where you can ski or snowshoe to a frozen waterfall. I’ve seen my fair share of flowing waterfalls but not many frozen.

WY 2

WY 7

WY 8

WY 1


1. Have you ever been hangry? Haven’t heard this word before.

Hangry: adj. a state of angry caused by lack of food; hunger causing a negative change in emotional state.

Luke is very familiar with this word which is why he usually carries some sort of bar along with him in case I have an emergency. If you stay at the Snow Lodge there is only one way in and one way out and that’s either on a snow coach or snowmobile. The mercantile is closed and your only two options are the Snow Lodge Dining Room and the Grille. And trust me you will probably tire of the menu if you stay more than one night. You can request a packed lunch but personally I prefer my own snacks.

Snacks I packed. Oranges and Apples/Sesame Honey Cashews/Nut Bars/Oatmeal Cookies/Chocolate/Hard Candy/Plantain Chips

2. Dinner reservations. So I mentioned above that you are pretty isolated at the Snow Lodge and your only dining options are limited so that means make your dinner reservations when you book your room otherwise you will be eating the early bird special or be the last seated.

3. A good read. The days are short which means after a good day of skiing there is still plenty of time to kill around the fire place with a book and a cold brew.

4. Skis and snow shoes. There are miles and miles of groomed trails. I was actually surprised to see trails groomed for skate skis. Obviously more Nordic trails but the best way to see the park is on skis or snowshoes so save some money and pack your own. You do have the option to rent but if I can save a couple bucks I will!

5. Camera. The park is breathtaking, really, and like I said you can’t take a bad photo.

6. Binocs. This is one item I always remember after I’m on the road. Sometimes the wildlife is up close and personal but if you get the opportunity to watch a pack of wolves feast on a bison carcass from a distance you’re gonna want the option to pull our your binocs.

7. Sunscreen and sunglasses. Sometimes these two items can be easy to forget when temps are low.

8. Flask and Whiskey. Nothing warms you quicker from the inside out when the sun starts setting.

9. Tours. The snow coach from Mammoth to Snow Lodge is about four hours and some of the Bombardier tours are all day. Just think it’s good to know when you are planning.

10. Wine. If you have room in your luggage it doesn’t hurt to throw in a bottle or two. Like I said, you spend your fair share of time around the fire place reading and drinking before your dinner seating and if you are done skiing at 4 p.m. your tab can add up quickly. The lodge didn’t seem to mind if you shared a bottle around the fire place.

WY 3

WY 11

WY 4

WY 10


Double-Chocolate Loaf

June 4, 2015

Double Chocolate Loaf

Double Chocolate Loaf + Butter

I am still working on my freezers. The garage freezer is pretty much done. Mostly beef and some jugs of raw apple cider from last Fall’s harvest. I am slowly working on the kitchen freezer. It’s mostly items suited for baking. Flours, nuts and seeds, egg whites, ganache and too many brown mushy bananas. I like to contribute this problem to my husband. He always writes bananas on the grocery list and I always buy what’s on the list. I don’t eat many bananas and I am starting to think he doesn’t either!

I tire of the traditional banana bread so I am always looking for new recipes and ideas to deplete my stash. So when I came across this recipe for a Double-Chocolate Loaf I thought it might be easily modified to incorporate ripe sugary bananas and less refined sugar. It’s very chocolaty, which I love, with a subtle taste of banana. The banana is not overpowering which I usually find to be the case.

Please don’t forget the chocolate chips like I did the last time I made the loaf. The chocolate chips are everything! It has to be DOUBLE-CHOCOLATE!

Looking forward to eating from the garden. I have already harvested radishes and spinach and look forward to sharing garden fresh recipes throughout the summer. The Gardens Series is coming soon!

Double-Chocolate Loaf / Adapted from Baked Explorations; Classic American Desserts Reinvented

3/4 c. firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 c. dark unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour + 1/4 c. for high altitude
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
3/4 c. whole milk
1/2 c. vegetable oil
2 ripened bananas
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a 9 in by 5 in loaf pan, dust with flour and knock out the excess.
In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, add all the dry ingredients. Give a quick mix.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients.
Mash the bananas and add to the dry ingredients.
Turn the mixer to low and slowly stream the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined. Add chocolate chips and give a quick mix.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean.
Let the loaf cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then turn it out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Serve with butter, peanut butter or both!

Giveaway + the Mercantile

March 17, 2015

Hot Cocoa and DRAM pine syrup flavored whipped cream

hot cocoa with pine flavored whipped cream

Do you remember DRAM, the Colorado based apothecary selling a variety of organic bitters and syrups? Back in October Owner and Alchemist, Shay Whitney, was generous enough to giveaway a selection of bitters and syrups on P&P. And now we’re giving away a bottle of the Pine Syrup.
“The pine syrup is deliciously unusual, the bottled taste of the Rocky Mountains. This syrup has a fresh pine flavor with hints of citrus and woody spice, imagine the wonderful aroma of a Christmas tree, NOT PineSol.” ~DRAM

Need some ideas on how to use Pine Syrup. Shae likes to combine with sparkling water to create a refreshing soda or add to cocktails for a unique twist. It’s also wonderful with baked goods, meats and teas. I tried the pine syrup as a sweetener for homemade whipped cream and I give it two thumbs up!

I presume everyone here has made a cup of hot chocolate. But if you would like to give the pine syrup whipped cream a try, simply add 4 Tbs of pine syrup to 1 pint of cream and whip until stiff. (Amount of pine syrup may vary depending on your taste.) Please note that since you are adding a syrup, the cream will be less stiff than expected but completely adequate for dolloping!
For a quick cup of hot chocolate I like to use Sarabeth’s all-natural mix here or make Cook’s Illustrated dry cocoa mix below.

Hot Chocolate Mix / Makes 3 Cups; enough for twelve 1-cup servings / Cook’s Illustrated

1 c. sugar
6 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped fine
1 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
½ c. nonfat dry milk powder
5 teaspoons cornstarch
1 tsp. vanilla extract
¾ tsp kosher salt

Process all ingredients in food processor until ground to powder, 30 to 60 seconds. Transfer to airtight container and store at room temperature for up to 2 months.

To enter the giveaway, tell us in the comment section below: How do you make your hot chocolate? We’ll pick a winner by Tuesday March 24th!

Blue Flax Bowl

I am also excited to announce another artist has been added to the Mercantile, long-time family friend Kim Norby. Kim’s work is influenced by Scandinavian designs and artistic landscapes. She has a great gift for linear drawing and freeflow design; making pots that are aesthetically rich as well as functional is important to her. Kim and husband Thom currently reside near the town of Sundance in the Black Hills of Wyoming. They are both makers and artists and have been making pottery full-time since 1986.

Kim and Thom use to to nest in my hometown. They lived in a charming craftsmen style house with a studio in the backyard. When I was just a tike, I spent hours at their property playing in the creek and watching them work in the studio. I was fascinated by the potter’s wheel and kiln. I have so many fond memories of Kim and Thom and am reminded of our relationship every time I pass their old home and pull a pencil from collected mishaps. So when I started the Mercantile I immediately thought of Kim’s blue flax series from my childhood days. I asked her if she would create a bowl with the painted blue flax and I am thrilled with the outcome and over the moon to be selling Kim’s work on the Mercantile. The bowl can be purchased here.

Flourless Chocolate Quinoa Cake with Chocolate Ganache Glaze

February 5, 2015

Gluten Free Chocolate Cake

I love to gather good food and friends around the table. It’s my way of contributing to and nourishing the relationships in my life. I think a cooked meal is the perfect way to say I care for you.

I recently made this cake for a small gathering. My Auntie V passed this recipe along to me. She is quite a cook and baker so I always trust her recommendations. But I thought I might be stepping out on a limb with a quinoa dessert for men. I know my husband would be disappointed with the discovery of quinoa replacing flour. However, when I was in the kitchen glazing this decadent chocolate cake he stopped to ask me if the cake was for photographing or eating! So, I think the quinoa can be our little secret!

The recipe for this gluten free chocolate quinoa cake can be found here. I made a couple slight modifications. I added a ½ teaspoon of almond flavoring to the wet ingredients and I used 2 teaspoons of baking powder instead of the recommended 1 ½ teaspoons. My Aunt mentioned that her cake fell in the center so I thought I would try adding a little more leavening agent, and to my surprise no sink hole. If you add extra baking powder let me know if it works for you too. Also for the chocolate glaze I made homemade whipping cream instead of using Cool Whip. I beat 1 cup of heavy whipping cream with 3 Tablespoons powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla paste. I then beat the cooled chocolate into the whipping cream and spread over the cake and refrigerated. I whipped the remaining cream from the pint and again added 3 Tablespoons powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla paste. I removed the cake from the fridge and spread a little over the chocolate glaze and topped with raspberries. I refrigerated again until dinner. I had extra whipped cream so I froze a couple dollops for hot cocoas on another day.

What better way to say I love you then with a big piece of chocolate cake for Valentine’s Day! This flourless chocolate quinoa cake is a must try! Incredibly decadent and very German chocolate-esque.

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Ganache and Raspberries (700x340)

Shredded Brussels Sprout Salad

January 21, 2015

Shredded Brussels Sprouts

Brussels Sprouts

It use to be my mom who hosted every holiday dinner. Now, my sister’s and I contribute Christmas Eve dinner. Its predictable that I am designated salad and dessert every year. For some reason, my sister’s believe I am some kind of green salad goddess. I repeatedly tell them to use quality oils but they would much rather refuse the advice and eat my greens. So for Christmas Eve dinner this last year, I decided to substitute the standard leafy greens for shredded Brussels sprouts.

I think it’s safe to say this salad is tried and true. I started the recipe prior to Christmas. Adding a little more of this and a little less of that and have been eating it ever since. So I am bit tired of shredding and eating sprouts. On a positive note, it keeps well in the fridge so leave a little for the next day. I generously garnished a veggie burger and called it lunch for multiple days. I won’t say how many!

Give it a try while you can still find fresh Brussels and pomegranates. It’s seasonal and healthy and good way to keep that new year’s resolution from vanishing.

Shredded Brussels Sprout Salad

Shredded Brussels Sprout Salad / Serves 6 to 8 as a side salad

1 lb of Brussels Sprouts, shredded (thinly by hand or use a food processor)
Olive Oil
1/4 – 1/2 red onion, diced
1 pomegranate, seeded
1 15 oz. can garbanzo beans
4 oz. feta
1/2 orange, zest and juice
1/2 lemon, zest and juice
Extra virgin olive oil

Whisk together the zest and juice from half lemon and orange with 1 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 400 F.
Drain rinsed garbanzo beans and pat dry. Spread on a baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 Tbs. olive oil to coat. Sprinkle with 1/2 tsp. cayenne. Bake for 20 minutes and then scrape baking sheet with a spatula. Bake another 15-20 minutes until golden brown and crunchy. Set aside.
Heat a large cast iron pan to medium high and add 2 Tbs. olive oil. Swirl pan around so olive oil coats the entire surface. Once pan is hot, add shredded Brussels sprouts. Saute for about 7 minutes until softened with brown bits. Transfer to a serving bowl and continue with the second batch of shredded Brussels sprouts. If you have a large enough pan you may get by doing this once but I prefer two batches so the sprouts cook evenly with plenty of brown bits.
Add diced onion to serving bowl. The size of onion will dictate whether to use only a quarter or up to half. Spend the extra time dicing away. No big onion chunks in this salad.
Add roasted garbanzo beans, pomegranate seeds and feta to serving bowl (reserve a little feta and pomegranate seeds for garnish). Toss all ingredients together with vinaigrette. Top salad with remaining feta and pomegranate seeds.
Enjoy the New Year with this festive and vibrant salad!

Eat seasonally, Stay Healthy!

Bourbon + Apple Cider + Kombucha

December 20, 2014


Christmas Cocktail

It’s really quite simple with only three ingredients. And to be honest, I make it often minus the kombucha. But with only two ingredients, be mindful in selecting a bourbon and apple cider. Quality is key here. I use the apple cider made with the apples from our trees each year. It’s fresh and unpasteurized.  So I often bring it to a boil with warm spices like cinnamon, star anise, and clove and let it simmer and perfume the kitchen for a bit.

Apple Cider Cocktail // 1 drink
1 oz. bourbon
1 oz. apple cider
1 oz. gingerade kombucha
Brown sugar

Place ice in a cocktail shaker. Add bourbon, apple cider and kombucha. Rub the orange peel around the rim of the cocktail glass and dip in brown sugar. Strain the drink into the glass. You can add more ice to the glass if you like. Garnish with a thin slice of orange peel.

Be Merry and Bright!

Potato Soup with Green Chiles and a Cheese Crisp + Ceramics

December 8, 2014

Potato Soup

I recently opened an online shop……the Mercantile! You will see a new link to the shop on the right sidebar of the blog or you can click here and start browsing now!

I wanted to create a shop that inspires and spurs creativity in food preparation and enriches the dining experience. So naturally, the shop displays the work of makers near and far. Meredith, the beautiful ceramist behind these rustic yet elegant bowls pictured, is one of the makers featured on the shop. I had the pleasure to meet Meredith a couple weeks ago. She is as every bit lovely as her tableware. She believes in handcrafted and these dishes will revolutionize the way you think about dinnerware. At Dishes with Soul Meredith offers a luxury product with an organic human approach. These dishes are for every day and will compliment a casual lunch or an elegant dinner.

Small batch is better. Invest in the beauty of everyday. ~Meredith

Cheese Crisp

I can’t remember the last time I made potato soup. It has been awhile. Strange considering it always sounds good and it is simple and incredibly warm and cozy. Kind of like chicken soup, which I seem to make all the time. I have a feeling this recipe will be worked into the weekly soup rotation this winter. Don’t forget to make the cheese crisps too. So tasty I am pretty sure my husband is going to order these with every bowl of soup now!


Potato Soup with Green Chiles


2 Tbs. unsalted butter
1 medium sized leek, use white and tender green part only
3 celery stalks
2 garlic cloves
1 4 oz. can diced green chillies
4 to 5 red potatoes
1 tsp. ground mustard
1 quart vegetable broth (or chicken)
2 oz. whole milk goat ricotta (I use the local dairy, Amaltheia)


In a large heavy soup pot, heat butter over medium high. Slice leeks and celery and add to pot. Saute until translucent. Chop garlic and add to pot with green chillies. Rough chop red potatoes into bite size chunks and add to pot with mustard and salt and pepper. Add broth and bring to a boil. Turn to low and allow potatoes to cook through. Before serving, add ricotta and stir until smooth. Serve with a hot cheese crisp.

Cheese Crisp

Turn oven to broil. Line baking sheet with tin foil. Add a mound of shredded cheese (I used a Mexican blend since the soup includes green chiles) and flatten with your fingers. Leave enough space in between so they do not melt together. Broil for 3 to 5 minutes until golden brown and crisp. Broiling time and size of crisp will vary depending on size of mounds. Keep an eye on them so you don’t end up a with a charcoal crisp!

Pumpkin Tart

November 20, 2014

pumpkin tart


I am sharing a Thanksgiving Day recipe. It’s a pumpkin tart with a chocolate glaze and crust made with graham crackers, pecans and dates. Pumpkin is a favorite of mine except for pumpkin pie. I think I ate too much pumpkin pie with my Dad when I was just a girl. So I wanted to create something similar to pumpkin pie that I might like. So of course I added chocolate and an irresistible crust.

I made the pumpkin puree from scratch. My Mom had a Sugar Pumpkin from the garden in cold storage so I thought, why not. I cut the pumpkin in half, removed the seeds and gunk, and baked it at 400 degrees until soft. (Note: I added a little water to to the baking pan so the pumpkin would steam.) Baking time will vary with size. I think it took about 45 minutes for a medium sized one. I let it cool just enough where I could handle it and then I peeled the skin back on most of it and the remaining I scooped with a spoon. I pureed the pumpkin using a food processor. Looking at it on a baking tray, I thought I would barely get enough for one tart. Bad judgement because I have made two tarts now and probably have enough for 2 more. Pumpkin puree is not a lot of work but obviously takes more effort than cracking a can.

It’s officially Winter here in Montana. We have been experiencing the Arctic Blast. Subzero temperatures and snow for over a week now. Dad says we need the South wind to come through and clear the weather. Not sure I like the sound of wind either. Tough decision but I think if I had the choice I would pick the cold over the wind. Fortunately, we worked most the cattle the week prior to the Arctic Blast when temps were in the 60s. We worked the last group yesterday and I am happy to say temps peaked in high 30s! Hard to believe 30s feels comfortable now.

arctic blast

Pumpkin Tart

12 graham crackers
1 c. pecan halves
6 medjool dates, pitted
5 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract

5 oz. chevre goat cheese, room temperature
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. each of nutmeg and ginger
3 eggs (2 yolks and 1 whole)
15 oz. pumpkin puree (1 can)
2 Tbs. cream
1 tsp. vanilla

1/2 c. chocolate chips (60% or higher)
2 Tbs. unsalted butter
1 Tbs. cream
2 Tbs. light corn syrup

1 tsp. pepitas, chopped
Whipped cream


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a food processor combine all ingredients for the crust. Pulse until mealy and clumps when pressed together with fingers.
Grease a 11-inch circular tart mold with butter. Empty crust mixture into tart mold and press along sides and base to form an even crust. Bake for 12 to 15 or until slightly browned. Remove from oven and cool.

With an electric mixer and whisk attachment, combine goat cheese, sugar, and spices. Whip until creamy. Add egg yolks and egg, beating after each addition. Add pumpkin puree, cream, and vanilla and continue whisking until all ingredients are combined and filling is smooth. Pour filling into cooled tart crust and bake for 40 minutes or until center does not jiggle. Remove from oven and cool.

Using a double broiler, add chocolate, butter, and cream. Stir until completely melted and smooth. Stir in corn syrup without incorporating air. Remove and pour over cooled pumpkin tart. Spread evenly. Garnish with pepitas and whipped cream.

Best eaten day of. No problem here.


Pumpkin Tart

Lemony Chicken Orzo Soup

May 20, 2014

I know soup season is over but May weather in Montana is unpredictable. Mother Nature surprised me with 2 to 3-inches of snow a couple weeks ago and as of late, afternoon thunderstorms have set the mood for a warm bowl of lemony soup.

lemony chicken orzo soup


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