Brussels (no – not the european city)

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Everybody gets their moment to shine. Same goes for veggies. It was micro greens. Then kale. And now its brussels sprouts. I hated these as a kid, often comparing them to carpet, which was not a big hit with my mother. But now – NOW – I am in brussels sprout love.

I recently spent some time at the Pines Lodge in Beaver Creek. I found myself at the Grouse Mountain Grill and made a meal out of a tasty pineapple mojito and a brussels sprouts appetizer. You wouldn’t think the two go together, but let’s pretend they do.

I was lucky enough to meet the chef, David Gutowski who is sort of a big shot, I now know. And after a little banter, I learned that he is a friend and a fan of our fabulous Jenna Johansen. So he graciously gave me his brussels sprouts recipe. It’s amazing what small talk can get you.

These were the best brussels sprouts I’ve ever tasted and the recipe seems simple and straightforward, always a plus.

 

Crispy Brussels Sprouts

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups brussels sprouts, cleaned, halved, and blanched
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 TBL smokey, crispy bacon, minced

Directions:

  • Mix maple syrup and apple cider vinegar in a small saucepan
  • Cook over medium high heat until boiling
  • Lower heat and and allow sauce (gastrique) to reduce
  • “Fry” brussels sprouts at 350 degrees until golden brown
  • Drain on paper towel and toss with  3TBL gastrique and bacon
  • Season with salt
  •  Enjoy

Because Meat and Cheese Platters Are Sad and Root Canals Hurt (and other reasons to use an expert like Epicurean)

I am a fan of the entrepreneurial spirit. I love the DIYers out there, making their way in the world. In fact, I used to be one of them. But then I got … older.

As you now know, I recently enjoyed a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Botswana. It was the best experience of my life besides the day I got married and the four times I was handed healthy, happy babies in the hospital. (Actually, Africa was better – but I had to write that other stuff because my children are learning to read and my husband usually buys me jewelry for anniversaries and God knows I don’t want to shut that door.)

Africa was phenomenal for a myriad of reasons, but the biggest? I. Did. Not. Have. To do. ANYTHING. I did not plan this trip. Instead, Uncharted Outposts did all of the work. My little sister was intimately involved, but she also got to get her ears pierced at five years old and I had to wait until I was 10 – so she owed me.

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Using an expert, whether it is for a root canal, an African safari, or party planning, is usually worth the money. We receive several calls every year from lovely individuals who were once Ambitious Catering DIYers and are now hoping to become Happy Epicurean Clients. Why? Because we’ve done the catering and event-planning thing for 35 years; and party platters from Costco leave a lot to be desired.

I could have NEVER pulled this off.

I could have NEVER pulled this off.

Hiring professionals often causes people to panic, fearing that the costs will be enormous. Not so. Using an expert actually saves money. Companies, such as Epicurean Group or Uncharted Outposts or whomever, know what they are doing. They have relationships with vendors, allowing for bulk discounts that are usually passed on to the client. They have trained professionals that can coordinate staff, work within a budget, act as a single point of contact, and save you from the headache and heartache and exhaustion that comes from trying to do everything yourself.

I was considering knocking down a bunch of walls in my kitchen because I never felt like I got to spend time with my guests during parties. Then I started using Epicurean for my catering (I have an ‘in’ you might say) and realized I didn’t need to renovate, I needed to delegate. I’m done standing in my kitchen while everyone else is celebrating on my patio. I’m done trying to do it all myself. And talk about saving money! Using the pros saved me thousands in renovations – and probably millions in marriage counseling. The Blackfords don’t do renovations well, let’s leave it at that.

I guarantee I could have never pulled off an 18-day trip to Africa – one that included a private helicopter tour, a morning spent feeding an orphaned baby elephant, and a hike up the cliffs at the Cape of Good Hope – and I wouldn’t have wanted to. It would have taken a bit of the shine off the whole adventure; instead I simply got to be.

Epicurean is all about allowing our clients to be a guest at their own party. After all, we are in the business of celebrations (a good business to be in – everyone is happy, happy, happy!) and being the host of a party, big or small, should be enjoyable – and shouldn’t include a meat and cheese platter from a big box store. Come on, you deserve more than that…right?

You deserve this. You do.

You deserve this. You do.

Share your worst DIY party stories with us on Facebook.

Hungry to Make a Difference? Here’s How.

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‘Tis the season of leftover Halloween candy and apple pies and egg nog and champagne at midnight – or at brunch – or both if you are so inclined. Or lucky. Blogs and magazine articles and morning shows are already talking about how to avoid the holiday weight gain and the post-party hangover.

But a recent article in The Denver Post, tucked inside the “Season to Share” insert, stopped me in my tracks. There I was, happily sipping my hot coffee after a busy morning that started with me getting four children dressed and fed and off to school; and ended  with me cleaning up dishes from their breakfast of steel cut oatmeal with plump raisins and organic bananas, and topped with cinnamon, nutmeg and milk delivered weekly from Robinson Dairy. Whew – life is HARD. Then I read the Post article:  “For pupils, breakfast is served – thanks to Hunger Free Colorado.” Oh.

Sometimes I need it spelled out, literally, in black and white. Just an hour earlier, two out of my four were whining about not wanting raisins in their oatmeal and now I was reading the unappetizing and staggering statistics – 83 percent of the students at Rose Hill Elementary in Commerce City qualify for a free breakfast. Ouch. Kids at Rose Hill were eating Ultimate Breakfast Rounds (aka “UBRs”), packed with fiber and protein to get little bellies full so growing brains could learn. Hmmm – makes you think, doesn’t it?

Hunger Free Colorado, in operation since 2009, served almost 134,000 daily breakfasts during the last school year.  That sounds like a lot because it is a lot – but I imagine there are many more children out there going without, coming from families that are not able to make even the most humble of ends meet.

At Epicurean, we have always been diligent about supporting the community in the fight against hunger. After all, Larry DiPasquale started the company because of his passion for feeding people. Our experience with dozens of organizations across the state have made an impact on the Epicurean staff; and clients such as Live Well Colorado, an organization that is fighting the battle against childhood obesity which, research shows, often stems from a lack of resources (think – money) to obtain fresh, healthy foods has stayed with us all. We have an ongoing partnership with We Don’t Waste, an innovative establishment that collects unused food from venues, caterers, restaurants, and other food purveyors and distributes it to Denver’s underserved populations.  And our 20-plus-year relationship with Volunteers of America has and always will be close to our hearts – we even donate a portion of our Epicurean Street Cuisine Food Truck proceeds to the organization.

Based on the Post article, Hunger Free Colorado believes that more than 815,000 Coloradoans are at risk for hunger. Our state is has one of the fastest-growing rates of childhood poverty in the nation – though we are 31st in the lineup for school breakfast participation. Clearly, there is a lot of work to be done and a lot of mouths to feed. So whether you are an individual and want to reach out to Hunger Free Colorado or a restaurant able to support We Don’t Waste or just one person able to make a lunch for a young neighbor, we applaud you and ask that you share your story with us on Facebook.  In the meantime, here is our take on a breakfast treat to serve to your own family, thanks to Yvette Garfield of Handstand Kids. Enjoy – while counting your blessings.

 Peanut Butter & Jelly Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting

Prep time: 10 minutes | Cook time: 20  minutes | Serves: approximately 20 cupcakes

Ingredients:

  • 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened at room temperature
  • 1 ¾ cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 jar of strawberry jam

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Place the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl and whisk to combine, set aside.
  • Place the softened butter and sugar in another large bowl and beat with an electric mixer on a low speed until smooth.
  • Add peanut butter to the bowl with the butter and sugar and mix on low speed until combined.
  • Add one egg and mix to combine. Repeat with remaining 2 eggs, mixing after each to combine before adding the next.
  • In another large bowl, whisk together the sour cream, vanilla extract, oil and buttermilk, set aside.
  • Add half of the dry flour mixture to the bowl with the butter. Mix on low speed until combined.
  • Add the sour cream mixture to the bowl and mix until combined.
  • Using rubber spatula, scrape down sides to make sure there are no lumps.
  • Add remaining flour mixture and mix until smooth.
  • Use a spoon to scoop the mixture into 20 lined cupcake pans or baking cups.
  • Bake cupcakes for approximately 20 minutes until golden brown, and let cool at room temperature.
  • Once cooled, use the melon baller to gently scoop out a small piece from the center of each cupcake.
  • Fill the holes with the strawberry jam.
  • Cover tops of cupcakes with Peanut Butter

 

*Alternative: For those with nut allergies, try this recipe with sunflower seed butter.

 

Take a Peep at This!

Peeps winner

Our Epicurean Street Cuisine is the bomb when it comes to food trucks; it is a sad soul who misses out on our signature Sweet Potato Fries. And we can’t even begin to explain the delectable deliciousness of an Epicurean wood-fired pizza. There simply are no words.

So when we glanced at today’s paper and saw the winning design for the 6th Annual Denver Post Peeps diorama contest, we were thrilled. Long live the food truck! And all hail the Peeps!

Eat Your Veggies

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Epicurean Street Cuisine, the newest baby of the Epicurean family, has amassed quite a fan base. The Mobile Wood-Fired Pizza Oven is hot-literally-and the Epicurean Food Truck is the most popular spot at Civic Center Eats. Why? Well, it could be our fabulous food, our amazing staff, or that adorable truck. Or maybe it’s the combo of whiskey and French fries?

Yep. You read that right. This week at Civic Center Eats our chefs created the latest, greatest dish-Whiskey Fries. What’s not to love? Shoestring French fries topped with pulled pork and collard greens dancing in a gravy of poblano peppers, cheese, and whiskey. This totally counts as one of those pesky veggie servings the American Medical Association keeps kvetching about, right? Right.

Want a free sample of these delectable treats? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to find out when we will be rocking and rolling the Epicurean Food Truck.

– Cheers