denver's union station (+ the kitchen next door's beet burger)

Have you ever walked into a space and thought, "I'd like to take every single thing home with me? Those lamps would look perfect here, and that chandelier- despite its size- would look perfect there…" That's how I felt the first time I walked into the new Union Station in downtown Denver. The renovation is spectacular; the design is impeccable. Each piece fits the space and contributes to the historic feel of the station. It's gorgeous: the couches, the lamps, the desk lighting. And don't get me started on the crown molding and the restaurant decor…it's something you should see in person.

Our schedules have changed a lot since the summer ended. Otis and Theodore are now in pre-school till 3:30 every day and I've transitioned from stay-at-home mother to working "3/4 time." Though it's been busy on the work front, last Friday afternoon I took some time to peek around Union Station…this is what I found.
If you want more information on the history and amazing transformation of Union Station click here. For more details on the restaurants and shops click here. I wasn't able to photograph everything because some restaurants were already closed for the day (Snooze is open from 6:30 am- 2:30 pm) or had not yet opened (Merchantile Dining + Provisions officially opens on September 8th and I've been hearing great things), so check it out for yourself!
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After my little self-guided tour, I grabbed a quick lunch at The Kitchen Next Door. I ordered a delicious beet burger, which was topped with balsamic glazed onions, arugula and feta cheese. Lucky for me, and now for you, I have the recipe. Thank you Kitchen Next Door for sharing your culinary creations and for your great work through community outreach and education! Enjoy.  

Beet burger photo courtesy of Davis Tilly Photography
Next Door Beet Burger
Courtesy of The Kitchen co-founder and chef Hugo Matheson
(Printed with permission)
Makes 5 6-ounce patties
1 ¼ cup mirepoix (diced carrots, onion, and celery)
1/8 cup olive oil
1 pound roasted beets, quartered
1 cup cooked chickpeas
1 egg
¼ cup Panko bread crumbs
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
pinch cayenne
pinch smoked paprika

Preheat a pan over medium heat and add olive oil, then the diced carrots, onions, and celery. Sweat until soft and all excess liquid has evaporated.

Place roasted beets and cooked chickpeas in the food processor with the cooked mirepoix and mix, pulse until a rough paste forms. Empty mixture into a large mixing bowl. Add the egg and Panko bread crumbs, and stir together. Add seasonings. Form into patties on a parchment-lined sheet tray and chill. When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 350°. Cook for 15 minutes until hot in the center but not too dry on the edges. The Kitchen Next Door serves the burgers on potato buns with balsamic onions, feta, and Arugula tossed in lemon olive oil.

cook the mag: bon appetit's beet salad with miso + black sesame

I’ve had a sweet tooth for as long as I can remember. It became more intense with my first pregnancy and by the time my second son came around, well, I couldn’t walk past a bakery without stopping in and buying something. I have self-restraint in some areas, but this is not one of them.
It’s been 2 ½ years since I gave birth to Theodore and I still have a pretty intense desire for a daily sugar hitevidenced by the fact that almost everyone who works at a bakery, pastry shop, cupcake store, or donut plant near my home knows me by name. Within a minute of walking through the door I’ll hear “Oh hey, Batya. How was your trip?” or “Did that biscotti come out right?” or “Is Otis feeling better? I hope so…” and knowing that I’ve been looking for a good deal on a mid-century modern piece I’ll get asked, “Did you find that credenza for the dining room?” It’s possible that I’m a little bit too regular, a bit too familiar,  at some of the local establishments selling sweets.
That said, I can’t and I won’t give them up. But I am determined to get a bit more balance back into my diet. I cook a lot and there aren't a ton of preservatives in the foods I eat, but I've kind of lost my way a little bitI feel more lethargic and sluggish than usual. Some of this I attribute to the exhaustion that comes with raising two young boys. Game of Thrones marathons that run well into the night don't help either (I need more sleep!). But I just haven't been eating right and that causes drag too. I know it, I really do. I'm keenly aware that when I eat well I feel better. So I've started picking up juices at a fabulous local place my friend introduced me to (and I joke that I'm "juicing"-- not in the hey-my-neck-is-gonna-disappear-athlete sort of way but in the cold-pressed-raw-vegetable-and-fruit sort of way) and I'm incorporating lots of super foods into my diet.

As I celebrated my 38th year on this Earth, I made myself a promise that I’d add more salads to my repertoire and treat them as meals (which I rarely do) and if I really crave something sweet then I will walk to get it…but maybe only once a week. Two times, tops! For now, let there be salad...

Beet Salad with Miso + Black Sesame  (Courtesy of Bon Appetit Magazine) 

         6 small beets (about 1 lb.), preferably golden, scrubbed, divided
         3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
         Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
         ¼ cup white miso
         2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
         1 bunch watercress, trimmed
         1 teaspoon black sesame seeds or toasted white sesame seeds
Preheat oven to 400° F. Place 4 beets on a large piece of foil and rub with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and close up foil around beets. Place on a rimmed baking sheet and roast until tender. Bon Appetit says 30–40 minutes but mine took about 1 hour and 10 minutes (maybe because I used larger beets) until they were tender.

Unwrap beets and let cool slightly.  Peel and cut into ½” wedges.

Meanwhile, whisk miso, vinegar, remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and 3 tablespoons of water in a small bowl. Set dressing aside.

Thinly slice remaining 2 raw beets on a mandoline. 

Arrange watercress and roasted and raw beets on a platter and drizzle with reserved dressing; top with sesame seeds.

Do Ahead: Beets can be roasted 2 days ahead. Cover separately and chill.

beet gnocchi with walnut-sage butter (and a few other thoughts)

Last night I poured myself a big glass of red wine, put my feet up on our new ottoman, and wrapped myself in a blanket that my great-grandmother crocheted about 60 years ago. The boys were sleeping and I was ready to catch up on GIRLS. I was up to the 3rd episode of season 2, "Bad Friend," also know as the rave episode. 
It took me back about a decade. For there was  a time, when on occasion, I would wear clothes that were a bit too transparent, dance at random warehouse parties, and surround myself with fabulous gay men (that, thankfully, hasn't changed as much as the other stuff). A day later my friend Richard sent me an email reading:
Just plugged into this show.  
Lena Dunham (Hannah) is like you personified.  
Only younger (sorry).
And that's the funny thing about age- you know it's happening, but you're also sort of thinking no one notices (until an email points it out).  I've spotted a few little lines (they give me character!) and I've been "managing" a few sprouting grays (they're like highlights!). But for the most part, the 37 year old me feels about 24/25 -  give or take. Well, with more confidence,  stable finances, a house and two kids. Right, and reading glasses. Gah! But I still don't really get it. Like, the other day. I went to a bar with some friends and I was carded at the door. Feeling flattered, I immediately said, "Why thank you!" I might have even been blushing. But the doorman dryly replied, "It's policy. We card everyone who comes through the door." Oh yeah, right...sure, that makes sense.
Anyway, I'm trying to embrace the changes (gracefully). Not that there's anything I can really do about the passage of time anyway. There's no way of slowing it down, so best to just enjoy the ride. I've embarked on a new career path (which is completely unrelated to law, hooray!) and I've got a busy life that requires juggling motherhood with my own personal interests. In my down time though, I really do like watching GIRLS...even if it makes me aware that I am (in fact) a little bit older. And on that note, I'm thinking of dying my hair red.
Speaking of red (I'm grasping for a connection here), I throughly enjoyed this beet recipe. 

Notes on the beets: They were sweet and earthy and I would make them again. I made the entire dough recipe, but I used only half of it for dinner and then stored the other half in the freezer (which should be used within a month). My only adaptation was with the butter- I used less than the recipe called for. I topped the beets with some sage, walnuts, butter sauce (not too much) and a dollop of fresh ricotta. Oh, and when I make this again I'll cut the gnocchi into smaller pieces. Enjoy!

Beet Gnocchi with Walnut-Sage Butter (Adapted ever-so slightly from Food & Wine Magazine)
These intense beet gnocchi are eaten in northwestern Italy. They are sweet and earthy and so delicious, they barely need a sauce. When the beet greens are fresh enough, you can add them to the walnut-sage butter.
+ See notes above.
2 pounds medium beets, scrubbed
Extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 cup fresh ricotta (8 ounces)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Pinch of nutmeg, preferably freshly grated
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (3 ounces), plus more for serving
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cubed (I used less, about 1 stick for the entire recipe.)
16 small sage leaves
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Optional: fresh ricotta for topping, lightly sauteed beet greens for topping. 
Preheat the oven to 375º. In a 9-inch square baking dish, brush the beets with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Add 1/4 cup of water to the baking dish and cover tightly with foil. Bake the beets for about 1 hour, until tender. Uncover the dish and let the beets cool completely.
Peel the beets and cut them into 1-inch pieces. Transfer the beets to a food processor and puree.
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle, combine 1 1/2 cups of the beet puree (reserve any remaining puree for another use) with the ricotta, egg, nutmeg, the 3/4 cup of Parmigiano and 1 tablespoon of salt and mix at low speed until combined. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the side of the bowl. Sprinkle on the 3 cups of flour and mix at low speed until the dough just comes together, about 1 minute.
Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead gently just until smooth but still slightly sticky. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Line a baking sheet with wax paper and generously dust with flour. Cut the gnocchi dough into 10 pieces and roll each piece into a 1/2-inch-thick rope. Cut the ropes into 1/2-inch pieces and transfer the gnocchi to the prepared baking sheet.
Lightly oil another baking sheet. In a large, deep skillet of simmering salted water, cook one-fourth of the gnocchi until they rise to the surface, then simmer for 1 minute longer, or until they are cooked through. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the gnocchi to the oiled baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining uncooked gnocchi.
In a very large skillet, toast the chopped walnuts over moderate heat, tossing, until golden and fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate and let cool.
Add the butter to the skillet and cook until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the sage leaves and cook for 20 seconds, then stir in the lemon juice. Add the gnocchi and cook for 1 minute, tossing gently. Season with salt and transfer the gnocchi to plates. Sprinkle the toasted walnuts on top and serve, passing grated Parmigiano-Reggiano at the table.

The gnocchi can be prepared through Step 5 and frozen on the baking sheet, then transferred to a resealable plastic bag and frozen for up to 1 month. Cook without thawing.
Walnuts can taste quite bitter when paired with a tannic red wine, so pour a full-bodied white with this dish instead, like an Arneis or a white Burgundy.

...more beet recipes...
casunsiei (beet ravioli with butter and poppy seeds)

beet and pomegranate salad (scroll down to the bottom of the raspberry picking post)

red rocks in january and a winter citrus salad (beets, grapefruit and watercress)

We absolutely love living in Colorado, but every now and again we get a bout of homesickness. Technology helps us connect with our families back east, but nothing, and I mean nothing, is a substitute for a face-to-face conversation; an in-person visit. When someone buys a ticket, gets on a plane, doesn't mind sleeping on an inflatable mattress for a week and is more than happy to wake up in the morning with your early-rising kids...well, that just says love. 
Aunt Barbara, my mother-in-law's sister, has visited us twice since we moved here. On her most recent trip she came with us to the petting zoo, hiked a trailhead at Red Rocks, and was more than accommodating when we did a little house-hunting. She also washed every dish I own until it sparkled like a diamond. Aunt Barbara did some babysitting too, so my husband and I were able to get a few nights off to celebrate my birthday weekend. We had some great meals at Jonsey's Eat Bar and The Kitchen...and a few drinks too. When we dropped Aunt Barbara off at the airport we asked, "When are you coming back?" And we really meant it. 
Clean sheets and a comfortable bed are one way to make a guest feel welcome. But so is good food. For Aunt Barbara's first night I made Baked Ziti with homemade sauce and this salad (below). It's fresh, clean and seasonal too. This is one to make before winter citrus is no longer at its peak. Here it is...enjoy!

Grapefruit-and-Beet Salad (Adapted slightly from The New York Times)
Originally published with Eat, Memory: The Ideology of Taste by Roy Blount Jr., November 27, 2005
1/2 pound beets (2 or 3), trimmed
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for beets
Kosher salt
2 large red or pink grapefruit, peeled, white pith removed
1/2 shallot, finely diced
2 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
1 bunch watercress, stemmed and trimmed (about 2 cups)
Freshly ground black pepper

  • Preheat the oven to 350F. Lay the beets on one end of a sheet of aluminum foil, sprinkle with olive oil and season with salt. Fold over the remaining foil and crimp the edges to seal. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until fork tender (this step usually takes me about 1 hr. 15 minutes.) Cool and peel, then slice into 1/4-inch-thick half-moons.
  • Segment the grapefruit and set aside the membrane. Gently pat the segments dry with a paper towel. Squeeze 1* teaspoon juice from the membrane and reserve.*You can do a little more if you want a more intense grapefruit flavor.
  • Combine shallot, reserved grapefruit juice, lemon juice and salt to taste in a bowl. Let sit for 10 minutes. Whisk in mustard, then 3 tablespoons olive oil. Adjust seasoning.
  • In a large bowl, add the beets, grapefruit segments and watercress. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. (Don't neglect this step. Salt and pepper are key!) Gently fold the dressing into the salad.

...and here are some photos from our hike:

I like seeing how the colors change with the seasons. At one of my favorite hiking spots near Red Rocks there's green brush in the spring, the rocks look redder in the summer (and there are wildflowers too), leaves start falling in the autumn and the grasses are dry and the color of honey-straw in the winter. 
It had been quite some time since we went to Red Rocks, so when Aunt Barbara said she was game to go on a hike, we piled in the car and headed out in the direction of Morrison, Colorado. After Morrison we drove a few more miles before we got to the trailhead where I've taken the boys several times. Otis had his 'hiking bucket' and was ready for rock collecting. Theo was content picking up small twigs. My husband had the day off from work so he was happy to be getting some fresh air. And Aunt Barbara, realizing just how strong the Colorado sun can be, understood why hiking in the middle of January can be a wonderful way to spend an afternoon...

Late-Afternoon Raspberry Picking (and a Beet-Pomegranate Salad)

My self-improvement projects are well underway. I've been cultivating thanks, not-sweating the small stuff, and managing stress fairly well. But then, last Saturday morning, all hell broke loose.
Theodore, who usually only wakes up once or twice on a typical night, had been crying on-and-off for 10 hours. By the time Otis woke up, I had slept less than 4 I'll blame exhaustion on what happened next. Theo required a diaper change and somehow, I don't know how, I took off his soaked diaper and then buttoned up his onesie. Um, yeah. I forgot to put on a clean diaper. I drifted back to sleep and left Theo and Otis playing together in the room next to mine. I'll spare you all the details, but let's just say that about 30 minutes later I smelled something pretty awful, Otis was screaming "poop!poop!" and I woke up to a royal mess. It was really bad. That's all I'll say about that...
I rushed the baby to the bathroom, stripped him down and drew him a bath. I flipped on the light switch, but it was still dark. I assumed the bulbs had just gone out in the bathroom, but I soon discovered we lost power throughout the house. The system-wide failure became apparent when I rushed the dirty clothes and linens down to the washing machine. Nothing worked. No lights, no machines. 
That didn't stop me from attempting to brew some fresh coffee. Uh-huh. I filled the grinder with a few tablespoons of whole beans, forgetting that no electric power means no grinder, and therefore, no coffee. 
I must have been on Pluto because then I proceeded to crack a few eggs and put them in the frying pan-- figuring I could at least top them with some salsa verde and have a decent breakfast. But we've got an electric stove (which I am not getting used to). No eggs for us.
So I threw a bunch of cheerios in a tupperware cup, sliced some cantaloupe and raced upstairs to get everyone dressed. Did I mention that we were heading to the park for Otis's early morning soccer class? 
As if this day couldn't get worse, Omar (our beloved elderly-incontinent Rottweiler) went to the bathroom on the main floor. It was one mess after the other. 
I was just about to loose my mind when the fire alarm starting chirping. Maybe it was trying to come back online. I don't know. I'm not an expert on these sorts of things. 
The boys were out of earshot and I cursed away. Mostly four-letter words that begin with 'f'-- and at a very loud volume. Swearing can really help your mental state in a time of crisis! 
Anyway, the minutes were ticking by. I got the kids. Loaded up the car. And left the house. 
Miraculously, we got to soccer practice on time. 
Things were looking up.
I drank some coffee. Yup, things were getting much better.
Then I ate a delicious tamale at the farmers market. 
And some pastry too. Some food for the kids.
We were sated.
Things were going to be just fine.
I put Otis and Theo down for an early nap and when everyone woke up, I decided we should take a little trip to Boulder.
We visited Hoot N Howl, a fantastic farm with a great stand and pick-your-own berries.
The day started off rocky, but it ended with me and my sons...picking fruit and being thankful that we could...and knowing that life's mishaps make for funny stories later. We survived. Here are some photos from our late-afternoon adventure.

In addition to the berries, we also picked up some gorgeous apples (for this apple muffin and butternut squash soup combination, courtesy of Cannelle et Vanille), tomatoes, basil and purple potatoes. There were pumpkins too and I saw some beautiful looking eggplants that I'll have to get next time. 
We didn't pick too many raspberries, but I knew we had enough for this coulis, which pairs well with this cheesecake. Of course, I could have pureed them into a seasonal cocktail too. But then I happened to stumble upon this Bon Appetit photo (below) for Lemon Creme Brûlée with Fresh Raspberries. My search was over. That'll do! 
Photo Credit: Tina Rupp, Bon Appetit
Earlier in the day I picked up some beets at our local farmers market. I also nabbed a whole lot of pomegranates at the supermarket. I love the combination of beets and pomegranates and found this salad (below) after doing a google search. It was the first recipe to come up, and it sounded delicious. I've made it three times and it is fast becoming one of my favorite seasonal starters. (Now this is not the best picture I've ever taken, but it's one delicious salad!)

Beet and Pomegranate Salad (Adapted slightly from the LA Times)
Servings: 6
Note: Adapted from "The Book of New Israeli Food" by Janna Gur. 
Pomegranate concentrate or molasses is available at cooking supply stores and Middle Eastern markets.
3 to 4 medium beets
2 tablespoons pomegranate concentrate or molasses
2 to 3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 to 3 small, dried red chile peppers, crushed
Coarse sea salt
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1 cup pomegranate seeds (I used about 1 1/2 cups)
1/4 cup lightly flavored olive oil
1. Cook the beets in a covered medium saucepan of boiling water until tender, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool, peel and cut into very small dice. Place in a medium bowl. 
(I adapted the recipe. Instead of boiling the beets, I roasted them. First I washed and trimmed them. Then I placed them in foil, drizzled them with olive oil, and sprinkled them with some kosher salt and black pepper. I sealed the foil, cooked them for about 1 hour and 15 minutes (until you can put a knife through them) at 400 degrees, and allowed them to cool before peeling and dicing them.)
2. Add the pomegranate concentrate, lemon juice, peppers, one-eighth teaspoon sea salt, or to taste, and combine. Set aside for about 15 minutes.
3. Toss the beets with the cilantro leaves and pomegranate seeds, drizzle with olive oil and serve.

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I went a little overboard with my pomegranate purchasing (I really bought a lot!), so I made this  Cumin Seed Roasted Cauliflower with Salted Yogurt (from Melissa Clark's, Cook This Now) with my leftover pomegranates seeds. You can find an adapted version by Smitten Kitchen here.
Happy cooking! xo