A Journey East

It’s been a long time and I shouldn’t have left you, left you without a dough beat to bake to, bake to.

I kid. Sorry I’ve been absent from this blogging world. A LOT has happened in my everyday life since that last post. Hi Leanne! Hope you’re smiling down. I have done some pretty wild things since February. For starters, I left my job of almost 15 years and moved to Tampa, FL with the BF. He’s in Grad school and I want to go with him. So far it’s been an adventure. Packing up all our belongings into two wooden crates, living in a house with 4 other adults for a month (thanks Family!), driving across the country from Denver to Tampa via KC, STL, Nashville and Savannah over the course of 5 days. That’s close to 2,200 miles because we took the scenic route through to Savannah, GA. savanah streetTotally worth it, Savannah is gorgeous! Staying with the BF’s Grandfather for a week while we found a place and waited to move in. Making our apartment livable with a few pieces of furniture, and getting settled into the school routine.

I haven’t lived outside the state of Colorado since I was 5 yrs old when we moved from Utah to Denver. It’s an entirely new experience for me, and after about 6 weeks I’m starting to get the hang of it. I can’t help but compare the two. Colorado is open, drier, has seasonal weather, and all the places and people I grew up with and know and love. Florida is warmer (darn hot some days), humid and rainy, and the traffic lights are mind numbing-ly long.

The first culinary test was to see if following the instructions on the back of a packaged meal would result in a finished product. Turns out cooking at sea level really does make a huge difference. I followed the instructions and boom! 10 minutes later my meal was ready. It really necessitates getting your mise en place together ahead of time.

The second test; baking. Everyone always talks about Georgia Peaches They’re widely known and touted as being the best, plus it was August and they’re in season so I decided my first baked good would be a peach pie. I peeled, pitted, and sliced my peaches, tossed them in some seasoned sugar and flour, made my dough and built my pie. It looked great, even smelled great, taste wasn’t so bad, but the texture……..there’s something wildly different about peaches from Georgia than the ones I’m used to from Palisade, CO. Palisade peaches win. “Colorado-1, Georgia-0″ as a friend and fellow baker of mine put it. Georgia peaches are very firm, they hold their shape really well when you cook them, too well in my opinion. I miss the beautiful, luscious way a Palisade Peach melts onto your tongue when you eat it. I miss their flavor. Georgia peaches taste like the ones you get from a can, even when they’re fresh. georgia peach pieThe other sad part about that pie is that our apartment oven SUCKS! It’s not good. I kind of want to chop off the hand of the person who designed it. The lower heating coil is recessed into the bottom of the oven, and that seems to not facilitate the heat circulating properly to cook anything well. Peach pie, chocolate chip cookies, chicken, roast veggies, I’m not happy with it, and in all honesty I kind of wish it would break so the leasing company would need to replace it with a new one. I’m not counting on that however, so I must go back into adjusting mode. In Colorado it was adjusting for elevation, here in Florida, it’s adjusting for a crap piece of machinery. But I’m a professional, so the cooking continues.

One great part of living in the South (yes, Florida is the South in my book, I drove all the way here watching billboards along the highway) is the access to Molasses. I’m a huge fan of the stuff, and as we were grocery shopping to stock up the pantry I noticed they have it here in miniature milk jug sized bottles, for about the same price I would pay in Denver for the smaller, glass bottle. Which meant, I could make my own brown sugar!!!!!! Mix together Organic Cane Sugar and Molasses in a mixer for a few minutes and voila! homemade brown sugar for all your baking needs. That makes it CO-1, GA-1.

Eating out hasn’t happened as much as the BF and I were used to back home. When we both still had jobs and knew all the great places to eat. We’ve visited a few decent places; the Fish and Chips at Tampa Bay Brewing CO were pretty good, I had a burger at a place called Gaspar’s in Temple Terrace that was alright. We found an amazing Greek place near home, which was suspect when we showed up and it looked like a bad fast food joint. Instead we found a hidden gem. The guy behind the counter, we assume is the Owner or Manager, spoke at least 4 languages (English, French, Spanish and Arabic), knew most of his regular customers by name, and treated us like he really believed in his product and wanted our repeat business. We both had Gyros and Greek Salad and some fried mushrooms. It was all FANTASTIC. It’s the only place we’ve been back to more than once. It will be a semi-regular during our stay here. If you come to Tampa, and want some fast-casual Greek Food, go to Zeko’s on Busch Blvd.

Overall I’m glad I’ve begun this new adventure, it helps knowing the person I’m with it worth any hassles that creep up along the way. Really it’s about letting go of fear and just trying. Whatever is put in front of you, just try to go for it and see what happens. You might just be surprised at the outcome and wonder what you were waiting for all those years. Next step might be something with yeast, so see what happens when humidity is a factor, stay tuned.

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What a difference a year makes

My gorgeous friend

My gorgeous friend

If you had asked me a year ago what I thought the coming year would bring I would have told a completely different story than what has actually happened. The last year of my life, and those of my close friends and family, is one for the record books. It’s one that I could literally write a novel about and no one would believe it’s the truth.

A year ago at this moment, I was 1/2 way around the world in Mumbai, India celebrating not only my 33rd birthday but the wedding of a wonderful friend and making new, life-long friends in the process. I don’t have most of the answers as to why the year following progressed the way it did. And some of the answers I did have came crashing down around me in the last 5 weeks. I don’t suppose I’ll ever get the answer to “Why?” for the most recent life altering change, and I’ll just have to deal with that. What I do know is that there is NO WAY I’d be where I am right this second if those things didn’t happen, and I cannot regret that for a second.

In India I met this amazing couple. They were in the middle of a 22 month long trek across the globe and I spent 8 days getting to know them, bond and basically become best friends with an amazing woman. I cried like a baby the night they left for Africa; she and I cried together, hugging and not wanting to let go of one another. The good news was I was going to get to see them again. They lived in Denver and would be back there in 11 short months. All we had to do was wait, to be patient, to take care of ourselves and wait.

After my 2 weeks in India (click here for those posts) I was kind of a wreck for a few months. My trip changed me, took away all the shields I’d built around my self, my outer, protective persona, and stripped me down to what we all essentially are; human beings who just want to be appreciated and cared for. To be loved and love in return. So for the next 11 months she and I would write to one another. Me telling my sob stories, my frustrations on life and work and my hopes and dreams, my excitement for her and her husband to return so we could build our friendship. To give each other the longest, hardest, most heartfelt hug in the entire world. She would write to me of her travels, of the people they met, of their experiences both good and bad. Being on the road that long is as exhausting as it is wonderful, if not more so. I worried about her, about them both. Eating properly on the road is a challenge in the U.S. it’s even more so in 3rd world countries that involved mountain climbing and 20+ hour bus/train rides. Lack of good nutrition will really mess with you. Combine that with lack of sleep, constantly worrying where you are and where you’re going, for your safety and that of your loved one, getting clean water to drink and knowing when the next bathroom break is, and your body and your brain take the toll. B vitamins play a significant role in keeping our brains alive and functioning, as do many important minerals like iron, calcium, magnesium etc. Without a properly functioning brain you’re susceptible to anxiety, stress, depression-often severe, hallucinations, paranoia, and thoughts of suicide. My friend was a tiny, petite little flower who maybe weighed 100lbs, with a powerhouse, larger than life personality. She was the kindest, funniest human being I’d ever met. But being so small in stature means any long lasting lack of good nutrition affects you more quickly, more severely than it would someone who’s say, 50lbs heavier. I had a hard enough time not eating in India very well for 2 weeks……imagine 22 months of it.

I’m not a doctor, so I can only speculate, but having experienced a tiny fraction of what I can imagine she went through I can say that it very well might have caused what led to her tragic, untimely exit from this world. I am so sorry my friend. I’m sorry I couldn’t feed you sooner, couldn’t teach you to cook and take care of you the one way I knew how. We were going to have so much fun in the kitchen! All I ever wanted was to get you home safe so that I could take care of you the way you took such good care of me this time last year. I hope you knew just how much I love you, just how awesome I thought you were. Rest in peace now, sweet friend. I’ll see you in my dreams.

to see just how amazing my friends are: www.goexplore365.com 

for more information on links between nutrition and depression: http://depression.about.com/cs/diet/a/vitamin.htm or search “how lack of nutrition can cause depression”

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Please help find my friend

My gorgeous friend

My gorgeous friend

My dear blog followers: I write to you in a great time of stress and concern. I have a very dear friend, Leanne, and she’s gone missing. She went for a walk Friday afternoon, Jan 17th and never returned home. She’s staying in the Garden Ridge area of Texas and I need your help to find her. Spread the word, be on the look-out. Her husband is absolutely distraught as are the rest of us. I first met Leanne in India back in February and we became great friends over the course of just one week. I need to get my friend home safe and sound! #findleannebearden

more info can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/ourfriendleannehechtbearden?hc_location=stream


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Things I Just Don’t Get

You all know how I feel about cupcakes. If you’re new to the site click here and you can read all about it. It brings me to a few other things that I just can’t wrap my logical, culinary brain around. Let’s see if you agree:

1) Shoestring ANYTHING: fries, onion rings, carrots. I mean you practically have to shove handfuls in your mouth in order to eat them, which is not lady like. And if you even try to dip them in any sort of sauce-ketchup, mayo/aioli, etc they just fall apart and you end up coating your fingers in stead. The fry is the vessel people, not the sauce. Learn it. use it.

2) Deep dish or Chicago Style pizza: Call me a traditionalist but I think finger foods should be eaten, oh, I don’t know with your fingers? So eating pizza with a knife and fork just don’t cut it for me. Pun unintended.

3) Nuts in brownies: I mean, why? For crunch? It’s a brownie, it’s not supposed to have crunch. It’s supposed to be gooey and cakey and chocolatey. If you want crunch add a chocolate chip. Besides, I’m allergic to the two kinds most people put in them; walnuts and pecans. So a stupid, hidden nut in a brownie ruins my dessert when I find them and then can’t eat it. Stop ruining my dessert.

4) Hot for hot’s sake: Ok, I get the whole “food preservation before refrigeration” thing, but you know what? Most of us have had a fridge for the last 100yrs and just putting “hotness” in or on a food doesn’t make it good. It makes it hot. Too hot to taste flavor in the current thing you’re eating, and often times, in subsequent dishes until the burnt taste buds on your tongue grow back.

5)……..ok, you guys comment. Who’s got #5?

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Ode to the Tomato

heirloomsOH! Most savory fruit with deep, red, seeded flesh.

Your lusciousness abounds!

Tangy sweetness; the ‘garden candy’

Ruby, Scarlett, Garnet, Purple, Yellow, Orange, and Green,

Your variety, limitless.

Heirloom stripes and summer nights’ heat ripen

That flavor on my tongue!

I wait a year to have it back again.

Through Autumns’ burnt leaves and Winters’ snow

Through Springs’ fresh greens and sneezes

You! Fair Tomato, are worth the wait, the anticipation

To consume once again in simplistic glory

With Salt and Pepper and Fork.


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India- Part 2


I have a hard time answering the question “how was India?!” Still 2 months later there is no easy, simple answer to it. It was good and bad, horrible and awesome, fantastic and dreadful-an adventure of a lifetime. Some adventures are exhilarating, and some nauseatingly stressful. This trip was both, and so was the country. A giant contradiction of itself that I never quite seemed to be able to wrap my brain around.

Logically I knew it would be tough. I knew I didn’t care for Indian food before I went, I thought I could handle it. Turns out I just didn’t understand the scope. When you’re tired from traveling, and your brain starts to play tricks on you because it isn’t getting the nutrition and sleep it requires things happen that are out of your control. You are aware of them happening, but all the normal everyday defenses you have to keep extremes at bay don’t work like they should. The highs are really high and the lows even lower. I cried at the drop of a hat (or perhaps something that falls faster, but we all know gravity makes things fall at the same speed.) And I’m not talking a few tears and laugh it away kind of cry. I’m talking why the hell won’t my eyes stop pouring out salty water right now kind of tears. And the littlest things will set you off. The look of happiness on your friends face as she looks into her husbands eyes. The silliness of a group of 6 weary Americans going a little crazy in a mall, next to a peculiar statue. Meeting people that you can’t imagine the rest of your life without, and you wonder how you made it this far in life without them until that moment. The fun and laughter you have dancing to songs you have no idea what the singers are saying but everyone around you moves and smiles and you can’t help but join in.


Hilarity ensues

Hilarity ensues

I had my guard completely down and completely up all at the same time. In public it was a constant barrage of noises, sounds, hums of machinery and cars, honking, and people. I am an introvert. I need a bit of quiet, alone time to recharge my batteries. You do not get that in India. There is no space for it. So in private with the few who I let in, I let everything fall down. My guard, my walls, my defenses gone. And that’s when they strike. When you’re at your most vulnerable and have no way to realize someone has breached the strong hold until they’re already inside. And what can you do then? Nothing. You just have to ride out the storm and see if the tornado spits you out in one piece, on a piece of land not utterly destroyed, that you can rebuild on when the clouds have cleared.

I have a new best friend. She’s traveling the globe right now with her husband. Thank my lucky stars she lives here in Denver, and in a few short months I’ll get her back. I have their wedding clothes held hostage in my closet, but I know I don’t need them in order to see her again. She feels it too, and I am pretty sure if I hadn’t met her, I would have been an utter wreck much sooner in the week. She’s an amazing woman, and I try and draw on her courage and strength when I need some. I can’t wait for them to come home.

Ceremony Day. Three brunettes and a blonde go to India.

Ceremony Day. Three brunettes and a blonde go to India.

Being an American Woman in a foreign country that regards their own women much differently than what you’re used to is very difficult. Inside you’re screaming “but I’m a normal human being too!!!! There’s no difference between us.” On the outside you have to play the game. There are a lot more of them than you. You don’t speak the language, you don’t know all the customs, you have no idea what is appropriate and what isn’t. Because even the way they nod their heads to say yes is something new.  Not to mention my fair skin, hair and eyes. Perhaps they really did think I was a movie star (being told I look like Scarlet Johansson often). Either way, it’s too intense, because their staring isn’t a no-no like it is here. And they don’t even blink when they do it, or smile at you appreciatively. It’s like you’re a car accident they can’t tear their eyes away from, or a performer in a Freak Show Cage. Unnerving and uncomfortable by the end of my trip I was never so happy to be thought German on my Lufthansa flight home, and to walk through the airport being passed by like everyone else.

My travel buddy, roommate and overall saving Grace.

My travel buddy, roommate and overall saving Grace.

The other side of that being there were times when I WAS myself. I made big Punjabi men scared of me. I got congratulations from women at the wedding, “Way to go!” I stole the shoe, you see.

Joota Chupai-Stealing of the jutti. I sat on his feet.

Joota Chupai-Stealing of the jutti. I sat on his feet.

The tradition of Joota Chupai has the brides’ sisters/cousins/family members take the Groom’s shoes and hold them for ransom, to be bought back by the Groom’s side. It’s supposed to be fun, and let me tell you muscling my way through to get that shoe was fun, despite a few scrapes and scratches from the rhinestones on the jutti. It should also be stated that indeed, this white girl can dance. As it has been declared so by equally capable dancers of Indian descent (Aj and Rai to be precise).

My wedding Mehndi-one of my only saving graces when I traveled north. You could tell when passers by would say "Ooh, nice mehndi," in Hindi. The darker it gets the better. I was told it will mean that your husband will love you more......

My wedding Mehndi-one of my only saving graces when I traveled north. You could tell when passers by would say “Ooh, nice mehndi,” in Hindi. The darker it gets the better. I was told it will mean that your husband will love you more……

The thing I take from the whole thing is this: I do not regret going for a minute. I truly had an adventure of a lifetime. I saw things many people only see in pictures. I spent my 33rd birthday 1/2 way around the world from where I grew up, and it was one of the best days of my life. My trip to India changed my life forever, in many drastic ways and it will shape the rest of my life to come. Sometimes we have to do the things that scare us the most in order to live life fully. To become a better version of ourselves.  Because letting our guard down may let in some painful things, but it also lets in the really awesome ones too. It is not all sunshine and marigolds, but as long as we embrace the good and the bad, the horrible and the wonderful altogether and just keep moving everything is worth it in the end. It makes us who we are.IMG_0122


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India-part 1

Taj MahalOne of my best friends just got married-all the way on the other side of the world. Denver is roughly 12hours away from Mumbai, India. Half a day, 180° on the other side of this globe we live on called Earth. That’s 18 hours of flying time, and on the way there you jump a day. Now I could be down for that, especially now that I have this little patch of medicine to sit behind my ear and help me not to lose my lunch/dinner/breakfast/airplane peanuts, IF once I touched down it was sunshine, cool breeze, a pool or beach, a tropical drink and possibly a handsome man with strong hands to give me a massage.

That however was not the case. Spending a week in Mumbai, at an Indian wedding is like being inside a tornado. Spinning, loud, dangerous–a topsy, turvy, tumultuous whirlwind. It was an experience of a lifetime, one I know I will NEVER forget. The further I get away from the trip, the less intense it becomes, but I know how I felt during and right after it (jet lag is a B^&*H!). In case you were wondering, yes, Mumbai has the worst air in the world. The smog is so thick you can chew it, and when I took the ferry-boat out to this island to see some cave carvings it was like swimming through dirty bath water. And don’t get me started on the toxic, burning-plastic-on-the-shoreline-across-the-street-from-our-hotel fumes……but I digress.



What you want to know is about the food. About Indian cuisine in all its glory.The curry, the spices, the aromas, the chai, all the things that we can “get” here in the states but should be 10x better there. Well, I, um……I don’t like Indian food. Never have really (unless Pashmina made it, and then it was awesome, but I have a feeling she toned it down and changed some stuff) and I knew this fact going in. I however hoped that it would be different. “I know I don’t like Indian food here, but it’s a big country there has to be SOMETHING I’ll like with more options.” Yeah, not really. Here’s the thing: the thing is that I lost 10lbs in 2 weeks. So much so quickly that when you come back instead of people saying to you “wow, you look great!” they say “wow!….you lost a LOT of weight.” The good news is, you can’t get sick from eating the food, if you don’t eat the food. There were just a few things I liked, well 5-five things I liked.


1) These little fried fish that are apparently common south of where I was, down in Goa (oddly enough a beach/resort type of place) that one of my new friends took me to have on my birthday. [side note: spending your birthday in a foreign country, even in India was kind of awesome. THAT was one of my good days]

2) Lassi~a traditional yogurt drink served in the north. Johanna and I got 1 to share on our way out of Jaipur. We had the sweet kind, served out of a hand-made, terra-cotta cup with a chunk of clotted cream floating on top, and wooden ice cream spoons. It was DELICIOUS!

3) Ice cream~true to the guide-book I read, ice cream there, just like most ice cream in Europe is made with full fat milk. That means it’s the best.  I love ice cream, I can eat it year round. Even in the dead of winter when it’s minus 10F out. It’s not very nutritious and you can’t live off the stuff, but it was certainly tasty.

4) Jalabi~think miniature funnel cake. About the size of a 50 cent piece. Piped dough batter into hot oil. Once it’s cooked, they immediately dip it into a Honey and Saffron mixture. They’re crunchy and gooey, but you (I) could only eat a couple. They got too rich after that. One thing I learned, main meals are SPICY and dessert is SWEET.

5) Peanuts with masala~This one doesn’t really count, because I knew I liked peanuts. I eat them here. Baseball game anyone? But the dipping freshly roasted and shelled nuts into this little packet of spices (that came folded up in a piece of newsprint) was uniquely Indian. Just enough flavor to enhance the nuts and put a little sweet with the salty nuts.

You’ll notice other than the fish, none of the 5 things listed above are something you can live off of. They don’t provided enough nutrition and good fat for a body and brain to function properly. It wasn’t until the end of my trip, when I had more control over the choices of foods to eat that I found some really tasty food and felt more like a human being again. Of course, hardly any of it was Indian Cuisine, so that might have helped.

……..to be continued………

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