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The Passionate Pursuit of Delight

Author: Diane Hartford (Page 1 of 13)

48 Hours in Torrey, Utah

Capitol Reef National Park

The following post outlines an itinerary for a weekend in Torrey, Utah which is in Wayne County, Utah located eight miles outside of Capitol Reef National Park in southcentral Utah. I feel in love with Torrey the first time that I visited. I have visited a few times but hadn’t been back in years. So, a few weeks ago I went back for the weekend and here are my suggestions for 48 hours of fun.

Torrey is a tiny tree-lined town and what it lacks in population it makes up for in charm. But this quaint town is a perfect home base for a weekend of exploring. Torrey is an easy 3 ½ hour drive from Salt Lake City.

Stay

Austin's Chuck Wagon Motel

Austin’s Chuck Wagon Motel is clean, reasonable and offers standard motel rooms and a few two bedroom cabins. There is a pool, laundromat, general store, and deli on the premises. I have stayed here many times and always been pleased.

Day 1

Arrive in Torrey in time for lunch. Stop by the deli at Austin’s Chuck Wagon Motel and order sandwiches to go. Drive the ten minute drive into Capitol Reef National Park and stop at the Fruita campground and picnic area. Picnic among the orchard and feel free to pick fruit if in season.

Capitol Reef National Park 2

After lunch drive through Capitol Reef taking in the steep red rock formations. Capitol Reef is home to a huge wrinkle in the earth called Waterpocket Fold. Drive the scenic byway or head to a trailhead for a hike.

Get back to Torrey in time for the Saturday afternoon farmers market which runs on Main Street between 4:00-6:00pm. Pick up homemade bread, fresh produce, or local eggs while listening to live music.

Torrey Farmers Market

Head over to the Capitol Reef Inn and Cafe for their ten vegetable salads to start your meal and I loved the shrimp tostadas. The salmon filet was also delicious.

Day 2

Grab coffee and baked goods for breakfast from Austin’s Chuck Wagon Market. Make the 50 miles drive of twisting two-lane highway to Boulder, Utah. Stop at all the ­­­overlooks to realize what a tiny little speck you are on this earth.

Hell's Backbone Grill

The crown jewel of Boulder is Hell’s Backbone Grill. A meal here is worth the price and drive. They proprietors, Blake and Jen, have been cultivating food via their farm and preparing creative meals here for nearly twenty years.

Hell's Backbone GrillAfter your meal, drive back to Torrey for a nap.

Once you are up and refreshed, stop at Austin’s Chuck Wagon Market and pick up cheese, crackers, hummus, and fruit and head back to Capitol Reef National Park to take in more of the sites.

Try this alternate Sunday for the more adventurous

Grab coffee and baked goods for breakfast from Austin’s Chuck Wagon Market. Drive a little bit past Boulder on twisting two-lane highway to Escalante, Utah. Hike to the stunning Lower Calf Creek Falls. Find information about the hike here.

Lower Calf Creek Falls

As you stand at the base of the falls gaze in wonder as your place in the world comes clearly into focus.

After your hike, head back to Boulder for dinner at Hell’s Backbone Grill (make reservations!) before returning to Torrey.

Pack up and head home while planning your next trip to Torrey.

Pesto Pizza with Caramelized Onions and Burrata

Pesto Pizza with Caramelized Onions and Burrata

I don’t know what I could possibly say to let you know how much I love melted cheese on a crispy crust of bread. You have heard me ramble on pizza in such posts as Portobello Mushroom Pizza, Pizza with Morel Mushrooms and Green Onions, Smoke Mozzarella Lemon Pizza, and Zucchini and Peach Pizza with Basil. At the time that I wrote those, believe me, they were my favorite pizza. But now, I am deep in love with Pesto Pizza with Caramelized Onions and Burrata.

Do any of you get into ruts with food? I do. Sometimes I can’t help myself. I just start thinking about the decadent creaminess of burrata, the herby garlic flavor of pesto, and the sweet taste of tomatoes and onion. So, I don’t stop thinking about it and before I know it, I have made this pizza three times in a month.

Pesto Pizza with Burrata and Caramelized Onions-3

Readers of this blog will know how I feel about burrata cheese. For those of you just stopping by, burrata is fresh mozzarella which is stretched and then wrapped around a gooey center of creamy deliciousness. That is the official definition.  It adds a luscious bite to recipes. If you aren’t lucky enough to live near a market that sells burrata, fresh mozzarella is a good substitute.

I typically use a pizza stone when baking a pizza at home. The stone absorbs the heat so when the dough makes contact it simulates the affect that happens in a wood-fired pizza often. The result is a crispy slightly charred crust. So good.

Here’s a quick video about using a pizza stone to cook pizza at home.

How to Make Pesto Pizza with Caramelized Onions and Burrata

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Smokey Sweet Jalapeno Poppers with Mango

Smoky Sweet Jalapeno Poppers with Mango on a sheet pan

Can I get a hell yeah that summer is finally here? Once the weather turns warm all I want to do is be outside. And one of the things I love doing outside is cooking. These Smoky Sweet Jalapeno Poppers with Mango are a delectable bite which can be made outside in a smoker.

Sweetie and I spend a lot of time in his little rustic A-frame cabin in the mountains. It’s glorious up there except for a few weeks each summer when temperatures soar and the cabin which has no air-conditioning becomes incredibly hot. So, all cooking that happens takes place outdoors as to not heat up the kitchen. We have a fairly well-equipped outdoor kitchen which includes a BBQ grill, a flat-top grill, a smoker, and a camp stove.

These Smoky Sweet Jalapeno Poppers are little mouthfuls are spicy, sweet, salty, and creamy. We have made jalapeno poppers in so many different ways but this is our favorite. Slice the jalapenos vertically from stem to end and scrape out the seeds and ribs. I use a spoon to scrape out the seeds and ribs but be sure to put the spoon directly into the dishwasher or hand wash. Don’t make the same mistake that I have made and take a taste of the filling from the spoon or worse yet, offer someone else a taste. Learn from my mistakes. Fill with a delicious cheesy filling, wrap in bacon and cook in smoker until the bacon is crispy.

Smoky Sweet Jalapeno Poppers with Mango coming out of the smoker

This iteration of jalapeno poppers includes diced mango and red onion in the cream cheese mixture. The mango is what gives the popper the hint of sweet. If you don’t like mango or can’t find ripe ones, you can swap out another fruit like pineapple. The red onion add a little bite, if you prefer a milder onion flavor you can swap with a shallot or green onion.

We have found that it is best to avoid thick cut bacon for poppers. Regular thinner sliced bacon cooks quicker and will crisp up without worry about overcooking the jalapeno.

If you like cooking outside, you might want to check out these recipes:

Smoky Sweet Jalapeno Poppers with Mango Vertical Image

Mother’s Day Gift Guide for Hip Moms

Mother’s Day is this weekend. Are you ready? Do you have something for your Mom that she will love? No worries if you don’t. I have put together a list of ideas that any cool Mom would love to get. Best of all, all of these items are available on Amazon and with Prime 2-day shipping you will have a day or two to spare.

If your Mom loves to ready but hasn’t pulled the trigger on an eReader yet get her the Kindle Paperwhite AND show her how to download ebooks from the library. Rock star status guaranteed.

This Stylish Tote is perfect for the Mom has to haul all her stuff around all the time.

A Lap desk is a necessity for Mom’s who write, edit, or love to spend time surfing.

A pretty notebook is ideal for the Mom who has great ideas bursting from her brain all the time. Help her upgrade from sticky notes and the back of receipts to a pretty place where all her thoughts can be captured in one place.

Unbreakable Insulated Wine Glasses. Duh, this is a no-brainer. You probably ought to order an extra set for yourself too.

Unicorn Pool Float is the ideal Mother’s Day gift. You know she would never splurge on this for herself but she is secretly hoping someone will gift it to her.

Facial sheet masks are all the rage right now. Have you tried them? No only do they leave your skin feeling incredible smooth and hydrated but they also have the added benefit of looking creepy enough on that everyone will leave Mom alone while she has one of these on. Win-win!

What have I missed? Let me know if you have other ideas for Mother’s Day gifts for hip Mom’s. I will add them to the list. If you are making brunch for Mom this weekend, here are a few recipes that you might want to consider.

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Rice Salad with Asparagus and Peas

Rice Salad with Peas and Asparagus-9

This post is published in partnership with We Olive SLC

Rice Salad with Asparagus and Peas is as light and colorful as a beautiful spring day. After so many months eating warm hearty meal I wait not so patiently for asparagus and peas to arrive heralding milder temperatures and the earth coming back to life.

I use short grain Arborio rice because it is starchy and as it cooks its texture becomes creamy yet the grain remains firm. You will add the asparagus and peas to boiling water during the final minutes of when the rice is cooking. A vinaigrette olive oil (I used basil-infused olive oil because yum), sherry vinegar, garlic, and anchovy paste flavors the rice and vegetables.

Rice Salad with Peas and Asparagus-11

If you’ve never used anchovy paste before don’t be put off by it. You can find it in a tube at most grocery stores or on Amazon. Anchovy paste is a combination of ground anchovies, olive oil, and little sugar. If you want that savory flavor bomb (and you should) but aren’t keen to deal with anchovies, paste is the way to go.

About the peas, if you can get your hands on fresh peas, by all means, use those but if you can’t, frozen peas will work just fine. Prepare the asparagus just as you always do by cutting or breaking off the tough fibrous bottoms.

Arugula adds a freshness and peppery bite to the salad. Have you tried to growing arugula? It’s so easy! I grow it in pots on my patio. It’s actually really easy to grow many greens and herb in pots. Try it. Nothing is better than picking fresh greens and eating them moments later.

This rice salad is a perfectly good meal on its own but it could also be a nice accompaniment to a grilled protein like salmon. It also travels well if you are looking for something to bring to a potluck or if you pack lunch to work.

Rice Salad with Peas and Asparagus-5

Here are a few other salads that you may be interested in:

How to Make Rice Salad with Asparagus and Peas

Rice Salad with Aspargus and Peas

Everything Pretzel Bites

Everything Pretzel Bites-1

I don’t often make bagels at home but I do make pretzel bites which are small mouthfuls of soft pretzel deliciousness. Perhaps it’s because I am indecisive or that I cannot commit to just one bagel topping but everything bagels have always been my flavor of choice.

If you aren’t familiar with everything bagels, they are topped with a combination of ­­­poppy seeds, sesame seeds, dried garlic, dried onion, and coarse salt. You can make your own everything seasoning mix or stop by Trader Joe’s and pick up their ‘Everything but the Bagel’ seasoning mix.

Until I discovered the Trader Joe’s seasoning I typically topped by pretzel bites with coarse salt. But, now when I make them I sprinkle them liberally with everything seasoning mix. If you don’t have a Trader Joe’s near you, then here is a quick video that shows how to make your own everything seasoning mix at home.

The pretzel-making process may sound daunting but it really isn’t that bad. Once you set up an assembly line the process isn’t really that bad. I use my stand mixer to make the dough and just knead with my hands a few times at the end before letting the dough rest in an oiled bowl. Then, section the dough and roll each section into a long rope and cut into bite-sized pieces. A quick dunk into a pot of boiling water with baking soda and those babies are ready for the oven.

Everything Pretzel Bites-3

Unless you live in New York City, it isn’t always easy to grab a good soft pretzel as you are wandering around town. That is why I started playing around with making them myself. Everything pretzel bites are a game time staple during football season.

There is something super satisfying about popping one of these pretzels hot from the oven into your mouth with only a quick detour into a pile of mustard or cheese sauce. But, be warned these everything pretzels are pretty addictive. Even if you think you have made enough you may find that they disappear as quickly as you can churn them out.

How to Make Everything Pretzel Bites

Other finger foods you may be interested in are:

Everything Pretzel Bites

Portobello Mushroom Pizzas

Portobello Mushroom Pizzas

I love pizza. Let me be very clear, I could eat pizza every single day of my life. I am not necessarily proud of that fact but it is the truth. For me, there is no greater comfort than warm, melted cheese stretching from the plate to my mouth. Bring it on.

But honestly, sometimes I don’t feel like messing around with dough. I am one messy cook, I get flour everywhere even if I am only rolling out store-bought dough. Enter Portobello mushrooms. They are perfect stand-ins for pizza crust. Mushrooms are hearty and meaty and their cup shape perfectly holds sauce, cheese, and any toppings that you enjoy.

Portobello Mushroom Pizzas

For a quick and easy weeknight dinner use jarred or canned tomato sauce. I use for mozzarella for its ability to melt into stringy gooeyness, provolone for its flavor, sand parmesan for its sharp bite. I like the combination of cheeses but you can skip the provolone and I still think you will be happy with the result.

For the toppings of this Portobello mushroom pizza, I love sun-dried tomatoes and pine nuts with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes, and ribbons of basil. But, you can swap out these toppings for anything that you prefer.

Portabello Mushroom Pizza-8

I also love olives and onions. Sometimes I use pesto for the sauce instead of marinara sauce. I have a stash of pesto in my freezer from last summer’s bounty. I freeze the pesto in an ice cube trays. Make these your own with your favorite toppings or whatever you have on hand.

The secret to pump up the flavor of the Portobello mushrooms is brush them with a garlic butter mixture before you fill them with sauce and toppings and pop them in the oven. Trust me, it is delicious.

Other mushroom recipes you may be interested in:

Portobello Mushroom Pizza

Eggplant Parmesan

Eggplant Parmesan-8

Are you an eggplant lover or an eggplant hater? People seem to fall firmly into one camp or the other. Growing up in an Italian family, eggplant was a staple on our dinner table. That purple beauty was most commonly served in the form of eggplant parmesan.

Fun fact, when my son was a little boy he called eggplant ‘the punching bag fruit’. I still think that this is the cutest thing ever. The punching bag fruit. When buying eggplants at the market you want to look for ones that have smooth purple, shiny flesh and that feels heavy for its size.

Breaded eggplant slices

If you are feeling unsure of how to buy and prepare eggplant you can check out this video. For eggplant parmesan, I don’t typically salt the slices of eggplant but I do if the eggplant will be used in a dish that isn’t covered in sauce and cheese.

There are as many variations of eggplant parmesan as there are Gambino families. Some family recipes call for slicing the eggplant thick, some thin, some peel the eggplant, and others don’t. Then there is the fry their eggplants slices devotees versus the eggplant slice bakers. Personally, I like my eggplant peeled, thinly sliced, coated in panko, parmesan, and baked.

Finished pan of eggplant parmesan

The process of making eggplant parmesan isn’t that much different than making lasagna. Instead of layering noodles, you layer slices of eggplant with marinara and seasoned ricotta cheese. This recipes calls for two eggplants and will fill a 9 x 13 pan but you can also just use one eggplant and bake it in a 9 x 9 or small round casserole.

Side view of eggplant parmesan

This may sound weird to anyone who didn’t grow up in an Italian family but leftover eggplant parmesan makes a divine filling for a sandwich. But, the bread must be a crusty loaf of Italian bread or a baguette if you don’t have good Italian bread in your part of the world.

How to Make Eggplant Parmesan

Other Italian recipes you might enjoy:

Eggplant Parmesan

Pasta with Garlic and Olive Oil

Pasta with Garlic and Olive Oil-7

Pasta with garlic and olive oil is the easiest weeknight dinner. Ever. Even stopping for take-out is a bigger hassle than making this bowl of pasta. Plus, it’s cheaper and made with ingredients that are actually food. All that aside, I recently realized something shocking. Despite being raised Italian and having a deep love of pasta, I have never posted a pasta recipe here at Hello Fun Seekers! How is that even possible? I rectify that oversight today.

I also have to say that I have never bought into the low-carb phenomena. My great-grandmother lived until she was 96 and my grandmother will be 100 later this year. Believe me, those ladies had pasta as a staple in their diets. So, eat your cauliflower crusts if you want but I will be over here enjoying a delicious bowl of pasta.

Pasta with Garlic and Olive Oil-5

Fusilli is one of my favorite pasta shapes. The curlicues aren’t just pretty to look at but they create numerous nooks and crannies for the sauce to adhere to as well. Properly cooking the pasta is crucial. You will often here people talk about cooking it al dente, ‘to the tooth’, meaning that it still has some texture. There is nothing worse than overcooked mushy pasta.

In order to avoid overcooking the pasta, I typically finish cooking my pasta in the sauce which serves an important purpose. To accomplish this, I boil the pasta for a minute or two less than what the package instructions recommend. Finishing the pasta in the sauce allows the pasta to soak up the sauce and infuse the pasta with all that flavor.

The order of operations for this dish is to start your pasta cooking and then start the sauce. Speaking of the sauce, this pasta is for garlic-lovers only and although it is quick to make it does require your careful attention for a few minutes. Garlic burns easily and can scorch quickly so have all your ingredients prepped when you start cooking.

Pasta with Garlic and Olive Oil-3

The simplicity of the ingredients and the balance of flavors are what make this pasta special. The olive oil is luxurious, the crushed red pepper provides a spicy kick, the squeeze of lemon juice brightens up the sauce, and finally, the Italian parsley adds a touch of freshness.

I hope you will try this classic pasta and let me know what you think.

How to Make Pasta with Garlic and Olive Oil

Pasta with Garlic and Olive Oil

Shakshuka

Shakshuka-4

Shakshuka has an unusual name that may not roll off the tongue easily at first but believe me once you make this you will be shakshuka-ing all the time. Shakshuka is a dish that is popular in North Africa and the Middle East. Basically, the dish consists of eggs poached in tomatoes, onions, red peppers, and various spices.

Shakshuka is incredibly versatile and can be served for dinner or brunch. Most of the ingredients are pantry staples and from start to finish you can make this meal in just over 30 minutes. Plus, when you are done your kitchen will smell like heaven. I kid you not.

Shakshuka-25

One unusual element of this dish is using a large can of whole, peeled tomatoes. I like to pour the whole can into a large bowl and crush the tomatoes by hand before adding them to the skillet.  This process adds not only the terrific flavor from the whole tomatoes but provides the sauce a beautiful rustic texture.

But, be warned, wear an apron or clothes that you don’t care about because it is a messy process. If you hate messes you could also use a pastry blender to break up the tomatoes. But, why not bring out your inner Lucille Ball and smash those babies up like an Italian grandma? Check out this video. This woman gets me.

Having bread to soak up the sauce is crucial. My preference is a nice crusty loaf or fresh warmed pitas. A crisp green salad would round out the meal perfectly.

Last year, a few Hello Fun Seekers readers and I all made shakshuka simultaneously and live-tweeted our progress on Twitter. It was really fun! Would you all be interested in doing something like that from time to time? Let me know in the comments below if you think that sounds like fun.

How to Make Shakshuka

Shakshuka

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