FIELD & FOREST

field and forest

berry (and cherry!) vanilla yogurt muffins

breakfast, desserts, summer, sweet, vegetarianRachel SandersComment
berry vanilla yogurt muffins - field + forest

We bought a cherry tree! I mean, a house!

Either way, woohoo!!!

Hopefully that helps to clarify my wee vacation from posting (sorry, sorry). It has been a wild ride. And because home-buying normally entails moving, we've also been in a mess of boxes and bins and DI (the Utah equivalent of the Salvation Army) donation piles for the past couple of months. I tried to relocate the kitchen to the new house before moving other rooms so that I would be able to keep things relatively organized and track items that we use on a regular basis. Also so that we could eat stuff other than frozen tamales every day. But in spite of my best efforts, there are certain things I haven't been able to find since we moved in, like our bread pans and our ground cinnamon. And my eyebrow tweezers, which has nothing to do with kitchen stuff, but I looked in the mirror this morning and let's just say time is a factor in pinning these down.

Ironically, around the same time that our cherry tree started fruiting, we found the cherry pitter, which felt like I big high-five from the universe in the midst of a sea of moving chaos. I may have unruly eyebrows, but I am eating lots of baked cherry things! Highly recommend.

berry vanilla yogurt muffins

Full disclosure: these muffins were made not just because we had cherries, but because I accidentally bought vanilla yogurt at the store while picking up ingredients for tzatziki. D'oh. Thank goodness we've all figured out that yogurt is a fabulous thing to stick in a baked good. Or a fried good.

These are adapted from a yogurt muffin recipe in Yvette Van Boven's whimsical and lovely Home Baked, which was a welcome distraction during stressful parts of the move. The original recipe didn't come with a photo, I think because (as we discovered) the muffins are slightly homely looking (though still cute, because I think all of my oven children are cute). Also, for the life of me, I cannot figure out a great way to photograph muffins! Maybe Oof felt the same way while photographing Yvette's book. It's like when artists have a really hard time drawing hands.

We'll work on this.

In the meantime, I'm sending you all great big virtual hugs along with these muffins. Let's face it, moving (even when it's exciting) kind of blows, and it feels wonderful to be back here in a familiar happy place. I have missed you all.

Let's hang out more, yes? 😄

berry vanilla yogurt muffins - field + forest
berry vanilla yogurt muffins - field + forest

makes 12-16 muffins (depending on how much fruit you use)


In a small bowl, combine all of the ingredients for the topping. Mix into a coarse crumble with your fingers. Place in the fridge until ready to use.

Preheat the oven to 350˚F, and grease a standard 12-cup muffin tin.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the 2 2/3 cups flour, baking soda, and salt.

Break the eggs into a large bowl and beat with a whisk until foamy (alternately, use a hand mixer). Add the sugar and melted butter and beat it until the mixture has become light and airy. Add the yogurt and lemon zest and mix well to combine. Add the flour all at once and stir gently until just combined, being careful not to over-mix the batter. It's okay if the batter is slightly lumpy; the lumps will bake out in the oven.

Quickly toss the fruit with the remaining tablespoon of flour, then add to the batter bowl. Using a spatula, fold the fruit into the batter. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling each cup 3/4 of the way full. Sprinkle the crumb topping over the top. (If you have more batter than will fit in 12 muffin cups, put the batter in the fridge while the first batch bakes, then remove it at the same time you remove the finished muffins from the oven. Re-grease the muffin tins before refilling.)

Bake for 25 minutes, or until the tops of the muffins spring back when touched (it is hard to use the toothpick method since the muffins have so much wet fruit!). Let them cool on a rack for 5 minutes, then remove them from the cups. Enjoy warm from the oven, or store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days.



 

FOR THE TOPPING:

1/4 cup unrefined cane sugar
3 tablespoons spelt, wheat, or all-purpose flour
1.5 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)

FOR THE MUFFINS:

2 2/3 cups + 1 tablespoon spelt, wheat, or all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2/3-3/4 cup unrefined cane sugar (use 2/3 if using vanilla yogurt, 3/4 if using plain yogurt)
2 tablespoons butter or coconut oil, melted, plus extra for greasing the pan
1 1/2 cups vanilla-flavored whole-milk greek yogurt or other whole milk yogurt
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
2 1/4 cups mixed berries, pitted cherries, and/or chopped stone fruit


catching up

thoughtsRachel Sanders2 Comments

So much has happened over the past few weeks:

  • I turned 30 (insert cake and confetti emojis!)
  • We found out that the owners of our rental house will be selling it when our lease ends in May
  • We put in an offer on a house that was not accepted
  • We put in an offer on a house that was accepted, and are now in escrow (insert Flamenco dancing emojis!)
  • Red (our scruffiest little chicken who sounded like a dove) died in my arms the same day we went under contract on the house
  • We signed a GAZILLION documents telling the home lending company our social security numbers and full tax history and shoe sizes and favorite ice cream flavors
  • I learned what knob and tube wiring looks like (it looks scary)
  • I learned what the inside of a sewer line looks like (surprisingly, it is not filled with water!)
  • I picked up a few new writing gigs that I am SUPER stoked on, and I hope to be able to tell you about at some point.

To say that life has been a roller coaster of events and feelings and activities feels like an understatement (just reading that list makes me feel like I need a nap). Some days I've been weathering everything just fine, but then other days I feel immense euphoria about our (fingers crossed) future house followed by wanting to burst into tears because I'm exhausted, and then not being able to sleep because I can't stop thinking about everything that needs to be done before our move. I have almost completely lost my appetite, and I keep having to force myself to eat breakfast and lunch so I can be a functional person, but nothing tastes like what I want to eat and I don't always feel that awesome afterward. I want life to calm down just a little, if only so that my body calms the F down.

Oof.

I realized yesterday that I'm going to miss a lot of things about our current house. We've been here for nearly 4 years, and while the house hasn't been perfect (and has, at times, driven us up the wall with its issues), it's chock full of memories and is the place where SO many big life events happened. It's where we brought our chickens home as babies in a little Happy Meal container. It's where we planned our wedding. The stairs are where Lucca used to nap as a puppy, and where he continues to play "stair ball." The hutch in the kitchen is where all of my cookbooks are stored, and the dining room is where I've taken most of my photographs to share with you.

I know that when I walk by the house in the next few weeks, I'm going to feel a twinge of jealousy toward the people who will be living here, making their own memories. I'll wish that I could stop and pick peaches and grapes from the trees and vines we planted during our first summer in Utah. I'll wonder what the owners are storing in the hutch in the kitchen (I bet it won't be as many cookbooks as are there right now). I'll want to curl up with a cookbook on the window seat. And I'll wish that I still lived next to the neighbors who have become some of our closest friends.

But I also know that I can't wait for us to start our life in the new house. I'm excited for EVERYTHING.

Cheers for all that has yet to come. Thanks for being here along the way.

chocolate stout crepes with whiskey ricotta

desserts, spring, sweet, winter, vegetarian, autumnRachel SandersComment
chocolate stout crepes

I spent two hours the other day attempting to roast sweet potatoes before realizing our oven was broken. I've turned it on a bunch since then, both because I forgot it was broken, and because I was sort of hoping that maybe it was just tired (we've been using it a LOT) and would miraculously start working again. So while we wait for it to be fixed, we're experimenting with the broiler (which is, somehow, still working) and learning that it is great at not only toasting bread and cooking salmon, but also at burning the crap out of sweet potatoes! :)

In all honesty, we've been perfectly fine while ovenless, but then Richard sent me a text with the message "St Patrick's Day work potluck! What should I make/bring?" and I traveled down my mental list of Irish recipes before realizing that 95% of my favorites use (drumroll) the oven. Gah. Of course the big deals of the day, the corned beef and cabbage and potatoes, aren't oven dependent, but the soda bread! The chocolate stout cake! The things that don't require access to a slow-cooker in the office!

I spent the next half-hour diving down a "stovetop Irish recipes" Google hole, and actually found some recipes I had never heard of before (I'm really excited to try making soda farls, which look like wedge-shaped stovetop soda bread). But the dessert thing was bothering me. Ever since my sister introduced me to chocolate stout cake, it's been a highly-anticipated cast member of our St Patrick's Day show. What was the stovetop equivalent of that?

chocolate stout crepes

And then I remembered chocolate crepes.

(Before we continue: YES, I realize that crepes are not something that the Irish eat on St Patty's Day, but did you know that most Irish don't eat corned beef for the holiday either? So if we as Irish-Americans (or plain old Americans) are already failing at cultural accuracy, we might as well ride it all the way.)

Our French friend recently told us about putting beer into regular crepes, which seemed like a great idea (especially since we sometimes run out of the milk normally used in crepes, but we rarely run out of beer). And the whiskey that I put in the frosting for the stout cake would be easy enough to add to ricotta to fill the crepes. And the only downside to attempting to translate the cake to crepes, that I could see, was that the recipe would end up being so-so and I'd have to eat chocolate stout crepes for breakfast for the next couple of days.

Such are the sacrifices I make for you all.

As you may have guessed from this post, it turns out that chocolate stout crepes are DELICIOUS. The beer in the crepes and the whiskey in the ricotta give you the same Irish Car Bomb vibes of the chocolate stout cake, but the crepes are most definitely lighter and a surprisingly delightful change of pace. These are also not terribly sweet, so it wouldn't be inappropriate to take them to the next level with some chocolate sauce or hot caramel... or maybe some Bailey's!

chocolate stout crepes
chocolate stout crepes
chocolate stout crepes
chocolate stout crepes
chocolate stout crepes

If you've never made crepes before, you shouldn't let anything get in your way. I think it's kind of funny that crepes have this reputation as being complex and fastidious, especially when compared to their fluffier counterparts, pancakes. Crepes are easier to mix up than pancakes, they cook in less time than pancakes, they can sit at room temperature without their texture being adversely affected, and they are much more versatile than pancakes. Plus, you probably have everything you need to make them right now! Not to mention that you can drink the remainder of the beer (since you won't use a full bottle) while you cook the crepes, if that helps take the edge off. ;)


chocolate stout crepes

makes 8-9 filled crepes - serves 4-8

3 large eggs
2/3 cup stout (or porter) beer, at room temperature
1/3 cup cow's milk or plant milk, at room temperature
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2-3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into thirds, then cut into thirds again (so you have 9 pieces), plus more if needed

To serve:

Whiskey Ricotta (recipe follows)
Cocoa powder


Have a plate ready with a clean dishtowel laid over it.

Combine all of the ingredients (not including the butter) in order in a blender or large bowl, and blend or whisk thoroughly to combine (combining them in order helps keep pockets of flour from forming at the bottom of the bowl/blender).

Heat a crepe pan or small, nonstick frying pan over medium heat. Add a piece of butter, and swirl it around to evenly coat the bottom and sides of the pan. Pour a generous 1/4 cup of batter into the pan, and, using your wrist, immediately swirl around the pan so the batter forms a thin, even coating. Cook for 2-3 minutes, or until a nonstick spatula can easily slip beneath the crepe. Lift the crepe up from the pan, and flip it over, and let cook on the second side for 1-2 minutes more. Remove the cooked crepe from the pan and set aside on the prepared plate, and cover with the dishtowel to keep warm.

Note: your first crepe will likely look a little sad (mine did) and be the place where you start to get your pancake-making chops back and/or figure out if your pan is at the right temperature... or perhaps you will have a stroke of luck and it will turn out perfectly! But this is where the "8-9" crepes part comes in, because you never know how things are going to go with that first one. Don't be discouraged, and don't be afraid to practice.

Continue with the remaining batter, placing additional crepes under the dishtowel, until all of the crepes have been cooked. Fill and serve immediately, or place in a covered container and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

To fill your crepes: place a crepe on a plate, and fold in half, then fold in half again. Gently lift up the top layer of the crepe to create a pocket, and spoon 2-3 tablespoons of whiskey ricotta inside. Place the filled crepe on a serving dish. Repeat with the remaining crepes and ricotta until all are filled. Dust with cocoa powder and serve.


chocolate stout crepes
whiskey ricotta

3/4 cup basket drained ricotta
3/4 cup Greek yogurt (full or low-fat)
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
1-2 tablespoons whiskey, or to taste (I don't like my whiskey flavor to be too strong, but you might like it to be stronger)

Place the ricotta, yogurt, sugar, and vanilla in a medium bowl, and whisk together thoroughly. Add the whiskey one tablespoon at a time, whisking and tasting after each addition, until the mixture is at your desired level of booziness.

Use immediately, or refrigerate for up to 3 days.

adventure guide - bell and little wild horse canyons

spring, autumn, adventure, travelRachel SandersComment

Ermagahd. How kerhl are rocks?

If you are planning a vacation in the near future, here is some math: you can pay 1300 clams for a ticket to Paris and see La Tour Effiel, OR you can throw your ass into the back of your friend's car and pay $40-60 for gas and go and hang out in arguably one of the most visually stunning places in Utah (and there are LOTS of visually stunning places here) and camp on BLM land for days for FREE. Plus you'll get some exercise and probably return home with a sweet tan. Though, admittedly, there are few if any croissants.

I totally get it if that is a deal-breaker for you.

But when Richard is given the choice between rock-hopping and pastries for his birthday, he chooses rocks. And tacos! Because nothing motivates you to book it through a canyon or up and down a mountain like the knowledge that tacos are waiting for you at the end.

(Spoiler alert: you'll be getting a taco recipe soon! In the meantime, scroll through the photos below and read on for notes on our slot canyon adventure.)

DISTANCE (bell & little wild horse canyon loop) ~ 8.65 MILES

Trail type(s) - exposed/rocky/slot canyon/possible shallow pools

ELEVATION GAIN/LOSS - +721 feet

LOWEST ELEVATION (trailhead) - 4,952 FEET

HIGHEST ELEVATION - 5,673 FEET

DIFFICULTY - MODERATE (involves some class 3 climbing)

WATER SOURCE - none (nearest tap water - goblin valley state park)

DOG-FRIENDLY - YES

PARKING FEE - N/A

IDEAL SEASON(s) TO hike/CAMP - spring, fall

Closest RANGER STATION - goblin valley state park

CLOSEST DEVELOPED CAMPING - GOBLIN VALLEY STATE PARK


TRAIL OVERVIEW:

Some scrambling/climbing is required, though it can be completed without aid.

Bell Canyon and Little Wild Horse Canyon are two sets of slot canyons connected by an open, expansive wash, forming a hiking loop that begins and ends at the Little Wild Horse Canyon trailhead. Of the two, Little Wild Horse is considered by many to be "more spectacular," and certainly contains the narrowest of the slots. Little Wild Horse is made up of three distinct slots punctuated by larger openings and atriums, while Bell is a continual, long and winding slot which widens and narrows in different areas.

The trailhead is the same for both canyons, and involves a half-mile hike to the fork for both trails. To start with Bell Canyon, take the left trail in the fork. To start with Little Wild Horse, take the right trail. The trails are quite obvious, given that you follow the path of water cutting through rock, though there are a few cairns in spots where the trail is less clear. The main area where you should pay attention is in the wash; there is an obvious sign with a map when you are heading from Bell Canyon in the direction of Little Wild Horse Canyon, though it is harder to see the sign when coming from Little Wild Horse toward Bell Canyon. If you started the loop in Little Wildhorse Canyon, you will want to favor the left (West) side of the canyon and keep your eye out for the sign for Bell and for the split that begins the canyon.

Entering the wash from Bell Canyon.

Some people will simply walk down the Little Wild Horse Canyon trail for as long as they feel comfortable, just to get a sense of what it is like to be in a slot canyon. But being that it is possible to drive to the trailhead, the trail is relatively flat, and the hike can be completed well within a day (if not a few hours), it is well worth hiking the full loop. And, given that the Class 2-3 scrambling can be accomplished without aid, it is also a great introduction to canyoneering.


DIRECTIONS TO LITTLE WILD HORSE CANYON/BELL CANYON TRAILHEAD

 

From I-70 West (Green River):

  1. Take Exit 149 for UT-24 W toward Hanksville
  2. Turn left onto UT-24 West
  3. Turn right onto Temple Mountain Road
  4. Turn left onto Goblin Valley Road
  5. Turn right onto Wild Horse Road (destination will be on the right)

Visit here for full directions from Salt Lake City.

4J5A9564.jpg

THINGS WE LEARNED ABOUT CAMPING (LATE FALL/EARLY WINTER CONDITIONS):

  • Holy crap, does it get cold at night. I woke up to pee sometime between 2-4am and there were ice crystals on the inside of the tent. Bring the warmest sleeping bag you own. In fact, bring two. I have this bag and my toes were popsicles when I came back from my nighttime pee, and it took them forever to warm up again.
  • One of the best ways to keep warm (with a partner or friend) is to zip two sleeping bags together into one giant bag, slip two individual sleeping bags next to each other in the big bag, and then sleep in the individual sleeping bags like you are some kind of poofy, inedible turducken. Any dogs can go in between the two sleeping bags within the giant bag. Props to Richard for knowing to do this.
  • Speaking of dogs, make sure you bring a jacket or blanket for your furry friend(s), plus a dog bed or pad for him/her to sleep on so s/he isn't lying on the freezing-cold ground. We think of Lucca as an Arctic wonder dog because he voluntarily takes naps in the snow, but I have never in my life seen him so cold. We put him on a dog bed after our hike and wrapped him in a jacket and wool blanket and he stayed there, all frozen-burrito like, until we scooped him up and went to the tent to sleep.
  • If I have just freaked you out about the cold, know that there are other places for you to stay, such as yurts! Two yurts are located about a quarter mile from the the Goblin Valley State Park visitor's center, and look quite cozy. You're going to have to redo that math from earlier, though, as it costs just over $100/night to stay in a yurt (and no pets are allowed).
  • Camping at Goblin Valley State Park is popular, and campsites quickly fill up. There is ample BLM camping off of dirt roads nearby, and many of the BLM spots are actually closer to the Bell/Little Wildhorse trailhead than the Goblin Valley campsites. Everything is quite close together, however (the Goblin Valley Visitor's Center is about 7 minutes from the trailhead), so you'll be in a good spot wherever you camp.

THINGS WE LEARNED ABOUT HIKING (LATE FALL/EARLY WINTER CONDITIONS):

  • If you are doing the full Bells/Little Wild Horse loop (which you should!), we recommend starting at Bells (which is the left trail at the fork just beyond the trailhead, with Little Wild Horse being the right trail). Most people start at Little Wild Horse, so you'll miss most of the crowds by beginning at Bells, and then you'll go through the final slot late in the day when few (if any) people begin to hike, so there is a slim(mer) chance you'll bottleneck in the slot.
  • Be advised that you will be scrambling over boulders, loose rocks, etc. at various times during the trip. Wear sensible (close-toed) shoes. Tape or wrap any injured ankles/wrists to stabilize them, as you will be using all of your appendages to do stuff. The trail is punctuated with Class 2 and Class 3 climbing (meaning scrambling + more dicey scrambling) due to boulders getting lodged in the slot canyons during floods.
  • If you are bringing a dog, note that some of the areas in the canyons are rather technical, and that the rock is slick. Your dog needs to be confident and physically fit, and you need to prepare yourself to lift your dog over rocks/boulders that your dog can't manage himself. Get your dog a harness with a handle on the back (like this one) to help with maneuvering, and to hopefully catch your dog if he slips. Also make sure that at least two people in your group are physically able to lift the heaviest dog in the group. If you can't do that, leave the dog at home for both human and dog safety. Lucca weighs 60 pounds, for reference.
  • Dogs may get scared while you are lifting them over rocks, and they may pee on you or your friends. Make sure you have really nice friends.

THINGS WE LEARNED IN GENERAL:

  • There are kangaroo rats in the desert, and they like to hide in your suitcase and eat your pants. No, really. Beware that any car doors/tent flaps left open are fair game. Also, kangaroo rats are very cute, in spite of eating pants. Or, possibly because? There's an NSF research grant opportunity here.
  • There is very spotty cell service. Make plans with your group ahead of time, preferably through email so everyone has the same instructions/itinerary.
  • Know before you go, and CHECK THE WEATHER. This is IMPORTANT. The flood line in the slot canyon was 15 feet above our heads, which means the water can get that high in a rainstorm. DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS LOOP IF THERE IS A CHANCE OF RAIN. IF YOU SEE STORM CLOUDS, GET OUT OF THE CANYON IMMEDIATELY. Seriously. Don't be the doofus that is all "this is the weekend we chose to do this and we drove all this way to get here and we are going in that canyon!" You will have, best case scenario, a very bad time. Also, nobody likes that guy. See resources (below) for a link to an account of being in and surviving a flash flood.