Sunshine, reggae, and cinnamon.

Sun-filled strolls, happy hour on the porch, live music in the mountains, laughter with dear friends, champagne (twice!), a delicious candlelit dinner with my husband, a successful culinary experiment, and cinnamon-cream cheese frosting.

Sunshine, reggae, and cinnamon. That’s what I call a weekend.

When the sun is out as the weekend approaches, something happens. There’s a half-smile glued to your face, a bit more energy in your step. No egg hunts were rained out in Utah this year- we were treated to ideal weather for Easter weekend. Even Cholula could feel spring in the air!

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On Saturday morning, a friend mentioned that Toots and the Maytals would be playing a free outdoor concert at The Canyons later on. I love when super-fun, spontaneous plans come together magically! We felt the sunshine on our faces as we rode the gondola to the amphitheater.

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The people-watching quotient was HIGH. A man was making balloon animals for a long line of anxious children. There were dreadlocks of all lengths. An area was set aside for hula-hoopers. And every other person had a dog on a leash. (Dogs love classic reggae.)

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We arrived after the opening band was done. Toots’ crew was setting up, so we found a warm wall in the sun, poured a drink, and took in the view. What a day! As the band came on, a cheer erupted from the crowd. College kids, middle-aged couples, young parents with kids on their shoulders- everyone started to dance. It’s hard not to start to sway when you hear classics like “Funky Kingston” and “Pressure Drop.” I adore that people have been moving to this music since the late 60s.  We did some moving of our own, right here in 2013.

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As fun as the show was, we left before my favorite song. Our dear friends from Charleston are in town for the week, and we were anxious to see them! So we packed an overnight bag and headed up Little Cottonwood Canyon for the night. We had a delicious dinner at the Shallow Shaft, laughing late into the night.

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We awoke to another splitter-blue sky day, and the Easter Bunny found their twin boys, all the way in Utah. I pardoned myself from a ski day (still healing my back) and opted for a massage and a soak in the rooftop hot tub, instead. Not a bad start to a happy Easter.

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After a quick brunch on the way home, I got to work on Easter dessert- carrot cupcakes with cinnamon-cream cheese frosting. HELLO. These little treats would be my first attempt with gluten-free flour. I got to work on the star ingredient, peeling and grating some sweet carrots.

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I followed the recipe pretty closely, since I’d never used this one, simply substituting the GF flour. I may or may not have given the cinnamon a few more shakes than called for. I’m a Cinnamon Girl.

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Before I baked the cupcakes, John and I decided to soak in the last bit of the day’s warm sun and take Cholula for a happy hour stroll. We headed toward the swimming hole at the end of our road, pointing out the big blue sky and the greening grass on the golf course. In a matter of days, spring had sprung in our neighborhood- daffodils poked through the mulch, trees had fuzzy buds on their branches, and glorious little crocuses (I call them croci!) bloomed in purples, yellows, and whites. The creek was full to the top of its banks, and Cholula bounded around like an antelope before jumping in after the fat fish that John was stalking.

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The sun hid behind a hill as we made our way home. With the cupcakes in the oven, the kitchen smelled like toasty cinnamon as I prepped our Easter dinner: Spring Quiche.

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John LOVES quiche. I always make two at a time, and wrap one up in the freezer for him. This one would be chock-full of veggies: asparagus, zucchini, spinach, shallot, garlic, two kinds of mushrooms, and lots of fresh thyme. Oh, and since we weren’t having our traditional Easter ham, maybe I’d throw in a lot of PANCETTA. Yes. Let’s do that.

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While I sliced up brown and shiitake mushrooms and a zucchini, I browned the pancetta and sautéed the asparagus (just to soften it a tad). Both sat on deck (yay, baseball season!) while the other veggies mingled with some olive oil and butter in the pan. After a few minutes, I added the shallot, garlic, and thyme.

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The asparagus and pancetta rejoined the party on the stove. After a couple of minutes, I turned off the heat and stirred in a big handful of roughly chopped spinach. Egg time!

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Eight eggs and two cups each of half-and-half and milk went into a bowl. (It wasn’t until later that I remembered that there is always too much egg mixture for my quiches, so next time I’ll try 6 eggs and a cup each of milk and cream.) The egg mixture was beaten together with some garlic salt, black pepper, and a teaspoon or so of nutmeg. Yum!

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I use Marie Callender’s pre-made deep pie crusts. They are such a time-saver and really good! To assemble the quiches, I start with a layer of the pancetta and veggies. Then comes a layer of shredded gruyere cheese. Then half of the egg mixture is poured over the yummies. I repeat this, using up the rest of the veggies and cheese, and pop the quiches in the oven.

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They ALWAYS take longer than expected to cook enough- you want the egg mixture to really set up. Which gave me time to frost my carrot cupcakes.

As I mentioned, cinnamon is my favorite. I thought I’d make a homemade cream cheese frosting and just add a ton of cinnamon to it. Perfection! Cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, a splash of cream, and vanilla. Lots of cinnamon, and lots of whipping with the hand-mixer. When it was smooth and fabulous, I swirled it onto my little cupcakes. I hoped they were as good as they looked.

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John set a beautiful holiday table, complete with candles and my very favorite wine in a decanter. We usually serve quiche with a tasty arugula salad- the balsamic vinaigrette is tasty when it sneaks over to the quiche on your plate!

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John poured the wine and set up some mellow dinner music. The quiche was perfect- the veggies still had a bit of crunch, and the thyme flavor really comes through. It was a perfect Easter meal, and an appropriate end to a perfect weekend.

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Oh, and the cupcakes? They tasted better than they looked. Chewy, flavorful, lots of cinnamon- the frosting is key! John had no idea they were gluten-free.

Pssst: They also make a fantastic breakfast.

How was your weekend?

Spring Quiche

You’ll need:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 8 ounces chopped pancetta
  • 8 ounces Italian brown mushrooms, sliced
  • 8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • One zucchini, sliced
  • One bunch asparagus, cut into 1 ½ inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • ½ cup sliced shallot
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • One big handful fresh spinach leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup shredded gruyere cheese
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 heaping teaspoon of nutmeg
  • Garlic salt, black pepper, crushed red pepper to taste
  • Two pre-made pie crusts (deep)- or make your own!

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

In a deep sauté pan, brown the pancetta. Set aside on a paper towel. Add a swirl of olive oil and sauté the asparagus for 2-3 minutes- remove for later. Add mushrooms and zucchini and cook for a few minutes, then add the shallot, garlic, and thyme. Add butter. Season with garlic salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper. Add pancetta and asparagus, and sauté for a few more minutes. When the veggies are almost tender but still have a crunch, turn off the heat and stir in the spinach.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs, milk, cream, garlic salt, pepper, and nutmeg together.

Scoop half of the veggie mixture into the two pie crusts. Sprinkle half of the cheese over the veggie mixture. Pour half of the egg mixture over the veggies and cheese. Repeat these steps, using the rest of the ingredients.

Bake for 30 minutes before testing for doneness. It takes forever for the egg mixture to set- up to an hour. Serve with a yummy salad, Cholula, and wine. Candles are preferred. YUM!

Carrot Cupcakes (adapted from Paula Deen)

You’ll need:

  • 2 cups flour (I used gluten-free!)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 ½ cups vegetable oil
  • 3+ cups grated carrots
  • 1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 cupcake pans with cupcake liners .(I ended up with 21 cupcakes.)

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Add eggs and vegetable oil and blend with a hand-mixer. Stir in carrots and pecans. Scoop into cupcake liners and bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool completely before frosting. Or just eat them. YUM!

Cinnamon-Cream Cheese Frosting

You’ll need:

  • 1 8 ounce container of whipped cream cheese
  • ½ stick of butter, room temperature
  • 8 ounces of powdered sugar
  • splash of half-and-half
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon

In a medium bowl, beat all ingredients together until smooth and fabulous. Try not to eat by the spoonful as you frost your cupcakes. YUM!

**Check out my FOOD BLISS link above for all of my culinary adventures (and a list of recipes)!**

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