Yesterday we tagged along for another year of Christmas tree cutting with the Bergman’s. They have carried on the tradition for over ten years in the Pickle Gulch area, about an hour northwest of Denver (elevation 9,100 feet!) and we’re glad we get to tag along. It was only about 25 degrees warm but we had a great time with lots of fun moments. I’m not sure what we looked forward to more, hiking through the snow in a beautiful area to find that perfect tree and taking it home, or the smorgasbord of food that was waiting for us to unpack after the hike. To make sure we had enough energy before the hike, I made some strawberry chocolate chip muffins and simple fruit skewers which we enjoyed on the drive up. The muffins are dense but with a fluffy texture, and studded with sliced strawberries and chocolate chips – such a great combination that is different from the typical muffin! For the fruit, I cut some fresh pineapple and watermelon into cubes, tossed them with wildflower honey and fresh mint and added them to skewers to make them easier to eat; they were a huge hit too.
We were all starving by the time we got back to car, and ready to get the tailgate started. I forgot to take a picture of the table of food because I was so cold and hungry and had a one-track mind: EAT FOOD. I did remember to get a shot of my plate though, notice it has olives – yeah! We feasted on cheese and sausage from Oregon (thanks, Kristen!) Sloppy Joes (Holly made her Mom’s recipe and packed it in a thermos to keep it warm – brilliant), potato salad, mocha coffee with peppermint schnapps and whoopie pies for dessert. Everything was devoured and it was a great way to kick off the Holidays with friends!
Eat well and share the love!
Strawberry Chocolate Chip Muffins
Recipe adapted from High Altitude Baking
Makes 16 to 17 muffins, recipe is easily halved for two foodies
2 cups flour, sifted
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 extra large eggs
1/2 cup milk (1 %)
1/2 cup half & half
1 3/4 cups sliced fresh or unsweetened partially frozen strawberries
1/3 cup 60% cacao chocolate chips
1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon turbinado sugar (topping)
Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease muffins cups well, or add paper cups. In a small bowl sift together the flour, baking powder and salt – set aside.
With a hand-mixer on low, cream butter and sugar together in a medium bowl, about 1 minute. Mix in eggs one at a time, mixing well each time. Add the flour mixture and milk mixture in 1/3 increments into the butter mixture and mix well with each addition.
Fold in the strawberries and chocolate chips with a rubber spatula. Pour batter into muffin cups (about 1/4 cup each) and sprinkle tops with some turbinado sugar. Bake for 16 to 18 minutes until muffins are firm and finger pressure does not make an impression.
Let cool slightly and remove muffins, let cool on a cooling rack. Serve warm or at room temperature. Store any leftovers in an air tight container, will last for a few days.