Buffalo Chicken Bites

In honor of the super bowl this weekend (an event that around here is much more about the delicious finger food than the actual game) I thought I should post my very favorite hot appetizer recipe. Even though these involve making your own dough they are really not too fussy and the are INCREDIBly tasty. Warm, buttery, little pillows of sweet bread wrapped around a cheesy melty buffalo chicken. I am getting hungry just thinking about them. Trust me, you won’t regret making these.

Buffalo Chicken Bites

Note: I usually set aside some of the chicken and make a few that are more kid friendly using ranch dressing instead of hot sauce for the kids.

recipe adapted from Gourmet

1 cup finely diced cooked chicken breast or thighs (I use frozen and throw mine in the crock pot with some salt a pepper, only takes a couple of hours)
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
2 tablespoons shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup hot sauce (Frank’s brand is what I use)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

2 1/4 teaspoons rapid rise dry yeast

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1/2 tsp salt
1 cup warm milk ( I used 2%)

2 1/2 cups of flour

To make the buffalo chicken mixture, in a small bowl, combine the chicken, blue cheese, cheddar cheese, melted butter and hot sauce; salt and pepper to taste, set aside.

In a 1 cup measuring cup, heat the milk and then add the 2 tablespoons brown sugar; stir into warm milk until dissolved; place in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook.

Add 2 1/2 cups flour, yeast and salt to the stand mixer and mix on low speed until a soft dough forms, adding up to 1/2 cup additional flour, a little at a time, if necessary. Allow the dough to knead in the stand mixer for 5-7 minutes. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead a few times to form a smooth ball. Place dough into a clean bowl that’s been lightly oiled. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled and bubbles appear on surface, about 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in the middle of the oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.

Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and cut into 4 equal pieces. Lightly dust your hands with flour, then gently roll and stretch 1 piece of dough to form a 12-inch-long rope. Flatten dough and arrange so a long side is nearest you, then roll out to a roughly 12- by 4-inch rectangle with a lightly floured rolling pin. Gently press one fourth of buffalo chicken mixture into lower third of rectangle, leaving a 1/2-inch border along bottom edge. Stretch bottom edge of dough up over filling and press tightly to seal, then roll up as tightly as possible to form a rope. Cut rope into 12 pieces and transfer to a sheet pan. Make 3 more ropes with remaining dough, filling and cut into pieces, transferring to sheet pans. Let rest at room temperature, uncovered, 30 minutes (dough will rise slightly).Bake buffalo chicken bites in the preheated oven for 5-7 minutes or until the tops are lightly browned. Remove from oven (some cheese may have melted out.) and brush tops with melted butter before serving.

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Featured Artist: Joni Lissak

Joni Lissak

Artist & Lover of Elephants

Joni teaches art at a charter school in Greeley, CO with an undergrad from the University of Northern Colorado. She produces intricate, beautiful, and interactive art shows. (One being a narrative thread of paintings inspired by a Regina Spector song.
Gallery goers could listen, touch, and contribute to the show).

Click the download button below to get the high resolution 5X7 file. Print it out and place the music jar somewhere it will “play” for you.

[purchase_link id=”233″ style=”button” color=”white” text=”Purchase”]


(Note: click the download button, then the purchase button – it will be $0.00, then click “download now” to get the high resolution file)


Contact Joni for art commissions:


Complete Set of Almanac Booklets Now Available!

The Coons family spent good time creating these all last year, enjoying the curating of everything creative we put in there.

The 12 booklets are full of provision and navigation for your season. They read like a “Life Almanac” and include recipes, playlists, songs, paintings, Instagram games, suggested adventures, free downloads and more. Pick up a set for yourself here and enjoy a deeper sense of the seasons with friends and family!

We only have 6 collections left, so invest quickly!


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Almanac Adventure: Winter Jars

Are you in Greeley, CO? Take the street southwest past Glenmere Park and there’s a sign for a wildlife sanctuary. It is the coolest little forest walk in the middle of our city- a hidden gem. If you take the path into those woods you’ll find our hanging jars there.

This has been one of our favorite January traditions. As a family we hike out to a wooded area and leave 5 hanging jars.

The jars are “writing-prompts” with the words Hopes, Dreams, Fears, Secrets, and Prayers written on them. We leave them in the woods about a week then pick them back up. It’s an honor to read the journalistic writings- seeing glimpses into peoples dreams and struggles.

The hope is that we’d make an adventure out of introspection in this season of resolution! It’s our way of taking on January and the new year.




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This adventure is completely re-creatable for your community. Here’s the directions:

Items Needed-
5 mason jars

5 tags
golf pencils
scrap paper

You are invited into a polar expedition. This adventure is, as always, to be tailored to your story and we are merely providing suggestions and framework for goodness to happen. Make changes as needed and be creative.

Sometime this month find a wooded area that is traversed by people, even in winter. It should be hidden enough to be an enjoyable destination, yet frequented enough to be quite public.

Create your jars: Write the following words on the 5 tags- Hopes, Dreams, Fears, Secrets, Prayers. Then put the tags in the jars so they’re easily seen. And leave scrap paper and golf pencils in each jar. Lastly, leave quotes and your own thoughts in the jars as well, as a catalyst.

Bundle up and head out into the cold. Bring a friend. Or family. Enjoy the sense of purpose that comes with loving people by providing them anonymous reflection space.

Hang your jars together in a place that can be seen from a path- not too hidden but not too obvious. It should feel as if they’ve stumbled onto something special. And they have.

Leave the jars there. Invite your friends and connections on Facebook and other media channels. Everyone loves and deserves an adventure.

Collect your jars after 5-7 days. If you leave the brittle glass out too long they’re subject to breaking.

Take some time and treasure the connections and thoughts left there. Whether poetic musings, crude vandalism or plain honesty, it all speaks to our humanity.

Keep the jars somewhere they can catch the light this month. Be reminded of hopes, dreams, fears and everything that comes with great beginnings.

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“Mountain” January Projects Round Up

I don’t know about you, but we have been loving having a theme this month for our Abacus project. All sorts of “mountain” projects have been created around here. To see the whole list of projects we came up with (and resources!) check out our original post, here. Below is a summary of what we have been up to so far this January.

We have done quite a few mountain painting projects. I suppose that’s what you get when you have an artist for a mom 🙂

This second set we used torn paper edges as a stencil which was a fun variation. (The idea came from the book “Make your Mark” by Margaret Poet)

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We have been listening to lots of these two albums – The Secret Life of Walter Mitty soundtrack (we haven’t actually watched the movie yet) and the Mountain Goats “The Sunset Tree” album (I especially love “This Year”)

Tim came up with an awesome treasure map activity where he hid a box with trinkets in it and Lucy had to learn how to read a compass to find where it was located. (Isn’t this the coolest compass you have ever seen?!)IMG_1528


It took about a week to finish it, but we all watched and LOVED the Sound of Music (Lucy says her favorite part was the puppet show)



Had a whole week where “In the Hall of the Mountain King” was stuck in all of our heads because we watched several videos of it, Tim told the girls the story of it, and we marked it out on the piano so Lucy could learn how to play the melody.

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We have been loving our “Adventure Logs” (We bought some basic sketchbooks that we decorated to use throughout the course of this whole Abacus year).
We wrote mountain shaped poems in them one peaceful morning.



I have been enjoying a guilty pleasure of my own as well: a jigsaw puzzle. Miraculously, I have had it set up in our dining room and my kids have not decimated it! They seem to have forgotten about it. I have no idea how that happened, but I’m holding my breath that I “might” actually finish this one!

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One of the COOLEST Christmas presents we got this year was from my ever science-minded father. He got us a dissecting scope! It is seriously awesome. We looked at salt, sugar, glitter, snow, leaves, and rocks. Pretty cool. Can’t wait to look at some pond scum in the spring.


We sewed mountain shaped pillows.


We erupted an awesome plaster volcano we made from a kit and watched a video of a seriously cool lava expedition.

I have almost made my way through “Born to Run” (Ironic since I preach about how much I hate running). But, even I will have to admit it’s a fascinating read and it does have me itching to get out and give running a fresh start.dsc_0138

I found some geodes at Hobby Lobby. Which were a short but sweet discovery change-up after a long afternoon.


Phew, that seems like a lot when I list it all out like this! In reality, I have been loving these quiet days with this sweet family of mine. Still have 10 days in January for a few more. Hoping to head to the library today for some books, on the 29th we have a family climbing night scheduled at “The Rock” which we are all super excited about, a couple films still (Heidi, Unsinkable Molly Brown), and I’m still hoping to take a drive up to the actual mountains – since we do live so close to such a beautiful wonder. Happy Mountaineering to you and yours – Betony

If you want more info about this whole Abacus project, start here.

To jump in and connect with other families and share what you are working on, join our Abacus facebook group.

Or, to connect see our whole list of mountain project suggestions and resources list, head over here.


Update 2/17/15 – Here are our egg geodes – We used this tutorial

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And here are some pics from our awesome family climbing night at “The Rock” – We did the pizza and family climbing night here.

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MLK Day Playlist: “In Protest”

The first time I realized that there is such a thing as a “protest” song was in high school. One of the films they were showing about the civil rights movement kept coming back to people belting out “We Shall Overcome”. As a young man, I was so moved. That people can use music to rally around an idea that brings about change- that’s powerful.

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we made a playlist filled with songs about changing the world around us for the better (curated by Betony, myself, and many other contributors). Here’s our current list. What would you add? Feel free to put song suggestions in the comments.


My Memories of Winter (Needing What’s Real pt. 2)

Above: The original wood-burning stove from our house is now in the barn. I enjoyed it so much this last Christmas (and so did my dad, brother, and niece).
From Giants & Pilgrims artist Betony Coons:
When I was a kid, we had a cow; a big, beautiful swiss jersey mix with carmel colored fur and deep pools for eyes with the longest lashes. She was a walking soul.
Her pasture was a brisk walk from our house, past the pond and through a tree-lined lane. On winter mornings like this one, we would load up a wagon with sweet smelling alfalfa hay, and walk down to her where she would be patiently waiting for her breakfast. Often, we would have to take a sledge hammer to break the ice on her water trough. This was always the worst part of the chore. The ice cold water would splash on your already chilled hands and face. It was messy hard work. But, there was no choice of not doing it. She had to have fresh water.
After feeding and watering the animals, we would hurry inside, strip off our snow suits and warm our hands by the roaring fire. There is nothing better than being out in the bracing cold, working hard, followed by the smell and feel of a roaring wood fire.
By roaring fire, I don’t mean your ordinary fireplace. My parents had a tank. Our house was a large, poorly insulated barn, so to heat it, it needed more than your typical dinky fire place. My dad got one of those large metal storage tanks like you would see in a farmer’s field and welded it into a forge of sorts.
I have been recently thinking about fireplaces  this winter. In my mind I’ve been comparing the fire place I grew up with to the ones I’ve encountered since.
My parents’ fireplace was messy. First you had to shovel out the ashes, dusting anything nearby with gray powder. Due to the size of the door, you next had to use a splitting maul to break logs into smaller pieces – a process that made an ear shattering sound that will forever be in my memory of groggy morning wake ups. In the process of making a fire, your hands would get soot covered, your arms would be sore from hauling logs, and it took time as your stomach was growling for breakfast and your feet were like frozen blocks.
My sister just moved into a beautiful house in Lenexa, KS. It has one of those sweet gas fireplaces that you just have to turn a switch and it’s on. It still has flames, but you don’t have to fuss with the mess of ash and wood. I would love to have this in our house which has no fire place.
But, call me crazy, if I had the choice I’d take my parents’ fire place over this new one.
Because when you sacrifice the wood for the convenience of gas, you lose the smell. And what is tied more closely to memory than aroma?
Going much further into invention, I have also seen those inexpensive “fireplaces” that essentially are a projection of fire. They flicker pretty shades of orange and red, but you don’t have to worry about anyone getting burned and definitely don’t have to deal with the mess.
But, when you sacrifice the actual flame for a projection because it costs less and can’t burn you, you loose feeling. And what is more intimate and comforting than touch?
For that matter, there are even iPad apps made to look like fire place fires.
But, when you sacrifice messiness for convenience, something is lost.
Its more than just an experience of the senses. It speaks of our souls and our understanding of the world around us.
I am reading a book right now about running. One of the things they have discovered is that running shoes are bad for you. The nicer, more cushioned the shoe, the more likely you are to get hurt. The reason? The more separated and disconnected from the ground your feet are running on, the less awareness and understanding they have for it.
The thing about a real fire is that it burns, it makes ash, you can get hurt, you have to haul logs that hurt your arms. But it is one of the most beautiful complex constantly changing sights, it smells like real wood and smoke, you can taste it in the crisp air, you have to work your muscles to build it, you can feel the heat on your skin, you can hear the crackling of the tree burning. A real fire feeds our senses. A real fire feeds my soul.
I have three small children. I can certainly appreciate anything that makes our already chaotic life easier. But, in my story, I want to remember to choose the messy. I’d rather not be wooed by convenience. I want to search out the real, to soak up experiences with the wholeness of my senses. I want to be able to feel the ground I am running on.


Why Did We Get a Live Tree? (Needing What’s Real pt. 1)

From Giants & Pilgrims artist Tim Coons:

Every year about this time I question why exactly we get a live tree. The picture above says it all. This is a pine needle I found in our bathroom… upstairs. How in the world did this tiny piece of our Christmas migrate up the stairs and into our restroom?

Much of having a real tree over the holidays is hard work. It takes a trip out into the cold to purchase the tree, you have to water it (it still dries up),  you have to clean it up with remnants of its branches being found throughout the year (and years to come), you can’t just throw it away, and it costs more money every season.

I truly don’t judge my friends when they’ve got a fake tree in their living room. I think it can be quite wise.

So why do Betony and I do this to ourselves every year? I’ve been thinking about this over the last couple weeks while we’ve been in full clean up mode and I think I have an answer.

We do it because, every once in a while, we need something real.

It sounds strange, but I think it makes since. Surrounded by so much plastic, so much comfort, and so much insolation from everything… I, personally, need something real and alive and very messy. It helps me feel alive and connected to the world around me.

Getting a tree every year means tramping through the cold and snow with my kids. It’s uncomfortable but invigorating, like most adventures. Then I bring this sticky, live thing into our home and it’s smell is wondrous and speaks everything holy of the season to me. In the work of the constant watering I’m reminded of the great and terrifying responsibility I have in raising children, being married, owning a home.

I think this is why people run 100 mile races or head to the mountains,
have a natural child birth, laugh at plastic surgery,
tear up the carpet for hardwood floors,
work a fulfilling job rather than a lucrative one.
It’s why people demonize fast food or raise chickens.

It comes with this need to do things the hard way as long as it means doing things that make us feel more alive with every range of emotion there is, good and bad.

Like I said, this isn’t about judging people on whether they have a fake tree or a live one. This is about recognizing those places where we sense the disconnect; where we’re tired of the medicine that numbs it all, because we just long to feel something… joy and pain and warts and all.

I’m blessed I’ve married my wife, Betony. She’s constantly pushing me into this place. I’m much more easily prone for comfort and ease, for sure. Then she challenges me to do these real things, these adventures. And it’s like I’m waking up. A lot of the writing on our album Almanac No. 1  has this theme running through it. It’s been a constant exploration since becoming a family.

So, where do we long to experience more “real” this year? Because here’s the truth- it will be a “real” pain.

The Christmas tree can be a metaphor in that way. It will be messy and take more energy than the easy way and it will take upkeep and you’ll wonder why you went this route and people will question you on why you’re doing it the hard way.

But in the end…

in the end you’ll experience something real. And in all that fullness you’ll realize it was all worth it.

Let me say that again.

You’ll realize it was all worth it.

The Story Behind the New Comic Book

Illustrator Rick Destree has created something special: the world’s first comic-book-video.

Using the lyrics of “Paint Your Tigers Gold” as an esoteric launching point, this comic features the trials and tribulations of “Lucy the Mouse”. Will she be able to face her fears and take on the cat that stalks her home? With the help of her friends and great courage she just might.

You can support the work of the Coons Family (Giants & Pilgrims) by picking up a booklet or two of this new project here:

Here’s the full story of how this comic came about and what’s at it’s heart:

Bedtime is filled with rhythm and routine at our house.

Every night that we put the kids to bed is a liturgical cadence of repetition-
bathroom, bath, brushing teeth, jammy-fying, gathering comfort objects, stories, lights out,
a hug,
a kiss,
and a high-five,
and a verbal goodnight paragraph that is a benediction in and of itself:

“Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite.
I love you for always and forever.
No matter what, no matter when, no matter where,
I will always love you.”

In the thick of the litany there was a year or two when I told “Lucy the Mouse” stories. This little mouse found a home in the body of an acoustic guitar and every time she left for an adventure she would pluck a couple of the strings on the way out and make the instrument sing.

When our oldest daughter started having night terrors, these stories were filled with moments of courage and bravery for Lucy the Mouse.

It seemed fitting that when artist Rick Destree pitched that we make a comic book for the song “Paint Your Tigers Gold” we should simply tell a “Lucy the Mouse” story.

The song “Paint Your Tigers Gold” was written in the same year, when our daughter, Lucy (then 2 years old), was having these night terrors. She would erupt into screaming and crying anywhere between midnight and 4 AM. And we couldn’t wake her up to calm her down.

Being in that helpless place and not being able to fix the problem was extremely hard for me as a dad. Exhausted, I would hold my frantic daughter and be completely unsure what to do.

After several weeks of trial and error, turns out she just had to go to the bathroom as a part of the bedtime routine. That was a tiring lesson to learn and best remedied at 7 PM rather than 2 AM.

I wrote the song as a prayer- processing what it means to come alongside someone (when that’s really all you can do… just be with them) when they experience darkness. There’s such strength in coming alongside them to tell them you are with them; that they are brave and can do it.

The sound of the song is purposefully both circus/ kaleidoscope joy and vesper/lullaby hush- a call to courage and a calming comfort. And all that wrapped up in hope.

With the purchase of this comic book you will receive a download of “Paint Your Tigers Gold” for FREE..

And we hope this artwork and song become somehow a part of your routine this season. And that all the deep plays of courage and bravery would be stirred in the encounter.

Here again is the link to pick yourself up one:

Here’s to a brilliant new year,
Tim Coons
Giants & Pilgrims


Mountains Playlist

We curated a “Mountain” themed soundtrack for your days this month. What would you add to this list? Enjoy!