Monthly Archives: January 2013

A slightly different flavor…

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Last weekend was all about snow and winter and being chilly, and it was great! However, coming home to Grand Junction where it hasn’t been above 32 degrees since December 15 and where the inversion is trapping the cold and creating terrible air quality, was not quite as great. Another cold weekend was not in the cards for me. Luckily, Kyle was agreeable and we planned to drive over to the Front Range to bask in some beautiful sunshine and 40-plus weather!

When you hear “Front Range” most folks think Boulder or Fort Collins, Denver or Golden. Not us. We wanted warm sunny weather and lots of fun places to play. We headed to Colorado Springs. The forecast was calling for 50s and sunny, and Kyle found some great places to play. When we arrived, we immediately went to Red Rock Canyon Open Space, a city owned park that allows biking, running and dogs. Perfect!

This crazy rock formation was right outside town, and there were great running trails all around it.

This crazy rock formation was right outside town, and there were great running trails all around it.

This site used to be a sandstone quarry, look at the crazy shelves cut into the hogback. I’m not sure why the stairs were there…

It's the site of an old quarry. See the stairs carved into the rock?

It’s the site of an old quarry. See the stairs carved into the rock?

But Kyle figured it out. He did a couple laps during the run.

stairs

Kyle did some stairs during the run.

The area looked out over western Colorado Springs. See that huge rock fin in the distance behind me? That’s Garden of the Gods. Pretty cool.

I was excited to be wearing shorts!

I was excited to be wearing shorts!

After the run, we were both super hungry. We (almost unsuccessfully) navigated busy downtown Colorado Springs parking scene and found Phantom Canyon Brewing Company. We both had delicious salads, a cup of the most amazing green chili stew I’ve ever had, and some tasty beers.

We treated ourselves to dinner and delicious beer at the Phantom Canyon Brew Co.

We treated ourselves to dinner and delicious beer at the Phantom Canyon Brew Co.

That night we “camped” in the Walmart parking lot. We had grand plans of finding a nice spot up in the forest somewhere, but it got COLD, we got tired, and since we were planning to ride through Garden of the Gods in the morning, it didn’t make a lot of sense to go too far out of town.

The next morning we got up, ate some bananas and peanut butter, and drove to Garden of the Gods. I didn’t take enough picture of the park itself, but it’s a pretty great thing. In the early 1900’s, a man donated the whole park to the city and now it’s open to hiking, running, horseback riding, mountain biking and road biking. All for FREE! Amazing. However, Bailey was not stoked that she didn’t get to come.

Bailey's reaction to hearing she had to stay in the truck during our bike ride.

Bailey’s reaction to hearing she had to stay in the truck during our bike ride.

We started our ride from the Trading Post. There were these crazy/cool welded saguaros in the parking lot. Here’s my attempt to be artistic.

The cool decorative Saguaro's in front of the trading post.

The cool decorative Saguaro’s in front of the trading post.

The ride through the park only lasted a few miles, but it was scenic! These huge red rock fins jutted up from the ground, and there are whole networks of trails winding around, through and over them.

Gorgeous views in Garden of the Gods.

Gorgeous views in Garden of the Gods.

From there we continued riding through the city. Colorado Springs has a great network of bike paths, so not much of the ride was on roads. We finally popped out near Colorado College (my #2 choice after Whitman!) and it was fun to meander through campus and imagine being a student there.

CC has this crazy schedule where they take 1 class at a time for 3 1/2 weeks, then get 4 days off, then start the next class. As a budding anthropology major, I had visions of field trips and off-campus classes in places like northern Mexico or southern Utah. While I think CC would have been great, I’m so happy I went to Whitman. I got my fair share of field trips, and met some amazing people.

From there, we wound our way back up to Garden of the Gods and hopped off our bikes. We had lunch at the Marigold Cafe and Bakery, a delicious restaurant on the west side of town that I absolutely recommend if you’re in the area. I had a crab cake salad (what is better than that, seriously?) and Kyle had a spinach salmon salad with bacon and goat cheese. It was tasty! Then we headed up north to the Jared’s to pick up my engagement ring (we’d dropped it off to get sized the day before – now I don’t have to have that silly spacer in there!), and went back to Red Rock Canyon for an afternoon run. From there, we decided to hit the road to meet some friends in Avon for the evening/morning and make our drive the next day a little shorter. Bad decision.

We got caught in a NASTY snowstorm in the mountains. It took us 4+ hours to do a 2 1/2 hour drive, and Kyle was literally crawling around some of the corners on the passes. It was scary, but I was really glad he was driving. We finally got in at about 9:30 pm and got to spend some nice, relaxing time with our friends. The next morning we went to a fancy brunch at the Westin.

The decor and bar at the Westin.

The decor and bar at the Westin.

Our friends are about as laid-back and unpretentious as you can get, so it was funny to be in this incredibly fancy/expensive hotel with them eating brunch with the people who were spending $400+/night to stay there. But the food was amazing…eggs benedict with habanero hollandaise, huevos rancheros with avacado in little individual sized cast iron ramikins, goat cheese, zucchini and spinach frittata, french toast stuffed with marscapone and fruit preserves and on and on and on. It was amazing.

After a short walk around the golf course to let the dogs burn some energy, we headed home to Grand Junction where, miraculously, it was above 40 degrees and the snow had started to melt. What a great weekend!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Backcountry skiing and pond hockey and football, and more!

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This weekend I went up to the mountains with some friends. My dear friend Season, from Whitman, has a cabin in the mountains near Creede, Colorado, and invited us up to spend the long weekend with her family. It was lovely. The first morning we were there, we went up to Wolf Creek Pass to backcountry ski with Season’s dad who has been skiing in these mountains for 30 years. Here are some photos from our weekend:

The view from the parking lot.

The view from the parking lot.

Panorama from the top of the hike.

Panorama from the top of the hike.

Our lovely turns in the pretty snow!

Our lovely turns in the pretty snow!

My lovely friend Season in all her ski gear.

My lovely friend Season in all her ski gear.

This is the lovely cabin in the mountains where we spent our weekend. Season’s parents built this from the ground up during the winter of 2004. It’s an incredibly homey, welcoming place and was such a fun home base for the weekend.

This is the wonderful cabin that we spent our weekend in. Talk about rustic!

This is the wonderful cabin that we spent our weekend in. Talk about rustic!

We spent the next day in downtown Creede enjoying pond hockey, small town bars, and the incredible scenery. They filmed parts of Lone Ranger up this canyon.

Downtown Creede, the town nearest to the cabin.

Downtown Creede, the town nearest to the cabin.

We got to watch the annual pond hockey tournament!

We got to watch the annual pond hockey tournament!

Hilarious 4-wheel drive zamboni.

Hilarious 4-wheel drive zamboni.

This dog wanted to play hockey so bad!

This dog wanted to play hockey so bad!

The winning team. We drank margaritas with these guys later. They were large.

The winning team. We drank margaritas with these guys later. They were large.

After pond hockey, we went over to both bars in Creede and watched the playoffs. Pretty excited that the 49er’s are going to the playoffs and I’m pretty excited to watch two brothers face off on national TV.

Season’s cabin is near the banks of the Rio Grande. It’s so beautiful there, especially this time of year when there aren’t loads of people everywhere.

The view from the front yard.

The view from the front yard.

What a wonderful way to spend the weekend!

What a wonderful way to spend the weekend!

This guy was hanging out by the side of the road on the way home. A perfect parting gift!

This guy was hanging out by the side of the road on the way home. A perfect parting gift!

Tamales!

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First, can I just say that I love my engagement ring? I never thought I’d be that person, and really never thought I’d be excited about wearing a diamond, but this ring is beautiful, it’s Kyle’s great grandmother’s ring, and it’s so unique! I also love being engaged. In all reality, it’s not really that different, but it’s fun to think about the future with some degree of certainty (at least in one category)!

So pretty!

So pretty!

Ok, onto the real post 🙂 When I was a senior in college, I spent the fall semester traveling around the western US with 20 other Whitman students on a program called Semester In the West. I’ve previously written about this here. In addition to being incredibly instructive about life outside our small college bubble, it was also a great opportunity to learn how to cook! We were separated into 5 cook crews and took turns cooking dinner, lunch and breakfast every 5 days. Our food manager, (and my dear friend) Season, made a big effort to buy food from farmer’s markets, local butchers, and farmers whenever possible, so we were cooking with fresh, happy (our word for free range, grass fed, etc meat) food almost all the time. We made meals that could be easily produced in large numbers because, in addition to the 21 students and 3 staff, we often had visitors, instructors and family eating with us. Cooking and eating was very communal, and one of my favorite instances of this was making tamales. Because they’re so time consuming, we only made them on Thanksgiving, the day we had set aside entirely for cooking, but it was such a fun, family-style process that I remember it as one of the highlights of the time we spent cooking on SITW.

When I moved to Lee Vining, the tradition of making tamales continued. I had several friends (one who was vegetarian and one who was gluten and lactose intolerant, so tamales were the perfect solution!) who loved making them too. We’d set aside entire afternoons or evenings to making tamales, usually with beans, chiles, carrots and onions. Then we’d throw them in the freeze and have lunch for weeks!

This weekend I decided to embark on the tamales making adventure alone. I mentioned last week how I’m pretty busy these days and don’t have a lot of time to cook. Tamales seemed like the perfect solution to have delicious food on-the-go. So I went to the butcher and the local Mexican grocery and headed back to the house. I used this recipe which, overall, was pretty great. Also, I found these at the grocery store.

dried fish

 

Yes, I bought them – mostly because I forgot to bring my phone in and really wanted a picture, but also because I thought they’d be a fun treat for the dogs. Jewell was pretty grossed out at first, but when she Bailey devouring them she quickly hopped on board.

I started with 3 1/2 lbs of pork shoulder. Mine was tied with string, so I cut that before I threw it in a 5 qt sauce pan with 10 cups of water, a quartered onion and 5 cloves of minced garlic.

raw pork

 

After simmering on the stove for 2 1/2 hours, I pulled the pork out, strained the onions and garlic out, and set the broth outside to cool (it didn’t get above 15 degrees on Saturday). I pulled the pork apart with two forks and discarded the fat.

pulled pork

 

I made this chile sauce recipe with dried chiles from our garden last summer. Then, I added the pork to it and put this, covered, on the stove to simmer for 10 minutes. I was actually a little disappointed with the way the pork turned out. It didn’t have quite enough flavor for me. If I were to do this again, I’d add more garlic and more chiles (and I’m not one of those people that loves spicy foods, this just needed an extra kick).

I made up for that by sauteing carrots, onions and jalepeno slivers on the stove top for a few minutes to add to the mix. Before I started making the dough, I took a handfull (about 50) corn husks and soaked them in warm water.

Once the broth was cool, I was able to skim the fat off the top (there was A TON so I would definitely recommend that you do this!) Mix 6 cups of masa (corn flour), a couple teaspoons of salt and baking powder together and in a large bowl alternately add a little broth and a little masa mix, stirring as you go. Your final mixture should be a smooth paste.

assembly line

Finally, I set up my assembly line. The corn husks are unpictured, but everything else is in order. The masa mixture is at the top, then pork, then slivered carrots and jalepenos, then the steamer. Here’s one mid-contsruction.

construction

Sorry the picture is a little blurry, but you get the idea. You want the dough wide enough to meet at it’s edges when you roll the corn husk over itself, and short enough that you can fold the bottom of the husk up before it goes in the steamer. You can see why this is a great family activity – either make an assembly line or let everyone add what they want and give them different colored yarn to tie the ends. Since I was only making one kind – with everything on it – I just folded the ends. Pile them in the steamer and steam for 40 minutes, adding water occasionally. This batch made three steamer-fulls, and ended up being about 50 tamales. I anticipate that I’ll eat 2 and Kyle will eat 3-4 for a meal. Should last a couple weeks for dinner during class! What do you think? Ever made tamales? Anyone have unique ingredient ideas?

tamales

 

Operation: Physician Assistant

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Sometimes my Physician Assistant aspirations feel very far away. When I’m sitting in my office thinking about what the next five years will be like (5 years! It will be 5 years before I’m in any kind of career-type job again! That’s so intimidating!) it’s hard to picture what my day to day life will be like. I’ll be a student in Montana for awhile, then I’ll work somewhere for awhile, then I’ll (hopefully) be admitted to PA school somewhere. The unknowns that used to excite me now make me pretty uneasy. But things are finally starting to move here. After beginning the planning process in June – I got my acceptance to my pre-req program in Bozeman last month, and I recently started a CNA program here in Colorado so that when I start school (time permitting) I can also start to build up my clinical hours (most programs require at least 1000).

Starting yesterday, my normal day looks like this:

6:30 – wake up, feed dogs, shower, make breakfast and lunch

7:45 – go to work

4:00 – go home, eat dinner, let dogs out

4:45 – go to school

9:30 – get home from school, study

12:00 – go to bed

This is the most restrictive schedule I’ve ever been on – hardly any time in the day to much other than work, school, eat and study. As a result, I’ve become very reliant on my slow cooker. Seriously, when I have 45 min between getting home and leaving for school, I need dinner to be easy. So a few nights ago I threw a couple chicken breasts in with a can of beer, some salt, pepper and oregano. It isn’t the most delicious chicken I’ve ever had, but it’s been great on top of salads for lunch this week. Earlier last weekend I made some slow cooker Chicken Tikka Masala from Eat, Live, Run which was so delicious that I didn’t have time to take a picture of it before it all disappeared. But I wholeheartedly recommend Jenna’s recipe. (She also has a great book review up right now that I’m interested to check out.)

Our supplies on these meals were running low though, so this morning I got up to make Slow Cooker Chicken Noodle Soup. I found the recipe on Pinterest, but it originally comes from Daily Mothering. I chopped up some carrots, celery, leeks (which I substituted for the onions), threw some chicken breasts on top, sprinkled with salt, pepper and basil, and drizzled with a 1/2 cup of white wine.

chicken noodle soup

And then I walked away. I went to a doctor’s appointment, and then to work. When I get home tonight, I’ll pull the chicken out and tear it apart with a fork. I’ll dump the veggies and any juice into a stock pot with about 8 cups of stock, add some egg noodles, simmer for 10 min, add the chicken and then eat dinner! I can tell, during this time of crazy schedules and little free time, that my slow cooker and I are going to be very, very good friends.  Anyone have any must-try slow cooker recipes?

And then a month went by…

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Sorry about that! I went home for about 10 days for Christmas. My parents sold their house recently and are living in a 550 square foot cabin on our friend’s farm, so internetting and blogging was not really gonna happen. But it was a great break from reality – fun to be home spending every waking (and non!) with my family. We skied, baked, watched movies, ate (a lot!), went to a play and generally enjoyed living out of town. and on the night before Christmas eve, my sister got engaged! Her boyfriend (now fiance) was visiting for a week before Christmas and he popped the question the night before he left! So excited to start planning her wedding!

Here are some photos from my time at home:

blackmore

Mt Blackmore from our Christmas tree hunt.

The Elephant Spring in Yellowstone.

The Elephant Spring in Yellowstone.

Bull elk staring us down.

Bull elk staring us down in Yellowstone.

The Christmas Spiders that are hung up in downtown Bozeman every year.

The Christmas Spiders that are hung up in downtown Bozeman every year.

huston dogs

The three dogs we were taking care of on the farm.

And then I flew to California to meet up with Kyle and his familiy in June Lake. Here I got to reunite with Jewell, visit some of my favorite places from a past life (www.bigwidewesternworld.blogspot.com) and have an exciting outing of my own!

My happy dog and I when we were reunited!

My happy dog and I when we were reunited!

We went of an a skiing adventure but Kyle's boots and bindings didn't fit together :(

We went of an a skiing adventure but Kyle’s boots and bindings didn’t fit together 😦

Kyle at the sand tufa - some of the coolest geologic formations I've ever seen!

Kyle at the sand tufa – some of the coolest geologic formations I’ve ever seen!

Down at the lake's edge...I had no idea what was coming...

Down at the lake’s edge…I had no idea what was coming…

We're engaged!

We’re engaged!

Carson Peak from the front yard.

Carson Peak from the front yard.

Deserted ski resort.

Deserted ski resort. We skinned up to the top!

Looking downhill to Mono Lake.

Looking downhill to Mono Lake. A gorgeous day for a ski!

Pub crawl shirts - June Lake The Lost Season.

Pub crawl shirts – June Lake The Lost Season.