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the spicy side of life

Sunday, October 9th, 2016

Recipe: posole

Autumn in the mountains is a love affair with Indian Summer and early season winter snow storms. The trajectory of the sun across the sky incorporates a more horizontal component in the fall rather than shooting straight up high by 6 am in summer, which makes for cool morning trail runs that don’t require sunblock. Chilly nights mean we welcome Neva snuggling between us on the bed, but daytime temperatures remain pleasant enough that windows and deck doors let mountain air flow gently through the house. If we’re lucky, precipitation comes in frozen form. We were lucky this week.

we measured three inches at home

it got up to 6 inches in the backcountry

On our hike, Neva bounded and pounced in the snow for quite some time. I wonder what that little puppy brain remembers from last winter. She loves the snow so much, but does she understand that this happens each year or is every day a surprise for her? I suspect the latter. We saw a moose at one of the lakes, running away from us or the crazy windy horizontal snow, or both. Neva lost her mind, but she was leashed (this is why we keep her on a leash!), so she lost her mind in a 6 foot radius around Jeremy. She gets really excited when she sees horses, moose, elk, deer, cattle, people, grass blowing in the wind… pretty much anything. You can see the short video on my Instagram and hear Neva crying like a nut at the end.

But within 24 hours, the sun was back and the snow in town had melted away. Our local trails are crunchy underfoot with brown and yellow leaves that used to adorn the aspen trees above. The smell of autumn hangs on the air – musty and a little sweet. It smells wise to me, like it knows something that we don’t. Now is a good time to process photos from the fall shoot, because the majesty of autumn in the mountains is so fleeting that I sometimes forget what I saw.

sunset on the beckwith mountains

aspen leaves light up in the sun

I recently went through our chest freezer to take inventory of what has been lurking deep in the corners all year. I didn’t roast any green chiles at the end of this summer because I knew I had several bags adrift in the freezer sea as well as a new shipment of several pounds of gorgeous roasted red and green chiles from The Hatch Chile Store in New Mexico. Well, let’s just say we are going to be having a lot of green chile dishes this winter, which is perfect because one of my favorites is posole.

a pound of diced green chiles (skinned and seeded)

hominy, limes, garlic, green chiles, pork shoulder, dried new mexico red chiles, salt, oregano

This recipe, which I believe my mother-in-law gave me years ago, was posted way back in the day such that I felt it needed an update – especially since I now use my pressure cooker! I’ve doubled the recipe in the photos here, but the written recipe below is for a single batch. If you love posole, you’ll want to double it, for sure. I list instructions for both conventional stove top cooking and pressure cooker (you can also use a crock pot/slow cooker). If you don’t concern yourself with steps like de-fatting the broth or starting with dried hominy, this is relatively quick and easy to make. I include those steps, too – but they are all optional. While I had planned (and prefer) to make posole from dried hominy, I couldn’t find it in the three grocery stores I checked in Boulder – so ultimately I had to go with canned.

There are several bags of dried New Mexico red chiles in my pantry. Much like the state of my chest freezer, the chiles have not been properly labeled or organized. I grabbed the best looking whole chiles and discovered later that these were from the bag of HOT chiles. Use what heat level suits your tastes. I typically work with medium chiles because hot can be a bit too spicy for Jeremy and I find mild to be boring. A quick rinse with water renders the chile pods pliable so that you can lop off the stems and scrape out the seeds.

scraping the seeds from the chile pods

mincing garlic

**Jump for more butter**

don’t cry for me

Monday, April 18th, 2016

Recipe: pan-seared pork chops

Colorado rarely makes the news when it snows in the mountains, but an inch of snow fall in D.C. and NPR can’t shut up about it. I think the only reason we got any coverage of this most recent storm is because it affected the flats, including the airport in Denver. Jeremy was notified on Friday that his Sunday morning flight to the East Coast was cancelled. The week leading up to the storm had everyone shouting “spring!” including myself. I managed to squeeze a couple of trail runs in before the weather turned cold and frozen. There is that period between bare ground and a mega snow dump when it’s just wet and boring outside. That was the perfect time to finish sewing eight baby quilts (flannel rag quilts).

dusted off my hokas for the return to trail running

waiting for a trip to a laundromat

Storms can be both exciting and nerve-wracking. Obviously, the exciting aspect for us is skiing. The nerve-wracking part is when you have to travel on slick roads with crappy drivers. Sometimes forecasts for big snow totals will fizzle leaving me to cry softly into my skis (just kidding – I only did that once…), but we cashed in on this storm. Mountain friends scattered around the Front Range posted their obligatory deck-full-of-snow photos and measured snowfalls. I kinda love that about the mountain communities. But the comments were full of condolences from people who live near sea-level and don’t get the gist of the mountain bubble. Please, people. Spring snowstorms are not unusual here, and without them, we’d be facing the threat of summer wildfires in our beautiful mountains. Plus? WE LOVE SNOW! Obviously. Neva had never experienced such deep snow before. She thought it was the best thing ever. I posted some videos of Neva being a goofball in the snow on my instagram.

fetching her tennis ball on the deck

a quick ski tour in our neighborhood

by sunday morning, the snow was taller than neva in places

jeremy breaks trail in four fresh feet of snow

This teeter-totter weather means we went from sushi and salads to ramen and chili in the blink of an eye. And I hear we’ll be swapping sunshine for snow and then back to snow through early May. So while we may be dabbling in warming foods and the rest of the country is thinking of picnics and deck parties, there is a nice compromise worth your attention. Pork chops.

pork chops, salt, pepper, vegetable oil, butter

A few years ago, we went to dinner with my parents at The Kitchen in Boulder. If you’ve never had the pleasure of dining there, they serve simple food prepared exceptionally well. My mom ordered the pork chop, something I rarely consider ordering for myself because it sounds so dull and usually is. Since we were sharing bites of our dinners with one another, I politely took a bite of the pork chop. Oh man. That was the best pork chop I had ever had. Juicy, tender, full of umami goodness. I experimented half-heartedly trying to achieve this level of amazingness with mixed results. In the last few months, I’ve renewed my quest. I interrogated restaurant chefs, butchers, random people – all giving me different tips. Bone-in. Boneless. Wet brine. Dry brine. Pan sear. Roast. Grill.

season with salt

set on a rack to chill 45 minutes to 3 days

**Jump for more butter**


Monday, March 14th, 2016

Recipe: chorizo sliders

Spring has sprung. It is sprang. It skis like spring. It feels like spring. For all intents and purposes, it is spring. Last week, we went into the backcountry on the Front Range for a little ole ski tour. The snow started out okay, but as the daytime temperatures rose above freezing, the snow began to stick to our climbing skins in giant 6 inch thick clumps. Then it turned to mashed potatoes by the time we skied out and we were like, “Let’s go to Crested Butte.”

cruising the meadow before the descent

a rosy sunrise on james peak

Well, it’s spring in Crested Butte, too! It’s snowing right now, but the sun keeps poking through sucker holes in the cloud deck and it is warm. Now is the time to embrace whatever nature throws at us, be it powder (please, throw A LOT OF POWDER) or corn snow or mashed potatoes. Jeremy and I are already discussing our plans for Neva adventures this spring and summer – by ski, by bike, or by foot. We are all about human- and doggy-powered activities.

crested butte has pretty sunrises, too

skinning uphill at crested butte mountain resort before the lifts open

neva loves the snow

It’s nice getting out on the Crested Butte food scene after a long hiatus (read: Neva). There are new and old restaurants that we’ve been interested in checking out for a while. Last month we dropped by a taqueria, Bonez, for happy hour. All of the food was excellent (I’ll write that up soon), but the thing that blew us away were the chorizo sliders. Each one was a package of spicy, tangy, sweet, creamy, crunchy, buttery. Delicious and totally doable at home! I’ve already posted recipes for two of the components: sweet potato rolls and fennel slaw. You could buy brioche buns instead of the sweet potato rolls, and I’m guessing fancier grocers or delis may carry fennel slaw. The rest is simply: chorizo patties, garlic aioli, and tomato jam. For the tomato jam, I used a shortcut based on the recipe the server gave me.

pico de gallo, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar

place it all in a saucepan

boil it down to a jam

easy tomato jam: tangy, sweet, and a little spicy

**Jump for more butter**