salmon corn chowder angry edamame huckleberry syrup grilled brie porcini and caramelized onion sandwich


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that happy place

Sunday, September 7th, 2014

Recipe: thai sweet chili sauce

Between trail runs, huckleberry picking, dinner parties, work, and other stuff, we managed to carve out a little weekend for a backpack out of Crested Butte. It had been on the calendar for a couple of months when last week we got wind of an advertising stunt by a “beer” (I use the term loosely) company to be held in the town of Crested Butte for the very same weekend. I emailed Jeremy and asked if he still wanted to go. He replied that no one attending that event was going to be anywhere near the backcountry. So true. So thankfully true.


hiking up from schofield park

we dropped our packs at a junction and ran this quick detour to get a view into hasley basin

at the junction below frigid air pass



We had not hiked out of Schofield Park before, but were familiar with it as a potential emergency “exit” from a previous backpack we did in 2005. Back then we began the Four Pass Loop out of Aspen. It is likely one of the most popular backpacks in the state of Colorado. The route crosses four 12,000+ foot passes in roughly 24-26 miles (depending on where you start and end) and loops around the iconic Maroon Bells through some of the most stunning high country you could imagine. From the Crested Butte side, you can access the loop from Schofield Park. Jeremy and I hiked a few miles of new (to us) trail before linking up with the Four Pass Loop and heading up to Frigid Air Pass. As we rounded a boulder and gained a small bench in the terrain, a little tarn next to a trail junction sign was immediately familiar. I blinked back tears. The last time we were here, Kaweah was with us on her very first backpack. I took a photo of her resting at the base of the sign. The significance was that she was actually resting. She never stopped charging ahead until we set up camp for the day. Then she would curl up, fall asleep, and snore loud enough to scare away the bears.

celebrate wilderness

fireweed looking fiery! autumn is coming

icy cold stream crossings felt great on sore feet



It’s been over two years since our last backpacking trip as Kaweah’s care demanded more attention and time. Our preference is to backpack before or after the crowds of summer. The backcountry becomes that much more enjoyable when we have it to ourselves. Backpacking is one logical extension of hiking. Trail running is another extension of hiking, but in a different direction. Still, all three share the same goal for me – to travel the high country. I feel better when I spend time hiking or running through mountain forests up above treeline and into the alpine meadows. It makes me stronger, clarifies my thoughts, brings me tremendous joy.

jeremy on frigid air pass overlooking fravert basin

looking back toward the maroon bells (on the left)

at geneva lake basin (snowmass mountain on the right)



On the trail, we plucked juicy red raspberries, one enormous sun-warmed wild strawberry (enormous for a wild strawberry, but smaller than a dime), plump twisted stalk berries, and several huckleberries to nosh as we hiked toward our destination at the lake. Once in camp, I was more than happy to get off my feet and fall asleep to a rising moon and the sound of small animals scampering around our tent. I used to stay awake all night in my early days of backpacking, listening for bears, deer, elk, porcupine, mice, anything that would come poking (and nibbling) around camp. Maybe it’s the impenetrable bear canister or the long miles of the day caught up to my body or getting older, but sleep comes easier. Maybe I’m just happier.

my view from the tent

ready for a well-deserved sleep

delicate frost in the morning



Or maybe it was the morning frost that coated all of the plants at lake level? Or MAYBE it was the fact that I had packed jalapeño potato chips on this trip? In summer, we like to do no-cook backpacks if the trip is less than 3 days. It means no stove, no fuel, no cook pot, no clean up. Jeremy tends to select sweet snacks like chocolate, fruity chewy candy, cookies. I go for the savory snacks: crackers, salami, and jalapeño potato chips (Tim’s Cascade is the best brand, just ask Diane). Salt is what I crave on the trail. I must have it! But the spicy is that added bonus. Spicy is happiness. I recently learned to make some incredibly easy happiness – Thai sweet chili sauce – which just makes things even MORE happy.

water, sugar, cornstarch, salt, rice vinegar, water, garlic, thai chilis, fresno chilis



**Jump for more butter**

everything is awesome

Sunday, July 27th, 2014

Recipe: hot chorizo sweet onion dip

After spending a scorching day on the flats, Jeremy and I sat down the other evening to dinner and a movie in our living room. We don’t watch a lot of movies and there was a long list to choose from online. Both our brains were fried from the heat and a long day, so we agreed on The Lego Movie. We loved it. And now I have that song “Everything is Awesome” in my head. But you know what? Everything *IS* awesome.


pretty blanket flowers are blooming in our yard

mom and dad had us over for this delicious feast they prepared

toasting to life



Jeremy left for an out-of-town meeting on Saturday morning. I always worry that he’ll get stranded on the tarmac and starve, so I packed him a brie, prosciutto, and mixed greens sandwich on a baguette. And an apple. And potato chips. And some cookies. And a chocolate croissant. He departed for the airport late enough in the morning that it was already too warm for me to do a long trail run, but it was still early enough to grab a hike under wonderfully cloudy skies. So we drove in opposite directions from our neighborhood and I hiked into the high country. It’s been dry here, which would explain the utter lack of mushrooms (of any kind) on the trails of late. I’ve been scoping my huckleberries as well as the mushrooms. We need rain. They need rain. The mushrooms demand it!

I hoofed it up the trail at a good clip singing “Everything is Awesome” in my head. About an hour up, I approached a bend in the trail. My eyes are always scanning the woods around me for mushrooms, for wildlife, and for people (it’s the people you have to watch out for). I hadn’t encountered anyone all morning until a black bear stepped out of the forest onto the trail 20 feet in front of me. It had a full, healthy, black coat and looked to be an adolescent bear, slightly taller than a Great Dane and much fatter. My face lit up as I froze in place to avoid startling it. My gut instinct was to reach for my camera, but it was in my backpack. It hadn’t seen me yet. The bear was looking uphill as it strolled across the trail – doo dee doo dee doo. Then it casually turned to look around and spotted me. My presence gave that poor fellow a start and then the bear high-tailed it straight into the woods.

There was a huge smile on my face and I looked around to see if anyone else had seen the bear, but I was alone. It was my first bear sighting in our local mountains (I’ve seen them in town – sad…) and it was the healthiest, most handsome black bear I’ve ever seen. Note: black bears can be black, brown, cinnamon, even buff in color. I took a few steps forward to check if it was hanging out in the woods, but it was far away. And then I spotted my first porcini of the season. EVERYTHING IS AWESOME.


i named this one miguel



Jeremy was concerned that I would be sad and missing Kaweah in the house by myself. I do miss her, but I only tear up once or twice a day now. My folks came over for dinner Sunday evening because they think terrible things will befall me when Jeremy is out of town. I greeted them with a recipe that I had been wanting to make for years. It’s Todd and Diane’s adaptation of their awesome sweet onion dip and it is just as cracktastically addictive.

mayonnaise, parmesan cheese, cream cheese, black pepper, chorizo, sweet onion

brown the chorizo

dice the onion



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a weekend of celebrations

Sunday, June 15th, 2014

Recipe: pan-seared sichuan shrimp with glass noodles

You know it was a good weekend when you make food for three separate parties. I’m essentially partied out. But they were all wonderful, excellent, very good celebrations. The most important was Kaweah’s half birthday – her 15.5 birthday to be exact. Jeremy and I are still in awe that she is not only here with us, but generally in good spirits and always happy to eat. While we don’t normally celebrate her half birthdays, we felt it was appropriate to celebrate this one. I seared a few meatballs (ground beef, milk, bread, salt), fried a couple of bacon strips, and procured a proper filet mignon. Kaweah gets ALL of the good stuff.


kaweah loves birthdays and half birthdays



Kaweah gets so excited when we set a plate of goodies in front of her. She looks from the meatball to the filet to the bacon, to me, to Jeremy, then back to the meatball – over and over. All the while, she is trying to be a good girl, waiting for her release word… except she’s almost completely deaf. Instead of letting her eat off the plate, we hand-fed her (and I sliced that steak) so she wouldn’t choke on anything. I dare say she had a really really good time!

jeremy blows out the candles while kaweah stares at the meatballs

the tip of her tongue is sticking out in anticipation

chomp!



The rest of the weekend, we attended our friends’ birthday party and then prepped for and hosted a dinner party for my parents for Father’s Day. I know that I’m very lucky to have my parents here with me – even luckier that I can cook a special meal for them that they enjoy. But now that the weekend is over, I need to get back to simpler fare! I love the prep and great flavors of this shrimp and glass noodles dish.

shrimp, snow peas, vegetable oil, sichuan peppercorns, white pepper, salt, ginger, green onions, chili oil, soy sauce, sesame oil, glass noodles

grind the peppercorns

grate the ginger and slice the green onions



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