meatless meatballs roasted porcini with gremolata gluten-free chocolate chip cookies venison with morel sauce

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archive for September 2011

this is the day

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011

This day is a good day. It’s the day you were born and boy am I glad you were born. You keep telling me to watch out, that you’re catching up to me for those nine days between our birthdays. You’re silly like that.

testing out kaweah’s rescue harness

People have no idea how ridiculous you can be. They never get to see that side of you. You only hint at it with your occasional dorky jokes. But Kaweah and I get to enjoy you for all of your hidden charms and goofiness.

yay for snow in yosemite!

thirsty pup on the trail

You have often said that you can tell a lot about a person by observing the way they treat animals and children. Even though neither of us ever wanted children, I marvel at how well you play with kids and how you are always trying to teach them, to engage their brains, and to make sure they are having fun while learning. I doubt the learning part ever got through to Kaweah, but she definitely had fun.

snow much fun

jeremy and miss crazy above treeline

my two best friends

You have a lot of patience. I mean A LOT of patience. It’s good that one of us does. You’re always a grounding force wherever you go. I just want you to know that it does not go unappreciated, at least not by me. How about that backpack in the Sierra when the mosquitoes were super awful and I lost it and you kept it all together? Or that time in Australia with all of those flies? You always make things better.

that time in australia…

We’ve been to many beautiful places together and sometimes (many times) in less than ideal conditions. I’m grateful that you tolerate and maybe even enjoy Fun #2. Because Fun #1 is for ninnies! I’m glad we value many of the same things in life and set similar priorities. People talk of adventure, of dreams. We live it daily – a choice we made together years ago. Thank you for that.

a windy day in new zealand’s high country

our backyard


riding in crested butte

**Jump for more butter**

the distances are not so great

Sunday, September 11th, 2011

Recipe: chicken tikka masala

It used to be that I would measure a mile by the number of times (four) around the track. Then it became segments of a route through a lush residential neighborhood during field hockey practice runs. When Jeremy and I met and began hiking and backpacking together, I loved to stand on a high point and look back at where we had started. A short six miles could wind up a valley, around a mountain, over a ridge, and climb to a pass. It’s one thing to read it on the topo map and understand this in a cerebral sense. It’s another thing entirely to behold the majesty of the landscape before you.

golden grasses and rocks mantle the peaks and ridges

We had not hiked Mount Audubon since my birthday almost four years ago. Back then, Kaweah was still strong enough to summit with us and I was unaware I had cancer. A lot can happen over the course of four years and yet the trail was as we remembered it, more or less. When we ski in the backcountry, we’re always looking up and around us. When we hike, we’re usually scanning the trail ahead. I remember that cairn, that split boulder, that bifurcation of the trail, that stream crossing, that trail junction. I know where to expect to see families of marmots, pika, and ptarmigans. I like to think of the mountain structures changing on their geologic time scales – that is, they seldom change in our lifetime – and the mountain environment changing with diurnal or seasonal cycles due to avalanche, rock slide, fire, rain, vegetation, freeze and thaw, wind.

this pika is harvesting plants for the long winter ahead

adolescent ptarmigan in hiding

another pika checking us out at 13,000 feet

jeremy on summit

New trails are exciting, but familiar trails are comforting for me. I suppose it’s like that for cooking or anything for that matter. As far as food goes, my usual progression is to like a dish that has been served to me and then crave it such that I want to learn to make it myself. Except with Indian food. I had this mental barrier. Despite most of the ingredients being things I’ve used or at least heard of, I just didn’t know where to begin. My good friend, Manisha, has been so patient with me. I ask her the same stupid questions over and over and she patiently replies over and over and yet I still didn’t have the guts to make my own Indian food… until last week. It’s such a westernized Indian dish, but it is a favorite to be sure. I had to make chicken tikka masala.

chicken, yogurt, lime, garlic, oil, and spices

mince the garlic, juice the lime, dice the chicken

Everyone says it’s easy to make. They’re right. It is. It’s just a pain to make it for the first time and shoot it too. I tripled the batch to make up for the time investment (hey, you can freeze it). First marinate the chicken in a mix of plain yogurt, lime juice, oil, garlic, and spices. The range was 1 hour to 24 hours. I like the idea of marinades, so I went for 24 hours. Booyah!

put it all in a bowl

mix well then refrigerate

When the chicken is ready, you can either bake it or grill it. I chose to grill it. Just skewer the cubes without packing them too tightly together (because you want the chicken to cook evenly) and grill or bake until they are cooked. Turn them over half-way through the cooking time. On our grill it took a total of seven minutes: four on one side and three after flipping the skewers. Lovely.


grill (or bake)

**Jump for more butter**

to be outside

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

Recipe: bourbon peach hand pies

use real butter was on CNN’s Eatocracy blogger spotlight yesterday if you want to check out the post.

It wasn’t a typical autumn hike, but then again – what’s typical? Autumn can be moody, so pick your permutation: sunny, windy, hot, dry, cool, rainy, overcast, misty. This day was rainy, misty, chilly. We chose a mostly valley hike in the trees with the last mile or so rising above treeline to an alpine lake nestled against the Continental Divide. There is something to be said for walking out into the woods, the mountains, the weather. I like to do it for exercise, but there is so much more than the physical benefit that gets me outside. The clutter in my head dissolves which allows me to think with greater clarity about those things that are important. As I’ve said in the past, I am insignificant when I’m out in Nature. It feels good. It feels right to me. It makes me happy.

young aspen collecting beads of rain

autumn is coming – just look at that glorious red fireweed

Alright, it doesn’t always make me happy. I’m a fan of fun #2, remember? Fun #1 is stuff like lounging on the beach sipping fruity cocktails or stuffing your face on a cruise ship. No interest whatsoever. Fun #2 involves some amount of pain and suffering which is eventually forgotten in favor of “Yeah, we really DID have fun, didn’t we? Right? Right?!” We hiked in a steady, soaking rain in 40°F for several miles up a few thousand feet. The trail became a stream where it was steep and deep puddles or thick mud where it was level. Perfect hypothermia conditions. Arriving at the lake, we saw that the Divide was obliterated by thick clouds that were pouring into the basin. And then I noticed a subtle change in the sound on my jacket hood. Tat tat tat became splat splat splat.

snow at 11,650 feet

jeremy gets bonus points for suffering my photography in the wet and freezing cold

Snow!! The winds were picking up above treeline, so we decided to head back before the weather worsened. We hadn’t seen anyone on the trails all day and then I heard Jeremy call out “hiker!” I looked up and saw a short woman clad in rain gear making her way up the trail toward us. We stepped aside to give her room. She stopped and asked where we had come from, beginning a friendly conversation as the rain continued to fall. Her friends were further back. She told us she had started ahead of them because she’s slow, that she had just recovered from a serious illness.

I looked at her closely. Her face was wrinkled, her hair gray. She had no eyelashes. Her eyebrows were thin… thin in that way I recognized. She referred to her illness in this code language. After a few more exchanges on the wildflowers, the weather, the glorious mountains, I softly asked if she wouldn’t mind telling me what her illness was. I suspected. I was right. She had cancer, had undergone her treatments recently and now she was out in the Colorado high country – in the freezing rain and snow – loving the beauty and feeling rejuvenated. I smiled and nodded. I placed my gloved hand gently on hers, “Yes, I too felt that after my treatments.” I still feel that today.

It’s not something I care to discuss with people unless they ask, but the empathy I shared with this tiny woman – a stranger – moved me to let her know that I understood. She’s had cancer three times and she is seventy-six years old. A fighter in her own quiet way, just trying to live and appreciate this amazing life. And basically kicking ass! I want to be hiking like her if I ever get to seventy-six. She shook her head and gazed at me sadly, “You’re much too young to have had cancer, my dear.” We smiled through quiet tears under the rain. We hugged. I squeezed her hand and she squeezed mine back. Strong. I think we just want to be assured that everything will be okay, except you don’t ever really know. That may be why she and I appreciate our time outside the way we do.

Not more than a few hours later I’m warm and dry at the Boulder Farmers’ Market, selecting perfectly ripe Colorado peaches while telling the farmer at the stand that it was snowing on the Divide that morning. I get to have snow AND juicy, sweet, organic, local peaches in the same day. That’s a mingling of seasons right there, folks. I wanted more peaches because I used up the last batch making something wonderful.

say what you will, but i swear colorado peaches are the best

flour, butter, sour cream, lemon, peaches

I grew up eating a lot of fruit. Fruit was usually our dessert if we had any dessert at all. I still operate in that mindset, although I must admit that the one dessert that really hits me at times is pie. Why not put some of that summer fruit in a pie? And then sometime during the planning of the pie, I’ll just eat the fruit outright and that’s the end of that. But this time I found a recipe for bourbon peach hand pies from Smitten Kitchen that I had to try because I needed an excuse to buy a bottle of bourbon and test a new flaky pastry.

cut cold butter into the flour and salt

whisk sour cream, lemon juice, ice water together

pour in half the liquid

mix it with your hands

pat the loose clumps of dough together into a ball

**Jump for more butter**