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archive for February 2014

just around the corner

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

Recipe: machaca (mexican shredded beef)

It feels like spring. It was so hot while I was shooting Wednesday afternoon, that I opened the deck door to let some cool air in. COOL air, not cold air. The mercury read 45°F on our deck with nary a cloud in the sky, the wind abating for a day. It felt really nice. I called to Jeremy in the office and asked him to help me carry Kaweah out to the deck. Kaweah spends a good deal of time in her doggy bed because she gets so tuckered out from standing or walking these days.

Her legs are getting to the point where sometimes she doesn’t have the strength to crawl into her bed on her own and we’ll find her with the front half in the bed and the back half hanging out on the rug or the back legs in some tangled spaghetti-like mess. She always greets us with an expression, “Oh hey, how’s it going?” We rearrange her legs into a comfortable position several times a day (and night). She can’t really feel pain when her legs are splayed or twisted in odd directions, we just don’t want her to cut off circulation and do further damage to them.

Because it can be quite an ordeal for her to get out of bed and move elsewhere (like out of the sun or into the office), sometimes we pick the bed up with Kaweah in it. The first time we did that a few weeks ago, she was all, “Whoa… what the what?” But now she’s used to it and she rather likes it. Kaweah takes the opportunity to look around (it’s a new and exciting vantage for her) and almost has an air of “Bring me thither!” We set her down on the deck in the sun with a good view of the neighborhood. She was comfortable and distracted by all of the activity around her: dogs, birds, cars, neighbors. As long as she’s happy.

my mom’s orchid (in my “care”) is blooming

Of course, we all know that this warm spell is temporary. Colorado gets her best storms in March and I welcome our powder overlords! Yet spring and even summer have beckoned to me in flashes: spring backcountry skiing, foraging, travel, backpacking, and my summer rituals of jamming, canning, and roasting green chiles to freeze for winter. I always hoard green chiles in August because I fear running out mid-winter. The Hatch Chile Store in Hatch, New Mexico recently shipped me some of their frozen roasted green chiles to try. Normally product offers go straight to my spam folder, because I hate shills and I respect my readership. But I have blogged several green chile recipes in the past and the real deal can be hard to source. I thought it was a good opportunity to find a green chile shipper that I could recommend to others since so many have asked.

5 pounds of medium heat big jims

I requested medium heat whole green chiles. They offer mild, medium, hot, extra-hot, whole, diced, frozen, and fresh (seasonal). The chiles are farmed in Hatch, harvested, shipped fresh or roasted, peeled, diced or left whole, and shipped frozen. Having roasted and peeled my own chiles as well as purchased many pounds of roasted chiles in New Mexico and in southern Colorado, these are by far the most beautiful and best quality specimens I have ever enjoyed. Big Jims (the variety I received) are large, meaty, sweet, and perfect for chile rellenos. After our fix of chile rellenos, I saved two chiles for another recipe I’ve been meaning to try: machaca.

chiles, garlic, lime, tomatoes, salt, onion, bouillon, beef chuck, pepper, oil

season the beef with salt and pepper

sear the beef on all sides

**Jump for more butter**

all the butter to eat you with, my dear

Monday, February 24th, 2014

Recipe: kouign amann

More snow in Nederland over the weekend meant more skiing – because you don’t pass up good snow and low winds around these parts. We did some ski touring Friday and Saturday, then caught lots of turns in 12 inches of fresh powder at our local hill Sunday. Normally we forgo weekend skiing at the resorts, but 12 inches of powder and calm winds is a major green light despite the crowds.

jeremy glides along the trail

new snow

a lone aspen

When I get home after an outdoor activity, I am hungry. That’s mostly because I don’t tend to eat much when I’m hiking, skiing, or whatever it is I’m doing in the backcountry. And I’m definitely hungrier in winter. The cold and wind can really suck the calories right out of you (which I think is great for my ass reduction plan). After our ski tour Saturday, I had an hour or more of prep before dinner would be ready, but we were really hungry right then. So Jeremy and I split a pastry – a kouign amann. It’s not that big, but it’s full of butter and caramelized sugar such that a little goes a long way.

all you need: water, flour, yeast, salt, butter, and sugar

I’ve been obsessed with kouign amann for a couple of years. I first picked one up at the Whole Foods bakery to share with Jeremy. The flaky pastry lures me in EVERY TIME. I took a bite and wondered where this kouign amann had been all my life. It quickly replaced the chocolate croissant as Jeremy’s pastry of choice. Each time I purchased one for him, I would think to myself, “You have got to be able to make this yourself.” Kouign amann is in essence, puff pastry dough made with lots of butter (obviously) and loads of sugar (woohoo!). It’s such a simple list of ingredients and yet the results are the stuff of dreams. The technique doesn’t require skill so much as patience and time – it takes time and makes a lot of layers through a series of folding and flattening and folding and flattening again.

dissolve the yeast in the water

stir in the flour and salt until you form a shaggy dough

knead the dough until smooth

cover and let rise until double in size

**Jump for more butter**

warming up for more snow

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

Recipe: potato masala

It’s been sunny, hot (in the 60s), and windy on the Front Range these past few days. People rejoice when the weather warms up around here, but in February it makes me cringe. I just imagine what all that warm wind and sun is doing to our snowpack. Then we head out for a trail run and it’s a slushfest of sorts. Yeeesh. But the good news is that more snow is on the way. In fact, it’s snowing outside our front door right now. Even if you are a winter hater, you must admit it can be quite beautiful. I finally took the time to do some shooting while ski touring in Crested Butte a couple of weeks ago. It was just too pretty not to…

aspen trunks

beautiful mature aspens and growing conifers

hillslopes as a squall approaches

I invest a good bit of time reading weather forecasts throughout the year as it informs my decisions on outdoor activities including my photography and foraging. In summer, it’s mainly about heat waves, thunderstorms, and cold fronts. In winter it’s ALL about the powder. (Actually, we follow the weather closely to track avalanche risk too.) When I know a big dump snow day is coming, I load up on work ahead of time so I can catch some fresh tracks when possible. I also plan our menu accordingly. We had a rather snowy first half of February in Colorado, so we filled up on stews, curries, soups, and other things that warm your belly after dropping into powder stashes up to your hips. One dish that is utterly satisfying after a day in the snow is potato masala (aloo masala).

vegetable oil, tomato, onion, potatoes, serrano pepper, ginger, curry leaves, cilantro, turmeric, salt, asafoetida, mustard seeds, cayenne, urad dal

slice the potatoes in half (or quarters)

cook the potatoes in water, turmeric, and salt

**Jump for more butter**