Four 14ers in One Day

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After Greg and I got married, we thought it would be a really cool tradition to summit a 14er each year on our anniversary. We started out strong and actually conquered two on our first anniversary. I remember the hike to Gray’s and Torrey’s being tough, but we also lived at sea level at the time and had just flown out the day before (I would like to do that hike again and see if it feels any easier, now that we’ve lived at 5300′ for a few years). On our second wedding anniversary, we did my favorite 14er to date, Mt. Bierstadt. That hike seemed much easier (and “easy” is a relative term, because any 14er is challenging) and I absolutely loved it. We also conquered Quandary Peak before the end of the season that year.

For the next two years, our plans got kind of screwed up. I had ACL surgery in late May of 2014, so I wasn’t quite ready for such a big hike by July. We drove up to Mt. Evans instead, so we could technically still summit a 14er on July 17th. In 2015, I had some bad luck again and broke my pelvis right before the start of summer. I was still on crutches on our anniversary, so obviously hiking was out of the question. Luckily there was still another 14er (Pike’s Peak) that we could summit by car, so we did just that. I was in decent enough shape to climb Mt. Evans by the very end of the summer, which was fun (but parts were a little scary).

I still have some lasting injuries from the car wreck I was in last year (which will be fixed at a later date), but I was actually well enough to continue our anniversary tradition this year (and SO grateful for that!). Greg and I have wanted to hike the Democrat-Cameron-Lincoln-Bross loop for awhile now, since you can knock out all four on the same hike. We did some research beforehand and decided that this was our plan for our fifth anniversary (which was on July 17, 2016). We thought about camping overnight (and in retrospect, we should have), but decided to head out to Breckenridge the day before and stay at a hotel there (since it’s only about 45 minutes from the trailhead). We went out to dinner the night before and tried to go to bed early, but I was so anxious that I probably ended up getting around 3 hours of sleep total.

The alarm went off at 4:30 am and we quickly checked ourselves out of the hotel and headed to the Kite Lake trailhead. Once we got there, we had to park about a mile and a half away (due to some jackass telling us that there wasn’t any available parking near the trailhead), so we had a nice warm-up before actually starting the hike. The sun was just coming up, and it was beautiful!

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After waiting in a long bathroom line, we were finally off to start our big hike (around 7:30 am). We decided to do the traditional clockwise route and started with Mt. Democrat as our first summit. The trail started off pretty easy, which is a relative term because just breathing at 12,000′ is a bit challenging.

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Creamy Cauliflower Chive Mash

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Even though I don’t hate winter, it’s probably my least favorite season. Besides getting to enjoy warmer weather and longer days, I really look forward to being able to get fresh, seasonal produce througout the spring, summer and winter. I would argue that seasonal produce just keeps getting better as the year goes on (and some of my favorites, like apples and winter squash, aren’t at their peak until late summer/early fall). That being said, there are still some pretty awesome options that are at their prime during the spring. Among my favorite seasonal spring ingredients are chives. If you haven’t ever tried fresh chives, you are missing out! Unlike the dried version that you’ll find in a spice jar at the grocery store, fresh chives have a bright, strong, onion-like flavor. I got these beautiful chives from Isabelle Farm, and they’re some of the best I’ve ever had!

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Sprinkling fresh, chopped chives on top of your eggs, potatoes, fish and other dishes is a delicious way to add some seasoning.

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Savory Oatmeal

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Picture this: you’ve had a long day at the office, it’s cold outside and the last thing you want to do is take the time to put together an elaborate dinner. You don’t want to get take-out, and want something more interesting than grilled cheese or pasta. I’ve got the perfect solution: Savory Oatmeal! Before you turn your nose up at the idea of eating oatmeal for dinner (and in a savory fashion, no less), hear me out. Oats are grains, just like rice, barley, wheat, etc. and are incredibly versatile. Savory oatmeal actually looks and tastes a lot like risotto- and is much easier to make. And, it takes way less time and attention! Another great thing about savory oatmeal is that it’s as easy to make for 1-2 people as it is for a big family. It’s also a great meal idea after a day of skiing or playing in the snow!

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Shaved Asparagus & Arugula Salad with Lemon-Tarragon Vinaigrette

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To say that I love food is a bit of an understatement. My love of food goes much deeper than just the way something tastes or smells, or how it fills me up. I like to know the backstory and history of what I’m eating: how it was grown or produced, where it came from and what exactly it’s made of. I will spend a few extra bucks to make sure what I’m buying is sustainable and ethically treated. And, whenever possible, I prefer to purchase foods that are seasonal and local. You can find a guide to seasonal food here.

Every town I’ve lived in has had a weekly Farmers Market (or several different Farmers Markets) and/or local farms that will sell produce, meat, eggs, etc. directly to consumers. I remember my mom taking me to the local farm stand each summer to buy (and even pick) seasonal fruits and thinking that there was just something so special about that. My love of farm-to-table cuisine has only grown stronger over the years (and admittedly, I’m a bit of a snob about it). Luckily, there are a plethora of farms right near where I live and there are Farmers Markets and farm-stands open every day of the week.

I recently visited one of my favorite local farms to pick up some seasonal produce and check out what they had growing. Isabelle Farm is located just outside of Boulder and supplies produce to many of the best restaurants in town. I got to peek inside their greenhouse, where all of the little seeds grow into delicious, beautiful vegetables. Check out these baby cabbage plants!

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(Simple) Kale & Sausage Soup

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During the colder months, my husband and I have one particular dinner obsession: soup. Soups are among my favorite comfort foods and can be as healthy or decadent as you want them to be. I make a lot of veggie and fiber-filled soups that are really filling and full of flavor, but not overly heavy or calorie-laden.

Once I figured out how simple (and delicious) it is to whip up a big pot of homemade soup (as opposed to the sodium-filled canned variety), I couldn’t stop. (I will admit that we store get Pho for take-out every now and then, because I can never make it taste as delicious as our local Vietnamese restaurant!) I make a lot of soups that are basically a combination of whatever is left in the fridge, which surprisingly almost always turn out well. There’s one “go-to” soup that I end up cooking about once a week, because it’s SO good and easy to make. I actually never measured out the ingredients until I sat down to write this recipe, but you can feel free to alter to your tastes.

There are three ingredients that really make this soup special: kale, chicken sausage and yukon gold potatoes.

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Actually, the real star of this soup is the spicy Italian chicken sausage. Be sure to buy pre-cooked chicken sausage, because it will reduce your overall cooking time. Since the sausage is so highly seasoned, you don’t need to add many more spices to the soup to achieve delicious, bold flavor. The soup itself (from start to finish) takes less than an hour to make! Sometimes I serve it with a side of bread, but honestly, the soup is filling enough on it’s own. Feel free to add in additional ingredients (like white beans, lentils, leftover chicken or turkey, carrots or mushrooms) to bulk it up even more.

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Spicy Pumpkin Chili

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Hey friends! Every so often I write a recipe for Sierra Trading Post. I love this recipe, so I thought I’d share!

We’re deep into the heart of fall, and for the last few months you’ve probably seen pumpkin everything. Pumpkin lattes, pumpkin beer, pumpkin cereal… you can pretty much find a pumpkin version of anything that you eat or drink. I’ve been making pumpkin bread, truffles, pancakes and any other recipe I can dream since the start of fall (when I deem it officially acceptable to start the pumpkin craze) and have loved every minute of it. But, by November, the thought of one more pumpkin-themed food usually just makes me roll my eyes, except for one recipe in particular: Pumpkin Chili.

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It’s so delicious- just trust me on this one.

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Three Cookie Recipes for Hikers

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I don’t know about you, but I take extra care in planning out my energy resources for long hikes. I never just carelessly throw an energy bar in my backpack (unless it’s a short hike and I really don’t think I’ll need a snack anyway). I’m usually up the night before a long hike carefully planning out my meals and snacks. I’ve learned that no meal ever tastes as good as one that is enjoyed at the summit of a mountain trail (and my meal of choice is usually a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a can of IPA). ;)

Long or strenuous hikes burn a sufficient amount of calories, and it’s extremely hard to keep your energy level and motivation up when your stomach is growling. Some of my favorite convenient sources of energy for long hikes include KIND bars, trail mix and Justin’s Almond Butter squeeze packs (which I usually pair with an apple). All of those options are great, but I’ve got a snack idea that’s even better: cookies! Seriously, who doesn’t love cookies?

I started creating “hiker’s cookies” to bring along on the trails to break up the monotony of my standard pre-packaged snack staples. The best thing about making hiking cookies is that they can contain any flavor combination you can dream up! Three of my favorite hiker’s cookie recipes are Cherry Almond, Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip and Banana Bread cookies.

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Each recipe contains plenty of healthy fats, protein and carbohydrates. The balance of these macronutrients will not only keep you feeling satisfied, but will also keep your energy levels up. These cookies can be stored in a plastic bag or sealed container for up to three days, and for up to a month in the freezer after that. (The Banana Bread cookies are best preserved when stored in the refrigerator, but will be just fine in your backpack all day.)

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#JoyDelivered with Door to Door Organics [Giveaway!]

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I have a love/hate relationship with going grocery shopping. I love finding new products, and looking through aisles of gorgeous, fresh food. But, I hate spending time and money doing it. I’m not the type of person that can just do one big trip once a week – I function much better by making several small trips throughout the week. And, because of my job, I sometimes find myself at a grocery store multiple days in a row (or going to several different stores in one day to find what I need). There are a bunch of great conventional and organic grocery stores and markets around where I live, and several are within biking/walking distance. Needless to say, I haven’t been walking or biking to the store lately (being on crutches and all….).

Since my car accident this summer, pretty much everything in my daily routine has changed. I’ve been on crutches for the last five weeks, which makes it pretty challenging to do anything, and nearly impossible to walk and hold something at the same time. (When I get better, I will never take that ability for granted again!). As you can imagine, grocery shopping has been a challenge. I used one of those mobile carts the first time I went to the store post-broken pelvis, but it was hard to reach anything and get around aisles and displays. Greg has done most of the shopping- but he does not have a love/hate relationship with it (it’s just hate). Also, I’m kind of a control freak, and just prefer to do the shopping myself. Since it’s been such a challenge to go to the store by myself, I’m grateful for the interwebs for providing me with online grocery shopping that I can do right from my desk. My favorite online grocer is Door to Door Organics. Door to Door Organics provides fresh, organic produce and groceries to be delivered right to your door!

I first heard about this service from my friend Tiffany, who raved about the weekly vegetable boxes that showed up at her doorstep. I signed up for the service too and enjoyed fresh produce delivered right to my house each week. I loved the service, but ended up putting it on hold due to having to travel a lot last fall. I recently started the service back up again, and the timing was perfect! A few weeks ago I got my first delivery (since re-starting the subscription):

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This is what was inside of the boxes:

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Currently: June 2015

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Well hey there, middle of June! (Or is it technically the end of June?) I’ve spent the entire month with a broken pelvis, so I’m pretty darn excited that it’s flying by as fast as it is. Both of my parents had planned trips (months ago) out to see me this month, which has been both good and bad. It’s been GREAT to have some helping hands around the house (since I’m very limited as to what I can do, due to being on crutches). But, I’ve felt really bad since I’m not able to go do all of the fun stuff that we had planned. I guess they’ll just have to come back!

My mom was here in the beginning of the month, but it wasn’t her first visit and she’s already experienced a lot of the “touristy” stuff here. But, this was my dad and stepmom’s first visit to Colorado ever, so I’ve made sure that we’ve still gotten out (as much as I can handle). (They’re also renting a car to go do some activities that I can’t do right now.) We took them to Rocky Mountain National Park one day and spent another in Summit County. The weather has been gorgeous (and hot!), thank goodness!

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We even went to the annual BBQ Festival in Frisco, where they hold my favorite event: the piglet race!

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Currently: June

Current books: Nothing, really. Even though I’ve had plenty of time to sit on my butt, I haven’t had much desire to read (I need to fix that!).

Current music: My current favorite song:

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Blend Retreat 2015

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Thanks for all of your kind words and well wishes in regards to my car accident. This past week has pretty much been a nightmare, but I’m taking it day by day and hanging in there. I’d rather talk about happier things around here, so I’m  finally going to write about the 2015 Blend Retreat. (Warning- it’s a long one!!)

This year’s Blend Retreat happened over three weeks ago, so I guess it’s about time I wrote a little something about it! I had every intention of writing a detailed re-cap of the weekend’s events within a few days of it being over, but there’s that whole catching up with the full-time job thing. Speaking of full-time job – have you tried our newest flavor (Carrot Spice)? It’s SO good- probably my favorite flavor of the bunch! And, Blend attendees were among the first to get to try it! But I’ll get to that later.

The Blend Retreat was held at Chautauqua Park in Boulder Colorado from May 15-17th and was sponsored by the amazing folks at Quest Nutrition. I was really excited about the retreat being back at Chautauqua (where it began in 2012) because it’s such an incredible place (and only a 20 minute drive away from me!). We secured the location in May 2014, so this year’s retreat was a long time in the making. Lindsay and Janetha are the other two organizers of the event, but neither live in Colorado. Since I live close to the event location, one of my main tasks was to meet with the lodging and catering staff members and figure out the logistics of having 100 people on site for the weekend. There was a lot of driving back and forth, millions hundreds of phone calls/emails back and forth, and it was pretty exciting to see it all come together. I’ve never planned an event this big before, and I was definitely involved in a lot of different tasks than I was in 2014 (when it was in Park City, and I was pretty useless after surgery!).

Here’s one thing that I’ve learned about being on the Blend planning team for the last two years: it’s pretty much like having a second full-time job. Well, that’s not completely true. Up until the month or two before, it’s like having another part-time job. But, in the weeks leading up to the event, it definitely takes up all of your free time (and it’s a labor of love!). I keep questioning myself as to if I’m going to still be involved for the next year, and the pros seem to always outweigh the cons. In the end, we have successfully created an awesome, memorable weekend for 100 people to enjoy (and I’m pretty proud of that!).

Anyway, I could spend hours writing about all of the details that went into planning the Blend Retreat (and maybe I will- in a future post), but let’s get on with the good stuff, shall we? As I said above, my two partners-in-crime live outside of Colorado. Lindsay drove in with her family (from North Carolina!) the weekend before Blend to rent a place in Boulder for a few weeks. Janetha, Marshall and their adorable son Fox drove in on Wednesday and stayed with Greg and me. On Thursday, the three of us met up to wrap up all of the last-minute details before the big weekend. We stopped by Bhakti Chai to pick up (the best ever) yoga mats for everyone attending and were invited to take a tour of Justin’s headquarters. I’ve met Justin several times at various natural foods events and he is sincerely one of the nicest people I’ve ever spoken to. He’s such a great success story in the natural foods industry, and it’s always great to talk to him and get advice!

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Don’t Justin and Lindsay look like they could be brother and sister?

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