Tuesday, July 23, 2013

cherry picking at berry patch farms (+cherry compote)

Otis, who turns 4 in the fall, has already committed himself to being a firefighter, a surgeon, a train conductor, a man who studies planets, a dinosaur expert and a farmer when he grows up.
I told him, "Well Otis, those are all very hard and worth while jobs. You can do any one of those things so long as you put in a lot of hard work..." He nodded his head like he understood.

But hard work doesn't always guarantee success. On a trip to Berry Patch Farms we learned that even hard work can result in a total crop failure, as was the case for the farm's first round of strawberries which were non-existent due to late snowstorms in April. Yet the farmers remain determined; they are hopeful that another crop will come around in August and they say the fruits are looking good so far... 
I was impressed that even while acknowledging "some years this sort of thing, it just happens," the farmers remain so optimistic. 

That's when I realized that I'd probably make a terrible farmer. I don't mind hard work (and the drenching sweat that comes from spending long hours in the hot sun), but the stress that comes with the territory and the strength you must posses in order to accept things that are beyond your control (like nature) well, that would be too much.   

When we moved into our new house, I thought that we would finally be able to "live off the land." Despite our small urban plot, I was thinking we'd be able to grow enough tomatoes (heirloom, beefsteak and cherry), jalapeno peppers, cilantro, basil, dill, cauliflower, and strawberries to take us through the summer months. 
But luck was not on our side and I didn't anticipate the bellicose bunch of squirrels who are constantly making war with me and my garden. To make matters worse, I planted almost everything in what-was-then (April) the sunniest part of the garden, but what-is-now the shadiest part of the garden (July). So unfortunately everything except for a few tomatoes and some basil is pretty much dead. Yup, my own personal crop failure. (But I will carry on...)

I already know what went wrong. I planted things too quickly. I rushed to get things into the ground. I didn't do my research. And I should have calculated the risk of having hungry squirrels and little boys on the premises. But live and learn, as they say...

There are billy goats, chickens, turkeys, a pot bellied pig and a donkey on the grounds. This had me thinking about how great it would be to have a chicken coop in our backyard. But then I thought about our neighbors who live in the old carriage house behind our home, and maybe they wouldn't be so keen on the noise and such. So we will have take a wait and see approach...

I think there's a nice take-away from the farm that benefits both me and my children: work hard, stay the course, and when things head south remain hopeful and always (try to) have a smile on your face. That's what I saw at Berry Patch. 

When we got back to Denver (which is about 25 minute away), I was craving cheesecake, which does happen from time-to-time (okay, more often than not). This cherry compote took just a few minutes to make and it went right on top of my upstate cheesecake. There are very few pairings that I like more than this one...(but this one comes close).
Happy day, now go hug a farmer.
Cherry Compote (by Smitten Kitchen adapted from the now-defunct (weep, weep) Gourmet Magazine)
10 ounces sweet or sour cherries, pitted
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 cup water
Making the cherry topping: Place all ingredients together in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Once it is boiling, cook it for an additional one to two minutes then remove from heat. Cool completely.
Spread topping over chilled cheesecake.

cherry recipes from across the interwebs:
cherry, arugula and quinoa salad by cookie + kate
cherry pie by lottie + doof
red fruit salad by heidi swanson of 101cookbooks
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Thursday, July 11, 2013

hiking mondays: road trip to hanging lake + glenwood hot springs and a summer caprese

Before we started a family, my husband and I used to travel a lot. There were camping trips in Africa, boating adventures in the Galapagos Islands, hosteling in Europe, zip-lining in Central America and excursions through parts of the Middle East and South East Asia. Travel was just something we did. And we loved it. 
When Otis was born we weren't completely ready to stop traveling all together. So, much to the surprise of almost everyone around us, we boarded a plane when he was just 6 weeks old and spent 2 weeks in Spain. It was a gamble, but it was one we were willing to take and it tuned out well. A few months later we took Otis to Jerusalem (with a side trip to Petra) and at 6 months old he flew with us to Mexico for the wedding of two very close friends.
When I became pregnant with Theodore we still had a bit of wanderlust, and so Otis spent 5 days with my in-laws (his grandparents) while Matt and I went to Puerto Rico on a second baby-moon of sorts... 
Theodore arrived 22 months after Otis, born in the same hospital in lower Manhattan. We were still living in our teeny-tiny apartment in Brooklyn and we were starting to feel a bit overwhelmed. Family trips following the birth of our second? Drum roll, please...New Jersey. I think we went Connecticut too. Then we moved to Colorado...

\\These days we travel back to New York about 2 times a year, but we haven't taken any big family vacation outside of the Tri-State area, or even stayed at a hotel together as one unit. That is, until last week.
Denver is a great jumping-off point for some spectacular hikes and scenery, but we really wanted to get deep into the mountains. We would settle for anyplace on the other side of the continental divide. That, however, would require spending an overnight in a hotel, because 6 hours of round-trip driving in the car with 2 young kids isn't exactly a good time. So we booked a hotel in Glenwood Springs, Colorado.
Before getting into the car, we ran the boys around a bit, and then we set our departure time for nap time. Otis and Theodore fell asleep immediately. When they woke up we were well past Vail and just a short distance from Glenwood Springs- a really great place that has enormous pools fed by natural hot springs. 
We checked into our sleeping quarters, which were perfect- two twin beds, air conditioning and a pool- and set out for dinner. 

\\The next morning we went to the Hot Springs and we spent about 3 hours in the pool. I ventured into the therapeutic baths for a bit and came out feeling like jello (super relaxed)...and my feet were so soft! It was awesome.
\\Heading back on I-70 in the direction toward Denver and the Continental Divide, you hit the exit for Hanging Lake, a magnificent lake at about 10,000 feet in elevation that is a pristine ecosystem with aqua blue waters.

\\When we got to the trail head I was thinking it would be a relatively easy hike. It's only about 1 1/4 miles to the top of the trail and the lake, and we routinely take our kids on 3 mile hikes. Unfortunately for us, I didn't exactly do the research that I should have done. And the hike it turns out, while only 1 1/4 miles long, has a 1000 foot incline. It's basically like hiking straight up a mountain. Literally.

\\But we persevered and slowly made our way to the top...and finally got to the last of the 7 bridges that we needed to cross...

\\By the time we got to the lake we were incredibly exhausted, but it was spectacular and the canyon views were GORGEOUS...(see that, I'm using CAPS-- that's how beautiful this hike was!)

\\Then it was time to go back down the trail...

notes on the hike:
Getting there from Denver: About 3 hours. I recommend staying in Glenwood Springs for a night or two. It's about 10 miles from the hot springs on I-70 heading east.
Difficulty: Strenuous, especially with young kids.
Distance: 1 1/4 miles.
Duration: Plan to spent between 2-3 hours getting to the lake. It took us less than 45 minutes to get back down.
Pack: sunscreen, a hat and lots of water!

\\ I was wiped out by the time we got back to Denver, so a simple caprese salad did it for dinner (I really couldn't find enough energy to cook and make a big mess). I cut up a few tomatoes and a few balls of fresh mozzarella. Usually I make my own pesto, but I happened to have some leftover store-bought because I prefer it for my pesto minestrone. I put a big dollop of pesto in between the tomato and mozzarella. Then I drizzled it with some balsamic vinegar reduction and a few pinches of large flake salt. 
Simple. Summer. Enjoy!
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