Monday, October 21, 2013

hiking paint mines interpretive park + aran's roasted parsnip & apple soup with mustard croutons

There’s just something about hiking and being outdoors that invigorates the soul. Getting out there is just plain good for you. I'm always looking for new places to explore, so when Jen (of Hazel & Dewey) sent me an email about one of her favorite childhood places to hike, the Paint Mines Interpretive Park not too far from Colorado Springs, I put it on my short list of places to go. 

Recently I’ve been struggling with time management issues. I spent over 3 years out of the workforce raising my sons, but now I'm back in it and full force. Like most women who transition from stay-at-home-mother to hello-working-lady (!), I know that it will take a little bit time to get the balance just right. That said, being outdoors helps me feel centered and it helps me clear my head. It also gives me a bit of perspective.
I had a ton of work to do over the weekend, but I decided to carve out one full day- Saturday- to spend with my husband and kids.  I needed a day to explore some place new - free from work, without my computer, sans laundry piles and dirty dishes. All I wanted to do was spend time in the bright warm sun and hike a bit…everything else could wait for Sunday.
So we walked around. The weather was perfect and the sky was the deepest shade of blue. I'm not sure I've ever seen a bluer sky. The grasses were the color of wheat and straw and the rock formations at the park were beautiful, striped with red. Added to all this good-nature-stuff, was the fact that my boys were perfectly behaved and we spent an afternoon free of temper-tantrums. I'm talking about excellent behavior! (Can I get a witness?!)

While we hiked around for about 2 hours, you can easily go on for longer. There are miles  of hiking trails in the area, but we stayed in the immediate vicinity of the rock formations, which I just learned are called hoodoosIf you're thinking about doing this hike in the summer, just note that there is no shade. We picked a perfect 65-degrees day, and the sun was still really strong because the hike is at about 6400 ft. in elevation.  Now get out there are can do all your other chores and errands tomorrow!  

PS: Do you have a favorite hiking spot? Tell me about it in the comments section. 

Getting There: About 1 hour and 45 minutes drive from Denver, 35-40 miles west of Colorado Springs.

Difficulty: Relatively easy and not very strenuous- perfect for our kids who hike regularly.
What to Bring: A hat, sunscreen, water and wipes (our kids played in lots of mud and sand).
Facilities: Long toilets, but they were relatively clean.

...and then there was soup.
The past few weeks have been beautiful here in Colorado- with the exception of about 2 days which happened to coincide with a visit from my in-laws (drat!). But even when we get picture-perfect fall weather the bright sunny days turn into chilly nights once the sun goes down. This makes the month of October perfect for daytime hikes and soup-slupring nights. And right now I'm all about this soup!
I found the recipe in Aran Goyoaga's Small Plates, Sweet Treats. It's simple, clean, seasonal and delicious. I topped it off with some brown seed-bread croutons, a drizzle of olive oil and some Gruyere. 
Enjoy and happy trails.
xo, Batya
{Other Small Plates and Sweet Treats recipes on this blog: Grilled Corn + Herbed Chowder}
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Roasted Parsnip & Apple Soup with Mustard Croutons
Adapted ever-so-slightly from Small Plates and Sweet Treats: My Family’s Journey to Gluten-free Cooking by Aran Goyoaga, author of the blog Canelle et Vanille.
Serves 6 to 8
  • 1 pound (450g) parsnips, peeled and diced into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (90 ml) olive oil, plus more for garnish
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt 

  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 
1 medium yellow onion, diced 

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced 

  • 1 celery stalk, diced 

  • 2 medium Pink Lady or Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and diced 

  • 2 medium russet potatoes, peeled and diced 

  • 4 cups of vegetable stock + 1 cup of water (original recipe calls for 5 cups chicken stock) 

  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander 

  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard 

  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves 

  • 3 slices bread (recipe calls for Gluten-free, I used brown seed bread), cut into 1/2-inch cubes 
Grated Gruyère cheese, for garnish


1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Toss the diced parsnips, 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon of the slat, and 1/4 teaspoon of the black pepper on a baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes, turning the parsnips halfway through the cooking process. 

2. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and celery. Cook the vegetables for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until tender but not browned. 

3. Add the roasted parsnips, apples, potatoes, stock + 1 cup water, coriander, remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pot, and simmer for 15 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. 

4. Meanwhile, reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). In a small bowl, whisk together the Dijon mustard, remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil, and thyme leaves. Add the diced bread cubes and toss them in the dressing. Lay the croutons on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes, until golden and crispy. 

5. Puree the soup in a blender. Then add salt and pepper to taste. Serve the soup with the croutons, olive oil and Gruyère. The soup will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, or it can be frozen for up to 1 month.
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Tuesday, October 8, 2013

walking RiNo + the source (in instagram)

Nothing really prepares you for the role of motherhood. In almost every aspect of daily living, you, as the mother, come second (or third or fourth). It's the hardest role I've had to fill, but it's something I've always wanted. The sounds of high-pitched squealing and laughter are incredible. The energy, enthusiasm, joy and curiosity of young children amazes me. But having two kids, 22 months apart, means that there are tough days too. That is pretty much a given. Mixed in with love and affection are tears and frustrations, temper-tantrums and meltdowns, refusals to eat food I've cooked and sibling rivalry. I assume that most mothers struggle with all of this so I don't think I'm going through anything unusual. 

Recently I've been feeling the need to carve out alone time- which is a bit odd considering I'm an extrovert by nature who craves company (most of the time).  I can probably count the number of times I've been alone in the past four years (i.e. no husband, no children, no friends- just me) on one hand.
For the past four years my life has been shared- completely-with two little people, whom I love dearly, more than anything in fact. They have taught me to be more patient, to love deeply, to burst into laughter, to beam with pride, to watch and listen...and all that good stuff. I enjoy it all. This role of being a mother. But I needed a little bit of space to think, without distractions. Maybe even wander new streets and get lost a little bit...

I was a stay-at-home mother for the first 3 years of Otis's life, right up until he began preschool last January- part time. Theodore remained by my side. We walked the city (got the lay of the land), borrowed books from the library, cooked together and shopped for herbs and fresh tofu at H-Mart. But 5 weeks ago something happened. For the first time both of my boys were enrolled in the same pre-school on overlapping days. After I dropped them off for their first day of preschool, I walked out of the building completely alone. 
So I decided to walk.
I took myself on a little tour of RiNo, the River North Art District in Denver. It’s a really awesome part of the city where creative people are doing their thing...

The RiNo Arts District is home to some incredible restaurants, breweries, urban wineries, coffee shops, galleries, bars and street art (normally I would call it graffiti, but it's more than just tags- there are some really great works of public art in the alleys and on the buildings). 
I walked. And it was wonderful. I got lost in thought, took pictures on my phone, drank an iced coffee and soaked in the sun. The time flew by and before I knew it I had to pick my boys up from school. Otis told me how great his day was and introduced me to his new friend Tony. Theodore showed me his cubby and the place where he likes to play. 
The time apart was great, but when I went back to RiNo the following week...I brought my kids.

The Source is an example of brilliant urban renewal. The former 1880s ironworks warehouse, which stood vacant for many years I'm told, has been re-designed, re-purposed and re-conceptualized. Inside there's a cheese shop, a bakery, a butcher, a provisions shop (with lots of seasonal local vegetables), two restaurants (Acorn and Comida), a flower shop, a brewery and tap room  and a bar. There's an art gallery opening soon too. Anyway, it's beautiful and well-conceived- and there's even an old graffiti wall that's remained in tact. The Source has become my new addiction and should you find yourself in Denver, check it out. (Bike lanes might be coming soon!) 

Credits (to the best of my ability): The New Belgium Murual by Pedro Barrios Art, Joseph Martinez, CuttyUp; CannonDill and Brett Flanigan; Infinite Monkey Theorem: An Urban Winery by Hollis + LanaOur Mutual Friend Malt & Brew; Crema Coffee House; at Crema- Pedro Barrios, CuttyUp, Mountains vs. Plains, Mike Roane; Michael Ortiz at Like Minded Productions; The Source, featuring: Babette’s Bread, Acorn, CapRock Farm Bar (bar by Where Wood Meets Steel), Comida, Boxcar Coffee Roasters, Beet & Yarrow, Mondo Market (cheese and spices), DeVries Chocolate Nib Clusters. More vendors are opening soon, including Super Ordinary Gallery + a brewery and tap room. For more Denver feed (and more Source/RiNo photos) check out my instagram feed:

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