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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  1. These photos are spectacular! What a wonderful way to spend the day!

    1. Thank you, Johanna! It where do we go to next!?

  2. Love love love these pics! Glad you made the time to get out and away.

    1. Aw, thanks Mandy! The next time you find yourself 'round these parts, let's make a day out of it! xo

  3. Well you certainly aren't in Brooklyn anymore! What a beautiful life you have in Colorado :) I went back to work almost 2 years after my daughter was born and it was a tremendous adjustment. I have no doubt you will find your rhythm! Now off to make that soup!!

    1. Nope, we are not in Brooklyn in any way, shape or form! It's just wonderful out here. Hope you enjoyed the soup and thanks for your encouragement. I'm getting a handle on it all :)