Vegetable Stifado

I don’t typically think of stews as a summertime meal.  However, Vegetable Stifado from Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home: Fast and Easy Recipes for Any Day is one of my favorite dishes to make this time of year.  Almost everything in it can be found locally grown and freshly picked or, better yet, in my garden.

I vary the recipe a little in that I like to add extra tomatoes, peppers, and squash.  I use a zucchini and a yellow squash, and 2-3 different colors of peppers (green, red, and yellow were on the menu when I made this the other day, but I’ve also used orange and purple).  I leave out the optional okra (because I am not a fan).  The potatoes I used when I made this the other day were  small, thin-skinned new potatoes so I scrubbed them well and left the skins on.  This stew freezes well.  The potatoes might get a little mushy but it’s a stew so it works out okay, even thickening it a little.  The recipe calls for it to be served over rice.  I’ve been known to substitute couscous for the rice.

Vegetable Stifado

  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large potato (about 2 cups cubed)
  • 1 medium eggplant
  • 3 cups undrained canned tomatoes (28-ounce can)
  • 1-1/2 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary (1 scant teaspoon dried)
  • 1 medium zucchini or yellow squash
  • 1 bell pepper
  • 1 cup frozen sliced okra (optional)
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill (1 teaspoon dried)
  • ground black pepper to taste
  • grated feta cheese

In a large stewpot, sauté the onions and garlic in the oil over medium heat until just softened.  Cut the potato into 1/2-inch cubes and add to the pot.  Cut the eggplant into 1-inch cubes.  Add the eggplant and the juice from the tomatoes, setting aside the tomatoes.  Stir in the water, salt, and rosemary.  Bring the stew to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer, covered, for about 10 minutes.  After the first 10 minutes, the stew can be simmered uncovered.

While the stew simmers, cut the squash into 1-inch cubes and the bell pepper into 1-inch pieces.  When the potatoes are just beginning to soften, add the squash and bell pepper and continue to cook for 5 minutes.  Coarsely chop the reserved tomatoes and add them to the pot, along with the okra, lemon juice, and dill.  Simmer for about 5 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.  Add black pepper to taste, and remove the rosemary sprig if you used the fresh herb.

Serve topped with feta cheese.

Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home: Fast and Easy Recipes for Any Day is one of my favorite vegetarian cookbooks.  There are a lot of good recipes that don’t take nearly as much time as many of the recipes do in Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant: Ethnic and Regional Recipes from the Cooks at the Legendary Restaurant (Cookery)Sundays At Moosewood has some fantastic recipes but they can be complicated and/or time consuming.  Moosewood Cooks at Home was a great cookbook to have while I was working (outside of the home) because most of the recipes don’t take that long to prepare and/or cook.

(Yesterday’s sunset.)

Goose poop

(Wildflowers at the Alluvial Fan area in RMNP)

Yesterday while eating lunch, M and I watched a flock of geese fly over the pond, honking out their message to come join them in their travels.  As we watched we both encouraged them to keep flying, keep flying, keep flying.  Geese are not good pond-guests.  They move in, poop all over the grass around the pond, invite hundreds of their friends to join them, have babies, outwear their welcome, and then come back year after year, making a mess of the place.  And, as I’ve mentioned before, the poop provides way too many nutrients and causes a heavy growth of algae in the pond which is neither pretty nor healthy.

We’ve worked hard to keep the geese away from our pond.  We harrass them which is a good way to get your exercise in for the day as it involves running towards the geese, waving your arms, and making lots of noise.  If that doesn’t work — and it usually doesn’t because the geese can move from one side of the pond to the other faster than most people can run — M gets out the garden tractor and drives around the pond, chasing them off.  Usually that works.  We have also tried bottle rockets (they don’t like the loud noise and we never, ever try to hit them) and a variety of other methods.

This year we have had a great deal of help from our neighbors, more specifically from their dogs.  At first I wasn’t too thrilled that they allowed their dogs to run free, but M pointed out that they were chasing off the geese.  Score one for the neighbors’ dogs.  Score ten or twenty or a hundred for that matter, as every goose chased off ought to score them a point.

I was glad to see the geese ignoring our pond as they flew over yesterday.  I don’t like to have to go out to harrass them, even if I don’t mind the exercise.  Sometimes it makes me feel a little guilty, as if I’m turning away guests.  Then I remind myself of what happens when you invite them in and the guilt dissipates.  Bad pond guests are almost as bad as bad houseguests.

If only they would learn to clean up after themselves…

Change is in the air

(Garden spider and her web.)

I went out for a short walk on Sunday just to see what’s happening around the pond these days.  The goldenrod is blooming, leaves are starting to detach from the willow trees and fly with the wind, and the birds are beginning to gather together in great flocks.

Our late-blooming sunflowers are opening.  A pair of doves living in the spruce tree near the sunflowers are teaching their young one to fly so it can leave the nest and go out on its own.

There are butterflies dancing all over the place, moving from flower to flower and color to color on their way to wherever the butterflies go when they migrate.

The days are still warm but you can feel the change in the air, the coming of autumn.  Nights are getting a little cooler.  The canning and freezing season is in full force now, Mother Nature providing us with the bounty to get through another winter.

In other news…

I am breathing new life back into Bountiful Healing (my other blog).  In Choosing a sunflower I explain some of my reasons why.  Please join me over there from time to time.  And don’t be surprised if I eventually go back to BH as my primary blog.

Green and brown

One of the saddest sights (to me) during our trip was the increase in the number of trees affected by the mountain pine beetle.  I know the beetles are considered a natural condition but to see so many trees dying, dead, and cut down was disheartening.  Quite a few of the campgrounds within Rocky Mountain National Park are almost devoid of trees.  What used to be wooded, shady campsites are now wide open sunny spots dotted by numerous tree stumps.

Even so, the dead trees didn’t detract from the beauty of the area.  The browns and grays mixed in with the greens reminded me more of autumn than of summer.

Some of the hillsides near Shadow Mountain Lake (which is near Grand Lake, where we stayed Tuesday through Friday during the first week of our trip) are dotted with piles of wood from the cut down trees.

(Near Shadow Mountain Lake.)

The western portion of Rocky Mountain National Park has been affected more than the eastern side.  There are still patches of green among the trees but you can see in the photos above and below that there are large swaths of brown and gray.

A harsh, cold winter would kill the beetle eggs and larvae.  Temperatures in the Rocky Mountains have been warmer than usual over the past ten years, said to be due to general climate change.  Precipitation levels have been down as well and the combination of the two (climate change and lack of precipitation) has caused the infestation to worsen.

Meanwhile, back at Breezy Acres…

I paid a visit to Hilgert’s Farm Market today.  The roma tomatoes and peppers are now coming in like gangbusters.  I came home with two pecks of peppers (green bell peppers and “Italian roasters”).  They are gorgeous.  I’ll be freezing most of them.  I do want to roast some of the Italian roasters to put in a salad tonight and save some the bell peppers to make stuffed peppers tomorrow tonight.

I’ll be going back later in the week to pick up a bushel of the roma tomatoes for canning and a peck of the Hungarian sweet peppers for freezing.

Sunday signage and green at home

(Sign at the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center in Rocky Mountain National Park)

If you’re finding the sign difficult to read, click on the photo for the larger view.

The Beaver Meadows Visitor Center in Rocky Mountain National Park was designed by Taliesin Associated Architects, a group of apprentices and senior associates who worked with Frank Lloyd Wright.  The building was completed in 1967, several years after Wright’s death, and it was the last of the major projects completed under the National Park Service’s project Mission 66.  Mission 66, in a nutshell, was a 10-year program to expand park visitor services.

(Beaver Meadows Visitor Center)

We were there around noon on our first day in Rocky Mountain National Park.  The lighting was dreadful for taking pictures.  This was about the only one that didn’t come out terribly overexposed.

(Memorial honoring National Park Service Ranger Jeff Christensen)

NPS Ranger Jeff Christensen was killed in a fall in August of 2005 while on patrol in the Mummy Range of the Rocky Mountains.  After he failed to radio in and show up for his next shift, a search was started.  With over 200 people looking for him, the search lasted for a week.  His body was finally found by a hiker on August 6, 2005.  This memorial honoring him is outside of the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center.

If you’d like more information about the Free Speech Zone sign I started the post with, you can read a Wikipedia article about it here.

In other news…

M and I are home from our adventures in Colorado.  The flight home was bumpy at the start (it was breezy in Denver) and bumpy at the end (it was raining in Canton/Akron).  The height issues I mentioned in my previous post also include a fear of flying so a bumpy flight is not a good thing for me.  I am considering never flying again but that consideration will probably only last a few days.  Even if it lasts longer, I’ll buck up for the next flight because it is the quickest way to travel long distances, and because the logical and rational part of me knows that it is also one of the safest modes of transportation even if the phobic and panic-attack prone part of me disagrees.

I expected to find a jungle when we returned home.  However, there hasn’t been much rain here during the month of August (only an eighth of an inch).  The weeds, of course, don’t care one way or another about rain and thrived as usual.

(This morning’s view of the pond and some weeds that are taking over the roller.)

I’m not sure what kind of weed that is.  It reminds me of a squash or melon vine.  It does have a pretty yellow flower hidden inside the green leaves.  I’ll have to take a closer look when I go out to see what’s up in the garden.

Speaking of the garden, we had our first ears of sweet corn from our garden last night with our dinner.  It was fresh and sweet and divine.  I’m not sure I agree with Garrison Keillor who said:

I love sweet corn.  It truly is better than sex!  I’m not lying!  All across the Midwest tonight, a husband and wife will finish what husbands and wives do, and the wife will ask the husband:  ‘How was that?’  And, if the man is honest, he’ll say ‘Well, it wasn’t sweet corn, but it was nice.’  It’s a fact!  Sweet corn is better than sex! … fresh sweet corn! … Store bought sweet corn, yes, sex is definitely better than that!

But he isn’t too far off the mark.


South Boulder Creek

M and I went on an easy 4.5 mile hike yesterday morning.  We took the  South Boulder Creek Trail up to Mesa Trail and looped around on the Big Bluestem Trail to where we started.  I enjoyed it.  It didn’t involve steep climbs or the possibility of steep falls down the side of a mountain.  The first half of the hike involved ascending.  The second half was all downhill.  Nice.

The hike goes through meadows and grazing land.  We passed through a lot of gates, some open and some closed.  We didn’t see any cattle or sheep or whatever grazes out there.  We did see plenty of scat on the trails, especially around the berry bushes where the black bears like to hang out from August 15 – November 1.  Grasshoppers, butterflies, and birds flitted about.  No black bears, mule deer, fox, or mountain lions popped up anywhere along the hike.

It started out sunny and warm.  Then the clouds and wind moved in.  I thought for sure it might rain given the ominous look of the clouds rolling off the mountains.  We did get a little sprinkle but that’s it.  The clouds and breeze kept things cool, making it a pleasant day to be outside.

(Big skies)

There are great views of the Flatirons from the trails.  I took a lot of photos of the Flatirons last year so I tried not to take so many this year.

They do fascinate me, the Flatirons.  We climbed around up there last year.  The views are marvelous but my favorite way to look at them is from below.

We went back to Boulder for lunch.  On the way in we stopped at an overlook so I could snap a few pictures of Longs Peak which looked beautiful in a cloud wrapping.

We have a couple of hikes planned for today, our last full day in Colorado.  I’m not sure where we’ll end up.  We might do one or two.  We might do them all.  It depends, in part, on my left foot.  Somewhere around the last half mile of our hike yesterday I felt some discomfort from my hiking boot rubbing my heel.  It was never bad enough that I felt like I had to take off the boot.  I didn’t have to limp out.  But when I finally did take off the boot I discovered a good-sized blister.

One of the hikes we’re considering for today is on a trail that is well padded with pine needles.  I’m thinking this might be the perfect opportunity to put my Vibrams to the test.  I have worn them around the hotel and on small walks, but not on a major hike.  One reason I’ve avoided wearing them on a major hike is that the trails tend to be rocky.  I have discovered that one of the things you don’t want to do while wearing the Vibrams is stub a toe (or toes).  I tend to drag my feet when I get tired, an action that is almost guaranteed to result in the stubbing of a toe.  A well padded trail might be just the thing for my first good hike in my new “barefoot” shoes.

(Evening on the Pearl Street Mall.)

We had dinner with M the Younger and Merdi in Boulder again last night.  This time we went to The Mediterranean Restaurant.  It was a fantastic choice.  The food was excellent and the service was good.  We’ve noticed in passing the place on various occasions that it always seems to be busy.  Now we know why.  We started with some tapas dishes.  M stayed with the tapas so he could try different things.  The rest of us moved on to entrees.  I had the vegetarian paella.  The saffron rice was perfectly cooked and mingled with a big variety of peppers — both sweet and hot — as well as peas, artichoke hearts, asparagus, onions, and kalamata olives.  There may have been a few other veggies in there that I’m not remembering.  It was an interesting and lively dish.  Piquant describes it well.  I would have eaten it all if I could.

The serving sizes were good, too.  They were not super-sized as they are in a lot of U.S. restaurants.  If I hadn’t sampled the tapas and had ordered just the entree, I could have finished it without walking away feeling as if I made a pig of myself.

I’d better get myself ready for the day.  I can’t believe it’s already our last day here.  The time has flown by.

Hot hiking

(My no-longer-new hiking boots.)

M and I went on two hikes yesterday.  They were not long hikes.  I think our grand total was a little over 3 miles.  Even after over a week at this altitude (and a few days at higher altitudes) I still have the huffs and puffs when we go up so “a little over 3 miles” feels more like a little over 5 or 6 miles especially when the temperature outside is in the 80’s and climbing into the 90’s.  It was up to 97F by the time we finished.

(On the road towards Boulder and our hiking destinations.)

Our first stop was Heil Valley Ranch in the North Valley Foothills.  The trails are part of the Boulder Open Space system.  We decided on the Lichen Trail — which is a 1.3 mile easy loop (there is a little climbing but it’s nothing compared to other trails we’ve been on) — and ventured off onto the Wapiti Trail for a little while just to have a look around.  We started around 10am and the temperature was already well into the 80s.  One of the advantages of the Lichen Trail is that it does have the occasional shady spots and it is a pedestrian-only trail.  Mountain biking is very popular around here (makes sense, don’t ya think?).  I don’t mind the bikers for the most part (they give me an excuse to stop for a minute and breathe as they pass).  Sometimes, though, it’s nice not to worry about someone speeding around a rocky corner and running into you.

The Lichen Trail had good views of the foothills and mountains in the background and lichen-covered boulders scattered all over the place near the trail.  The Boulder County foothills are, geologically speaking, a fault and fracture zone.

(Cacti growing in a boulder.)

The trails at Heil Valley Ranch pass through grasslands, woodlands, shrublands, forests, and canyons.  We passed through or had a view of each on our hike.  Wildlife in the park include squirrels, rabbits, prairie dogs, marmots, foxes, mule deer, bobcats, mountain lions, and black bears.  The only wildlife we saw were some butterflies flitting among the abundant wildflowers.  As M said, all the intelligent creatures were napping in a shady spot somewhere, keeping cool, while the humans were hiking and biking and working up a great amount of sweat.

(A view of the grasslands, shrublands, forests, etc.)

This was originally planned as our warm-up hike for the day.  But the day grew so hot so quickly that we decided we didn’t need (and couldn’t do) a longer hike so we set out for a back-up shorter hike after a short rest, lots of water, and a few handfuls of trails mix to get us energized.

We stopped in the town of Lyons to refuel (the gas in the car, the water in my CamelBak and in M’s water bottles) and to pick up a few maps.  Then it was on to Hall Ranch, the home of the golden eagle, the great horned owl, Cooper’s hawk, bighorn sheep, coyote, deer, bobcats, and many other creatures including the one we were warned about:  the mountain lion.  We encountered a few butterflies and lots of grasshoppers.  I found the grasshoppers entertaining as they seemed to be leading the way for us.  There were a few mountain bikers and hikers out there as well, but we mostly saw them from a distance.

The views were lovely, the sun was hot, and there was very little shade to be found.  Hall Ranch is located at the interface between the plains and the mountains.  The land in that area was farmed, prospected, and quarried by a variety of families over the years.

(Along the trail.)

I saw dust devils along the trail.  One of the almost-nice things about the heat here is that it is, as they say, a dry heat.  Most of the time.  Even when it rains, it dries out fairly quickly.


M spotted those guys pictured above along the trail.  They sure look like tomatillos to me.  I’ve been craving salsa verde ever since I saw them.

We had a picnic lunch in a shady spot near a creek in Lyons.  Before eating we took off our hiking shoes and waded in the cold water for a little while.  It was refreshing.  There were lots of people there wading and tubing and just generally staying cool on a hot summer day.

It was close to 2:30pm by the time we finished lunch so we went back to the hotel and spent the hottest part of the day in the pool.  We met M the Younger and Merdi later in the evening in Boulder where we had dinner at Hapa, a sushi place.  It was fun and delicious.  Boulder was fairly crowded with University of Colorado students and their parents.  Today is move in day for the new students.

(Heading back towards Boulder after our hikes.)

I’m not sure what M and I will be doing today.  We’ve been trying to decide on a hike that isn’t too far from Boulder.