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bucket list & spinach pesto

I’m having a little trouble staying on task lately. I had a “beet the winter blues” post under way, but couldn’t polish it off. Then I decided to tackle “the differences between boys and girls.” After a couple of days wrestling with that one, I had an epiphany. The differences are monumental, endless, glorious and can be represented by a marshmallow. Unfortunately, those random thoughts were too difficult to gather together and put into sentence form. But I’ll work on that, as it’s food-related and worthy of further contemplation.

Here’s the problem. I’m distracted and can’t seem to stay focused. I think I’m lamenting the passing of the decade. A whole decade of my life just whizzed by and I hardly had time to notice.

Yes, a whole decade. That’s TEN years. And don’t give me that stuff about how the decade really isn’t over until the end of 2010. You could make that argument if you want to go all the way back to 1 AD (or 0 AD), but it doesn’t matter, ten years is a decade and it’s over. To add insult to injury, ten years ago was the turn of a century. So the first decade of this century is over. Doesn’t that sound significant?

What do you have to show for it? Were there any profound lessons learned? When 2000 dawned, did you have lofty goals for the next decade? Did you accomplish the things you set out to do?

So much for losing 5 pounds (my current goal, which sounds rather trivial right now). I want to climb a big mountain. Rainier, Fuji, Orizaba – something like that.

Melissa’s 2010 Bucket List in no particular order
• Climb a big mountain
• Finish the last 250 miles of the Colorado Trail
• Complete advanced yoga teacher training
• Climb Colorado’s 14ers
• Write a book
• Lead transformational workshops (long story)
• Get over my jitters of public speaking
• Build a cabin in the mountains
• Nurture friendships, treasure family time and meet some of my blogging friends
• Volunteer at the American Mountaineering Center
• Ski more
• Get involved with the Colorado Ski & Snowboard Museum and Hall of Fame
• Have dinner with Charles Krauthammer (don’t ask)

What’s on your bucket list? Tell me – you might win a prize.

If you don’t want to think about it, here’s a pesto recipe instead.

spinach pesto
what you need

4 cloves garlic
2 cups packed baby spinach leaves
1/4 cup fresh oregano leaves
1/4 cup fresh dill
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese (or a blend of Parmesan, Fontina and Asiago)
3 tablespoons raw pine nuts
freshly ground black pepper

what you do
1. Chop garlic in food processor, add spinach, herbs and 1/4 cup of olive oil. Pulse to chop finely. Add the rest of the ingredients and process until slightly smooth. Drizzle over cooked potatoes or use as a dressing for potato salad (or whatever else comes to mind).

Go forth with bucket list in hand. Don’t let the next decade pass without accomplishing your goals and realizing your dreams.
P.S. Yes, I realize a bucket list has nothing to do with buckets.

make me a happy camper

Go ahead honey, it’s gluten-free!


Health-promoting homeopath and fetching superhero-ette, Naomi, of Straight Into Bed Cakefree and Dried fame, is the creative spark behind the “Go Ahead Honey, It’s Gluten Free” recipe event. Every month it’s my intention to participate and every month I pout and stomp my feet (superhero style) when I realize I missed the deadline again. Shirley of Gluten-Free Easily is the event hostess this month and I know if I don’t get with it and participate, she’ll give me all kinds of gluten-free grief.

Plus, Shirley picked something that’s right up my alley (err, I mean trail) — gluten-free camp food. Last summer my son and I backpacked half the Colorado Trail (close to 250 miles) and I pre-made and dehydrated all our dinners, so this assignment is perfect for me. It’s also a great way to use up all my CSA kale and collard greens. I love the stuff, but my gosh, my hair’s turning green.

Unfortunately, most of my recipes are in my head, made up as I go, or scribbled on the back of bank statements. I’m not the most organized cook, that’s why I call half of my recipes “launching pad” creations. The two I’m featuring here are in that category. Adjust and change ingredients to your liking.

Melissa’s mile high trail mix
what you need
dry ingredients
1 box Perky’s Nutty Rice or Nutty Flax crunchy cereal
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup chopped almonds
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup sunflower seeds

wet ingredients
1/3 cup almond butter
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup honey or agave nectar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
dash salt
coconut oil for greasing the pan
dried fruit *

* Gently blend in chunks of dried fruit after the mix has been cooked and cooled. I use a combination of unsulphured papaya, pineapple, mango, ginger, cranberries and/or raisins.

what you do
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Use 2 racks placed in the middle of the oven. Place all dry ingredients in a large bowl and mix gently. Combine wet ingredients in a medium sized saucepan over low-medium heat; whisk/stir constantly until well blended and bubbly. Bring to a low boil for 1 minute, stirring continuously. Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes. It will have a semi set-up texture.

Drizzle blended wet mixture over dry ingredients and stir gently until all of it has been mixed in. Spread out on 2 large, lightly greased cookie sheets and place one on each oven rack – unless you can get both cookie sheets on one rack in the middle of the oven. I just stack the two and use my convection setting, but a regular oven setting works just fine. Bake for 6 to 10 minutes, remove and gently stir (try to keep clustered bunches intact). Return to oven. If you are using two racks, switch the cookie sheets and alternate putting one on the top rack and one on the rack below. Continue baking for another 45 minutes or so; taking time to remove, check, and gently stir every 6 to 8 minutes. Alternate cookie sheet placement each time. Mixture should be a uniform golden brown color. Depending on your oven temperature, this should take a total about 40 to 60 minutes of bake time. Carefully watch how the mixture browns as oven temperatures vary and this stuff can burn quickly. Keep an eye on it. Don’t wander off and forget!


Cool completely. After the mixture has cooled, you can add the dried fruit. Store in airtight container in the refrigerator when not on the trail.

Garlic potato, kale and chicken backpacking soup
what you need
1 bunch kale
instant garlic mashed potatoes
instant chicken base
dried herbs of choice (parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, mixed Italian herbs)

Wash, chop and dehydrate kale according to your dehydrator directions. Using a medium sized bowl, combine garlic mashed potatoes flakes, chicken base granules and dried kale. Add salt, fresh ground black pepper and dried herbs of choice; blend well and place in ziplock bags. I use one package of Hearthland Foods garlic mashed potatoes (4.5 ounces), 6 to 8 heaping teaspoons of Vogue Cuisine instant chicken broth base, one bunch of dehydrated kale, assorted dried herbs, sea salt and ground pepper to make 2 very large soup dinners for backpacking (or 4 smaller meals). This is a fast and nutritious meal while on the trail as all you need is boiling water. Shake some of the soup mix into your camp mug or bowl, add boiling water and stir gently. Adjust water depending on the consistency you want. I like it very thick and creamy, like a potato bisque. I’ve also dehydrated celery leaves and added those to the mix. Be creative and enjoy!



You might also like the Colorado Trail part 1, part 2 and part 3, or nutrition for the backcountry, or I see no good reason to act my age.

Go forth and be a happy camper!

gluten-free at Coors Field


Go Gluten-Free Rockies!

Aside from the fact that the Rockies are wild-card favorites and that Todd Helton hit his 500th double and the game-winning home run last night at Coors Field, soon we’ll have the first gluten-free concession stand in the major leagues. Yeah! We’ll have gluten-free hot dogs, burgers, chicken sandwiches, brownies and even beer. Yes, gluten-free beer at “Coors” Field. How cool is that?!

Go Rockies!
P.S. I always bring my own little “gourmet” sack dinner to the ballpark, so this will be lost on me, but it’s great to have gluten-free options. Yippee!

organic veggie power


Eat all your wholesome CSA or Farmer’s Market power food and you’ll be dancin’ in the streets like this guy.

I’d suggest you tell your kids that if they eat their veggies they’ll be able to do stuff like this — but then again, it might happen and you’d be stuck with a kid who does stuff like this. Yikes!

Go forth and eat your power veggies. Stay tuned, I’ll post a “hearty greens” recipe tomorrow. This one’s just for fun.

mountains, butterflies and power truffles


This is a photo I took of a well-worn benchmark atop a peak in Colorado’s highcountry. Benchmarks are U.S. Geological Survey summit markers and are found on the high-points of many of our mountains. They document the elevation.

I spent yesterday out in the backcountry, energizing my body and reloading my spirit. There’s nothing like a day in the mountains to diffuse everyday stress and shift things back into perspective. Nourishing the soul is just as important as nourishing the body.


Sometimes the higher you go, the better the weather. Yesterday was foggy, rainy and cool. Perfect hiking weather, but the clouds were low and thick, obstructing the view until we were above them. If you look closely at this photo, you can see a range of snow-covered mountains in the distance and a beautiful butterfly in the foreground. I’m thinking this might be a Western Tiger Swallowtail butterfly, but I don’t know. If anyone knows, please leave me a comment.

Now, on to the other good stuff — trail food. How about the best of all worlds? Breathtaking views, butterflies and chocolate truffles? I’m such a girl. Although I’m not exactly Backcountry Barbie, I do have my moments, especially when they involve butterflies, flowers and chocolate.


I make different versions of these little power balls and cart them around with me on day hikes. They’re a touch smaller than a golf ball, freeze well and make for a good power snack. I pack two or three of them, along with the rest of my lunch, in a small tupperware container to keep them from getting squished. Sometimes (especially when space is tight) I pack my food in an empty tea box or something similar. That way the food stays intact, but when lunch is over you can collapse the box and stuff it down into your pack.

Melissa’s power truffles
8 mejool dates
1/3 cup orange juice
1/2 cup almond butter
3/4 cup pecans
3/4 cocoa powder *
2 small individual packages of stevia *
1 teaspoon peppermint extract

Pit and chop dates. Place in small bowl and pour the orange juice over the dates. Do the best you can to cover the dates without adding more juice. Set aside and let soak for 30-60 minutes.

Pulse pecans in food processor until finely ground. Add stevia and cocoa powder to dry blend. Pulse and mix well.

Add mejool dates along with the orange juice they have been soaking in, almond butter and peppermint extract and pulse food processor after each addition until mixed well.

Roll into balls and dip in ground coconut flakes. Refrigerate or freeze.

* I like Dagoba organic cocoa powder, but substitute as you choose.

* Stevia blends well in this recipe, but you can substitute another sweetener. I’ve used maple sugar before, not maple syrup. Honey and syrup make them too sticky.

* For a more detailed post I did on backcountry nutrition needs, check here.

Go forth and explore, but eat good food in the process!

dispatches from above


I’m shifting from food to altitude to sophisticated blog posting from the highest mountain on the planet. First a short altitude 101 lesson to create the appropriate ambiance (pun intended).

I took the above winter mountaineering photo from the summit of Drift Peak, high in the Tenmile Range of the Colorado Rockies. Drift Peak is a little over 13,900 feet, making it one of Colorado’s centennial peaks (the 100 highest summits, all over 13,800 feet in elevation).

If you’ve ever wandered around at high altitudes (above 10,000 feet), you know that as you ascend it becomes more and more difficult to do anything in a hurry. Your legs feel heavier, your respiration increases and you might even feel nauseous or develop a headache. That’s because you’re not breathing in enough oxygen and the consequences can go from mildly annoying to life threatening.

I won’t go into too much detail, but the higher you go, the more the body has to adapt to less air pressure, therefore less oxygen intake. Here’s where it gets confusing. The percentage of oxygen in the air is the same whether you’re at sea level or on top of Mt. Everest, which is 29,000 feet. Our atmosphere is made up of 21% oxygen at any altitude. There isn’t less oxygen as a percentage of gases at 29,000 feet, it’s just that the higher you go, the less atmospheric pressure there is. With less air pressure the oxygen molecules scatter into a larger volume of air. If I’m standing at sea level that same 21% of oxygen molecules is being pressed down around me so it’s much easier to breathe and get the oxygen I need to do whatever it is I’m doing.

Our bodies do adjust somewhat and depending on our individual physiology, we adapt and acclimatize to varying degrees. To begin with, our breathing increases and our movement slows down. Heavy breathing (the altitude-related kind) allows us to take in more oxygen and get rid of carbon dioxide. Our heart rate goes up to deliver the oxygen to our brain and muscle tissues. There’s also a lot going on with our kidneys when we increase elevation. Have you ever noticed that as you get above treeline you have to go to the bathroom more often? Darn, no bushes to hide behind — that can get a bit tricky if you’re a girl (especially in the winter). Men have it made.

Here’s what happens (to make a long, complicated story short). Your kidneys know you need more oxygen so they conspire to get rid of extra water so your blood becomes thicker and can carry more concentrated oxygen. Aren’t we just amazing little creatures?! All the more reason to honor our bodies and take care of ourselves.

I’ll leave it at that and get on to the point of this post, which is about dispatch-blogging at super-high altitudes. I just wanted to set the stage as I often find it difficult to write a wimpy little post while sitting in my office, listening to music and sipping tea. Think about doing it on Everest. It’s hard enough just to breath, let alone create glorious dispatches such as these.

I’m a Mac girl, so I love the idea that they’re using MacBook Pros to do their Himalayan blogging. I’ve been following the progress of this expedition and their daily dispatches since they started several weeks ago. I’ll explain why later and keep you posted as the team expects to summit in a few days.

Go forth (or up) and have fun!

springtime in the Rockies


These photos were taken TODAY, Friday, March 27th — springtime in the Colorado Rockies. Fairbanks loves it and although I’m definitely a winter girl, I was all ready to work out in the yard this weekend. So much for that.


Just so you can see how much snow fell yesterday — this is a picnic table and a couple of my summer flower pots ready for plants. I should know better. At the beginning of this week we had some 75 degree teaser days. I fell for it.


Frozen composter — and it’s a big one.

I guess I’ll put away the gardening tools and throw my skis back on my car.

In gratitude to the snow gods,
P.S. I’ll be back to food posts Monday, starting with sweet potato pie cookies.

cowboys are my weakness (hmmm?)

I’m a bit of a book worm. Actually, I’m a word worm, reading constantly. Not always novels though — I read science journals, magazines, text books, cook books, blogs, and lots of political stuff.

Have you ever read the book Cowboys Are My Weakness by Pam Houston? It’s a wonderful collection of romantic stories about spunky women and wild men.

And good dogs.

I like Pam Houston’s writing, she’s an outdoorsy girl who lives here in Colorado, a woman after my own heart. And as much as I agree — cowboys are cute, intriguing, look good in Levi’s and blah, blah, blah — pancakes are my weakness. Actually, it’s the pure Vermont maple syrup that gets to me, the pancakes are just the delivery vehicles.


If you look closely, this western pancake plate of mine has a bit of a dip in it. That way the pancakes can literally float in maple syrup and I don’t get a sticky mess all over my table.

I know, I know, not exactly what you’d call nutrient-dense food. Not the best thing for balancing blood sugar levels. Not great for providing sustainable energy. High in calories, low in nourishment. Yeah, yeah, yeah — I know the whole story inside and out.

But — Maple Syrup Is My Weakness and sometimes I just can’t resist. Not often, but once in awhile I give in and totally indulge, only to wake up after my sugar coma wondering, what the heck was I thinking?!

Maple Syrup Holders

1 Cup + 1 tablespoon Pamela’s GF Flour Mix (or your favorite GF mix)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 duck egg (or, if you’re a normal person, 1 extra large chicken egg or 2 smaller ones)
3/4 cups brown rice milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup finely chopped pecans
1 tablespoon coconut oil
Gallons of pure organic Vermont maple syrup

Whisk egg in small bowl. Mix all ingredients and egg together until no lumps appear. Depending on batter consistency, you may need to add a touch more flour or milk. It shouldn’t be too thin or too thick (got that?).

Pour 1/4 cup batter onto pre-heated, lightly oiled griddle (medium heat). Flip once and serve immediately. Drown in pure Vermont maple syrup, which you will regret later. Eat and take a strenuous hike to process all the sugar.

Makes 2 servings, or about 6 to 8 pancakes (of which I can eat all by myself).
If you’re smart, you will eat two pancakes and freeze the rest for later. Reheat in the toaster.

Trisha Yearwood singing Cowboys Are My Weakness from her album Heaven, Heartache and the Power of Love.

In weakness,
P.S. For those of you who were expecting organic veggies and whole foods, that girl will be back soon. In the meantime, what are your weaknesses?

soul nourishment


Aaaahhh, nothing like a few days in the mountains to boost the spirit, clear the mind, and cleanse the soul. No politics, no stock market, no economic doom and gloom, no work, no worries. My perspective always changes when I’m outside, enjoying life, and doing something physical. Throw in some fresh powder, expansive views, lasting friendships, a little dark chocolate, and a glass of good red wine at the end of the day and nothing else matters.

Life is good.

I’ll get back to nutrition, food, and recipes in a few days, but for now, here’s a short photo essay of my trip to Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico, Land of Enchantment and my old stomping grounds. Soul nourishment at its finest.


Not fifteen minutes ago when I started on this post, my intention was to simply pick out some photos and let them do the talking. I should have known better. Blah, blah, blah — I’m never at a loss for words.

When the snow’s good (which it was), there are lots of opportunities at Taos for hiking up to some great ridge skiing. Oster, Fabian, Stauffenberg, and Treskow are runs immortalizing members of the German Nazi resistance during WWII. Ernie Blake founded Taos Ski Valley in 1955 after leaving Nazi Germany in 1938. He chose to name four of the ski area’s most challenging runs in honor of these German heroes. It’s a fascinating story — read here for a more detailed version.


This is me and my favorite French chef, Claude, standing outside the Hotel St. Bernard. I used to work with him years ago at the St. Bernard, which, along with owner Jean Mayer, happens to be the heart and soul of Taos Ski Valley. Claude and I are God parents to one of Jean’s sons. As I said, nothing like lifelong friends to lift your spirits and enrich your life.


Taos Ski Patrol avalanche dogs extraordinaire — Tigger, Riley, and Hattie — off duty, chasing sticks, and having fun. Life is good for them, too.


Go forth and renew your spirit!

my world — part 2

“. . . what I want in my life is to be willing to be dazzled . . .”
— Mary Oliver

Go forth and be dazzled.

(All photos and content are my property — copyright applies.)

Disclaimer: All material on this website is provided for informational and educational use only and should not be used for diagnostic purposes. Consult with your physician regarding any health or medical concerns you may have.
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(co-written with Pete Bronski)

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