hiking mondays: st. mary's glacier (and the sprouted kitchen's ranchero black bean breakfast tostadas)

The other day, Otis turned to me and said, "Mommy, I love Colorado..." (whereby his 'r' was pronounced like a 'w'). I asked him what in particular he liked about our adopted home state and he replied, "I like the sky. I like the sunset. I like the mountains. I love the cupcakes. I like the ice cream. I like the farms. I like the rivers. I like my room. I like you. I like daddy and baby. I like the dinosaurs...(and so on and so forth)." That's when I realized that he simply loved our life here, and that we had done right by him and his brother. I also recognized that he has a serious sweet tooth.
Someone once gave me a bit of parenting advice that went something like, "start 'em young"- which is what we have tried to do with our children. We've exposed them to art and music and we hope we've given them an appreciation for books and the ability to think creatively. And every week, despite their young age, we've shown them how wonderful and spectacular their environment is, right here in this beautiful place called Colorado. On Mondays we get dressed, slather on the sunscreen, grab our hiking buckets (which aids in the collection of rocks) and set out on a trail...Nothing, and I mean nothing, can beat nature. I've often said that being out in the wilderness is the closest I come to feeling any sort of spirituality or religiosity, and it's one of the few ways I can really clear my mind. At the very least, it helps put things into perspective. The mountains here are so breathtaking, the sunsets are nothing short of spectacular...and the fact that so many incredible places are only an hour's drive from our urban oasis, makes me happy and thankful. Yesterday we went to St. Mary's Glacier. We've been once before, but this time the boys did a great majority of the ascend and descend by themselves. Theodore excitedly jumped over the boulders and Otis loved skipping rocks once we got to the glacial lake. We all got a big kick out of the snow-shoers and sledders who were having fun on the glacier (look closely and you'll see them! They are the little black dots on the widest swath of snow.).
While we were laughing and walking up the mountain, something happened that brought me to tears. As we were rounding a bend, a youthful, female Rottweiler-Labrador mix came running around the curve. She took my breath away. I was standing next to Theo who screamed out, "Omar. It's Omar, mommy. Look, you see?" But as many of you know, Omar is no longer with us. The dog, Abby, bore the most striking resemblance to Omar that I have ever seen, and as we pet Abby I began to cry. 
I thought about Omar the rest of the way up the mountain. But as we got to the glacier and saw the lake, I had this feeling that everything would be okay. The vastness and the beauty of nature makes us feel like, even in times of loss, we can still go on...because there is still so much beauty remaining. And so, as I sat with my boys and my husband by the lake, I thought about how good our life is, despite the heartache and challenges that come with the journey...and I thought about a dog named Omar, whom I still miss dearly. 

location: St. Mary's Glacier is near Idaho Springs, exit 238 off I-70 and follow the signs. 
elevation: 10,000 feet.
duration: 3/4 of a mile each way.
hiking terrain: Rocky boulders all the way up until you get to the lake and the glacier. 
things people do at the lake: picnic, walk, snow-shoe, cliff dive (I'm not endorsing this one), climb trees, sled.
other stuff: There is a $5 fee for the parking lot. Do not park on the side of the roadway or you will get towed. Walk up the hill from the parking lot. On the left-hand side, past a gate, you will see an opening and a sign for St. Mary's Glacier.
and a final caveat: The traffic coming back into Denver on I-70 can get pretty bad due to tunnel construction. Bring good music and/or a book (if you're not the driver). You'll need it!
* * *
Before heading out, I made this. It was simple, tasty, and filling-- it kept me going the whole way up and the whole way down from St. Mary's Glacier. 

Ranchero Breakfast Tostadas
barely modified from A Sprouted Kitchen: A Tastier Take on Whole Foods (by Sara Forte)
Serves 4
Notes: I used canned beans, but you could soak fresh ones overnight. I topped the tostada with a fried egg, but a poached or scrambled egg would work just as well.


Black Bean Mash
2 cups cooked black beans (I used canned in the interest of time)
1/4 to 1/2 cup light sour cream (I liked it better with, not surprisingly, the 1/2 cup)
2 green onions, white and green parts, chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

8 small corn tortillas
Extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
8 eggs
1 cup shredded white Cheddar cheese
2 avocados, peeled and thinly sliced
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 lime, in wedges
Hot sauce, for serving (optional)

Whether cooking the beans from scratch or using canned, drain the beans and add them to a saucepan over low heat and warm through. Add about 1/4 cup tepid water, 1/4 cup of the sour cream, the green onions, cumin, salt, and pepper and mash with a potato masher or a large fork until coarsely mashed but not entirely smooth. Taste for salt and pepper, add the remaining sour cream if you'd like the beans to be creamier, then turn off the heat and keep covered until needed.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Brush the tops of the tortillas with a bit of olive oil and lay them on a rimmed baking sheet (it's fine if they overlap). Bake until just lightly browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.

Heat a large frying pan with the coconut oil over medium heat. Working in batches as necessary, gently break the eggs in the pan and cook sunny-side up or to your desired doneness, covering the pan if you like your yolks more cooked through. Build a tostada by topping a tortilla with about 1/4 cup of the bean mash, 1 egg, and an eighth of the cheese, avocado slices, and cilantro. Repeat with the remaining ingredients. Serve garnished with a slice of lime and hot sauce to taste.

Weather, Soup Season and Edamame Wonton Soup

Here in Denver, the local news pretty much covers two subjects: the weather and the Broncos. Sure, there might be a report on a random act of violence or a political clip. Maybe you'll tune in when there's a rescue story of a cat who was stuck in a tree (isn't there always one of those), but a good deal of the news coverage in this part of Colorado is dedicated to the weather and football. My husband and I joke that even in the off-season, Broncos coverage hardly wanes, and you'll find out everything you ever needed to know about training camp, recaps of last season and projections for the upcoming one. This is Broncos country and it's close to a religion here. After the Broncos, people want to know about the weather. 
Now I'm hardly a meteorologist, but I too find myself obsessing about the weather. The fluctuation in temperature this time of year is something particular to this part of the country. Since Denver is "high dessert" you might start a morning jog in a parka, spend lunch in a t-shirt, and then crave a big bowl of soup as the temperature drops like a stone once the sun goes down. But during the day it's usually around 50 or 60 degrees, 
and it can feel warm because of the high elevation and the strong sun. That means you can spend a lot of time outdoors. 
That said, the Fahrenheit dips pretty low at night. And all this back-and-forth, up-and-down makes me a bit sniffly. That's when I start craving soup...often, and almost daily. 
So I've stared making a list of the soups I'll be making this month: Mark Bittman's mushroom barley is looking good, so does this one for broccoli-cheddar, and of course I will get a big pot of pesto-minestrone going next week. I've dusted off my copy of Love Soup and I'm looking through it to see what is calling my name...
But I stared my soup season with this edamame wonton soup from The Sprouted Kitchen cookbook. (It's worth buying. Yes, it's that good.)
I made this soup a few weeks ago and revisited it again today. I used mushroom stock last time, and this time around I used a good quality vegetable stock (but not low-sodium like the recipe suggests). But play around with this recipe. I think there are lots of possibilities.
Enjoy this one on a chilly autumn night...and happy soup season!
The Sprouted Kitchen by Sara Forte,© 2012.) 
  • 4 green onions, white and green parts, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • ¼ cup fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cups shelled edamame, cooked and drained
  • 2 tablespoons regular or vegan sour cream
  • Dash of hot sauce (I used sriracha)
  • 40 round wonton wrappers
  • 4 cups mushroom or low-sodium vegetable broth (I used a non-low-sodium, so I diluted it with 1 cup of water)
  • 1 lemongrass stalk
  • 2 tablespoons mirin
  • 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • Toasted sesame seeds, for garnish
  • Microgreens or pea shoots, for garnish


  • Combine the green onions, sesame oil, basil, edamame, sour cream, and hot sauce in a food processor. Process to a puree.  
    • On a lightly floured work surface, place a heaping tablespoonful of the edamame filling in the center of a wonton wrapper.
    • Use your finger to wipe a bit of water around the edge of the wrapper. 
    • Place another wonton wrapper on top of the filling and press down along the edges to adhere. 
    • Repeat with remaining wrappers and filling. 
    • To make the broth, warm the mushroom broth in a pot over medium-low heat. 
    • Pound the lemongrass with the back of a heavy knife to release its oils and discard the tough outer layer. 
    • Mince the inner, pale portion of the bottom of the stalk and add it to the broth along with the mirin and soy sauce. 
    • Gently simmer for 10 minutes to combine the flavors. 
    • Cover and turn the heat to low to keep warm. 
    • Add enough of the broth to a saucepan to cover the bottom, about 1 cup, and add a single layer of wontons (you will probably need to do this in two batches). 
    • Cover and steam over medium-low heat until the wontons are warmed, about 2 minutes. 
    • To serve, divide the wontons among four shallow bowls and pour about ½ cup of the remaining broth on top. 
    • Garnish with a sprinkle of the toasted sesame seeds and sprouts and serve hot.
    A great variation to this recipe can be found on Love and Lemons here.