Majestic settings and good food amplify time spent with family

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By: Rachel Shenk

Rachel Shenk/Flavor 574

We are lucky to have family on both sides of the country. So when family cannot come to us, we go to family!

That’s exactly what we did last week. We collected on our frequent flyer miles to go visit our daughter and her family who live in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.

We spent our first couple of days at their place in Golden Gate Canyon, doing a lovely Sunday hike among the red rocks of Roxborough State Park, enjoying a Middle Eastern meal at their favorite local place and catching up with their lives.

Then, together, we headed up to Estes Park, gateway to the east entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park.

If you’ve ever been in that area, you know what the drive to the park looks like: a curvy road that climbs and descends, following the mountain terrain. As you drive around one of those horseshoe curves, suddenly the 12,000- to 14,000-foot peaks loom ahead, their tops covered with snow.

This awesome view never gets old. The town itself is surrounded by those summits; and our cabin, located on the outskirts, away from the busyness, looks out on those peaks.

At this time of year, our hiking options inside the park were more limited, and with our eager 5-year-old grandson along for the ride, we hoped to do some easy walking.

We were in luck with the weather: High 50s during the day with clear, sunny skies can only be good after five interminable gray days back home in Indiana.

And we were in for even more luck as we found out that our arrival coincided with the 100th birthday party of Rocky Mountain National Park.

It’s easy to explain a birthday party to a 5-year-old, but a lot harder to make him understand the significance of 100 years of a park’s existence. The cake, the balloons, the “Happy Birthday” song all make sense. And the 100-year anniversary buttons to pin on shirts are the icing! Even for us adults, it’s incredible to think that this park has been spared for our enjoyment and use for these past 100 years.

We did do a couple of hikes on and around Bear Lake, where one of the park’s five glaciers resides. We viewed the majestic male elk with their huge antlers at dusk. We listened to the coyotes howl.

And, continually, we took the time to soak in its natural beauty. We felt honored to be part of the celebration, with three generations of our family present.

At evening time, I made a dish of enchiladas, based on my daughter’s recipe, while soaking in a last sunset on the mountain, a last glow on the jagged peaks. It’s so good to share food and time with family in the beauty of the natural world.

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Black Bean Spinach Enchiladas

Ingredients

  • 4 large mushrooms, sliced
  • ½ of a 5-oz. box organic spinach, sliced thin
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 can organic black beans, drained
  • ¼ cup beer
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1½ cups Mexican cheeses, grated
  • 8 medium-size wheat and corn tortillas
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • ½ cup milk
  • ⅓ cup green chile sauce (I used 505)

Directions

  1. Fry the onion in some olive oil. Add spices. Add mushrooms, spinach and garlic. Sauté until the mushrooms and spinach are wilted. Add beer and continue to sauté until most of the moisture is gone. Add beans and cook until warmed through, stirring frequently.
  2. Stir in 1 cup of the cheese.
  3. Divide the mixture between the eight tortillas, roll them up and place them in a 9-by-13 glass pan. Mix the sour cream with the milk and the green chile sauce. Pour over the top and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
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