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New Carbondale restaurant brings family together

Patina Bar and Grille, Carbondale’s newest restaurant, is a family affair.

Jeff and Jessica Hale took over the space next to Sopris Liquor and Wine in July, and brought in their son Hunter to run the kitchen. The restaurant had a soft opening in October, and is now fully embedded in the Carbondale restaurant scene.

“My concept for this was to create a neighborhood spot,” Jessica said. “Someplace where the food was moderately priced, a place where someone could come twice a week for good, honest food.”

Jessica said she wants Patina to fill the friendly, neighborhood food gap left by downtown restaurant Russets, which closed in 2013.

For Hunter, it’s an opportunity to shine by leading his own kitchen, after working in restaurants from Aspen to Arizona.

Opening a business with your parents might not seem like a frictionless proposition, but they’ve found a way to make it work.

“When they first brought it up, I thought ‘this could get hairy.’ But it’s been really good,” Hunter said.

The family found a way to blend Hunter’s diverse chef background, which included sous chef for a Tempe, Ariz., fusion bar that served “pizza, sushi, ramen, bento box and wings,” and the parents’ vision for approachable food.

 “The bistro concept gave us some flexibility in what we want to serve,” Jeff said.

For example, Hunter wanted to incorporate Asian flavors into French techniques.

“We butted heads on some stuff, but found good happy mediums,” Hunter said

What draws them all together is a shared vision and love of food. Jessica said she always wanted to own a restaurant, but her career took a different path. For many years, she created dishes and photographed them for magazines.

Hunter also found his passion for cooking at an early age.

“Other kids were watching cartoons on Saturday morning, and I was watching Food Network,” Hunter said.

Baked halibut, garlic mashed potatoes, vegetable medley, finished with tomato-spinach cream sauce.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent
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Right now, the starters on Patina’s menu include fried duck wings, calamari and house-made chips with unique jarred dips. Hunter is proud of his coffee-rub pork chops, but his favorite dish is one that’s been in the family for decades.

“The halibut (dish) has been in our family for years. I remember asking (my mother) if I could have halibut for my birthday,” he said.

Patina’s lunch menu includes sandwiches, fish tacos and salads.

When Jeff and Jessica applied for their liquor license with the town in September, the board of trustees asked if they were concerned about the location.

“Obviously, downtown Carbondale has been where the main restaurants are, but I’m really not to concerned with (our location),” Jessica said. “I’ve seen in the last couple months, as we’ve worked on the place, a ton of traffic is going through there.”

tphippen@postindependent.com

Weekend Dish: Budget gourmet recipes at your fingertips

I was the quintessential starving student in college. During my first year in the dorms, I was forced to purchase my university’s dining plan to my detriment.

Our dorm rooms did not have kitchenettes, so the college conveniently required all freshmen to buy the dining plan. The food was subpar at best. One time, my friends and I saw one of the lunch workers bring in a box that read “premium wet dog food” into the back door of the dining hall. The next day, they served us beef stroganoff. Coincidence? I think not.

Needless to say, I ate a lot of ramen and popcorn that year. We were at least allowed to have microwaves in our dorm, so I could do some basic cooking. After freshman year, I moved out of the dorms and started the hellish process known as adulting. I worked so many service industry jobs but could only afford to pay my bills barely. I still ate a lot of ramen. If it weren’t for multivitamins, I would have been malnourished during this time.

When I finally started my master’s program, I was sick of ramen and popcorn. I had saved up enough money to move into a townhouse with a full kitchen. I also lived alone for the first time, so I really had to watch out for myself. I worked during the day and attended classes at night, so I ate out all the time, which depleted my funds and expanded my waistline. This was when I decided to teach myself how to prepare nutritious food at home properly.

Fresh produce
Provided

I bought old recipe books at thrift stores and library sales. The internet did exist during this time, but Facebook was brand new, and Pinterest did not exist yet. Online recipes were scant. Using the old recipe books, I learned the basics of cooking and discovered it was not as challenging as I thought. I would cook affordable yet delicious meals on Sunday nights and freeze the rest to eat during my busy week. Over time, I became a halfway decent cook, and my nutrition greatly improved from eating healthier meals. I got in shape, ate well and never felt better. Life was good.

Then disaster struck. I received my master’s degree in May of 2008. As most of us remember, the economy tanked in September of that year, and we entered the Great Recession. I was back to being impoverished on a ramen budget.

Legumes, bean seed in sack.
Provided

This was a challenging time for me financially, but I refused to eat poorly. I could not afford some of the fresh, organic ingredients I had become used to. Instead, I started buying dried beans, lentils and rice from the bulk aisles. I also stocked up on canned and frozen fruits and vegetables. I became a master of mixing and matching random foodstuffs to make my meals. Sometimes I felt like I would magically pull almost empty air from my cabinets to make myself dinner. I was in survival mode.

These days, the economy has improved from those dark times, but I still hustle. I am not rolling in dough by any means, but I do not have to worry about having enough food. However, many of my friends have to work at least two jobs just to make ends meet. Times are still tough for many, and it can be so expensive just to be alive here. I certainly cannot afford to eat out all the time, so I still rely on the cooking skills I acquired during scrappier times.

There are also so many resources available online now to help you find affordable, easy and delicious recipes. There are also some essential staple items that you should always keep in your pantry. These include beans (canned or dry), oats, frozen vegetables, affordable produce, brown rice, eggs, dried spices, flour, vegetable stock, and canned tomatoes. If you keep these ingredients in your pantry, then you can practically make anything.

Provided

The challenge can sometimes be finding inspiration. This is when I turn to the internet, specifically Pinterest. You can use such search keywords as “affordable, cheap, quick, easy, recipes” to find hundreds of inspirational recipes. I do this all the time to make the ingredients that I already have stretch as far as possible. You can get the most bang for your buck while having better nutrition than you would be eating fast food all the time. Cooking is also an art that can bring your friends and family together.

I have compiled some affordable and tasty recipes from Pinterest below. Assuming that you have many of these items already on hand, this entire meal can be made for less than 20 dollars. I have made these in the past and can vouch for them. I always invite you to add your own ingredients to make these your own signature creations.

Whether money is lacking or abundant, you should still eat well. Food is life, and your health is your real wealth.

Jordan Callier is an avid foodie and business owner in Glenwood Springs.

Vegan Barley Stew

Serves two to four people

Ingredients
1-1/2 cups barley
1 can tomatoes, crushed
4 cups vegetable stock
2 cups water
1/2 medium onion, chopped
3 carrots, sliced
2 medium potatoes, cubed
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chile powder

Directions
1. Combine all ingredients in a large pot.
2. Cook on medium for about three hours while stirring occasionally.

http://bit.ly/barley-soup-pi

Baked Potatoes

Serves four people

Ingredients
4 Russet potatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Thoroughly rinse potatoes and cut away any brown spots.
3. Brush olive oil onto the outside of the potato, and poke with a fork several times to ventilate.
4. Bake in oven for about an hour and a half or until potato skin starts to (barely) wrinkle.
5. Carefully slice into halves and then mash with a fork.
6. Add preferred seasonings such as butter, cheese, mayonnaise, bacon pieces, sour cream, chives, salsa, ranch or anything you prefer.

http://bit.ly/baked-potato-pi

Pineapple Cherry Cake

Serves four to five people

Ingredients
1 large can (28 ounces) cherry pie filling
1 can (15 ounces) crushed pineapple
1 box (18 ounces) yellow cake mix
12 tablespoons butter

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a baking pan, add crushed pineapple then top with cherry filling.
3. Pour the cake mix over the top of fruit, then add chunks of butter evenly over the top of cake mix.
4. Bake for about 40 minutes or until golden brown. Serve immediately.

http://bit.ly/pineapple-cherry-cake-pi

Weekend Dish column: Guess boo’s coming to dinner

Autumn has its own unique smell. The scent of damp leaves, smoky chimneys and cinnamon permeate the chilled air. The world transforms from green to gold as nature takes a sleepy yawn before the great slumber.

The days become shorter, and the nights grow longer. Even as nature drifts into sleep, there seems to be a certain magic in the aromatic air. The lengthening darkness of night invites the ghosts and goblins to come out and play for yet another year. 

Glowing jack-o’-lanterns light up our porches, while both young and old alike delight in playing dress-up. Fall is not the same without Halloween, and pumpkins are the tricksters of this ancient tradition.

Jordan Callier photo

The word “Halloween” originates from Scotland and means “All Hallows’ Eve.” Like so many of our most important American holidays, Halloween is a blending of both Christian and Pagan traditions. It is a night when we remember the saints or the dead. 

All Saints’ (Hallows’) Day falls on the first of November, so Christians began using Halloween as a night of celebration to remember saints, martyrs and true believers. On this night, they would reflect on those who passed while celebrating life with feasts and treats. 

At some point, Christian revelers would go from house to house, asking for “soul-cakes.” This practice would evolve into trick or treating. 

Many elements of Halloween also come from ancient Celtic traditions to celebrate the yearly harvest. In those days, life or death was the difference between a bountiful or scarce harvest. It was appropriate to give thanks for an abundant year because that meant life during the harsh northern winters.

It was also a time to show respect to the dearly departed. A dinner setting was placed by the fire for the ancestral spirits to join the family for one night a year. But ghosts can also be mischievous, so it became necessary to frighten the uninvited souls away.

The living began to don make-up and spooky costumes to frighten the evil spirits away. Eventually, this tradition grew to include less-scary costumes such as superheroes and sexy cats. Both children and adults delight in becoming something else for a night.

 

Getting ready for baking.
Jordan Callier photo

Next to playing dress up as an adult, the best part of Halloween is the pumpkins. They can be art, and you can also eat them. They are extremely functional in these ways. 

Like Halloween, the tradition of carving pumpkins also dates back to our Celtic friends. They carved turnips, pumpkins, and other root vegetables and placed a light inside of them. The eerie, flickering light represented the otherworldly glow of spirit folk. 

There is also the Irish myth of Stingy Jack. Jack was a drunk who made a bad deal with the devil, and he was condemned to roam the earth with only a hollowed-out turnip to light his way. Later, stories, such as the Headless Horseman, are roughly based on this myth and would continue to terrify children for generations.

Whether you need to replace your head with a pumpkin, or you enjoy carving out faces, these orange fruits are ubiquitous right now. The dreaded pumpkin spice latte has become a meme staple for some hipster influencers.

There are also endless pumpkins recipes ranging from soups to pasta to cookies. Its guts can be scraped out for seeds, and they are great baked with either salt or sugar.

Since it is not quite Thanksgiving yet, it is a little early for pumpkin pie. But I have a sweet tooth and want to get my pancreas ready for the sugar rush of Halloween candy.

To get my sugar fix, I prepared a flaxseed pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting.

Flaxseed Pumpkin Cake

Serves eight to 10 people

Stirring in the spices.

Ingredients

2 large eggs

1 tablespoon flaxseed, ground

3 tablespoons water

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup canola oil

1 (29 ounces) can pumpkin puree

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

3 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Lemon zest as desired

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a small bowl, mix flaxseed and water. Stir until gelatinous, and let sit for about five minutes.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flaxseed mixture, eggs, sugar, oil, and pumpkin.
  4. Gently stir in flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. Stir until ingredients are combined but do not over mix.
  5. Pour batter into greased baking pan or dish and bake for about 40 minutes. Insert a toothpick in the center, and if it comes out clean, then the cake is ready.
  6. Allow to thoroughly cool before adding frosting. Optionally add lemon zest and a spritz of lemon juice for a brighter flavor. Serve immediately and refrigerate leftovers.

Like many of my recipes, this can be as easy or complicated as you wish. I decided to go the easy route because I still need some extra time to create my costume for Halloween.

I bought some canned organic pumpkin filling and cream cheese frosting, but these can also be made from scratch. Using store bought ingredients, this recipe took about 55 minutes to prepare.

I forgot to buy eggs and did not realize this until I got home. I only had two eggs while my recipe called for three. To substitute the missing egg, I used ground flaxseed mixed with water. This works nicely and adds some extra flavor and nutrition.

It is best to cool this cake before adding the frosting and optional lemon zest. This is a tasty and nutritious treat and contains more than a daily serving of vitamin A and a healthy helping of fiber, protein, vitamin C, and iron.

Fresh from the oven
Jordan Callier photo

The smell of this cake baking in the oven is better than a Yankee candle. Whether you take Halloween seriously or not, pumpkins are one of the reasons for the season. As the mercury plummets, give thanks for the last of nature’s bounty this year. And make sure to leave out an extra setting for any friendly spirits who may want to pop by and say hello.

Jordan Callier is an avid foodie and business owner in Glenwood Springs. 

Glenwood Springs Arts Council’s 19th annual Culinary Arts Festival set for Friday at Hotel Colorado

Local art, live music and plenty of food and drink offerings.

This year’s Culinary Arts Festival presented by the Glenwood Springs Arts Council will feature all of that and more.

“It is just a very nice event,” Judy O’Donnell, Glenwood Springs Arts Council treasurer, said. “Everybody just has a really wonderful time.”

The 19th installment of the Culinary Arts Festival will occur from 5:30-8:30 p.m. Friday at the Hotel Colorado.

People have until noon Friday to purchase tickets online for $50. Tickets will be available at the door for $55.

O’Donnell expected a turnout of approximately 250 people and said that tickets were still available.

All proceeds, including those from the event’s silent auction, will go toward the nonprofit Glenwood Springs Arts Council.

“We have a lot of local artists who have donated work,” O’Donnell said of the silent auction items. “There are many things that are available.”

Other items include a weekend stay in Seattle as well as tickets to performances by the Sopris Theatre Company and Thunder River Theatre Company.

In addition to the silent auction, several local restaurants such as Masala & Curry, The Riviera Supper Club and Piano Bar, Smoke Modern BBQ, Uncle Pizza, The Pullman, Sundae, Ironbridge Grill and Sunshine & Moons will provide a variety of dishes.

“Food is an artistic expression,” O’Donnell said. “These people will be serving a special display of their food.”

To compliment the cuisine, Casey Brewing & Blending, Cooper Wine & Spirits, Glenwood Canyon Brewpub, Upslope Brewing and CTS Distributing will offer a wide selection of craft beer, wine and spirits.

“You won’t need to go out for dinner,” O’Donnell said.

Since 1982, the Glenwood Springs Arts Council has strived to create visibility, support and opportunity for the arts within the community.

Additionally, this year’s Culinary Arts Festival will feature live music from Carbondale’s own LET THEM ROAR.

According to the band’s website, LET THEM ROAR’s original music “weaves a tapestry of progressive-folk from threads of tradition.

mabennett@postindependent.com

Weekend Dish column: Spaghetti squash spaghetti is delightful

The surrounding mountains of our valley are ablaze with the vivid colors that precede the great freeze. It feels like summer gave way to fall overnight this week, while winter is just around the corner. Blink, and you’ll miss the changing leaves, but there are still some good things to enjoy from our sleepy gardens.

It’s the season of jack-o’-lanterns, inappropriately early Christmas commercials, and autumn harvests. While it is still too soon to think about Christmas, it is the perfect time to enjoy the many different squash varieties.

Although many kinds of squash are available now, they are called winter squash because they can keep well into the winter. These squash are often associated with Thanksgiving and yes, even Christmas, as both food and decorations.

While pumpkins get most of the glory right now, one of my favorite kinds of squash is Italian at heart and by name. Spaghetti squash or vegetable spaghetti is a vegetarian’s dream. It is also low carb for those who count their calories. 

Spaghetti Squash Spaghetti Casserole

Serves 4-5 people.

Ingredients

1 spaghetti squash, baked

1 onion, diced

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 can (15 ounces) San Marzano whole tomatoes

1 large tomato

1 bell pepper, chopped

2 Tofurky Italian sausage, sliced

1 can (6.5 ounces) black olives, sliced and drained

1/3 cup fresh basil, chopped

2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded

1 tablespoon Italian seasoning

1 tablespoon olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven 375F.
  2. Divide spaghetti squash in half, and gently scoop out loose seeds and strands. Brush with olive oil and bake for at least an hour or until sides give.
  3. While spaghetti squash bakes in the oven began to prepare the sauce. In a medium saucepan, combine onion, garlic cloves, tomatoes, bell pepper, Tofurky (or other meat), olives, basil, and seasonings.
  4. Cook uncovered over medium-high heat to reduce liquid while spaghetti squash bakes.
  5. Spaghetti squash is ready when the sides give way to a gentle prod. Strands will also separate easily with a fork. Using a fork, scrape out the contents of each baked half.
  6. Combine spaghetti squash, sauce, and mozzarella cheese into a casserole dish. Bake the casserole for about 30 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly.
  7. Serve immediately with garlic bread, caesar salad, and the red wine of your choice. Leftovers can be frozen for later enjoyment.

Spaghetti squash comes in all shapes and sizes. They can range in color from pale ivory to bright orange. The best part of spaghetti squash is its stringy, fleshy, and pulpy heart. But it doesn’t wear its heart on its sleeve easily, and the real magic happens after it is cooked.

Properly cooking spaghetti squash reveals stringy strands that resemble spaghetti noodles. Spaghetti squash can be steamed, boiled, baked and even microwaved.

There are plenty of ways to serve spaghetti squash, too. Some people like to bake them and add butter with either salt or cinnamon and sugar (such as my grandmother). Other people prefer more elaborate concoctions with meatballs, tomatoes, parmesan cheese, or with lemon and cream sauce. 

Spaghetti squash is both decorative and healthy. Here it is seen with ingredients for spaghetti squash spaghetti casserole.
Jordan Callier

Spaghetti squash contains many nutrients such as folic acid, potassium, vitamin A and beta carotene. These nutrients help protect DNA, improve heart health, protect eyesight, and promote healthy skin, respectively. At only 42 calories per cup, it is also low in calories, depending on the preparation, and high in fiber, which promotes digestive health.

The flavor profile can also vary drastically, depending on the preparation. On its own, it has a mild and neutral flavor, so it can pick up more complex characteristics, depending upon spices and seasonings. The strands or “noodles” can be a little watery and crunchy, but they certainly make a satisfying substitute for regular pasta noodles.

The most common way to cook spaghetti squash is to cut it in half and roast it in an oven or a baking pan. It is best to place the cut side down and brush the insides with olive oil when baking it.

Cutting a spaghetti squash in half helps it cook more evenly.
Jordan Callier

Cutting a spaghetti squash in half – instead of lengthwise – helps it cook more quickly and evenly, but it is not necessary to halve it either. You can cook an entire, uncut squash in the oven, but it takes longer. Make sure to poke holes in it to allow venting. It can take about an hour to cook a spaghetti squash, and I recommend turning it over about halfway through the process.

Cook the squash until it is tender enough to run a fork through it, and the noodle strands fall out. Slicing a squash in half can be a daunting task, so it’s best to use a sharp, long knife.

Spaghetti squash is both delicious and decorative. It can make a seasonally appropriate centerpiece for any holiday event. It can also be stored in a cool place for months before spoiling. 

Brush a spaghetti squash with olive oil before baking it.
Jordan Callier

To tell if your squash is still fresh, check the stem first. It should be dry and firm instead of black or mushy. The shell should be consistently yellow and firm without brown spots.

After baking and scraping out the strands, it is also possible to freeze leftover spaghetti squash nearly indefinitely. You can make meal-sized portions for freezing and then reheat them later when you want a quick and nutritious meal.

For this week’s recipe, I prepared my favorite variation of spaghetti squash: spaghetti squash spaghetti casserole. There are a few ways to prepare it like pasta, but I opted to make it as a casserole. It can pair nicely with a Caesar salad, garlic bread, and your favorite red wine.

This baked casserole is simple, delicious and low-carb. It can be vegan, vegetarian, or loaded with meat, too. For my variation, I added mozzarella cheese, fresh tomatoes, olives, garlic, onions, marinara sauce, and Tofurky. If you want to add meat, then add one pound of lean ground beef.

Casserole can be a great way to use spaghetti squash.
Jordan Callier

The weather outside isn’t quite yet frightful, but this spaghetti squash spaghetti casserole is so delightful.

Weekend Dish column: Where’s the beef? Does it matter anymore?

Climate change is a hot topic. The science is real, but the politics for change are still up in the air. The doomsday clock ticks closer to zero while the thermometer rises.

We live in the age of the Anthropocene, where humankind is reshaping the global environment to our peril.

According to a recent climate report by NASA, climate change is already measurably damaging the global environment. Glaciers are retreating, polar ice is disappearing, corals are dying and severe storms are becoming even more intense.

The four hottest years in recorded history have occurred within this decade, and 2019 is shaping up to burn through more records. Climate change is directly connected to environmental health, and some scientists even speculate that we are in the midst of the sixth extinction in the history of life on this planet. Bees are dying, and we could be next. 

This cataclysm is no mystery. Scientists in the past precisely predicted these things would happen if we continued to pump greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Gases such as carbon dioxide and methane trap the sun’s energy into our atmosphere and heat our planet.

The more gasses that we produce, the hotter our world becomes. These gasses create a cycle of feedback loops and disrupt climate systems that will increasingly wreak havoc worldwide.

It can be very easy to feel hopeless or become complacent. I worry for our children, and I fear that the adults in power are not doing enough to mitigate this unfolding catastrophe.

We all need to take better care of our dying planet. While our political and corporate leaders need to address climate change, individually we can also reduce our carbon footprints.

Beyond Sausage
Jordan Callier photo

Meatless solution

How can you reduce your carbon footprint significantly? It’s simple. Eat less meat or none at all.

According to data compiled by The New York Times, meat production is estimated to cause up to 25% of human-made greenhouse gas emissions.

Beef production has the most significant ratio of pounds of carbon dioxide per serving. Everything from transportation to cow flatulence adds to this number. It takes more land, energy, and water resources to produce it.

Eating less beef and dairy would have the most significant reduction of CO2 for most people in industrialized countries.

One of the most popular excuses that people use to justify eating beef is the lack of tasty alternatives. In the past, if you wanted meatless meat, you would have to settle for tofu or something more akin to fabricated cardboard.

All American barbecue fixins’
Jordan Callier photo

Luckily for us and the planet, a meatless revolution is commencing.

Within the last few years, a surge of meatless protein products became available to consumers. Two of the most well-known brands are Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat.

Such products have been popping up everywhere, from fast food joints to our local City Market. These offerings may not be healthier than real meat, but they are estimated to have one-tenth of the climate impact of real meat. There are more meatless options than ever.

A variety of meat substitute products at a local grocery.
Jordan Callier photo

City Market has a range of selections that include meatless sausage, “chicken” nuggets or strips and “beef” crumbles. The store has also recently started carrying Beyond Meat products that include hamburger patties and sausages. Soon, Kroger will also introduce its in-store brand of meatless products. Look for these on the shelves at City Market.

Natural Grocers is also an excellent resource for vegetarian or vegan alternatives and offers many of the selections mentioned above. It is also gearing up to sell meatless “turkey” for the holiday season soon, while many products are sourced locally.

The local marketplace is offering more and more meatless alternatives for even the most devout carnivore. But do they taste good?

I have certainly had mixed results with meatless products, but it is important to keep an open mind for the health of our planet.

I have not had a hamburger in years, and I do miss eating them. I was excited to learn that Beyond Meat was now available locally in Glenwood Springs. I want to share my first experience of eating Beyond Meat with you.

Flipping burger patties.
Jordan Callier photo

Beyond Beef products are found in the meat section at City Market. They are a little pricey, and I paid $9 for something that would only make four patties. I was also put off by the smell and texture, which is strongly reminiscent of real meat. Beyond Beef is a fantastic facsimile of beef, but it may scare some vegans away due to its realism.

I prepared these for my vegan friend, Angie Bagen, and myself. She was also a little freaked out by the smell and texture, but she kept an open mind. These hamburgers took very little preparation. I divided them into quarters, rolled them into balls, gently flattened them and threw them on the grill.

They held up very well and did not fall apart. The patties also charred nicely, and the smell improved. I served them on a toasted bun with vegan cheese, ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard, lettuce and pickles.

Jordan Callier photo

“I was a little hesitant to try these at first, but I ended up liking them,” Bagen said. “In the future, when I crave meat, I will have these again.”

What we eat is a moral choice. Not only does food affect our health, but it dramatically impacts our climate. We are living through a climate emergency, and sometimes it feels like we are powerless while things fall apart. We absolutely must push our leaders to do more, but we can also make better personal choices.

The tons of carbon dioxide produced by our meat production is unjustifiable and a luxury we cannot afford. Beef is the worst culprit. The marketplace is beginning to respond to this emergency, and we now have palatable choices available.

Eat less meat for your health. Eat less meat for your planet. Eat less meat for your children’s future.

Where’s the beef? It doesn’t matter when we have so many tasty alternatives.

Jordan Callier is an avid foodie and business owner in Glenwood Springs.

Weekend Dish column: The golden goodness of hash browns

Potatoes are a beloved food staple across the world. They come in many different varieties, including julienne, mashed, scalloped, diced, sliced, boiled, steamed, and so many more. I have even devoted previous columns to those beguiling French fries that we all love.

Potatoes are more interesting than most of us realize. They are tuber roots found on the potato plant and are part of the nightshade family. Some nightshades are toxic, but we still eat or smoke them. Tomatoes and tobacco are also in this family.

Potatoes with skin contain potassium, vitamin C, folate, and vitamin B6. They are mostly carbs but also have fibers and some protein. They are a good source of lutein, which is excellent for eye health.

They thrive in many placed including here in the Roaring Fork Valley. Woody Creek ranchers have raised them for over 100 years. The famous Woody Creek Distillers vodka uses these local potatoes today.

Potatoes can be simple to cook. The most basic recipe calls for boiling, baking or even microwaving them while they are still in their skins. More elaborate methods involve mixing or mashing them while adding additional ingredients.

Hash browns are one such dish and are an American favorite. The name refers to the fried small pieces of potatoes that are golden brown. They can be mixed with onions, peppers, garlic and cooked in shortening, vegetable or olive oil.

Like so many recipes that I profile, the origins of hash browns are slightly unclear. The Idaho Potato Commission, surely a reputable source, provides some vague information about their history. 

Pressing the soaked and pat-dried potatoes into an even layer in the frying pan.
Jordan Callier

Hash browns first appeared on breakfast menus in New York City either in the late 19th or early 20th centuries. They closely resemble Swiss Rösti, which is a potato fritter that dates back to the Middle Ages. Chefs would use the odd ends and scraps from French fries in their hash brown preparation.

The idea of “hashing” leftovers has been around for centuries. Potatoes keep well in a cool or dark place, but they will eventually spoil. Hashing them up, adding some salt and frying them in oil makes a lot of sense.

Hash browns began to rise in popularity in the United States during the 1950s. Coincidentally, they rose to fame as many fast-food chains took off. It makes sense that such burger joints would have extra fries lying around to use.

Processed hash browns also appeared around this time for mass-production. They can be kept frozen for months, and they are incredibly simple to make. They are a popular staple at American diners and fast food joints.

Depending on which part of the country you are in, hash browns are called country fried potatoes or home fries. They can even contain more exotic ingredients like hot peppers, ham or green chile.

Hash Browns

Serves four to six people

Ingredients

6 Russet potatoes

1/4 cup olive oil

1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)

2 garlic cloves, minced (optional)

Directions

  1. Rinse potatoes and dry them. Grate them into a large bowl.
  2. Add water to bowl until potatoes are submerged. Soak for about five minutes.
  3. Microwave potatoes for about six minutes or until water starts to boil.
  4. Gently rinse potatoes until water turns clear. Carefully drain and place on a clean kitchen towel.
  5. Roll up towel and firmly squeeze out water over sink. Continue to ring towel until most of the water and starch have been squeezed out.
  6. In a large skillet or frying pan, heat oil over medium high heat. Once oil is hot, carefully add potatoes, garlic and any other ingredients, and salt or other seasonings to taste.
  7. Smooth potatoes into an even layer with a spatula. Cook for about 10 minutes until the bottom side turns golden.
  8. Either flip or stir the potatoes to cook the other side. Continue to fry until potatoes are cooked as desired. Serve immediately.

Preparing hash browns can be very simple, but a little extra care makes the difference between crisp and golden versus chewy and soggy textures. There are a few tricks to achieve optimal results. Choosing the right potato makes a difference, too.

The higher the starch content of a potato, the crispier it gets when fried. Russet potatoes are best, but Yukon Golds and White potatoes work, too. Avoid waxy, low-starch potatoes like Red, New or Fingerling varieties.

Excess starch and moisture can also interfere with the final results. Most hash brown recipes suggest rinsing then soaking potatoes in water to remove excess starch. If you rinse them, it can be difficult to contain all of the tiny pieces.

Once you soak and rinse the potatoes, you should also squeeze out extra moisture. Place them in a clean towel and then ring them out over a sink.

Placing the sliced and soaked potatoes in a towel for ringing.
Jordan Callier

If you have extra time and ambition, you can also parboil or cook them in the microwave. Parboiling works best for larger chunks of potatoes, as it helps prepare them so that they will fry more quickly in the pan.

If you do not have the time nor patience for these preps, then it is OK to grate them and fry in oil. Results may vary, but they should still be delicious.

The type of frying oil can also make a difference. Since these are cooked at high heat, make sure to choose an oil with a high smoke point such as canola or extra virgin olive oil, and even clarified butter or vegetable shortening (at lower heats).

Season them with salt and pepper, or add more flavor with onions, garlic, peppers or a splash of hot sauce. The trick to frying them is cooking them thoroughly on one side for at least five minutes or until golden brown. From there, stir or flip them like a pancake or omelet.

Try any or all of these approaches above. Serve these with eggs, bacon, sausage, and toast. I used Morningstar Farms vegetarian bacon with mine. Don’t forget the coffee and orange juice, too, for the quintessential American breakfast.

This a forgiving breakfast to make, and hash browns go well with so many other foods. While potatoes are widespread across the world, hash browns are indeed an American creation. Their unique varieties reflect the fabric of this country.

The golden goodness of hash browns are part of a complete breakfast.

Jordan Callier is an avid foodie and business owner in Glenwood Springs.

Weekend Dish column: The best green chile in the world

While chiles can be grown all over the world, an extraordinary variety is cultivated right next door to Colorado in New Mexico. Chiles are a big deal there, and their importance is reflected by the official state question: “red or green?”

First cultivated by Pueblo and Hispano communities, New Mexican chiles can trace their lineage back to early Spanish conquistadors who first glimpsed the red mesas of New Mexico.

In 1583, Baltasar Obregon wrote, “They have not chile, but the natives were given some seed to plant.” The seeds that these natives planted thrived in the dry air of the high desert. Chile pepper production exploded in New Mexico.

Many varieties of chile pepper have prospered there, including early variants of pasillas, jalapeños, serranos, and anchos. One type of chile seemed to do even better than the others. These long green chiles that turn red in the fall, sometimes called Anaheim chiles, became a significant export of New Mexico.

The Anaheim chiles have their name because they are also grown in California. But make no mistake, they are New Mexican through and through.

The New Mexican chile we know today was further developed by the horticulturist, Fabián Garcia, at New Mexico State University. He helped to cultivate “hotter’ chiles to satisfy the palette of New Mexicans. His selective breeding program created 14 lineages, including Colorado and Pasilla chiles. The naming conventions of some chiles depend upon which region of New Mexico they are grown.

Hatch green chile.
Jordan Callier photo

The Hatch chile, grown in or around Hatch, New Mexico, are a species of the genus Capsicum. They are very similar to Anaheim Chiles and are renowned for their smoky, sweet and crunchy flavor. The soil and local environment shape this unique flavor profile.

Hatch chiles are at most stores, but sometimes they are not even grown in New Mexico. Chiles can be complicated. In 2012, New Mexico state legislators passed a law that prohibited the sale of chiles described as “New Mexican” unless they are grown in New Mexico.

Although these chiles can be purchased locally, I like to get them directly from the source. My friend, Tim Bradley, who is also the bassist for a well-known local band, The Mix, is quite the Hatch Chile connoisseur and provider.

The drummer in Bradley’s band has family in Hatch, New Mexico. Every year, he helps his family harvest the chiles. He brings some of these fresh roasted Hatch Chiles back to Colorado with him. Bradley has been getting his peppers from his drummer for some time now.

“For the last few years, I usually buy 70-pound bags of them,” Bradley said. “They are the best chiles in the world. I start eating them in my truck as soon as I pick them up.”

Bradley graciously shared some of these chiles with me. He also gave me some suggestions of what to make, including soup, spaghetti, wraps, and green chile. Bradley recently made 13 gallons of green chile, so I decided that was a good bet.

I enjoy green chile, but I have had mixed experiences with it. The best green chile seems to come from a nondescript, hole-in-the-wall restaurant. The worst experiences have been at mainstream franchises, where the green chile tastes tinny and too sweet. Fresh peppers make all the difference, and Hatch chiles seem to be the best for green chile.

“How do you describe the flavor? It’s just right,” Bradley said.

To make this recipe, I did a little research on other recipes available online. There are many variations, and I even found a Colorado green chile version. I took the best parts of each recipe to make my own.

Hatch Green Chile

Serves six to eight people

Ingredients

1 pound Hatch green chiles

6 garlic cloves, minced

2 jalapeño peppers, sliced

1 onion, diced

1 can tomatoes, crushed

16 ounces tomatillo salsa

4 tablespoons olive oil

2 cups broth, vegetable or chicken

1 package meatless crumbles

1 cup flaxseed flour

1 cup corn flour

1 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon chile rojo powder

pinch of ground black pepper and oregano

Green chile ingredients

Directions

  1. Peel and mince onion and garlic cloves, and then thinly slice jalapeño peppers. Remove skin from roasted chiles and set aside.
  2. Add olive oil to a large pot over medium high heat. Add onions and garlic and sauté until they begin to brown. Stir in jalapeño slices and continue to sauté for less than five minutes.
  3. Add another splash of olive oil, then stir in meatless crumbles or meat of your choice. Continue to cook over medium high heat for several minutes.
  4. Stir in undrained tomatoes, tomatillo salsa and broth. Stir flour into the broth water before heating it.
  5. Add spices and reduce heat. Simmer for about two hours while stirring occasionally.

I started with the fresh Hatch chiles that Bradley provided. They did not require much effort to prepare since they had already been fire-roasted. If you buy them before they are roasted, then I recommend roasting them on a barbecue grill or directly on a rack in the oven. Roast them until the skin starts to darken and blister. Roasting them matures their flavor while also making it easier to remove the skin.

Roasted and chopped green chile.
Jordan Callier photo

Many green chile recipes also call for pork or chicken meat. By cooking the meat in the green chile sauce, it comes out tender and juicy. If you do not want to use animal products, then you can also use a plant-based substitute. I included meatless crumbles by Morningstar Farms to satisfy my meat cravings. I also replaced the chicken broth base with vegetable broth made from bullion.

Green chile recipes also usually include tomatoes, garlic, onions and tomatillo salsa. I found some recipes called for unusual ingredients like cloves and cornflour. I decided to use both, since cloves will add an exotic flavor, and the flour can help thicken the chile. I added some flaxseed flour for extra nutrition. I also threw in some sliced jalapeño peppers, since some like it hot.

If your chile is too spicy, you can cut through the heat with an acid like lime juice. A dash of sour cream can also tame the heat.

Green chile can be in many recipes such as in soups, dips, eggs, burritos and more. If Hatch chilis are the best in the world, then this is the best green chili, too.

Jordan Callier is an avid foodie and business owner in Glenwood Springs.

Wet year makes for great mushroom hunting in Roaring Fork Valley

Veteran mushroom hunters talk in generalities when discussing their preferred picking locations.

“People are famously discrete about their favorite mushroom spots,” said local mushroom forager, David Teitler. “No one is going to tell you where their best spot is unless you are their friend and I am certainly not going to put it in the newspaper.”

No secret, however, is the fact that Independence Pass and areas along the Frying Pan River serve as hotspots for foragers like Teitler. And, while numerous mushroom species grow in Colorado, two stick out as the cream of the crop — boletus (also known porcini) and chanterelle.

“You can cook the boletus or chanterelle with onions, garlic, a little white wine or some shallots,” Teitler said of the mushrooms that often complement pasta, steak, risotto and even breakfast dishes.

“The boletus, specifically, over toast with over easy eggs makes for a really good breakfast.”

A Carbondale resident, Teitler first got into mushroom hunting — a hobby he says at times can “border on obsession,” — while backpacking with friends some 30 years ago.

“The best way to learn about mushrooms is you go with someone who knows, and each time you go out you learn maybe one more mushroom,” Teitler said.

Last year’s Lake Christine Fire, combined with this year’s wet weather, made for particularly good burn morel mushroom hunting.

A rare find, burn morel mushrooms grow the year after a fire in its burn scar area.

“There was a proliferation of morel mushrooms on Basalt Mountain this year,” Teitler said.

A wild morel mushroom on Basalt Mountain.
David Teitler

Trent Blizzard, another avid Roaring Fork Valley mushroom forager, said that one should always cook mushrooms, not only for their flavor, but safety reasons too.

“There is something in them called chitin, which breaks down when you cook them,” Blizzard said. “Even raw mushrooms that you get from the grocery store, your body doesn’t really turn them into nutrition because the chitin hasn’t been broken down through cooking.”

In Colorado, the premiere mushroom-hunting season occurs in late July and August. However, Blizzard said he preserves the wild delicacy for year-round enjoyment.

“We dehydrate, pickle, and freeze,” Blizzard said of the various mushroom preservation techniques. “There are so many ways you can preserve these mushrooms and enjoy them on food.”

In addition to putting them on pizza, Blizzard particularly enjoys slicing larger mushrooms to cook on the grill — similar to steak.

“These are very desirable gourmet mushrooms that have worldwide markets,” Blizzard said.

Wild morel.
David Teitler

One must possess a special permit from the state to sell a wild mushroom. However, anyone can go out and pick the delicacy so long as they obtain a free permit from the Forest Service.

mabennett@postindependent.com

Weekend Dish column: It’s always summer with peach cobbler

It feels like summer could last forever. Alas, nothing gold can stay. Colorado has its way of telling time through the seasons.

Sunflowers make me feel happy and sad at once. I love their vibrant colors, as they stand tall against the harsh summer sun. They are beautiful, but they remind us to enjoy the time we have. Here in Colorado, these things move like clockwork. As the sunflowers salute the sun, they warn us that summer is ending soon.

Another hint of autumn is the Palisade Peach stands that randomly pop up in parking lots and roadsides. They are the reliable harbingers of changing seasons in August.

August is also National Peach Month, so let us celebrate together.

Colorado sunshine and the water from our famous river sustains Palisade peaches. They thrive on the scorching hot days and clear, cold nights, while they proudly blaze with vivid hues and sweeten under the stars. Peaches are Colorado summers. 

Their beauty is also fragile and finicky. Peaches are not a sure bet for our local farmers, and many environmental factors can affect them. 

If spring is colder, and summer is longer, then the peach harvest lasts further into the autumn. Conversely, if we get an early frost or snow, then the peach season is over. Our peaches are just trying to survive here along with the rest of us.

Georgia may be the “Peach State,” but Palisade is the peach capital. I wish I knew more about their history here. What motivated the pioneers of the late 19th century to plant these fragile crops? Was success written in the Book Cliffs or whispered by the river?

According to information provided by the Palisade Peach Festival organization, a pioneer, John Petal Harlow, and his wife planted the first peach trees in Palisade around 1882. He also helped to design and implement a series of canals that diverted water from the Colorado River.

With those life-giving waters, he transformed the high desert into a fertile valley that would provide many bountiful crops of grapes, plums, apricots, cherries, and peaches.

Those early settlers discovered their peaches were brighter and sweeter than fruit found elsewhere. Success was not guaranteed, but nature gave her blessing, and a peach industry has thrived there ever since.

While some years are better than others, this year seems to be a good year so far. The peaches are doing so well that the growers are having a hard time finding laborers to pick them.

Even though peaches are now abundant, they won’t last much longer. Whether you take a day trip to Palisade, buy them from a roadside seller, or visit the local grocery store, the options can be dizzying. How do you choose the perfect peach?

The website for visiting Grand Junction recommends checking the colors around the peach’s stem. 

“If the skin is green near the stem, the peach was picked green,” according to the site. “If the skin around the stem is yellow or red, then the peach is ripe. If it yields easily to pressure, then it is very ripe and will bruise easily.”

The latter kind of peaches are best for eating, and you will be able to taste the difference. But even peaches that are less than ideal are great for baking. If you go crazy picking peaches, you can also freeze them for later baking. 

I have a go-to recipe for peach cobbler that is both sumptuous and easy to make. The secret to this recipe (and life itself) is sugar cookie dough. Many of the other ingredients are quite common in most kitchens. You can also use fresh or frozen peaches with the same juicy results.

The other primary ingredients include butter, sugar, corn starch, eggs, and lemon juice. I sometimes feel like Paula Dean with all the butter I use, so you can substitute the butter with coconut oil if desired. I also used my trusty iron skillet to bake the cobbler, but other baking dishes or pans work great too.

Whenever I taste a peach, I go to that place that is always summer in my mind. As I get older, I tend to appreciate these experiences more than I ever have.

So many of the things we eat are from so far away. But we can call Palisade peaches our own. They have eked out an existence in the high desert just as we do. We thrive in the same sunshine, and we bow before the bitter cold. Peach cobbler can take you to the place where sunflowers grow eternal, and it is always summer.

Sugar Cookie Peach Cobbler

Serves six to eight people.

Ingredients

Peach Filling

5 cups Palisade peaches, sliced

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

2 tablespoon cornstarch

1 teaspoon cinnamon

3 tablespoons butter, salted or unsalted

pinch of flour

Crust Topping

1 package sugar cookie mix

1/2 cup butter

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 egg

pinch of brown or turbinado sugar

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Rinse and gently pat dry peaches, then slice as thinly as desired.
  2. Spray non-stick cooking spray on your skillet or baking pan. For the filling, evenly arrange peach slices in skillet or pan. Then mix in sugar, cornstarch, and cinnamon. Gently mix until slices are evenly coated.
  3. Cut butter into cubes and place evenly on top of peaches.
  4. In a small saucepan, heat 1/2 cup of butter over medium heat until golden brown, which can take up to ten minutes, so make sure to stir constantly to avoid scorching.
  5. Pour melted butter into a large bowl, then stir in cookie dough mix, egg and cinnamon until a dry dough forms.
  6. Take small spoonfuls of the dough and place on top of peach filling. Gently press dough flat into the peaches until it creates an even surface on top of the filling. Sprinkle with brown or turbinado sugar.
  7. Bake the cobbler for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Allow cobbler to cool before serving.