“If we don’t have a place for nature in our heart, how can we expect nature to have a place for us.” ― Abhijit Naskar.

With its 300 days of sunshine, Colorado is a great place to get right with Mother Nature. One word for Springtime in the Rockies? Glorious. This week I’m sharing that glory with you. You’ll also find something glorious about my Tomato Tart with Mustard, a French classic. Adding ricotta makes for a milder mustard aftertaste. I’ve already baked three of these babies. Your turn.

Mama Moose
The dawdling Baby Moose

Realizing I’m an amateur photographer just trying my best, here’s my one that got away story. When I began taking nature photos, a professional told me to ‘never let a photograph get in front of the experience.’ Last week I joined two Forest Conservancy colleagues to fill in at the Maroon Bells while the USFS Rangers attended an all-day training session. As we first walked by Maroon Lake, a beautiful bald eagle, backlit by the magnificent Bells, flew out of the nearby trees and soared over the lake. As he came closer – I had a shot – but decided instead on the experience.


Although this remarkable tart just begs for heirloom tomatoes, they are pricey and often not available. I used one large and 2 medium-sized tomatoes, adding cherry or grape tomatoes for filler. To avoid excess moisture from the watery tomatoes, either follow #3 in my Directions or sprinkle them generously with salt on both sides and lay them in a single layer on a cooling rack for 2 hours to release excess juices. 

Red Fox, hanging out at the Maroon Bells

TOMATO TART with MUSTARD and RICOTTA by Dorie Greenspan, Everyday Dorie, The Way I Cook

Makes 6 Servings

One 9-91/2- inch tart shell made with Pâte Brisée, your favorite pastry recipe or favorite store-bought pastry crust, partially baked and cooled

Partially-Baked Tart Shells


Spotted Towhee
Female American Kestrel. The kestrel is the smallest falcon in North America

2 tsp olive oil

3 cups packed finally shredded greens such as chard, kale, spinach or arugula (I used 3 cups of baby arugula and didn’t cut or shred it at all)

Fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper

About 11/2 pounds of tomatoes, 2-3 large, 3-4 medium or a mix of large, medium and cherry or grape tomatoes

1 cup of whole-milk ricotta

1 large egg yolk

3 large eggs

6 TBS heavy cream

3 TBS grainy mustard


  1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat it to 425 degrees. Place the partially baked tart shell on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone backing mat.
  2. Warm the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Toss in the greens, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until they wilt and soften, 1-2 minutes. Scrape them onto the pastry crust leaving any oil in the skillet.
  3. Core the tomatoes, if necessary, and thinly slice. If using cherry or grape tomatoes, halve them. Lay the tomatoes out on a double layer of paper towels, cover with more paper towels and pat away the excess moisture.
  4. Mix the ricotta with the egg yolk and season with salt and pepper. (This may be made ahead, covered and refrigerated for up to 6 hours.)
  5. Whisk together the eggs, cream and mustard and season with salt and paper. (This may also be refrigerated up to 6 hours.) Pour onto the crust and spinach.
  6. Add the tomatoes, arranging them attractively but evenly distributed. Don’t be afraid to let them overlap with each other. Be generous with the tomatoes. Finish by spooning dollops of the ricotta mixture on the top.
  7. Bake for 30-40 minutes until the filling is puffed and firm in the center. Transfer the baking sheet to a rack and let the tart cool for at least 15 minutes before serving or wait for it to come to room temperature, your choice.

Store any leftovers in the fridge.

Mama Red-tail was very angry because I got too close to her nest. Don’t mess with Mama.
The Nest. Babies on Board,
No Bald Eagle.



I learned to ski in Aspen during the seventies. My first summer visit was with my husband Michael in 1987. I’d never hiked before. Soon after arriving we drove to the Maroon Bells to hike the Crater Lake trail. It’s a rocky 3.4 mile round trip at an altitude from 7,050 to 8,060 feet. I was wearing tennis shoes.

Maroon Bells, Fall Colors Photo compliments of outdoorsproject.com

At mile marker 1/2 mile, dear Readers, I was 100% positive of being near death, leaving my girls motherless. I whined, complained and used very bad words. Michael being Michael agreed and empathized with everything I said but kept on hiking! It was an unpleasant weekend.

On our next trip, equipped with proper gear and having walked up every hill in Des Moines (our hometown), I met the mountain. Call me a “Rock Star.” After moving to Aspen, I loved our hiking adventures. When Life itself got rocky, it was the mountains I’d turn to for solace. I still do.


Weather permitting, I am back on the trails doing what, because of the Pandemic, I could not do the summer prior. Many of you have asked what it is I really do? This Ranger thing. Here’s my story.

White-faced Ibis, Spring Valley/ Kindall Road Pond, Roaring Fork Valley, Colorado

In the 1990’s Aspenite Joanne Lyon decided our Forest Service needed “helpers.” The culprit? Government cuts. She answered her call, inspiring three other locals to join her. After raiding the USFS’s storage closet to pull together second-hand uniforms, this ragtag group hit the trails. I was one of the second or third waves to join the group.

MAY READS – “Leave Only Footprints,” Conor Knighton’s one-year journey to all our National Parks; “A World on the Wing,” a Scott Weidensaul book on migratory bird journeys; “Beloved Beasts,” Michelle Nijhuis writes a definitive history of the conservation movement; “The Four Winds,” by Kristin Hannah, another best-selling novel by Hannah. (Note: I’ve not yet read the last two books but if your interested in the subjects of the first two, I highly recommend them.)

It was left to Judy Schramm, another volunteer, to formally organize us. In 2001 she spearheaded the Forest Conservancy’s emergence as a non-profit partner to the Forest Service. We were charged with promoting hiking safety and caring for the natural and cultural resources of the 2.3 million acre White River National Forest. We hired an Executive Director, Marcia Johnson. She’s our Smokey Bear.

Male Bullock’s Oriole, Private Home in Carbondale

Except for 8 years in Nevada, I’ve been on the trails every summer. To begin, we take a training course, receive First Aid/CPR instruction, shadow veteran volunteers and often participate in naturalist classes before becoming rangers. I set my own hiking calendar. Admittedly, my younger, hardier colleagues maintain a more rigorous schedule than I can.

Sometimes you must do the best you can until Help arrives!

Although I work with others hiking various trails, on most Saturday mornings you’ll find me before 7a.m., patrolling alone (my choice), the Crater Lake trail. It’s the staging area for small backpacking groups who hike the Four Pass Loop.

The Hen, Her Shadow and Me: It’s off-season right now. No guests at The Gant. That’s why I’m loving my new buddy who wanders around the property. Last Monday, at about 6:50am, I spotted her patiently waiting by our main office front doors.

I check that each backpacking group has a bear canister, a container used as a physical barrier to protect food from wildlife. No canister. No trip. Hardcore backpackers monitor their own community. Safety matters. I’ve never had to turn anyone around.

East Maroon Trail: Every year Phil, another volunteer ranger, helps me learn the names of all the various peaks of popular hiking areas but I always, always need a refresher course each summer! My Bad.

Each hiking group must self-register and one hiker hangs that tag with destination/participant information on his pack. It’s free, takes 5 minutes to fill-out but hikers often forget. I carry extra tags, pencils, retrieve a copy for the USFS and remind them Moms like to know their whereabouts. That they understand!

This American Robin framed himself using what remains of a deteriorating machine shed at Sutey Ranch near Carbondale.

For the next few hours it’s hiking the trail, answering questions, snapping pictures and encouraging first-timers. Most Saturdays I encounter 300-400 hikers. In high season it’s 1,000 hiker days. (I have a counter.) Besides people, I’ve met bears, moose and mountain goats. What I love most, however, is how in awe of the Bells our visitors are. Many have never been in the mountains. This may be the only vacation time they’ll have all year. My primary job, I’ve learned, is to help make it a safe and unforgettable one.

Three mountain goats were headed our way on the Crater Lake Trail. The 6-8 hikers on the trail with me were pretty cool about it. I suggested we just back off into the trees and remain quiet. A hiker on each side of the goats stopped others from moving forward. The goats were confused, ran back and forth a few times but then ran up the mountain. Actually it was fun for all of us to watch.


Spicy Black Bean & Sausage Chili (vegetarian version, also)

Chili was on my mind all winter but for various reasons I never got it made. When Betsy, my food blogging friend of the past decade, sent me her cookbook “Fifty For My Fiftieth,” with 50 of her favorite recipes, this called my name. The quick, flavor-filled recipe is the brainchild of American chef and restaurateur Rick Bayless who is widely known for his PBS series Mexico: One Plate at a Time.

I hesitated to post this photo. This chili can also be served over rice. It’s delicious. A nice change-up. Tastes better than it looks!

SPICY BLACK BEAN and SAUSAGE CHILI by Rick Bayless & adapted by Betsy Pollack-Benjamin

Makes 8 servings


1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 medium red or green bell pepper, seeded and diced
8 oz. to 1 pound of cooked sausage (chicken-cilantro, andouille or smoked), thinly sliced (I substituted ground beef chuck)
3 cups of tomatillo sauce or use your favorite jarred salsa
8 oz. butternut squash, diced into 1/2-inch pieces ( I added cut-up roasted carrots because I had them available)
2 cans (15 ounces each) black beans, drained
2 cans (14 ounces each) fire-roasted diced tomatoes, undrained


  1. Pour the oil into a large, deep pan and warm over medium heat.
  2. Add the onion and cook until slightly tender and translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Stir in green pepper and cook 1 minute.
  3. Stir in sausage, squash, sauce or salsa, beans and tomatoes. Simmer over medium-low heat, stirring often, for about 30 minutes. (Substitute ground beef for sausage slices or leave out meat entirely.)

Serve in warmed bowls topped with cheese and other toppings of your choice of optional toppings: chopped fresh cilantro, chopped green onion, sour cream or yogurt and crumbled corn tortilla chips.

Mini cornbread muffins are a nice addition.

This chili can also be served over rice.

Osprey, Riverfront Trail, River Valley Ranch, Carbondale



You know it’s time to return home when one of your Besties sends a photo of moose hanging out in her backyard. I would love to have seen those two gorgeous animals. Deb and her husband, Phil, are animal magnets with property that backs up to open spaces. When something special pays a visit, they often give me a call.

The caveat to this is don’t mess with a moose. The Shiras moose specie was first successfully re-introduced to Colorado in the late Sixties. Today it’s estimated there are 2,500 scattered throughout our state. While the moose munched on lilacs and relaxed in their yard for about two hours, my friends sheltered-in-place.


Every winter I spend the holidays in California and Nevada and then visit Paris. Not this year. For the last five months I’ve waited out the Pandemic in Boulder. It was a safe and friendly choice with my being able to zip back to Aspen for vaccination shots.

Since March, following the King Soopers shooting causing 10 deaths, there’s been an inconsolable anguish hovering over this city that no amount of Boulder Strong signs can lessen. Even I’m still shaken. Healing is hard.


So you might ask what I’ve been doing this winter? How I’ve spent my time. Now you know. Please take a few minutes to wander through and understand my stripped down, minimalist blog. Start at the Landing page and move on to Lights on Mary, Dig In and No Brakes. After ten years this blog needed new lipstick. Readers, I so appreciate you. Just know that.


Before I leave for the High County this week I wanted to bake bread in an altitude-friendlier kitchen. I’ve followed Chris and Scott Scheuer’s Cafe Sucre and Farine since I began blogging. Chris’ delicious recipes have never failed me. She claimed this Focaccia was Ridiculously Easy. I made it. I’m still a believer.

Put dough in the fridge for 8 – 24 hours.

RIDICULOUSLY EASY FOCACCIA BREAD adapted from The Cafe Sucre Farine by Chris Scheuer

The magic happened.
More magic.


4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2¼ teaspoons instant yeast (1 packet)
2 cups warm tap water
1 teaspoon soft butter for greasing pan
4 tablespoons olive oil divided
Toppings – I used Everything but the Bagel Sesame Seasoning Blend and a blend of Roasted Garlic, Rosemary and Sea Salt
Flaky Sea Salt (I like Maldon)


Rub olive oil on your finger tips. Hold your hands straight and make deep holes in the dough. Don’t be bashful, lotsa holes.

1 In a medium-large bowl, combine flour, salt, and instant yeast. Stir well. Add the warm water. Using a wooden spoon or a rubber spatula, mix until all of the flour is well incorporated (there should be no small pockets of flour.) Cover the bowl with a plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours.

2. Lightly butter two 9-inch cake pans. Line pans with parchment paper. Pour one tablespoon of olive oil into the center of each pan. Divide dough in half with a large spoon or rubber spatula and place one piece of dough in each pan, turning to coat with oil. Tuck edges of dough underneath to form a rough ball.

3. Cover each pan tightly with plastic wrap and allow the dough balls to rest for 2 hours (it may take as long as 3 hours, depending on the warmth of your kitchen). The dough should cover most of the pan.

4. Preheat oven to 450˚F with a rack positioned in the center of the oven.Drizzle another tablespoon of oil over each round of dough. With oiled fingers, using both hands, press straight down and create deep dimples that go all the way through the dough (you’ll actually be making deep holes.) If necessary, gently stretch the dough as you dimple to allow the dough to fill the pan.

5. Sprinkle tops with seasoning of your choice and flaky sea salt.

6. Transfer the pans to the oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 425˚F. Bake for 22 to 28 minutes, until the tops are golden and the undersides are crisp. Remove pans from the oven. With a metal spatula remove bread rounds from the pans and transfer to a cooling rack immediately.

7. Serve warm or allow to cool completely then store in a zippered bag. To freeze, allow bread to cool completely, then transfer to a ziplock bag and freeze. Thaw and enjoy at room temperature or warm for 10 minutes in a 350˚F oven.

Sprinkle the topping of your choice on top.

1. When baking in high altitude I always use King Arthur’s High Altitude Flour or Hungarian High Altitude Flour.
2. The most difficult part of the recipe for me was the hole poking. Be sure your fingers are well-oiled and poke your fingers straight down into the dough.

JUST LAUGH – The only moose I saw last year was on a birthday card my friend Connie gave me for my October birthday,


Dear Gentle Readers,

Blood Orange Cake with Sea Salt Roasted Nuts

There are so many reasons not to diet nor to even try in March. It’s easy for me to justify almost anything but dieting when we’re 13 months into the Pandemic? No. Say it loudly. No. This post is about celebrating what’s always sweet and special about March.

I was so happy to finally stop to see my friend and Aspen artist Jody Guralnick’s outstanding show, Prima Lingua, First Words of the Earth at the Denver Botanical Center. Jody is all about experimenting with natural objects. I had my first lunch in a year at a restaurant, the Garden’s Hive Bistro. I ordered a tuna melt and hot chocolate. Yeah, I don’t get out much!

In March I’m talking about Girl Scout Cookie Sale Month; International Women’s Day (3/8); National Pi Day (3/12); St. Patrick’s Day (3/17); French Language (3/20) & French Bread Days (3/21); National Cocktail Day ( 3/24) followed by Passover (3/27).


It’s 43 Degrees in Boulder but Olive, Pearl (upside down) and Dad are still doing business. Scouts have been selling cookies for over 100 years. I added to my stash with Thin Mints and Trefoils.

There are 1.7 million Girl Scouts in America who want to sell you a box of cookies. A Brownie pin still lives in my jewelry box and my girls were also Scouts. I was often a leader. Every March the cookie box inventory hung out in my garage until depletion! That month was worth 5 pounds. I’ve never passed a Thin Mints box that didn’t call my name.

The Boulder County bird is a Canada Goose. I am officially naming it so. They move for no one. They relish obstructing traffic. This biker slowly maneuvered his way through a number of gaggles but finally had a stand off with these three. He lost.


2011 International Women’s Day Dinner Party at Chez Hirsch in Henderson, Nevada. After a decade of some of us coming and going and moving and re-locating, I’m glad we’re all still close friends.

Although IWD is an international celebration, America has been late to the party. Happily more American women are now joining our worldwide sisterhood to commemorate the cultural, political, and socioeconomic achievements of women. This year’s theme was  “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world.”

Blood Orange Cake and Sea Salt Roasted Nuts with whipped cream and orange zest. I like!

I always try to honor the Day in some manner. In 2011, while still living in Henderson (Nevada), I invited my talented and amazing besties for an IWD dinner party. In Boulder this year I made a delicious Blood Orange Cake filled with Sea Salt Roasted Nuts.* By adding club soda to Lillet Blanc, tossing in an orange twist and filling a rocks glass with ice, I turned an apéritif into a dessert cocktail. (*Hey Gant gang, There’s no one to taste test my food. Will be so thrilled to be home and cook for you.)

Lillet Blanc with club soda and an orange slice was perfect with this cake. Promise.


I’ve not a smidgen of blood – red cells, white cells, platelets, or plasma – that runs Irish. My Mom’s people were Welch coal miners. Everyday they’d go down into the mines, their lunch buckets filled with Cornish pasties. They are savory pocket-shaped and baked shortcrust pastry filled with beef, potatoes, Swedes (rutabagas) and onions. Every Christmas Eve our family would feast to their memory with pasty, raspberry sherbet, fruit salad and Saffron biscuits.

Irish Soda Bread

But I digress. Next Wednesday is St. Patrick’s Day, a time for we Irish wannabes to make merry and be spontaneously rambunctious. (Is that even possible this year?) Every March 17th, no matter where I’ve landed for the winter, I try to bake Mrs. Frings’ Irish Soda Bread, a recipe I found in Sweet Paul’s magazine years ago. I’m always reminded how plain and authentic this bread tastes. While best on the day it’s made, toast it for Day 2 and 3’s breakfast.

Don’t forget to slash the top, cutting it about a half-inch deep to make a cross pattern. That slash will either ward off the devil, bless the bread or let heat penetrate into the thickest part of the bread. Since I forgot the almighty slash this year, if the devil comes knocking at my door, I’ll know Why.

Toasted Irish Soda Bread and Sumo Citrus Oranges which are a “dekopon”—a cross-breed between a satsuma and mandarin- …

So, my friends, that about covers March. I’m passing National Pi Day festivities over to my Accountant friend and numbers guru, Donna Grauer. While I may know Pie, she’s an expert on Pi. Don’t even get her started on Prime Numbers. For me, every day is french language day. After more years of french studies than I will admit, I’m still waiting for the ‘breakthrough.” I’ll pair French bread with Dorie’s Slow-Cooker Brisket with Carrots and Sweet Potatoes for Passover on March 27th. And, there goes March!


MRS. FRINGS’ IRISH SODA BREAD from Sweet Paul magazine by Staffer Paul Vitale


3-4 cups all-purpose flour, dough should be sticky
1 stick of butter (8 TBS) at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 lb. raisins
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp.baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 and 1/2 cup buttermilk


  1. Mix all dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
  2. Mix butter into dry mixture by hand until clumps disappear.
  3. Slowly add in the buttermilk by hand until you can form one big clump of dough.
  4. Place in 8 or 9 inch round, springform or cast iron pan that’s been coated with butter and flour.
  5. Bake until deep golden brown at 400 degrees for 50-60 minutes, checking at the 40 minute mark. (My soda bread took 45 minutes.)
  6. Remove from oven, place on rack and drape with damp cloth until cool.
  7. Slice and enjoy with Orange Marmalade (my fave) or Irish butter!

Lillet French Aperitif with an Orange Twist, a favorite of Liz Berg, That Skinny Chick Can Bake Blog


4 ounces Lillet Blanc
 4 ounces club soda
Orange twist


  1. Fill rocks glass with ice. Add Lillet Blanc and then club soda. Stir to mix
  2. Serve with an orange twist.



Moroccan-Spiced Chickpea, Lentil & Noodle Soup with Falafel

The more it snows in Colorado, the better it is for agricultural support, the recreation community and our precious albeit beleaguered Colorado River. I grew up in Iowa, a state bordered on the west by the meandering Missouri, North America’s longest river, and the east, by Ol’Man River himself. (There’s a song.) Let’s agree it’s been my good fortune that my neck-of-the-woods has always been located ‘where a river runs through it.’

Meatballs added.

During the past two weeks I’ve opened my eyes most mornings to more snow. Of course the scene is magical. It’s also cold, really cold, more than normal cold. You know what’s an antidote for snowy, frigid weather? SOUP. In particular, Moroccan-Spiced Chickpea, Lentil and Noodle Soup. Heads up, vegetarians. Or spread the love to meat eaters at your table by adding mini-meatballs.

This morning in Boulder. Time to warm up the soup pot again.
Don’t be afraid to add more liquid if needed.

This satisfying, flavorful, spicy soup is everything. It’s ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, cumin and saffron (optional). It’s chickpeas, red lentils and angel hair pasta. Oh yes, do not pass Go without a lemon. It’s essential. And what I discovered after letting it simmer all week on my stovetop is it only gets better with age. You may need to add liquid. Glance through the recipe. Make it work for you. Resistance is futile.

A simple green salad-wild arugula, tomatoes and Feta – is a wonderful side to the soup.

PARIS, Tu me manques. (I miss you.)

Melissa’s first day in Paris. 2020. We joined a French Macaron Cooking Class with Chef Eric at La Cuisine Paris.

A year ago today my daughter, Melissa, flew to Paris to spend a week with me. For the past several years I’ve been spending a few winter months in the City of Lights. Melissa had never visited France. I now know there are few greater joys than showing your daughter Paris for the first time.

The Theme at Chez Hirsch this week is Paris.

Before she left Paris, we’d already planned our 2021 Paris week. Melissa and daughter Clara, for her high school graduation present, would fly to Paris for a week. Emma, a college junior who would be studying in Greece for the semester, would join us.

2020: Melissa’s last day in Paris. Next Stop: Aéroport de Paris-Charles-de-Gaulle. I am not particularly happy!
But I rose up and put my brave face on. Little did I know what lay ahead.

When I waved goodbye to Missy last March 4th, we had no idea I would be following 10 days later due to new Covid travel restrictions. Nor did we know I wouldn’t see her for the following twelve months and still counting. Let me be clear. I have nothing but gratitude for the good health and well-being my family has enjoyed the past year. We are the lucky ones. No pity parties at our households.

Moving on with the Paris theme: The top three books are novels about Paris. “The Only Street in Paris” is a memoir of sorts. Melissa created a book about our 2020 trip. The jig saw puzzle is of France,

I decided, however, I could relive the memories of that fabulous week either with sadness or joy. I came down on the side of joy, calories, l’apéro (cocktail hour), photographs and Piaf. I believe in make-believe. Of course, if all else fails, there is always ZOOM.


Moroccan-Spiced Chickpea and Noodle Soup by Dorie Greenspan, Everyday Dorie, The Way I Cook

Serves 8-10


MINI MEATBALLS: (Add meatballs or make it vegetarian.)

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1-pound ground beef or turkey to form into 18 to 20 small meatballs
Salt and ground black pepper to taste


2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 medium onions, finely chopped, rinsed and patted dry
2 celery stalks with leaves, finely sliced
3 garlic clove, chopped
2-3 TBS ground ginger
1 TBS fine sea salt or to taste
11/2 Tsp freshly ground black pepper
11/2 Tsp ground turmeric
11/2 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp cumin
1/8 to 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
Large pinch of saffron threads (this is pricey so it’s optional)
One 28-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley or cilantro
2 quarts unsalted vegetable or chicken stock or broth.
1 (15 ounce) can chickpeas drain and rinse
3/4 cup red lentils, split
1/4-pound thin or angel hair pasta, broken into short pieces
1 or 2 lemons, cut into wedges or slices


For Meatballs:

  1. Place oil in large skillet.
  2. Season meat with salt and black pepper; form into 18 to 20 small meatballs.Precook meatballs: Brown over medium heat for about 5 to 8 minutes, browning all sides. Set meatballs aside. Pour out leftover oil and swipe clean with a paper towel

3. Over medium low heat melt butter to cook onion, garlic and celery for about 4 minutes or when vegetables start to soften. Add spices, stir to blend with vegetables for 30 seconds before stirring in tomatoes and half of parsley. If using, return the meatballs and bring to a simmer. Cook over low heat for 15 minutes covered.

4. Add broth or water to the pot. Increase the heat. Bring to a boil. Adjust the heat to simmer. Add drained chickpeas, partially cover pot, let simmer for about 30 minutes. Add more liquid as needed.

5. Add lentils, cook partially covered for 20 minutes more until softened. Season to taste.

6. Before serving, stir in broken pasta and cook for about 8-10 minutes. Then stir in the remainder of parsley or cilantro.

7. Lemon juice is traditional to serve but you may also add it in the kitchen or serve with lemon slices at the table.

About the Recipe, from Dorie: The Moroccan soup/stew is simple and so satisfying and like many dishes, it’s better when served the next day. Its roots are in Northern Africa and the spices add an exotic and delicious flavor. This Hariri traditional dish has several add-ins of pasta, chickpeas, and lentils.The combined flavors are almost magical when blended together.



It’s come to this. Three weeks ago I stood at my kitchen sink having my first cup of coffee and heard myself say,  “I am just so over you, Mary. You don’t make me laugh anymore.”

Banana-Peanut Butter Ice Cream with Caramel Sauce

First, here’s to acknowledging I may be losing my mind. Or, since what’s said out loud carries more power than just thinking it, I obviously wanted Me to hear it.  

Let’s just leave it here. My laughter soundtrack needs maintenance. Got it.

Dark Chocolate Covered Espresso Beans with Dark Chocolate Pudding


During the past 345 days of pandemic restrictions, I’ve finally caught up with myself, checking off those pesky chores and irritating to-do’s long needing my attention. Finally the unread New Yorker magazines are trashed, my storage unit is almost laid bare and there’s a re-do in progress at my Gant condo. At some point during those 8,280 hours  I apparently lost my Joy and parked my Sense of Humor. During this very somber and sad time, we still need to smile. Do you agree? Let’s try.   

Dark Chocolate Pudding with Caramel Sauce, Sprinkles or Dark Chocolate Espresso Beans

Joke to My Gant Family: “If you would like to know how it feels to be in hospitality during the corona virus pandemic: Remember when the Titanic was sinking and the Band continued to play? Well, we’re the band…..” 

Located near the library is Boulder’s Native Bee Hotel. Boulder County has 562 different species of Solitary Wood-nesting Bees.
NOTE THE “DO NOT DISTURB” REQUEST. Don’t you love this?

 Last week I received my second vaccine shot. Age shoved me to the head of the line and Pfizer-BioNTech delivered the two life-saving jabs that went into my arm. Bravo to scientists Ugur Sahin and Ozlem Tureci, the brains behind the world’s first effective Covid vaccine. Bravo times two because I no longer need my Hazmat suit for Clara’s high school graduation!

JOKE: “Sometime I wonder if all this is happening because I didn’t forward that e-mail to 10 People.” 

This is the poster plastered on the wall at Lolita’s Market & Deli in Boulder, a corner grocery store located a block from my house. Built in 1876, the year Colorado became a state, it is one of this city’s oldest buildings. Open 24/7, every day of the week, it has been a market since 1979. What a gem.

 In time, everyone will have their own vaccination story. This is mine. With less than six million people, Colorado, ranked  #12 in quality health care*,  is arguably more manageable than, for example, California (40 million) or New York (20 million). Last March 14th, the same night I landed in Aspen after evacuating from Paris, Governor Jared Polis closed down the state’s ski resorts bringing the High Country’s major economic engine to a full stop. When the taxi driver picked me up at the airport, he was totally chagrined. “I don’t know how I’m going to buy food,” he said.

 Gov. Polis has been righting the ship ever since. Ya gotta support a politician who last May hid a shipment of tests and PPE because he was ‘worried the federal government or somebody else would take them.’ That’s the type of guy most Coloradans can get behind.

My friends Jane and Bill Dinsmoor get their shots from Nurses Erica Purcell, L, and Tiffany Poss, R, at the drive through vaccinations location at the Benedict Music Tent parking lot in Aspen. They ran Aspen’s Main Street Bakery (the best) for 27 years until selling the property in 2016. I used to buy Bill’s delicious Challah every Friday. (Photo and Credit Info by Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times-Thanks, Kelsey.)

JOKE: “Really wish we had a dog right now but then I remember that old slogan, a dog is for life, not just for a global pandemic.”

In my humble opinion, these are most beautiful dead flowers I’ve ever seen.

Although I’m in Boulder now, friends kept me in the loop so I could sign up when the vaccination registration link went on line. Three weeks later, bingo, I had a shot slot.

 The most unnerving part of this three-week seamless process was the road trips. Snow is always an issue in the mountains. It’s a 210-mile trip from Boulder to Aspen. The weather gods were kind for Shot #1. Slushy roads, I can handle. For Shot #2, Mother Nature was grumpy. The mountains had a glorious 14 to 20-inch dump the day before and there were still flurries so yep, ice and snow. Three plows escorted me and others over Vail Pass. On the trip home there was more snow. Contending with 110 or so trucks required to “Chain Up,” made for a white-knuckle drive. When conditions merit the chains, these big guys have to be maneuvered off and back on the Interstate during the 127-mile stretch through the Eisenhower Tunnel and over Vail Pass. I have a healthy respect for 18 wheelers. They win. In the end, however, safely back in Boulder, mission accomplished. Grateful.

February-March Reading – Enger’s novel is this month’s bookclub choice. I liked it. Need to read “D-Day Girls,” “The Last American Aristocrat,” about Henry Adams and “An Onion in my Pocket,” a memoir by American chef, food writer and teacher, Deborah Madison.

JOKE: “In Germany they are preparing for the covid crisis by stocking up with sausage and cheese. That’s the Wurst Käse scenario.”


What to do with three ripe bananas? Banana bread? Nah. Smoothie? Not today. Try this Banana-Peanut Butter Sundae. Or Split. No ice cream or yogurt needed. Just pantry and fridge staples. Decadence personified.

I never made pudding from scratch. Hello, Jell-O brand. Then I met Dorie’s Dark Chocolate Pudding. Dorie has been updating and improving this pudding recipe since Paris Sweets, a cookbook she published in 2002. She’s nailed it. That’s all I need to say.  

BANANA ICE CREAM by Cooking for One, America’s Test Kitchen

SERVES: 1 or 2


3 very, ripe bananas, peeled, bagged and put in freezer

1/4 cup heavy cream or half-and-half

11/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon table salt


1. Freeze bananas until solid, at least 8 hours

2. Let bananas sit at room temperature to often slightly, about 15 minutes. 3. Slice into 1/2-inch-thick rounds and place in blender, food processor or Immersion Blender. Add cream, vanilla, lemon juice, cinnamon and salt.  (Note: To make it chocolate, add some unsweetened cocoa powder with bananas.) Process until smooth, about 5 minutes.

4. Transfer mixture to airtight container and freeze until firm, at least 2 hours. Ice cream can be frozen for up to one week. 

5. Serve, topped with sprinkles, topping sauce (hot or cold) and a cherry.

TIPS:  1) Substitute canned coconut milk to make it vegan or plant-based creamer for the cream. 2) Optional: In Step 2, For various flavoring, add about 3-4 tablespoons of peanut butter or Nutella and/or stir in nuts or unsweetened cocoa powder.

Poster hanging at Lolita’s.




1½ cups whole milk

¾ cup heavy cream

⅓ cup sugar

2 tablespoons cornstarch

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

¼ teaspoon salt

1 large egg

2 large egg yolks

¼ pound  semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, melted and warm

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

1½ cups whipping cream, whipped to soft peaks


1.Combine milk and cream in a heavy saucepan. Heat on stove over medium heat just until bubbles start to form at the edges.

2. While the milk and cream are heating, whisk the sugar, cornstarch, cocoa powder, and salt together in a medium large pan. Whisk in the egg and egg yolks until well combined.

3. Place the bowl on a kitchen towel or potholder to keep it from moving. Pour about a quarter of the hot milk mixture into the egg mixture, whisking constantly to keep the eggs from scrambling.Pour in the rest of the milk mixture and whisk to combine.

4. Pour everything back into the saucepan and return to the stove, cooking over medium heat while whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens and starts to bubble, about 3 minutes. Cook for 1-2 more minutes, whisking constantly to prevent burning, until very thick.

5. Pour through strainer into bowl. Add in the melted chocolate, vanilla extract, and butter and whisk until combined and very smooth.

6. As a last step, run a handheld immersion blender a few times through the pudding to further smooth and to aerate slightly. You can also run through a food processor briefly.

7. Pour pudding into individual cups or ramekins, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 4 hours, until set.

*Stats by US New & World Report