As you’re reading this, I’m in Aspen about to board a flight to Paris. This week I drove back to snowy Colorado, dumped my belongings and grabbed a packed suitcase labeled France. Yep, the gypsy thing. Still living it. Note also, only one suitcase.

Chupe de Quinoa

Before my upcoming journey, here’s a parting gift – a wonderfully delicious soup. It’s a cinch to throw together and takes just 30 minutes to make. Chupe de Quinoa (Peruvian Quinoa and Corn Chowder) is another Christopher Kimball creation. It’s from his Milk Street Tuesday Nights cookbook which won both the James Beard and IACP Awards for best general cookbook in 2019. Great for dinner but save a few cups for lunch the next and next days. All you need to know to pull this off is below.

When I spot Mount Sopris, a twin-summit mountain in the Elk Mountain range located near Carbondale, I know I’m Home.


Despite Coronavirus and a 46-day transportation strike (officially ended…maybe), it’s destination Paris for six weeks. While I’m adverse to risk (I purchased the last 3 masks available in Las Vegas), I’ve adjusted to tolerating discomfort.

My Forest Conservancy/USFS Ranger colleagues. During the summer we’re patrolling, maintaining trails , protecting wildlife and assisting tourists who need help, have questions or just want to chat. In the winter it’s time to party.

Leading the life I want, making it happen, often requires stepping outside the comfort zone. To my mind, that’s not dreadful. Of course, I’d prefer lush-and-plush over lean-and-mean. My affordable bed-of-roses is sometimes lumpy. But I’m still blessed with good health. It’s a priceless gift and why I can keep “charging” forward.

Admittedly, aging has forced me to soften the edges of my absurdly independent self. I’ve learned that ‘help is the sunny side of control’ and value even more those who offer it.


My instructors, Rachel and Sid. Fili was, ahem, working.

If you need to jump start your social life, buy an iPhone 11 Pro Max and pitch a tent at your local Apple store. That’s what I did last month. From the minute their doors open each morning, it’s a frenzied happening. All ages can apply. Gold stars to Fili, Sid and Rachel, the instructors who adopted me as a group project. I took 7 classes to get up to photography speed before my trip. I also bonded with strangers I’ll never see again!


For lunch Donna made Spicy Carrot Soup topped with sauteed spinach
from Deborah Madison’s “Vegetable Literacy” cookbook. Our nature study group actually used Madison’s comprehensive and amazing cookbook as a text book to study plant life . Char baked these fantastic cheese wafers. Take two, please.

Hugs are never in short supply when I return home. I actually think the kids at The Gant missed me. “You know, Mrs. Hirsch, when you leave, we starve,” is the best compliment ever.

When I had chores down valley Wednesday, Donna Grauer managed to pull together a luncheon for my Ranger colleagues and other friends who live nearby. Not only was it chance to see them, but also an opportunity to celebrate our friendship and birthdays I miss. Here are more photos from that.

.Donna made two “Very Full Tarts,”a recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty Cookbook that I featured on my blog years ago. .
I will miss Donna’s birthday so her early gift from me was a Barbie doll. Yes! The Barbie National Geographic entomologist doll and play set features a Barbie doll, a tree for field research, a workstation for lab work, 20+ smaller pieces of every imaginable natural thing. It’s the perfect gift for Master Naturalist Grauer.
During WWII, Donna’s father was stationed in Oran, the western region of French Algeria. He brought this gorgeous and very special tablecloth home. WE DID NOT SPILL
For Christmas the McLain’s very talented son, Colin, gave them a painting of an owl. He paints in oils and his series of creatures, including the owl, was inspired by Durer’s woodcuts. I like to give my friends jigsaw puzzles so in keeping with the theme, I gave Char this puzzle for her birthday.
Juicy, fresh fruit is difficult to find here in the wintertime but Dot made this lovely dessert topped with homemade Crème fraîche. Beautiful enough to share..
This Colorado mule deer, who lingered outside by the balcony, was a bit irked that he wasn’t included in the party.


Every summer Connie (l) , Wendy (l) and I attend as many music, Aspen Institute and Anderson Ranch events and lectures that we can manage. Wendy and I take Dr. Tom Buesch’s 8-week music class at Colorado Mountain College together. Sharing the same interests makes for great memories.

It’s will be fun to share this journey with you all. Merci mille fois for coming along.


SERVES: 4 (Frozen Corn works and is always a good substitute if fresh corn isn’t available.)

Mise en Place – All the ingredients need for this soup.

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup ají amarillo paste or 1-2 minced jalapeños
3 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped
 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, plus more to taste
8 ounces sweet potato, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces (1½ cups)
1 1/2 cups corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
3/4 cup quinoa, preferably red, rinsed and drained if necessary
1 1/4 quarts (5 cups) chicken broth (use low-sodium if you wish)
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup lightly packed fresh mint, chopped
1-2 limes, cut into wedges, to serve


  1. In a large Dutch oven over medium heat, warm the oil until shimmering.
  2. Stir in the sweet potato, corn, quinoa and broth. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce to medium-low. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes and quinoa are tender, 16 to 20 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper. if needed.
  3. Off heat, stir in the heavy cream.
  4. Ladle into bowls, Sprinkle with mint. Serve with lime wedges and a simple salad of shredded cabbage, sliced avocado and crumbled queso fresco or mixed greens. 
Sweet Potatoes


1.Rinse the quinoa to remove the naturally-occurring toxic saponin that gives quinoa its bitter flavor. Be sure to check the packaging first, as some quinoa is sold pre-washed and won’t need to be rinsed.

2. Ají amarillo, an orange-yellow chili with a fruity yet earthy flavor, is ubiquitous in Peruvian cuisine. Ají amarillo paste, sold in jars, is available at well-stocked markets and specialty stores under the Goya brand. If you can’t find it, use 1 or 2 minced jalapeños instead.