Monthly Archives: December 2014

Scrumptious Cinnamon Chili

Da da da DAAA! The Chili

Da da da DAAA! The Chili

There couldn’t be a better time for a great chili recipe than New Year’s Eve. Something to warm your belly before a night out in the cold is definitely in order. I looove soups, chilies, and stews and all their many forms and consistencies and while I am fond of soups during the winter months, I pretty much love soup all year.

I love that I can cram a ton of veggies and flavors into it and come up with something healthy and amazing. It’s like the multivitamin of meals. I love that it always provides left-overs. And, it’s comfort food with built in anticipation that never disappoints. Perhaps my love of soup started with the witches brews I concocted as a child out in my mother’s garden. Who knows. Either way, I make and play around with soups quite a bit and every once in a while I make something really delicious. That was certainly the case with my experimental chili.

I am a fan of Bill Philips and his philosophy on healthy eating and diet. I have been making meals out of his cook book for over a decade. One of my favorites is his chili recipe, but I think I just improved it. About a month ago I threw some cinnamon into that recipe and came up with a chili more scrumptious than any I have ever tasted (if you have already discovered the amazing quality cinnamon adds to chili don’t burst my bubble). And if the flavor is not great enough, the mouth watering scent that bubbles up out of the chili while you are cooking is worth it alone.

The way that I prepare the chili is not set in stone, but if you follow my lead, it will be a little thin the first day, so if you want that thick chili consistency, you might want to make it a day in advance and give it a night to settle and thicken up. Plus, if you do that, you will give the flavors time to mature – as we all know that soup is better the second or third day. Feel free to use your choice of meat, no meat, or a meat alternative and any additional vegetables or spices as you desire – though you might want to try the recipe first before making alterations, or at least take notes so you remember that you can duplicate it.

Whew, now that all of that is out of the way…to the recipe:

1-2 lbs ground beef (I typically use 1 lb but 2 makes more and makes it thicker)

1 tbsp butter

1 white onion chopped

8 cloves garlic

1 green bell pepper chopped

3 jalapenos (I don’t seed mine, but you can)

1/3 cup of chili powder

1/4 cup fresh parsley or 2 tbsp dried parsely

1 1/2 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp cinnamon

3 cans beef broth (sometime I reduce this for a thicker chili)

1 beef bullion (optional)

1 28oz can crushed tomatoes (I use the Italian roasted)

2 cans chili beans

2 can red beans (I often mix black and kidney beans in as well)

Sour cream and shredded cheese topping

In a large pot over medium heat melt butter and stir in the onions. Cook for a few minutes and then add the garlic and beef. In a food processor add the can of tomatoes, the pepper, and the jalapenos and then add to the pot once the beef is browned. Then add all the rest of the ingredients. Let simmer for 30 minutes. And voila! Your cinnamon chili is done. Put a dollop of sour cream and some shredded cheese on top and enjoy.

The ‘H’ Word

ATV protest in Blanding Utah

ATV protest in Blanding Utah

Nobody likes a hypocrite; but not just any hypocrite, as we have all been one at one time or another and tend to recognize and forgive it as a common human fault. It’s the preachy hypocrites we don’t like. The ones who condemn others with righteous indignation, and then turn around and do the very things they have held others in judgment over, are the ones who garner a lot of attention and earn the ire and wrath of others. It is these people who set themselves apart from the rest.

Al Gore and Cliven Bundy are two of the more famous ones. Al Gore for promoting an environmentally sound agenda while living an energy consumptive and lavish lifestyle; Cliven Bundy for condemning federal management of public lands and for federal handouts while illegally feeding his cattle for free on federal lands – and now there is Phil Lyman.

Phil Lyman, if you do not know, is the County Commissioner in Blanding, Utah, who rode on the coattails of Cliven Bundy to get attention for his illegal ATV ride through Recapture Canyon in protest against the federal government for closing the canyon to OHV use. The federal government closed the trail to protect American Indian archeological sites. He held a press conference condemning Federal over-reach and control of public lands, stating that the Federal Government is trying to control everything and then rode his ATV, along with a train of others behind him, through the closed off canyon as an act of protest, and broke the law.

Now he and a few others are facing charges. When Lyman gave his speech in Blanding he said that he was willing to break the law and accept the consequences for doing so because he believed in what he was doing. Not everyone there was willing to ride illegally through the canyon, however, but did want to peacefully protest the canyon closure and stated as much. So while recognizing that some in attendance were not willing to go as far as he, Lyman let everyone know that he was willing because he believed his cause to be just and spear-headed the ride.

Phil Lyman

Phil Lyman

Now that charges have been brought against him, is he “accepting” the natural consequences of his actions? Well, not without trying to get his legal fees and federal defense paid for by the American taxpayers. You’ve got that right; this anti-federal government county commissioner wants a free federal defender to make his legal defense. The hypocrisy of this is off the charts and only mitigated a little bit by the fact that the judge isn’t allowing him to get away with it. You see, along with being a county commissioner, Lyman is also an accountant who makes more than enough money to cover his own legal defense.

But what really bothers me about this whole thing is not Phil Lyman’s weasely attempt to make everyone pay for his legal defense; it is that he has been charged within a reasonable time for his crimes while Cliven Bundy has not been charged or arrested after 20 years for his. How is anyone supposed to respect the rule of law when it is not applied equally?

Both men should be charged, given their day in court, and penalized for their crimes. Furthermore, anyone else who broke the law by riding illegally through Recapture Canyon or aiming riffles at law enforcement officers in Bunkerville should also be brought up on charges. Like say, Ryan Bundy who happened to be at both incidents.

It was Ryan Bundy who was a major instigator in the Bunkerville standoff and who was also the wild card at the Blanding protest who stated emphatically that he had come to open a road and threatened to go home if they didn’t go through with it. Has Ryan Bundy been charged along with Phil Lyman, for defiantly taking his entire family through Recapture Canyon on ATVs? Or is he perhaps a figure that is too politically hot to touch – kind of like his dad?

That looks a lot like a double standard, another thing no one likes. Whether it is the BLM, the Justice Department, the State of Utah, the police, or any other law enforcement entity, justice must be served equally and across the board. And in this case, it appears that it has not been.

I’m no fan of Phil Lyman or his ilk, but it irks me that he is has been charged when the likes of the Bundy’s have not – and for much worse offenses. Both Lyman and Bundy deserve to wear a big ‘H’ on their chest for condemning the federal government while taking from it and they both deserve to pay the consequences for breaking the law.

But even more, the American public deserves to see justice served, if for nothing else, than to have a little faith restored in the rule of law, the administration of justice, and in those who mete it out. Without that, there will be continued angst and unrest for the majority who do get charged and who do pay for their crimes.

First day of Winter: An homage to the flannel shirt

homage to flannel

Lumberjack flannel

Whether we like it or not, what we wear says something about us and reveals insight into our personality, our taste, and possibly our attitudes. Just think baggy jeans with underwear sticking out, skinny jeans, a business suit, a low cut, slinky dress, wranglers, or a ball cap worn sideways, to name just a few. As you think about them, images come to mind with conjoined judgment.

Over the years fashions have changed only to come back around decades later. Clothing trends popular one year die and give way to new trends the next, but some items remain classic. There is an enduring quality to them that makes them adaptable to the progression of time and loved by one generation to the next. One of those items is the flannel shirt, and whether you agree with me or not, I think a flannel says, “Cool, laid back, unpretentious.”

Traditional flannel

Traditional flannel

When I see someone in a flannel, any number of things may come to mind depending on how they wear it, but overall I usually think, “My people.” The greatest thing I have seen recently in regard to flannel is that it seems to transcend not just time, but class as well. Gone are the days when only lumberjacks, miners, or fishermen wore flannels – everyone is, from doctors to surfers, hunters to pop stars, from hipsters and gangsters, to metrosexuals. It’s not just for grunge music, nor just for men. These time tested shirts are everywhere and on everyone and are made by companies from Carhartt to Victoria’s Secret.

So what is the allure to these time tested shirts? I think it is what they represent. They represent the humble, the hardworking, the hard scrabble, the rebel rousers, the adventurous, and more generally, ‘the common man.’ They are practical and simple, and I think it is the simplicity that draws people and social groups to them decade after decade.

They also tend to generally be worn by those in the outdoors community, whether ranchers or climbers, and no wonder, they got their beginning by the Welsh who needed clothing that would keep them warm from the elements – something that is always necessary for those who spend a lot of time outside. And let’s not forget plaid, the synonymous pattern associated with flannel shirts, which got its start in, where else but Scotland. As for America, we all know the legendary Paul Bunyan and his black and red flannel which may have contributed to the myth and lore surrounding the shirt, but they were largely popularized by Hamilton Carhatt who made clothing specifically for the blue collar working class, including flannels, in the late 1880s.

So whatever your take on flannels, they’ve been around a long damn time, and for good reason. They are warm, casual, colorful, and are typically reasonably priced. I like getting mine from local thrift stores and often find real gems with brand names like Pendleton, Woolworth, and Patagonia, for a few bucks at the most. They are kind of like an aged wine, the older they get, the better they look – and feel.

So in homage to the flannel, we have our annual non-Christmas, Christmas flannel party every December. Everyone is required to wear a flannel and must bring food and drink to attend. In other words, it’s the antithesis to a serious religious ceremony to mark the birth of Christ or a rated G family holiday party. I guess in retrospect, it’s kind of a Krampus party in that it’s more in the spirit old Saint Nick’s holiday devil sidekick than the jolly old man himself.

I’d be willing to bet the German originated Alpine Christmas devil wore flannel – or perhaps didn’t play tricks on those who did. Either way, between today ringing in the first day of winter, Christmas around the corner, and the cold weather to boot, flannel is king this time of year – though as stated already, it has a steady showing all year long.

Bonfire merrymaking 2

Thrift shop gem

The outdoorsman

The outdoors man

The corporate guy

The corporate guy

The artist

The artist

The publisher (yeah we let him in), the builder, and the esthetician

The publisher (yeah we let him in), the builder, and the esthetician

The Business woman

The business woman

The landscaper

The landscaper

The writer

The writer

The lady folk

The lady folk

A long and glorious history, photo courtesy of http://www.flannelshirtshq.com/flannel-history/

A long and glorious history, photo courtesy of http://www.flannelshirtshq.com/flannel-history/

Looking back a year: Red Mountain Trail in the Snow

Snow Canyon Overlook

Originally published at SUindependent.com

An early Mormon settler visiting St. George from Salt Lake once asserted that if he had to choose between a house in St. George in August and one in hell, he’d choose hell. While Southern Utah is known for its heat and warm weather recreation, and though many enjoy the cool reprieve winter provides, most desert rats and snowbirds find hell an enviable alternative to winter. Even for residents who enjoy winter sports, most like choosing when and for how long they experience the snow. So when snowmageddon descended last year, many looked on with dismay as their temperate weather and year-round recreation come to a freezing halt. Still, though, a small part of the population here was thrilled to explore the unique recreational opportunities in the newly transformed desert.

The first hint of winter appeared in September when an early cold front rolled in to the southwest. It was still warm when we first made plans to hike Kanarraville Falls and what would be the last canyon of the summer, but when that day arrived it was a surprisingly chilly 62 degrees. Heading up the trail we joked about the yearly fall tease that always turns back to summer. But once we stepped into the cold water and shadows from the enclosing mountains, we began to doubt whether summer would return.

Kanarraville FallsThe canyon walls flickered in the mercurial sunlight like a candle disturbed by a restless breeze. Trees and shrubs burst into vibrant colors of red and yellow against the increasing shadows. It was spectacular. Temperatures also continued to drop, so we cut out shortly after reaching the waterfalls at the end of the slot canyon and chased the waning sunlight back through the canyon struggling to stay warm. As we emerged from the canyon, dark purple clouds hung on Pine Valley Mountain to the west, overtaking the sun that was illuminating great swaths of land before finally blinking out. Winter was in the air. We hurried to our cars in a veil of twilight, invigorated by the brisk hike and rapidly changing forecast. As we warmed our cold feet, a voice on the radio alerted listeners to a freeze warning for all of southern Utah.

The unusual weather led many to predict a bitter winter, but cold in the desert is relative and most believed it would still be mild compared to the north. Soon after Thanksgiving, however, and contrary to hopeful thinking, a blistering cold front reminiscent of more northerly climes blew in and dropped 8 to 14 inches of snow. Temperatures fell below freezing for over a week, and county roads remained unplowed as residents were left to navigate the wintry conditions at their own risk if they chose not to heed warnings to stay home. Even church was cancelled.

The desert seemed to literally freeze into a bluish-white landscape overnight. According to historic weather data, a record breaking winter hits southern Utah roughly every 40 years. While many experiencing this rare treat find it to be anything but, there are some who looked forward to the promise of snowy adventures with glee, and jumped at the chance to strap on some Yaktrax, crampons, snowshoes, or skis and play in the snow locally.

Snow amplifies the alluring qualities of solitude and peace found in the desert: places normally bustling with tourists and crowds become serenely quiet and still; wildlife can be heard, and traces of their presence are more easily seen; and canyons that are normally familiar transform into wintry and unfamiliar versions of themselves. Exploring the desert during the winter is much like getting out into the back country, whether you are really in the back country or not. Winter may just be the best time of year to visit the desert, but if you really want a rare experience, visit after a record breaking snowstorm. The best part? You get to explore the dramatically changed landscape as if for the first time.

Snow Canyon, considered by many to be a geologic paradox waiting to be explored, could not be more inviting and inspire more awe than when snow accentuates all the ripples and folds of the canyon features. Usually swarming with people seeking the hidden canyons and humbling views beneath the vertical walls, it empties quickly when temperatures drop significantly, leaving an abundance of opportunities to enjoy the canyon. Because most of the trails are sandy and not too steep, they can be hiked as easily during winter as in warmer seasons, and even the steeper and rockier hikes can be done with very little gear.

One winter favorite is Snow Canyon Overlook. It’s always a chilly hike in December, but last year it was not just a cold and snowy trek, it offered a spectacular wintry vista. The trail starts outside of Snow Canyon off highway 18 near the southern end of Dammeron Valley, and ends at the northern tip of Snow Canyon. It provides a view of the entire canyon all the way out to the Arizona Strip, that when covered with snow, looks like a chute blazed by Boreas and his stampeding wintry hordes.

Pine Valley Mtn from Snow canyonThough for us Snow Canyon is always a place of Christmas ritual, we had to get out and explore it while covered in snow. It was spectacular inside the park, but we wanted a panoramic view from the top. So not waiting until Christmas Eve as usual, we excitedly stuck out while the temperatures were still low and the snow was deep. The two mile hike to the overlook, untouched except for a solitary pair of footprints, sparkled in the sun and was barely recognizable as it wound through trees and over slick rock.

The outcrop at the overlook was peacefully quiet and serene, more magnificent than we had ever seen it. The whole world looked fragile, crystalized, as if a whistle could shatter it. Looking out at the frosty mountains and white desert expanse we kicked ourselves for not coming prepared with a thermos of coffee to enjoy with the view.  Without a way to keep warm in the frigid temperatures, we snapped some photos and turned back. Rejuvenated by the exposure and invigorated by the physical activity, we headed for our second favorite winter pastime: drinking coffee.

With warm cups of coffee in our hands, thawing us from the inside out, we looked through our photos and marveled at how different southern Utah looked. Even though we had seen it with our own eyes, it was still hard to believe. Cold in the desert is shocking because the mind does not easily put the two together, but the chance of experiencing it during a rare 40 year storm is fantasy-like. Donning cold weather gear, seeing our breath puff lightly in the cold air, and the promise of warmth that home and hearth provide from a cold winter outing is a gift the desert rarely provides. Even those who prefer the heat can’t help getting caught up in the excitement that winter brings, however briefly it may stay. It is a time to relish and enjoy because soon enough the heat will return and claim its rightful place here in the desert. And luckily for all you snowbirds and desert rats who hate the cold, it will probably be business as usual this year. But it’s still fun looking back and reminiscing about snowmageddon 2013.

Southern Utah in Stone

Made by man, St. George LDS Temple

Made by man, St. George LDS Temple. Photo by Greta Hyland

Chiseled by nature, Zion National Park. Photo by Greta Hyland

Chiseled by nature, Zion National Park. Photo by Greta Hyland

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