Thursday, September 17, 2015

Ethan's & Brandon's Camping Trip Near Buena Vista + Italian Sausage and Tortellini Soup Recipe

Ethan and Brandon went camping last weekend. Ethan needed to get out of town and into nature. I believe that he also wanted to try out the new tent that we gave him for his birthday. It is an excellent tent.

They headed out towards and camped near Buena Vista. On the way, they caught sight of a bear. It was kind of an exciting thing for the boys. I think it worried the bear. It kept looking back to see if they were following him. He could not know that all they wanted was a few photographs.

We went to Buena Vista every summer when the kids were racing bikes. We also went just as a get-away as some friends own a tiny house in town. Coming round the bend on the north side of South Park (the very same that the cartoon is based on) is always a treat. It has so many connections with fun times with the family. I think it might be the same for Ethan.

They explored the area just north of Buena Vista, which we have not done, and they came across this set of tunnels that Ethan loved. It is pretty cool.

On another day they went four wheeling and encountered an odd, troubling sight. They found that some folks from Kansas were trying to go over the trail in their minivan. We're talking about a 4-wheel drive trail. Other 4-wheelers simply waved at the family as they trundled past. The family had purchased a map from town that said it was a good road. Ethan's Delorme Atlas showed it as a trail, a 4 wheeling trail. It was clear that they were in trouble and scared so Ethan and Brandon helped them out, alternately giving them instructions on how to drive over the rock gardens and sand pits. Other time Ethan drove the van for them.

When the boys encountered the family, they were praying because they thought they were going to die.The parents both in their late 70's and overweight. Their adult son was about 35 and has mental challenges. What they thought would be a nice drive turned into much more than they had bargained for. They were also not prepared for the day as they did not have the right clothes or enough water. Before the boys rescued them, they had considered abandoning the van and walking down the mountain. There was a point where they all got out of the van to walk a part of the trail while Ethan drove through the rock garden. After the 15 minutes of walking, they were tired and done. At that point in the day, the family was about 30 miles out of town. There was no way that they could have walked out.

It took a while and the van suffered some damage. The woman, white knuckled, learned to not stop when driving in a sand pit. I would imagine that they also learned about the importance of being prepared when you go exploring in nature.

At the bottom of the mountain Ethan and Brandon intended to bid them farewell, but the family was insistent on taking them to dinner as a token of thanks. They said that they were sure God had sent Ethan and Brandon to save them. At dinner the husband leans over to Ethan and says, I want to show you something. I want you to know who you saved, and as he did that he pulled out a photograph of himself dressed as Santa. He smiled jovialy and chuckled a bit. " You see," he says with a twinkle in his eye, "you saved Santa Claus."

Later that night the boys relaxed around the camp fire. Ethan tried his hand at star photography.

By the time they returned home, I think the boys felt satisfied with their trip. I am sure that they would have been happy to have camped for a longer time, but at least they were able to get away for a short while and try out the new tent, which is a good one.


It is still hot here, but we have a bounty of vegetables from our friends, so I decided to make a lovely Italian Sausage and Tortellini soup and garlic bread for dinner. I will stop on my way home and pick up some freshly shaved Parmesan cheese to put on top of it.

Italian Sausage and Tortellini Soup
via: The Kitchn

Serves 2 for dinner plus leftovers
Neutral cooking oil, such as canola
1 pound bulk hot or mild Italian sausage
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 to 3 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry red wine (or substitute chicken stock)
1 (28-ounce) can whole, peeled tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon brown sugar
Parmesan rind (or a small hunk of cheese), optional
1 (9- or 12-ounce package) fresh or frozen tortellini (see Recipe Notes)
2 cups roughly chopped spinach
Kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, and red pepper flakes, to taste
Shaved Parmesan and extra-virgin olive oil, for serving

Drizzle a tablespoon or two of oil into a large Dutch oven and place over medium-high heat until shimmery and sizzling hot. Add the Italian sausage (do not break it up yet) and sear until golden-brown on one side, about 2 to 3 minutes. Flip and sear the other side, another 2 to 3 minutes. Once the sausage is lightly browned on both sides, start aggressively breaking it up with wooden spoon. (The goal is to get some delicious caramelization in the bottom of the pan as opposed to just steaming the ground meat in its own liquids.) Using a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage to another bowl, leaving the fat in the pot.
Reduce the heat to medium and add the onions and a big pinch of salt. Cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, about 5 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another 15 to 20 seconds, just until you start to smell its aroma. Add the red wine and increase the temperature to high. Allow the liquid to cook out at a raucous boil, making sure to scrape the bottom of the pot to release any delicious brown bits as it bubbles.
Add the canned tomatoes and juices to the pot. Then use kitchen shears to cut the tomatoes into bite-sized chunks. Add the chicken stock, balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, and Parmesan rind. Season with kosher salt — start with about a 1/4 teaspoon — and freshly ground black pepper. Bring the liquid to a boil and add the tortellini. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until tortellini is warmed through, about 10 to 15 minutes.
Add the spinach to the pot and stir until wilted. Taste and adjust seasoning. (Remove Parmesan rind if used.) Serve with a drizzle of good olive oil and a dusting of shaved Parmesan.

For an easy side, use any leftover spinach to make a salad with your favorite vinaigrette, and add some frozen garlic bread if desired. Leftovers keep getting better; reheat with additional chicken stock or water, as needed.

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