My boot clad feet leave the unnatural solidness of the parking lot and grab hold of the snow covered trail. Slowly and clumsily I slide each boot into my snow shoes, strap them tightly in place, and soon we're off. In the beginning my steps are slow and heavy, my legs trying to find their rhythm while I navigate the fresh powdery snow. My mind is still and focused on what's ahead.
After the first uphill stretch, I can feel myself growing stronger, anticipating where each step takes me. I feel my hearts rapid, steady beating and the flow of air filling my lungs and I start to find my rhythm. I feel light and whole and my heart is soaring with so much emotion at the beauty before me that I can hardly share words to express this feeling. I am quiet. I don't think about the worries and tasks of everyday life. I'm filled with complete happiness and I want to feel this way forever.
The wind blows hard and cold, but the sun is shining bright and I try to think of how I can make it possible for this to happen every day. Mt. Rainier, if you've never been, is as much a grand place as you've probably heard. I've grown up and spent my whole life in it's shadow and yet, I'm still in awe every time I go back. I have this same feeling in any place where I am completely surrounded by nature, it's addictive. Every time we leave I feel my time there was too short and the next adventure can not come soon enough.
As the sun began it's decent we made our way back to the cabin. By this time we were spent and ready for a hot meal. I made a batch of my favorite chili the day before heading up. It was the exact meal we needed. We ate in the dimly lit cozy cabin, in our long underwear and thick wooly socks. If I was to think of a perfect day this might just be it.
Spicy Smoky Veggie Bean Chili / serves 4-6
Adapted from Dana Treat
I've been making this chili every winter since spying it on Dana's blog a couple year's ago (in fact I just realized she posted it right around this time too, funny). It's the perfect bowl of comfort with just the right amount of smokiness and spice to it. I've made it countless ways since then and for this version added in a few carrots and sweet potatoes for a little extra vegetable action. This chili begs for toppings too. We ate it unadorned this time around because of our location, but top it with cilantro, avocado, crushed chips, cheese, plain yogurt, green onions; the options are really endless, just go for it. Dana notes the importance of dicing everything the same size and I couldn't agree with her more, so try chopping the veggies roughly no larger than the beans.
1-2 tablespoon olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
1 medium carrot, diced
1 small sweet potato, peeled and diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 red bell pepper diced
1 28oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 cup water
1 chipotle pepper in adobo, minced, plus 1 teaspoon sauce
2 cups cooked black beans or 1 15oz. can, drained
2 cups cooked chickpeas or 1 15oz. can, drained
1 4oz. can diced green chiles, drained
1/2 cup frozen corn
Heat a large pot over medium heat, once hot add the oil. Sauté the onion until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, carrots, and sweet potato and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Add all the spices and salt, stirring to coat. Stir in the bell pepper, cook another couple minutes, then pour in the tomatoes and water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add the chipotle pepper and sauce and reduce heat to a simmer.
Stir in the beans, green chiles, and corn and cook at a gentle simmer, partially covered, for 20-30 minutes. Serve warm. If making ahead let cool completely, then store in the fridge and re-heat when ready to use. The best part about making this ahead of time is how much the flavors develop and deepen. It also gets a tad spicier, so take that into account based on your preference.