Friday, March 29, 2013

Colorado Vacation & Mexican Bison Stew

It seems like spring will never come!  Even in South Carolina we have continued to wear sweaters and boots all through March, and it is looking like we will be even to the beginning of April.

For our "spring break" (as I am now back in school mode) trip this year, we headed to Durango, Colorado with friends for a Wild Wild West Ski trip!  We are very grateful to have been invited on this trip with both old and new friends, and appreciated the hospitality of our hosts Amy and John.  Durango is a beautiful and quaint town in southern Colorado, right over the New Mexico state line.  We skied/snowboarded the fresh pow pow just about everyday, and we really grew to love Durango Mountain Restort/Purgatory, it had awesome green and blue trails for me and some really great blacks for the experts (like Trevor and Brendan).  The views were absolutely amazing, and Purgatory has both a front and a backside to the mountain.  By the second day, we were already fans of the back side of the mountain, with the wide open trails, less people and some cool tree skiing (for those crazies who can do that kind of stuff…ahem Brendan and Trevor).  Check out the amazing view from the top of the mountain:
T and B on top of Purgatory!
Each day after skiing we took part in the Forney tradition of "apre ski beers" by the fire outside the lodge.  The weather was gorgeous, sunny and in the 40s-50s each day!  Our favorite beer while we were there was the Durango Wheat from the Durango Brewery, incredibly refreshing after a day of skiing.  
Trevor, Vanessa, Brittany and Brendan having apre ski beers by the fire.
We not only skied/boarded Purgatory, but also Wolf Creek, which has the most snowfall of any mountain in Colorado, with an average of 465 inches per year!  Wolf Creek was a bit smaller, and the lodge sort of reminded us of the lodge in Hot Tub Time Machine, but man was it snowy!  It snowed the entire time we were at the mountain - with tons of fresh powder.  Trevor and Brendan ventured out and found some amazing bowls and even trekked their way to the peak to ski down some vertical chutes of untouched powder.  Check out Trevor's beard, I told ya it was snowy!
It wasn't all just about downhill skiing/boarding in Colorado, we also got a chance to get some  Xcountry skiing in too at Durango Mountain.  Trevor's first time on skis in 13 years!

XCountry Skiing around the lake
When asked what kind of meal we would like to prepare for everyone for "our dinner night," we thought of something that we can almost never find on the East Coast.  Bison!  Bison is a very lean meat with only 150-160 calories in a 3oz serving, 2grams saturated fat and is very rich in iron and protein.  These things were very important with us skiing for over 6 hours everyday!  We ended up purchasing bison stew meat from Sunnyside Farms in Durango, CO.    We decided to make a yummy Bison Mexican Stew with lots of veggies over cheese grits.  

Note: The one ingredient that we could not find for the recipe was chayote.  A chayote is a Mexican squash and though we could not find one in Durango, but I would highly recommend looking for one in South Carolina at Publix or your local grocery store.
Chayote at Publix
The recipe was adapted from the recipe here .  Some key changes: we found that the bison meat only needed to be seared ever so slightly before cooking in the stew, bison is very lean therefore it should be cooked to medium to avoid a chewy texture and losing flavor (this is something we will have to practice).  If bison is not available, a lean cut of beef such as sirloin tips would be a great substitution, or even chicken!  Enjoy!

Mexican Bison Stew
Serves: 6-8


For the stew:
3 tablespoons chili powder, divided
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 pounds bison chuck, cut into 2 inch pieces
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 cups chopped onion
3 milkd green chiles, seeded and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1/2 cup tequila
1 can no-salt added diced tomatoes
1 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons lime juice
3 cups diced chayote or summer squash
fresh ground pepper
8 lime wedges
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
2 cups finely shredded cabbage
1 cup finely chopped red onion

For the grits:

1 cup uncooked quick-cooking grits
3 Tbsp Smart Balance Spread
3/4 cup low fat cheddar cheese
4 cups low sodium chicken broth


1.  Combine 1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder, salt, and cumin in a large bowl. Add bison and toss to coat

2.  Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large pot oven over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium, add half the meat, and brown on all sides, 1-2 minutes, do not over cook! Transfer to a plate. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and brown the rest of the meat. Transfer to the plate
3.  Add onion to the pot and cook, stirring, until starting to soften, 3 to 5 minutes. Add chilies and garlic; cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes more. Add the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder and stir until the vegetables are well coated. Add tequila (or water), scrape up any browned bits, and simmer until most of the liquid is evaporated. Stir in tomatoes, broth, orange juice, lime juice, and the reserved bison. 
4.  Return to a simmer, reduce heat, cover, and cook until the bison is easily pierced with a fork, about 15-25 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, while the bison is cooking prepare grits.  Bring low sodium chicken broth to a boil in a medium sauce pot.  Whisk in grits, reduce heat to medium-low and cook 5-6 minutes until tender.  Remove from heat and stir in Smart Balance and reduced fat cheese.  Set aside.
6.  Stir squash into bison mixture and cook until just tender, 5-7 minutes, depending on the type of squash. Season with pepper. Serve the stew with lime wedges, cilantro, cabbage, and red onion on the side, if desired. 

Overall, we had a great trip with John, Amy, Vanessa, Brendan, Ron and Laurie.  Thanks again for y'alls hospitality and we can't wait to return to the awesome town of Durango!!

The gang on our sleigh ride

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