Colorado – Fall 2011

So this may be pretty lengthy. If you have dialup (does anyone even have dialup these days?), go make your self a cup of latte and while you’re at it, make a batch of cookies because it may take a while.

Unless you’re a skim-reader like me, or are not interested in photos from Colorado that are a whopping 7 months old.

There were 6 of us from Ohio and Georgia that flew out to be with our friend Twila who works at New Horizons Ministries. We flew into Colorado Springs, ate lunch and then headed to Focus on the Family for a tour. About the time we got there, it started raining. It rained. And rained. And rained. We putzed around the visitor’s center, taking in all of the interesting films/exhibits before slogging our way across the parking lot with umbrellas that FOTF lent us. We arrived in time for the tour, half-drenched and giggling!

They told us “it never rains like this” but on this day it did.

By the time we arrived in Canon City, it was no longer raining.

Where I live it is flat, flat, flat. So I found the hills with the mountains in the background quite intriguing.

And the desert was not what I was expecting. But beautiful anyway.

We spent several days at a house that had breathtaking, unbelievable views! The staff kept talking about the outhouse and being prepared for roughing it. We saw the twinkle in their eyes. We also new there was a hot tub around. 

The first morning we were there I woke up early (!) and soon was joined by Velma and Lois. We decided to see what wildlife we could find so we hopped in the van and headed out.

Does that not look unreal?!?!? It felt like we could reach out and touch the mountains. But we drove and drove and drove and didn’t seem to be getting any closer. We came around a bend and most of the range lay out in front of us.

This looks stretched and distorted but it is a pano stitched together from around 16 images.

Upon closer observation we saw a big group of bucks (mule deer?) crossing the ridge.

We watched the disappear and we headed back to the lodge to wake everyone else up.

There is just so much beauty surrounding this place!

The aspens were still quite green when we were there. That was a little disappointing because we had hoped we would be able to see lots of yellow.

One morning we headed out to do for the day and stopped at a quaint restaurant out in the middle of nowhere for breakfast.

We had a delicious country breakfast!! And the owners were just delightful! This is a painting that someone had done some years back of the Mr.

He was tall and lanky. Just like the books describe the cowboys. happy

After driving around some high, curvy roads with no guardrails (shiver) we eventually made our way to Royal Gorge (double shiver).

If you’re wondering what that ^ is, it is edited to look like a miniature something-or-other.

Believe me, it was larger than life. We crossed over on the cable car. It swung in the breeze much to the discomfort of my stomach and eyes and everything else. When we got to the other side, they shut it down for a while because it was so windy. Thanks alot. Why didn’t they do that before we got on!!

I was amazed at how crossing over the bridge did not feel scary for me. I even had fun leaning over the railing to take pictures. But that night I kept having nightmares of being to close to the edge!

We took the tram down to the river.

It looks different from this perspective!!

Another day we crawled into the cutoff suburban and headed out to Skyline Drive.

After turning a hairpin curve we had the sudden sensation that the steering had gone out. But then we discovered it hadn’t and we all breathed a sigh of relief!

More views near or on the way to the house where we stayed.

We went out several evenings too to look for wildlife. We found some but it was hard getting good pictures without a better zoom.

It was so cool hearing the elk bugle!!

The last full day we were there, we headed several hours north to Estes Park. Wow. If we thought we were full-to-overflowing with breathtaking beauty, we were about to be out of oxygen for real.

Coming from an area that is around 100 feet above sea level, the thin air was something to get used to. This place was around 10,000 ft. give or take a hundred.

We drove around the town for a bit hoping to see more elk but that was the day they had chosen to be AWOL. The few shots I have above are the only ones we saw. And there was nearly a traffic jam where other people were stopping for photos too. 

There was a lovely quiet spot beside a lake that we hung out for a bit before heading back south.

So, there is a week’s worth of living in a very small nut-shell. I didn’t even begin to tell you of all the fabulous food

interesting conversations, games, birthday party for Twila (including some interesting looking ladies who showed up at midnight for the surprise party) and all the good things that come with being with friends! And a brief time spent with the Knepps, catching up with them. They were houseparents at the mission that I worked at in Northern Ontario way back when their kids were 10 and under. Now they’re working at the ministry in Canon City, or over in Thailand, or doing creative things like cutting off the top of the suburban as seen in the above pictures! happy

It was a lovely time from beginning to end and it was so awesome to see such beautiful country.


Penne Rustica

Some time ago, I mentioned that I have a recipe called Penne Rustica waiting in the wings to bring to you. The meaning of “waiting in the wings” must have escaped me somewhere along the line because it the recipe has not been called to front and center stage yet. Of course, I also promised you some Colorado

P 1

pictures and

P 2

“Chahlston” pictures and those have not been forthcoming yet either. So even though I have loads of laundry waiting to be folded, my bed remade with fresh clean sheets and fresh clean chenille duvet cover and more cleaning to be done and sour cream apple pie to be made for tomorrow’s carry-in that is being held because we have a deacon ordination happening here this week and an other childhood girlfriend of mine is becoming a minister’s wife, yeah, in spite of all of that, I am going to prop up my feet for a bit and get this done.

You’re welcome!

If you’re a fan of Macaroni Grill, as am I, you may have had their Penne Rustica. And if you enjoyed it, as did I, you may have wished for a way to make it yourself. Now this recipe is similar but not by any means a clone of theirs. It is my adaption of a cloned recipe.

Assuming you have already peeled your shrimp and cut your chicken into small pieces, the start on the gratinata sauce. Sounds so cool, right. Gratinata sauce. Yum! It’s really good stuff and you have to keep your spoonful tastes to a minimum or there will not be anything left for your pasta.

Put 1 minced garlic clove in 2 T. of butter and let it simmer for a little bit.

P 3

Then add the half & half, chicken broth & milk & tomato sauce.

P 4

There is just something so cool about seeing milk or cream being poured out. I remember watching my dad strain the milk from our Guernsey cow named Corina. The milk just pours out so …. poetically. Someone send me a thesaurus, please. I need to expand my vocabulary.

Heat this mixture to close to a boil.


While this is heating up, mince rosemary and thyme and dump it in.


Thyme is so delicate and my hand is so wrinkly.


Now take the thyme to add 1 1/2 T. flour with a half cup (or so) of milk or chicken broth and whisk it together really well. I mean really well. You don’t want lumps later.


Once the milk/cream mixture is nearing a boil, whisk this in and stir until it starts to boil and thicken up.

Now comes the good part: CHEESE!


3/4 of a delicious cup of Parmesan cheese.


and 1 cups of mixed Italian cheeses or mozzarella, take your pick.

Mix this together and take it off the burner. Feel free to taste it but don’t be tempted to like me to call it soup and eat a bowlful. So far I have resisted temptation.

Oh yes, I forgot to mention that your penne pasta should already be cooking and nearly be finished by now.

Take another skillet and melt 2 T. butter. Add, minced garlic, sliced mushrooms and the chicken. Season with a little salt and pepper.


When this is nearly finished, add your uncooked shrimp. If you have chosen to buy precooked shrimp, add it to pasta and sauce later. If you have access to fresh Wild Georgia Shrimp like I do, it would be nearly wrong to buy pre-cooked. But I will look the other way if you wish to do that.


I think it’s amazing that the shrimp gets this DONE look by turning from limp gray to firm orange and white.


Drain excess juice off and add to drained pasta. Add the gratinata sauce and toss everything together. Pour it into a greased 9×13 pan.


Add remaining cup of Italian cheeses and add some feta if you want. I usually want.


Bake for 20 minutes and pull out a bubbly delicious pan of pasta. If you have stoneware, you can also bake individual portions in bowls and serve directly to your guests/family.

I also didn’t mention this but if you have some kind of cooking wine/sherry, throwing a 1/4 to 1/2 c. or so into the gratinata sauce when you add the milk/half & half, etc. give is some zing and enhances the flavors.


Penne Rustica (Marylou’s Version)

1 boxes penne rigate, cooked

2 T. butter

1 – 1.25 lb. small shrimp, peeled

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed

2 cups sliced mushrooms

1 clove garlic, minced

salt & pepper

Gratinata sauce:

2 T. butter
1 garlic cloves, minced
1 pint half & half
1 pint chicken broth
1/2 c. milk
4 oz. tomato sauce
1/2 T. dijon mustard
salt & pepper to taste
fresh thyme & rosemary, finely chopped
1 1/2 T. flour

3/4 c. grated parmesan cheese
2 c. mixed Italian cheeses, divided

Feta cheese, optional

Saute garlic in butter. Add half & half, chicken broth, milk, tomato juice, mustard, salt, pepper and herbs. Bring to a boil. Mix flour with 1/3 c. chicken broth or milk. Add to hot mixture and cook until thickened, stirring frequently. Add 1 c. mixed Italian cheese and grated Parmesan cheese. Saute chicken & mushrooms in 2 T. butter. When nearly done add pealed shrimp. Add to drained pasta. Pour gratinata sauce over everything and mix together. Put into a greased 9×13 baking pans. Sprinkle last cup of mixed Italian cheeses over top. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes.


The gratinata sauce can be used in a variety of other recipes, including crab bisque, shrimp & grits and chicken cannelloni. More recipes coming later. Not sure if they are waiting in the wings or not. Probably not. 🙂