With the chilly days upon us, my natural instinct is to snuggle up with a nice book in front of the fireplace, with a steamy cup of chai beside me and to stay tucked in as far away from the elements as possible. However, instead of hibernating with the bears over the winter there is something to be said for embracing the elements and playing in our Canadian winter wonderland! Your body and your spirit will love you for it; yes it’s a tiny bit of work to get bundled up and hit the trail but I’ll admit that I have never regretted my time spent playing in the snow.
I have very fond memories of winter training with my team. Being a summer Olympian didn’t preclude us from training in the winter. In fact, we had a saying that, “medals were won in the summer but earned in the winter”. That’s really when the tough work (volume) was done and it was definitely the hardest time to stay mentally tough as there was no race in sight.
To keep spirits up we would always plan a fun training camp somewhere (typically in the Canadian Rockies) where there was no shortage of snow and an abundance of trails where we could exercise our heart, lungs, and keep the momentum of training high! My favourite camp of all times was a back-country ski trip into Elk Lake Lodge, nestled in Kananaskis Country, in the heart of the Rockies. It was a ten kilometre ski into the hut which became our base for the duration of the camp. From there the possibilities of trails and loops were endless, the beauty of the mountains were spectacular, and best of all training didn’t feel like a slug fest.
Menu planning for these trips was of course part of the fun. After a big day outdoors you didn’t want to spend hours on meal prep, so we’d divvy up the meals and have everything mise en place (chopped, sliced, and diced) before heading into the hut. On this particular trip, a big pot of chili was agreed upon to be the meal of the day to kick off the camp. My mother had been making an awesome Killer Chili recipe from The Skoki Cookbook for our family for years; knowing this recipe was always a crowd pleaser I assigned everyone their ingredients to contribute in advance so that it was not so much of a lift for any one person. Before heading out for the first afternoon ski we all brought our ingredients to the pot and within 25-minutes the chili was simmering and we were heading out the door.
After a great 90-minute ski we returned to the hut, legs spent, heart pounding, and bellies hungry. The smells of the spicy cumin and sweet cinnamon wafted through the air as we piled into the kitchen. I can still see the looks on the faces around the table as we tasted those first bites, it was the look of pure enjoyment … and the words, “BEST chili ever”, being uttered in between slurps.
So this winter even though I understand the feeling of wanting to hibernate, I urge you to get out there and have some fun in the snow. And remember, if you have that pot of chili all prepped (and simmering on low) in advance, you’ll delight in the flavours and the enjoyment that it will bring when you return for this scrumptious meal!
Killer Chili Recipe
Adapted from The Skoki Cookbook by Katie Mitzel
WHAT YOU’LL NEED:
1 pound of spicy chorizo sausage
2 pounds lean ground beef
1 white onion, chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
2 cups sliced mushrooms
2 jalapeño peppers, ribs and seeds removed, diced
4 tablespoons red chili powder
1 ½ teaspoons chipotle chili pepper
1 tablespoon each cinnamon and cumin
1 teaspoon thyme flakes
2 teaspoons each salt and freshly ground pepper
½ cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons molasses
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
½ cup white vinegar
½ cup ketchup
2 cans plum tomatoes (14ozs each),
drained and chopped
2 can kidney beans (14 oz), drained and rinsed
1 cup grated old cheddar cheese
1 cup sour cream
HOW IT’S DONE
Cut the casings off the chorizo sausage. In a large deep skillet sauté the ground beef with the sausage until well browned and cooked throughout. Break the chunks of meat up well using a wooden spoon. Drain excess fat
and set aside.
In a great big stockpot, sauté the onion in some olive oil until tender. Add the garlic, red and yellow pepper, mushrooms and diced jalapeño. Soften on medium heat.
Add the beef and chorizo to the pot and slowly stir in all your spices: chili powders, cinnamon, cumin, thyme,
salt and pepper.
Now add the plum tomatoes and kidney beans. Cook
over low heat for 1-2 hours, allowing to gently simmer.
If you find it too acidic, adjust the sweetness by adding
a couple of tablespoons of white sugar for balance.
Serve with grated cheddar and a dollop of sour cream.