Kathryn Camp, Mountain Parent editor
“LET’S KEEP IT EASY,” I’ve said a million times.
“The main thing is to enjoy a summer evening together, have a glass of wine, get caught up while the kids play – no need to get fussy about the menu – I’ll throw some burgers on the grill.” These are the words that doom me every time. I’ve turned many a backyard burger into a hockey puck. No one can tell at first because I hide charred patties under melted cheddar. Then my dear guests grin-and-bear-it and say nice things about the toppings on the burger bar. My husband makes sweet excuses, telling our guests how pre-motherhood, I was a vegan pastry chef. “Meat just isn’t her thing,” he says while dipping it in relish.
It wasn’t for 15 years – until I learned how local, grass-fed, homegrown neighbor-to-neighbor shopping can do as much to counter animal cruelty and help our planet as eating tofu. This shift in thinking has been helped by Jerilyn Nieslanik of Nieslanik Beef, who will tell you how she cooks any given cut. She was happy to talk me through my hockey puck issues.
KC: What am I doing wrong?
JN: Let’s start with what you’re doing right. You’re bringing together people you care about. Friends and family – these are the most important ingredients.
KC: Is there a difference between grades of ground Beef?
JN: At Nieslanik Beef, our ground chuck has a 90% – 10% fat-to-protein ratio, which is as lean as you would want without making it so lean that the patty won’t hold together on the grill. Our cows graze right here on our Carbondale ranch and on nearby BLM lands in the high country, and I believe that you can taste it – the earth, the native grasses.
KC: How many burgers per pound?
JN: My boys are big eaters, so I plan on 3 burgers per pound. We also sell bulk 5# packages, which make it easier to feed a crowd.
KC: should I add any seasonings?
JN: My secret is onion soup mix. One packet per pound. It’s subtle, and it adds a nice, rich flavor.
KC: What about the “thumbprint” trick?
JN: This is where you press your thumb into the middle to prevent your burger from bulging up as it cooks? It sounds like a lot of fuss. I just use a spatula to press it flat as it’s cooking – way easier.
KC: How hot does my grill need to be?
JN: If you’re making hockey pucks, my feeling is that your grill is probably too hot. I go low and slow with a grill that’s never hotter than 350º. This gives you a chance to relax while you’re cooking. Get your burgers on and then go toss a salad, instead of scrambling to get your slices of cheese ready before the meat dries out.
KC: What do I look for before I flip?
JN: Now here’s the science – the heat from the flames will cause the proteins to coagulate, so the side that’s on the grill will form a crust. If you flip it too early, your patty will fall apart. Use your spatula to feel for a crust. That’s when it’s ready to flip. Later use your spatula to get a feeling for how done it is. It’s all about timing, so allow about 2 minutes for the cheese to melt.
Wondering what wines pair well with burgers?
“Let’s plan a free wine tasting with a handful of your friends. I will bring a collection of our clean-crafted family-owned wines. I’ll introduce you to winemakers who you cannot find in stores. You can taste the authentic flavors of wines that have zero added sugars – and you can experience how different it feels to drink wines that aren’t loaded with additives.” – Paula Eaton
Here are 2 wines to try this season:
Family-owned and run by brothers André and Ramón Serrano, whose values – tradition, good work, love for the land, commitment to quality and commitment to oneself – show up in each bottle. Organic, handpicked. ($22)
“Hushkeeper” pays homage to the Hush Shopkeepers who sold wine during Prohibition. No more secret passwords or doorways here—just delicious wine made from 25-year-old CCOF certified vines. The grapes were handpicked and 100% de-stemmed for full extraction ($29)
MP Student Essay Contest
WE LOVE OUR SCHOOLS
MP’s Cover Artists: Lily and Elana Royer
Meet the mother-daughter creative team behind Lilybart
A summer-long series about loving this place while flattening the curve.
Summer Camp Planner
Find the latest COVID program updates for summer camps and classes. Camps are happening!
Up-cycle an empty pet food bag for this easy project.
Roaring Fork Nature Parks
A “Wild at Heart” map of nearby places to discover (or rediscover) with your child.
Car Camping Lake Powell
You don’t need a houseboat to enjoy a getaway to our closest beaches.
Mothers Day Tribute
Three local women who exemplify Julia Ward Howe’s Proclamation of Peace.
A tragic fact of nature? Or way to find your wings?
Good Sports: Lacrosse
With the ROARING FORK LACROSSE CLUB, everyone is included and “it’s just fun.”
Helping Hands: Lucky Day Animal Rescue
This foster-based rescue group helps connect pets with their forever families.
MP Trail Map: Winter Hut Trips
A family-friendly guide to planning an adventure to one of Colorado’s backcountry huts.
Writing By Hand
What can parents do to help their children learn this life skill?
A mother redefines HEALTHY after her daughter’s Leukodystrophy diagnosis
DIY: Upcycled Owl
Spread your wings to make this cuddly stuffed owl designed by Handmakery’s Ami Maes.
Aspen Snowmass Nordic Trail System
MP Trail Map: A guide to Roaring Fork Valley cross-country ski trails.
Meet local eco-chocolate maker Mark Burrows.
Helping Hands: Roaring Fork Valley Kids Who Care
Act Locally: A student-led effort to save Sea Turtles and Rainforests.
Good Sports: Challenge Aspen
Q&A with Special Olympics and NASTAR ski racer Tanner Jadwin
Nighttime Family Staycation
Wintertime fun after dark with the kids.
DIY: Spa Day
Make your own bath time bliss at home.
The McBride Internship: Kenya
Roaring Fork Valley students visit Kenya’s Lewa Wildlife Conservancy.
Good Sports: Ski Racing
For this mother and her daughters, skiing is among their earliest memories.
Giving the best present of all: Ourselves
Helping Hands: LIFT-UP
Can you feed your family breakfast, lunch, and dinner for $4 per person per day?
Helping Hands: The Farm Collaborative
Farm-to-Table meets Food Insecurity
Q&A: Honeybee Play
Q&A with the teenage creators of a new original musical
Helping Hands: Aspen Santa Fe Ballet Folklórico
An award-winning after school dance program that’s about more than dancing. It’s a cultural bridge.
Getting Into College
Making sense of college admission statistics
Good Sports: BMX Biking
Crown Mountain Park’s bike racing facility has expanded into a world-class race course.
Harvest Road Trip
Drive Highway 133 from Carbondale to Hotchkiss and make new friends at our nearby farms.
Helping Hands: Way of Compassion Bike Project
One man’s trash is, indeed, another man’s treasure.
MP Trail Map: Mount Elbert
Your child’s first fourteener can also be Colorado’s highest peak.
Good Sports: Sailing
Aspen Rec Department’s Don Sheeley Sailing School
Find Yourself in the Lost Forest
Discover Aspen Skiing Company’s Lost Forest adventure park.
DIY: Skateboard Swing
Turn a discarded skateboard into a big backyard hit.
MORE to FIND in the LOST FOREST
Lots to do in the Aspen Snowmass Lost Forest
DIY: Portraits of Your Children
How to capture magical frame-worthy photos
Helping Hands: Colorado Animal Rescue
C.A.R.E. can help you figure out what kind of adoptable pet is right for you and your household.
Good Sports: Baseball
A Glenwood Springs High School graduate and college baseball recruit shares what he learned at the ballpark.
Homelife Recipes: Backyard Burgers
Q&A with Jerilyn Nieslanik about how to avoided the dreaded hockey puck burger
MP Trail Map: Hartman Rocks
High desert mountain biking between Crested Butte and Gunnison
Citizens of the World
Roaring Fork High School students become world travelers through an all-inclusive club
Where to find Wildlife
Learn about the untamed creatures you might encounter in our mountain forests and meadows.
The Art of Being ENOUGH
A Motherhood Manifesto
Yampah Mountain High School’s Teen Parent Program
A campus in Glenwood Springs where each student is met exactly how they are.
LGBTQ+ Inclusion in Roaring Fork Valley Schools
A community-wide PRIDE parade + other other Valley-wide efforts to welcome everyone.
Good Sports: Soccer
Reflections from an Aspen HIgh School midfielder and member of an elite all-valley women’s team.
MP Trail Map: Navajo Rocks
A family-friendly mountain biking destination near Moab, Utah
Helping Hands: Mountain Valley Developmental Services Greenhouse
A nonprofit gardening center where developmentally disabled adults work (and bloom).
Homelife Recipes: Passover Seder
Rabbi Emily Segal of Aspen Jewish Congregation reflects on this sacred meal (and shares her recipe for Matzah crack)
Good Sports: Black Belt
A RFHS student and Rising Crane Training Center Cuong Nhu black belt shares her accomplishment.
DIY: Chinese New Year Dragon Puppet
Step-By-Step instructions for making a fun puppet at home.