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Image: Lara Brucker

Walk into Kelley Epstein’s home, and chances are the scene will look something like this: her two giggling boys, Evan and JJ, race each other up and down the staircase and around the coffee table; a half dozen zucchini chocolate chip cookies cool on a rack in the kitchen; and an assortment of last summer’s canned produce, exchanged with a neighbor, rests on the kitchen counter along with the mixer, dish towels, notebooks, and probably a camera. In the middle of the controlled chaos is Epstein, soaking up every minute of it.

Epstein is the creator and author of mountainmamacooks.com, her “space on the web where high-altitude cooking and my love of playing in the outdoors collide.” After years of working in Park City restaurants and then running her own catering business, Epstein decided it was time to share all those tricks and tips she’s learned while preparing meals for family and clients at high altitude. She launched her blog in 2010. Traffic on mountainmamacooks.com slowly increased until 2012, when suddenly she was averaging 300,000 page views a month (a rate similar to that of The Park Record). Advertisers took note, and last year Epstein was able to phase out her catering jobs and blog full time (“around my boys’ schedules, hiking, and snowboarding, of course”) on mountainmamacooks.com as well as canyonsresort.com and epicmoms.com.

Most of Epstein’s days begin with a few quiet moments over a mug of coffee and a slice of toast slathered with homemade jam. When her boys wake up, Epstein cooks whatever they feel like eating. “It’s like being a short-order cook, but I wouldn’t have it any other way, ” she says. Once the boys head off to school, Epstein indulges in what she admits is her favorite time of the day: getting outside. “Each season in Park City dishes up something new, from snowboarding and skiing to hiking and biking. And we like to do it all,” she says.

Most of Epstein’s work gets done in two six- to seven-hour stretches every week and includes testing recipes; shooting and editing the photos; and, of course, writing. “I’m not getting rich,” she says. “But I am lucky in that ads and sponsors who support my blog have allowed me to focus most of my work time on combining two of my favorite things, or maybe three: cooking, writing, and eating!”

Apropos with its theme, mountainmamacooks.com focuses on comforting foods like hearty soups, stews, and braises but is tailored toward the healthful side by using locally sourced meat, produce, and cheese and leaving out the processed ingredients. “Our slow cooker works hard all winter, and the grill is always on in the summer,” she notes.

The day winds down as Epstein and her family gather around the dinner table. “If I’ve learned anything from both cooking and being a mom, it’s that the times when I’m completely in the moment are the sweetest.” 

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