huckleberry brioche pan-seared pork chops spicy tuna inari baked strawberry doughnuts


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april doings

April 24th, 2016

Recipe: huckleberry brioche

When I left the house Tuesday morning, we still had a couple feet of snow blanketing the yard. Several hours later I stepped off my plane into the sticky, warm embrace of Charlotte, North Carolina to catch my connection to Virginia. April is about as late as I am willing to visit the southeast because it’s usually after my local ski resorts close, but before Virginia weather becomes unbearably and oppressively hot and humid. Jeremy and I spent a few days with my parents – a belated celebration of their 50th wedding anniversary. Really though, any opportunity for us to spend time together is a celebration of sorts. We dined out, we dined in, we drank many fine bottles of wine, everyone had a lovely time. It’s also a chance for me to observe how my parents live their lives when we are apart. Obviously, they don’t indulge in the wine and food the way they do when we visit, but I like knowing that they are surrounded by caring friends and neighbors, that they get regular exercise, and that they are generally happy and in good health.


sunset from my parents’ backyard

breakfast out at a local diner

dad pours a 24 year old dom pérignon

the view of the front yard



As you can see, spring has full on sprung in Williamsburg and I imagine it is that way around most parts of the country. Jeremy and I did a quick 5-mile run that didn’t involve clambering over snow or scrambling up rocky trails (crazy, I know) and gave us green-out because everything is so leafy and springy. Dad took us night-fishing and we caught and released a couple of channel cats (catfish). We met with neighbors over cocktails and shared a dinner with a longtime family friend. I cooked red wine braised short ribs for my parents. And we watched The Revenant, which made me homesick for the American West. Also, I couldn’t wait to get back to my little pup pup who was living it up at doggy camp with all of her pals.

post bath, pre-treats



Around this time last year, we were prepping our house and our lives to welcome little Neva. We knew full well that our freedom was limited, so we got our last spring backcountry ski trips and trail runs in, we enjoyed some meals out, and I shot a lot of recipes. But one recipe in particular was begging to be made. If you know anything about me, you know that I am crazy for huckleberries. [The thought had occurred to me to change this blog to Use Real Huckleberries, but I am still quite devoted to butter.] One day, a search for “huckleberry brioche” brought me to a million blueberry brioche recipes. How is that? The blueberry brioche recipe came from a cookbook by the name of Huckleberry, which was written by the owner of a Santa Monica bakery, Huckleberry. Well, I didn’t want to make blueberry brioche, but blueberries are often substituted for huckleberries, which are harder to come by (but so much better than blueberries), so why not substitute hucks for blues? Why not! Of course, if you don’t have hucks – you can always make the recipe as it was originally intended.

huckleberries, lemon, yeast, sugar, bread flour, all-purpose flour, butter, eggs, salt, milk, cream, egg yolks



There was a major snafu from the beginning and that was because there is an error in the original recipe. The flours were listed by weight and volume. The volumes were correct, but the weights were not. Unfortunately, I mostly go by weight when possible, so my dough looked really dry and wrong. I stopped before adding the butter and looked online for clues. Apparently, the cookbook has a number of errors that people were (rightfully) upset about. The weights for the flours were doubled in the blueberry brioche recipe. Luckily, I caught it in time to double the rest of the ingredients. I wound up with two loaves instead of wasting my precious ingredients. Still, I would have liked to dope slap the editor.

Fresh berries are going to give you the best results. In April, my only choice was to use frozen huckleberries, but my reasoning went like this: the fresh berries are placed in the freezer while the dough is being prepared, so the berries are partially frozen when you use them. My berries were just MORE frozen. See? I’ll tell you why it makes a difference and how to counter the effects a few paragraphs down. If you can use fresh, use fresh – but frozen will work in a pinch.


whisk the yeast into the warm milk

add the eggs, yolk, flours, sugar, salt

the dough should start to pull away from the sides



**Jump for more butter**

don’t cry for me

April 18th, 2016

Recipe: pan-seared pork chops

Colorado rarely makes the news when it snows in the mountains, but an inch of snow fall in D.C. and NPR can’t shut up about it. I think the only reason we got any coverage of this most recent storm is because it affected the flats, including the airport in Denver. Jeremy was notified on Friday that his Sunday morning flight to the East Coast was cancelled. The week leading up to the storm had everyone shouting “spring!” including myself. I managed to squeeze a couple of trail runs in before the weather turned cold and frozen. There is that period between bare ground and a mega snow dump when it’s just wet and boring outside. That was the perfect time to finish sewing eight baby quilts (flannel rag quilts).


dusted off my hokas for the return to trail running

waiting for a trip to a laundromat



Storms can be both exciting and nerve-wracking. Obviously, the exciting aspect for us is skiing. The nerve-wracking part is when you have to travel on slick roads with crappy drivers. Sometimes forecasts for big snow totals will fizzle leaving me to cry softly into my skis (just kidding – I only did that once…), but we cashed in on this storm. Mountain friends scattered around the Front Range posted their obligatory deck-full-of-snow photos and measured snowfalls. I kinda love that about the mountain communities. But the comments were full of condolences from people who live near sea-level and don’t get the gist of the mountain bubble. Please, people. Spring snowstorms are not unusual here, and without them, we’d be facing the threat of summer wildfires in our beautiful mountains. Plus? WE LOVE SNOW! Obviously. Neva had never experienced such deep snow before. She thought it was the best thing ever. I posted some videos of Neva being a goofball in the snow on my instagram.

fetching her tennis ball on the deck

a quick ski tour in our neighborhood

by sunday morning, the snow was taller than neva in places

jeremy breaks trail in four fresh feet of snow



This teeter-totter weather means we went from sushi and salads to ramen and chili in the blink of an eye. And I hear we’ll be swapping sunshine for snow and then back to snow through early May. So while we may be dabbling in warming foods and the rest of the country is thinking of picnics and deck parties, there is a nice compromise worth your attention. Pork chops.

pork chops, salt, pepper, vegetable oil, butter



A few years ago, we went to dinner with my parents at The Kitchen in Boulder. If you’ve never had the pleasure of dining there, they serve simple food prepared exceptionally well. My mom ordered the pork chop, something I rarely consider ordering for myself because it sounds so dull and usually is. Since we were sharing bites of our dinners with one another, I politely took a bite of the pork chop. Oh man. That was the best pork chop I had ever had. Juicy, tender, full of umami goodness. I experimented half-heartedly trying to achieve this level of amazingness with mixed results. In the last few months, I’ve renewed my quest. I interrogated restaurant chefs, butchers, random people – all giving me different tips. Bone-in. Boneless. Wet brine. Dry brine. Pan sear. Roast. Grill.

season with salt

set on a rack to chill 45 minutes to 3 days



**Jump for more butter**

april is a lion

April 10th, 2016

Recipe: spicy tuna inari

The other day while we were skinning uphill on a ski tour, Jeremy asked me what “in like a lion, out like a lamb” referred to. I speculated that it had to do with March starting like a lion because it was still winter, and exiting like a lamb, because it became spring in mid-late March. Jeremy wasn’t convinced, because in Colorado, the weather in March is pretty much psycho. Turns out April is too. Hot and sunny days. Cold and windy days. Snow. Thunder. RAIN. The r-word is the greatest offender, simultaneously killing off the snow pack and backcountry skier dreams. We struggle with this in-between period when the trails aren’t fully covered with snow but they aren’t completely clear either. This results in hybrid excursions like the bike-hike-ski or the ski-hike or the hike-ski or the bike-ski. We can’t let go of ski season but we don’t want to miss the arrival of summer in the high country.


jeremy ducks trees and dirt blowouts on the way up

niwot mountain summit (we stashed the skis where the snow ended and hiked)

removing climbing skins, getting ready to ski out

catching turns on the way down



I’m not sure what Neva thinks of the change in the seasons now that she has experienced all of them once. I mean, no one really knows what Neva thinks, period. At first, we figured she was smarter than Kaweah was – by a very little bit. Lately though, with more observational data to consider, we suspect that we were mistaken. That’s okay. We’re not trying to send her Caltech or anything. We just want her to heel and not jump on people and maybe stop licking everyone’s pants. As far as we can tell, Neva loves all of the seasons. She is just as energized plunging into deep powder as she is scrambling up boulders or diving into alpine lakes. I think she’s going to love this summer. We have big plans for her. I spent half of my REI dividend on a new 3-person (it’s more like a 2+) backpacking tent so we’ll have room enough for Neva to not kick our faces in the night. More little dog adventures! What’s not to love?

puppy treats to fuel puppy activities

trying on kaweah’s old dog pack

our local trails are melting out

neva loves the outdoors, just like her humans



As our outdoor pursuits change with the seasons, so too does our menu. Sure, seasonal foods make their way into our meals, but it’s temperature that has a bigger effect on my cooking. 50°F doesn’t sound very warm to most people, but it is quite warm up here in the mountains where a high of 20°F felt like a heat wave just a few months ago. Walking around in shorts I wonder how I survive summer each year if I feel like I’m melting in April? But we do adjust eventually and part of that adjustment involves making sushi. As far as I’m concerned, sushi is welcome in my pie hole any time of year. It is especially delightful when I deem it too hot (relatively speaking) to cook, like this past weekend. We didn’t want to bother with rolling sushi, so I opted for something even easier but just as tasty – if not tastier! Spicy tuna inari.

inari, sriracha, shiso, green onions, avocado, mayonnaise, seasoned sushi rice, sashimi-grade tuna



If you aren’t familiar with inari, it is tofu skin that is deep fried and seasoned in a sweet sauce. They typically come in pockets that are stuffed with seasoned sushi rice and served as inarizushi. The combination of the flavors is quite pleasing. I’ve never made inari myself, but we occasionally buy a can of it at the Asian grocery store for a quick and easy addition to our sushi nights.

the brand i buy which contains about 20 inari

gently pull open the pocket



**Jump for more butter**