huckleberry lemonade bacon corn hash with chanterelles huckleberry scones fried polenta and porcini on roasted carrot purée


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first fourteener

August 24th, 2015

Recipe: huckleberry lemonade

Neva will be five months old in a couple of days. I have this mental disconnect that she is still a puppy and yet she has changed and grown so much since her first days with us. My sleeping pattern has shifted earlier because of the puppy, so I tend to go to bed a half hour to an hour sooner than Jeremy. During that time before Jeremy turns in for the night, Neva hops up on the bed and snuggles with me. Usually Jeremy will hear a series of exclamations like, “Don’t sit on the pillow!” or “Stop licking my hair!” before things settle down (and by things, I mean Neva). When both puppy and I are nodding off into Dreamland, Jeremy will gently lift Neva off the bed and carry her to her crate, which is next to my bedside. And then we sleep as much as we can before she wakes up in the morning.

But one morning last week, we were the ones waking Neva at 4 am to go for her biggest hike yet – Mount Bierstadt, a 14,060 foot mountain. Fourteeners (mountains over 14,000 feet in elevation) are a thing here in Colorado, because there are over 50 of them and because some have class 1 or class 2 trails to summit. Jeremy and I have mixed feelings about these mountains as they tend to attract a lot of people, something we prefer to avoid. This is especially true of mountains like Bierstadt which are fairly close to the Denver Metropolitan area and are relatively “easy” as fourteeners go. We chose it for these reasons – close to our house and not too challenging for Neva, who has been “in training” since the day we got her.

On the way to the trailhead, we stopped at the Georgetown Visitor Center to use the facilities and then Neva hurled in the car. Neva gets car sick quite often, so we usually have towels, plastic bags, and napkins at the ready. We are hoping she’ll grow out of it, but I’d love to hear if any of you have suggestions or recommendations on how to make her car rides less pukey. While Neva ate her breakfast (aka dinner) at the trailhead, she spat something out in the middle of her chowfest. Jeremy picked it up and placed it in my outstretched palm, “A baby tooth!” he said gleefully. At last, her adult teeth are coming in and those razor sharp baby teeth shall maim us no longer.


the sun clears the ridge with bierstadt in silhouette (upper right)

the view from summit

jeremy holds neva up for the token summit photo



Neva was a champ getting up the mountain, only whimpering on the last pitch when the boulders were too big for her to climb. Jeremy – the real champ of the day – carried her up and down those sections with the care and surefootedness that I’ve come to trust with my life. There were a lot of people on the summit, so we didn’t linger for very long. Plus, we discovered that Neva was scared of the thousand foot drops on either side of the peak (we consider this a healthy fear). She stayed very close to us and leaned her body against ours, trembling and making short quiet moans. On the descent, Jeremy carried her down the boulder field until they were safely on the saddle and she could resume being the crazy puppy that all of the hikers wanted to meet and pet. Not bad for a puppy’s first fourteener.

stopping for treats

taking a break and refueling

a nice cool stream crossing in the afternoon sun



The next few days were spent checking on huckleberry patches. It’s an odd season with lots of what Erin and I call “ghost” hucks – dead, dried up, white hucks that didn’t make it to their glorious purple potential. Was it due to late freezes or perhaps long stretches of hot weather with no nurturing afternoon rainstorms? We were concerned because this seemed to be happening to most of the patches that had been loaded with purple berries the previous season. Thankfully, the motherlode had lots of snurples (the really dark, sweet, purple berries – another term we coined), although a good fraction had gone ghost. Erin and I went foraging over the weekend to another spot that Jeremy and I had scoped out on a trail run last year. It had looked okay when Jeremy and I took Neva up there to check it out in the failing light of dusk, but when Erin and I arrived Sunday morning, there were so many snurples we couldn’t even make our way through the patch without stepping on some berries. Hot damn! We named this patch ML2 (motherlode 2) and by the time we headed back to Erin’s truck, our fingers, pants knees, and pants seats were stained purple.

jeremy captured me picking huckleberries at sunset

what a couple of hours will get you



It’s been hot and dry here such that the mushrooms have all but packed up and left, and our air quality has been abysmal due to smoke from wildfires in California and Washington. It makes me sad because this is typically a lovely time of year in Colorado and because California and Washington are both states that are dear to my heart. After several hours of picking huckleberries under the sun, I couldn’t wait to get home and pour myself a glass of huckleberry lemonade. That’s where it’s at for me. Lemons and hucks make a great team – why not drink them?

lemons, huckleberries (frozen), water, more water, and sugar

simple syrup: add water to the sugar



**Jump for more butter**

enchanterelles

August 18th, 2015

Recipe: bacon corn hash with chanterelles

School is starting or has started for a lot of students this week as evidenced by the uptick in dorm room bean bag and laundry basket purchases at Target. Heavier than usual traffic clogged the roads last week heading east from the mountains. No one heads east (toward Denver) from the mountains unless they have to… the school year commenceth. Our last few days in Crested Butte were a whirlwind of activity as we wrapped up summer in our special mountain hamlet. Truth be told, I think it’s normally a windstorm of activity, but Neva turns everything into a whirlwind.


dinner with good friends

puppy was so tuckered out, jeremy carried her the last 50 feet

finding more gems on and off trail

i see you!



The day before we returned home to the Front Range, I was picking my way along a deer trail that was lined with chanterelles. Jeremy and I refer to it as the Trail of Happiness. I had watched the mushrooms grow over the past week and was ready to harvest some to take home. The rains in and around Crested Butte had been stoking the chanterelle (and everything else!) flush and they just kept coming. I’m careful to only harvest a fraction of what is growing, cutting rather than plucking (it’s better for the preservation of the patch and continued fruiting throughout the season). Besides, there were so many that I couldn’t put a dent in the mushrooms even if I wanted to. Looking back up the slope I had just foraged, I couldn’t tell that I had picked any at all! Just then my phone buzzed the side of my leg. Mom texted me and asked what I was doing. I replied that I was foraging chanterelles for her birthday dinner.

quite a few chanterelles and a handful of porcini to boot



Since my parents spend their summers in Colorado, I get to celebrate my mom’s birthday with her and that means a lot to me. My mom always puts everyone else first. She takes care of others before thinking about her needs or her wants. This birthday wasn’t a special number – 16, 21, decadal, or whatnot – but that doesn’t matter. It’s a birthday. It was my mom’s birthday and I wanted to do something nice for her because I can… Something to ease the pain of Kris’ birthday just 2 weeks prior. Something to let her know how much I love her. I learned that my friend’s mother had passed the morning of Mom’s birthday and my heart ached. Loss is never easy, but it always reminds me to cherish the relationships I have while I can.

mom and dad upon arrival

a toast to the birthday girl (sparkling rosé of pinot noir)

light appetizers

lobster and chanterelle vols au vent

mom’s favorite: shredded kale salad

crowd pleaser: cioppino

lime cheesecake for dessert

i hope she made a good wish!



At one point, Mom came into the kitchen to watch me plate the vols au vent. She asked about the chanterelles and I showed her one of my many brown paper bags of fresh chanterelles in the refrigerator, pulling a particularly beautiful and delicate one out for her to smell. People say they smell like apricots, but if you close your eyes, I find they smell more like almonds and ever so faintly of bayberry candles – the kind you found in the 1980s in Colonial Williamsburg gift shops around the holidays. I think the gorgeous color is what prompts that whole apricot notion. They say if porcini are the kings of the mushroom world (they are called king boletes) then chanterelles are the queens. Finding a king in the woods is akin to a high-stakes Easter egg hunt. Porcini are heavy and hefty in your hand – solid and stout. Thrilling. Stumbling across a chanterelle patch is essentially striking gold. Delicate and frilly as if they came from the sea – chanterelles are especially coveted by me because they don’t have worms. Super bonus awesomeness. I am enchanted.

Mom asked what on earth I was planning to do with all of those chanterelles. Funny she should ask. I spent the 5 hour car ride home from Crested Butte brainstorming recipes to make and shoot with chanterelles. I even had a container of one recipe for her to take home. So in addition to the leftover party food, Jeremy and I have been wading through chanterelle recipe after chanterelle recipe. Jeremy tells me this is a hardship he willingly endures. This bacon corn hash recipe comes from Deb at Smitten Kitchen, because I can’t resist the sweet ears of Colorado Olathe corn that are in season right now. I just modified it with chanterelles fried in bacon grease, because it was the right thing to do.


corn, potatoes, salt, green onions, thick-cut bacon, pepper, chanterelles

chopped and sliced



**Jump for more butter**

new dog new tricks

August 12th, 2015

Recipe: huckleberry scones

I can feel summer slowly slipping through my fingers. Summer is the slog that starts to wear on me starting around July 4th. By then, the allergies and heat and mosquitoes have whittled away at me and I find myself counting the days to those crisp cool autumn nights come September. But puppies don’t care if it is summer, winter, spring, or fall. Puppies need to get their beans out. So every morning at 5:30, we wake up and brush our teeth like zombies while Neva munches away at her breakfast (which we call dinner – all meals are called dinner for simplicity), and then we grab for the usual: bag of treats, water dish, plenty of water, leash, poop bags, poop bottle (to put the stinky bags in while we hike), hat, sunglasses, sunblock, something to shove in our mouths as we usher Neva out the door. When you don’t get enough sleep and you wake up before the rest of the world… it just feels shitty. And yet the moment we set foot on the trail, it is forgotten. Until Neva lunges toward a leaf that looked at her funny.


these aspen stands are a sanctuary echoing with bird calls

the sun drops behind mount emmons in the evening

double supping (stand up paddleboarding) while neva is home asleep

puppy loves her hikes

jumping into the lake to cool off



This summer hasn’t been so terrible heat-wise for us in Colorado. We’ve actually had a rainier summer than usual, which should be good for wildflowers – and it was! But the excessive amounts of rain also promote wild grasses which compete with and choke out the wildflowers. Sometimes you can have too much of a good thing. But it really is good. Maybe the wildflowers weren’t the best for shooting, but we have enjoyed them for miles upon miles of hiking. They line the trails and adorn the hillslopes, dancing in the wind, nodding good-morning, playing host to hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees. There are a lot of amazing treasures to behold when you walk the mountains and pause to inspect the ground around you.

showy goldeneye and giant hyssop

wild alpine strawberries – tiny, but ten times the flavor of any domestic cousin

orange spindle coral mushroom

a beautiful specimen of a porcini



One morning, Jeremy and I were hiking a quiet trail with the pup when Jeremy had to stop and empty some rocks from his shoes. I continued on with Neva who reluctantly followed me, turning to look back for Jeremy every few feet. When he was about 20 yards away, Neva faced him and pulled the leash in his direction. It was a straight shot and I figured she would run right to him. So I told her to go find Jeremy and let go of the leash. He called to her as she dashed down the trail toward him. And then she darted 90 degrees to the right – straight into the forest. We chased after her, called her, waved treats in the air, but she was after a scent. Most likely it was squirrels, but we had to chase her a good bit off trail before we caught her. For a while there, I thought she was going to run straight to Wyoming. And this is why Neva is never to be let off leash… again. As we headed back toward the trail, we scolded her gently and gave her treats for not running any further until I came across something interesting. A patch of chanterelles.

beautiful little things



I had never foraged chanterelles before, but I knew just enough to realize that these might be those. And they were. We studied them and I emailed a photo to my friend to verify. Who knew? Actually, most of Crested Butte knows. I spoke with several people at various engagements throughout the week who confirmed that the flush was on – and it is a big one this year. Each subsequent day we hiked a different trail and I found chanterelles on every one of them. Jeremy was the one who spied the motherlode. People get excited and even the seasoned foragers can’t help but ask, “Where did you find them?” It’s the seasoned foragers who know the answer already – no one gives up their spots.

it’s a party!

neva lies down among the chanterelles while i harvest



My chanterelle radar is as good as if not better than my porcini radar. I can even smell them from the trail sometimes. So I’ll have plenty of chanterelle recipes for you in the coming weeks. For now though, it’s time to return to my one true love – huckleberries. They aren’t quite ready in the mountains around Crested Butte or back home on the Front Range, but they are getting there slowly. Just in case this year’s crop gets hammered by wacky weather, I’ve got several bags of frozen hucks from last year in reserve. I told Erin I wouldn’t dig into them until I knew for sure I’d be able to forage more this summer. I used frozen huckleberries for these huckleberry scones, but fresh is better if you don’t want super purple scones. As always, you can substitute blueberries for the huckleberries or maybe use raspberries or currants. But nothing beats a huckleberry.

cream, flour, huckleberries, sour cream, sugar, butter, salt, baking soda, baking powder, turbinado sugar, egg



I gave this recipe a try because it uses both sour cream and heavy cream. At my elevation, sour cream tends to give me more reliable results and I’ve had some scones spread too much during baking. But the basic steps are the same – cut the butter into the dry ingredients, add the liquid, fold in the fruit.

pulse the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together

add the frozen butter cubes

pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal

stir in the cream and sour cream



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