venison with morel sauce herb and floral pasta confetti cookies cream of shiitake mushroom soup


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emergence

May 25th, 2021

Recipe: venison with morel sauce

We received our second shots the day before the anniversary of Kris’ passing. Based on reports from several friends as well as the CDC, I assumed I’d be feeling pretty miserable within 24 hours of my second dose. I bought some flowers earlier in the hopes they would still be bright and perky on May 1.


sunny ranunculus for kris



Because my parents were in town for the past month, our emergence from pandemic isolation has been hastened by their desire to see us. There’s being fully vaccinated and then there is being mentally prepared for the increase in activity and engagement and noise and personalities and driving. And I have to admit that while seeing my parents again has been good, the chaos and stress of stepping back into “normal” life feels anything but normal. It’s not being out of practice so much as questioning if being social is what I enjoy or what society wants me to enjoy. Perhaps Brood X is on to something.

a strawberry mother’s day cake i baked for mom



Per our usually scheduled atmospheric programming, it snowed on Mother’s Day and it snowed some more after that. Any precipitation is welcome in our mountains as we are practically guaranteed a terrible wildfire season in the American West again. The snows and rains made for a cooler, wetter, moodier May, but that hopefully means more mushrooms, more wildflowers, and healthier wildlife here on the Front Range. The western half of Colorado hasn’t been nearly so lucky, but I remain hopeful that the summer monsoons that evaporated the last few years will reappear now that La Niña has officially ended. I love a good Colorado mountain summer rainstorm.

colorado sun and snow in may

signs of life in the mountains: a pasqueflower

deck lounging season has commenced



After taking my parents to the airport last week to catch their morning flight back to Virginia, Jeremy and I stopped to check a morel spot on the plains. We hadn’t paid much attention to the season and we weren’t expecting anything other than a few spears of feral asparagus. But if you don’t look, you’ll never find them. Foraging on the flats is my least favorite kind of foraging because of the ticks and poison ivy and heat and sun and bugs and so many more people, which might explain why I’m so half-heartedly half-assed about the whole endeavor. And to our great surprise, we found a handful of large blonde morels – including the biggest one I’ve ever seen in the flesh!

growing out of the ground like no big deal

approaching child-sized status



My inclination upon finding the first morels of every season is to batter fry them, but that can get a little strange with a morel the size of a guinea pig. The other three weren’t small by our standards, either. Sure, you can cut the big ones up, but half the fun is eating them whole. I flipped through Hank Shaw’s Buck, Buck, Moose cookbook, unearthed a couple of venison backstraps from our freezer (courtesy of our wonderful neighbors), and decided the fate of these precious fungi. The dish is straightforward, quick, and special.

morel mushrooms, venison backstraps, salt, flour, canola oil, butter, beef stock, pepper, port wine, onion



Venison with morel mushroom sauce in the cookbook is slightly different from Hank’s updated web version. The cookbook recipe (this one) works and I’m certain Hank’s newer recipe is just as good if not better, but I didn’t see it until just now. I used fresh morels, but if morels aren’t in season and you have dried morels, Hank has instructions in both recipes for how to use those instead. I suspect you could go with frozen morels, too (I sauté extra morels in butter then freeze them for later use). And if you don’t have access to venison backstrap or tenderloin, beef is a decent alternative.

salt the venison

chopped onion and morels



I seared the venison backstraps rare, measuring the internal temperature at the thickest end to about 120°F (rare is 125°F), knowing it would continue to rise some as the meat rested on a plate. You can shoot for medium rare (final temperature 130°F), but cooking more than that will ruin this lean, tender cut.

sear the meat

resting



**Jump for more butter**

time for flower power

April 27th, 2021

Recipe: herb and floral pasta

Mom and Dad arrived in Colorado last week to take care of maintenance at their Boulder home that had been postponed due to the pandemic. They look fantastic and healthy (and are fully vaccinated), but since Jeremy and I are between our first and second vaccination shots, we’re all donning masks during our brief visits at their place. When we dropped off their houseplants I had been babysitting since November 2019, Mom handed me garlic and oranges which she had purchased in bulk, and Dad gave Jeremy a nice bottle of wine. It’s these little things that make them happy. I view our time together with more appreciation now.


so good to see my folks



April has graced us with deliciously snowy spring storms alternating with warm sunny days. Our local hill is now closed, but we grabbed one last powder day the Friday of closing weekend and have since enjoyed more powder days in the backcountry. Spring is magical.

waiting for the lifts to open

rewarding views in the backcountry as we approach treeline on our way up

neva is utterly thrilled to play in the snow, no matter the season

the pups played so hard they wiped themselves out (yay!)



Springtime snow is synonymous with increased wildlife traffic through our yard in both frequency and variety. Most notable are the moose. Mamas with their yearlings still in tow are foraging wild currant and young aspen tips. Our local mule deer visit multiple times a day. We catch glimpses of foxes, coyotes, raccoons, and other critters as they mince or trundle their way past our deck or our game camera or the watchful eyes of Neva and Yuki from their window benches. But I know our winter-flavored spring will flip the switch to summer-flavored spring soon, so I’ve been busy wrapping up my cold-weather cooking and sewing projects.

mule deer feeding where the snow has opened to the ground

yearling moose enjoying our driveway aspens

a big pot of chicken (dark meat) posole

happy rag quilts for kids



Whether it’s snow or sunshine falling on us, I am embracing the imminent arrival of colorful produce, flowers, leaves, grasses, birds. I may be getting ahead of my skis here since we’re expecting another foot of snow tonight, but I recently made a lovely herb and edible flower pasta and thought it would be perfect to share for Mother’s Day or a celebration or just because.

herbs and edible flowers, all-purpose flour, eggs, semolina flour



I basically used the pasta recipe from this handmade pappardelle. The dough can be made with a food processor or by hand, but you should definitely weigh the flours as volumes are inconsistent and can give you a pasta dough that is impossibly difficult to roll.

mix the flours together in a food processor (or bowl)

3 egg yolks and 3 whole eggs

pour the beaten eggs and yolks into the running food processor



**Jump for more butter**

safe

March 29th, 2021

Recipe: confetti cookies

Please tell me you are okay.

We are safe, but… I don’t feel okay.

So flowed texts and messages last Monday evening with friends and family checking on us, and for us checking on our people in Boulder after the mass shooting that afternoon. This, right on the heels of another mass shooting in Atlanta that included 6 Asian women in the death count. It’s been a lot to process as a Chinese-American woman living in Boulder County. Actually, it’s a lot to process if you are capable of empathy.


behind a snow bank on the side of a building in frisco, colorado


My fully vaccinated parents are starting to visit with their fully vaccinated friends in small numbers and I think it has really lifted their spirits. I know this because random urgent cooking question texts from my parents have begun popping up on my phone. In contrast, Jeremy and I continue to isolate, mostly because of the pandemic and partly because the absence of a social life is far less stressful for us. As many ski resorts and Nordic centers begin to wind down their seasons, we are hopeful more spring storms will deliver an extended backcountry season and boost the moisture our mountains desperately need.


glorious skate ski under the watchful eye of mount crested butte

the pups love a ski tour in fresh snow

powder day on the mountain


Guess who turned 6 years old this weekend? It’s hard to believe we’ve had Neva for nearly 6 years. The first three felt like an eternity, but the last three have flown by as Neva made enormous progress with her anxieties. Proper medication, training, compassion, and even Yuki (!) have all contributed to Neva living her best good girl life. We love her so and look forward to more adventures and butt rubs and special dinners and UPS/FedEx/school bus warnings and snuggles.


such a good and patient birthday girl

her favorites: beef, bacon, cheese, apple (the parsley, not so much)

what’s a birthday pawty without your little sister?


I’m pretty sure if it feels like spring around our mountains, the rest of you are immersed in the signs of the new season (unless you are in the non-tropical Southern Hemisphere). In addition to longer and warmer days, I relish the color explosion after our extended season of muted winter tones. Tiny new leaves catch the sunlight and glow like peridots suspended in the air. Flower blooms round out the rest of the rainbow. It’s festive, much like this confetti cookie.

I set about testing the recipe in December when there was a sprinkle shortage. I should have anticipated that the home-bound and pandemic-fatigued, plunging toward the darkest nights of the year, would reach for those tiny symbols of edible joy on the store shelves to get them through the holidays. A little tweaking and a month later, I was able to finalize our preferred version of the cookie and with a better selection of sprinkles.


almond extract, butter, flour, cream cheese, sugar, sprinkles, baking powder, baking soda, salt, egg


I admit, the sole reason I made these cookies was because I found the colorful sprinkles mesmerizing. I wasn’t expecting deliciousness, but they are that AND they are easy to make. Tasty, pretty, easy: three qualities that define a happy cookie, which is what we could all use about now. I doubled the amount of vanilla bean and almond extract for a more pronounced flavor, but you can dial that back if you prefer. And if the step of rubbing the vanilla bean seeds into the sugar is not within your time constraints, use vanilla extract.


rub the vanilla bean seeds into the sugar

whisk the dry ingredients together

add egg and extract(s) to the creamed butter, cream cheese, and sugar



**Jump for more butter**