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archive for March 2016

march ahead

Wednesday, March 9th, 2016

Recipe: sweet potato rolls

Daylight Saving doesn’t really bother me the way it bothers some folks. I have never paid much attention to it except when we get that extra hour in the fall. I kinda like that extra hour. But certain people get really bent out of shape over the revisited darkness in the mornings. I’ll let you in on a little secret… both Jeremy and I are really looking forward to setting our clocks ahead this Sunday. You know why?


because of this girl



Neva still wakes up at 5:30 every morning. EVERY. MORNING. Lately, we’ve been leaving her crate door open and she sleeps through the night without a problem. I sleep on the right side of the bed, and because of my lymphedema in my left arm, I sleep on my right side. Like clockwork, Neva shoves her nose into my face at 5:31 am (presumably she takes a minute to get out of the crate, stretch her front half, stretch her back half, rub her left side against the bed, then rub her right side against the bed, and shake off). It scared the hell out of me the first time, but now it’s just really sweet except for the puke-thirty in the morning feeling when your REM sleep has been interrupted. I’ll feed her a couple of treats so her empty tummy doesn’t revolt, and then she jumps up onto the bed to snuggle between Jeremy and me… for all of ten seconds. Then she jumps down off the bed and trots around the room and jumps back on until Jeremy wakes up, dresses, and takes her out to potty. We are hoping after Sunday, that Neva will wake up at 6:30! Right!? I mean, it’s got to work for at least a few days, yes?

Meanwhile, we are patiently waiting for the big snows that have yet to deliver this month. They said March would be snowy, but we’ve only gotten dribs and drabs interspersed with loads of warm weather. February was four whole weeks of freakish mother-loving sunshine. I feel as if I wouldn’t know what to do if we DID get a big dump powder day. Actually, I would totally know what to do – I’d SEND IT.


local benefits: ski the powder then go to work



It’s clear that winter skiing is fast becoming a faded memory. The sun is getting higher in the sky each day and the snowpack is feeling it. When we pack up for a backcountry ski, we dig around for lightweight gloves instead of super warm gauntlets. And during my weekly menu planning, I’m thinking more and more about summer barbecues, summer fruits, and well – summer foraging. But let’s talk about barbecue. I’ve always been a fan of barbecue and the assortment of sides that come with it: baked beans, coleslaw, macaroni salad, potato salad, cornbread, rolls, mac and cheese, the list goes on. Last year I was getting barbecue at a roadside stand when I saw “sweet roll” as a side option. When I asked what it was the guy said, “It’s a sweet potato roll.” I couldn’t figure out if he meant it was a potato roll that was sweet or if it was a roll made with sweet potato or what. I bit, and it was – nice. So I set out to make some myself, because homemade is almost guaranteed to be better.

sweet potato, flour, yeast, water, butter, salt, honey, eggs, warm water

peel and cut the sweet potato into chunks, then boil

mash the sweet potato and let cool



**Jump for more butter**

sweetness

Monday, March 7th, 2016

Recipe: pralines

We’re doing the happy dance over here because we finished our taxes this weekend! It’s not as bad as all that, but it isn’t a good time or something anyone chooses to do voluntarily – except for tax professionals. I will admit that taxes have gotten easier for me because I’ve learned to document and track my finances throughout the year such that it’s now a matter of tabulating the totals and entering the numbers. I like doing the incremental work so that we don’t have to spend more than a few hours getting it all together come tax time. Thanks, Past Self!

It means that we can spend our spare time skiing and doing other things – but mostly skiing! While Neva was at doggy daycare, we skied a “no dogs allowed” trail since we can’t ski it when we want to take Neva out in the snow. I had forgotten how nice it is to be able to climb hard and not have to stop for or worry about doggy issues. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my pup, but I don’t have to do everything with her. She had fun, we had fun, and we were all happy to see one another again at the end of the day.


slapping skins on for the climb

soft snow in the trees (kinda crappy out of the trees)

my reward was (half of) this amazing bacon cheeseburger at oak



And it’s not like Neva didn’t get to go play in the backcountry, because the very next day Erin and Banjo joined all of us on a ski tour! Neva is getting better about minding Jeremy and keeping clear of his skis (and those sharp metal edges). She’s actually best about avoiding them when they are moving. When we all stop to rip skins or shed layers, she starts hopping around and between the skis which is when she’s most likely to cut a paw. To help her obedience when we’re on skis, we alternate days working with her while we hike. It’s all about fun for Neva, but for us, it’s all about training her so she can be safe AND have fun for many years to come.

erin and banjo on the way up

getting neva ready for trail running season



I just booked travel to see my parents in Virginia this spring. Spring is a fine time to visit my home state because Williamsburg is thick with green leaves, flowering dogwoods, azaleas, and a host of beautiful birds. Any later than mid spring and I just can’t handle the heat and humidity. There are some staples that I always bring back to Colorado with me – like Virginia country ham, Virginia peanuts, and praline pecans. I never ate a praline on its own until a few years ago, but that doesn’t mean I never ate one. I consumed more than the legal limit when I was kid – all of it in the form of ice cream because pralines and cream ice cream was a favorite in our house and my parents used to own an ice cream store. Fast forward almost 40 years and I’m thinking “how hard can it be to make your own pralines?”

sugar, light brown sugar, salt, vanilla, pecans, cream, butter



Yup, that’s all there is to it. Basically you’re cooking pecans in caramel on the stove and agitating the caramel until it turns grainy. At that point, start dropping the pralines to form the beloved candy of the South. DO get all of your equipment ready ahead of time, as caramel waits for no one when it’s time to start dropping pralines. DO use a saucepan no smaller than 4-quart capacity because this stuff wants to, and will, bubble up during cooking. DO use a candy thermometer so you can track the temperature of your caramel.

toast the pecans

place all of the ingredients in a medium saucepan



**Jump for more butter**

wild about you

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2016

Recipe: seared duck breast with huckleberry gastrique

I bet you think I think about winter all the time. Well, it’s true. When I’m running up a trail in summer, I imagine skiing back down if only it were winter (or even just running straight into a snowbank to cool off). But the converse is also true. I think about summer in winter. Just the other day I took Neva for a hike on the local trails when the snow was falling at a good clip, and pointed out places on the white ground where shinleaf, pasque flowers, and other flora bloom in the months of long daylight. For me, it’s all about the place and how it changes so dramatically from season to season, but still remains constant in my heart. I have noted where the best aspen stands reside. I have strong mental associations with those special locales that offer up chanterelles, porcini, wild strawberries, wild raspberries, and most of all – huckleberries. Even more so if I can ski there in winter!


neva digs this weather, and any weather for that matter



Perhaps I’m mistaking my obsession with huckleberries as “thinking about summer” despite the fact that they only make their entrance in the last half of the season. I forage for (and freeze most of) those blessed berries like crazy for a few weeks and research ways to prepare and share them for the rest of the year. This week I finally tested a seared duck and huckleberry gastrique (a sweet and sour sauce) recipe that has been on my brain for a long while and it just so happened to coincide with our wedding anniversary! Truth be told, our anniversary sneaks up on us each year. We rarely plan anything around it. On a whim, I picked Jeremy up from work and took him to The Kitchen for a light snack of oysters and sparkling rosé as a “celebration”. Once home, I realized we had some leftovers from my recipe testing, so I said, “How about that for dinner?” and Jeremy nodded enthusiastically.

happy 19th anniversary!



The biggest obstacle for me to make this recipe was not huckleberries, but duck. I’ve had a lot of trouble tracking down duck breasts in Boulder (go figure – locals, if you have a source, please share the information with me!). As luck would have it, my friends Erin and Jay gave me a couple of frozen wild duck breasts recently. They happen to have friends who like to hunt duck, but don’t care to eat them (what the!??!). While that was happening, I went ahead and ordered some frozen farmed duck breasts online. So now I had two kinds of duck breasts! The farmed duck is White Pekin and the flesh is much lighter in color and milder in flavor than the deep burgundy and more “gamey” wild duck. I was psyched to compare the two. The wild duck breasts didn’t come with skin, which is a bit of a shame because duck skin is the best thing ever.

duck breasts (farmed and wild), huckleberries, roast chicken stock, beef and chicken stock blend, zinfandel, sugar, red wine vinegar, salt (not pictured: black pepper)



Searing the duck is no big deal and pretty straightforward. Making the huckleberry gastrique is what takes up the bulk of the time and effort – mostly babysitting liquids as you reduce them to syrups. I used roast chicken stock instead of duck stock, because I happen to have that on hand at any given time. [I tend to save all roast chicken carcasses and bones in gallon freezer bags and make large batches of stock in my pressure cooker.] I couldn’t find veal stock anywhere and decided to substitute half beef broth and half roast chicken stock instead. The things you can learn from a Google search! If you have access to huckleberries, use them. If you don’t, consider ordering frozen hucks online. I don’t know how well blueberries will work in place of huckleberries – probably fine, but blueberries lack the nice acidity and floral notes that make the huckleberry so special. As for the zinfandel, the original recipe appears on the Dry Creek Vineyard website and calls for the Dry Creek Heritage Zinfandel, obviously. We were really underwhelmed with the 2014, so I think you can perhaps save yourself some coin and buy a fruity, low-tannin zinfandel for the gastrique.

To start the gastrique, you essentially make a caramel syrup from the sugar and the red wine vinegar. This is what gives the gastrique its signature tart-sweet flavor which pairs so perfectly with huckleberries and duck. I reduced the vinegar-sugar mixture down to about a third of the initial volume until it was syrupy, but not too syrupy. It will thicken quite a bit when it cools.


combine the sugar and red wine vinegar

reduce until syrupy

it should be thick, but flowing when cooled



**Jump for more butter**