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archive for May 2017

the convergence of great and awesome

Monday, May 15th, 2017

Recipe: soy sauce braised wild mushroom noodles

Last Friday when I left the Boulder County Justice Center, my head was pounding from countless hours of listening to lawyer-speak. Right before I stepped out of the building, one of the security staff shouted at me. He ran over to thank me for the blondies I baked for them and wished me a happy weekend. I had brought some for security, for my fellow jurors, and the courtroom. Who couldn’t use a cookie on a Friday? A friend of mine has pondered aloud why I bake and give away sweet treats. Like, what’s the dealio, Jen? It’s a simple gesture that goes a long way to elicit a smile, brighten someone’s day – a small gift made with love (and butter).


chocolate chip toasted pecan sea salt blondies



Driving up the canyon at the end of the day Friday, my shoulders relaxed and I let the cool mountain air wash over me, my mind turning to our weekend plans. I was looking forward to spending time with my puppy, catching up on work, and maybe even getting outside for some fun with Jeremy. Check. Check. And check! On a lark, Jeremy and I went to do a little reconnaissance and we each found a few morels, kicking off our second season (at least the first season wasn’t a fluke!). On Sunday morning, we threw the bikes on the roof rack, loaded the skis in the car, and set off on a bike-hike-ski. We rode in with our skis strapped to our packs, stashed the bikes in the woods where the snow started, then hiked up a little way before switching over to skis and skinning up the rest of the way. There is still plenty of snow in the backcountry and we’re slated to get another foot or more in the high country this week! Ski season isn’t over, kids.

i love this goofball

first black morel of the season!

skinning up

skiing out

pausing as we look east toward the plains (where it’s hot – too hot for my tastes)



One of the best things about finding black morels in the mountains is that I can stop looking for blonde morels on the flats. You see, foraging for black morels means staying in the mountains where I don’t get ticks (I’m still careful though), it’s much cooler, and it’s where I want to be. Foraging for blonde morels on the plains is an exercise in paranoia because I have to worry about ticks and poison ivy AND the hot weather makes me irritable, there’s tons of trash, and there are too many people. I know, I know… I’ve become that weird-ass mountain person. At least my searches on the plains resulted in some good hauls of oyster mushrooms. The good news is that I don’t have to return to lower elevations to forage those because their cousins, the aspen oysters, should start flushing in the mountains any day now.

oyster mushrooms are welcome in my kitchen



The first time my buddy, Erin, and I found oyster mushrooms this season, I told her to take them home. I wasn’t ready to deal with wild mushrooms just yet. One of my great fears is to forage some beautiful edible wild mushroom, take it home, then not have time to deal with them and let them rot. That’s just plain wrong. So once I knew we could find oyster mushrooms, I did some research on recipes I wanted to try and went to buy the ingredients. I’ve seen oyster mushrooms at Whole Foods, but I didn’t realize (or didn’t register) that you could purchase fresh oyster mushrooms at the Asian market. I went ahead and bought some just in case our foray the next day was a failure.

Luckily, it was not a bust and I went home to make some soy sauce braised wild mushroom noodles. My friend, Kelly, had posted a link to this recipe on Facebook and I thought, “How timely! Oyster mushrooms are flushing.” In addition to oyster mushrooms, this dish calls for beech mushrooms and shiitakes. The only complaint I have about the recipe is that I had to go buy Yet. Another. Bottle. Of. Soy. Sauce. I have six different kinds of soy sauce in my refrigerator right now, the newest addition being the Mushroom Flavored Superior Dark Soy Sauce. If you can’t find the mushroom dark soy sauce, then I imagine dark soy sauce (which is different from regular soy sauce) should work.


for your soy sauce reference

beech mushrooms, chinese wheat noodles, oyster mushrooms, dried shiitakes, mushroom dark soy sauce, light soy sauce, green onions, shallots, sugar, salt, vegetable oil, sesame oil



The dried shiitake mushrooms are rehydrated in boiling hot water and the soaking liquid is reserved for braising the mushrooms. Ever since one of my aunts sent an email around to the family with unverifiable information about chemicals in the soaking liquid of dried shiitake mushrooms from China, I’ve harbored this paranoia in the back of my brain. So I went out of my way to purchase certified organic shiitake mushrooms for a small fortune from Whole Foods. Welcome to my head.

rehydrating shiitakes (save the soaking liquid)

trim the stems and slice

ingredients prepped



**Jump for more butter**

technique: sous vide tempering chocolate

Wednesday, May 10th, 2017

Technique: sous vide tempering chocolate

Spring in Colorado is that lovely fickle season that throws it all at you – snow, rain, sun, fog, hail. That means flexibility is key to getting outside for some adventure and exercise. In our house, we keep four bins of gear at the ready in our living room. During winter months, the bins are: resort skiing, backcountry skiing/touring, skate skiing, classic skiing. In summer, the bin contents are swapped out for hiking, biking, trail running, and paddling gear. But spring means it’s all a slightly organized mess, a mish mash of late skiing and early running gear co-mingling in a way that mimics the snow and the trails in the backcountry right now.


jeremy skiing in rocky mountain national park

it wasn’t great snow, but right now we’ll just take any snow

après ski visit to trail ridge road

riding in boulder with a nice view of the flatirons

no matter the weather, neva always gets her fetch session



I had planned to get this post up some time Monday after reporting for jury duty in the morning, but against many odds, I was selected for a 2-week trial. Yay?! I’ve been called for jury duty once before about 16 years ago and got selected for a trial then, too. And while I am always hoping to NOT be selected for a jury (somehow I’m batting 0), I will say that it is something many citizens should experience at least once to see the workings, the flaws, and the positive aspects at a local level. Not to mention, the jury selection process alone gives one a rare cross-sectional glimpse into our community. You learn things about people. And if we can’t relate to people, then where does that leave us?

Mother’s Day is this Sunday, and instead of sharing a recipe, I’m sharing a technique with you. Tempering chocolate comes in handy when candymaking or creating edible decorations or dipping things like fruit or cookies. Tempered chocolate results in a more stable chocolate coating that is shiny and has a lovely snap. It is definitely more effort than simply melting chocolate, but for me, the final product is far superior. I’ve shown how I temper chocolate on a number of recipes on this blog (I use the seed method). However, once the chocolate is in temper, it’s really hard for me to maintain the tiny temperature range where it remains in temper – particularly for small batches of a pound or less. After borrowing my friend’s sous vide, I began to look into using it for tempering. I read through Kenji’s overview of chocolate tempering on The Food Lab and decided against the sous vide method. He tempers his chocolate in a sealed pouch which isn’t helpful when I want to dip a lot of things into tempered chocolate. But tempering the chocolate is not the hard part. The challenge lies in keeping the chocolate at a constant temperature so it remains in temper. That’s actually where the sous vide cooker is the perfect solution.


let’s say you want to dip some strawberries in tempered chocolate



There are basically three, maybe four kinds of chocolate: dark chocolate, milk chocolate, white chocolate, and caramelized white chocolate. I haven’t worked with caramelized white chocolate, but one of my clients uses it in her confections. I typically work with dark chocolate, will occasionally temper white chocolate, and very rarely milk chocolate. A warning about white chocolate: don’t use a white chocolate that contains palm kernel oil or coconut oil because it will not temper (it separates and becomes useless). You need to use proper white chocolate that has real cocoa butter, which means it’s going to cost you some money.

you will need chocolate – try to use a good quality chocolate



So let’s temper some dark chocolate using the seed method. The reason I use the seed method is because it’s the one I learned in my pastry skills course a decade ago, and I have enjoyed a high success rate using it. Melt most of your chips, féves, or chopped chocolate (reserve some for seeding) in a bowl over a water bath’s gentle heat until it reaches a nominal temperature, which you are measuring with a thermometer. Yes, use a thermometer. It’s important not to let a single drop of water (including condensation from steam) touch the chocolate because it can seize and you won’t be able to salvage it for tempering. If it does seize, don’t throw that chocolate away! You can still use it in baking and such, just not tempering. In the case of dark chocolate, I try to target 118-120°F as the maximum. Because there is some heat capacity in the body of melted chocolate and the bowl, I find when the temperature reaches 112°F, I can remove the bowl from the water bath and it will continue to rise in temperature to about 118-120°F as I set the bowl on an ice pack or in an ice bath to cool. For milk and white chocolates, your target temperature is a few degrees cooler: 116-118°F, so I would remove the chocolate from the water bath around 110°F.

place most, but not all, of your chocolate in a heatproof bowl

set the bowl over a simmering water bath

cool the chocolate on an ice pack or in an ice bath



**Jump for more butter**

drive this: pink cadillac

Wednesday, May 3rd, 2017

Recipe: raspberry syrup & raspberry pink cadillac margaritas

It’s rare that I plan ahead to shoot a relevant recipe and have a post ready before some holiday with an associated food theme. Honestly, I hadn’t planned this one at all because I don’t usually care. But it just so happens that Jeremy and I had been testing cocktail recipes (I made them, he drank them) and one was a margarita. That wouldn’t have meant anything except I heard mention of Cinco de Mayo on NPR and realized this would be a good and timely recipe to share with folks. Regardless of Cinco de Mayo, it’s a perfect cocktail for the summer season – a raspberry pink Cadillac margarita. The pink part comes from a raspberry syrup, which is straightforward to make and doesn’t have to break the bank. I like using frozen organic raspberries for the syrup because they’re much cheaper than fresh and the flavor is top notch because they are frozen when they are ripe and in season.


frozen raspberries, lemon, sugar, sugar, water

combine the raspberries, 2 tablespoons of sugar, and a cup of water

when the raspberries have broken down, add the rest of the water and the lemon juice

simmer for a few minutes



When you strain the seeds out, you can press on the fruit pulp to get as much out of it as you can, but doing so makes the syrup a little cloudy as opposed to clear. I’m okay with slightly cloudy because no one notices these things when you say the words “raspberry syrup”.

strain the solids out

about 2 cups of raspberry liquid

add 1 1/2 cups of sugar and boil

now you have raspberry syrup



**Jump for more butter**