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so long, summer

Sunday, August 28th, 2016

Recipe: honey sriracha japanese fried chicken karaage

I know most of you are groaning about summer’s end. The good news is that the majority of you summer lovers are still enjoying summer where you live. The even better news is that summer is fast becoming a faded memory here in the mountains! The overnight temperatures have brought frosts to the rooftops in my neighborhood and fresh dustings of snow to the high country. A crisp chill on the morning air rejuvenates me from the stupor of summer’s seemingly relentless heat. Long-sleeves are no longer optional at night. Fall is my favorite season – so spectacular and yet so fleeting in our mountains. And then comes the long winter, which is never really long enough for folks who like to glide on snow. Autumn is full of activity and colors and anticipation and acceptance.


neva and jeremy pause in front of mount neva

ducks diving for food – tails up!

the majestic moose

a leaping pika with forage for its winter hay pile

another pika with a flower in its mouth

so cute, i can’t even!



Cooler weather puts a spring in my step. I start checking my ski gear even though actual skiing may be more than two months away. The big camera lenses get shipped out for maintenance before the fall shoot. Maps are strewn about the living room for backpacking plans. And of course, recipes that have been put on hold over the summer (because it was too hot to think let alone cook) are perused with renewed interest. Shortly after our awesome trip to Steamboat Springs in January, I made a note to myself to reproduce the JFC we enjoyed at Yama. JFC – Japanese fried chicken or chicken karaage – is delicate, crunchy, juicy, and tender with Asian flavors. What I liked about Yama’s version was how the fried chicken was tossed in a honey sriracha sauce which turned the whole thing into a flavor bomb in my mouth.

make the chicken karaage: soy sauce, sake, potato starch, sugar, ginger, garlic, chicken thighs



It’s a quick marinade to make and the chicken marinates for an hour or more. While the restaurant version brines the chicken in buttermilk and miso, I opted for a recipe that was ginger, garlic, soy sauce, and sake because that’s what I had in my cupboards. To make this gluten-free, substitute tamari for soy sauce. If you can’t find potato starch you can use corn starch, but it won’t result in the same crispness when fried. You will probably have better luck getting potato starch from an Asian market, but Bob’s Red Mill potato starch is available at stores like Whole Foods. (I use potato starch when making strawberry daifuku mochi.)

grate the ginger

mise en place

combine the ginger, garlic, sugar, sake, and soy sauce

add the chicken

marinate for at least an hour



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racing the sun

Sunday, July 24th, 2016

Recipe: hamachi yellowtail crudo

We’ve lived in the mountains of Colorado for eleven years now. When we first arrived, a week of truly hot weather was about all one could expect of the summer months. Over the years, those temperatures are trending hotter and sticking around longer in summer. I should note that we are particularly observant of hot weather because WE HATE IT. So it was with great joy that we welcomed the return of the monsoon last week. That stupid high pressure cell that was sitting on top of us (and fanning the flames of that wildfire) shifted east so that moisture from the Gulf of Mexico (south of us) could deliver the goods in the form of rain and thunderstorms.


composite lightning strikes

lightning at sunset

rainbows, the marriage of sun and rain



Oddly, after a few good soaking rains, the clouds have been building up and then fizzling out. We can see rain over neighboring canyons and ridges, but there seems to be a giant sucker hole (blue hole in a sky of clouds) over our neighborhood at any given time. We don’t have air conditioning at our house, so we work hard to cool it at night and keep it as cool as possible during the sun’s march across the sky. Just today, Jeremy and I discussed the logistics of getting an evaporative cooler installed before next summer. It is most efficient in arid climates and it’s much cheaper to run than air conditioning.

For now, we are sucking it up and continuing with our summer schedule of trail runs, hikes, and paddles. The higher you climb, the cooler it is – at least if the atmosphere is adiabatic, which it kind of is (Jeremy says to disregard water vapor). The high country is beautiful right now. Lush, green carpets splattered with colorful wildflowers and lingering snowfields paint these rocky mountains above the dark mantles of conifer forests. We are running farther and climbing higher, racing against the season and racing ourselves. Actually, that’s only half true. Jeremy is racing against himself. I’m not racing anyone. I’m noodling along and stopping to look for mushrooms or checking on the progress of the huckleberries, snapping selfies and photos along the way, shouting hello to Mr. Rabbit so I don’t go startling Ms. Moose. This is why we run separately. But it’s nice when our two routes overlap and we can say hi.


after a steep climb, i wait for jeremy to arrive from the other side of the ridge

off days are meant for hikes with neva

jeremy refuels on the trail during his 17-miler

hiking with erin and banjo

paintbrush come in so many beautiful colors

lunch with a view at king lake



We still have two months of summer remaining, and yet it’s already impossible to do all the things we had hoped to accomplish before the next season moves in. I suppose you could say that just leaves more for next summer. Something I did manage to check off my list was making hamachi (yellowtail) crudo with finger lime pearls. I’ve been waiting until I could order some from Shanley Farms when the season started at the end of June and I finally got some!

radishes, orange oil, togarashi, vegetable oil, orange, flake sea salt, finger limes, hamachi (not pictured: ponzu sauce)



I first heard of finger limes when a friend in Australia asked if I had seen them here in the States. I hadn’t. These were originally discovered growing wild in Australia and have since slowly made their way to the U.S. To open the finger lime, I scored the rind around the middle and broke it open. Rolling the end of one half between my finger tips, the little pearls tumble out of their tight-packed quarters. It’s incredible, really. Each little pearl bursts with the tart juice of a lime when bitten. I figured these would be great with hamachi crudo because I wanted the acidity of the lime without the raw fish cooking on contact as it would with lime juice. Obviously, finger limes aren’t everywhere available (yet), so if you don’t have any, then just use a regular squeeze of lime juice just before serving.

score the rind around the middle and break the finger lime open

roll one end between your fingertips and watch the caviar fall out

completely empty!

pink pearls (sometimes they are other colors like green or yellow)



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not cooking

Monday, June 27th, 2016

Recipe: sashimi salad

It is nonstop head-spinning fun over here at Butter Headquarters. I got my phone fixed after it took a prolonged underwater tour of the lake, but I haven’t had much time to get back to the social media channels because real life is in high gear! It was nice to retrieve my photos though – the ones that were the whole reason the phone and I went swimming together.


see the carp?



Before we came home to Nederland, we took Neva out on the lake once more to practice climbing out of the water onto the stand up paddle board (SUP). It’s quite easy with her new life preserver because it has a nice low-profile handle on the top. Actually, it’s ridiculously easy as long as her tennis ball is on board. Neva is a lithe and lean 43 pounds now. Float her in the water with a life vest and I can practically lift her onto the board with two fingers. We had her diving off and climbing back on several times so she could get used to it. While Jeremy was inflating the board (we have inflatable SUPs) Neva’s friend, Bella, came bounding down the hill to play with her. Bella lives in Crested Butte and she is an adorable, chunky 2 year old black lab who happens to belong to a friend of mine. Neither Bella nor Neva care to be dominant or the boss of anyone, they just want to run and swim and play and be best pals. One day I’ll get a picture of the two together, but Bella and Neva are rather impatient for me to throw the ball.

up out of the water

and she gets her orange (must be orange!) tennis ball



We returned to the Front Range at the height of a heat wave the day before my parents arrived in Boulder for the summer. I got their condo ready with dinner, groceries, flowers, and my mom’s plants (the ones that suffer my care for 10 months of the year). Even though I just saw them in April, I took note of their health as I picked them up at the bus station. My parents are in remarkably good health for their ages, and yet I can’t help but observe that they are slowing down. It’s gradual. Very gradual. They are still machines when it comes to social engagements – they love a good party – so I threw a party over the weekend for my folks and a bunch of my friends.

dim sum with mom and dad



Party prep is a logistically involved endeavor for us in the high country because we have neither easy access to good groceries nor air conditioning to battle the heat of summer. I try to keep all oven use limited to nighttime. While waiting for meringues to bake, I set a large measuring cup of chocolate ice cream custard base out on the deck (well, on the grill shelf) to cool at 1 am. It was covered in plastic to avoid floaty or flying things from jumping in. Since our deck is on the second floor with no ground access, we’ve always set hot liquids out on the deck. In three short hours, Neva would be waking Jeremy up to go out to potty (what is it with this dog?), so I asked Jeremy to transfer the chocolate custard from the deck to the refrigerator when he took her out.

I mumbled into my pillow at 4 am asking if he remembered the chocolate custard. “Well, something happened.” I imagined he had dropped it. I imagined Neva licking it up. I asked, “WHAT HAPPENED?” Something about a hole and how much was there to start? I said four cups. Now there were two. “WHAT?” There were some footprints. “FOOTPRINTS?” I’m blinking into the darkness calculating how much cream, milk, and eggs I had on hand to start a new batch. I didn’t have enough eggs. “Not footprints, PAW prints,” he said. Bear? Squirrel? Someone who can climb a tree or a wood post. “Chocolatey paw prints. Too small to be a bear, maybe a squirrel or a raccoon.” In the breaking light of dawn, I looked at the chocolatey paw prints and Jeremy came out onto the deck with our book of animal paw prints. Raccoon. Apparently, our furry friend climbed onto our deck, found this cup of heaven sitting on the grill shelf, poked a hole in the middle of the plastic wrap and then shoved its schnoz into said hole and had the dessert of a lifetime. TWO CUPS! I envisioned a raccoon with a terrible tummy ache or worse somewhere in the forested foothills. Chocolate can be toxic for a lot of animals, not just dogs. It made me sad for the raccoon and anxious for my ice cream making schedule.


i guess the raccoon started the party early

i also made strawberry daifuku mochi

the most beautiful bouquet of flowers from kitt’s garden

and glowsticks – don’t be jealous



Great fun was had by all and we’ve been noshing leftover party food for the last few days. It’s nice to not cook when the sun turns your house into an easy bake oven. In summer, sushi and sashimi get more frequent rotation on our menu. But sometimes, even the thought of cooking rice can be too much to bear. It’s simple enough to swap out the rice for lettuce and have yourself a sashimi salad. There is absolutely no active heat transfer involved! Of course, passive heat transfer is always occurring – you can’t beat entropy, kids. The nice thing about salads is that the guidelines are quite loose. Choose the vegetables you like most. Omit the lettuce if you want. Pile on more carrot and cucumbers! It’s all up to you.

vegetables: mixed baby greens, shiso leaves, carrot, cucumber, red cabbage, daikon sprouts

for the dressings: neutral flavor vegetable oil, soy sauce, mirin, salt, sugar, lemon juice, sesame seeds



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