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love thy long weekend

Monday, September 7th, 2015

Recipe: mongolian beef

Labor Day weekend marks the close of the busy summer season. It’s when the visitors return to normal life and leave the mountains to the locals, as if the mountains have closed for the year. But the mountains don’t close, ever. They march through the seasons regardless of you or me. Despite the fact that summer is my least favorite of all the seasons (I love them all, I just love the others more), it is indeed a glorious time when trails are easy to access, wildflowers scatter across the hills, and the fruits of the earth spring forth. We hopped out to Crested Butte for the long holiday weekend so we could take care of house maintenance and get on the trails with the puppy. I also wanted to scope out what the aspens are up to because I’ve noticed yellows appearing earlier than usual in the Front Range – not big swaths, but patches here and there. Even though I won’t be doing a dedicated fall shoot this year (because of Neva), it’s hard to shut off the constant monitoring of the aspen stands right about now.

evidence that a few of the leaves are showing off early

The weather on the Front Range had been mostly hot and dry the last few weeks and our trails had few signs of the mushrooms that graced them only a month prior. But Crested Butte was getting more consistent relief in the form of rain. When we arrived at our place, the lawn had big, healthy, (poisonous) mushrooms sprouting up. That was a good sign. My hope was that the chanterelles would have a second flush, but I wasn’t sure that it would actually happen. We hiked out to some patches over the weekend and lo and behold – chanterelles. Some were dried out and old, others were fresh and just coming out of the ground. I surmised that this wasn’t a second flush, but a continuation of the original flush – stoked on by healthy doses of rain and sun. What an amazing season it has been! I used all of the August chanterelles to shoot recipes, but these will be sautéed in butter and frozen for our enjoyment in winter.

hello, beautifuls

neva waits for jeremy to fill her water dish while i forage chanterelles

not a bad haul for a morning

Of course, the weekend wasn’t just about foraging mushrooms. We got Neva out on the trails for lots of exercise and visited the neighborhood lake to let her get her swim on. As we approached the water, she began to pull on the leash as if her life depended on it. At first I thought there was a dead, rotting carcass near the shore that she smelled. But soon it became clear that this dog wanted to SWIM. So we chucked stick after stick into the water and watched as this once chunky clumsy puppy now gracefully and athletically leapt into the water – a strong and beautiful swimmer.

go neva!


I do plan to head up into the mountains for one last forage before returning home, but I realize that some of you may be tired of the onslaught of huckleberry and chanterelle recipes. Maybe you’re looking for something that will serve as part of a weeknight meal? I haven’t blogged too many Asian recipes this summer, so let’s change things up and go with some Mongolian beef. It’s an easy and straightforward stir fry. The only obstacle might be sourcing some of the ingredients, but I assure you that all of them can be found in an Asian grocery store or a regular grocery store that has a well-stocked Asian food aisle.

flank steak, hoisin sauce, shaoxing wine, vegetable oil, oyster sauce, chili bean sauce, dried red hot chilis, potato starch, scallions, garlic

slice on the diagonal

mince the garlic

slice the flank steak against the grain

**Jump for more butter**

a year on

Friday, July 10th, 2015

Recipe: chinese steamed lotus leaf buns

It’s hard to believe that a year ago today, we said a tearful good-bye to our little Kaweah pup. Even with Neva dominating most of our summer, there isn’t a day that passes without a thought or mention of our first girl. Most of all, we imagine how sweet Kaweah would have been with Neva for the first few hours and then how she would have run away from the puppy for the rest of the time. People have said it again and again. They were right. You never forget your pets, even when they’ve passed on.

kaweah, you’ll always be my girl

I’m not even going to pretend to remember everything that has happened since my last post. I’ve given up keeping track. Neva is getting bigger and leggier. She’s learning and improving each day. Just this morning, she met four little children on the trail and was incredibly sweet and polite with each of them as they took turns petting and kissing her head. In the last week, she has gotten more socialization with little dogs, big dogs (lots of big dogs), people, kids, trail runners, hikers, and mountain bikers. She even met and played nicely with another puppy. Don’t get me wrong, she is still a spazzy little lab puppy full of energy. I think I say, “LEAVE IT!” over a hundred times a day. But I sure do love her.

11 week old max meets 13 week old neva

neva sitting in the lupines

bounding through a field of flowers on a new hike

on a visit with my in-laws and their pack of dogs

it’s hard work being a puppy

We were in Crested Butte for the Fourth of July and figured it would be a good opportunity to expose Neva to fireworks. They never bothered Kaweah, so we hoped Neva would be the same since she was fine with thunderstorms. As we left the house with Neva to go meet our friends to watch the official Crested Butte fireworks, a house nearby set off a loud firework that scared the bejeezus out of her. She was shaking and wanted to hide in a small space (under the bench, in Jeremy’s arms), but remained quiet and mostly calm. She settled down when it was over, and we’ve been working with her to overcome her fear. There were more “unofficial” fireworks set off on random evenings when she was outside and she’s getting better about them when we feed her treats and act like nothing is wrong.

crested butte rainbow and wildflowers

summer aspen canopy

fireworks over crested butte mountain

even a red, white, and blue firework!

My parents are in Boulder for the summer, taking short trips around the west and using Colorado as their home base. Dad mentioned that he had recently made some pork belly he wanted me to try. Since we’re having dinner with them at their place (we’re bringing Neva, too), I figured I would bring some homemade lotus leaf buns that I have in my freezer. Back when I visited my parents in Virginia, I asked my mom if she had a recipe for these steamed buns. I like eating them with Peking duck, but I don’t like the frozen ones in the Asian grocery stores. She said no and then she added in Chinese, “It’s very difficult to make.” When I got home, I did some research and found David Chang’s recipe in his Momofuku cookbook. It’s not difficult, it’s just time-consuming. So I made a batch before we got the puppy to gauge if these buns are worth the trouble. They are worth it.

flour, sugar, salt, powdered milk, yeast, shortening, baking soda, baking powder, water

add the water to the yeast

add the remaining ingredients

knead with dough hook on low speed until the dough forms a ball

place dough in a greased bowl and let rise

**Jump for more butter**

splash and dash

Monday, June 8th, 2015

Recipe: miso peanut butter vegetable dip

We now have a 10 week old puppy who consistently sits to ask for things like food, water, toys, to be let out of her crate, to have a ball tossed, to be let back inside, to be petted. You may wonder why she has to request water – why we don’t have a bowl lying around for her to take drinks as needed… After Neva takes a big drink, she loves to place her paw on the side of the dish and tip the whole thing over. It was funny the first time and not as funny the next 10 times. But she’s a lab and true to her breed, she loves the water. We wanted to get her swimming, but right now our lakes are cold with snow melt and she hasn’t received her leptospirosis vaccinations yet (they start in a couple of weeks). So we’re taking baby steps starting with Kaweah’s old baby pool. Kaweah never cared much for it (she was a hardcore girl – she wanted her frozen mountain lakes), but it’s perfect for Neva at this stage on a hot, sunny day.

jeremy introduces her to ankle-deep water

she warmed up to it when we tossed in her spiky ball

really getting into the fun with a flying leap

Everything was great until Neva fetched the ball, dropped the ball, and promptly squatted to relieve herself in the pool. We are still getting to know Neva’s bladder schedule, which is to say, we still have occasional accidents. But it’s all a big learning curve – which food works best for her digestion, what time of day is best for training, when she needs naps and when she needs play. It’s hard to believe we have only had Neva for two weeks because it feels like months.

running her brains out in a field

tired and plopped down in the middle of the trail

Jeremy and I are trying our best to do right by the puppy’s training as well as live our lives (sleep, eat, get work done). It feels as if we aren’t succeeding at any of it. For the first week, I wore the same clothes for days in a row because I couldn’t see the point of putting something clean on only to get dogged up again. But you can’t let a puppy put the kibosh on everything. Over the weekend, a good childhood friend came into town for a conference – so we had her and two other close mutual childhood friends over for dinner. I even showered and wore clean clothes! I figured, if I could manage to put dinner on the table, then we could declare the night a victory. I missed out on half of the conversations because Jeremy and I tag-teamed supervising the puppy, but it was wonderful to spend time catching up, especially since I hadn’t seen the out-of-town friend in over 20 years.

a toast to reunions

Summer is when entertaining at our house really gets underway. The only folks who visit in winter are the ones who truly love winter and the ones who don’t know any better. Our short mountain summers are green and pleasant, which make for great dinner parties, grilling, and views from the deck. Typically, I like to experiment with different recipes, but lately – because of the puppy vortex and in the interest of my own sanity – I’m sticking with super simple menus. One thing I love to serve when the weather turns warm is crudités with dip, but sometimes I tire of sour cream or mayonnaise dips. A few weeks ago I tried a couple of miso-based dips and really fell in love with this miso peanut butter dip. It’s just the right salty and sweet to go with a variety of fresh vegetables. And it’s easy.

peanut butter, white miso paste, mirin, rice vinegar, sake, honey

**Jump for more butter**