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the best things in life

Monday, August 21st, 2017

Recipe: huckleberry muffins

I’m a day late posting because there was that solar eclipse event today. Jeremy and I had too much going on to afford more than a day trip, and as it turns out, making a day trip to Wyoming was going to take more than a day. So we stuck it out at home, which worked rather well for us. We got some heavy cloud build up about 30 minutes in and then it dissipated as we neared the maximum (probably because the reduced energy from the sun was no longer fueling cloud formation) and enjoyed mostly clear views of the eclipse through the end when the clouds reappeared. You can see where I had to shoot through a veil of thin clouds to get some of the earlier phases. I hope many of you were able to view the eclipse in one form or another! I had a much simpler setup than the last solar eclipse I photographed and it was super nice not to have to drive, worry about parking, or worry about the dog.


composite of the eclipse (maximum was 93% here)

jeremy adjusts the binocular projection

using the colander to project dozens of crescents



My parents returned to Virginia last week, but not before we celebrated my mom’s birthday at Flagstaff House in Boulder! I normally like to cook Mom a nice meal for her birthday, but after dining out, my parents requested a “simple” meal the next evening. Simple doesn’t mean it can’t be special. Since mushroom season has been booming and my mom LOVES mushrooms, I served cream of chanterelle soup, porcini and elk sausage tortellini in a beef and porcini brodo (recipe coming soon), and porcini pizza – all with fresh mushrooms I had foraged. I love that I can do that for her.

happy birthday, mom!

the stoke is high because dad has a 3-olive gin martini



The past week has been a blur of activity: mushrooms, bonding with my favorite people in the high country, visits from friends, learning new mountain biking skills, and that eclipse. Fall is merely a suggestion right now, but it’s getting louder each day. I hear children at recess now when the neighborhood used to be silent just last week. There’s a lot more traffic in Boulder as parents bring their freshman offspring to campus. Spots of red color occasionally dot the high meadows – leaves that are preparing for the end of the season. I know what’s coming and I’m giddy thinking about it: chanterelles, huckleberries, fall colors, crisp and cool evenings, and SKI SEASON. But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves here…

a half dozen moose lounging in the meadow, as they do

still finding elephant heads up in the high country

banjo and erin and a porcini – the start of a VERY good day

sometimes that splash of red in the huckleberry plants is a porcini

the dog days of summer



I’m trying to be optimistic over here. Twila told me that the huckleberries are going in Montana. My patches are running a little late, which can be good if the sun and rains continue to nurture them, or it can be very very very bad if an early winter cuts them off before they can ripen. You never know when you will have a good year or a bad year or a few bad years, which is why I don’t like to use up the previous year’s harvest until I know I have this year’s harvest in the freezer. The same applies to the mushrooms. While my fingers and toeses and noses are all crossed for a good huckleberry season, I’ve got a good recipe to use with fresh or frozen huckleberries. I actually tested two huckleberry muffin recipes four times and finally settled on this adaptation of Deb’s Perfect Blueberry Muffins. The biggest problem is getting muffins to dome nicely at my elevation, but otherwise, I quite love these muffins.

butter, huckleberries, flour, turbinado sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sour cream, lemon zest, sugar, egg

whisk the sugar into the melted butter

stir in the egg, lemon zest, and sour cream



**Jump for more butter**

not soon enough

Sunday, April 16th, 2017

Recipe: strawberries and cream malasadas

Okay, the confusion is over. Spring has sprung and is springing all over the place. I am okay with this. In fact, I’ve decided this year that instead of dreading summer and feeling like I’m walking under a broiler all day, I’m going to attempt to acclimate myself to the heat a little earlier. I’ll see if it makes summer more tolerable (probably not). I mean, I grew up in southern Virginia for 18 years and lived in Southern California for another 10. You’d think I’d be used to heat by now. One of my strategies includes baking loads of Neva’s treats while it is still cool – enough to get us through the summer so I don’t have to turn the oven on! Another plan is to ramp up my trail running now, while the temperatures are mild, so that I am not ramping up and adjusting to the hot weather at the same time. Lofty goals, I know. Should I fail, at least summer is a forgiving season.


neva likes all of the treats i’m cranking out

my mint is sprouting after an apocalyptic haircut

jeremy and i enjoying a backcountry ski (sans neva)

pasque flowers in full force on my trail run

the ball bounces higher (and so does neva) when the field is clear of snow



I’ve been following my friend, Jennie, as she documents her Year of Pie on Instagram. The other day, she made a strawberry pie because she couldn’t wait any longer for the berries to come into season. I hear ya, sistah. Strawberries are the ones that bust open the berry floodgates of summer because they arrive in spring, except they never seem to arrive soon enough. I can’t tell you how many weeks I’ve been scrutinizing the strawberries in the grocery store, squint-frowning at the ones that are more white than red. But this week, they are all beginning to take on that blushing hue. I’m probably jumping the gun by a couple of weeks, but the time has come for strawberries and cream malasadas.

water, vanilla extract, freeze-dried strawberries, flour, sugar, eggs, butter, salt, yeast, evaporated milk



The idea I had was to make plain malasadas (those fried Portuguese doughnuts you find in Hawai’i that are the very definition of ono kind grindz) and fill them with strawberries and whipped cream, but then I found some freeze-dried strawberries in my pantry and decided to make the malasada itself strawberry-flavored. Freeze-dried strawberries turn to powder when you crush them. Dried strawberries with the texture of raisins will not turn to powder, they’ll just get squashed – so don’t use those. If you have dried strawberry chips that snap when you break them, those might work if you can pulverize them to a dry powder. I got my freeze-dried strawberries from Trader Joe’s, but you can also find them in health food stores and I may have seen them in Whole Foods. I subbed a half cup of flour with a half cup of the strawberry powder. It’s pretty potent stuff.

crush the freeze-dried strawberries into powder

it should be a pretty fine powder

mix it into the flour



**Jump for more butter**

she’s baaack

Sunday, March 19th, 2017

Recipe: almond vanilla chia seed pudding

It was nice to have some time away from Neva for her first week of doggy training camp, but by the second week, we were really missing her and excited to have pup pup back. As I’ve mentioned before, I will have a dedicated post to our experience with a professional dog trainer soon, but I can’t fairly assess until we’ve had more time to work with Neva ourselves. I’m sure some people have an unrealistic expectation that they hand their dog over to a professional for some time then get a perfect dog back. We definitely got our Neva back with all her weird quirks and silly habits, but she’s been primed to learn and we’ve been given instruction and some extra tools to improve our ability to communicate with Little Miss Goofball. We are determined to give Neva’s training our best effort and are already seeing improvements over the old Neva.


she was so tuckered when we brought her home

continuing adult education (see how she’s looking at jeremy?)



After a month of unseasonably warm spring-like conditions in February, we seem to be getting even more of it in March. This kind of weather makes skiers nervous, and it makes those of us who live in the mountains anxious. The end of the month might be bringing some precipitation (possibly in the form of snow, too!), but this weeks-long warm spell is already taking its toll locally as a wildfire burns in a neighboring canyon bordering the city of Boulder. I’m the first one to wilt under the sun when it’s 30°F outside, but it’s been in the 60s here and I can’t help but breathe a sigh of relief when the sun drops behind the mountains each day.

we have had some fantastic sunsets

glowing streaks and puffs

otherworldly sky



In the last year, I’ve had to change my oncologist and my primary care physician (PCP) due to retirements. I was pretty bummed because I really adored and trusted both of these doctors who basically saw me through my cancer treatments. I’ve since met with my new oncologist and PCP, both of whom are great (consider me most fortunate to have great health care through my spouse’s employer since I am freelance and have a pre-existing condition). My PCP asked me what medications I take and if I take supplements. Since I am lactose intolerant, I take a daily calcium supplement in addition to eating dark leafy greens and other natural non-dairy sources of calcium. She said she’d like me to get more calcium through foods rather than a supplement. Okay, that shouldn’t be hard for me to do. Brassicas like kale, collard greens, and broccoli are already in rotation, but I would never say no to more! Tofu, almonds, edamame, spinach – easy peasy. What I didn’t know was that chia seeds are a great source of calcium.

teeny tiny little chia seeds



If you’re wondering whether these are the same chia seeds of “chia pet” fame, the answer is yes. I had chia seeds for the first time in a raspberry kombucha when I was trying to get the balance in my gut right after a course of antibiotics. They look like frog eggs and have the texture of tiny, slippery tapioca with a crunchy center. That might not be appealing to some, but I love it. When I’m on Instagram, I scroll past all of those oh-so-popular smoothie bowls because I actually prefer to eat my fruit with my teeth. But a local blogger, Joan of Grist and Greens, posted a chia seed pudding last month, which looked and sounded lovely.

vanilla extract, almond milk, chia seeds, honey



While I went with a different recipe, Joan was still my inspiration. I opted for an almond milk chia seed pudding instead of her coconut milk chia seed pudding because – double bonus: almond milk is a good source of calcium. Since I knew I liked chia seeds, I went ahead and bought the Big Bag of organic chia seeds from Costco. The pudding itself is just about the easiest thing you could make. Just stir everything together and refrigerate.

add honey

vanilla

and almond milk



**Jump for more butter**