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archive for cheese

of backpacks, birthdays, and berries

Monday, September 14th, 2015

Recipe: huckleberry chantilly cake

This past weekend we ventured out into the Colorado high country with Neva for her very first backpacking trip. Even though Jeremy and I have been backpacking together for 21 years, it was a bigger deal for us than it was for her. Do we bring a toy? We should probably pack a towel in case she goes swimming or gets filthy. Be sure to pack the poop bags and poop bottle… Don’t forget the halti collar. We did attempt to strap a dog pack on her at home so she could get used to wearing one and perhaps carry some of her own things. But Kaweah’s old packs – cinched to the tightest setting – practically slid off of Neva who is not only smaller and skinnier, but still a puppy. So it really felt like a hike to Neva since we were the ones carrying the packs and all of her accessories.

jeremy escorts little miss neva up the trail

taking the footbridge across the stream

fireweed turning a brilliant red

our camp just below the continental divide

Once we settled on a place to set up camp, we strung some utility cord between two trees (camp required that we at least be near krumholtz), slapped a carabiner on it, and tethered Neva to the run with her leash. It was the only way we could get anything done before dark. She immediately wrapped herself around one tree, and then the other tree. She wrapped the leash around herself in four different ways. Eventually, Neva just ran back and forth sniffing and playing with sticks. Neva was supercharged with no signs of letting up. At dusk, we could hear elk bugling in the valley to our north. By the time it was dark, we brought the pup into the tent for the night. She marched right to the foot of the tent and curled up into a little ball on our sleeping bags, falling sound asleep.

jeremy reads the map while the milky way adorns the night sky

predawn color on the horizon and twilight reflected on the lake

neva on her tether while we pack up camp

on the way out, we stopped to sample a few of the ripe huckleberries and whortleberries

lots of pretty cascades

Overall, Neva did well on the backpack and seemed to enjoy everything except the halti collar and the lack of sweet sweet freedom. Once home, she slept for a long time. Being an adventure pup is hard work! While she slept, we unpacked and sorted our gear. “So what would you like for dinner on your birthday?” I asked Jeremy. It’s like pulling teeth to get him to tell me what he really likes because he doesn’t want to put me to any trouble. That and I think Jeremy draws a blank when you ask him things like, “What’s your favorite food?” or “What movie should we rent?” Eventually he muttered something like steak or salmon – just something simple. I can do simple. In my culture (or maybe it’s just my family?) it’s bad luck to celebrate birthdays early, so I planned for a special Monday dinner. We started with things I know he loves, brie and fig jam, Kumamoto oysters with bubbles. For dinner, we kept it simple: grilled ribeye steaks topped with chanterelles sautéed in butter and garlic and a side of local corn and zucchini.

oysters and bubbles

And then there was dessert. Over the summer, whenever my parents had us to their place for dinner, I would be tasked with bringing dessert since I do those things. On occasion, I came up short on time and went to the local Whole Foods to pick up one of those mini 4-inch cakes. My favorites were the little boozy adult cakes (adult because of the booze, not because they were “adult” cakes) like the sidecar or the daiquiri. As I walked toward the cake counter, a young woman was scooping cake into little cups for people to sample. I usually ignore the samples, but I heard her say “peach chantilly cake” and I turned on my heel to get a taste. Lovely, light, fruity – it has a mascarpone frosting instead of the usual buttercream. This would be great with huckleberries or any berry.

So I found a copycat recipe online and went from there. Here’s the thing. I hated the cake part. The frosting was great, the fruity part was great, but the cake was heavy, oily, coarse crumbed. Everyone who ate it said it was good, but I felt the texture was wrong and the flavor was mediocre at best. For Jeremy’s birthday cake, I replaced the cake component with my go-to chiffon cake – spongy, soft, light, yet durable – and the result was perfection. The recipe I give at the bottom of the post has my chiffon cake instead of the original cake, but the photos in this post are of the original cake recipe. If you want photos of the chiffon cake process, you can reference this post sans lemon juice.

sugar, flour, vanilla, vinegar, butter, baking powder, baking soda, salt, coconut oil, milk, buttermilk, eggs

whisk the dry ingredients together

add milk, buttermilk, vanilla, and vinegar to the eggs

stir in the melted butter and coconut oil

**Jump for more butter**

getting there from here

Sunday, August 30th, 2015

Recipe: chanterelle galette

Jeremy told me that he thinks we may have seen the last of the hottest days of the year. I hope this is true. All signs are pointing to fall in the mountains: cooler nights, tiny spots of yellow leaves emerging in the sea of green aspen stands, huckleberry leaves turning red, and the sun crossing the sky with a lower profile than before.

dendritic pattern on an aspen leaf

purple huckleberry in the morning sun

Neva currently weighs in at 30 pounds for her 5 months of age. Her growth has slowed a little and it looks like she may wind up being a smaller dog, like Kaweah. She continues to lose her baby teeth, but still acts like a baby dog from time to time. Best of all, our pup has begun to mellow out in the evenings, resting at my feet or Jeremy’s feet when we work at our computers or curling up next to us on the couch. I look back at her puppy pictures and I can barely recognize her – that chunky chubby puppy has turned into a lanky teenager. We are starting to settle into a routine which makes all of us happier. We’ll get there someday.

staring at two tennis balls in the distance, not fetching

blowing bubbles in her water dish

After a big hot and dry spell, we’ve received a few rainstorms. These days I think of the rains in terms of huckleberries. A pulse of rain, lots of sunshine, more rain, more sun. That’s what the hucks like. As long as it doesn’t get too cold too soon in the high country, they could keep going for a few more weeks. But rain also makes me ponder what the mushrooms will do. If there is enough rain, we could see another flush of porcini or chanterelles. It could happen! Meanwhile, I have spent the past couple of weeks putting my chanterelle haul into delectable recipes to share with you good people. Today we’re going to go with a galette, because it’s not a terribly finicky pastry and it tastes amazing. Don’t fret if you can’t find chanterelles, use some other mushroom that you do have access to. Crimini works, is easy to find in most markets, and won’t break the bank.

onion, gruyère, egg, water, sugar, flour, salt, butter, more butter, milk, pepper, olive oil, chanterelles, thyme

pulse the butter into the dry ingredients

add ice water

form the dough into a disk

**Jump for more butter**

let the summer of puppy commence

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015

Recipe: tuna melt

Oh man. Summer is REAL, people. The furnace blast arrived with a vengeance last week and like the true heat wimps that we are – we retreated to higher elevations and sunrise/sunset activities. Neva is now almost 20 pounds and has been with us for a month. Recalling the first 24 hours with her (and wondering what we had gotten ourselves into), she has come a long way in her training and development – and so have we! Part of her progress is simply growing up and gaining more coordination, strength, and speed. She no longer has to sniff and put every new plant, rock, stick, pine cone, or speck of dirt in her mouth. Neva is learning silly tricks now on top of the important commands. She let’s us know when she needs to go out to potty, she’s really good in her crate, and she is sleeping through the night (HALLELUJAH!). That last one was a serious game changer for the humans.

tossing her toy in the air and (sort of) catching it

moar swimming in icy cold lakes!!

neva gets at least one hike a day

she’s so mellow she sometimes falls asleep like this

running down the stairs with a toy

Neva is becoming a free range puppy, by which I mean, she roams parts of the house while we’re around and we don’t have to chase after her for fear of accidents or drive-by chewings on inappropriate things (like furniture, power cords, the compost bucket). She overcame her fear of the stairs in a matter of days – up was easy, down took a little coaxing. I can trim and file her nails while she sleeps (amazing!). We have her hiking up to 3 miles now and just this morning she did the rockiest, steepest hike yet – all on leash and behaving like a good dog should. Best of all, she likes to lie nearby while we are working and just nap or happily chew her toys. We still have plenty of work to do, but the stage of feeling hopeless was quite short-lived for us. I think Neva is becoming a Good Dog.

thimbleberry blossoms

the rare neva bloom amidst a potpourri of wildflowers

that’s my pack

shooting stars in a sea of summer green

Neva’s hiking progress has been of particular interest to me because I’d like to bring her with us when Erin, Banjo, and I hike and forage huckleberries. All signs point to Neva becoming a strong hiker and I think with some good long hikes together, she’ll learn to be a good companion to Banjo instead of a total pill (she seems to jump on his head less these days – that’s improvement).

As you can imagine, with all of the effort we’re putting into puppy training, I haven’t cooked anything elaborate in a while. In fact, I lost 8 pounds in the first 2 weeks of getting Neva because I was too tired to eat, let alone cook. We’ve been keeping things pretty simple out of necessity – mostly salads and sandwiches with the occasional ghetto pizza bread. One of those sandwiches is a tuna melt, which Jeremy loves and I like to pair with a bowl of tomato soup. I think of the tuna melt as an upgraded version of a tuna fish sandwich. If you really want to get 1970s throwback with it, stuff some jalapeño potato chips into the sandwich before eating (mmmm – so good!).

tuna fish, bread, lemon, mayonnaise, butter, pickles, salt, cheese, celery (not pictured: black pepper)

chop the pickles and celery

ready to roll

**Jump for more butter**