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archive for confections

and now, chocolate

Sunday, October 29th, 2017

Recipe: huckleberry pistachio chocolate bar

When the weather cools down for the season, we tend to witness strings of amazing sunrises and sunsets. It means I can take Neva for a fetch session and she doesn’t get too hot in the autumn air. Autumn’s atmospheric volatility is also accompanied by winds, which can make getting outside a little dangerous (tree fall is real, folks) or miserable at best when dirt and small rocks fly at your face and get in your teeth and ears and eyes. But when the winds die down, it’s important to take advantage and maybe hike into the woods for some target practice.


one of many impressive sunsets last week

my happy little girl, ready to go home after playing fetch

jeremy practicing with his air rifle

packed up and ready to hike out



I’m not sure I’ll get much in the way of a grouse season this year because there were matsutake mushrooms to be found, huckleberries to pick, things got busy, and I was late getting my air rifle and learning to use it. But I’m okay with that. I think foraging and living in the mountains has taught me long-term planning and patience. Stuff doesn’t necessarily happen when you want it to – especially if you are waiting on something that may or may not grow from year to year.

precious precious huckleberries



I began toying with the idea of dried huckleberries a few years ago, but had to wait until I had a season good enough to spare a quart or so of berries to dry. That (amazing) season happened this year. After Erin and Jay were done dehydrating their gigantic haul of matsutake mushrooms, they kindly dehydrated a few cups of my fresh huckleberries for me (120°F for 60 hours!). I knew exactly what I was going to do with those dried huckleberries. I had known for over a year.

Cooler weather around the house means chocolate emerges from its summer hiatus in my kitchen. This is the time I start to bake and ship cookies to friends around the country – when I can be mostly certain that the chocolate won’t melt in transit. This is also when I start to play with ideas for holiday gifts – like chocolate bars. Except I was going to make the ultimate chocolate bar using my dried huckleberries.


pistachios, dried huckleberries, flake sea salt, dark chocolate



Our fresh huckleberries are small to begin with, but dried, they are like dried currants… small ones. Pop one in your mouth and the flavor is subtle at first, until you get to the chewy center and the concentrated berry essence grows into something wonderful. Huckleberries pair exceptionally well with chocolate. While I enjoy working with chocolate, I am not a fan of eating chocolate – except when huckleberries are involved.

teeny tiny delicious dried huckleberries



Making a chocolate bar is quite straightforward. Melt or temper your chocolate: dark, milk, or white, but really – dark chocolate is the best; mix in your goodies like nuts, dried fruit, crisped rice, candy, etc.; pour into molds and let set. That’s it. But for anyone who has been reading my blog, you know and I know that tempering chocolate is the right way to do this. And please use a good quality chocolate, especially if you are going to honor the great and mighty huckleberry.

melt the chocolate over a water bath

seed the melted chocolate



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a little love

Sunday, January 29th, 2017

Recipe: huckleberry pate de fruit

I’m glad the week is over. In addition to prepping our Chinese New Year foods and cleaning the house (because of superstitions), I managed to simultaneously come down with an infection which has left me feeling less than 100%. Next year, I just may allow myself greater leeway when it comes to purchasing rather than making all of the food from scratch.


photo courtesy of jimmy gekas

single digits at devil’s thumb ranch nordic center



But the Lunar New Year and my infection aside, it was politics that made for a pretty craptastic week. It takes an enormous amount of energy to filter out the garbage (both on the left and the right) in order to focus on facts and prioritize actions. I don’t get political in this space because politics are very personal for me, just like I don’t talk about religion here because that, too, is very personal. I discuss these issues with people I respect and care about – reasonable, level-headed, critical thinkers. I have had a handful of people ask me to elaborate on my plan of action. That’s hard to spell out as we navigate the ever-evolving landscape of upheaval, not to mention we all have different pressing local matters. However, at the national level, I feel these organizations are effective in supporting the issues and causes of importance to me:

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
Common Cause
Nature Conservancy
Planned Parenthood
ProPublica
Southern Poverty Law Center
The Trust for Public Land (TPL)
Union of Concerned Scientists (USA)

I also found this guide to be helpful on how to concentrate my energies when communicating with my elected representatives: Indivisible Guide: Former congressional staffers reveal best practices for making Congress listen.


chinese new year’s eve dinner

chinese new year’s breakfast: potstickers, scallion pancakes, azuki sweet rice cake, satsuma mandarin oranges

a brilliant sunset



Now on to a happier topic… like huckleberries. Despite the fact that we are merely a month into winter, it already feels like spring to me with the ever-so-slightly longer days. Of course, spring in our mountains amounts to generous helpings of snow and that signature Colorado sunshine. I won’t be replenishing my huckleberry stash until late summer (if I’m lucky!), but it’s time to stop hoarding the precious berries in the freezer and start using some in recipes. I’ve made blueberry-pear pâte de fruit in the past, but always had the intention to try a huckleberry pâte de fruit. You can use fresh or frozen huckleberries here, and if you don’t have huckleberries, you can swap in blueberries. If you want to order frozen hucks, google around, there are a number of suppliers who sell them online from the Pacific Northwest. If you forage your own hucks, then you and I are kindred spirits.

sugar, huckleberries, applesauce, lemon, liquid pectin

add two tablespoons lemon juice to the berries

boil for 5 minutes



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hey rooster

Sunday, January 22nd, 2017

Recipe: chinese sesame balls jian diu

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but it’s been nice to have a full week that wasn’t dictated by powder skiing. Not that I would mind doing that again… and again. Still, there was much to be done work-wise, workout-wise, around the house, and socially. The sunny and calm weather made that especially pleasant. Jeremy and I love to get an early morning skate ski to jumpstart the particularly busy days. On the less intense work days, we’ll take Neva with us for a little backcountry touring and to change up the exercise. We invited our neighbors over for wine and appetizers and to chat with their graduating senior about career and school options. We worked through the weekend, taking a break to ski and think in the backcountry and come up with a plan of action for things that are important to us (climate, science, public lands, the environment, social justice, education, equal rights, diversity, to name a few) and meeting up with some old and new friends.


a lovely sun-dappled nordic trail

warm enough to leave the deck door open (which neva loved)

my pack

neva derp face



Chinese New Year is this coming Saturday, which means I have less than a week to clean the house, make tons of traditional Chinese foods, and freak myself out over the superstitions that I know aren’t really real. It’s going to be the Year of the Rooster. My Grandma was a rooster. She would have turned 96 this year. I don’t have anything profound to say. I simply miss her kind and gentle soul, and her wisdom. It feels that we could use all the kindness and wisdom we can muster.

Today’s recipe is another Chinese favorite from my childhood. But it wasn’t my favorite, it was my sister, Kris’, favorite. Whenever we went to dim sum, the sesame balls (jian diu) would catch her eye as the ladies wheeled the carts past. These fried mochi dough balls covered in sesame seeds and filled with a sweet center were crispy outside and chewy and warm inside (when fresh). If I had to choose a filling, it would always be sweet red bean (azuki), but they were filled with sweet date, lotus seed, sesame seed paste, peanut, mung bean. I thought it was time to tackle this recipe – not for me so much as to honor my memory of Kris.


glutinous rice flour, sweet red bean paste, chocolate, sesame seeds, brown sugar, water

dissolve the brown sugar in the water

stir the sugar water into the rice flour



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