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archive for confections

yuki’s birthday!

Friday, February 1st, 2019

Recipe: naturally colored homemade sprinkles

Today is Yuki’s first birthday! I find it hard to believe that we’ve had her for seven months because I feel as if Yuki has always been a part of our lives. This little girl came into our home as a shy and timid puppy and has since blossomed into a happy, bouncy adventure dog. Wrapping my arms around Yuki when she jumped onto the bed this morning, I whispered “Happy Birthday, Baby Dog” and held on a little longer than usual. She looked me in the eyes and lifted her nose to mine, then gave me several soft kisses. I typically make a big deal out of my dogs’ first birthdays, but this one seems extra special, because Yuki’s path into our lives hinged on the kindnesses of so many good people and great organizations.


introducing a 5 month old yuki to our local mountain trails

i made her a birthday cake (and got her a stuffed doughnut toy)



How do we know Yuki’s birth date? When we adopted Yuki, Linda, her foster mother, handed me a folder with a couple of documents. These few sheets of paper contained all of the information Rezdawg Rescue gathered on Yuki’s first five months of her life. I spent a late night looking through the pages and searching the web to piece together her journey. From what I could tease out, Yuki had a vet appointment at about 2 weeks of age in western New Mexico with her mother in February. Around mid-May 2018, Yuki boarded her “freedom ride” transport with Rezdawg Rescue, leaving Ramah, New Mexico for Colorado where she was lovingly fostered for several weeks until we brought her home. That’s all I knew until late October.

After our Guess the Yuki contest, I posted Yuki’s DNA results and was contacted by K in Arizona, who said she had Yuki’s brother, Dakota. I assumed she was mistaken because I see A LOT of pups on rescue pages that look like Yuki. But K patiently shared details about Yuki and Dakota that matched up and filled in the blanks.

Yuki and Dakota’s pregnant, feral mama approached a stranger near Ramah, New Mexico in the winter of 2018. The kind-hearted man took her in and she gave birth to eight puppies on February 1. The man’s housemate and owner of the trailer lost patience and kicked the mama and her litter out into the snow. Distraught, our dear stranger contacted Black Hat Humane Society and another compassionate individual came to collect the family and fostered them on her small farm 10 miles away. At three and a half months of age, Yuki traveled north to Colorado. Dakota remained in Ramah and was adopted by K around the same time we adopted Yuki. And we are familiar with the rest of Yuki’s story (to date)!


handsome dakota (courtesy of k)



This time I went all out and created a special birthday cake for Yuki because I knew Neva would help her finish it. I made everything from scratch except for the little party toppers which I purchased because WHY NOT?! The cake is made with applesauce, banana, whole wheat flour, egg, and coconut oil. It tastes like sawdust with hints of banana and coconut, but the dogs LOVE it. The frosting is whipped cream cheese with just a bit of powdered sugar to make it more spreadable. The colored dollops are cream cheese with raspberry powder (pink) and blueberry liquid (purple). The decorative dog biscuits are a mashup of apple bacon cheddar dog treats and chicken sweet potato dog treats (I used pumpkin instead of sweet potato). And the sprinkles are homemade naturally-colored dog-safe sprinkles.

yuki’s 4-inch, 4-layer birthday cake

it’s a naked cake because the dogs don’t need that much frosting

yuki wouldn’t let neva any closer to the cake

cross-section

waiting to eat their slices

birthday caaaaaaaaake!



It all started when I was looking for sprinkles at the store. Being a child of the 70s, I consumed my fair share of artificial colors and flavorings, but I thought I could do better for my pups. So I put the cute and brightly colored sprinkles back on the shelf and decided to tackle those homemade sprinkles I had bookmarked the recipe for months ago. Those recipes also call for food coloring, however it is an easy enough tweak to substitute homemade natural food coloring. The basic concept is to make an icing with powdered sugar, egg white (powdered or fresh), and water. You can add a little extract to make the sprinkles taste good to humans, but my dogs couldn’t care less about the flavor. I started with a dry color (pink) and a wet color (purple).

powdered sugar, powdered egg whites, water, freeze-dried raspberries, thawed huckleberries



For the dry color, I pulverized freeze-dried raspberries. I think any freeze-dried red berry could work and it must be FREEZE-DRIED and not simply dried. Once it’s been powdered, sift it through a fine-mesh sieve. The reason for this is that any tiny bits of seed or fruit will clog up your piping tip when you pipe the icing and it’s maddeningly messy to unclog. For the wet color, I smooshed my huckleberries and strained the juice only to remember that it comes out hot pink in icing and not so much purple. Luckily, I had some blueberries on hand. Upon mashing them, I realized that blueberries give up their color when heated. I put them over medium heat until the juices turned purple and strained that liquid.

smash the freeze-dried raspberries

sift out the larger particles

smooshed blueberries

giving up their purple juices



**Jump for more butter**

back on track

Monday, December 10th, 2018

Recipe: mendiants

At the start of the summer I had grand plans to resume long trail runs, big hikes, and backpacking with Neva while exploring new wildernesses. Then we got a puppy. And while Yuki is an exceptional dog, puppy training can derail some (or all) of those big summertime adventures. The incessant smoke from western wildfires didn’t help either. As September neared, my oncologist said I could stop my tamoxifen (estrogen modulator), which I had been taking daily for a decade to prevent a recurrence of breast cancer. That was great news! Except I think it left me feeling tired. In the last month, I’ve finally begun to pull myself out of this funk that slowly crept in and took over my life. Part of that process involved long overdue household upgrades, massive cleaning, and also important life updates – like who will take Yuki and Neva if we both die? Folks, make sure you have a will and make sure it is up to date! Another part was putting my physical and mental health ahead of things like social engagements, social media, other people’s drama, or this blog. The older I get, the more I value my time and what I do with it.


quality time outside with a good friend and good pups



Before we get to the super fast, super easy, super awesome recipe, I need to share Maggie’s story in the hopes that someone out there will see her and realize that their life will be incomplete without this sweet girl. Maggie was surrendered this summer to RezDawg Rescue (the wonderful organization that rescued our beloved Yuki). She was terribly malnourished and neglected. Under the care of her foster family, she has returned to a healthy weight and her beautiful coat is growing back. Despite what she’s been through, she has a lot of love to give. Maggie is a smart and gentle 5-6 year old yellow lab mix who is looking for her forever family and is available for adoption now. Believe me, if we could handle a third dog, she would be my girl. If you or someone you know is interested in providing Maggie with the loving and caring home she deserves, you can apply to adopt at this link: https://www.petstablished.com/pets/public/6615. She is currently being fostered in Longmont, Colorado. You don’t have to live in Colorado to adopt Maggie!

maggie is on santa’s nice list



This year’s cookie list is shorter than last year’s list for the sake of my sanity. One of the simplest and most popular sweets I distributed last year were mendiants, which I learned to make 11 years ago in my advanced pastry skills program. Traditionally, these one- or two-bite French confections are disks of dark chocolate studded with dried fruits and nuts. They are crazy easy to make if you merely melt the chocolate without bothering to temper, but tempering the chocolate gives the final product a shiny finish, that distinctive snap, and a longer shelf life. I had a lot of fun thinking up flavor, texture, and visual combinations.

dark chocolate, candied kumquats, hazelnuts, dried apricots, chopped raw pistachios, toasted coconut flakes, pulverized freeze-dried raspberries, cocoa nibs, candied ginger, dried organic rose buds, flake sea salt, almonds, dried cranberries



If you opt to melt your chocolate, do it gently over a water bath or at half power in the microwave for 30 seconds at a time, stirring between each zap session. If you decide to temper the chocolate, you can see how I go about the seed method. You’re not limited to dark chocolate. Milk chocolate and white chocolate are a little finicky compared to dark chocolate due to the milk solids and cocoa butter content. They tend to burn more easily and temper at a lower temperature, so you’ll have to be more vigilant.

seeding the melted chocolate



**Jump for more butter**

silly things we say and do

Sunday, December 17th, 2017

Recipe: italian rainbow cookies

This was the scene Wednesday night: an assembly line of gift bags, gift boxes, tissue paper, cards, ribbons, cookies, candies, labels, and a checklist scribbled four times over with crossouts, notes, tick marks, and arrows. Maybe I was tired or maybe I am getting smarter, but as the clock spun ahead into the night, I began to unload cookies from my “to make” list like ballast from a sinking ship. French macarons? No. Peppermint kisses? Nope. Mini sour cream coffee cakes? Jettisoned from the list. I like people, but I like them more when I’ve had more than 4 hours of sleep.


holiday cookies and candies



After we had prettied up the packages and set them on the table to ship or deliver the next day, I let out a big sigh (more like an agonized primal scream) and said, “I’m not making anymore EXPLETIVE cookies! And I’m going EXPLETIVE skiing tomorrow!” We actually got four inches of snow overnight, so the logical next step was…

the lovely new high-speed lift that brings us to the powder 8 minutes faster

it was good while it lasted



And can you believe less than 48 hours after declaring NO MORE COOKIES, I was in the kitchen making… cookies? It’s true. I kinda blame Jennie Perillo for that. She posted a photo of her Italian rainbow cookies on Instagram last weekend, which prompted me to finally research the recipe and buy the ingredients – except I had all of those holiday cookies to crank out. I put the project on indefinite hold until Jennie posted ANOTHER photo of those gorgeous cookies on Thursday and I waved the white flag.

italian rainbow cookies



All my life, I had zero interest in Italian rainbow cookies and here’s why: I assumed they were the same as Neapolitan coconut candies – little sweet tricolor rectangles which I thought were disgusting when I was a kid. No one in my Chinese immigrant family set me straight on the distinction between the two, most likely because they had no idea either one existed. Then a couple of months ago we stopped at Whole Foods to grab a salad and their cookie bar was 50% off. For some reason, I decided to give an Italian rainbow cookie a try and to my delight, it tasted of almonds.

almond extract, almond paste, flour, sugar, chocolate, eggs, salt, apricot preserves, butter, red and green food coloring



There are a lot of recipes for Italian rainbow cookies on the web. They’re also called seven layer cookies or three layer cookies or Italian flag cookies, and they more or less follow the same process and list of ingredients. I found Deb‘s discussion to be quite helpful regarding the chocolate layers and the slicing, but decided on a smaller quantity for my first batch because you never quite know what you’re getting into when you decide to bake something at high altitude. Jennie’s recipe amounted to about 75% of Deb’s quantity and I liked the way she baked all three colors in one pan. So I reduced Deb’s recipe by a quarter and baked it up Jennie’s way. Either way, these are not quick cookies, so set aside a full day or parts of two days.

Most people whip the egg whites first and then make the batter, but I like to reverse that order because no good can come of letting whipped egg whites sit around and deflate while you make the cookie batter. Also, the recipe calls for almond paste, which is not the same as marzipan. Marzipan has a higher ratio of sugar to almond than almond paste. Some of you already know this, some of you do not. Remember what Gandalf said, “I’m trying to help you.”


beat the sugar and almond paste together

add butter

mix in the egg yolks and the almond extract

add salt and flour



**Jump for more butter**