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Wednesday, December 2nd, 2020

Recipe: porcini tagliatelle


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Hello my dearest readers! As many of you know, our lovable goofy Yuki came to us through the good people of Rezdawg Rescue. They are currently holding their Rezdawg Rescue Pawliday Auction through 8 pm MT, December 6, 2020 to raise funds so they may continue to rescue unwanted dogs and cats from the Four Corners region, educate the community, and run spay and neuter clinics. I have donated three fine art photographic prints to the auction. Two have already sold, but there is one still accepting bids: https://www.32auctions.com/organizations/48054/auctions/90182/auction_items/2590041. I encourage you to browse the auction’s selection of artwork, jewelry, services, and other great offerings to help support this wonderful nonprofit organization that saved our sweet Yuki. Thank you! -jen


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In the past three months, the leaves turned green to gold and stayed for a longer than usual season of beautiful fall colors. But a pall of smoke hung over our local mountains as wildlands burned around the state. October was our month of burning despite a summer of fires. Severe drought, warm temperatures, lack of precipitation, and windy conditions drove multiple wildfires to record-breaking sizes in a period of 24 hours. The East Troublesome Fire even jumped the Continental Divide in Rocky Mountain National Park. Two fires sprang up in our local foothills. Evacuation zones came within a few miles of our home in Nederland. We had our essentials, including our ballots, packed and ready to go for a week while others were forced to evacuate their homes. I wept over photos and web cam footage of wildlife fleeing the flames, homes left in ruins, and the most dedicated fire crews working through a pandemic under apocalyptic red skies.

We are not unaccustomed to wildfire threat, but this was surreal.


aspens reflected on the lake

a window of blue sky between periods of hazy smoke

a setting sun paints the underbelly of smoke plumes from the east troublesome fire



We waited impatiently for snow, and not just because we wanted to ski. The two largest wildfires in Colorado recorded history (East Troublesome and Cameron Peak) were separated by a mere 10 miles and on the brink of merging. Relief arrived in late October and we were able to unpack our evacuation bags. [NOTE: We always have an evacuation box ready.]

Meanwhile, Neva had developed an odd growth on the side of her back foot and we asked our vet to check it out. It was melanoma, but not invasive and most likely benign. Because Neva is so active, we agreed it was best to have it removed. As I type, Neva is sleeping off the anesthesia at the vet and we are scheduled to pick her up in an hour. Her procedure went well and she had her teeth cleaned and nails trimmed to boot!


everyone rejoiced in the arrival of snow

a mellow backcountry ski over thanksgiving

thanksgiving plates for the pups



I had grand plans to share a recipe celebrating summer’s last hurrah and maybe a couple of autumny dishes. But now we’re barreling toward winter and it feels like this year is flushing down a whirlpool headed for the sewer, where 2020 belongs. And for those who were concerned over the prolonged silence on the blog, you can always check my Instagram (@jenyuphoto) to see if I am indeed alive.

At the start of the pandemic, a friend inspired me to make porcini pasta. I don’t mean pasta served with porcini mushrooms, but ground up dried porcini or porcini powder mixed into the pasta dough. I may not have foraged many porcini this summer (I think we may have found five in total – a meager showing for what has been a craptastic year), but I do have a solid supply of dried porcini from previous seasons. Even if you don’t have your own private stash of dried porcini, they can be found in grocery stores and gourmet food shops.


olive oil, salt, eggs, dried porcini, flour

a coffee grinder or spice grinder works well to powder dried porcini

blend the flour, porcini powder, and salt together



**Jump for more butter**

greening

Sunday, May 10th, 2020

Recipe: easy strawberry cake

I’d like to say that social distancing has made me more aware of my natural surroundings, but that would be a lie. I’ve been eagerly awaiting the greening of our wild spaces since February, watching for every hint of spring’s arrival. And by greening, I mean the sprouting of tiny buds and leaves and shoots. I could go either way at this point: four feet of snow or full frontal mushroom flush.


morning fog condenses on mountain pasqueflower fuzz

hello wild (feral) asparagus season



As I’ve said before, I don’t mind self-isolation because I like staying in the mountains. We considered our bi-monthly trip to the flats a chore of necessity – that is until the asparagus spears started popping up. It isn’t simply the allure of finding “free food” because you should know by now that “free isn’t free”. Part of it is the thrill of foraging, but also the forensics. I don’t just pick and go, but study the ghosts of the previous year, make note of growth patterns, and recognize where stalks have been cut, torn, or chewed.

the sweetest stalks

sautéed asparagus, snap peas, morels (from last year), on homemade tagliatelle

tempura fried asparagus in a mushroom sushi roll



On the sewing front, I spent a little time prototyping a hybrid of the Olson and pleated mask designs and finally settled on one that achieved my goals of fit, function, and ease of production (because I am not a skilled sewist). I posted a 10-minute tutorial on Instagram here: https://www.instagram.com/p/B__igaYlJoz/ if you are interested. That took forever, but I am hoping the effort will help others make masks for themselves and those who need them.

a recent batch of masks



There hasn’t been a lot of sugary baking going on in our house during the pandemic. It’s mostly been dog treats and cooking savory meals. But now that sweet, red strawberries are arriving in markets, I can get on board with something like a simple cake studded with those red gems.

flour, strawberries, vanilla extract, vegetable oil, sour cream, sugar, eggs, baking powder, salt

dice half of the strawberries and slice the other half



**Jump for more butter**

the chewy parts of life

Monday, January 13th, 2020

Recipe: flourless chocolate walnut cookies

We have emerged on the other side of the holidays more or less unscathed. People are crazy, and there is nothing like Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day to really drive that observation home. Jeremy and I filled the past few weeks with many flavors of skiing, catching up on work, exercising the pups, long and thoughtful discussions, doing our best to eat like sensible adults, and avoiding other people. It was great.


christmas morning, an uphill ski on the mountain with our crazy pups

calendar girl, yuki (rezdawg rescue’s 2020 calendar)

national bacon day and a -10°f skate ski with my denver erin

new year’s day uphill ski

frost flowers on a cold skate ski in crested butte

skiing down the mountain with this crazy pack



During the holiday downtime, we came to the realization that Yuki is now an adult (despite behaving like a puppy) and that travel might just become a reality for us again. And I decided it’s time to put Twitter and Facebook into full neglect mode. The only reason I keep a Facebook account is to access the driving conditions page for our local canyon – otherwise it is a hugely unproductive time suck. So for now, if you want updates on new posts, you can follow me on Instagram at @jenyuphoto (personal) or @userealbutter (just the blog), subscribe to this blog (there is a link at the top of this page), or periodically check here.

Also? I sorta got my cooking mojo back! There were recipes that piqued my interest enough to want to make and even photograph to share here. I’ve always got one eye open for decent gluten-free recipes. I eat the hell out of gluten, but there are a handful of people I really like who cannot. If I like you, I will bake for you. If I really like you, I will cook for you. Don’t let the gluten-freeness of these flourless chocolate walnut cookies deter you if you dig on gluten. These gems are not only delicious and perfectly textured, they are easy to make (i.e. hard to fuck up). It’s like the ghetto version of a French macaron.


walnuts, powdered sugar, vanilla, salt, cocoa powder, egg whites



Apparently, there is great flexibility to the recipe according to the Food52 post. You can omit the nuts, change the flavorings, add chocolate chips. I haven’t tried any ingredient variations yet. First, you want to toast the walnuts which involves a quick 9-10 minutes in a moderate (350°F) oven. Chop them up and let them cool. If you mix the cookie dough with a stand mixer, the nuts will get bashed up by the paddle during mixing. If you mix the dough by hand – which I haven’t done – you may want to chop the walnuts a little finer as they won’t receive as much of a beating. I do recommend weighing your ingredients rather than measuring by volume because: 1) it’s more accurate and 2) fewer dishes to wash.

coarsely chop the toasted walnuts

combine the dry ingredients in a bowl



**Jump for more butter**