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practice makes better

Sunday, September 18th, 2016

Recipe: peach pie

For the past couple of years I’ve sent an email in August to a local organic farm in Boulder asking them to alert me when they have tomato seconds ready for sale. The email comes some time in September depending on the weather and the tomato crop. Each year, I pick up more poundage because I am so in love with home-canned tomatoes, I want to be sure we don’t run out. I use them to make pizza sauce, pasta sauce, stews, soups, chili. Last week, I received the email to come and get the tomatoes. I got 100 pounds and spent three days coring, scoring, blanching, peeling, dicing, simmering, and canning tomatoes. When I closed my eyes for my 5 hours of sleep at night, all I saw were tomatoes. 48 pints later and I have 20 pounds remaining for a different method because I ran out of Weck jars.


48 pints of the best tomatoes



Meanwhile, Neva is finding out that the start of the school year means no more daily excursions onto the trails or lakes. She still gets out every day, but we’re getting her used to being at home because when winter comes (and by winter, I mean the winds), there will be days when home is better than going outside. Plus, we’re finally able to leave her alone for up to 8 hours. Now that she’s nearly 18 months old, we’re noticing just how different she is from Kaweah. Kaweah was not a bright girl, but Neva is an even dimmer bulb. Based on our only other data point, Neva is slower to pick up just about everything. But that’s okay, we work with her a lot and she remains a happy, ridiculous, sweet little pup.

just as happy on a local hike as she is on a big mountain hike

caught lounging on the people bed



The fall colors are moving in around here. Our aspen trees are still more green than gold, but I think some areas will flip that balance in a week or less. I didn’t shoot much of the fall colors last year because of the puppy, but I wasn’t sure I was feeling it this year. These days I’m more likely to snap a photo on my phone (most pictures here are coming off the iPhone) or if I’m lugging it around, maybe my smaller dSLR. Of course, as soon as I stood under the canopy of a small stand of golden aspens this morning, I felt that mojo return. The worry was that I was rusty, but the ideas and creative thought process came back as soon as I looked up.

getting low to shoot this brilliant shrub from below

classic sunburst + aspens + colorado bluebird sky

golden canopy



I’m a firm believer in practicing to get better at something and that applies to pies! My friend recently commented that I don’t make pies very often. I laughed because she actually keeps track of the sweets and treats that come out of my kitchen… and because she’s correct. I don’t make many pies. Pie crusts drive me crazy and removing a slice of fruit pie practically ruins the whole pie. But I like pie. I like pie a lot. I decided that I needed to tackle some recipes until I found one or a couple of reliable and excellent pie crusts. With peach season drawing to a close in Colorado, I felt I needed to get some practice on a basic peach pie.

flour, ice water, cider vinegar, more flour, sugar, salt, more sugar, nutmeg, egg, lemon, butter, peaches



It’s really all about the pie crust. Pie crust should be flaky and tender and baked golden brown. I find that my pie crust dough is almost always too dry and crumbly. But when I add enough water to make it comfortably workable (i.e. not crumbling apart) it’s too wet or it’s overworked and the crust becomes more of a cardboard texture. So I was extra mindful of not adding more liquid than the recipe requires.

place the butter, flour, and salt in a food processor

pulse until the butter resembles little pebbles

beat the egg yolk, vinegar, and ice water together

drizzle the liquid into the dry ingredients



**Jump for more butter**

the best part of summer

Sunday, August 21st, 2016

Recipe: chanterelle ravioli with sage brown butter

School is starting and summer is winding down even though we have a good month of it left before we can officially declare autumn’s arrival. We spent the beginning of last week getting outside with Neva to explore and play and continue “training” her – whatever that means. Our neighborhood lake in Crested Butte had some strange water biochemistry going on, so we took little Neva to a nicer lake with cleaner water. This required a much longer drive on bumpy backcountry roads, but instead of puking or drooling or crying, Neva had her nose out the window and she was quite excited about our destination. Our little girl may have finally (finally!!) turned the corner on the car ride! I don’t know what we’re going to do come winter when we can’t open the window if it is -20°F outside, but I’ll take what I can get.


sometimes neva’s life jacket looks like a superhero cape from the front

the happiest, dorkiest dog



Jeremy and I also spent our final morning in Crested Butte hunting for chanterelles as they were starting to flush. Normally I would wait to forage after more time had passed so they would be larger, but we were leaving and I wanted to bring some chanterelles home to make a special birthday dinner for my mom. I only took the biggest ones and left the littles to grow and spore and do their happy mushroom thing. If you’re wondering how I prepared them, I sautéed the chanterelles and fresh local sweet corn in butter and served them alongside a small hash browned potato with two seared scallops on top (drizzled with pan sauce, natch). That was the second course of four.

neva likes to sniff chanterelles

a perfectly mossy home

clean and beautiful

toasting mom’s birthday with some bubbles



I hadn’t planned on trying a new recipe with the chanterelles, but we managed to forage enough that I could make some chanterelle ravioli. I’ve always wanted to make ravioli from scratch and by hand. My mother-in-law gave me some ravioli stamps and a ravioli pasta cutter last year, so I really had zero excuse to not try this. Start with the ravioli pasta dough.

flour, eggs, olive oil, salt



Most pasta I’ve made from scratch involves flour and eggs, but this one had a little salt and olive oil added to the dough. The flour doubled as an ingredient and a bowl because all of the wet ingredients went into a well in the flour. I thought that would be terribly messy, but it was actually rather tidy as long as you didn’t breach the well wall. The recipe called for four cups of flour, but you don’t use all of that flour in the pasta dough. I incorporated as much as needed and then sifted the remaining unused flour and kept it around for working the pasta.

make a well in the flour and add the rest of the ingredients

stir flour into the eggs until the mixture is too thick to stir

then work more flour in with your hands

when the dough won’t take on any more flour, knead it

it’s ready when you poke it and the dough bounces back



**Jump for more butter**

the gifts of rain

Sunday, August 14th, 2016

Recipe: bourbon-glazed doughnut muffin doughnuts

“Good morning!” I chirped as I stepped off the trail to let an older gentleman coming toward me pass. “It sure is,” he smiled in his heavy Texan accent, “I just hope it doesn’t rain.” I winced internally, but reciprocated the smile and reminded him that the rains in our Colorado mountains are what make the trees and flowers so beautiful and the streams and lakes vibrant. “Well, I just hope it doesn’t rain until AFTER I finish my hike,” he chuckled. I wished him well and continued on my way. Earlier last week we had a nice pattern of unstable weather. It wasn’t the typical summer afternoon thunderstorm cycle, but tumultuous clouds that marched across the valley delivering lightning and heavy rain one minute followed by sunshine and clear skies, then back to the storminess – all this before 9 am!


mammatus clouds overhead

dark storms, rain, and a rainbow



I love rain in summer. I say in summer because springtime rains in the high country kill the snow pack and autumn rains can bring about an abrupt end to the fall colors. Summer rains feed the mountains and keep the dust down on the trails and backcountry roads. Jeremy and I have a great appreciation for cloud cover when we are outside, which is often.

paddling with jeremy and our friend and her two girls (so cute!)

beautiful morning for a ride



And of course, another reason I love the rains is because they bring the mushrooms. While I’ve been watching a variety of mushrooms flush in the last week, I hadn’t seen any of the mushrooms I was specifically seeking – those I eat. You have to give these things time… and rain… and sun. My patience paid off this weekend in the form of chanterelles and aspen oyster mushrooms. There are several steps to foraging mushrooms: finding them, photographing them (optional, but not really), harvesting them, cleaning them, cooking them, and finally, eating them. I like finding and photographing. Jeremy likes finding and eating. That leaves me with all the in-between steps which is why I will sometimes give a bag of foraged mushrooms to a friend rather than deal with all of the cleaning myself.

let’s get this (chanterelle) party started!

jeremy holds some of the day’s haul as neva looks on (she’s looking for a treat)

beautiful aspen oyster mushrooms growing off a dead aspen log



I’m so happy that the mushroom season wasn’t a bust, just later than last year. I can live with that. In celebration, let’s make some doughnuts. Let’s make boozy doughnuts! I don’t feel compelled to make fried doughnuts all that often because of the frying aspect. That’s not the case with baked doughnuts. Because I purchased specific equipment – the doughnut pans – I’m always on the lookout for a good baked doughnut recipe. I like baked doughnuts because they are easier to make and clean up as well as healthier than fried doughnuts (a low bar, I know). Thing is, baked doughnuts have the texture of cupcakes which is too light and fluffy for my tastes. I did some research this past spring on denser texture baked doughnuts. After a lot of trial and error (not quite there on a dense chocolate baked doughnut – but please share if you have a favorite), I landed on a brilliant recipe from King Arthur Flour’s website for doughnut muffins. Yes, it’s for muffins that taste like doughnuts. I just took the doughnut muffin recipe and made… doughnuts.

vanilla paste, confectioner’s sugar, vegetable oil, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, eggs, salt, butter, milk, sugar, brown sugar, flour, bourbon

butter the pans

cream together the butter, oil, and sugars

beat in the eggs



**Jump for more butter**