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the best things in life

Monday, August 21st, 2017

Recipe: huckleberry muffins

I’m a day late posting because there was that solar eclipse event today. Jeremy and I had too much going on to afford more than a day trip, and as it turns out, making a day trip to Wyoming was going to take more than a day. So we stuck it out at home, which worked rather well for us. We got some heavy cloud build up about 30 minutes in and then it dissipated as we neared the maximum (probably because the reduced energy from the sun was no longer fueling cloud formation) and enjoyed mostly clear views of the eclipse through the end when the clouds reappeared. You can see where I had to shoot through a veil of thin clouds to get some of the earlier phases. I hope many of you were able to view the eclipse in one form or another! I had a much simpler setup than the last solar eclipse I photographed and it was super nice not to have to drive, worry about parking, or worry about the dog.


composite of the eclipse (maximum was 93% here)

jeremy adjusts the binocular projection

using the colander to project dozens of crescents



My parents returned to Virginia last week, but not before we celebrated my mom’s birthday at Flagstaff House in Boulder! I normally like to cook Mom a nice meal for her birthday, but after dining out, my parents requested a “simple” meal the next evening. Simple doesn’t mean it can’t be special. Since mushroom season has been booming and my mom LOVES mushrooms, I served cream of chanterelle soup, porcini and elk sausage tortellini in a beef and porcini brodo (recipe coming soon), and porcini pizza – all with fresh mushrooms I had foraged. I love that I can do that for her.

happy birthday, mom!

the stoke is high because dad has a 3-olive gin martini



The past week has been a blur of activity: mushrooms, bonding with my favorite people in the high country, visits from friends, learning new mountain biking skills, and that eclipse. Fall is merely a suggestion right now, but it’s getting louder each day. I hear children at recess now when the neighborhood used to be silent just last week. There’s a lot more traffic in Boulder as parents bring their freshman offspring to campus. Spots of red color occasionally dot the high meadows – leaves that are preparing for the end of the season. I know what’s coming and I’m giddy thinking about it: chanterelles, huckleberries, fall colors, crisp and cool evenings, and SKI SEASON. But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves here…

a half dozen moose lounging in the meadow, as they do

still finding elephant heads up in the high country

banjo and erin and a porcini – the start of a VERY good day

sometimes that splash of red in the huckleberry plants is a porcini

the dog days of summer



I’m trying to be optimistic over here. Twila told me that the huckleberries are going in Montana. My patches are running a little late, which can be good if the sun and rains continue to nurture them, or it can be very very very bad if an early winter cuts them off before they can ripen. You never know when you will have a good year or a bad year or a few bad years, which is why I don’t like to use up the previous year’s harvest until I know I have this year’s harvest in the freezer. The same applies to the mushrooms. While my fingers and toeses and noses are all crossed for a good huckleberry season, I’ve got a good recipe to use with fresh or frozen huckleberries. I actually tested two huckleberry muffin recipes four times and finally settled on this adaptation of Deb’s Perfect Blueberry Muffins. The biggest problem is getting muffins to dome nicely at my elevation, but otherwise, I quite love these muffins.

butter, huckleberries, flour, turbinado sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sour cream, lemon zest, sugar, egg

whisk the sugar into the melted butter

stir in the egg, lemon zest, and sour cream



**Jump for more butter**

summer part 2

Sunday, July 23rd, 2017

Recipe: elote (mexican street corn) fritters with lime crema

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Hi guys, I finally caught up on answering comments from the past 6 weeks. My apologies for being a slacker, but you know… stuff and things. xo -jen

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Whenever the snows begin to melt in late spring and the sun rises higher in the sky like an overachiever, I start to panic internally about the onslaught of summer. I call it an onslaught because it feels like an assault – the intense sun burning the skin on my arms, seeking relief in our basement because the rest of the house is so hot, pine pollen dusting everything with a thick coat of yellow. But the oppression eventually (hopefully) gives way to the southwestern monsoon some time in July, which delivers relief in the form of daily afternoon cloud buildups, big temperature drops, and that oh-so-heavenly release of rain that washes over the land, the animals, the trees, the flowers, the rocks, everything. The monsoon was a little late getting here this year, but it has finally arrived. It is spectacular. For me, there are three parts to summer in the mountains: 1) the sucky part with the hot, dry, and pollen-filled air 2) the delicious part with the monsoon rains and 3) the cooldown which is really pseudo-autumn. We are now well into summer part 2, and it is glorious.


bluebells at 11,000 feet

blue columbines greet the day

at the top of my 2000 ft. climbing trail run to 11,500 ft.

paddling long lake in the indian peaks wilderness

snow and ice floating on blue lake (indian peaks wilderness)

cascades and parry’s primrose

happiness is a colorado mountain dog

thank you for the rain, clouds



You know what else I love about summer part 2? The arrival of local Colorado Olathe sweet corn. You all probably don’t know about our amazing Colorado Palisade peaches or the Olathe sweet corn – we eat it all up such that there isn’t any left to ship out of state, so it’s a secret *wink*. Ever since we moved to Colorado, I only buy corn in summer when it is at its sweetest and most delightful. We like to eat it straight up boiled or grilled, but every now and again I’ll splurge on the calories and make Mexican-style corn (elote). And then last week I tried a recipe that makes our summer trail runs very necessary – elote fritters.

white corn

brush a light coat of vegetable oil on the cobs

grill the ears until moderately charred

cut the kernels off the cobs



There are three ears of corn in this photo sequence, but in hindsight, I would have used four ears (which I indicate in the recipe below). I grilled my corn, because it’s easy for me to do and because I like that charred flavor and texture. If you are grill-less, then you can boil or steam your corn, cut the kernels off, and brown the kernels in a little vegetable oil in a skillet or sauté pan. Once the kernels are ready, they get added to butter-sautéed onion and jalapeño.

minced jalapeño, minced sweet onion, butter, salt, corn

fry the onion and jalapeño in butter until just soft (but still crunchy)

add the corn

let the corn cool



**Jump for more butter**

life outside

Sunday, July 9th, 2017

Recipe: coconut shrimp

For the first time in a long time, I have no photos of the July 4th fireworks this year. We can get a sense of how Neva will react to the fireworks because the nights leading up to the Fourth of July always have at least one or two houses in the community setting off their own (granted, there are a lot of out-of-towners who flock to Crested Butte over the July 4th holiday who love their fireworks). From what we could tell, Neva wasn’t a fan. So when the official celebration took place on the mountain and the several ancillary light shows erupted in the neighborhood, little Neva smashed herself in the corner of the kitchen, or squeezed herself between me and the cabinets while I prepared a late dinner, or trembled against Jeremy on the sofa. It made me very sad because all we could do to make her feel less scared was to hold her tight and offer words of reassurance that probably didn’t reassure her at all. When the evening was over, we let her sleep on the bed with us and promised her the remainder of the week would be filled with puppy fun time.

And Neva had a great week of hiking, swimming, fetching, jumping off the paddleboards and climbing back on dozens of times. She ran alongside Jeremy while he rode his bike, got extra walkies, and met up with lots of puppy friends (Poncho, Bella, Peaches, to name a few). All of this activity means she gets rest days, too. Rest days for Neva translate into trail running days or SUP days for us. We all get time outside, because time outside is good for us physically and mentally.


eyes on the prize (the orange tennis ball)

tuckered out and resting on the custom pillow i made just for neva to use on the windowsill

float time with a view of the ruby range

elephant head in bloom

mule ears greet the sun

a painterly sunset



We typically hunker down at home over the weekends to get work done and to avoid weekend crowds, but we got up early on Saturday (early enough that *I* woke Neva rather than the other way around!) to beat the heat and take Neva on her longest hike to date (14+ miles). The trail is appropriately named Oh Be Joyful because it follows Oh Be Joyful Creek up verdant Oh Be Joyful Valley. Hiking up, we took note of a dozen beautiful waterfalls and cascades spilling down the steep southern walls of the glacial valley and feeding the swift and cold creek. The wildflowers are not yet at peak, but many varieties were showing off their colors in bright, happy displays. The high country’s snowpack is melting in earnest under the summer sun, which meant countless stream crossings and muddy slogs on our hike. At the end of the valley, we turned south and ascended part of the headwall, traversing slushy snowfields to the cirque where Blue Lake is perched at 11,100 feet. The stoke was high for Neva until maybe mile 10 when we paused in the shade for an apple break. Instead of standing alert for every whiff of marmot, pika, or other critter, she laid down in the grass and ate her apple pieces, looking rather content with her doggy life.

shooting stars (magenta) and kings crown (red) mingle by a stream

jeremy and neva hike through fields of blooming osha

nearing the end of the valley

carpets of marsh marigolds and glacier lilies

from the headwall, looking across to democrat basin

at last, blue lake

pausing at the edge of the lake before neva’s swim-fetch session



For two months each year, my parents are in Boulder to escape the oppressive summers of Southern Virginia. The other ten months of the year I get occasional phone calls, emails, and lots of texts from them. I taught them how to text when they got their first iphones just a few years ago, and now both parents (in their mid-70s) make liberal use of emojis and send me photos of their meals! I kinda love it. Food is very much a thing with my family. When I find a new recipe that I really like, I make note to share it with my parents when I see them in the summer. Of course, that is getting harder to do ever since I introduced Dad to sous vide steak a few weeks ago. I’m not sure when I’ll be able to cook anything other than sous vide steak when we get together with my folks because he is OBSESSED. I even Amazon Primed Dad his own sous vide before I left for Crested Butte so he wouldn’t have to wait for me to come back to the Front Range (with my sous vide…).

If I’m lucky, I’ll squeeze a few new recipes into our gatherings – because that is what my parents and I do – we share new wonderful things with one another. I think that’s one way that we express our love in my family, along with yelling and texting questions that Google can answer and sharing carwash coupons. Coconut shrimp has been around for ages, but I hadn’t tried it until this past winter. Of course, after I made it and tasted it, I kicked myself for not having tried it earlier. It’s simple and straightforward, but it is also addictive and delicious. I’m fairly certain Mom and Dad will like it.


coconut, sugar, salt, egg whites, cayenne, cornstarch, raw shrimp

place the cornstarch, salt, and cayenne in a large ziploc bag

mix the sugar and coconut together

peel, de-vein, and butterfly the shrimp (leave tails on!)



**Jump for more butter**