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a cake for all seasons

Thursday, March 28th, 2019

Recipe: almond cake with blood oranges (gluten-free)

Someone turned the dial to Spring this week. In winter, we used to wait for the temperatures to warm up before we could hit the Nordic trails. Now, we have to go as early as possible before the temperatures get too warm and the snow turns to slush. It smells like spring outside in the mountains – like melted snow and warmth and a barely perceptible hint of damp wood. Coyote tracks in the snow don’t get blown away or covered up so much as amplified by the sun’s rays. And Yuki gets her dog stink on after a few minutes on the deck. It’s lovely. All of it.


skate skiing with two happy pups

crested butte mountain towers above the fog



Wednesday was Neva’s fourth birthday and we had a little party for her with Yuki in attendance. We are settling into a nice routine with the pups and I think we have Neva to thank for making Free Range Yuki a reality. When we used to leave the house, Yuki would be nervous and would not play with her toys. She remained at Neva’s side until we returned. But Neva is very chill and good when we are not home. She mostly takes naps, sometimes looks out the window, and occasionally barks her head off at the UPS or FedEx trucks. She let Yuki know that everything was okay. Now, Yuki naps, checks the perimeter (she is many breeds of guard dogs), looks out the window, plays a little with Neva, and even grabs a toy for a few minutes.

happy birthday, neva!

beef, cheese, apples, carrots, and orange



As if on cue, our local mama moose and her yearling (you can see his antler nubs coming in) came by one morning to nibble away at the aspens and currant bushes like she does with each calf every spring. They hung out for a couple of hours in our and our neighbors’ yards. Everyone kept their dogs inside for as long as possible to avoid disturbing the pair until they wandered off to another part of the neighborhood. I managed a few photos from the safety of our deck. Such magnificent creatures.

touching noses

nuzzling with mama

so sweet and affectionate



Today’s recipe is good for spring, summer, fall, winter, because you top it with any seasonal fruit you like. I was looking for a reliable gluten-free cake since most of my gluten-free dessert repertoire consists of non-cake items. The problem with gluten-free baking is that I’m also dealing with high altitude baking. I spent two months working through some version and variation of this cake – sending moderate successes to my neighbors and trashing a couple of outright disasters. But I figured out the tweaks and now have a winner.

eggs, almond flour, sugar, coconut flour, more sugar, baking powder, salt, almond extract, vanilla extract



This cake is baked in an 8-inch springform pan, so smaller than your standard 9-inch cake. The original recipe calls for buttering the pan (or use melted coconut oil), but I line the bottom with parchment paper first and then butter the pan. I’ve become a huge fan of parchment paper for ease of release because I’ve had too many disappointing releases without parchment. I also suspect you could bake this in a standard round baking pan, but I haven’t actually tried it yet.

butter the pan

sprinkle some sugar over the base



**Jump for more butter**

springalicious

Tuesday, March 19th, 2019

Recipe: sautéed morels and scrambled eggs

The past seven days have been the epitome of March in Colorado. It was sunny and warm on Tuesday, then Wednesday we hosted The Bomb Cyclone which dropped a good foot and a half of snow at our house, and by Friday it was back to sunshine and bluebird skies. Some refer to this as crazy or “drunk” Colorado weather, but for anyone who has experienced more than two springs in this state, it’s par for the course.


snowy days are perfect for baking pies for pi(e) day

we set the pups up by the front window to watch us shovel snow

yuki and neva dashing through the deep snow

yuki supervises jeremy’s snow clearing technique

grabbing a backcountry ski with the pups



Our Colorado snowpack sits comfortably above average this season and we have fingers crossed that it bodes well for the health of the mountains and their denizens this summer. Water is everything in the American West. If you spend time getting to know the land, this axiom is paramount. Watching the big dump snow days is doubly exciting for us because 1) we love skiing powder days and 2) springtime snow is good for our local morels.

hoping to see many of these beauties this spring



Yes, ever since February, the obsession over morels has been steadily increasing despite several feet of snow on the ground. Sometimes Jeremy and I will be working quietly in the office and I’ll say, “I love morels!” or “We should check X location for morels this spring.” We are weeks away from morel season in Colorado, but I recently saw fresh morels make an appearance in the mushroom bins at Whole Foods. These babies are now coming online in other parts of the country and that is exciting. If you happen to get your hands on morels, one of the easiest preparations with big return on investment (of time) is morels and scrambled eggs.

morels, eggs, salt, pepper, butter, and shallots

clean and slice the morels

beat the eggs



**Jump for more butter**

homebody

Tuesday, March 5th, 2019

Recipe: futomaki

Last week we went on a vacation. Of sorts. We brought Neva and Yuki along with us to Steamboat Springs for a ski trip. Sadly, most of what we previously loved about Steamboat were absent: 1) fresh powder and 2) our favorite sushi bar in town (Yama has closed indefinitely). We did ski the mountain and took the pups skijoring on dog-friendly trails at a couple of the Nordic centers near town. Yuki’s endurance continues to improve and Neva is really becoming a well-behaved pup on the trails as long as she can run her brains out.


jeremy with neva and yuki at haymaker nordic center

this is what yuki does when she doesn’t want to go



Steamboat is great and all, but after our third day we were over it. A big winter storm was about to blast its way through the state (big winter storm = powder) and we were slated to check out and drive home in the thick of it. Instead, we left a day early before the storm and drove home – not east to Nederland – but south to Crested Butte. It was the right decision. We arrived just as the snow began to fall, and proceeded to ski amazing powder, celebrate our 22nd wedding anniversary, and meet our friend’s new puppy, Moke (Moe-kee).

the road south

the snow piles up in crested butte

jeremy drops into a foot of fresh powder and free refills

enjoying our anniversary dinner

yuki playing with her new pal, moke



On our drive from Steamboat Springs to Crested Butte, we stopped at the Whole Foods in Frisco to grab salads for lunch and ran into my friend who lives in Breckenridge. We chatted and at some point in the conversation I apologized that we hadn’t seen one another in a while. He dismissed it with a wave, “Oh, you don’t have to explain it. You know me,” he chuckled, “I’m a homebody.” Back on the road, I mentioned to Jeremy that I didn’t think of Graham as a homebody – he spends a good deal of time outside running, biking, hiking, skiing. Jeremy was silent for a moment, then, “Most people think of homebodies as people who stay indoors, but I think Graham meant he doesn’t want to be away from home. Sort of like what we’re doing now by going to Crested Butte.”

It’s true. I am becoming more of a Graham homebody every day. Jeremy has always been one. This might also explain why I try to replicate my favorite restaurant dishes at home, to avoid the headache of driving into town and interacting with people. The futomaki sushi roll has eluded me for over a decade because I didn’t know that the sweet pink powdery ingredient, which is dried shredded sweetened cod, was called sakura denbu. Once I learned the proper name, I couldn’t find it anywhere. Last year, I ventured into Denver’s Pacific Mercantile Company on a little Japanese grocery safari with my pal, Ellen, and there it was in the refrigerated section. It was the final piece to my futomaki puzzle!


some of the less common ingredients for a home cook: unagi (grilled eel), sakura denbu, makizushi no moto (seasoned gourd strips with mushrooms)



I had always assumed there was a set recipe for making futomaki because most of the sushi bars I frequented made it the same way. It turns out you can make futomaki with whatever ingredients float your boat, so please feel free to customize! The version I make here follows the recipe from Just One Cookbook because this is how I like it AND I could either purchase or make the ingredients myself. I can easily find the unagi (grilled eel) and seasoned gourd and mushrooms at most Asian grocers, but I have only ever seen the sakura denbu in a Japanese grocery store. You can also purchase the tamago (egg omelette) at an Asian grocery store, but I find making tamagoyaki at home to be far tastier.

fillings: spinach, cucumber, tamago, unagi, kanpyo (gourd strips), mushrooms, sakura denbu



**Jump for more butter**