shrimp and vegetable tempura posole huckleberry panna cotta chanterelle toast

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you plucky huck

Sunday, October 2nd, 2016

Recipe: huckleberry panna cotta

We returned home to the Front Range this evening after winterizing and buttoning up the house in Crested Butte. The next time we return will be with multiple pairs of skis! Between now and then, there is plenty of work to get done. I haven’t had a chance to really sift through my photos from the fall shoot, but here are some quick ones I’ve been sharing.

the castles with fresh snowfall

west beckwith mountain

the slopes on snodgrass

just another gorgeous aspen-lined road

last minute surprise sunset colors

In addition to shooting fall colors around Crested Butte, I spent time working with Neva on her leash skills on the nice paths in our neighborhood. She’s already amped up as it is, but there are fewer distractions on these paths than on hiking trails, so she’s slightly (ever so slightly) more responsive to commands, corrections, and praise. In the backcountry, Neva acts like a drug addict, losing her mind over every sound, smell, and movement – she even refuses her favorite treats. I should revoke her lab license! But each day she made a little improvement such that after a week away, Jeremy said Neva was better on our hike Saturday. I’ve also noticed that she is becoming more cuddly. At 18 months, I hope that Neva will outgrow her adolescent stage and become a dog we can enjoy rather than remain a ridiculous amount of work any time we choose to do anything.

neva likes down comforters and human beds

hiking in the west elk wilderness

neva tries to creep away because she doesn’t like posing for pictures

Earlier last week, I went to shoot sunrise only to wind up with a cloudless fizzle. Instead of wrapping things up and heading back home I decided to scout out a trail that had been good for huckleberries at the start of September. Most of the good patches were bare now, but the patches that didn’t have fruit before were loaded with blue orbs that had frozen solid overnight. But mountain huckleberries are tough little berries, surviving the frosts and snows of early autumn above 10,000 feet. I picked about a half cup while examining The State of the Huckleberry along the trail. I found some chanterelles, too, but they don’t weather a frost nearly as well as their huckleberry neighbors do, so I let them be. The frozen hucks tasted like deliciously slushy purple huckleberries – slurpleberries.

slurpleberries (frozen huckleberries)

There are plenty of things you can make with frozen huckleberries, which is a good thing since most folks will only ever get their paws on frozen huckleberries (you can buy them online) as the season for fresh hucks is relatively short. I recently had a craving for panna cotta (translates to cooked cream), because I love the silky smooth texture without all of the work of say, crème brûlée or flan. And everyone knows that berries and cream are a match made in heaven. Use blueberries if you don’t have huckleberries, but promise me that one day… ONE DAY you will try a huckleberry.

huckleberries, almond extract, vanilla paste, milk, cream, sugar, gelatin, water (not pictured: pinch of salt)

sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let soften

bring the milk, cream, sugar, and salt to a boil

**Jump for more butter**

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 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**