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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 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**

a bear walks into a (sushi) bar

Sunday, May 15th, 2016

Recipe: salmon poke

We rounded a corner this past week – hiking and running more days than skiing. I washed the late season mud off our nordic ski boots and packed up all but our backcountry telemark boots to store in the basement until October. Instead of four ski bins in the great room, we now have four bins for hiking, trail running, mountain biking, plus one holdout for backcountry skiing – at least for another week! Spring is dawdling. Rain and snow flirt in the high country and we expect another week of cool, wet weather around here, which means a few more days before I can swap out our flannel sheets for something cooler. Chilly mornings still require snuggy sheets.


morning reflections

scoping out the trails without skis *sniffle*

dashing through icy cold snowmelt streams



I used to regard shoulder season as a time of outdoor exercise limbo, but this season I’m embracing the coolish weather, squishy mud, and sporadic snow patches on the trails. It’s a good time for me to build up to higher mileage in what I consider comfortable temperatures. This way, I also scope out plants in bloom around my neck of the woods. To start trail running for the season when it’s already hot means there are two hurdles to deal with: the heat and trail running.

sunny and cool trail runs are just fine by me

so many pasque flowers in bloom!

neva perfects her jump-catch



Winter is good for me, I think, because it allows me to focus on snow and being a somewhat normal person. Summer is officially Crazy Time because so many wonderful mushrooms grow where I run or hike or bike – one can’t help but notice them and maybe forage a few and probably obsess over finding more because that’s the addictive property of wild mushrooms. But you all know that my true love is the tiny purple huckleberry. Erin and I have spent a few lazy winter days pondering where a good patch might be based on satellite imagery and our knowledge of the mountain trails and what our local huckleberries like. As the mountains shed their snowy mantles, we make note of healthy huckleberry plants and when they flower and when those flowers become green peas that will hopefully emerge as ripe huckleberries.

I make tons of sweet recipes with huckleberries – that’s easy to do as they play nicely with sugar, butter, flour, cream, and eggs. I’m exploring more savory recipes now that I have enough huckleberries in my freezer and I’m feeling comfortable with what the berry can and cannot do in a dish. Earlier this month I decided to make salmon poke, the salmon version of the more popular and ubiquitous tuna poke, but I didn’t want it to taste like tuna poke with salmon swapped in for the tuna. What I eventually came up with blends a little bit of Japanese cuisine with Hawaiian cuisine with the Pacific Northwest: salmon poke with huckleberries.


avocado, green onions, soy sauce, furikake, rice vinegar, vegetable oil, huckleberries, tempura crunch, salmon, sesame seeds, lemons



Think the combination of salmon and huckleberries will taste odd? Let me point out that salmon run where the huckleberries grow in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska, and that both foods are favorites of the locals – the bears. (If I were a bear, I would eat salmon and huckleberries and huckleberries and salmon all dang day.) When choosing a dressing for my poke recipe, I didn’t want the typical sesame oil in the mix because I feel it can and does overpower both the salmon and the huckleberries. Instead, I opted for ponzu sauce – a combination of soy sauce, lemon juice, and rice vinegar. I like that the lemon works especially well with the salmon and the hucks. You can purchase ponzu sauce from an Asian grocery store, but I find it’s pretty easy and tastier to make your own at home. If you are gluten-free, then definitely make your own ponzu sauce at home – just use tamari instead of soy sauce.

pouring rice vinegar and lemon juice into the soy sauce



A note about the salmon. You really do need to use sashimi-grade salmon in this recipe. Sashimi-grade means that the fish has been frozen down to -20°C/-4°F for at least seven days to kill off any parasites that might exist in the fish flesh. Salmon is particularly prone to parasites. While I always purchase wild salmon, in this instance my fish monger only had farmed Norwegian sashimi-grade salmon, so that’s what I bought. Creamy avocado is a no brainer for salmon poke, but I keep it separate from the actual poke because it puts a green film on everything when mixed in with the other ingredients. If you don’t care, then by all means, mix it in. My preference is to serve the poke on a bed of the avocado to preserve the aesthetics.

dice the salmon

avocado at the ready



**Jump for more butter**