angry edamame huckleberry syrup grilled brie porcini and caramelized onion sandwich thai sweet chili sauce


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beat the heat

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

Recipe: arnold palmer slushie

It got hot again.

This is not unexpected, but I was hoping that we were done with the crazy hot. Erin and I set off for the mountains again in search of our treasures (that would be huckleberries, and you knew that because you know I have a problem an obsession). We spent 13 hours on the trail and in the hucks, picking and chatting and straightening our sore backs and picking and stretching out our cramped legs. Squatting to check for purple berries, I squinted up at the clear blue skies and blazing sun. Our normal afternoon thunderheads did not develop that day – we only got cloud relief around 4 pm and they were puny little clouds at that! Sometimes when I stood up to stretch my old lady muscles, I would spy Banjo, Erin’s pup, sleeping in the shade. It’s okay to envy a dog, right? Colorado mountain dogs have the best life. Banjo never showed any interest in the hucks, whereas Kaweah would have been all up in my business trying to eat them… that or she would have zeroed in on the nearest animal carcass or poop pile in which to roll. Good times.


he’s thinking “you don’t have anything good to eat, do you?”

banjo is an incredibly well-behaved dog



Actually, that day wasn’t so bad in terms of heat. Wednesday was bad, I mean hot (thus bad), because I had a chocolate shoot. I consume a good bit of water on a daily basis, but especially on hot days. It is my beverage of choice. But on special occasions I will spring for an oh-so-refreshing Arnold Palmer, which is half lemonade-half iced tea. The last few times we hosted dinner parties, I made lemonade and iced tea for non-alcoholic beverage choices to offer our guests. And no one wanted iced tea or lemonade! They all opted for the Arnold Palmer. My friend, Luke, taught 3-year old Felix how to make an Arnold Palmer. When Luke took a sip, he said, “Mmmm mmmm mmmm!!!” We made one for Felix in a juice glass and when he tasted it for the first time, he mimicked his father and grinned, “Mmmm mmmm mmmm!!!” Another fan of the AP has been added to our ranks! But for those extra hot days, you need to take it one step further.

lemons. ice, black tea, water, sugar

pour boiling water over the tea leaves

let it steep

boil sugar and water for your simple syrup



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it’s such a perfect day

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

Recipe: huckleberry sorbet

It was one of those days where everything could go right, everything could go wrong, or everything could go somewhere in between. And for us, it started well before “the day” began when our alarms sounded at 2 am. The plan was to go for a hike. More precisely, we were going to hike a fourteener. For non-hikers and non-Coloradoans, it means hiking a peak over 14,000 feet high. It’s a thing here in Colorado – hiking fourteeners – because we have quite a few of them (53). We don’t actually care about bagging peaks as much as we do hiking and exploring beautiful high country. The main thing about this fourteener was getting there.


sunrise on the trail

a purplish western yellow paintbrush (castilleja occidentalis) at 12,500 feet



San Luis Peak is not remarkable for its elevation (14,014 feet, the 51st highest in the state) nor for its climb (it’s a class 1 hike), but rather for being the toughest trailhead to get to with about 2 hours travel on 30 miles of dirt road (in the dark). It is in the middle of beautiful nowhere. The biggest concern about a fourteener or any high point in western Colorado is that you don’t want to be up there when lightning strikes. The bulk of our failed summit attempts are due to being turned around by the weather. Summer afternoon thunderstorms are the norm in Colorado’s mountains and lightning deaths are not uncommon. That means you want to summit well before noon (or earlier if storms are forecast to develop earlier than usual), which translates into an early start. Early starts are what I am all about because I prefer cooler temperatures, avoiding sun exposure as much as possible, and not getting struck by lightning. That’s why we left the house at 2:30 in the morning so we could start hiking at 5:30.

pikas (lagomorphs) live at high elevations in the rocks and don’t hibernate

jeremy snacks on some homemade zucchini bread



On the 3-hour drive, we saw several bright shooting stars (it was the height of the Perseids meteor shower) despite a full moon and driving with our high-beams on. Pretty fantastic! The trailhead was empty except for one truck, which is rare for a fourteener trailhead in summer in Colorado – even on a weekday. We made our way up the valley under moonlight and headlamps until the skies brightened enough to see the trail unaided. Beaver ponds dammed much of the length of Stewart Creek and we spotted some beavers making home repairs and swimming in their ponds. Wildflowers flanked the trail for the first 5.5 miles and marmots and pikas whistled and chirped warnings to one another as we approached their habitat. Most of the climb is crammed into the last mile and a half of trail, but it was good trail with excellent scenery.

benchmark

view from the top

fueling up before heading back down

there’s a nice big drop off the west side of the summit



We didn’t dilly dally on the summit for long, mainly because there was a large dark cloud that had materialized out of thin air (literally – ha!) over the peak in the last ten minutes of our ascent. The air quality was poor compared to our typical crystal clear clean Colorado air, due to increased water vapor in the air from our monsoonal patterns (hence the big clouds popping up over the high peaks). I like summits for their unsurpassed views, but when you get to 14,000 feet the landscape is mostly rock and dirt which isn’t nearly as interesting to me without the presence of plants. On our way out, Jeremy and I paused for an early lunch break at the headwall of the basin leading to the summit. We sat in the rock-strewn meadowy slopes dotted with colorful wildflowers and particularly ambitious mushrooms, watching a herd of deer pick their way up the basin along a splashing stream of snow melt. “It’s such a perfect day,” Jeremy started softly. I turned to him, my mouth full of apple, singing, “I’m glad I spent it with you.”

It’s all relative. I realize and accept (after some friends have told me so) that my idea of a perfect day is someone else’s idea of pure hell. Just like the very thought of shopping all day in a city – or worse, the suburbs – would make me homicidal. No, I’d much rather hit the trails before sunrise and pick huckleberries with a like-minded friend who loves to hike in the mountains as much as I do.


erin picks ripe huckleberries

frozen hucks from last year’s crop



The huckleberries are taking their time ripening up, but they will get there. I picked hucks well into mid-September last year. I’m finding more and more scattered groups with red to dark purple berries, but there isn’t enough to really pick a bunch and still leave plenty for the birds and bears right now. A couple of months ago I was wringing my hands over what to do with my last 1.5 pounds of frozen huckleberries when I finally decided to make the leap and try huckleberry sorbet. It required a pound of the precious berries.

sugar, water, lemon, corn syrup, and a pound of huckleberries



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don’t forget to cool down

Sunday, June 8th, 2014

Recipe: frozen strawberry basil lemonade

We wrapped up our time in Crested Butte with more riding, more trail running, and a fun dinner at our neighbors’ place. [Talk about a small world - our neighbor knows my uncle!] Then we packed up before sunrise Saturday morning and headed east. Kaweah did so well on the drive home. Normally she’s nervous and fidgety, but this time it was warm enough to have the windows down so she could sniff and watch all of the scenery go by. Kaweah was such a good girl. Everything seems to be an order of magnitude easier in summer: the packing, the travel, less gear, road conditions, weather, the dog.


riding at hartman rocks in gunnison

the lemon tart i brought for dessert at our neighbors’ place



Once home, we were greeted with fog and drizzle, a welcome reprieve from the relentless sunshine that can dominate mountain summers. Apparently, Nederland had received a good bit of moisture while we were away because every known weed had commandeered our front yard and walkway like a scene from some post-apocalyptic movie. But it was beautiful, lush, and green. The yard is dotted with colorful wildflower blooms and when you stand outside, all you can hear is the sound of hummingbirds zipping up, down, all around. Our trails continue to melt out slowly, but we are able to get more and more miles as winter retreats to the higher elevations.

gold banner dotted in morning dew

in search of trails that climb



Jeremy and I live for those cool, overcast summer days when we can slip out onto the trails without the sun beating down on us. More often than not, the sun is out and it is intense when you are above treeline and two miles above sea level. We make sure to drink plenty of water on the trail and post-workout. But it’s hard to resist one of those fruity, tart, sweet, frozen slushies in the late day sun. I was turned on to the frozen strawberry basil lemonade at The Secret Stash in Crested Butte, but when I’m home in Nederland, it’s easy enough to whip it up myself.

all you need: sugar, water, ice, basil, lemons, strawberries

combine the sugar and water to make a simple syrup

juice the lemons

hull the strawberries



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