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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**

all the love

Sunday, July 16th, 2017

Recipe: huckleberry cheesecake ice cream

I’ve noticed something changing over the past couple of months. It’s been gradual, and yet it feels as if my life has become… better. I found myself telling Neva, “I love you” as I played with her in the living room, or when I gave her a squeeze after finding her snoozing on the couch, or just walking past her while I was in the middle of a shoot. I’m not one to withhold saying “I love you” when I actually love an individual, but I didn’t say it very much in Neva’s early years because she made me absolutely insane and because I wasn’t sure that I really loved her. Now, I’m saying it many many times each day because she has gone from a sweet, but crazy girl to a sweet, crazy, but good girl. It’s been a slow process. This kind of behavior modification doesn’t happen overnight. But after getting Neva back from dog training camp four months ago, and working with her on the things Claire recommended, we are seeing such amazing progress now. Neva is definitely a happier pup when we give her instruction and she has learned to focus on us instead of spiraling out of control becoming a frenzy of anxiety and excitement. Best of all, on our most recent road trip from Crested Butte to Nederland, Neva didn’t drool a drop and she was even relaxed enough to chill out just watching traffic and scenery (she used to drool like a spigot and turn circles in her bed for 5 hours).


wildflowers going gangbusters in crested butte

our regularly scheduled evening rainbow in crested butte – no big deal

a paddle with jeremy on the taylor park reservoir

cinquefoil in bloom

the car is moving and neva isn’t upset about it



We returned to the Front Range in time to overlap with the tail end of my aunts’ visit with my parents in Boulder. I had not seen my dad’s younger sister in almost 30 years and it’s been over a decade since I met with my dad’s older sister. It made me so happy to see them both looking healthy and well. The next day, Jeremy left for the airport at 6 am to fly to the East Coast and I took Neva on a hike. Hiking with Neva has always been an ordeal because she gets so amped up in the high country that she pulls and cries and acts like a nut. It’s hard to manage that kind of behavior while hiking above 10,000 feet, so Jeremy (my high altitude mountain goat) typically wrangles Neva while I just hike and help as needed.

I took Neva by myself, resigned to deal with whatever happened. Of course, within the first ten minutes, we encountered three bull moose on the trail. Neva LOVES moose, so was very excited to see and smell them. I made her sit and wait as we gave them an opportunity to cross the trail without feeling threatened by our presence. Instead of pulling against her leash and baying loudly as she has done in the past, Neva sat, her tail wagging furiously, and cried softly as she watched the moose feed. But she remained by my side! WHO IS THIS DOG?!?!?! We eventually continued on the trail past the moose because they decided to hunker down and enjoy some willows for breakfast, and Neva was so damn good! It wasn’t a perfect hike, but Neva was the best she’s ever been with me on a solo hike. I couldn’t be happier.


dinner with my folks and my aunts

two of the three moose we encountered on the trail

neva takes in the smells while i take in the views

selfie on the ridge with my happy pup

dog as wildflower

dim sum with my folks



Whenever we go to Boulder to have dinner at my parents’ place, I almost always bring dessert because I like to make it and they like to eat it. For dinner with my aunts, Mom texted me that I shouldn’t bother making anything and to simply purchase something at the store since we just got home. But I had already planned on bringing ice cream – two flavors. The first was a lovely roasted strawberry ice cream that I had made a few weeks ago and the second was a recipe I had tested in February and decided it was too good not to make and share this time: huckleberry cheesecake ice cream. The huckleberry cheesecake ice cream is actually a very straightforward and easy recipe compared to my usual custard-based ice creams. Seeing as today is National Ice Cream Day, this is the perfect summery treat to share.

the berry swirl: huckleberries, lemon juice, water, salt, cornstarch, sugar

the crust: melted butter, graham cracker crumbs, sugar, cinnamon (not shown: pinch of salt)

the base: cream cheese, milk, cream, bourbon, salt, sugar



I know huckleberries can be hard to get if you don’t live in a place where they grow or don’t know how to find them. You can order them online (frozen) from places in Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and other blessed states that have wild mountain huckleberries. Or, you can substitute its cousin, the blueberry, which was the fruit used in the original version of this recipe. I’m just saying if you can get huckleberries, they are a billion times better than blueberries – and I love me some blueberries.

Start with the berry swirl, because it needs time to cool before you can incorporate it into the ice cream. It takes all of five minutes to simmer before you get a syrupy berry sauce that smells (and tastes) like the best thing you’ve ever had. Because huckleberries are smallish, I tend to only smash about a third of the berries because I like whole hucks in my ice cream. If you are using blueberries and they are large, then you may want to smoosh a larger fraction of the berries. Just use the back of a spoon and gently press the berries against the side of the pan. Let that cool while you mix the graham cracker crust. Use graham cracker crumbs like I have here, or you can crush your own graham crackers to retain a chunkier texture.


mix the huckleberries, cornstarch, sugar, salt, water, and lemon juice

berrylicious

combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and melted butter



**Jump for more butter**

sometimes i do dumb things

Monday, June 26th, 2017

Recipe: cherry (ice cream) bombes

My 45 years of experience have taught me that if I don’t schedule my summers, the things I want to do will not get done. Some of those things are “need to do” items like house projects or house maintenance. Some of those things are “stuff I want to do” like hikes and Neva training (actually this is a “want” and a “need” to do item). Maybe that’s why summer is not a relaxing season for me. It’s ALL SYSTEMS GO because the mountains are calling, Neva wants to go out and play, the weather is nice enough to have people over for dinner, summer fruits and mountain forage are begging to be made into recipes, and of course, my parents are in Boulder for the summer. This is also the only time I venture down to Denver – when the roads are free of snow – to visit with good friends. But a drive to Denver once in a blue moon reminds me why I prefer to stay close to the mountains and away from the city. I am officially a country mouse.


let’s go for a hike!

hiking, swimming, having a blast

belated father’s day dinner (dad is happy because… good wine)

ellen being ellen at post oak hall

soup dumplings with erin



When I received a shipment of dark sweet cherries from Stemilt Growers last week, I looked at my notes to see what cherry recipes I wanted to try. There were several easy ones that involved little effort and even less time. Those would have been ideal considering how packed the days are. So of course, I chose a multi-day recipe that involved some technical unknowns (mainly because I didn’t know if it would work) with the potential for great disaster. My idea was to make a cherry bombe – cherry ice cream in a dark chocolate sphere, finished in a red mirror glaze. What could possibly go wrong?

eggs, salt, almond extract, vanilla extract, amaretto, cherries, cream, milk, sugar

pitting cherries

quartered



The cherry ice cream is the easiest part. It involves making a custard base, a cherry purée, and some chopped cherries. I added amaretto because I like boozy almond flavor with cherries, but it’s okay to omit it and stick with almond extract which is also in the recipe. I think I could have gone with more than a pound of cherries, because I like more fruit in my ice cream. So if you do decide to increase the cherries by another 8 ounces or so, just be aware that the final ice cream volume will likely approach one and two-thirds quarts or more. Then again, is there such a thing as too much ice cream? Important questions to ponder…

adding sugar to the cherries

stirring in amaretto after the cherries have simmered

reserve half of the cherries

purée the liquid and remaining cherries



**Jump for more butter**