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one huck of a season

Sunday, September 17th, 2017

Recipe: cold seafood platter

I always thought that my foraging seasons ended because there wasn’t anything left to forage, but this year has been quite different. I stopped looking for porcini, matsutake, and now huckleberries, because I found so many, ran out of space in my refrigerator to store them, was sick of cleaning them, and felt pretty exhausted.


neva knows what i’m talking about



Last weekend, Erin, Erica, Banjo, and I went huckleberry picking at ML1 – Mother Lode 1. It was better than the last two years (which totally sucked), but not nearly as good as 2014 (which was crazy good). After two not-so-great huckleberry years, I was determined to expand our foraging territory based on satellite imagery, terrain, and familiarity with our mountains. On Monday morning, Jeremy and I went to scout out a potential huck patch and hit pay dirt. We named it ML2b and I renamed ML2 as ML2a. Then Wednesday morning I went solo cross country, took a wrong turn, chatted with a couple of really nice moose hunters, got back on track, then found a different huckleberry patch that was loaded with ripe berries. That’s ML2c. Thursday morning, Jeremy accompanied me to explore an unmarked local trail which led us to an enormous huckleberry patch in the most beautiful setting, which I have dubbed ML3. Oh, and the aspens were looking gorgeous in the high country.

orange top aspens

cool mornings under golden light

colorado painted blue and gold

some huckleberry plants are showing off the reds

jeremy at lovely ml3



The weather went from downright scorching hot on Monday to snow by Saturday morning. Fall is in flirt-mode now, so it’s best to pack layers and hats and gloves when you’re going to be in the high country all day. But I really love this time of year when the temperature is hovering right at freezing as you trudge up the mountain, your trail runners and pant legs knocking the light layer of snow off the brush with each step. The sun actually feels GOOD instead of oppressive when the weather cools down. Erin and I went to pick at two of the three new locations (ran out of time to hit the third one – too many berries to pick) and spent several hours gathering enormous, ripe huckleberries while discussing our solutions to the world’s problems and giving Banjo treats, ear rubs, and butt scratches between his naps in the shade (he’s fluffy, he was plenty warm).

rainbow from my deck saturday morning (our huck patches were at the other end of it!)

snow in the high country

snow melts off the huckleberry plants

erin and banjo surrounded by hucks



It was Jeremy’s birthday this past week, so between all of the huckleberry scouting and picking and shuffling about in the refrigerator, I managed to make him noodles on his actual birthday. It’s a Chinese tradition to eat noodles on your birthday for long life, but instead of Chinese noodles, we went with linguine and clams. It’s legit. I checked with grandma years ago and she said, “Yeah, any noodles will do as long as you don’t break them.” But when the weekend rolled around, I prepared the REAL birthday surprise – a cold seafood platter – because Jeremy loves loves loves sea critters.

ready to celebrate!



The inspiration for this cold seafood platter came from all of those beautiful cheeseboards I see on Instagram. Gaby Dalkin is totally to blame for her cheesy gorgeousness. Thing is, I am not a cheese person… but I DO like seafood. If you replace all the cheeses with shellfish and crustaceans and the crackers with sauces, it’s almost the same thing. Okay, not really. Actually, I think it’s better. What’s lovely about platters is that you put whatever you darn well please on them. I also included an array of dipping sauces. Because the seafood is served cold, I omitted melted butter and opted for lighter, more summery dippers like chimichurri, garlic lemon aioli, cocktail sauce, mignonette sauce (for the oysters), and ponzu for the scallop crudo. Since the chimichurri and mignonette need a few hours for the flavors to meld, you should make those first.

parsley, red wine vinegar, black pepper, oregano, salt, red pepper flakes, garlic, olive oil

chopped garlic and parsley

mix it all together

let stand at room temperature for a few hours

mignonette: shallots, sugar, salt, white pepper, unseasoned rice vinegar, white vinegar

mix together

let sit for 4 hours in the refrigerator



**Jump for more butter**

of the rain, sun, and earth

Sunday, July 30th, 2017

Recipe: fig vodka infusion and fig blossom cocktail

Right as rain. That phrase used to puzzle me until I started living in the western U.S. Blessed rain is a relief, a cleanser, a gift. It’s like a reset button on all of that heat, the dust, the pollution, the wilted plants, the beleaguered creatures. I can’t tell you how many rainbows I’ve been sighting in the early mornings this past week. Some persist for several minutes and others appear, glow, and diminish in the span of 30 seconds – faster than I can grab my gear. In those instances, I don’t get upset like I used to. I do kick myself a little for missing a great opportunity, but I’ve learned to stop and simply take it in. Those magic moments when Jeremy is still asleep and Neva is sitting politely facing the dog food (her way of asking to eat dinner, which is breakfast or any meal) and there is no other conscious human around with whom to share the beauty… I’ve learned.


managed to capture this one



Jeremy and I planned on a big mileage trail run for a morning that had been forecasted to have overcast skies. By that morning, the forecast had changed to sun and heat and yuck. We scrapped our plans for a run, Neva jumped into the car, and we set off for a hike so everyone could get a little exercise. What was supposed to be a quick two-hour hike turned into a 6-hour forage. Some huckleberry patches were full on ripe, which was a surprise since the last two years totally sucked for huckleberries. I picked a few and offered one to Neva, who knows to actually chew a huckleberry (she doesn’t seem to chew much else, though). The instant she tasted it, she turned to the huckleberry bushes and began to eat them off the plants!

beautiful precious wonderful beloved huckleberries



Erin and I haven’t been able to coordinate a hike yet this summer, but we dutifully exchange trail reports to maximize our coverage and knowledge of The State of the Mushrooms (and huckleberries, but hucks are a separate matter for us). Our neck of the woods has been a late bloomer compared to other parts of the state who have been receiving their monsoonal blessings earlier and more than we have. As Jeremy and I hiked and Neva practically propelled herself up the trail by happily wagging her tail, I thought to myself that it would be nice to find one king – to find my first porcini of the season. Well, I found about eighty and harvested less than half. Talk about a flush. In a week, we went from seeing a few random mushrooms that nobody wants to the kings and queens of the forest fungi. I even found three beautiful patches of chanterelles which I’ve never found on the Front Range before this season (we typically forage them in the Central Mountains).

my beautiful little friend

another perfect bouchon

a party of five (one in the distant upper left and the fifth off camera)

chanterelles emerging

strawberries and cream (not edible, but a favorite for its crazy weirdness and awesome name)

kings and queens: porcini and chanterelles



That was just my share. I gave Erin and Jay the other half of the porcini because they love them and know how to process them, and because I simply didn’t have the time to deal with that many. Foraging has a way of sending summer into a frenzy, especially when you spend the entire weekend in Hunter Education, which we (Jeremy and I) did.

neva is intrigued



Foraging is one of those activities that demands your time up front. You don’t forage when you feel like it, you forage when the mushrooms flush or when the berries are ripe. And you don’t dump them in your refrigerator to rot over the next week or two, you deal with them within a day lest the worms you didn’t dispatch when you field dressed your mushrooms eat through the rest of your prize. It’s irresponsible and unethical to take these treasures from the land and waste them. I suppose I have a similar mindset when I am at Costco. Sometimes Costco carries something special and rare and if you go back the following week, it might be all gone. So you grab one or two packages of those fresh figs in mid summer when you didn’t expect to see them for another month and then you wrack your brain on the drive home thinking of all the fig recipes you had written on your to do list and then you remember the easiest one of all: fig vodka infusion.

fresh figs

figs and vodka (that’s all you need)



**Jump for more butter**

life outside

Sunday, July 9th, 2017

Recipe: coconut shrimp

For the first time in a long time, I have no photos of the July 4th fireworks this year. We can get a sense of how Neva will react to the fireworks because the nights leading up to the Fourth of July always have at least one or two houses in the community setting off their own (granted, there are a lot of out-of-towners who flock to Crested Butte over the July 4th holiday who love their fireworks). From what we could tell, Neva wasn’t a fan. So when the official celebration took place on the mountain and the several ancillary light shows erupted in the neighborhood, little Neva smashed herself in the corner of the kitchen, or squeezed herself between me and the cabinets while I prepared a late dinner, or trembled against Jeremy on the sofa. It made me very sad because all we could do to make her feel less scared was to hold her tight and offer words of reassurance that probably didn’t reassure her at all. When the evening was over, we let her sleep on the bed with us and promised her the remainder of the week would be filled with puppy fun time.

And Neva had a great week of hiking, swimming, fetching, jumping off the paddleboards and climbing back on dozens of times. She ran alongside Jeremy while he rode his bike, got extra walkies, and met up with lots of puppy friends (Poncho, Bella, Peaches, to name a few). All of this activity means she gets rest days, too. Rest days for Neva translate into trail running days or SUP days for us. We all get time outside, because time outside is good for us physically and mentally.


eyes on the prize (the orange tennis ball)

tuckered out and resting on the custom pillow i made just for neva to use on the windowsill

float time with a view of the ruby range

elephant head in bloom

mule ears greet the sun

a painterly sunset



We typically hunker down at home over the weekends to get work done and to avoid weekend crowds, but we got up early on Saturday (early enough that *I* woke Neva rather than the other way around!) to beat the heat and take Neva on her longest hike to date (14+ miles). The trail is appropriately named Oh Be Joyful because it follows Oh Be Joyful Creek up verdant Oh Be Joyful Valley. Hiking up, we took note of a dozen beautiful waterfalls and cascades spilling down the steep southern walls of the glacial valley and feeding the swift and cold creek. The wildflowers are not yet at peak, but many varieties were showing off their colors in bright, happy displays. The high country’s snowpack is melting in earnest under the summer sun, which meant countless stream crossings and muddy slogs on our hike. At the end of the valley, we turned south and ascended part of the headwall, traversing slushy snowfields to the cirque where Blue Lake is perched at 11,100 feet. The stoke was high for Neva until maybe mile 10 when we paused in the shade for an apple break. Instead of standing alert for every whiff of marmot, pika, or other critter, she laid down in the grass and ate her apple pieces, looking rather content with her doggy life.

shooting stars (magenta) and kings crown (red) mingle by a stream

jeremy and neva hike through fields of blooming osha

nearing the end of the valley

carpets of marsh marigolds and glacier lilies

from the headwall, looking across to democrat basin

at last, blue lake

pausing at the edge of the lake before neva’s swim-fetch session



For two months each year, my parents are in Boulder to escape the oppressive summers of Southern Virginia. The other ten months of the year I get occasional phone calls, emails, and lots of texts from them. I taught them how to text when they got their first iphones just a few years ago, and now both parents (in their mid-70s) make liberal use of emojis and send me photos of their meals! I kinda love it. Food is very much a thing with my family. When I find a new recipe that I really like, I make note to share it with my parents when I see them in the summer. Of course, that is getting harder to do ever since I introduced Dad to sous vide steak a few weeks ago. I’m not sure when I’ll be able to cook anything other than sous vide steak when we get together with my folks because he is OBSESSED. I even Amazon Primed Dad his own sous vide before I left for Crested Butte so he wouldn’t have to wait for me to come back to the Front Range (with my sous vide…).

If I’m lucky, I’ll squeeze a few new recipes into our gatherings – because that is what my parents and I do – we share new wonderful things with one another. I think that’s one way that we express our love in my family, along with yelling and texting questions that Google can answer and sharing carwash coupons. Coconut shrimp has been around for ages, but I hadn’t tried it until this past winter. Of course, after I made it and tasted it, I kicked myself for not having tried it earlier. It’s simple and straightforward, but it is also addictive and delicious. I’m fairly certain Mom and Dad will like it.


coconut, sugar, salt, egg whites, cayenne, cornstarch, raw shrimp

place the cornstarch, salt, and cayenne in a large ziploc bag

mix the sugar and coconut together

peel, de-vein, and butterfly the shrimp (leave tails on!)



**Jump for more butter**