chinese red-cooked pork crested butte: montanya distillers tasting room coconut sorbet pickled beets


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oh joy!

Sunday, December 11th, 2016

Recipe: homemade almond joy candy

The first full week of December has more than made up for the dismal snowfall of November. Not only have we received decent snowfall, but snow is slated to continue for another week! This is good news for snow lovers as well as our snowpack, which provides our water all year and is responsible for the beautiful streams and wildflowers in summer.


neva’s nose was wiggling all over as she sniffed the snow in the air

it was quite chilly for a few days – neva got bundled into a snuggy blanket

the view from indian peaks chair at our local hill



Our backcountry has a nice layer of snow, but our ski poles hit rocks and dirt at the bottom because we’ve had no base. Hopefully this series of storms will build a good base for the rest of the season. I haven’t been willing to get my skis waxed and tuned until I stopped hitting rocks! Better late than never.

our skin tracks

i spy a baby moose peeking from behind the tree

crazy little neva sports her orange booties and orange ball

happy girl with a stylish snowbeard



I am in full candy making and cookie baking mode over here. It’s a good thing the holidays coincide with the shortest days or I’d be ditching all of my gift-making duties in favor of skiing. As it is, our evenings have been filled with lots of chocolate, sugar, butter, nuts, flour, candied ginger, lemon zest, more chocolate, and piles of dirty dishes. The main recipients of my annual kitchen frenzy are Jeremy’s administrative staff. I’ve been giving them an assortment of homemade treats for almost a decade. Over the years I’ve received feedback on certain cookies such that they have become regulars in the gift bags. But I do try to mix things up a little and introduce a new cookie or confection each year. This year’s newest addition is a homemade Almond Joy, which should really be called a Coconut Joy because the almond is just a small part of it. Anyway, these are easy and delicious and I had to make a second batch because Jeremy looked so sad when I said I had just enough to distribute to recipients.

vanilla extract, chocolate, flaked coconut, powdered sugar, almonds, salt, sweetened condensed milk



There is no cooking involved in these treats except for the toasting of almonds and melting of chocolate. Stir stuff together, mold it into a desired shape, pop a nut on top and dip it in chocolate. That’s how simple it is. Joy‘s version called for unsweetened flaked coconut, but I grabbed sweetened flaked coconut instead. You know what? It worked great. I mean, it’s candy – it’s going to be sweet and you will just have to climb an extra thousand feet of elevation in your skis to burn it off. No big deal.

adding vanilla to the sweetened condensed milk, sugar, and salt

stir in the coconut



**Jump for more butter**

back in the saddle

Sunday, December 4th, 2016

Recipe: chanterelle-stuffed pork tenderloin

Just when I thought I was ready to kick that cold in the hoohoo, I came down with pink eye. Or I *thought* I had pink eye. Dr. Eye Doctor told me that I did not in fact have pink eye, but dry eyes. Apparently the combination of our dry mountain air, my excessively long days wearing contacts, and lots of computer time has caused great irritation and distress to the insides of my eyelids. I was instructed to take a break from wearing contacts to give my eyes a rest lest I not be able to wear contacts in the future. Trying not to sound like a brat after my scolding, I inquired how long “a break” was. He gave me the side-eye and said, “Until your eyes feel better.” Before I could ask another stupid question he continued, “That might be a day or it might be a week. You will have to gauge, but don’t push it – be kind to your eyes.” I gave it a day and another day and a third day and I’ve noticed considerable improvement.

As dull as it was to exercise on the indoor bike trainer (the only place I could work out and not hurt myself when my glasses steamed up), it was a much needed opportunity to get a lot of computer work done and organize my freezers – woohoo! And I let my body truly recover from the cold and not relapse by heading out into frigid winds and blowing snow. Of course, now that I’m healthy again, I’m going to do exactly that – go straight into the frigid winds and blowing snow. Hey, it’s ski season on the Front Range! It is what it is. Besides, there’s nothing like being sick to make you appreciate being healthy.

This week’s recipe is offered as a main dish suggestion for holiday dinner parties or the actual holidays. If there is any time to roast a hunk of meat it would be on the darkest nights as we enter winter. Ah, but this isn’t just any hunk of meat – it is stuffed with earthy, delightful mushrooms. I’m using foraged chanterelles here, but you can use whatever fresh mushrooms are available to you in your neck of the woods: shiitakes, crimini, oysters – something with flavor and character.


wine, olive oil, black pepper, beef broth, chanterelles, sage, thyme, butter, garlic, salt, pork tenderloins

thick sliced mushrooms



Could you make this with beef tenderloin (or flank steak) instead? Yes. Yes you could. The only reason I went with pork was because these were sitting in the chest freezer back in October when I shot the recipe. The stuffing is simply roasted mushrooms with some aromatics and seasonings. Use the recipe as a guideline. If you have other herbs and seasonings that you prefer, then go for it. At this point, I just want you to be happy.

prepped mushroom stuffing

pouring olive oil over the mushrooms and herbs

toss it all together

place in a baking dish and roast

roasted, tender, and fragrant



**Jump for more butter**

keep giving

Sunday, November 27th, 2016

Recipe: bourbon vanilla bean paste

I’m slurping on a spicy, hot bowl of posole right now while snow goes hurtling past our house on some pretty enthusiastic winds. It is my hope that the soup will do battle with this cold that has settled into my throat and chest. I guess my logic is to burn the heck out of the cold before it progresses. Our Thanksgiving week was free of turkey and pumpkin, but full of long walks and fetch sessions with Neva. Our Crested Butte neighborhood was quiet as many people were traveling for the holiday, which further allowed us to pursue our plans for introversion. Of course, I had to run out to meet my friends’ new puppies – a brother and sister – 15 week old Australian shepherds.


neva waits to indulge in her thanksgiving plate of beef and bacon

meet little abbey exploring the snow (sorry, i didn’t get a photo of blue boy – but he’s cute!)



Snow did arrive mid-week and we were able to get out and reacquaint ourselves with our various skis. That gliding motion is akin to flying – it’s addictive. But timing is everything and sometimes you have to hit the trail or the mountain before the snow gets skied up and/or melted away. We managed to skin uphill on the mountain, skate on the nordic trails, and get a nice ski tour at Lily Lake. A decent jumpstart to our ski season.

after skinning up, jeremy skied out ahead of the first chair on opening day

getting our skate legs (and arms and everything) back into the groove

ski touring the beautiful backcountry

no tinsel here – our icicles are the real deal



Now that Thanksgiving has passed, everything pumpkin is now becoming everything peppermint. Christmas trees are going up and gift shopping has kicked into high gear. If you are looking for a simple, but extra awesome homemade gift for a baker in your life, might I suggest some bourbon vanilla bean paste? I first laid eyes on a bottle of this luxurious wonderfulness at the King Arthur Flour store in Vermont over three years ago while on a press junket but opted to leave it on the shelf when I wondered if the TSA would confiscate it. Then my mother-in-law gave me a bottle during a visit last New Year. She loves the stuff and wanted to spread the gospel. I used it for special recipes and found the vanilla bean paste to be easier than a vanilla bean and a bigger flavor boost than vanilla extract. When I (sadly) ran out last month, I went online looking for more and even contemplated purchasing a gallon of it to get a better price per unit volume.

this stuff… the stuff of vanilla dreams

my last spoonful



But you know me… the wheels turned another 360 degrees and I wondered how hard could it possibly be to make your own? Turns out, it’s not hard at all. This magical potion consists of three ingredients: vanilla beans, sugar (in some form), and booze (optional, but good). That’s it. And there isn’t any waiting around or crazy kitchen ninja stuff going on with the recipe. It’s quite straightforward, which is why it makes such a great gift for the bakers in your life, and for yourself as well!

bourbon, agave nectar, vanilla beans



**Jump for more butter**