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archive for nuts

the chewy parts of life

Monday, January 13th, 2020

Recipe: flourless chocolate walnut cookies

We have emerged on the other side of the holidays more or less unscathed. People are crazy, and there is nothing like Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day to really drive that observation home. Jeremy and I filled the past few weeks with many flavors of skiing, catching up on work, exercising the pups, long and thoughtful discussions, doing our best to eat like sensible adults, and avoiding other people. It was great.


christmas morning, an uphill ski on the mountain with our crazy pups

calendar girl, yuki (rezdawg rescue’s 2020 calendar)

national bacon day and a -10°f skate ski with my denver erin

new year’s day uphill ski

frost flowers on a cold skate ski in crested butte

skiing down the mountain with this crazy pack



During the holiday downtime, we came to the realization that Yuki is now an adult (despite behaving like a puppy) and that travel might just become a reality for us again. And I decided it’s time to put Twitter and Facebook into full neglect mode. The only reason I keep a Facebook account is to access the driving conditions page for our local canyon – otherwise it is a hugely unproductive time suck. So for now, if you want updates on new posts, you can follow me on Instagram at @jenyuphoto (personal) or @userealbutter (just the blog), subscribe to this blog (there is a link at the top of this page), or periodically check here.

Also? I sorta got my cooking mojo back! There were recipes that piqued my interest enough to want to make and even photograph to share here. I’ve always got one eye open for decent gluten-free recipes. I eat the hell out of gluten, but there are a handful of people I really like who cannot. If I like you, I will bake for you. If I really like you, I will cook for you. Don’t let the gluten-freeness of these flourless chocolate walnut cookies deter you if you dig on gluten. These gems are not only delicious and perfectly textured, they are easy to make (i.e. hard to fuck up). It’s like the ghetto version of a French macaron.


walnuts, powdered sugar, vanilla, salt, cocoa powder, egg whites



Apparently, there is great flexibility to the recipe according to the Food52 post. You can omit the nuts, change the flavorings, add chocolate chips. I haven’t tried any ingredient variations yet. First, you want to toast the walnuts which involves a quick 9-10 minutes in a moderate (350°F) oven. Chop them up and let them cool. If you mix the cookie dough with a stand mixer, the nuts will get bashed up by the paddle during mixing. If you mix the dough by hand – which I haven’t done – you may want to chop the walnuts a little finer as they won’t receive as much of a beating. I do recommend weighing your ingredients rather than measuring by volume because: 1) it’s more accurate and 2) fewer dishes to wash.

coarsely chop the toasted walnuts

combine the dry ingredients in a bowl



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a cake for all seasons

Thursday, March 28th, 2019

Recipe: almond cake with blood oranges (gluten-free)

Someone turned the dial to Spring this week. In winter, we used to wait for the temperatures to warm up before we could hit the Nordic trails. Now, we have to go as early as possible before the temperatures get too warm and the snow turns to slush. It smells like spring outside in the mountains – like melted snow and warmth and a barely perceptible hint of damp wood. Coyote tracks in the snow don’t get blown away or covered up so much as amplified by the sun’s rays. And Yuki gets her dog stink on after a few minutes on the deck. It’s lovely. All of it.


skate skiing with two happy pups

crested butte mountain towers above the fog



Wednesday was Neva’s fourth birthday and we had a little party for her with Yuki in attendance. We are settling into a nice routine with the pups and I think we have Neva to thank for making Free Range Yuki a reality. When we used to leave the house, Yuki would be nervous and would not play with her toys. She remained at Neva’s side until we returned. But Neva is very chill and good when we are not home. She mostly takes naps, sometimes looks out the window, and occasionally barks her head off at the UPS or FedEx trucks. She let Yuki know that everything was okay. Now, Yuki naps, checks the perimeter (she is many breeds of guard dogs), looks out the window, plays a little with Neva, and even grabs a toy for a few minutes.

happy birthday, neva!

beef, cheese, apples, carrots, and orange



As if on cue, our local mama moose and her yearling (you can see his antler nubs coming in) came by one morning to nibble away at the aspens and currant bushes like she does with each calf every spring. They hung out for a couple of hours in our and our neighbors’ yards. Everyone kept their dogs inside for as long as possible to avoid disturbing the pair until they wandered off to another part of the neighborhood. I managed a few photos from the safety of our deck. Such magnificent creatures.

touching noses

nuzzling with mama

so sweet and affectionate



Today’s recipe is good for spring, summer, fall, winter, because you top it with any seasonal fruit you like. I was looking for a reliable gluten-free cake since most of my gluten-free dessert repertoire consists of non-cake items. The problem with gluten-free baking is that I’m also dealing with high altitude baking. I spent two months working through some version and variation of this cake – sending moderate successes to my neighbors and trashing a couple of outright disasters. But I figured out the tweaks and now have a winner.

eggs, almond flour, sugar, coconut flour, more sugar, baking powder, salt, almond extract, vanilla extract



This cake is baked in an 8-inch springform pan, so smaller than your standard 9-inch cake. The original recipe calls for buttering the pan (or use melted coconut oil), but I line the bottom with parchment paper first and then butter the pan. I’ve become a huge fan of parchment paper for ease of release because I’ve had too many disappointing releases without parchment. I also suspect you could bake this in a standard round baking pan, but I haven’t actually tried it yet.

butter the pan

sprinkle some sugar over the base



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nuts for hazelnuts!

Thursday, February 7th, 2019

Recipe: hazelnut pralines and hazelnut praline paste

I love the feeling of getting over the hump! My cold last month put me behind schedule on a few things that made the past couple of weeks a crush of work and deadlines that pushed up against Chinese New Year preparations. I managed to get it all done while sacrificing some sleep and exercise so we could leave for Crested Butte on the first day of the Chinese New Year. At least I did the “lucky” things for the Year of the Pig, which happens to be my year. Happy Chinese New Year, everyone! Now I can resume a normal pace of productivity and enjoy some time with my pack in the snow.


our spoiled pups enjoying their window benches in nederland

i kept the lunar new year celebration simple

taking advantage of a quiet powder day in crested butte

fluffy little stashes everywhere

yuki and neva as wind indicators



The recipe I’m sharing today came about through necessity. My first introduction to hazelnut praline paste occurred in my pastry skills program over a decade ago. It’s the kind of product you’ll find in the kitchens of professional bakers, candy makers, pastry chefs, pastry schools, and serious baking enthusiasts. Think of it as a rustic version of Nutella without any of the junk ingredients. Unable to find it in any local stores, my online search revealed hazelnut praline paste to be rather pricey unless I was willing to buy 11 pounds of it (I am not). I wondered aloud how hard could it possibly be to make my own? Apparently, not hard at all.

lemon juice, sugar, raw hazelnuts, water



Most people would probably substitute Nutella or skip the praline paste altogether, but I have a deep love of the stuff. I’d spoon it straight into my mouth if my adult brain didn’t override my 1970s child instincts. Hazelnut praline paste has a rich, smooth texture and a buttery, toasted nutty, burnt sugar flavor. To make it requires caramelizing sugar, coating the hazelnuts in the hot caramelized sugar, cooling the pralines, and then blitzing it to a paste in a food processor. While the process steps are simple, the technique requires some competency with caramelizing sugar. I even managed to brick a batch of hot sugar before remembering that a touch of acid (in this case, lemon juice) can help prevent seed formation during caramelization, especially at high altitude. One thing to note is that I usually use organic cane sugar, which is light brown, but I used white sugar in the photographs because I wanted to show it turning amber in color.

combine sugar, lemon juice, and water in a small saucepan

let it boil undisturbed until it turns deep amber



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