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archive for nuts

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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back on track

Monday, December 10th, 2018

Recipe: mendiants

At the start of the summer I had grand plans to resume long trail runs, big hikes, and backpacking with Neva while exploring new wildernesses. Then we got a puppy. And while Yuki is an exceptional dog, puppy training can derail some (or all) of those big summertime adventures. The incessant smoke from western wildfires didn’t help either. As September neared, my oncologist said I could stop my tamoxifen (estrogen modulator), which I had been taking daily for a decade to prevent a recurrence of breast cancer. That was great news! Except I think it left me feeling tired. In the last month, I’ve finally begun to pull myself out of this funk that slowly crept in and took over my life. Part of that process involved long overdue household upgrades, massive cleaning, and also important life updates – like who will take Yuki and Neva if we both die? Folks, make sure you have a will and make sure it is up to date! Another part was putting my physical and mental health ahead of things like social engagements, social media, other people’s drama, or this blog. The older I get, the more I value my time and what I do with it.


quality time outside with a good friend and good pups



Before we get to the super fast, super easy, super awesome recipe, I need to share Maggie’s story in the hopes that someone out there will see her and realize that their life will be incomplete without this sweet girl. Maggie was surrendered this summer to RezDawg Rescue (the wonderful organization that rescued our beloved Yuki). She was terribly malnourished and neglected. Under the care of her foster family, she has returned to a healthy weight and her beautiful coat is growing back. Despite what she’s been through, she has a lot of love to give. Maggie is a smart and gentle 5-6 year old yellow lab mix who is looking for her forever family and is available for adoption now. Believe me, if we could handle a third dog, she would be my girl. If you or someone you know is interested in providing Maggie with the loving and caring home she deserves, you can apply to adopt at this link: https://www.petstablished.com/pets/public/6615. She is currently being fostered in Longmont, Colorado. You don’t have to live in Colorado to adopt Maggie!

maggie is on santa’s nice list



This year’s cookie list is shorter than last year’s list for the sake of my sanity. One of the simplest and most popular sweets I distributed last year were mendiants, which I learned to make 11 years ago in my advanced pastry skills program. Traditionally, these one- or two-bite French confections are disks of dark chocolate studded with dried fruits and nuts. They are crazy easy to make if you merely melt the chocolate without bothering to temper, but tempering the chocolate gives the final product a shiny finish, that distinctive snap, and a longer shelf life. I had a lot of fun thinking up flavor, texture, and visual combinations.

dark chocolate, candied kumquats, hazelnuts, dried apricots, chopped raw pistachios, toasted coconut flakes, pulverized freeze-dried raspberries, cocoa nibs, candied ginger, dried organic rose buds, flake sea salt, almonds, dried cranberries



If you opt to melt your chocolate, do it gently over a water bath or at half power in the microwave for 30 seconds at a time, stirring between each zap session. If you decide to temper the chocolate, you can see how I go about the seed method. You’re not limited to dark chocolate. Milk chocolate and white chocolate are a little finicky compared to dark chocolate due to the milk solids and cocoa butter content. They tend to burn more easily and temper at a lower temperature, so you’ll have to be more vigilant.

seeding the melted chocolate



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back in the saddle

Tuesday, November 13th, 2018

Recipe: chewy amaretti

I meant to take one week off from blogging as life began to (dog)pile up on me. I liked that week off from the blog so much it became three weeks. It’s a bit of an internal battle for me to give up as much time as I do to blog. Thanks for bearing with me as I reassess the balance of my time in the weeks and months ahead. If you seek the daily ins and outs of my life’s shenanigans, you can find those on my Instagram.

Life with Yuki continues to be mostly wonderful and a tiny bit frustrating. The frustrating aspects are just puppy stuff. And as puppies go, Yuki is pretty damn great. The snow has been falling this autumn, filling our high country with soft, fluffy white stuff. It’s been so good and cold that most of our ski resorts are opening ahead of schedule. The backcountry has been delightful, although there have been plenty of avalanches, so please be careful out there! Yuki went on her first ski tour over the weekend and had a blast. We think she will probably be a great ski dog if we can teach her to run forward instead of jumping on Neva’s head. I suspect much of that is the puppy in her.


yuki and neva on halloween

jeremy grabs some turns in the backcountry

moose passing through!

napping on new dog blankets i made (yuki chewed a hole in hers 2 days later)

yuki’s first ski tour – she’s a colorado mountain dog!



Today’s recipe for Italian amaretti cookies is RIDICULOUSLY simple, but took me forever to make. Why? Because I originally wanted to try a version that called for amaretto extract (not liqueur) and that amaretto extract got lost in the mail and has been touring the country for the past month. Thank you, USPS! Eventually, I settled on this recipe that doesn’t require amaretto extract (but I did add some amaretto liqueur). It packs all of the almond goodness into a tiny little cookie that is gluten-free, crunchy outside, and chewy inside. [EDIT: The bottle finally arrived 2 months after it shipped! Just in time for the holiday bakefest.]

almond extract, granulated sugar, powdered sugar (two bowls), salt, almond flour, marcona almonds, egg whites, amaretto liqueur



You don’t have to adorn your cookies with an almond (or a candied cherry) on top, but I love almonds and thought 1) it looks pretty and 2) it lets people with nut allergies know that this has nuts. Blanched almonds work well. I wanted to use marcona almonds for their extra sweetness, but all of the ones I found were flavored with truffle oil, rosemary, or sea salt. I bought some sea salt marcona almonds and rinsed them, then patted them dry with a towel. They worked great.

If you mix the dough by hand, it starts out sandy and unconsolidated, but keep at it and it will eventually turn into a sticky dough with the consistency of almond paste. If you use a stand mixer, the dough comes together in no time. I’ve tried both ways and I prefer using the mixer.


stir the almond flour, granulated sugar, 6 tablespoons of powdered sugar, and salt together

add the egg whites, almond extract, and amaretto liqueur

mix until cohesive

form a 6-inch disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate



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