chinese shrimp and sizzling rice neva: backcountry buddies dog training strawberries and cream malasadas morel asparagus prosciutto lemon pasta


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archive for pastries

not soon enough

Sunday, April 16th, 2017

Recipe: strawberries and cream malasadas

Okay, the confusion is over. Spring has sprung and is springing all over the place. I am okay with this. In fact, I’ve decided this year that instead of dreading summer and feeling like I’m walking under a broiler all day, I’m going to attempt to acclimate myself to the heat a little earlier. I’ll see if it makes summer more tolerable (probably not). I mean, I grew up in southern Virginia for 18 years and lived in Southern California for another 10. You’d think I’d be used to heat by now. One of my strategies includes baking loads of Neva’s treats while it is still cool – enough to get us through the summer so I don’t have to turn the oven on! Another plan is to ramp up my trail running now, while the temperatures are mild, so that I am not ramping up and adjusting to the hot weather at the same time. Lofty goals, I know. Should I fail, at least summer is a forgiving season.


neva likes all of the treats i’m cranking out

my mint is sprouting after an apocalyptic haircut

jeremy and i enjoying a backcountry ski (sans neva)

pasque flowers in full force on my trail run

the ball bounces higher (and so does neva) when the field is clear of snow



I’ve been following my friend, Jennie, as she documents her Year of Pie on Instagram. The other day, she made a strawberry pie because she couldn’t wait any longer for the berries to come into season. I hear ya, sistah. Strawberries are the ones that bust open the berry floodgates of summer because they arrive in spring, except they never seem to arrive soon enough. I can’t tell you how many weeks I’ve been scrutinizing the strawberries in the grocery store, squint-frowning at the ones that are more white than red. But this week, they are all beginning to take on that blushing hue. I’m probably jumping the gun by a couple of weeks, but the time has come for strawberries and cream malasadas.

water, vanilla extract, freeze-dried strawberries, flour, sugar, eggs, butter, salt, yeast, evaporated milk



The idea I had was to make plain malasadas (those fried Portuguese doughnuts you find in Hawai’i that are the very definition of ono kind grindz) and fill them with strawberries and whipped cream, but then I found some freeze-dried strawberries in my pantry and decided to make the malasada itself strawberry-flavored. Freeze-dried strawberries turn to powder when you crush them. Dried strawberries with the texture of raisins will not turn to powder, they’ll just get squashed – so don’t use those. If you have dried strawberry chips that snap when you break them, those might work if you can pulverize them to a dry powder. I got my freeze-dried strawberries from Trader Joe’s, but you can also find them in health food stores and I may have seen them in Whole Foods. I subbed a half cup of flour with a half cup of the strawberry powder. It’s pretty potent stuff.

crush the freeze-dried strawberries into powder

it should be a pretty fine powder

mix it into the flour



**Jump for more butter**

double your pleasure

Sunday, April 2nd, 2017

Recipe: double chocolate tarts

My in-laws were supposed to come out for a visit with us in Crested Butte last week, but had to cancel their trip at the last minute. When we host guests at our house, we pretty much clear everything off our schedule to entertain said guests. So we suddenly found ourselves with two days wide open and a little fresh powder on the mountain to enjoy.


and he did enjoy it

the clouds made way for a view of the town of crested butte below



Neva got to go for a couple of skate skis, an uphill ski on the mountain, and a run through our neighborhood up to the lake and back. All of this in addition to her daily training. She does rather well on paved paths and roads, but she is definitely more distracted on trails. Right now, we are toggling between snow and sunshine in the mountains, the trails in a constant state of melting out. I imagine that we’ll get to hit the real trail training with Neva soon, but until then, she’s doing alright. Meanwhile, the flowering trees are bursting with color down in Boulder and the rest of the flats. I must admit that the sight of that chartreuse spring green makes me a little giddy. I even opted for a trail run over a skate ski today, and found my first sign of local mountain spring.

the morning sun gets to work melting out yesterday’s snow

crabapple blossoms in boulder

an emerging pasque flower, the first to bloom in our mountains



In addition to the two open days we got as a result of the cancelled visit, we wound up with six extra chocolate tarts, which I had planned to serve as dessert. But chocolate tarts are easy enough to give away to neighbors. Go figure! This was the sixth batch of tarts I had made in the month of March. It all started when Eileen texted me as I was grabbing lunch in Steamboat Springs. She wanted to know if we’d be in Crested Butte the following weekend for a birthday dinner party for our friend, Wendy. It just so happened we WOULD be in town that weekend and was there something I could bring? Eileen suggested dessert, so I contacted Wendy’s daughters to get the scoop on her favorite flavors/desserts. Two things stood out: dark chocolate and raspberries. How about a dark chocolate tart with raspberries? Easy peasy, or so I thought.

cream, cocoa powder, flour, chocolate, powdered sugar, butter, more butter, grand marnier



I was fairly certain this recipe would work out, but I always make a point of testing a recipe before the real deal, just in case. Good thing I did. The crust, which seemed to behave nicely for just about everyone else in the world (it’s a recipe from Sherry Yard’s The Secrets of Baking), was a complete jerk. I suspect it has something to do with my high elevation, but it was quite frustrating to see it stick to the parchment during the blind baking. Luckily, I am friends with a lot of experienced and professional bakers – so I asked for advice on Facebook and got a slew of suggestions.

mix the flour and cocoa powder

beat the powdered sugar into the butter

add the flour and cocoa mixture

beat until just combined

wrap and chill



**Jump for more butter**

the truth about neva

Sunday, February 12th, 2017

Recipe: chocolate cream puffs


*******

Thank you for the incredibly sweet comments and emails regarding the last post. It was not my intention to rally support, merely to point certain individuals to the door. You guys are the best. xo

*******

There’s something I need to tell you about Neva…


yes, that neva



I didn’t love Neva when we brought her home. I mean, of course I loved her – but I didn’t LOVE her, not like I loved my Kaweah girl. I loved Neva out of obligation and because she was my responsibility. This puppy was all kinds of feral. Neva had so many accidents in the house that we ended up taking her out to potty every half hour because she had a bladder with the capacity of an eye dropper. She’d pee in the yard and then come back inside and happily pee on her doggy bed two minutes later – oblivious to the difference. Sure, she was a puppy, and puppies don’t know ANYTHING, but Neva was like a special needs puppy because it took her longer to learn things compared to most pups. That and when we thought she HAD learned something, she would regress and get commands confused.

cute as a button, but a complete terror



Neva was highly excitable and overreacted to everything (people, dogs, bikes, cars, birds, leaves, rocks…), baying loudly like a donkey, growling and barking as she scrabbled and clawed her way against the leash toward whatever it was. When we were outside, all she wanted to do was run off and follow scents. No amount of food (she’s a lab, for crying out loud!) would bring her back. There were times when I debated for a split second whether to let her run off forever or to try and catch her. During her puppyhood, we met LOTS of other puppies who were calm, sweet, loyal, and focused on people. Neva was the opposite – her progress appeared to be inversely proportional to the amount of time we invested in her training.

she had to bite *everything*



Little pup spent plenty of time socializing and playing with other dogs, but she didn’t understand that most adult dogs wanted nothing to do with a sharp-toothed hyper baby dog. Neva was never aggressive, but she was persistent with her attentions. Dogs are pretty clear about their feelings with one another. Unfortunately, our girl did not clue in on the snarling or raised hackles and sometimes (lots of times) got the smackdown from older dogs.

mr. wyatt lays down the law, but neva just wants to love him



Our nickname for Neva was Miss FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). She never had separation anxiety issues (thank goodness), but she didn’t like the thought of something good going on without her. Neva was not especially affectionate with us. On the rare occasion that she got hurt or scared, she would stand behind one of us or try to climb into our laps for comforting. But more often than not, she looked at us as housemates with opposable thumbs rather than her pack.

passed out in the car after a loooong hike



We spent a lot of time not having fun so that Neva could have fun. She loved the outdoors as much as we did, yet spending time with her outside made us miserable. Instead of hiking, we were constantly wrangling the dog. Instead of hanging out on the stand up paddle board, she jumped off and swam to shore where one of us had to run interference to keep her from bolting off to who knows where. Instead of backcountry skiing, Jeremy skinned uphill without poles (to manage Neva’s leash) and wedged downhill rather than getting turns so Neva wouldn’t get cut by a ski. Whenever we planned to do something the question always arose, “Do you want to bring Neva or leave her at home?”, but the real meaning was, “Do you want to bring Neva or would you rather have fun?” More often than not, we brought her along because we just kept hoping that someday she’d become a good dog.

aaaand, she’s off again



Neva was not much of a cuddler, which broke my heart because Kaweah was SUCH a cuddle bug. When we came home, she didn’t get out of her bed to greet us or even show any excitement that we were back. It felt like Neva didn’t enjoy being with us except when she wanted something to eat. If we sat next to her to pet her, she would get up and lie down four feet away. She acted like she wanted to run away from us every chance she got. After the first eight months, I began to accept that maybe I didn’t have to love Neva the way I loved Kaweah. Yet I also wondered if I loved Neva at all. We resigned ourselves to giving Neva a happy life, even if she didn’t seem thrilled to be with us.

trying to shake off and cross a stream at the same time



The change was gradual, to the point of being imperceptible. Some time in the last six months, we noticed that Neva started to cuddle. She also allowed us to rub her belly or spoon with her. When she is happy or anxious, she likes to rub her side against vertical fabric like couches, hanging towels, beds, and lately our legs (when wearing pants). For the past several months, each night she started out in her bed when I turned out the lights, but by morning Neva would be snuggled between us on our bed, softly snoring away. While Neva is far from a Good Dog, she raises our blood pressure a little less each time we take her for a walk, a hike, a ski.

the goofiest goofball that ever goofed around



I never expected Neva to be Kaweah. And I should point out that I am under no illusion that Kaweah was perfect – far from it! Neva was just an order of magnitude more work than Kaweah. This might be because Neva is notably less intelligent than Kaweah. Kaweah was not the sharpest tack in the box, however Neva is a veritable ball bearing. But gosh if that little pea-brain hasn’t grown on me. I think she matured quite a bit in her second year, for which we are all grateful. I have also observed that Neva looks to Jeremy as her person, which makes me very happy, because I love him and I love that she loves him. I feel as if we are finally reaching that stage I was hoping to achieve within the first month of her arrival – a pack. I didn’t start out loving Neva the way I wanted to, but I realize that I do truly love that crazy little girl. And I find myself telling her, “I love you, baby puppy,” more and more every day, from the heart.

my heart: these two



Alright now, Valentine’s Day is coming up and I think most of you know that I don’t really care for it in the traditional sense. For me, Valentine’s Day is a reminder to be kind and loving to everyone everyday. It is also the perfect excuse to make things that people love to eat. I have made these chocolate cream puffs several times in the past year for various gatherings. I thought of them as my Frankenstein puffs because the recipe is cobbled together from parts of other recipes. I finally tired of having to reference multiple recipes, so I am posting this in one place as a favor to my future self (as I’ve said before, I blog for me, but I share with you). Ultimately, it’s all about the cream puffs. I recommend making the pastry cream first.

pastry cream: chocolate, sugar, cornstarch, butter, eggs (yolks), milk

heat the milk

whisk the egg yolks, cornstarch, and sugar together

temper the egg mixture with hot milk



**Jump for more butter**