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turning

Sunday, September 24th, 2017

Recipe: huckleberry kouign amann

The colorful tapestry of autumn has begun to spread over parts of Colorado’s mountain forests. It’s still early in some parts, peak in other parts, and past prime where the extra enthusiastic leaves turned too soon and were stripped away by winds. I’ve been shooting the fall colors each year since we moved to Colorado in 2005, and figured this fall I’d take a break. Instead of a dedicated fall shoot, I’d merely take some snaps if I happened upon a nice stand. And of course, there are always good aspen stands to be had.


neva waits patiently among the aspen leaves and kinnikinnick

jeremy and neva hiking through a hall of aspens

greens, yellows, and blue

sun and shadow race across a hillslope of aspens



Every autumn it feels right that the leaves should change and I should turn a year older. That’s what happens when your birthday falls on the autumnal equinox (more or less). I don’t fret about getting older, I simply like that I’m still here – something I very much appreciate. We drove to Crested Butte for the weekend to winterize our house and yard as well as spend some down time with Neva. And I’m fairly certain that we may have been the only people in the state enjoying huckleberry kouign amann for breakfast!

a little pastry, a little nip of tea



You know I would have to go there eventually, and so I did with the last bunch of fresh huckleberries from the summer. My favorite berry married to my favorite pastry yields The One Pastry to Rule Them All! You can use blueberries in place of the huckleberries, or a jammy fruity concoction – just make sure it isn’t wet or it could turn your pastry bottoms quite soggy. To start, you make regular kouign amann.

the pastry: sugar, butter, flour, water, salt, yeast

add the yeast and let sit for a few minutes

stir in the flour and salt

mix until shaggy

knead until smooth and cover with plastic to rise

the dough should double in size



**Jump for more butter**

gifts and giving

Monday, June 5th, 2017

Recipe: pheasant and morel vol au vent

It seems that everyone is checking out for the summer. People are on vacation and no one is reading blog posts. I get it. I get that. If I didn’t feel the compulsion to document my summer activities and my summer recipes (because OCD), I’d go dark over here until Octoberish. I’ll admit I often wonder if I stopped blogging throughout the summer, would I ever pick it up again in the fall? But hey, I probably use my recipe archives more than anyone, so I keep growing it for me and hence, for you. Besides, how else could you experience Neva’s progression from a crazy bad dog to a crazy good dog?


neva enjoying her first paddle of the season (and staying on the board)

a storm cell lets loose over fourteeners in the distance



After spending the past several weeks witnessing reports of spring morel flushes starting in the southern US and spreading north along the East Coast and into the Midwest, and the West Coast reports chiming in throughout, we in the Rocky Mountains have begun to see our flushes. Of course, our morels are going gangbusters after the harvest is nothing more than a memory for the rest of the country, but our time is NOW. I only started foraging black morels (the kind that grow in the Colorado high country) last spring when I found them near Crested Butte by accident. Searching similar environments back home on the Colorado Front Range yielded two very separate and very lonely specimens in 2016.

When you are just starting out on your own, it’s hard to know if you aren’t finding mushrooms because it’s a bad year or they don’t grow there or you’re looking in the wrong environment or because you suck at foraging that kind of mushroom. But now I am into my second season, so I can add the dimension of time to my morel data. Yes, they came up again in Crested Butte, but better than that – Jeremy and I found a motherlode on the Front Range based on what we know about morel environments and what we scoped out last fall. Countless hours and miles of reconnaissance, tracking snowpack and precipitation history, studying satellite imagery and topographic maps have paid off because SCIENCE WORKS!


a little party of morels (4 in the picture, but 12 total)

a pretty nice haul



My foraging buddy, Erin, has also been on the prowl for black morels on the Front Range since last spring with an even worse record than my two mushrooms. She found one. We email one another about mushroom hunting in the dead of winter, contemplating places to check when the snows finally recede. We research, document, study, archive, search for, and have lengthy discussions about mushrooms. Erin and I had a foraging date set for the morning after Jeremy and I found the motherlode, but we hadn’t decided on where to go because we didn’t know where the morels were at the time. I don’t give away my mushroom spots to anyone except for Jeremy (natch) and Erin. Erin is my partner in foraging crime. We are both afflicted with this extremely nerdy obsession/sickness and we happen to be damn good hawkeye foragers. It was time for a Righteous and Proper Mountain Girls’ Foray, so I took her to the magical kingdom of morels. Biggest haul ever! [We left our pups at home because the environment would have made Banjo unhappy and I’m pretty sure high-energy Neva would have crushed every single morel underfoot, twice over, before we could even get eyes on them.]

erin harvests a morel

twofer!

and that’s just her share – what a happy girl



When you spend seven hours crawling through the woods giving yourselves eyestrain headaches and experiencing highs and lows (finding and not finding morels) like a drug addict, it’s inevitable to talk about a whole host of topics, including your plans for the morels. My early haul morels are almost always slated for recipes that I want to test and shoot for the blog. Once I meet that quota, the rest will be sautéed in butter and stored in the freezer for winter or dried for various projects. Today’s recipe came about because my neighbors’ teenage son gave me two whole pheasant breasts from a hunting trip last fall as a thank you for a career brainstorming session with me and Jeremy. Game birds pair nicely with wild mushrooms, and now I had both!

morels, bacon, salt, pepper, brandy, egg, puff pastry, shallots, water, cream, butter, pheasant breasts



I decided the recipe would have to involve diced pheasant meat because all but one of the breasts had been torn through with pellets. Pheasant and morels served in puff pastry? Yes! How about some bacon? Yes! And some cream and a splash of brandy? Aw, hell yes! After several hours of walking cross country through the mountains in a Tai Chi-esque semi-lunge looking for morels, I don’t feel like making puff pastry from scratch when I get home. These morels don’t clean themselves and these recipes most certainly don’t make and photograph themselves. It’s okay to use store-bought puff pastry, as long as it is good puff pastry. Vols au vent are basically little baskets of buttery, flaky puff pastry deliciousness with space to hold even more deliciousness of your choice. It’s like an edible cup with all the calories you’ll need for the week.

cut out the bases and rings of the vols au vent

dock the bases

brush with egg wash

layer the rings and brush the tops with egg wash



**Jump for more butter**

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**