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porcini pup

Thursday, July 23rd, 2015

Recipe: butter-seared porcini-crusted salmon

Wow, it’s good to be home in Nederland. While I know Jeremy prefers to be in Crested Butte (and I love it there, too), there is something extra special about this time of year in the Front Range. The pine pollen has gone away, the high country is melted out and bursting with wildflowers, and the moose happily munch away in the meadows. Neva continues hiking longer distances and steeper climbs. Her little body grows stronger, more nimble, and bigger each day, yet she is still my affectionate little pup who comes running when I call her and curls herself against my legs like I am home base. Just the other day we walked past Kaweah’s favorite rock outcrop. I directed Neva to the top, wondering if I was being silly to hope that she might recognize how special this hunk of weathered granite was to Kaweah and in turn, how special Kaweah was to me. Dogs are not deep thinkers… at least the two shallow-thinking dogs I’ve had aren’t, but Neva did oblige me and it tickled my heart.


queen of the hill

she is finally fetching

moose sighting after our hike the other day

here’s a closeup of that good-looking boy



One of the reasons I’m so jazzed to be home is that the porcini are flushing. Okay, they are flushing in Crested Butte as well. I know this because we found some on our hikes last week. We even trained Neva to sniff them out without eating them and she did a great job. But for me, the part I love most is foraging porcini (and then huckleberries) with my fellow mountain pal, Erin. Erin and I share a special knowledge and love of these local mountains and this is an especially beautiful time of year. But we don’t just visit when mushrooms flush or hucks ripen – we walk or ski this land throughout the year. This is our home. We joke that we understand one another because we’re WAMPs (weird-ass mountain people – a term coined by my other WAMP friend, Andrew).

We’ve been out a few times with Neva and found some nice porcini specimens that she completely ignored. Turns out that once we climb into marmot territory, Neva turns her nose off to mushrooms and on to marmots. It’s just as well, though. There’s quite a thrill when you find your own king bolete (porcini). While gathering several perfect kings and laughing with Erin and Jeremy over Neva’s dismal performance, I demoted Neva from Porcini Pup back to Silly Little Pup and all was well with the world.


such a beauty

neva learns the scent of a porcini

the look she gave me when i asked why i found them before she did



I did not seriously expect Neva to become a porcini-sniffing pup, but she did show some promise at the start. Jeremy and I are merely having fun training her to do all sorts of things because she’s so willing to oblige. So far, we have not fed her ANY human food. That’s intentional, because we don’t want it to detract from her training for the first year. It’s important that she thinks her dog treats and kibble are the yummiest things in the world. I’ve witnessed a woman feed her dog scraps from the dinner table only to wonder aloud to the rest of us why the dog won’t eat its dog food – that made my head hurt. Neva’s kibble and some of her treats are salmon, which made me wonder how she would react when I prepared some fresh Coho salmon the other day. Her nose shot straight into the air when I unwrapped the fillets, but then she resumed happily defuzzing a tennis ball. Good girl.

Salmon is in season and so are porcini, but even if you can’t get your hands on fresh porcini, you can make this delightful recipe because it uses dried porcini powder. You can get porcini powder from specialty spice shops (check out Savory Spice Shop) or dried porcini from Whole Foods or other gourmet stores if you don’t dry your own. The recipe is short on time and big on flavor – isn’t that how summer meals should be?


salmon, salt, pepper, dried porcini, chardonnay, butter

put the dried porcini slices in a spice grinder and blitz

porcini powder



**Jump for more butter**

a year on

Friday, July 10th, 2015

Recipe: chinese steamed lotus leaf buns

It’s hard to believe that a year ago today, we said a tearful good-bye to our little Kaweah pup. Even with Neva dominating most of our summer, there isn’t a day that passes without a thought or mention of our first girl. Most of all, we imagine how sweet Kaweah would have been with Neva for the first few hours and then how she would have run away from the puppy for the rest of the time. People have said it again and again. They were right. You never forget your pets, even when they’ve passed on.


kaweah, you’ll always be my girl



I’m not even going to pretend to remember everything that has happened since my last post. I’ve given up keeping track. Neva is getting bigger and leggier. She’s learning and improving each day. Just this morning, she met four little children on the trail and was incredibly sweet and polite with each of them as they took turns petting and kissing her head. In the last week, she has gotten more socialization with little dogs, big dogs (lots of big dogs), people, kids, trail runners, hikers, and mountain bikers. She even met and played nicely with another puppy. Don’t get me wrong, she is still a spazzy little lab puppy full of energy. I think I say, “LEAVE IT!” over a hundred times a day. But I sure do love her.

11 week old max meets 13 week old neva

neva sitting in the lupines

bounding through a field of flowers on a new hike

on a visit with my in-laws and their pack of dogs

it’s hard work being a puppy



We were in Crested Butte for the Fourth of July and figured it would be a good opportunity to expose Neva to fireworks. They never bothered Kaweah, so we hoped Neva would be the same since she was fine with thunderstorms. As we left the house with Neva to go meet our friends to watch the official Crested Butte fireworks, a house nearby set off a loud firework that scared the bejeezus out of her. She was shaking and wanted to hide in a small space (under the bench, in Jeremy’s arms), but remained quiet and mostly calm. She settled down when it was over, and we’ve been working with her to overcome her fear. There were more “unofficial” fireworks set off on random evenings when she was outside and she’s getting better about them when we feed her treats and act like nothing is wrong.

crested butte rainbow and wildflowers

summer aspen canopy

fireworks over crested butte mountain

even a red, white, and blue firework!



My parents are in Boulder for the summer, taking short trips around the west and using Colorado as their home base. Dad mentioned that he had recently made some pork belly he wanted me to try. Since we’re having dinner with them at their place (we’re bringing Neva, too), I figured I would bring some homemade lotus leaf buns that I have in my freezer. Back when I visited my parents in Virginia, I asked my mom if she had a recipe for these steamed buns. I like eating them with Peking duck, but I don’t like the frozen ones in the Asian grocery stores. She said no and then she added in Chinese, “It’s very difficult to make.” When I got home, I did some research and found David Chang’s recipe in his Momofuku cookbook. It’s not difficult, it’s just time-consuming. So I made a batch before we got the puppy to gauge if these buns are worth the trouble. They are worth it.

flour, sugar, salt, powdered milk, yeast, shortening, baking soda, baking powder, water

add the water to the yeast

add the remaining ingredients

knead with dough hook on low speed until the dough forms a ball

place dough in a greased bowl and let rise



**Jump for more butter**

let the summer of puppy commence

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015

Recipe: tuna melt

Oh man. Summer is REAL, people. The furnace blast arrived with a vengeance last week and like the true heat wimps that we are – we retreated to higher elevations and sunrise/sunset activities. Neva is now almost 20 pounds and has been with us for a month. Recalling the first 24 hours with her (and wondering what we had gotten ourselves into), she has come a long way in her training and development – and so have we! Part of her progress is simply growing up and gaining more coordination, strength, and speed. She no longer has to sniff and put every new plant, rock, stick, pine cone, or speck of dirt in her mouth. Neva is learning silly tricks now on top of the important commands. She let’s us know when she needs to go out to potty, she’s really good in her crate, and she is sleeping through the night (HALLELUJAH!). That last one was a serious game changer for the humans.


tossing her toy in the air and (sort of) catching it

moar swimming in icy cold lakes!!

neva gets at least one hike a day

she’s so mellow she sometimes falls asleep like this

running down the stairs with a toy



Neva is becoming a free range puppy, by which I mean, she roams parts of the house while we’re around and we don’t have to chase after her for fear of accidents or drive-by chewings on inappropriate things (like furniture, power cords, the compost bucket). She overcame her fear of the stairs in a matter of days – up was easy, down took a little coaxing. I can trim and file her nails while she sleeps (amazing!). We have her hiking up to 3 miles now and just this morning she did the rockiest, steepest hike yet – all on leash and behaving like a good dog should. Best of all, she likes to lie nearby while we are working and just nap or happily chew her toys. We still have plenty of work to do, but the stage of feeling hopeless was quite short-lived for us. I think Neva is becoming a Good Dog.

thimbleberry blossoms

the rare neva bloom amidst a potpourri of wildflowers

that’s my pack

shooting stars in a sea of summer green



Neva’s hiking progress has been of particular interest to me because I’d like to bring her with us when Erin, Banjo, and I hike and forage huckleberries. All signs point to Neva becoming a strong hiker and I think with some good long hikes together, she’ll learn to be a good companion to Banjo instead of a total pill (she seems to jump on his head less these days – that’s improvement).

As you can imagine, with all of the effort we’re putting into puppy training, I haven’t cooked anything elaborate in a while. In fact, I lost 8 pounds in the first 2 weeks of getting Neva because I was too tired to eat, let alone cook. We’ve been keeping things pretty simple out of necessity – mostly salads and sandwiches with the occasional ghetto pizza bread. One of those sandwiches is a tuna melt, which Jeremy loves and I like to pair with a bowl of tomato soup. I think of the tuna melt as an upgraded version of a tuna fish sandwich. If you really want to get 1970s throwback with it, stuff some jalapeƱo potato chips into the sandwich before eating (mmmm – so good!).


tuna fish, bread, lemon, mayonnaise, butter, pickles, salt, cheese, celery (not pictured: black pepper)

chop the pickles and celery

ready to roll



**Jump for more butter**