huckleberry syrup grilled brie porcini and caramelized onion sandwich thai sweet chili sauce arnold palmer slushie


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archive for savory

before the freeze

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

Recipe: grilled brie porcini and caramelized onion sandwich

There is the possibility of a freeze and light snow down on the flats Thursday night. Everyone down there is freaking out at the potential for snow. That’s what they do. They freak out. I’m kind of excited about the snow. You knew that. But I also realize that up high in the mountains where my the huckleberries grow, it’s not only going to snow, but it’s going to be a hard freeze. Those little guys are tough, but everyone has their kryptonite. Ever since I got home this week, I’ve been squeezing hikes in to look for more huckleberries. The season wanes, but the high country still calls regardless of heavy rains, angry winds, and cold numb fingers that pluck at precious purple berries.


sun in the east and rain overhead

hiking into the wall of clouds

visiting with my high country neighbors (marmots)



Cool weather and loads of late summer rains have kept the mountain mushrooms chugging along well past their usual bedtime. I don’t go out of my way to find porcini these days because huckleberries are my priority. As my friend, Jay, said to Erin (regarding our obsession with huckleberries), “You two have a sickness.” But porcini and hucks tend to like some of the same environments and they even hang out together. When I find porcini cozily nestled among the lush huckleberry plants, it fries my brain – because there’s a porcini! But wait, are there huckleberries? But, a porcini! And I have to do a quick mental calculation as to how much time it takes to harvest and clean a porcini and then convert that to potential huckleberry volume. However, if the porcini are particularly perfect or the huckleberries are particularly absent, then I’ll pick the mushroom.

i love that signature color of our rocky mountain porcini



If I pick the mushroom, I have to be absolutely sure that I’m going to do something with it or give it to someone who is going to do something with it and who will also appreciate what they have received. So I did something with a few of the porcini – I made a grilled cheese sandwich. It’s a grilled brie, buttery pan-seared porcini, and caramelized onion sandwich. I think I went momentarily blind when I took a bite of it. Jeremy, who burns a thousand calories just checking his email, ate the rest of the sandwich with a glass of chardonnay and a big honking smile on his face. This is DECADENT comfort food.

fresh porcini, olive oil, butter, brie, bread, onions (not pictured: sea salt)

slice the onions

start sautéing the onions



**Jump for more butter**

that happy place

Sunday, September 7th, 2014

Recipe: thai sweet chili sauce

Between trail runs, huckleberry picking, dinner parties, work, and other stuff, we managed to carve out a little weekend for a backpack out of Crested Butte. It had been on the calendar for a couple of months when last week we got wind of an advertising stunt by a “beer” (I use the term loosely) company to be held in the town of Crested Butte for the very same weekend. I emailed Jeremy and asked if he still wanted to go. He replied that no one attending that event was going to be anywhere near the backcountry. So true. So thankfully true.


hiking up from schofield park

we dropped our packs at a junction and ran this quick detour to get a view into hasley basin

at the junction below frigid air pass



We had not hiked out of Schofield Park before, but were familiar with it as a potential emergency “exit” from a previous backpack we did in 2005. Back then we began the Four Pass Loop out of Aspen. It is likely one of the most popular backpacks in the state of Colorado. The route crosses four 12,000+ foot passes in roughly 24-26 miles (depending on where you start and end) and loops around the iconic Maroon Bells through some of the most stunning high country you could imagine. From the Crested Butte side, you can access the loop from Schofield Park. Jeremy and I hiked a few miles of new (to us) trail before linking up with the Four Pass Loop and heading up to Frigid Air Pass. As we rounded a boulder and gained a small bench in the terrain, a little tarn next to a trail junction sign was immediately familiar. I blinked back tears. The last time we were here, Kaweah was with us on her very first backpack. I took a photo of her resting at the base of the sign. The significance was that she was actually resting. She never stopped charging ahead until we set up camp for the day. Then she would curl up, fall asleep, and snore loud enough to scare away the bears.

celebrate wilderness

fireweed looking fiery! autumn is coming

icy cold stream crossings felt great on sore feet



It’s been over two years since our last backpacking trip as Kaweah’s care demanded more attention and time. Our preference is to backpack before or after the crowds of summer. The backcountry becomes that much more enjoyable when we have it to ourselves. Backpacking is one logical extension of hiking. Trail running is another extension of hiking, but in a different direction. Still, all three share the same goal for me – to travel the high country. I feel better when I spend time hiking or running through mountain forests up above treeline and into the alpine meadows. It makes me stronger, clarifies my thoughts, brings me tremendous joy.

jeremy on frigid air pass overlooking fravert basin

looking back toward the maroon bells (on the left)

at geneva lake basin (snowmass mountain on the right)



On the trail, we plucked juicy red raspberries, one enormous sun-warmed wild strawberry (enormous for a wild strawberry, but smaller than a dime), plump twisted stalk berries, and several huckleberries to nosh as we hiked toward our destination at the lake. Once in camp, I was more than happy to get off my feet and fall asleep to a rising moon and the sound of small animals scampering around our tent. I used to stay awake all night in my early days of backpacking, listening for bears, deer, elk, porcupine, mice, anything that would come poking (and nibbling) around camp. Maybe it’s the impenetrable bear canister or the long miles of the day caught up to my body or getting older, but sleep comes easier. Maybe I’m just happier.

my view from the tent

ready for a well-deserved sleep

delicate frost in the morning



Or maybe it was the morning frost that coated all of the plants at lake level? Or MAYBE it was the fact that I had packed jalapeño potato chips on this trip? In summer, we like to do no-cook backpacks if the trip is less than 3 days. It means no stove, no fuel, no cook pot, no clean up. Jeremy tends to select sweet snacks like chocolate, fruity chewy candy, cookies. I go for the savory snacks: crackers, salami, and jalapeño potato chips (Tim’s Cascade is the best brand, just ask Diane). Salt is what I crave on the trail. I must have it! But the spicy is that added bonus. Spicy is happiness. I recently learned to make some incredibly easy happiness – Thai sweet chili sauce – which just makes things even MORE happy.

water, sugar, cornstarch, salt, rice vinegar, water, garlic, thai chilis, fresno chilis



**Jump for more butter**

little piggies

Thursday, August 28th, 2014

Recipe: porcini mushroom lasagne

We have somehow worm-holed into autumn this week because the weather turned cool, windy, and stormy in the mountains. I rather like it. I mean, I LOVE IT! But I know summer will return this weekend just in time for the Labor Day holiday. I suppose that is a good thing. Actually, it has all been very good. Rains this late in summer mean that our wildflowers at the highest elevations continue to crank out their colors. Combined with good sun exposure, it also brings the huckleberries! Erin and I discovered the MOTHERLODE on a hike and picked beautiful, fat, dark purple, ripe huckleberries for hours through rain, sun, more rain, and more sun. The mountain streams look healthy and full (as opposed to dangerously full or sadly low) and the risk for wildfires reduces with all of this lovely moisture. Most of all, we get some beautiful moments from the volatile weather.


sunrise double rainbow from my deck!

bull moose chillaxing in the willows (he’s lying down – he’s huge when standing up!)

two of my favorite hiking buddies: erin and banjo

my favoritest hiking pal: jeremy (and stormy weather on the divide)

star gentian in full bloom streamside



In addition to all of this mountain goodness, we recently found porcini. Typically I would expect them to be wormed out and mushy this late in the season, but porcini like the rain. Actually, they like a combination of different things: rain, humidity, the right soil, sun… Given a choice, I choose huckleberries over porcini. But if the porcini (porcino means piglet in Italian) are recently flushed and solid, the worms are less likely to have begun their buffet and the stipes will be solid and crisp like a raw potato. In my mind, those are perfect little piggy jems.

many perfect piggy jems



I absolutely love finding porcini. It is such a thrill and a rush akin to an adult Easter egg hunt – but way the hell better! Yet I am not unlike the way Kaweah was with squirrels. Once she caught one (she caught plenty in her youth) she didn’t know what to do with it. For me, the hunt is the best part. I don’t particularly love cleaning them, which is why I always seem to give some away. But this time I only gave a few away. The rest I kept for making some new recipes to share. I always thought a porcini lasagne would be a lovely dish to try. This pretty much works with any mushroom you can get at the store, but the porcini are especially meaty with a beautifully delicate earthy flavor.

lasagne noodles, parsley, sage, thyme, prosciutto, parmesan, asiago, olive oil, flour, onion, garlic, white pepper, salt, butter, black pepper, milk, porcini (not pictured: nutmeg)

clean the porcini with a mushroom brush or damp paper towel – don’t wash them in water!

slice about 3/8-inch thick



**Jump for more butter**