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Monday, June 3rd, 2019

Recipe: morel-stuffed chicken fried steak

I have entered summer mode even though the atmosphere was several steps behind me for the last few weeks. School is out. People are on vacation. No one answers emails (apparently) and I’m letting the blog cool her heels with a reduced posting schedule of twice a month. I encourage you to get off the computer and mobile devices and engage with a carbon-based world.

Can you believe it kept snowing until last week? Snow in May happens all the time in the mountains, but a winter storm warning for the entire state in late May had all the skiers skiing and all the fair-weather folk losing their goddamned minds. That is springtime in the Rockies. We don’t fight the weather in the mountains, we live with it and enjoy it as much as we can. Some don’t have a choice like the moose who are looking for forage or the hummingbirds who arrived and can’t find flowers.


instead of hiking, we were still skiing

a young moose passing through and making the most of our wild currant bushes

aspens waiting to bud as soon as it warms up



These past few days have actually been springlike, just in time for true summer. The prolonged cold gave us a grace period to transition into summer living – installing a new screen door, tidying the garden in Crested Butte, swapping winter and summer tires, more spring cleaning (we should just agree to call it eternal cleaning, because that’s what it is). Windows are open and fresh mountain air circulates the house. Yuki and Neva receive scoldings from local hummingbirds for standing too close to their feeder. And despite being three weeks late, the flowers are coming and so are the mushrooms.

glacier lily

yuki and neva enjoy the last day of flannel sheets

i have been waiting for this (fun) guy to make an entrance



If there is one thing I eagerly await in spring, it is the arrival of our mountain morels. You must understand my anticipation is not solely stoked by the prospect of finding black morels. It is the whole experience of walking ground that hasn’t been uncovered since last October and witnessing the green blades and buds emerge, hearing birds converse through the leafless forest, smelling the earthy odor as mats of dead leaves drenched in snow melt warm under a high sun. Life. Death. And all of the rest. All at ground level and intimately so, because that’s what morels demand. Think like a morel.

I try to strike a balance between consuming the fresh morels now versus processing them and freezing for later. Jeremy’s favorite morel preparation is basically sautéed morels with steak. It’s easy, delicious, and involves a hunk of meat with good wine. I turned that concept on its ear and came up with something a little less easy, but just as delicious. How does morel-stuffed chicken fried steak sound? It’s like regular chicken fried steak but with a surprise! I break it down into three steps. First, we cook the morels.


morels, bourbon, shallots, butter, salt

chop the morels

minced shallots, diced morels

sauté the shallots in butter, then add the morels

pour the bourbon in when the morel liquid has simmered away



**Jump for more butter**

letting go

Monday, April 22nd, 2019

Recipe: gnocchi with morels and sage

Even though it’s snowing as I type, I believe it is time to say farewell to winter. I said winter, not skiing! We’re still going to ski as long as the snow is skiable. Spring skiing in the backcountry can be heaps of weird fun as we wait for trails to thaw out in the mountains.


i prefer the quiet of the backcountry to the resorts



Last week, we sent Neva and Yuki back to the kennel for Yuki’s first overnight stay and it was hard not seeing a fluffy white blur playfully bouncing about the house that evening. Both girls warmed up to playtime with other pups much faster than the first visit and they did just fine. We were asked if we wanted to keep the dogs together overnight or in separate rooms and I had to pause. I am certain Neva would have appreciated a night off from Yuki, but I think Yuki would have been beside herself without Neva, so of course we kenneled them together.

post doggy camp nap



As the house cleaning continues, we are over what I considered the crux of the endeavor. Jeremy can not only see the surface of his desk, but he has room to actually work at his desk as opposed to the dining table. He was not happy about my gentle, yet firm insistence that he clean his damn desk and the loads of electronics (cables, obsolete devices, data storage, etc.) in the office closet, but he is now delighted to have a workspace that no longer poses a physical threat to humans or passing canines.

The whole process got me thinking about stuff and things. What do we keep and why do we keep it? My own parents are in the middle of sorting their belongings as they prepare to eventually make the move to Colorado and further downsize their lives. Mom sent me a text last month that Daddy was cleaning out the attic and wanted to get rid of old home movies… movies that included Kris when she was a child. I could hear the desperation in Mom’s voice as I read her text and then it was punctuated by a sad face emoji with a teardrop. This made my heart hurt. I told her to have him pack it all in a box and ship it to me so I could digitally archive everything. Easy solution. Having the movies in my possession meant they were 1) no longer his worry and 2) not destroyed.

I know where Dad was coming from. He was thinking about how many more years he’s going to be around and decided he could live without this stuff. But he didn’t think about Mom’s feelings and how throwing those home movies out meant one more piece of Kris that she would lose forever. It didn’t matter if she never watched those movies again, she just needed them to be in safe keeping. I get it. I know Dad is able to part with these things and it doesn’t mean he loves Kris any less. I also know that Mom will never be able to part with them. I am my father’s daughter. As I cleaned my office, I was able to let go of mementos from Kris’ funeral – a terrible time filled with awful memories. I recycled all of my chemo logs and calendars, letters and cards from people I’ve removed from my life, and all of my dissertation-related paperwork. Good riddance, baggage.


focusing on what is important in life



While running errands last week, we drove past a ranch house on the flats that had a large fenced grassy front yard. Because I am immediately drawn to brightly-colored objects, I noticed about a hundred pastel eggs scattered throughout and gasped out loud. These weren’t just any eggs, but some were as big as my dogs! I turned to Jeremy and excitedly described what I saw. We couldn’t figure out a reason for the giant eggs, but maybe it’s for really little kids, or maybe it’s for vision-impaired kids? While we don’t celebrate Easter, we both think Easter egg hunts are awesome because they are a gateway activity to foraging.

patiently awaiting morel season in the mountains



Morels have been popping around the country, and the blonde morels are starting to show up in the southern part of our state, so I think I can drop another morel recipe for those of you with access now and those of us who hope to see the beloved mushroom coming online in the near future. I made and photographed this recipe at the end of last season, but I promise it will be every bit as delicious now as it was then. Shall we make some gnocchi with morels?

start with russet potatoes, egg, and flour



**Jump for more butter**

slow, but steady progress

Monday, April 15th, 2019

Recipe: shrimp tatsuta-age

April is a flirt, taunting us with peaceful warm days of spring and chasing those with wintry snowstorms. I enjoy experiencing both kinds of weather, but this interplay of seasons certainly keeps you on your toes. We took advantage of the sunshine and sent Neva and Yuki to a doggy daycare in Boulder last week. It was their trial day as we finally caved rather than holding out hope for a competent, responsible, and professional outfit to emerge in Nederland (that trio of requirements is a rare find in mountain towns).

I went about the day expecting a call to come get my dogs because they were causing a ruckus, but none came. Instead, when we went to pick them up, they were happy and excited to see us. We learned they were both on the shy side, warming up slowly to all of the regular pups. That’s not surprising for either one considering Neva has issues reading other dogs’ signals and Yuki puts her guard up in strange or new settings as part of her survival instinct. They both received baths once we were home and then proceeded to pass out. Mission accomplished.


yuki doesn’t like baths, but she’s good about tolerating them

so tired



The next day, Colorado received her second bomb cyclone in a month. Temperatures in the teens left us with a foot of fluffy powder reminiscent of proper winter. We skied it, then we skied it with the puppies, and then we skied it again. Yuki is getting the hang of this ski dog thing (see her video here). It appears we are slated for more snow through the end of April, and I’m all for it!

uphill skiing with the pups in our local wilderness

jeremy grabs some turns in the backcountry



Neva’s fur is fluffier lately. First the fur on her hind quarters had grown thicker and softer over the holidays. In the last month, her tail began filling in with more hair and looking like the signature otter tail of a Labrador Retriever instead of her usual thin whip-like tail. We suspect it has to do with her anti-anxiety medication. She started on it last fall and it takes some weeks to see results. The prescription doesn’t make her instantly good, but it helps Neva keep a more even keel during events that would normally send her into a frenzy. With less anxiety, she is able to focus on our commands. As she concentrates on what we tell her to do, we can train her to remain calm around wildlife on the trails, or the FedEx and UPS trucks driving past the house, or strangers, or riding in the car. Pre-medicated Neva would lose SO MUCH HAIR each time she got worked up. Pre-medicated Neva would never settle down long enough to cuddle. Now, she will offer up her belly for a rub or hop onto the bed for a scratch behind the ears in the mornings. Neva still requires an enormous amount of training and she’ll probably never be a normal dog, but she seems more relaxed, happy, and furry than this time last year. I’m fairly certain that’s not because of Yuki – ha!

And while we’ve noticed incremental improvement in Neva, the same could be said for our home. The replacement of some major appliances forced us to do a serious scrub down of the kitchen last fall. We have since been slowly and methodically cleaning up different parts of the house. Tackling it all at once would leave the household cranky (me), disoriented (us), feeling hopeless (Jeremy), and confused (the pups). Breaking this behemoth endeavor down into several smaller manageable tasks increases the likelihood of success. My process involves organizing everything into categories of keepers, donations, re-purposing, recycling, and as a last resort – trash. Jeremy is a reluctant participant to my madness. It’s a bit like pulling teeth at times, but we are getting there and I try to minimize his involvement to only when necessary. I don’t think of it as the konmari method so much as making my crap easy to live with while I’m alive and easier to deal with should I die. If you’ve ever had to clean out someone’s belongings after they’ve passed on, you will understand what I’m talking about.

Don’t worry, I don’t plan on dying anytime soon. I simply like to get things in order, including fixing recipes that weren’t quite right. While I loved my friend’s interpretation of dynamo shrimp, it wasn’t what I had in mind. I spent a little time researching, tapping into my taste memory, and studying some photos I had taken of the original “dynamo shrimp” from Lil’s Sushi Bar and Grill and came up with a very close version. It’s pretty straightforward to make if you are okay with frying (pan fry or deep fry – either works). Jeremy gushes over it so much that I practically have to eat in another room.


sriracha mayo, unagi sauce, thai sweet chili sauce, raw shrimp, ginger, soy sauce, mirin, potato starch



I learned in my research that karaage and tatsuta-age (or tatsutaage) both refer to fried foods, but technically tatsuta-age is marinated before frying. It seems most people play fast and loose with the terms and rarely make the distinction between the two. I decided to go the tatsuta-age route with these shrimp because I couldn’t resist the idea of shrimp flavored with ginger, mirin, and soy sauce. Gluten-free? Good news! You can easily convert this recipe to gluten-free by subbing tamari for soy sauce in the marinade as well as in the unagi sauce (which you will need to make from scratch – but it’s easy). The coating is already potato starch, which I prefer to wheat flour for a superior fry texture.

tail-on peeled shrimp, grated ginger, soy sauce, mirin

mix the soy sauce, mirin, and ginger together

gently toss the shrimp with the marinade and sit for 5 minutes



**Jump for more butter**