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before soup season ends

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2021

Recipe: cream of shiitake mushroom soup

I love March. Everything looks brighter and happier with a little increase in sun angle. We still have snow in the mountains and will for some time, but on those extra warm days the snowy streams and rivers smell of wet earth and hint at the glorious water crossings of summer. And it won’t be long before the plains explode with the colors of bright new green growth and the confetti of flowers. March 1st is also our wedding anniversary. We just celebrated 24 years of legal bliss. At the time, we had arbitrarily selected the date, but now it is this magical moment when the potential for a powder day is equally as good as it is for a day to throw the windows open in the afternoon.

February was snowier than January, thank goodness. While January set the bar pretty low for snowfall in Colorado, we were able to catch some powder days and log lots of miles on the Nordic trails last month. We kept Chinese New Year festivities mellow, focused on work and exercise, and generally continued our isolation with Neva and Yuki. Oh, but I did run out to meet our Crested Butte neighbors’ new puppy because she is IRRESISTIBLE! You know how some people can’t resist babies? I am that person, but with puppies.


taping the chinese symbol for luck upside down on our front door for good luck

sunshine and stormy weather – we love both

i almost kidnapped this adorable baby australian cattle dog



Colorado remains below average for snowpack, but we’re closer to average now than we were a month ago. I can only hope that we remain on this upward trend (and that the summer monsoons don’t evaporate) so that our current daydreams of summer aren’t transformed into the terrifying wildfire season we experienced last summer and fall. We have plenty of adventures planned for ourselves and the pups!

outside time is good for everyone

neva and yuki love their off-leash privileges (and they’ve been so good)

our local mama moose with her yearling sunning in the neighbor’s flowerbed



All this talk of spring and summer has me getting out over my skis. Winter is where we’re at and I wanted to document this comforting cream of shiitake mushroom soup before all thoughts turn to spring produce. Well, my thoughts are already there, but soup and mushroom fans (I am both) will dig it. I’ve made this soup a half dozen times now because I kept picking up these 12 ounce packages of fresh shiitake mushrooms when they appeared at Costco last fall. Any mushroom will do, but fresh shiitakes are like a crossover mushroom from the ordinary button mushroom to the more boutique varieties, and it won’t cost a fortune. The original recipe serves 4, but we burn through this soup so fast that I doubled it in the recipe below. Feel free to halve it (and then regret that you did).

butter, salt, flour, garlic, onion, oat milk (you can use half and half), shiitake mushrooms, pepper, chicken broth



Unless your mushrooms are absolutely filthy, I don’t think it is necessary to wash them. You can, but I don’t. A quick wipe with a damp paper towel or swipe with a pastry brush will remove any debris. Be sure to pop the stem of the shiitake off because it’s pretty tough.

remove the stems

diced onion, minced garlic, sliced shiitake



**Jump for more butter**

winners and winners

Monday, October 22nd, 2018

Recipe: lentil chicken soup

Thank you to everyone who left a comment on the previous post and took a guess at Yuki’s breeds! We had 177 comments which I’m rounding up to $200 that I will donate to Rezdawg Rescue.

Now for Yuki’s Wisdom Panel results:

25% American Staffordshire Terrier
12.5% Australian Cattle Dog
12.5% Chow Chow
12.5% Rottweiler
37.5% Mixed Breeds in the following groups: Herding, Guard, Companion

Are you surprised? We were totally surprised! Of course, the naming and classification of breeds can be utterly confounding and inconsistent between official organizations in different countries. We accepted Pit bull for American Staffordshire Terrier, but not Staffordshire Bull Terrier as that is listed as a separate breed in the Wisdom Panel listing of tested breeds. Australian Cattle Dog (ACD), Heeler, or Blue Heeler were all considered the ACD.

Only one person named three of the four breeds (American Pit Bull, Chow, and Heeler) and that was Linda, Yuki’s foster mom. It made complete sense because she knows dogs (she fosters SO many pups) and aside from us, Linda has spent the most time with Yuki.

[Another commenter named three of the four breeds, but listed five breeds which gained a statistical advantage over everyone else. I contacted all individuals who guessed more than four breeds to please revise their guess and when this commenter revised theirs, they removed one of the three correct breeds.]

I am absolutely going to give Linda a prize of her choosing, but I am also going to give a SECOND person a prize of their choosing.

Fifteen people correctly guessed two of the four breeds. We numbered them 1-15 according to the order in which they commented on the blog post. I set up a cheeseboard with 15 treats associated with 1 through 15 and let Yuki pick the winner by selecting the corresponding treat (basically the one she went to first).


the set up

the winner



Yuki picked #15 and that is Sona who listed American Staffordshire Terrier and Australian Cattle Dog.

Congratulations to Sona and Linda! I will contact you both shortly. Thank you all so much for your enthusiasm and love for this special little pup. It was thoroughly entertaining reading through all of the entries!

Those of you who follow my Instagram know that Yuki gave us a scare Friday morning when she began vomiting and crying out in terrible pain several times within a few hours. A trip to the vet, some meds, rest, and eventually passing a two-foot long piece of rope toy (whaaaaat?!?!) summed up our weekend. I’m relieved to report that Yuki is back to her happy puppy self and the rope toys have been banished.

It’s hard to believe that I was wearing shorts while walking the dogs this past Sunday evening when a week earlier Jeremy and I were skiing a lovely blanket of fresh snow in our local backcountry. Colorado weather keeps you on your toes.


almost a foot on our grill

i love the early season storms

storm clouds gave way to a colorful close to the day



I try to plan my cooking with the weather. If it’s hot, there are lots of fresh salads, sushi, grilling, sandwiches, and things that don’t produce a good deal of heat. When it’s cold, I happily crank up the oven for roasting, baking, braising, or dedicate hours to simmering soups and stews on the stove. Not only does the heat from the kitchen keep our living space comfortably toasty, but it fills the house with heady aromas that are the equivalent of wrapping yourself in a cozy blanket. Right now, we are bouncing between Indian Summer and early winter. So here is a hearty soup-as-meal for the next (hopefully snowy) cold spell: lentil chicken soup.

chicken, lentils, onion, salt, garlic, tomato paste, celery, carrots, pepper, olive oil



Homemade chicken broth is superior to store-bought chicken broth in flavor, quality, and the fact that you control the sodium. My preference is to make my own if I have the time. If you are short on time, then you can easily use store-bought chicken broth and chicken meat and essentially reduce the time investment by half or more.

If you do make your own broth, you can simmer it for 3-4 hours or use a pressure cooker for an hour plus change. Either way, start that process first. Once the broth is done, strain it through a fine-mesh sieve to remove random particles (there are always random particles). I like to de-fat my chicken broth one of two ways. The first, refrigeration, requires time. Lots of time. Chill the broth until the fat solidifies or at least clumps together on the surface to be scooped or skimmed off. The second method is in the immediate gratification camp and involves pouring the hot or warm broth into a gallon-size ziploc bag, sealing the bag and holding it over a large bowl or stock pot, cutting a slit in the bottom corner and letting the broth drain out as the fat rises to the top. The trick is pinching the outlet corner off right as the fat layer is about to drain, and discarding the bag and fat.


chicken and water in the pressure cooker

homemade de-fatted chicken broth



**Jump for more butter**

september, i feel ya!

Tuesday, September 4th, 2018

Recipe: matsutake soup

Ah, September! If ever there was a month I love most, it is September. When I was a kid, September was special to me because it was my birthday month and it meant a new school year, which I really looked forward to. I outgrew the birthday thing at the age of 16 and thankfully the school year didn’t matter so much once I was done with coursework in graduate school. But September remains my favorite month because it represents a sigh of relief. Summer, with her nonstop crush of things to do and the incessant heat that makes me borderline homicidal and the long days that limit a good night’s rest to 6 hours at best – it is finally over, at least here in the mountains. Normally I would be planning for the fall shoot, but there is a puppy to train and some projects I’m working on. I am okay with not trying to cram every possible thing into my schedule and running myself ragged in the process. This might be called “getting older”, but I like to think of it as deliberate sanity.


these two napping in the sun after their morning hike

the colors are starting a tad earlier than usual



We were in Crested Butte over the holiday weekend and everything was going just fine until Yuki got a little territorial and aggressive with Neva one evening. It made me sad because Neva, while completely crazy, is the sweetest dog who doesn’t consider herself the boss of anyone. We suspect Yuki, at 7 months, is testing the boundaries of her “authority” in her adolescence. After keeping a close eye on the two pups for a couple of days, they seem to be back to their normal goofy selves. The following morning, Yuki was cuddling with Neva on their favorite perch by the window. We continue observing their interactions to make sure this doesn’t evolve into a real problem. The dynamics of two dogs is certainly different from the dynamic of one dog!

as if nothing had happened

pretty views on the drive home

sitting for a treat – yuki feels this is the best way to get both treats



A year ago I was finding more matsutake than I had energy to deal with. Matsutake, that prized mushroom of Japan, translates into pine mushroom and fetches top dollar in circles that recognize its value. The brown matsutake is found in Asia. The white matsutake is found in parts of North America – including Colorado. This year, I have yet to see signs of the subterranean gems in the usual places. But even if I did find some, I’m not sure I would be gathering too many as there are bagfuls of them in my freezer from the crazy flush of 2017 (what a season, folks, I mean REALLY). With cooler evenings, I have begun to contemplate making soups and stews of all kinds. But the days remain warm, so I’m partial to soups that are not too heavy. Last September, I tried a lovely and simple matsutake clear soup that allows the pine mushroom’s unique flavor to shine among a handful of ingredients.

bonito flakes, dried kelp, green onions, water, salt, matsutake, tofu, soy sauce, sake, mirin



The kelp and bonito flakes are used to make dashi. If you don’t want to make dashi from scratch, you can find Hondashi brand granules (instant dashi – just add hot water) at most Asian grocery stores or well-stocked Asian sections in supermarkets. If you are making the dashi from scratch, wipe the kelp with a wet paper towel without removing the white residue – it contributes to the umami of the broth. Start soaking the dried kelp in water 3 hours before you’re ready to make the soup.

wipe the dried kelp with a wet paper towel

soak the kelp in water for 3 hours



**Jump for more butter**