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Monday, August 21st, 2017

Recipe: huckleberry muffins

I’m a day late posting because there was that solar eclipse event today. Jeremy and I had too much going on to afford more than a day trip, and as it turns out, making a day trip to Wyoming was going to take more than a day. So we stuck it out at home, which worked rather well for us. We got some heavy cloud build up about 30 minutes in and then it dissipated as we neared the maximum (probably because the reduced energy from the sun was no longer fueling cloud formation) and enjoyed mostly clear views of the eclipse through the end when the clouds reappeared. You can see where I had to shoot through a veil of thin clouds to get some of the earlier phases. I hope many of you were able to view the eclipse in one form or another! I had a much simpler setup than the last solar eclipse I photographed and it was super nice not to have to drive, worry about parking, or worry about the dog.


composite of the eclipse (maximum was 93% here)

jeremy adjusts the binocular projection

using the colander to project dozens of crescents



My parents returned to Virginia last week, but not before we celebrated my mom’s birthday at Flagstaff House in Boulder! I normally like to cook Mom a nice meal for her birthday, but after dining out, my parents requested a “simple” meal the next evening. Simple doesn’t mean it can’t be special. Since mushroom season has been booming and my mom LOVES mushrooms, I served cream of chanterelle soup, porcini and elk sausage tortellini in a beef and porcini brodo (recipe coming soon), and porcini pizza – all with fresh mushrooms I had foraged. I love that I can do that for her.

happy birthday, mom!

the stoke is high because dad has a 3-olive gin martini



The past week has been a blur of activity: mushrooms, bonding with my favorite people in the high country, visits from friends, learning new mountain biking skills, and that eclipse. Fall is merely a suggestion right now, but it’s getting louder each day. I hear children at recess now when the neighborhood used to be silent just last week. There’s a lot more traffic in Boulder as parents bring their freshman offspring to campus. Spots of red color occasionally dot the high meadows – leaves that are preparing for the end of the season. I know what’s coming and I’m giddy thinking about it: chanterelles, huckleberries, fall colors, crisp and cool evenings, and SKI SEASON. But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves here…

a half dozen moose lounging in the meadow, as they do

still finding elephant heads up in the high country

banjo and erin and a porcini – the start of a VERY good day

sometimes that splash of red in the huckleberry plants is a porcini

the dog days of summer



I’m trying to be optimistic over here. Twila told me that the huckleberries are going in Montana. My patches are running a little late, which can be good if the sun and rains continue to nurture them, or it can be very very very bad if an early winter cuts them off before they can ripen. You never know when you will have a good year or a bad year or a few bad years, which is why I don’t like to use up the previous year’s harvest until I know I have this year’s harvest in the freezer. The same applies to the mushrooms. While my fingers and toeses and noses are all crossed for a good huckleberry season, I’ve got a good recipe to use with fresh or frozen huckleberries. I actually tested two huckleberry muffin recipes four times and finally settled on this adaptation of Deb’s Perfect Blueberry Muffins. The biggest problem is getting muffins to dome nicely at my elevation, but otherwise, I quite love these muffins.

butter, huckleberries, flour, turbinado sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sour cream, lemon zest, sugar, egg

whisk the sugar into the melted butter

stir in the egg, lemon zest, and sour cream



**Jump for more butter**

of the rain, sun, and earth

Sunday, July 30th, 2017

Recipe: fig vodka infusion and fig blossom cocktail

Right as rain. That phrase used to puzzle me until I started living in the western U.S. Blessed rain is a relief, a cleanser, a gift. It’s like a reset button on all of that heat, the dust, the pollution, the wilted plants, the beleaguered creatures. I can’t tell you how many rainbows I’ve been sighting in the early mornings this past week. Some persist for several minutes and others appear, glow, and diminish in the span of 30 seconds – faster than I can grab my gear. In those instances, I don’t get upset like I used to. I do kick myself a little for missing a great opportunity, but I’ve learned to stop and simply take it in. Those magic moments when Jeremy is still asleep and Neva is sitting politely facing the dog food (her way of asking to eat dinner, which is breakfast or any meal) and there is no other conscious human around with whom to share the beauty… I’ve learned.


managed to capture this one



Jeremy and I planned on a big mileage trail run for a morning that had been forecasted to have overcast skies. By that morning, the forecast had changed to sun and heat and yuck. We scrapped our plans for a run, Neva jumped into the car, and we set off for a hike so everyone could get a little exercise. What was supposed to be a quick two-hour hike turned into a 6-hour forage. Some huckleberry patches were full on ripe, which was a surprise since the last two years totally sucked for huckleberries. I picked a few and offered one to Neva, who knows to actually chew a huckleberry (she doesn’t seem to chew much else, though). The instant she tasted it, she turned to the huckleberry bushes and began to eat them off the plants!

beautiful precious wonderful beloved huckleberries



Erin and I haven’t been able to coordinate a hike yet this summer, but we dutifully exchange trail reports to maximize our coverage and knowledge of The State of the Mushrooms (and huckleberries, but hucks are a separate matter for us). Our neck of the woods has been a late bloomer compared to other parts of the state who have been receiving their monsoonal blessings earlier and more than we have. As Jeremy and I hiked and Neva practically propelled herself up the trail by happily wagging her tail, I thought to myself that it would be nice to find one king – to find my first porcini of the season. Well, I found about eighty and harvested less than half. Talk about a flush. In a week, we went from seeing a few random mushrooms that nobody wants to the kings and queens of the forest fungi. I even found three beautiful patches of chanterelles which I’ve never found on the Front Range before this season (we typically forage them in the Central Mountains).

my beautiful little friend

another perfect bouchon

a party of five (one in the distant upper left and the fifth off camera)

chanterelles emerging

strawberries and cream (not edible, but a favorite for its crazy weirdness and awesome name)

kings and queens: porcini and chanterelles



That was just my share. I gave Erin and Jay the other half of the porcini because they love them and know how to process them, and because I simply didn’t have the time to deal with that many. Foraging has a way of sending summer into a frenzy, especially when you spend the entire weekend in Hunter Education, which we (Jeremy and I) did.

neva is intrigued



Foraging is one of those activities that demands your time up front. You don’t forage when you feel like it, you forage when the mushrooms flush or when the berries are ripe. And you don’t dump them in your refrigerator to rot over the next week or two, you deal with them within a day lest the worms you didn’t dispatch when you field dressed your mushrooms eat through the rest of your prize. It’s irresponsible and unethical to take these treasures from the land and waste them. I suppose I have a similar mindset when I am at Costco. Sometimes Costco carries something special and rare and if you go back the following week, it might be all gone. So you grab one or two packages of those fresh figs in mid summer when you didn’t expect to see them for another month and then you wrack your brain on the drive home thinking of all the fig recipes you had written on your to do list and then you remember the easiest one of all: fig vodka infusion.

fresh figs

figs and vodka (that’s all you need)



**Jump for more butter**

all the love

Sunday, July 16th, 2017

Recipe: huckleberry cheesecake ice cream

I’ve noticed something changing over the past couple of months. It’s been gradual, and yet it feels as if my life has become… better. I found myself telling Neva, “I love you” as I played with her in the living room, or when I gave her a squeeze after finding her snoozing on the couch, or just walking past her while I was in the middle of a shoot. I’m not one to withhold saying “I love you” when I actually love an individual, but I didn’t say it very much in Neva’s early years because she made me absolutely insane and because I wasn’t sure that I really loved her. Now, I’m saying it many many times each day because she has gone from a sweet, but crazy girl to a sweet, crazy, but good girl. It’s been a slow process. This kind of behavior modification doesn’t happen overnight. But after getting Neva back from dog training camp four months ago, and working with her on the things Claire recommended, we are seeing such amazing progress now. Neva is definitely a happier pup when we give her instruction and she has learned to focus on us instead of spiraling out of control becoming a frenzy of anxiety and excitement. Best of all, on our most recent road trip from Crested Butte to Nederland, Neva didn’t drool a drop and she was even relaxed enough to chill out just watching traffic and scenery (she used to drool like a spigot and turn circles in her bed for 5 hours).


wildflowers going gangbusters in crested butte

our regularly scheduled evening rainbow in crested butte – no big deal

a paddle with jeremy on the taylor park reservoir

cinquefoil in bloom

the car is moving and neva isn’t upset about it



We returned to the Front Range in time to overlap with the tail end of my aunts’ visit with my parents in Boulder. I had not seen my dad’s younger sister in almost 30 years and it’s been over a decade since I met with my dad’s older sister. It made me so happy to see them both looking healthy and well. The next day, Jeremy left for the airport at 6 am to fly to the East Coast and I took Neva on a hike. Hiking with Neva has always been an ordeal because she gets so amped up in the high country that she pulls and cries and acts like a nut. It’s hard to manage that kind of behavior while hiking above 10,000 feet, so Jeremy (my high altitude mountain goat) typically wrangles Neva while I just hike and help as needed.

I took Neva by myself, resigned to deal with whatever happened. Of course, within the first ten minutes, we encountered three bull moose on the trail. Neva LOVES moose, so was very excited to see and smell them. I made her sit and wait as we gave them an opportunity to cross the trail without feeling threatened by our presence. Instead of pulling against her leash and baying loudly as she has done in the past, Neva sat, her tail wagging furiously, and cried softly as she watched the moose feed. But she remained by my side! WHO IS THIS DOG?!?!?! We eventually continued on the trail past the moose because they decided to hunker down and enjoy some willows for breakfast, and Neva was so damn good! It wasn’t a perfect hike, but Neva was the best she’s ever been with me on a solo hike. I couldn’t be happier.


dinner with my folks and my aunts

two of the three moose we encountered on the trail

neva takes in the smells while i take in the views

selfie on the ridge with my happy pup

dog as wildflower

dim sum with my folks



Whenever we go to Boulder to have dinner at my parents’ place, I almost always bring dessert because I like to make it and they like to eat it. For dinner with my aunts, Mom texted me that I shouldn’t bother making anything and to simply purchase something at the store since we just got home. But I had already planned on bringing ice cream – two flavors. The first was a lovely roasted strawberry ice cream that I had made a few weeks ago and the second was a recipe I had tested in February and decided it was too good not to make and share this time: huckleberry cheesecake ice cream. The huckleberry cheesecake ice cream is actually a very straightforward and easy recipe compared to my usual custard-based ice creams. Seeing as today is National Ice Cream Day, this is the perfect summery treat to share.

the berry swirl: huckleberries, lemon juice, water, salt, cornstarch, sugar

the crust: melted butter, graham cracker crumbs, sugar, cinnamon (not shown: pinch of salt)

the base: cream cheese, milk, cream, bourbon, salt, sugar



I know huckleberries can be hard to get if you don’t live in a place where they grow or don’t know how to find them. You can order them online (frozen) from places in Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and other blessed states that have wild mountain huckleberries. Or, you can substitute its cousin, the blueberry, which was the fruit used in the original version of this recipe. I’m just saying if you can get huckleberries, they are a billion times better than blueberries – and I love me some blueberries.

Start with the berry swirl, because it needs time to cool before you can incorporate it into the ice cream. It takes all of five minutes to simmer before you get a syrupy berry sauce that smells (and tastes) like the best thing you’ve ever had. Because huckleberries are smallish, I tend to only smash about a third of the berries because I like whole hucks in my ice cream. If you are using blueberries and they are large, then you may want to smoosh a larger fraction of the berries. Just use the back of a spoon and gently press the berries against the side of the pan. Let that cool while you mix the graham cracker crust. Use graham cracker crumbs like I have here, or you can crush your own graham crackers to retain a chunkier texture.


mix the huckleberries, cornstarch, sugar, salt, water, and lemon juice

berrylicious

combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and melted butter



**Jump for more butter**