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chowder time

Thursday, September 10th, 2015

Recipe: chanterelle bacon corn chowder

I want to thank all of the folks who shared advice on puppy pukiness on car rides. We gave Neva a ginger chew 30 minutes before driving to Crested Butte last weekend and she puked about 20 minutes into the drive. I’ve become an expert at catching her puke in a plastic grocery bag, but sometimes she pulls away at the last minute and so I’ve also developed expertise at cleaning up puppy vomit. Our next step is to try dramamine per our vet’s instructions. On the drive back home, Neva kept it together until we neared Cottonwood Pass (the dirt road up is curvy and bumpy), but that time I caught it all in a bag! Once at the pass, we decided to take her out for a little hike, which made her VERY happy.

life with puppy is not all rainbows, but in crested butte it kinda *is* all rainbows

looking back at the collegiate peaks from cottonwood pass

fuzzy seeds

jeremy walks neva to the view east

Neva is about five and a half months old now and we suspect she’s entering that adolescent stage. She walks nicely on the leash when she feels like it, but when she wants to run around with Snickers (a little chihuahua-doberman mix) or anything else, she pulls like a maniac. So I got out Kaweah’s old Halti collar, also known as the gentle leader. It’s supposed to reduce pulling and render your dog obedient without hurting them, but most dogs I know really dislike it until they get used to the collar. Kaweah would melt when we put it on her. My in-laws’ dog merely sees the Halti in the room and he settles down. Kaweah’s Halti was big on Neva, so she was able to wriggle out of it a few times (Jeremy bought a smaller size after work today). We used to think Neva would surpass Kaweah’s weight and size, but now it’s looking that she will be the same size or smaller than Kaweah. Eventually, it appeared to work and we were able to walk peacefully, until Snickers came by…

at first she struggled

then there was demoralized acceptance

after much pawing and squirming, she managed this

This week marks the end of foraging for me. I’m done with the chanterelles and the huckleberries – or rather, they’re done. It feels good to be able to hike normally again without constantly scanning the ground and stumbling forward tripping over rocks and tree roots. My favorite part is the hunt. I love finding mushrooms and hucks. My next favorite part is the photography. I like shooting the pretty specimens I encounter. Then there is the actual collection which can be backbreaking and/or dirty work. My least favorite part of the whole process is cleaning the mushrooms (sorting hucks can be a lot of work, too). So when the season ends, I’m sad but I’m also glad.

more pretties off the trail

When September rolls around I find myself in the mood for some kind of corn chowder before the wonderfully sweet local corn is done for the year. Seeing as I had some chanterelles, it made sense to have the two ingredients share the stage. And then there’s bacon…

bacon, onion, garlic, chanterelles, chicken stock, pepper, wine, cream, potatoes, lemon, celery, corn, salt, thyme, dill

coarse chop the mushrooms

mise en place

**Jump for more butter**

better than good enough

Wednesday, August 5th, 2015

Recipe: fried polenta and porcini on roasted carrot purée

We had a busier than usual schedule last week because Jeremy was hosting his astrophysics retreat. This was his third one, but it seemed more harried than usual because of the additional puppy-wrangling. Without going into too much detail, the retreat is an “unconference” that eschews the traditional scientific conference format. It is a small gathering of select (young) experts in astrophysics who come together for 4 days of intense, high-powered brainstorming for the love of science. Running any sort of workshop or conference is exhausting, but for someone like Jeremy – my dearest introvert – it is doubly so. Once he had caught up on sleep and other work, I suggested we spend a relaxing evening under the stars together… with Neva… in a tent.

neva tries out the sleeping bags as the sun goes down

Actually, this was just a continuation of puppy training. The plan is to go backpacking this fall with the pup, but first we need her to get used to being in a tent. When our neighbor’s kids were little, they used to camp in a tent on their deck because the youngest would always get scared before 9 pm and run back into the house. I thought this could work for Neva, too. We could camp on the deck and if she got unruly or upset, we would bail and go inside. But there was no need to abandon ship because she was very sweet and cuddly throughout the night. She probably slept better than either of the humans. I think this backpacking thing just might work.

it’s a loungy puppy life

if we’re going to camp out, we may as well eat outside, too

blue moon rising

ready for zip up and lights out

Jeremy’s astrophysics retreat takes place in Boulder with the exception of one day held at our house in the mountains. My minor contribution is to help host the participants which includes a sit down dinner. Living outside of Boulder, we are accustomed to accommodating the restricted diets of our friends, but I got a stumper in this group: gluten-free vegetarian. In my opinion, gluten-free is pretty easy and vegetarian isn’t terrible, but the combination really whittled down my options. There were two ideals I had to balance: 1) that not serving meat to your guests is rude (per Chinese tradition) and 2) it is unacceptable to serve sub-par food to vegetarians. But I was up for the challenge, particularly because the one guest who was gluten-free vegetarian happens to be a genuinely nice and good person. Luckily, porcini are in season NOW.

here’s a pretty specimen (plus one in the background)

two buddies chilling out off trail

The idea was to serve something that everyone could enjoy and then the omnivores could have some kind of animal added to their dish. I decided to go with fried polenta cakes and pan-seared porcini. It was easy enough to hike up into the mountains to nab some choice mushrooms only because I knew they were flushing and I knew exactly where to look. For some extra color, I thought a nice roasted carrot purée would brighten the plate and lend some sweetness to the dish.

white wine, olive oil, vegetable oil, carrots, polenta, butter, thyme, salt, porcini

I started the day before, as I didn’t want to heat up the house cooking all day before dinner. I made the polenta and then pressed it into a baking dish to cool and solidify. A loaf pan works too if you want to slice your polenta that way. Once the polenta had set (about an hour or so), I popped it into the refrigerator to chill.

stir the polenta into the boiling water

when the polenta is done, stir in a pat of butter

pressed into a baking dish to cool

**Jump for more butter**

splash and dash

Monday, June 8th, 2015

Recipe: miso peanut butter vegetable dip

We now have a 10 week old puppy who consistently sits to ask for things like food, water, toys, to be let out of her crate, to have a ball tossed, to be let back inside, to be petted. You may wonder why she has to request water – why we don’t have a bowl lying around for her to take drinks as needed… After Neva takes a big drink, she loves to place her paw on the side of the dish and tip the whole thing over. It was funny the first time and not as funny the next 10 times. But she’s a lab and true to her breed, she loves the water. We wanted to get her swimming, but right now our lakes are cold with snow melt and she hasn’t received her leptospirosis vaccinations yet (they start in a couple of weeks). So we’re taking baby steps starting with Kaweah’s old baby pool. Kaweah never cared much for it (she was a hardcore girl – she wanted her frozen mountain lakes), but it’s perfect for Neva at this stage on a hot, sunny day.

jeremy introduces her to ankle-deep water

she warmed up to it when we tossed in her spiky ball

really getting into the fun with a flying leap

Everything was great until Neva fetched the ball, dropped the ball, and promptly squatted to relieve herself in the pool. We are still getting to know Neva’s bladder schedule, which is to say, we still have occasional accidents. But it’s all a big learning curve – which food works best for her digestion, what time of day is best for training, when she needs naps and when she needs play. It’s hard to believe we have only had Neva for two weeks because it feels like months.

running her brains out in a field

tired and plopped down in the middle of the trail

Jeremy and I are trying our best to do right by the puppy’s training as well as live our lives (sleep, eat, get work done). It feels as if we aren’t succeeding at any of it. For the first week, I wore the same clothes for days in a row because I couldn’t see the point of putting something clean on only to get dogged up again. But you can’t let a puppy put the kibosh on everything. Over the weekend, a good childhood friend came into town for a conference – so we had her and two other close mutual childhood friends over for dinner. I even showered and wore clean clothes! I figured, if I could manage to put dinner on the table, then we could declare the night a victory. I missed out on half of the conversations because Jeremy and I tag-teamed supervising the puppy, but it was wonderful to spend time catching up, especially since I hadn’t seen the out-of-town friend in over 20 years.

a toast to reunions

Summer is when entertaining at our house really gets underway. The only folks who visit in winter are the ones who truly love winter and the ones who don’t know any better. Our short mountain summers are green and pleasant, which make for great dinner parties, grilling, and views from the deck. Typically, I like to experiment with different recipes, but lately – because of the puppy vortex and in the interest of my own sanity – I’m sticking with super simple menus. One thing I love to serve when the weather turns warm is crudités with dip, but sometimes I tire of sour cream or mayonnaise dips. A few weeks ago I tried a couple of miso-based dips and really fell in love with this miso peanut butter dip. It’s just the right salty and sweet to go with a variety of fresh vegetables. And it’s easy.

peanut butter, white miso paste, mirin, rice vinegar, sake, honey

**Jump for more butter**