sous vide carnitas soy sauce braised wild mushroom noodles technique: sous vide tempering chocolate raspberry syrup & raspberry pink cadillac margaritas


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neva: backcountry buddies dog training

April 20th, 2017

I watched longingly as the gentleman opened his car door at the trailhead and let his chunky yellow dog plop out. Tail wagging, gently bouncing in place with excitement, the pup’s eyes were steadfastly trained on his human. The man paid him little attention as he gathered his day pack and rummaged around for a hat. He didn’t have to pay attention, because the dog was right at his side making slight adjustments to avoid getting stepped on – like a good dance partner.

“Why can’t Neva be good like that?” I said this to Jeremy and to myself EVERY TIME I spotted a good dog, because my dog was not a good dog. She was a crazy dog. It felt like most people had a good dog without even trying, and we had a maniac despite our best efforts. We had Neva.

We had been determined to train Neva, our second dog, from the beginning when we brought her home in late May of 2015. Springtime in the mountains was the perfect opportunity to introduce Neva to all of the world that would be her doggy life with us. She met other dogs, played in the snow, hiked on trails, learned to swim, got tons of exercise, and grew into a leggy, athletic, smallish Labrador Retriever. We trained Neva ourselves following the guidance of “Perfect Puppy in 7 Days” by Dr. Sophia Yin, because yeah, we wanted a perfect puppy.


meeting banjo (and getting a treat from jeremy)

relaxing in the flowers

biting pants seemed like more fun than actual hiking

this one actually retrieves!

testing her first night in the tent (on the deck)



Neva landed far from perfect, but we would have been happy with a half-perfect or even a quarter-perfect dog. Training Neva proved difficult from the start, which made loving Neva harder than I thought it would be. We got there eventually. We put a lot of time and effort into Neva, but she never seemed to be anything other than crazy. At almost two years old, our biggest issues with Neva were 1) she would run off when she wasn’t on leash and 2) she pulled on the leash as if she were running off anyway. That’s a bit of an over simplification. Bred for hunting, Neva’s nose catches every scent on the air or ground and her instinct is to track every single one. Add to that the fact that her excitement level would shoot from zero to 100 mph in an instant and we had ourselves a dog that we didn’t know how to handle. This made time in the backcountry particularly difficult.

A friend suggested trying an e-collar – a stimulation collar which can be adjusted to a range of 100 different levels used for training dogs – used more like a tap on the shoulder to get their attention. She had great success with her own dog, Gretel, on the e-collar. We went ahead and bought one, but waited to try it out until after our friend emailed us her “notes”. I was nervous about using the e-collar incorrectly and potentially making Neva’s training even harder. Turned out the notes were instructions written specifically for Gretel by a professional dog trainer. There was a thorough analysis of Gretel’s behaviors, reactions in certain situations, and needs from her person. I read through the instructions several times, coming to the realization that what I needed was not the e-collar, but the dog trainer, Backcountry Buddies.


the e-collar



I checked out the website and Facebook page, and read reviews before contacting Backcountry Buddies. I exchanged emails with Claire describing Neva’s behaviors and our goals for her training. [Note: Claire is not the only trainer at Backcountry Buddies, but she was our main point of contact.] In Late January, Claire came up to our house for an hour to meet Neva, administered a few behavior tests (to check for aggression – Neva isn’t aggressive, thank goodness), and gave us a consultation. She assessed Neva’s personality and told us that she thought Neva could benefit from their program. Claire described how the program works: two weeks of intensive training for Neva at Backcountry Buddies without visitation, then if after two weeks Neva requires more work, they keep her for another week of training at no additional cost. There were also warnings, like if the dog became unmanageable due to separation anxiety, we would be called to come get her and receive a refund. Before leaving, Claire showed us a few basic training exercises to practice with Neva to prepare her for camp if we decided to send her.

We had a good feeling about Claire based on her ability to read Neva, and how confidently she worked with the pup in such a short time. Neva was already very much in love with Claire. After we reserved a spot for Neva, Claire sent “homework” instructions for Neva and us in the month preceding camp and we submitted our down payment for the Board and Train 14-day Obedience 2/Adventure Prep.

On March 1, 2017, we drove Neva down to Westminster and got her acquainted with her new surroundings. She paced about in anxious frenzied excitement. Claire went over a bullet list on her whiteboard of our goals for Neva’s training, asking if there was anything else to add, then ran through her training plan based on the progress Neva may or may not make. We must have given Claire the impression that Neva was a completely feral remedial maniac because she didn’t seem to have high expectations. Our attitude towards our dogs has always been one of pessimistic realism as opposed to delusional wishful thinking (people who think their dogs are angels when, in fact, they’re assholes). Even though it was a relief to drop Neva off and let someone else deal with Crazy, by the end of the day I was already missing her.


dropping neva off with claire at backcountry buddies



**Jump for more butter**

not soon enough

April 16th, 2017

Recipe: strawberries and cream malasadas

Okay, the confusion is over. Spring has sprung and is springing all over the place. I am okay with this. In fact, I’ve decided this year that instead of dreading summer and feeling like I’m walking under a broiler all day, I’m going to attempt to acclimate myself to the heat a little earlier. I’ll see if it makes summer more tolerable (probably not). I mean, I grew up in southern Virginia for 18 years and lived in Southern California for another 10. You’d think I’d be used to heat by now. One of my strategies includes baking loads of Neva’s treats while it is still cool – enough to get us through the summer so I don’t have to turn the oven on! Another plan is to ramp up my trail running now, while the temperatures are mild, so that I am not ramping up and adjusting to the hot weather at the same time. Lofty goals, I know. Should I fail, at least summer is a forgiving season.


neva likes all of the treats i’m cranking out

my mint is sprouting after an apocalyptic haircut

jeremy and i enjoying a backcountry ski (sans neva)

pasque flowers in full force on my trail run

the ball bounces higher (and so does neva) when the field is clear of snow



I’ve been following my friend, Jennie, as she documents her Year of Pie on Instagram. The other day, she made a strawberry pie because she couldn’t wait any longer for the berries to come into season. I hear ya, sistah. Strawberries are the ones that bust open the berry floodgates of summer because they arrive in spring, except they never seem to arrive soon enough. I can’t tell you how many weeks I’ve been scrutinizing the strawberries in the grocery store, squint-frowning at the ones that are more white than red. But this week, they are all beginning to take on that blushing hue. I’m probably jumping the gun by a couple of weeks, but the time has come for strawberries and cream malasadas.

water, vanilla extract, freeze-dried strawberries, flour, sugar, eggs, butter, salt, yeast, evaporated milk



The idea I had was to make plain malasadas (those fried Portuguese doughnuts you find in Hawai’i that are the very definition of ono kind grindz) and fill them with strawberries and whipped cream, but then I found some freeze-dried strawberries in my pantry and decided to make the malasada itself strawberry-flavored. Freeze-dried strawberries turn to powder when you crush them. Dried strawberries with the texture of raisins will not turn to powder, they’ll just get squashed – so don’t use those. If you have dried strawberry chips that snap when you break them, those might work if you can pulverize them to a dry powder. I got my freeze-dried strawberries from Trader Joe’s, but you can also find them in health food stores and I may have seen them in Whole Foods. I subbed a half cup of flour with a half cup of the strawberry powder. It’s pretty potent stuff.

crush the freeze-dried strawberries into powder

it should be a pretty fine powder

mix it into the flour



**Jump for more butter**

the wamp invasion

April 9th, 2017

Recipe: morel asparagus prosciutto lemon pasta

Colorado is undergoing a bout of Seasonal Confusion. It’s technically shoulder season for our two ski mountains as they both closed today until next Fall 2017. By the good graces of the atmosphere, we managed to nab a couple of powder days this past week at Eldora (thank you, upslope!) before closing day. It’s been a toggle from a snowy day to a sunny day to more snow to sun to snow. One day I’m trail running and the next I’m stepping into my powder skis. Makes my head spin.


jeremy gets first tracks in nearly a foot of powder

and it was the fluffy stuff

a half foot in the morning melted to an inch, then by day’s end it began to snow again

seeking fresh pockets the next morning



As the days get warmer, my mountain buddies and I are itching for mushroom season to start around here. Of course, if you want to speed the season up by a month or so, you merely have to drive 3000 feet down to the plains. So that’s what we did. I mean, lots of flatlanders come up to the mountains to hunt for mushrooms, so why shouldn’t the WAMPs (weird ass mountain people – that’s us) reciprocate? It’s early yet, but we were on a scouting run. There’s a reason we generally prefer to stick to our home turf in the mountains. We don’t have to worry about ticks, poison ivy, rattlesnakes, garbage, and a constant stream of people while we forage. And it’s hot on the flats. Oh man, I nearly lost my marbles when the morning sun emerged above the cloud bank to the east. My skin is still in winter mode. But the mushrooms beckon.

hello pretties! a little nursery of baby oyster mushrooms

my pal harvests some old oyster mushrooms to smear on a log at his house

these are western poison ivy stalks (pre-leaf) – don’t touch!

western poison ivy stalks with berries (again, don’t touch)



Since the Colorado high country will be among the handful of locations with the last morel flushes of the season, I’ve decided to share a recipe that I shot the previous spring for those of you with fresh morels in hand right now (or soon). It would seem that the sickness sets in earlier each year, but I like to think of it as diversifying my portfolio… of mushrooms.

there is much joy to be had in the hunt (from 2016)



Mushrooms and pasta are a no-brainer combination. Use your favorite kind of pasta. Mine is pappardelle. Because morels are the epitome of spring, I thought it appropriate to pair them with asparagus, which also sprout forth from the ground in the early season. Morels, more than the other wild mushrooms I forage, have that slight funk in flavor shared with the likes of stinky cheeses, well-aged full-bodied red wines, and cured meats. Therefore, prosciutto is a lovely companion to these delightful fungi, and hints of lemon zest brighten the whole ensemble.

pasta, morels, asparagus, cream, pepper, parmesan, prosciutto, butter, chicken stock, lemon, salt, garlic, olive oil

halve the morels

rinse and dry the mushrooms



**Jump for more butter**