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pieces of a broken heart

Recipe: hot smoked salmon and asparagus pasta

Jeremy and I want to thank you all for the touching comments, emails, messages, and other notes on Kaweah’s passing. We are in awe of your love for our dear pup and grateful for your kindness and well wishes. Thank you so very much. xo

The past week has been a bit of a blur as we try to resume life without Kaweah. Everywhere we turned we expected to see that cute little face staring back at us (presumably wondering if we had beef or cheese or apples to offer). And when I didn’t find Kaweah, I just sat down and sobbed. Or I stood and sobbed. I sobbed as I folded her freshly laundered towels and beddings. I sobbed as I put away her dog bowls. I did a lot of sobbing. It was hard being in the house without her – so we packed up and headed southwest. Kaweah’s absence is still felt, but it’s slightly less pronounced here in Crested Butte. Just slightly.

kaweah’s last sunset

my last photo of kaweah on the way to the vet

tags, leashes, and collars by the front door

I still miss hearing her soft snoring in the middle of the night, or watching her little legs chase bunnies in her dreams, or the funny way she would sniff sniff sniff EVERYTHING in the yard until it culminated in a giant sneeze. Getting outside has helped tremendously. Most of you know that the mountains are my therapy sessions. It’s incredibly beautiful right now too.

i spotted a gorgeous bull moose on my trail run last week

brilliant stormy sunset over paradise divide

wildflowers dot the hillslopes of the crested butte high country

While trail running alone, I can lose myself in thought for hours and think about Kaweah without crying. Occasionally, one of her nicknames will push from my lungs into the mountain air and I’ll smile at the memory of her goofy shenanigans. Cooking helps too. I went through one day of depression eating before I bounced back to a normal meal pattern. Prepping vegetables has been especially meditative. My mom told me keeping busy will help, and she’s right. I shot this pasta recipe a few weeks ago, with Kaweah at my side to catch any stray pieces of salmon. Blogging will help me find my way back to normal.

hot smoked salmon, salt, pepper, garlic, olive oil, white wine, fettuccine, cream, parmesan, butter, asparagus

drizzle olive oil over the asparagus

season with salt and pepper and grill (or roast)

slice asparagus into bite-size pieces

This dish was cobbled together this past spring to use up leftover hot smoked salmon and grilled asparagus. I know, who has leftover hot smoked salmon? It was so easy to make and Jeremy loved it so much, it just made sense to share it here. And of course, you can tweak the amounts or replace ingredients to your liking.

prepped and ready to cook

pasta cooked al dente

sauté garlic in melted butter

add white wine and reduce by a third

The cream in the sauce lends that extra bit of decadence. When I make this pasta for the two of us, I will make half of the sauce without cream (for me, because dairy messes with my tummy) and the other half with cream (for Jeremy). Do whatever suits your fancy, it’s fantastic either way.

add cream to the reduced wine

toss the pasta with the sauce

add the salmon and asparagus

toss with half of the parmesan

Sprinkle a little Parmesan and freshly ground black pepper and serve the pasta right away for the best flavor and textures. If you plan to reheat the pasta, it helps to heat it over low heat in a saucepan with a little added cream or butter. It’s pretty easy to prepare most of the ingredients ahead of time for quick assembly, and the dish itself will certainly garner a few oohs and ahhs.

accompanied with a nice chardonnay

a nice balance of flavors

dinner is served

Hot Smoked Salmon and Asparagus Pasta
[print recipe]

1 lb. uncooked fettuccine or other pasta
2 lbs. asparagus, woody ends broken off
2 tbsps olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
4 tbsps unsalted butter
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup dry white wine (I used La Crema Sonoma Coast Chardonnay)
1 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste
8-12 oz. hot smoked salmon, skinned and broken into bite-size pieces
1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Cook the pasta al dente. While the pasta boils, toss the asparagus spears with olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Grill the asparagus spears, flipping once, about 3-4 minutes a side (depending on thickness of asparagus). Or, if you don’t have a grill, roast the asparagus in a baking dish in the oven at 425°F for 15-20 minutes (depending on thickness of asparagus). When the asparagus is done, remove from heat and cut spears into 2-inch pieces. Set aside.

In a large sauté pan or stock pot, melt the butter over high heat. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant. Pour in the white wine and let simmer until the volume reduces by 1/3 of the volume (more or less). This takes about 5 minutes. Stir the cream into the reduced wine sauce and season with salt and pepper. Add the pasta and coat with the sauce. Turn off the heat. Gently mix in the asparagus and salmon. Toss the pasta with half of the Parmesan cheese. Serve the remaining Parmesan on the side. Serves 4-6.

more goodness from the use real butter archives

smoked salmon artichoke quiche grilled salmon cucumber dill salad homemade salmon lox salmon cakes

45 nibbles at “pieces of a broken heart”

  1. Judy says:

    My thoughts are still with you both every day. Your therapy choices sound good, especially with all those wonderful puppy memories. My girl left me just after Labor Day last year, and I still miss her terribly. I think I always will, even if another dog becomes a part of my family. I remember, miss, and still love all my previous dogs, but I know there is always room in my life for more. Take care.

  2. Kristin says:

    Your therapy photos are lovely. Hang in there. As you well know, this recovery will take a loooong time. I’ve always found crying in the shower to be very therapeutic. The photo from the trip to the vet kills me. Still sending love & comfort vibes your direction.

  3. Chani says:

    so proud of you for keeping up with the blogging, I’m glad you find it helps. know that many of us have lost our dear, sweet pups, too, so we have an idea of what you’re going through. take your time in mourning her loss and in healing your heart. there’s no rush.

  4. Giselle says:

    Jen, I’m so sorry for your loss. My thoughts and prayers go out to you and your family. Anyone who reads your blog knows how much Kaweah has had an impact on your life and how much she meant to you. I hope your heart finds comfort and peace in this difficult time.

  5. Mittens says:

    Hugs hugs hugs. I wish you all the strength, comfort, love and peace you need.

  6. CoffeeGrounded says:

    Graciously happy to see your post. I’m hoping you and Jeremy are having a good time in Crested Butte. Time for reflection, solace, and the time to grieve and celebrate that girls beautiful life. Thank you for giving her a remarkable life. And always remember that each of gives thanks for having been included in this wondrous journey. Our days were better because you made that sweet Kaweah a part of, use.real.butter. Her legacy moves forward, and we know she is watching over all of us. How can she not? “To love, and to be loved, is the greatest of all gifts.” In giving, one receives, and love is eternal, Jenzie.

    That recipe looks scrumptious. Asparagus has been abundant at our grocers, tender and sweet. This dish will be coming to our table soon. All I need is to snare me some stalks and I’m on my way.


  7. Thekitchwitch says:

    I have been thinking of you often Jen, usually when I find myself getting annoyed when the Mozz-man demands his 20th walk of the day or chews up another household object. Then I remember you and Kaweah and I feel like a jerk and I get my perspective back in order. Dogs are here to make us remember to slow down and be patient and open our hearts a little more. I hope that blogging and cooking and time in the Butte will help your heart heal a little faster. Much love.

    ps: the pasta looks amazing, of course!

  8. hungry dog says:

    Glad you got away for a bit. When we lost our choco lab in 2011, we had to leave town for a few days, too. The thought of being at home without her was debilitating. And, I too work from home and found the adjustment very difficult. Lots of crying on and off for weeks. The only thing that really made me feel better was time. And: getting another dog a few months later, just by chance. I know you may not be a ready for a long time for another pup, and possibly never, but in my experience, opening my heart to another crazy-sweet lab that needed a home was the best possible comfort. I still miss my choco and always will, but thee years later, I love our yellow lab just as much. So, file that away for the future. In the meantime, big hugs.

  9. cindy c says:

    thinking of you and kaweah! she will always, always be remembered.

  10. Melissa says:

    That pasta is so gorgeous. I’m glad you have cooking, and the hiking, and the mountains. The last photo of Kaweah and your words about her have me so choked. I miss her. And I love you.

  11. Kate Wheeler says:

    Oh Jen, when I heard about Kaweah I cried. Dogs are family, and your connection was palpable through your words and pictures. My mom recently had to put down her 13 year old sheepdog, and we are all still so, so sad.

  12. casey says:

    Thinking of you and Jeremy every day and giving my furry pal, Cal, extra treats. Thanks for posting during this recovery period. The photo of the moose reminds me of one morning I walked onto our deck in Winter Park and found a bull eating scraps from the grates of our Weber grill; our deck was at least 12 feet off the ground.

    Beyond thrilled to see an update today. This recipe will definitely be on next week’s menu! <3

  13. Rosi says:

    I am sobbing again. I know your pain, how deep and aching it is. Grief is a deeply personal journey, but know how many of us understand what you are going through. We do get it, and we are beside you as you move through it.

  14. Amy says:

    So very glad to see you pop back up in my reader. I know this is an incredibly difficult time for both you and Jeremy, and it sounds like you are doing what you need to do. My thoughts are with you. Even as a self-defined “cat person”, I will miss Kaweah’s wonderful presence on your blog. And I certainly feel your pain. Blessings on these animals who share our lives and bring us so much love and joy. Take good care of yourselves in this process. And thank you for sharing.

  15. debbie says:

    I’m so glad to see that you and Jeremy went away for a while. That is such a good idea. A change a scenery is sometimes needed at times like this. I have been thinking of you every day Jen and was telling my husband about your blog and Kaweah. I’m sure I’ve mentioned in one of my comments to you that my little chihuahua passed away in April this year. Unexpected and heartbreaking. 2 days later my dad passed away. Just an awful time. My 15 year old was on spring break and he looked at me and said “what am I going to tell my teachers when they ask how spring break was?” We both laughed through our tears. Sometimes even in the middle of heartbreak a little sick humor finds it’s way in. I’m thinking of you Jen and understand how difficult it is. I hope that a little smile and laughter will find it’s way to you.

  16. Allie says:

    oh my heart aches. that little black face staring back is what I dread most – I have my own little furry black labrador ‘monster’ (he’s the most snuggly, cuddly, loveable, hugable monster EVER) and I can’t imagine not having him around. it’s amazing how meditative chopping vegetables or even stirring risotto while staring into the increasingly creamy pot of rice can be. I hope you can find peace in that an honor kaweah with all those endeavours in the kitchen to come!

  17. Jen says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss, Jen. Dogs are such a presence in our lives and it will take time to get over this loss. Anyone who doesn’t understand that is an ass (in fact, I’ve always felt that people who don’t like dogs have a character flaw).

  18. Jessica says:

    The world would be a better place if more people were as open as you have been about your loss. Thanks for sharing so much of yourself on this beautiful blog.

  19. Broken Nose Vanilla says:

    Crying all over again – I didn’t respond last week, just remembering when our own dear “first born” pup had to go. Loved your elegant and touching note to us all who had been dreading the inevitable. Hang in there, keep trailing and cooking! xFiona

  20. Melanie says:

    Yummy, yummy, yummy recipe.

    I know what you mean about looking for Kaweah everywhere and all the time. They are just such great and constant companions….like another piece of ourselves. My former husband has an elderly dog and we were just talking about how they are such a constant presence, both physically and mentally, for us when they get older. So much more attention needs to be devoted to making sure they’re taken care of and comfortable. Sadly, it’s after all that intense thought and attention that they leave us. It makes their absence even more keen. Sobbing and crying is processing. Such a deep love and affection means deep emotion. I’m glad you can find things that distract you or ease the pain. I think that’s why people get puppies so soon after losing their pet….nothing like a puppy to distract you and keep you occupied. (I’m not recommending that….just an observation.) Hugs.

  21. Caroline says:

    I always find comfort in nature too..Big hugs!!

  22. Carol says:

    Years ago a friend sent me this as a reminder that our sweet pup Jasper would always be part of our home, even after he was gone. Now I send it to you for your dear Kaweah.

  23. Annika says:

    I was so sorry to hear of Kaweah’s passing. She seemed like such a sweet dog. I know how the loss feels. A very dear friend of mine that I hadn’t been in touch with for awhile called me and we talked and I found out both her labs had passed away. They were such sweet dogs and it was hard to believe that they wouldn’t be there anymore. They seemed like they would always be there waiting with their big grins and wagging tails. I really hope you feel better soon. <3

  24. Madhu says:

    Known Kaweah and userealbutter for years …. very quietly….

  25. Joyce says:

    For those of us who have experienced the loss of a beloved pet know that the grieving process can be so painful and you begin to wonder if it will ever subside into acceptance. Time is a healer though, but I just wanted to hurry it along! Oh the joy they bring into our lives is priceless, and losing them agony, BUT I would not have missed our time with our Princess for anything in the world. We are the richer for having such a Love in our home, hearts and lives.
    Bless you both!

  26. Abbe@This is How I Cook says:

    Oh my, girl. I’m still crying and I lost George in February. It takes a long time. Your photos are gorgeous and not a day goes by that I don’t look up in the clouds and imagine. Take your time. And eat his pasta.

  27. Kath says:

    I was so glad to see you in my inbox this morning. It sounds like you and Jeremy are doing all of the right things during this difficult time. You were blessed to have Kaweah in your life, but she was truly blessed to have you, too. I think your mom’s right. Keep busy, but be easy on yourselves, too.

    Your hot smoked salmon and asparagus pasta looks amazing! We never have leftover hot smoked salmon. I may have to buy some just to make your pasta recipe.

    p.s. Your photo of the moose is stunning! I didn’t realize there are moose in Colorado.

  28. M. K. says:

    It’s good to hear from you, Jen. Thank you for the lessons you are teaching us about how to grieve with grace and at the same time take care of oneself. Well done you! Your glorious photographs provide e-healing, too…not only the nature-related ones, but the pasta as well. Am so looking forward to trying it!

  29. angelitacarmelita says:

    I love that your taking your time, and grieving slowly. Let it sink in, and be good to yourselves. I think a plate of this would be good therapy too! We love you guys, and miss Kaweah. Sending you love, and strength.

  30. Virginia says:

    I’ve been avoiding visiting userealbutter while I’m at work because I know I’ll start crying…and yup, that just happened. Sending so much love and hugs & support to you & Jeremy & everyone who loved her – and thinking about how Kaweah must be chasing bunnies & rolling around in piles of beef & cheese in pup heaven right now <3

  31. Marsha says:

    Thank you for sharing Kaweah so generously. I fell in l ove with her immediately when I first discovered this blog. Your photos so capture her heart. You and Jeremy are in my thoughts as you begin these new days. May you find her spirit in everything she loved as she rests in your hearts forever.

  32. Marcy says:

    God Bless.

  33. Rose says:

    Like so many others, we feel your pain with the loss of our own beloved pet.

    In a way it is such a shame that our pets have a shorter life expectancy than we do. That means that we have the potential to enjoy them in their youth, their old age, and unfortunately their loss maybe several times in our lives.

    It is so bittersweet.

    But then life goes on and we find solace in memories, friendly spaces, cooking and blogging.

    Thanks for all that you share with us Jen and Jeremy.

  34. Pey-Lih says:

    Thank you for sharing your recipe while you’re still grieving. Enjoy each step in your trail running and soak in the meditation while chopping veggies: these are all very calming because it takes us away from our sorrow. Hang in there!

  35. Cindy says:

    This looks delicious. You cannot go wrong with salmon, pasta, asparagus, and garlic butter.

    I have been reading your blog for years now, and was so sad to hear of Kaweah’s passing. Wishing you so many happy memories during this tough time.

  36. MaryW says:

    I love your recipes, but I’ll miss reading about Kaweah the most. I always looked forward to that part of the blog! May she rest in peace.

  37. jacquie says:

    i have thought of you and jeremy often in the past week as loosing a beloved family member is so very hard. I too find some small degree of peace in nature and baking. after the very recent death of my beloved scout that was where i felt the closest to him and the healing could begin. keep doing those things and finding comfort in there. take care of yourselves.

  38. farmerpam says:

    Thought of you and Kaweah as me and my pup, Sugar, took a break on our hike. I hugged her tight and realized how quick time passes. We enjoyed the view in memory of Kaweah. Thanks for sharing all that you do.

  39. Tressa in NC says:

    I’ve cried, too. I’m so sorry for your broken hearts and your loss of Kaweah.

  40. Becky says:

    That meal looks fantastic. Beautiful presentation.

    I’ve had a lot of deaths and loss in my life the last few years. Grief is real and powerful. I’ve found that allowing myself to feel it, while recalling happy memories helps. Thank you for sharing your reality.

    Your views of the outdoors in Colorado this time of year are stunning. That moose!

  41. Anna says:

    I’ll miss reading about Kaweah, it was always a joy reading about her. Sending you thoughts of peace during your time of sorrow. Thanks for sharing during these difficult time and may she rest in peace. Lots of love.

  42. Magda says:

    I am so sorry for your loss. Stay strong!

  43. Terri says:

    I don’t care for the taste of fish, but my middle sister loves salmon. I shared your recipe with her and she made it the other night. She called me to let me know how awesome it turned out. I was thrilled that even though I don’t like salmon, I could share a good recipe with her.

  44. jenyu says:

    Judy – thank you. I’m sure we’ll get another dog someday, just not too soon :)

    Kristin – awww, it doesn’t seem to matter if I cry in the shower or when it’s dry… my eyes turn so red ;)

    Chani – yes, I started blogging to heal my heart after my sister died, and it continues to be a place of solace for me.

    Giselle – thank you xoxo

    Mittens – xxoo

    CoffeeGrounded – thanks.

    TKW – don’t feel bad. Kaweah was a pain in the butt when she was young (well, from puppy to 10 years). She only mellowed out in the last 5+ years. Kaweah didn’t teach me patience until she got old ;)

    hungry dog – I’m sure we’ll get another dog, but having spent 2 years caring for an elderly dog, Jeremy (understandably) would like a break. I feel the same. There are things we put off doing for a few years because of Kaweah. It was worth it for her safety and comfort, but we are ready to not be tied to the house for a little while.

    cindy c – thank you!

    Melissa – love you too, Mel. Love you so much!!

    Kate Wheeler – so sweet of you. Thank you xo

    casey – ha ha!! Those moose are sooo tall!!

    Rosi – you are very kind. Kaweah had a good life and she lived every minute to the fullest. We should all be so fortunate :) xo

    Amy – thank you xo

    debbie – it was in our plans. We were actually going to bring Kaweah with us, but… her decline was so sudden it was obvious she wouldn’t be making another trip to Crested Butte. I’m so sorry about your sweet pup and your father. Death is just so hard. Sending love to you.

    Allie- they are the best dogs.

    Jen – ha ha ha!! That is awesome. xo

    Jessica – xxoo

    Broken Nose Vanilla – thank you xxoo

    Melanie – :) A puppy will likely come in time, but not yet. xo

    Caroline – it really heals the soul, doesn’t it? xo

    Carol – thank you.

    Annika – xo

    Madhu – :)

    Joyce – so true, so true. xo

    Abbe – xo

    Kath – it’s rare that we have leftover hot smoked salmon (usually it’s just a second package of it!). Yes, we have moose! Lots of moose :)

    M.K. – I hope you like the pasta. It’s quite the indulgence!

    angelitacarmelita – thank you xxoo

    Virginia – awwww, please don’t cry. Kaweah lived the kind of life we should all hope for :) She was crazy and silly until the very end. xo

    Marsha – what beautiful words, thank you xo

    Marcy – thank you.

    Rose – oh, I would rather have Kaweah go before me than the other way around. This way, we could always be there for her and she would never know a day of uncertainty or loneliness. I would endure the heartache of losing her to spare her the fear of not having us there xo

    Pey-Lih – thanks.

    Cindy – thank you.

    MaryW – yes, I’ll miss blogging about that crazy dog. She was the best :)

    jacquie – thank you for that.

    farmerpam – give Sugar lots of extra hugs and love from me too xxoo

    Tressa in NC – xo

    Becky – yes, loss is tough. Sadly, I have experience with it too. Kaweah’s passing was not unexpected, just… tough. But she lived well and was well-loved.

    Anna – thank you.

    Magda – yes! xo

    Terri – so glad she liked it!

  45. Rocky Mountain Woman says:

    I’ve been out of town and missed this sad chapter in your life. I am so sorry. I’ve been in your shoes a few times and it never gets easier.

    Sending a virtual hug your way and hoping you are getting back to normal a bit.



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