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emergence

Tuesday, May 25th, 2021

Recipe: venison with morel sauce

We received our second shots the day before the anniversary of Kris’ passing. Based on reports from several friends as well as the CDC, I assumed I’d be feeling pretty miserable within 24 hours of my second dose. I bought some flowers earlier in the hopes they would still be bright and perky on May 1.


sunny ranunculus for kris



Because my parents were in town for the past month, our emergence from pandemic isolation has been hastened by their desire to see us. There’s being fully vaccinated and then there is being mentally prepared for the increase in activity and engagement and noise and personalities and driving. And I have to admit that while seeing my parents again has been good, the chaos and stress of stepping back into “normal” life feels anything but normal. It’s not being out of practice so much as questioning if being social is what I enjoy or what society wants me to enjoy. Perhaps Brood X is on to something.

a strawberry mother’s day cake i baked for mom



Per our usually scheduled atmospheric programming, it snowed on Mother’s Day and it snowed some more after that. Any precipitation is welcome in our mountains as we are practically guaranteed a terrible wildfire season in the American West again. The snows and rains made for a cooler, wetter, moodier May, but that hopefully means more mushrooms, more wildflowers, and healthier wildlife here on the Front Range. The western half of Colorado hasn’t been nearly so lucky, but I remain hopeful that the summer monsoons that evaporated the last few years will reappear now that La Niña has officially ended. I love a good Colorado mountain summer rainstorm.

colorado sun and snow in may

signs of life in the mountains: a pasqueflower

deck lounging season has commenced



After taking my parents to the airport last week to catch their morning flight back to Virginia, Jeremy and I stopped to check a morel spot on the plains. We hadn’t paid much attention to the season and we weren’t expecting anything other than a few spears of feral asparagus. But if you don’t look, you’ll never find them. Foraging on the flats is my least favorite kind of foraging because of the ticks and poison ivy and heat and sun and bugs and so many more people, which might explain why I’m so half-heartedly half-assed about the whole endeavor. And to our great surprise, we found a handful of large blonde morels – including the biggest one I’ve ever seen in the flesh!

growing out of the ground like no big deal

approaching child-sized status



My inclination upon finding the first morels of every season is to batter fry them, but that can get a little strange with a morel the size of a guinea pig. The other three weren’t small by our standards, either. Sure, you can cut the big ones up, but half the fun is eating them whole. I flipped through Hank Shaw’s Buck, Buck, Moose cookbook, unearthed a couple of venison backstraps from our freezer (courtesy of our wonderful neighbors), and decided the fate of these precious fungi. The dish is straightforward, quick, and special.

morel mushrooms, venison backstraps, salt, flour, canola oil, butter, beef stock, pepper, port wine, onion



Venison with morel mushroom sauce in the cookbook is slightly different from Hank’s updated web version. The cookbook recipe (this one) works and I’m certain Hank’s newer recipe is just as good if not better, but I didn’t see it until just now. I used fresh morels, but if morels aren’t in season and you have dried morels, Hank has instructions in both recipes for how to use those instead. I suspect you could go with frozen morels, too (I sauté extra morels in butter then freeze them for later use). And if you don’t have access to venison backstrap or tenderloin, beef is a decent alternative.

salt the venison

chopped onion and morels



I seared the venison backstraps rare, measuring the internal temperature at the thickest end to about 120°F (rare is 125°F), knowing it would continue to rise some as the meat rested on a plate. You can shoot for medium rare (final temperature 130°F), but cooking more than that will ruin this lean, tender cut.

sear the meat

resting



**Jump for more butter**

the figs that didn’t fit

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2021

Recipe: chocolate-dipped brandy truffle figs

January was a marked improvement over December for us as we enjoyed better (more) snow and could focus on work and exercise in Crested Butte without the distraction and stress of the holidays. The Nordic trails and mountain resorts had mostly emptied of traveling guests, which is how we like it – but especially with an ongoing pandemic. The quiet trails presented an opportunity to work with the pups off-leash. They both made great progress and had heaps of fun.


snow, mountains, skis, and a good pup

skiing any powder we could get

neva being calm and happy on a skijoring session

beautiful front range sunsets

more sun than snow in nederland



Yuki turned three years old on Monday. She hasn’t been a baby for a while now, but she’s still a baby. One of our many nicknames for Yuki is Baby because her spec sheet at RezDawg Rescue listed “Baby” in her age field. We love that little nugget so much. You can see birthday videos on my Instagram here.

birthday yuki!



Back in early December, Jeremy and I gathered a bunch of goodies for care packages to send to our parents. We don’t celebrate Christmas nor do we send holiday gifts, but we thought our sets of parents needed some cheering up. They had all been so good about not socializing and keeping safe, and we knew they missed seeing friends, going out, seeing family, and most of all – their grandchildren. I packed as much as I could in the boxes and shipped them out before the huge postal service holiday clog. Sadly, a box of chocolate figs I found at Trader Joe’s didn’t fit in the boxes. Eventually, we tried some. They were AMAZING and of course the next time we were at Trader Joe’s they were gone – one of those ephemeral seasonal items.

The figs were so delightful that they stuck in my mind for a month, at which point I decided to recreate them myself. A brandy truffle stuffed into a dried fig and dipped in chocolate. A note on dried figs: I liked the size and texture of the dried golden figs from Trader Joe’s (this isn’t an ad, I just shop there). They were moist and sweet without being too fragile and sticky to handle. I didn’t like the dried figs from Costco which were dry, tough, and flavorless. When I returned the bag, they informed me that many other people had similar complaints/returns. And I did not bother finding them at Whole Foods because they’ve turned the entire bulk foods area into a staging ground for deliveries.


dried figs, chocolate, brandy, heavy cream



Making the ganache for the brandy truffle is straightforward. I originally used an ounce of brandy for a half pound of semisweet chocolate. It works, but I definitely prefer a punchier booze presence than a subtle flavoring. Next time I’ll up that to 2 ounces, but go by your taste.

pour hot cream over chopped chocolate

stir in the brandy

let cool completely



**Jump for more butter**

feels like a new year

Tuesday, January 5th, 2021

Recipe: japanese spinach salad with sesame (horenso gomaae)

Happy New Year, everyone!

I was convinced that the new year would mean nothing and that nothing would change. I still think that’s true, but my mood is noticeably brighter and I think it has to do with the increase in daylight (even if it is only by a few minutes) and my resumption of daily exercise over the holidays. Or perhaps it is that clean slate feeling when you hang the new calendar on your office wall. I hope you were all able to get some rest the last few weeks. Most of December was a frenzy of deadlines, but once those were met we skied our brains out and holed up with the pups at our place in Crested Butte. We also cranked out our annual Year in Photos (such as it was) which you can find at: http://jenyu.net/newyear/.


heading into the brighter side of the winter solstice



Neva’s surgery to remove a tumor from her foot at the start of December went well. Our vet instructed us to keep her in a cone for two weeks while the wound healed. At first, Neva was paralyzed by this new attachment. Any time she brushed against something she cowered. But after 24 hours, she became used to the appendage and began crashing through doorways, dragging the cone along furniture and walls, and terrorizing Yuki. I think she secretly liked this not-so-secret weapon of hers! Eventually the stitches came out, she healed for another week, and then Neva got the green light to PLAY and RUN and BE A DOGGO AGAIN!

neva and the one cone to rule them all

christmas scooby snacks



And just in case you missed the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn on the winter solstice, we had clear skies that evening and I snapped a photo from our deck in the middle of dinner prep. On the left is a 100% crop and on the right I’ve zoomed in a bit and labeled the gas giants and their moons. By my naked eye, it looked like one brilliant star. A little magnification can go a long way to revealing the amazingness of the world(s) around us!

jupiter-saturn conjunction



Colorado is cruising at 79% of the state’s normal snow pack right now. That combined with the pandemic means we’ve only ventured onto the ski resorts a handful of times so far this season, opting for more physically distant endeavors like skating the Nordic trails, backcountry ski touring (conservatively, as the avalanche danger dictates), and uphill skiing the resorts before the lifts start running. All summer and fall I dream of sliding on snow and when the season arrives, I start to panic that it’s going to be over in 6-7 months. But it goes both ways because yesterday I was waxing poetic to Jeremy about foraging summer alpine mushrooms.

feel the burn, earn your turns

grabbing some miles before the storm rolls in

new year’s morning uphill ski



Right! The reason I posted today was not so much to wish you all a happy new year (although that’s part of it), but to document a delightful new-to-me salad that I’ve been making at least once a week for the past couple of months. While we love vegetables and I am in a constant state of casually seeking new vegetable recipes, I decided a few months into the pandemic that I wanted to proactively move us in the direction of consuming less meat without resorting to mounds of pasta, potatoes, and cheese. Meat substitutions don’t interest me and tofu is a right and proper food unto itself. Despite having a decent repertoire of vegetable and vegetarian recipes, I honestly don’t think you can ever have enough. This Japanese spinach salad, with a handful of ingredients and simple preparation, has rekindled my love affair with the leafy green.

spinach, soy sauce, sesame seeds, sugar, salt, sake, mirin



What I’ve shot here is the original recipe for 8 ounces of raw spinach that serves 4 people. The recipe listed at the end of the post is a double batch because Jeremy and I easily polish off 8 ounces in one sitting. It keeps well enough in the refrigerator that we can enjoy the salad again the next day, so now I usually prepare a pound of spinach at a time. I buy those 1 pound cartons of organic baby spinach, but adult spinach leaves work great, too. For the sesame dressing, you can heat the toasted sesame seeds or not. I’ve made the recipe both ways and prefer the more pronounced sesame flavor when the seeds have been warmed.

heat the sesame seeds in a pan

grind them with a mortar and pestle

stir the sugar, soy sauce, mirin, and sake into the sesame seeds



**Jump for more butter**