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trials, goals, and bucket lists

Friday, May 20th, 2022

Recipe: green chile chicken enchiladas


peony tulips for kris on may 1


While it might seem quiet around here, it has been anything but. Three months ago, I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and began medication that sent my GI system on a 6-week roller coaster ride. I changed my diet, increased my exercise, and researched how to get my health and blood sugar under control. There were lots of bonks while navigating energy needs with more intense workouts and GI distress from the meds. But after weaning myself off of certain foods (the carbs, I do love them), consulting a nutritionist who specializes in diabetes, and converting some of my favorite recipes to healthier versions, I am meeting my health goals and feeling so much better.


last year: mother’s day, may 2021

last week: may 2022


In January 2022, I began planning a trip for my parents that should have happened in 2020 when my dad turned 80. Yosemite National Park was on my parents’ bucket list. Jeremy and I have camped, hiked, backpacked, ski toured, and photographed in Yosemite over the past 30 years. We knew enough to find a comfortable window for my parents to see the main sights without too much risk of snow or wildfires outside of the insanely crowded peak season. And because I had no way of knowing what the pandemic would be doing in May, I booked stand-alone luxury lodging with en suite dining space (for take out meals).


mother’s day on the lovely deck of our cabin

kicking off happy hour with mother’s day champagne

upper yosemite falls and the merced river

mom and dad at tunnel view


Mom and Dad enjoyed exploring Yosemite Valley, taking in waterfalls full of spring runoff (Bridalveil, Horsetail, Ribbon, Upper and Lower Yosemite), the giant sequoias, the great granite monoliths of El Capitan and Half Dome, the dogwood blossoms, and learning about the geologic history of the region. But the second half of the trip was what Dad was looking forward to the most: wine country. Jeremy tasted wines with my dad and I was the designated driver. All of the tastings were outdoors or open to the outdoors and all of our meals were either outside or carry out. Ultimately the whole adventure was a success because my parents were happy.


wine tasting at joseph phelps winery

the stunning entrance at joseph phelps

in the opus one courtyard

the garden outside our cottage in st. helena


I made sure to have healthy snacks on hand, ordered wisely at restaurants, and got out for hikes or trail runs most days, but it did involve a great deal of effort and planning to pull it all off and cater to my parents’ wishes while making sure the itinerary never went sideways. It was exhausting and I could not have done it without Jeremy’s support (logistical, moral, and otherwise). It’s good to be home with the pups, getting back to my exercise routine, living a simpler life, and eating my own food again.


these two have no idea how much we missed them


Knowing how to cook is probably the most important skill I bring to my dietary pivot. It gives me the ability to turn a generally unhealthy dish into something more nutritious, but still tasty and satisfying. Sometimes I make the indulgent recipe for Jeremy and create a diabetic-friendly mini version with substitutions for myself (because portion control). Other times we both eat the same healthier adaptation. And there are days when we eat completely different meals. It’s all fine.

We have been loving these green chile chicken enchiladas since last year. I’m happy to report that it is still a meal I eat – simply with less cheese, chicken, and oil – in a smaller portion. The original recipe uses flour tortillas which Jeremy can vouch for because I ran out of corn tortillas once. But we both prefer the taste of corn tortillas which are better for me than the refined carbohydrates in a traditional flour tortilla.

There are many shortcuts you can take to make this an easy weeknight meal like shredding the meat from a rotisserie chicken. [I buy an organic rotisserie chicken and use the meat for various soups, salads, sandwiches, nachos, and then use the carcass to make broth.] Fresh or jarred salsa verde works great here. And while I draw from my stash of roasted green chiles from my freezer, feel free to use canned green chiles.


cheese, cilantro, chicken, salsa verde, onions, corn tortillas, green chiles, oregano, garlic, cumin, salt, pepper (not pictured: canola oil)

add oregano, cumin, and garlic to the sautéed onions

stir in the green chiles

mix the cilantro, chicken, half the cheese, and some of the salsa into the filling



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summer happened

Sunday, August 29th, 2021

Recipe: meatless meatballs

Housekeeping News: Google has eliminated FeedBurner’s email subscription service which means you won’t be receiving emails announcing a new use real butter post from now on. I did research other email subscription services, but soon realized my goal is not to grow this blog; I simply want to document recipes and some memories. I typically publish a new recipe once a month and I announce those on my @userealbutter and @jenyuphoto Instagram accounts. Thanks for reading! -jen


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All of my grand plans for summer converged on the month of August. Foraging insane amounts of wild mushrooms, family visits, so much cooking, celebrations, hiking, and many overdue house projects left me short on sleep, heavy on backaches, but ultimately delighted. I’m happy it came together and even more thrilled to let out a big sigh as I crawl across the line to September.


marking kris’ birthday with lilies

so.many.porcini

the chanterelles were off to a great start

jeremy found our first ever blue chanterelles

visited jeremy’s parents and took them porcini hunting

my niece toured the university of colorado in boulder

celebrated mom’s 80th birthday

spent many hours hiking with this crew



And now we can finally get to these fantastic meatless meatballs that were promised since spring. The recipe comes from my friend, Jennifer Perillo (Jennie) – a talented, intuitive, and skilled cook and baker. I’ve made these several times in the last six months. The flavor is excellent and the texture is great. We don’t miss the meat. Even when I flubbed a batch, it ended up more like meat sauce than meatballs and was still terrific. I now keep a few dozen meatless meatballs in the freezer at any given time for a quick weeknight meal.

The bulk of the meatless meatballs comes from cooked lentils. I like that Jennie uses vegetable stock (I use Better than Bouillon vegetable base) and other aromatics to cook her lentils. French (puy) lentils give me the best and most consistent results, but you can use other types. Just watch that they don’t overcook like my green lentils did – because your meatless meatballs will be more inclined to disintegrate during frying (sad) or while eating (manageable). There is usually an extra half cup of cooked lentils which are great in salads, as a side, or spooned straight into your mouth. You can also purchase cooked lentils to save yourself a step. I’ve seen cooked lentils in stores, but have never tried them.


french lentils, shallot, garlic, bay leaf, salt, pepper, vegetable stock

bring it all to a boil and simmer until tender

ready for meatless meatballs



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summer wonders

Monday, August 3rd, 2020

Recipe: crab porcini mac and cheese

July and August meld together for me as one long hot month. I tend to put my head down and muddle through with a lot of ice water, watermelon, and popsicles. But August 1 always stands out as it is Kris’ birthday. She would have turned 54 on Saturday. I arranged flowers, made somen noodle soup, and called my mother to cheer her up.


miss you, love you



Our big excitement was getting out to see comet Neowise in mid-July. Skies were touch and go in the evenings thanks to a sudden influx of moisture and clouds over Colorado. But mountain weather keeps you on your toes and we were able to see the comet with the unaided eye! I photographed it from various locations with decent dark skies. I hope many of you were able to get out to view the comet, but if not, here are a couple of my captures.

close-up of comet neowise and two distinct tails (the white dust tail and the blue ion tail)

neowise reflected in the lake as it set behind the mountains



Did I mention it was hot? It’s still hot and it’s getting hotter this week. On those days that we didn’t venture out on the trails to let the pups wade through cold mountain streams, we thought they might enjoy some baby pool time. We hadn’t pulled the pool out in 5 years (since Neva was a wee pup and peed in the pool) and were curious to see how Yuki reacted to this concept. She seemed leery of it at first, then fascinated, then took to jumping in and out of the pool with an occasional pause to quench her thirst (from the pool). It was like a giant water dish she could stand in and simultaneously take a swig from.

what the hecc?

a moment of blissful stillness



When we hiked into the high country, we sought out solitude, views, wildflowers, wildlife, and swimming holes. With so many putting their typical summer activities on hold due to the pandemic, our mountain trails have been inundated with throngs of people – plenty of whom aren’t wearing masks or respecting physical distance. Instead of dealing with that idiocy, we’ve been frequenting the lesser known local trails and tackling home tasks that have been on the to-do list forever. Our guest room is now a second office since no one should visit us while the pandemic is ongoing.

yuki side-eye and a view

mountain meadows sprinkled with color

magenta paintbrush

larkspur

lounging moose

neva dives in while yuki looks on



And it looks as if it might be porcini season. Even the mushrooms appear to be uncertain about this year. I can’t really blame them as much of the state is in drought and last year’s astounding flush is a tough act to follow.

found this early bolter all alone



Still, if there are any porcini to be found and foraged, I have lots of recipes for them. I made this crab porcini macaroni and cheese last summer with my abundant haul. This rich and decadent dish goes a long way, which means you might get to enjoy the leftovers the following day. Use whatever pasta shape you like. Macaroni works, of course, but I happen to like small shells, penne, or pipe rigate (pictured below), too. I realize fresh porcini can be difficult to find, so you can substitute whatever edible mushroom you like.

pepper, milk, cheddar, bread crumbs, salt, gruyère, pasta, butter, flour

crab legs, fresh thyme, fresh porcini



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