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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



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greening

Sunday, May 10th, 2020

Recipe: easy strawberry cake

I’d like to say that social distancing has made me more aware of my natural surroundings, but that would be a lie. I’ve been eagerly awaiting the greening of our wild spaces since February, watching for every hint of spring’s arrival. And by greening, I mean the sprouting of tiny buds and leaves and shoots. I could go either way at this point: four feet of snow or full frontal mushroom flush.


morning fog condenses on mountain pasqueflower fuzz

hello wild (feral) asparagus season



As I’ve said before, I don’t mind self-isolation because I like staying in the mountains. We considered our bi-monthly trip to the flats a chore of necessity – that is until the asparagus spears started popping up. It isn’t simply the allure of finding “free food” because you should know by now that “free isn’t free”. Part of it is the thrill of foraging, but also the forensics. I don’t just pick and go, but study the ghosts of the previous year, make note of growth patterns, and recognize where stalks have been cut, torn, or chewed.

the sweetest stalks

sautéed asparagus, snap peas, morels (from last year), on homemade tagliatelle

tempura fried asparagus in a mushroom sushi roll



On the sewing front, I spent a little time prototyping a hybrid of the Olson and pleated mask designs and finally settled on one that achieved my goals of fit, function, and ease of production (because I am not a skilled sewist). I posted a 10-minute tutorial on Instagram here: https://www.instagram.com/p/B__igaYlJoz/ if you are interested. That took forever, but I am hoping the effort will help others make masks for themselves and those who need them.

a recent batch of masks



There hasn’t been a lot of sugary baking going on in our house during the pandemic. It’s mostly been dog treats and cooking savory meals. But now that sweet, red strawberries are arriving in markets, I can get on board with something like a simple cake studded with those red gems.

flour, strawberries, vanilla extract, vegetable oil, sour cream, sugar, eggs, baking powder, salt

dice half of the strawberries and slice the other half



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run me hot and cold

Sunday, February 23rd, 2020

Recipe: mushroom carnitas with magical green sauce

We’re getting that spring swing already – days of sunshine and warmth interspersed with frigid cold. I have found the best method for enjoying the weather is to roll with it. By now our bodies have grown accustomed to winter conditions such that warm days feel like a beach vacation without the sand getting into your personal spaces. I’m kidding, it’s nothing like the beach! And that’s great because I’m not a huge fan of tropical climates and their sandy associations.


sun and snow is so colorado

pups’ day off means jeremy gets to play

playing in the yard after a storm

getting ready at the trailhead – i feel the same as yuki

the pups love their cold day ski tours

and they really love the sunny day ski tours



I’m getting into the groove of the longer days. Extended hours of winter darkness don’t get me down the way they do other folks (including Jeremy), but I do find my self-motivation increasing with more daylight. I spent much of the long holiday weekend cooking and baking old favorites as well as a few new recipes.

his (chocolate espresso raspberry) and hers (lemon huckleberry) small cheesecakes



One of the new recipes had caught my eye on Instagram the week prior: mushroom carnitas. This stirred triple excitement in me because 1) I was already obsessing about our spring mushroom foraging season, which includes oyster mushrooms that are used in the recipe 2) I love carnitas and 3) I’m always looking for tasty ways to reduce our meat consumption.

a lovely cluster of oysters that erin had found a couple of seasons ago

a haul of spring oyster mushrooms from another season



I could have waited for oyster season to start before testing the recipe, but fresh oyster mushrooms are usually available year round at my local Whole Foods or the bigger Asian markets. I made a half recipe and only grabbed a pound of oysters. Now do you have to use oyster mushrooms? No, you don’t. But I wouldn’t use regular mushrooms because the texture of oysters tends to be stringier which lends well to the mushroom carnitas. Based on my limited knowledge of mushrooms, I’d suggest beech or king trumpets (aka king oysters) for substitutes as they offer a similar texture/structure.

onion, lime, orange, oyster mushrooms, black pepper, cumin, coriander, oregano, garlic powder, salt, worcestershire sauce, olive oil

lime juice, orange juice, sliced onions

shred the mushrooms by pulling them into strips

if the caps are too firm to shred, you can slice them with a knife



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