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Thursday, July 24th, 2014

Recipe: huckleberry fudge

We returned to Nederland a couple of days ago only to be greeted by a furnace blast of a heat wave. Man, is it hot – even in the mountains! We usually find relief at night when we can draw cool air into the house (most mountain homes don’t have air conditioning as we usually don’t need it), but the evenings haven’t offered much of that either. I feel such ambivalence toward summer. On the one hand I cannot stand the heat and I hide from the sun as much as I can, but on the other hand it is the short time when tons of fun and beautiful things happen.

I stopped by the vet’s office on Wednesday afternoon and told the assistant at the desk that I was there to receive Kaweah’s ashes. She walked to the back and looked at four different sized boxes and picked up a medium-ish one. Instead of handing it to me across the front desk, she came around to where I stood and offered me a hug and said she was so sorry. I thought I was getting better about keeping it together when people gave their condolences, but apparently I wasn’t. Blinking back tears, I thanked her and she told me how much the office loved Kaweah and what a remarkable little girl she was. Stepping outside the office into the breeze coming off the mountains, I cradled the box in my arms. It’s so light – so much lighter than the 55 pounds of pup we were used to carrying around in her old age… 55 pounds of mostly water and carbon, reduced to carbon. I know this isn’t my Kaweah. My Kaweah is gone. But she’s also in my heart – so not really gone.

kaweah’s ashes and two framed photos – one for her vet and one for us

Thursday morning presented itself at 5:30 am. That decision, of whether or not to get up and get outside when you’re short on sleep, can be a tough one. I know from experience that I usually won’t regret getting up, but I might regret not getting up. Our dedication was rewarded first thing in the morning with wildlife sightings, colorful wildflowers strewn across the meadows like confetti, and clear views of the high country.

that’s a moose

a big moose

don’t mess with the moose


morning light on delicate blossoms

looking east

the indian peaks high country

It is a great time to catch wildflowers in the mountains around here. They seem to be peaking around 10,000 feet right now. Believe it or not, my whole motivation for hiking was not to see moose or the wildflowers (but both are TOTALLY BONUS!!), it was to check on the huckleberries. Oh, and to get exercise, but… huckleberries. They were green and plumping up nicely in Crested Butte on my last trail run. Here in the Front Range, they’re a little behind their Crested Butte brethren. Still, it’s coming along nicely. Hiking is my finger on the pulse of the hucks.

green hucks in crested butte

What do I plan to do with the huckleberries? Well, I’m glad you asked. I’ve been planning ALL YEAR for this moment in time. One of the treats I’ve been wanting to make is huckleberry fudge. If you’ve ever traveled to Montana and visited a gift shop, you will have seen and possibly sampled huckleberry fudge. I did just that (many) years ago when Jeremy and I took a 6-week detour through the Rocky Mountains on our cross-country move from Pasadena, California to Ithaca, New York. I’m not a big fan of fudge, but huckleberry fudge is something else entirely.

white chocolate, cream cheese, powdered sugar, huckleberry jam

**Jump for more butter**

fluff fest

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

Recipe: cookie butter marshmallow swirl chocolate ice cream

This has been such an excellent winter for us snow-wise. Sandwiched by sunny bluebird days, this last storm dropped nearly a foot in the local mountains on Tuesday. And it was a cold storm which meant nice sugary powder.

untouched snow on the trails

looking across the valley

It’s funny how we use food to describe snow: champagne powder, sugary, mashed potatoes, chocolate chips (technically rocks on snow), buttery, death cookies, corn snow. Recently, when I drop into a big pocket of powder, I’ve been thinking of it as marshmallowy. That jogged my memory of these amazing candy bars that a client (Robin Chocolates) developed last fall: dark chocolate ganache, marshmallow, and cookie butter topped with crisped rice pearls and dipped in dark chocolate. You have to see it to believe it.

insanely good

I had never had cookie butter before until Robin gave me a taste (and then she gave me some of the candy bar to sample). Whoa. Cookie butter, where have you been all my life?! I bought a jar last week for some inspiration, and settled on making an ice cream version of Robin’s candy bar. Damn straight. Are you ready? Start with chocolate ice cream.

egg (yolks), sugar, salt, chocolate, dutch-process cocoa, cream, milk, vanilla

whisk cocoa and cream together

stir chopped chocolate into the heated chocolate cream

stir in more cream

**Jump for more butter**

unexpected delights

Sunday, January 5th, 2014

Recipe: chocolate caramel pretzels

It has taken me a little while to get dialed into Crested Butte since we aren’t here full-time, but it’s happening. The hardest part is reading the skies because the valley is surrounded on three sides by towering mountains. Local orographics make for weather that changes quickly without much warning, unlike our home on the Front Range with unencumbered views reaching from the Continental Divide to the Great Plains. But I’m always observing skyward and the other day as we were finishing our nordic ski, I looked back at Paradise Divide as its mantle of snow began to take on a warm glow. The one day I decided to leave my camera at home…

I skied with a fast and regular stride – kick and glide, kick and glide – arms pumping. I don’t like to rush Jeremy when he’s enjoying his workout, but I tried to hurry him along. At the car, I quickly changed out of my boots and chucked the skis and poles into the back. Sometimes Jeremy will dawdle about with his gear, but thankfully it was too cold for that. As we drove back to our neighborhood I kept looking in the side mirror and commenting on the spectacular colors behind us. Jeremy agreed that it was lovely, but didn’t realize my intention to capture sunset. He asked if he should stop to check the mail and I said, “No! Just pull over on the side of the road – this isn’t going to last another minute!” They say the best camera is the one you have with you, and it’s true.

the glorious sunset from our neighborhood (iphone pano)

In other news, Kaweah is improving daily. I won’t gross you out with photos of her infected toenail, but I’m actually looking forward to when it falls off so she can move about more freely. She’s definitely feeling spunky and getting around like nothing is wrong. For now, the child’s sock remains on the infected paw to keep her from licking it. When I asked the thrift store proprietor if she had children’s socks, she asked how old my child was. “Well, it’s for my dog who has a toe infection.” She smiled and said in a musical voice, “Oh, it’s for your other child! Yes, doggies are our children too.”

my eternal toddler coming in from the snow

So today’s recipe is something that I didn’t think would be very good at all the first time I tried it. This past summer I had two chocolate caramel pretzels from a client shoot sitting on my desk for several days until one afternoon I realized I hadn’t eaten anything all day and broke into one. Then I ate the second one. They were that good. The salty, creamy, chewy, sweet, crunchy, chocolatey was such an unexpectedly delicious combination. Before the holidays, I tried making some to give as gifts. There are two ways to do it – both with good results.

from scratch: pretzel rods, cream, sugar, vanilla bean, water, corn syrup, salt, butter, chocolate

The easiest way is to purchase a bag of caramels (gourmet or store-bought brand name) and melt them in a pan with a little cream. But I decided to make my own caramel since I was out of practice. I let my sugar syrup reach the top of the temperature range (250°F to 320°F), which resulted in a gorgeous but completely hard caramel. I recommend targeting the lower bound or at least the middle of the range so you don’t break your (or other people’s) teeth. Still, I managed to save the caramel by stirring in some cream over a low flame. That yielded a softer, chewier caramel to coat the pretzels.

scrape the vanilla seeds from the vanilla pod

heat butter, cream, salt, and vanilla pod and seeds together

combine the sugar, water, and corn syrup in another pan

**Jump for more butter**