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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**

rethinking

Tuesday, November 26th, 2019

Recipe: jalapeno popper dip

I’ve been absent a while. It was originally unintentional, but then it became very intentional. There was a lot going on in the past month. Instead of stressing over everything that needed to get done, I reassessed my priorities and let the blog sink to the bottom of that pile. My plan was to resume posting as soon as I could. Then the thought of using that time to focus on health and well… my life, sounded like a better plan. So that’s what I’ve been doing. Here are highlights from the past month:


dim sum with my folks who were back in town for a few weeks

they came prepared for colorado’s arctic welcome

baking gluten-free sourdough for my neighbor (from this amazing book)

enjoying the return of autumn sunsets



Waiting for snow is hard on those of us who love skiing and riding. We waited for three long and dry weeks for the snow train to return. Big dump snow days are always welcome here, but we have learned that ANY snow is good as we wind down toward the shortest days of the year. As you probably know, we are huge proponents of outdoor exercise in the cold months. It’s good for you and it vastly improves your outlook on life.

catching laps above the fog bank

lovely hoar frost from the lift

getting our crazy girls out for a hike in the snow



Thanksgiving in the US is a day away and I really couldn’t bring myself to make a Thanksgiving-appropriate recipe to shoot and blog. While I am all for the giving of thanks, it is the traditional food of Thanksgiving that I have come to roundly reject – a bland carbfest that upon deeper reflection, ranks rather low on my deliciousness scale. I can separate the food from the memories. I still cherish the memories.

If there is one thing I do love about Thanksgiving food, it is The Grazing before dinner. My parents always had some mishmash of tasty Chinese and American appetizers and snacks laid out on the coffee table in front of the television, or on the kitchen table (while Mom prepared the dining table for dinner) for larger gatherings. This was where young children and introverts could look occupied and avoid unwanted engagement with boring adults. If you’re still looking for a last minute grazing idea or want to add another dip to your party quiver, here’s an easy jalapeño popper dip.


jalapeños (fresh and pickled), cheddar cheese, cream cheese, jack cheese, mayonnaise, panko crumbs, parmesan cheese, bacon

chopped, crumbled, diced



**Jump for more butter**

snowy october

Wednesday, October 30th, 2019

Recipe: korean jajangmyeon (black bean noodles)

Ready or not, winter is here! At least in Colorado, it’s been the snowiest October in a while with records being broken in various locations after multiple storms have tracked through the state. Not only are we experiencing a snowy October, but it is downright cold for this early in the season logging a low of -8°F at our house this morning. Even the pups couldn’t dawdle long in the yard before they had to come in to warm their little paws.


clearing after an earlier storm (but with more snow on the way!)

slipping out for a quick ski tour

fresh snow or white sand dunes?

jeremy breaking trail to earn his first turns of the season



This sort of deep freeze is conducive to baking and soup-making. So far I’ve cranked out lots of sourdough épi de blés, banana breads (the result of a sale at the local grocer on spotted bananas), and big pots of 13 bean soup. Actually, it was 12 bean soup and if you really want to know why, you can read about it on Instagram. Also noodles. Noodles are forever a part of my year-round menu because I am a bona fide Noodle Girl. But please don’t think that I stand around at home cranking out hand-pulled Asian style noodles all the time… or ever. There is no shame in store bought packs of ramen (my current favorite is Nongshim Shin Ramyun Black) that get dressed up with lots of vegetables, spicy pickled radishes, a few slices of char siu pork, and a soft-boiled egg.

I’m always on the lookout for good varieties of instant ramen that appear along the noodle aisle of the Asian grocery store. It’s hit or miss – mostly misses, but occasionally I’ll come across something worth remembering. Last year I chucked a black bean Korean noodle affair into my cart. The preparation was a simple boiling of noodles, straining the noodles, and tossing them with a packet of black bean sauce. I didn’t notice the blazing fire symbols on the packet and half of my face melted off while I ate it. It was delicious – and painful – but delicious. After a couple more face-melting events, I finally inspected the noodle packets on my next trip to the Asian grocery store and found a version of the same Korean noodles without the inferno symbol. Bingo!

At this point I was so in love with these noodles that the next logical step was to make it at home. Pictures matter, especially when you venture into unfamiliar cuisines and don’t speak or read the language. I have moderate comfort when it comes to navigating Chinese ingredients because I grew up with this stuff and I also have my Mom as a helpful reference (Dad could be considered a reference, but a lot less helpful). I understand some Mandarin Chinese, can speak less than I understand, and the extent of my reading comprehension ends at mah jong tiles. I’m a big fat zero on Korean. And so I found myself squinting at photos of black bean paste labels on my phone as I held it next to all of the black bean pastes on the shelf at the H-Mart (Korean grocer) in the Denver suburbs. Most of the pastes were spicy, but I wanted the mild version so Jeremy could eat it, too. As a last resort, you could order online. The black bean paste is probably the only ingredient you might have trouble tracking down. Everything else appears to be easier to get or substitute.


two brands of non-spicy black bean paste

the korean noodz i used (i think most asian noodles could work)



The other ingredients can be found in most grocery stores. My Whole Foods carries daikon radish on occasion, but I picked up the Korean radish from the Asian store since I was already there. And if you are more of a Rice Person than a Noodle Person, it’s easy enough to serve the sauce over steamed rice instead.

onion, cucumber, zucchini, korean radish, potato, pork belly

water, more water, vegetable oil, sesame oil, black bean sauce, salt, sugar, potato starch



**Jump for more butter**