venison with morel sauce herb and floral pasta confetti cookies cream of shiitake mushroom soup


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before soup season ends

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2021

Recipe: cream of shiitake mushroom soup

I love March. Everything looks brighter and happier with a little increase in sun angle. We still have snow in the mountains and will for some time, but on those extra warm days the snowy streams and rivers smell of wet earth and hint at the glorious water crossings of summer. And it won’t be long before the plains explode with the colors of bright new green growth and the confetti of flowers. March 1st is also our wedding anniversary. We just celebrated 24 years of legal bliss. At the time, we had arbitrarily selected the date, but now it is this magical moment when the potential for a powder day is equally as good as it is for a day to throw the windows open in the afternoon.

February was snowier than January, thank goodness. While January set the bar pretty low for snowfall in Colorado, we were able to catch some powder days and log lots of miles on the Nordic trails last month. We kept Chinese New Year festivities mellow, focused on work and exercise, and generally continued our isolation with Neva and Yuki. Oh, but I did run out to meet our Crested Butte neighbors’ new puppy because she is IRRESISTIBLE! You know how some people can’t resist babies? I am that person, but with puppies.


taping the chinese symbol for luck upside down on our front door for good luck

sunshine and stormy weather – we love both

i almost kidnapped this adorable baby australian cattle dog



Colorado remains below average for snowpack, but we’re closer to average now than we were a month ago. I can only hope that we remain on this upward trend (and that the summer monsoons don’t evaporate) so that our current daydreams of summer aren’t transformed into the terrifying wildfire season we experienced last summer and fall. We have plenty of adventures planned for ourselves and the pups!

outside time is good for everyone

neva and yuki love their off-leash privileges (and they’ve been so good)

our local mama moose with her yearling sunning in the neighbor’s flowerbed



All this talk of spring and summer has me getting out over my skis. Winter is where we’re at and I wanted to document this comforting cream of shiitake mushroom soup before all thoughts turn to spring produce. Well, my thoughts are already there, but soup and mushroom fans (I am both) will dig it. I’ve made this soup a half dozen times now because I kept picking up these 12 ounce packages of fresh shiitake mushrooms when they appeared at Costco last fall. Any mushroom will do, but fresh shiitakes are like a crossover mushroom from the ordinary button mushroom to the more boutique varieties, and it won’t cost a fortune. The original recipe serves 4, but we burn through this soup so fast that I doubled it in the recipe below. Feel free to halve it (and then regret that you did).

butter, salt, flour, garlic, onion, oat milk (you can use half and half), shiitake mushrooms, pepper, chicken broth



Unless your mushrooms are absolutely filthy, I don’t think it is necessary to wash them. You can, but I don’t. A quick wipe with a damp paper towel or swipe with a pastry brush will remove any debris. Be sure to pop the stem of the shiitake off because it’s pretty tough.

remove the stems

diced onion, minced garlic, sliced shiitake



**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**