Off to the Land of Fairy Slippers and Pipsissewas

Good morning, good morning ~

We're heading to Colorado on Friday morning for some hiking/climbing in the Buena Vista area. Fourteerners, here we come with the girls!!

We're renting a cabin this year, which will make my food issues of the past virtually disappear. We still have to take some and cook some, but it won't be "camping style" with the Jetboil, Coleman stove, and such. We can come down off the trail, shower, put on the girls' food, and cook and eat a real meal in our own little cabin. This will make all the hard work worth all the while.

And I get to eat real sandwiches this year. No more sweet bar after sweet bar after sweet bar while on the trail. Now, I love my sweets, but when you're working your body really hard, carrying a heavy pack, walking and climbing uphill for miles, you just get to where you dread another sweet granola or protein bar. you want something you can sink your teeth into. About a week back, we discovered Udi's Whole Grain Bread which our Plano Whole Foods market now carries.

"Eh, let's give it a try," I said. "If it sucks, we can compost it."

Ha! It's sooo good!! It will never seee the inside of our composter. Even J is going to be eating Udi's bread this trip. Of course, he'll pack his with turkey and stuff, I'll just do sliced cheese. I thought I'd have to be baking wrap bread for us, but Udi saved the day.

We're bringing along muesli with fruit and yogurt for our breakfasts; snacks and the sandwich stuff for the trail; veggie/tempeh chili, arepas, and salad fixings for dinner. We'll probably sleep in a little on Saturday morning and allow ourselves to adjust to the altitude. Neither one of us has ever had problems with it, but we like to take it slower on our first day (J's got an "easy" 8-mile hike to some mining cabin planned) and ease ourselves into the 7-8,000 elevation gain from Dallas. So, I'll probably bring along enough scone mix to whip up a quick batch. Or maybe we'll make pancakes. That'll be our one relaxed breakfast that we get to eat in the cabin; the rest will be eaten early mornings at the trailheads. Gotta hit the mountains early to make the summits before the early afternoon thunderstorms.

Even if we don't make any summits, we'll still see incredible things. Last year we got a late start on Mt. Belford and got rained off at about 13,000 feet. Some hikers we met on their way down told us about these little mountain orchids , fairy slippers (Calypso bulbosa), that they'd seen somewhere in the saddle between some of the fairly close peaks. We were so disappointed that we wouldn't see them but the lightning was a pretty diligent taskmaster at getting us down the mountain. I had thoughts of tossing my hiking poles lest they become lightning rods -- but we made it. But we did see them hiking down from the Maroon Bells trail on our last hike last year. Incredibly beautiful little orchids. I tried to take a few photos of them last year, but they turned out blurry. Maybe this year we'll see them again.

My favorite alpine flower is the pipsissewa (Chimaphila umbellata). Most people miss it because it grows a bit away from the main trails, usually in shady, moist areas. The tiny white or light pink blossoms are so sweetly fragrant that I wish I could bottle the scent. We look for them every year.

Most likely won't be posting till after our trip, but hope to have some great photos to put up then. Meanwhile, I'm off to munch on my delicious breakfast scones, courtesy of Pamela's Baking mix (and basic scone recipe) mixed with Bob's Red Mill Biscuit mix. I use about 1 1/2 cups Pamela's, 3/4 c Bob's, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, cut the sugar waaay down to about 1 tablespoon, grate in 5 tablespoons frozen butter, stir in a good 2/3 cup icy cold coconut milk mixed with an egg, toss in a handful of dried cherries, shape (drop by large tablespoon and ever so slightly flatten) and bake for about 22 minutes at 375 F. Makes about 8, which means 2 for me, 2 for J, and 2 each in the toaster tomorrow morning.

Ta....and enjoy your brekkie.

Zwetschgendatschi...mmmm fall is in the air

There are moments in life when we crave that certain something to eat. Crave beyond just crave. Maybe I should say long for something to eat. And not just to eat because we have a craving or because we need to put food into our bodies. It's a longing that has to do with nourishing our self.

Nourishing that longing that is associated with a memory. Usually a good memory; thus, the longing. And thus today's post.

I know it's not officially fall. And here in Texas, dipping down to 89 degrees during the day certainly doesn't mean fall has arrived. But there's something going on that I just can't quite put my finger on, and it's telling me fall is upon us.

A few more leaves than usual are falling, and they're golden, not drought-shriveled.

Leia and Sonoma are shedding more, and I just know they're getting ready to blow their coats for fall. How do I know? Why, all of the above.

And the truest harbingers of fall for me, prune plums, are sitting like dark purple velvet mini footballs in produce sections all over town. I like how they describe them over at The Kitchn: "little baby-fist-sized plums." Perfect description.

We grew up eating Pflaumen, plums, during the summer. But in fall, the farmers' markets began to display these dark bluish-purple plums, Zwetschgen, more football-shaped than round, with a silvery-blue sheen to them. Kind of like damson plums, but more oval. And Zwetschgen, of course, meant one thing: Zwetschgendatschi!

If you know anything about Zwetschgendatschi, you fall into one of 2 groups: those who like the yeasted dough or those who like the tart pastry dough. Our family has only ever baked the tart pastry version. Sure, most bakeries make the yeasted version, as do some home cooks. Why? I don't know. Certainly, making a perfect tart crust is an art that rivals yeast dough making. I personally don't care for yeast dough fruit tarts because the dough always gets so mushy. I love yeast dough and have made more than my share of yeast-raised breads and pastries in my life, but for Zwetschgendatschi it's got to be tart crust for me.

When I went gluten-free, I knew there'd be things I could probably never eat again, simply because the dough must have gluten to be right. That's fine. The trade-off of feeling good is worth it. But there's that occasional longing that comes from deep inside and just leaves a pit in my core, followed by a deep sigh. The memory alone has to suffice. Like the memory of Apfelstrudel, or a crusty Schwarzbrot.

It's been 40 (!!) years since one of the most memorable autumns of my life: fall of 1969 my daddy came home from serving in Viet Nam. Times have certainly changed because now soldiers are returning from the various war theaters and being hailed as heros. When my daddy came home in '69 it was a different story. Even though my mom, Nini Belle, and I were living in Germany while daddy was in Viet Nam, he'd had enough of a non-heroic welcome when he arrived in San Francisco to not wear his uniform while traveling on to meet up with us in Europe.

Politics meant nothing to this 10 year old. Our daddy was coming home and that's all I cared about. Nini Belle and I got to skip school for the day. We got to wear our long hair, which was always braided, down. We got to wear these beautiful raspberry red dresses with gold-buttoned epaulets our Omi had sewn for us. And I can't say for sure, but I'd be willing to bet that Omi had made my dad a welcome home meal of Leberknödel (liverdumplings in broth) and Zwetschgendatschi.

When I went to Whole Foods the other day and saw the prune plums, I picked out a few pounds and sighed as I thought of making a Zwetschgendatschi. I sighed, because the memory of my daddy would have to suffice as the last 40 years would come rushing by with each mouthful of Zwetschgendatschi.

I got home, got out my recipe, converted it to gluten-free, and it worked beautifully. Matter of fact, I got a bonus from this recipe: I decided to use the butter "trick" below to make my scones and biscuits and it produces the most incredibly light pastry. Here's how I made it:

Bayerischer Zwetschgendatschi
Prune Plum Tart -- gluten-free

1/3 cup rice flour
1/3 cup brown rice flour
1/3 cup tapioca or potato starch (or a mixture of the two)
pinch salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, freeze for about 30 minutes
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated lemon peel
2 egg yolks
2 tablesoons chilled coconut milk (or any other kind of milk)
prune plums
sugar and cinnamon for sprinkling

1. Mix the flours, salt, and sugar together in a large mixing bowl.
2. Butter trick: Use a grater and grate in the frozen butter. Stir lightly to coat the butter.
3. Mix in the vanilla, lemon peel, and egg yolks. Add enough of the cold milk to make a smooth dough, but avoid handling too much.
4. Press the dough into a 9" spingform or tart pan with removable bottom. Refrigerate.
5. While the dough is chilling preheat your oven to 375 degrees F and pit and quarter the plums.
6. Place the plum quarters onto the tart dough in concentric circles, starting at the outside.
7. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon and pop into the oven for about 40-45 minutes. The dough should be deep golden and the fruit bubbly.

I know you'll want to do like I do and burn your tongue with a piping hot piece, but believe me, you'll be able taste it much more if you let it cool slightly. Place a voluptuous dollop of whipped cream onto each serving and savor a generations-old Bavarian tradition.

What kinds of food memories do you have?