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archive for February 2011

hop to it!

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

Recipe: taro tapioca soup


gong xi fa tsai!



Xin nian kuai le. Wan shi ru yi.

Happy New Year, everyone! It’s the year of the Rabbit. Rabbits are lucky little guys, so I wish you all a very lucky, happy, healthy, and fruitful year ahead. The house has been busy here at urb-central as it always is before Chinese New Year. We have spent the past few days preparing food, cleaning the house, following the news, and hunkering down during the wicked cold spell that had a hold on much of the country recently. A couple of weeks ago, my friend Kitt had posted a cool video of a young woman throwing boiling water into the -40°F air. Can you guess what happened? As Jeremy watched the outside temperature plummet the other night to -25°F, we wondered if we could get that same phenomenon to work. So we went outside on the deck to give it a try.


cool (literally)

love the droplet trails



The water evaporates in the air before hitting the ground. I’m pretty sure our neighbors thought we were on crack tossing water off the deck and firing the flash several times in the night. [I guarantee you we are the most sober residents in this town.] The next morning, it was still -23°F. So before Jeremy left for work, he humored me and we tried another boiling water toss off the deck. And because it was daytime, I was able to shoot a nice sequence of it. You can see more of the nighttime shots and larger daytime shots on the photoblog.

science!!!



That was pretty COLD. Kaweah kept wanting to come out onto the deck with us because she equates baking her brains in the sun with walking onto the deck. But we’ve been keeping her inside the warm house since her old body gets very stiff when it’s cold. A few times Jeremy has had to go and rescue her at night when she was let out to potty because she got stuck in the snow when her paws got so cold she couldn’t walk. She’s more susceptible to temperature extremes as she has aged, but she’s not any smarter.

that’s okay, we’ll just keep her on the snuggy blankets



Right now, our house is clean and our refrigerator is full of lucky foods. Per tradition, we always clean the house on Chinese New Year’s Eve because you can’t clean the house for the first two weeks of the new year or else you will sweep out the good luck. This put me in a bit of a panic because I’m hosting something during that time period at my house. I also made a small feast for our New Year’s Eve dinner – each dish or component represents some form of health, luck, fortune, and happiness.

fu is luck and it is upside down on our front door – it means “luck arrives”

potstickers, soybean sprouts, lucky ten ingredient vegetables, lucky bean thread noodle soup



And then there is dessert. I almost always make western desserts when we entertain because most people I know aren’t that thrilled with Asian or Chinese desserts. When I was a kid, the typical dessert in my house was fruit. On special occasions, my dad would make almond jello or sesame bananas, reading the recipe from a fat book packed with delicate, thin pages covered in Chinese characters. Kris and I would get so excited. At the real Chinese restaurants (the ones where the waiters can barely speak English), they would serve a warm sweet soup of some kind for dessert. Sometimes it was sweet red bean soup, sweet green bean soup, tapioca coconut soup, black sesame soup, or sweet peanut soup… Soup. And there was taro root soup.

taro root

coconut milk, taro root, sugar, tapioca



**Jump for more butter**

there’s something for everyone

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

Recipe: chinese salt and pepper pork

You know what I like about Chinese New Year besides all of the Chinese food? It’s later in winter than the regular winter holidays, which means there is usually better snow. You see, I like winter. But you already knew that.


he likes winter too… i think i’ll keep him



My parents are in Florida right now because (Southern) Virginia is “too cold” for them. I chuckle to myself when they tell me these things. Winter is probably the most maligned of all seasons. I sometimes think people dislike winter because they don’t appreciate it. Or maybe it’s because they have to travel in bad weather? I could totally relate to that. Or maybe they are living in a Bad Winter Zone? I consider Bad Winter Zones to be places that don’t get proper snow. Just the other day, Jeremy and I were discussing the seasons and I declared, “I LOVE winter! I love skiing and getting out into the backcountry, baking and cooking, snuggling with Kaweah, grilling in the snow, crystal clear night skies.”

i shooted it



I paused and added, “And autumn – autumn is great with the changing leaves and the cooler temperatures, the hikes and rides. Oh and spring! Spring mountaineering, spring skiing, wearing a light jacket, longer days…” Of course there is summer. It seems everyone loves summer. I do too, but it’s not my favorite season. Mountain summer is brief, but jam-packed: wildflowers, backpacks, rides, trail runs, afternoon thunderstorms, evening dinners on the deck with friends, dog walks as the sun sets, farmers markets, hummingbirds, alpine lakes, cool mountain air dancing through the house at night. I guess my point (Jen, is there a point?) is that I love it all. I just LOVE being here and being alive. There is something precious about every season, every day. I’m loathe to squander it.

winter love



But back to Chinese New Year. The food – there is so much food that I need to prepare in the next couple of days! Plus, we have to clean the house because once Chinese New Year is here, you are not supposed to clean the house for two weeks (sweeps out the luck). Oh, and don’t buy salt for the rest of the month of February. Bad luck. That’s what Grandma tells me. I made the trek down to Denver to meet up with my pal Kathya at the big Asian market to get groceries for the Lunar New Year. This year I’m keeping the menu “simple” since it’s just me and Jeremy. We’ll have soy bean sprouts, bean thread noodle soup (chocked full of lucky goodies), nian gao (rice cakes), potstickers, and lucky ten ingredient vegetables. How are you going to celebrate the Lunar New Year?

Jaden’s post on Chinese New Year reminded me about avoiding squid. Instead of cuttlefish balls in the bean thread noodle soup, I buy fish balls this one time of year. That’s because the superstition equates squid with getting fired. Eating nian gao (rice cakes), for instance, means a promotion or raise because nian (sticky) gao (cake) is a homonym for nian (year) gao (higher). So you can just imagine what a minefield planning dinner can be if you don’t have a Wise Chinese Grandma advising you on your menu selection. Since I had posted the recipe for salt and pepper squid, I thought it was only fair for me to give you an alternative that won’t get you fired.


this time it’s salt and pepper pork



When I’ve seen salt and pepper pork on the menu, it’s actually salt and pepper pork chops. These aren’t the pork chops that you find in your typical (white person) grocery store. These are cut rather thin and because 1) I have had disappointing results when I ask the butchers at Whole Foods to cut meat the “Asian” way and 2) it’s easier to eat without the bone, I didn’t bother with pork chops. I got a pork tenderloin instead (I prefer the dark meat) and sliced it myself. Control freak. Me.

mix up the flour, cornstarch, and sichuan pepper salt

slice semi-frozen pork tenderloin



**Jump for more butter**