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archive for January 2016

the pursuit of crispiness

Wednesday, January 13th, 2016

Recipe: onion rings

We’ve had a short dry spell of windy, sunny days this week which makes a powder hound whimper and cry. But lack of powder merely means it is high time to hit the Nordic trails. What I love about the network of Nordic trails at our local hill (Eldora) is that they are forested and thus protected from those notorious winds that batter us from October to May. Clouds race across the sky throughout the day, giving us a shot at some nice displays come sunset if the clouds and the sun are in the right place at the right time.


things that make you smile

skate skiing in a hall of trees



Neva had such a fun time at doggy day care on Tuesday that she was sacked out all of Tuesday night and most of Wednesday day. She curled up in her dog bed while I worked – dozing away or lazily watching me. Each time I walked past her, I would cover her with her blankie (Kaweah’s old blanket), add a toy for her to play with, or feed her a treat. Neva was feeling loungy and enjoying it. I enjoyed it, too!

she is still a baby puppy to me



I’m feeling peppier these days and I realized it’s because the sun is setting later. I know this because our living room lamp timer was last set to come on when it got dark – around 4:30 in late December. Now, it clicks on while daylight is still spilling into our house. It also means Chinese new year is on the horizon. This year, it starts February 8, requiring all of the preparation and cleaning to be done by February 7 – lunar new year’s eve. February 7 is also the Superbowl, which means very little to me other than empty ski slopes Sunday afternoon. But the Superbowl is one of those events that even the non-sportsball fans can enjoy because there are gatherings full of sportsball party foods.

One such staple would have to be the onion ring. Make that a beer-battered onion ring. I have been searching lo these many years for a good onion ring recipe and I finally found one – from the Food Lab at Serious Eats.


onions, cornstarch, beer, paprika, baking powder, baking soda, salt, flour, vodka



A key to J. Kenji López-Alt’s foolproof onion rings is to remove the thin inner membrane of each onion ring. This helps to keep the onion tender on the inside and ensures that the onion breaks with each bite instead of snaking out of the fried batter when you first bite into it. The easiest way to get rid of the membrane is to freeze the onion slices, thaw them in lukewarm water, and pull the membrane away.

separate the rings

freeze for an hour or up to a month

thaw in lukewarm water

the membrane should peel right off



**Jump for more butter**

dreams of wild things

Sunday, January 10th, 2016

Recipe: huckleberry bread pudding

When it is full-on winter outside, people’s brains go into overdrive dreaming of warm, tropical places and summertime. My feed is filled with pictures of bare feet on beaches, palm trees, swimming pools in sunny locales. It’s not something I can honestly relate to, but I understand that this is what my friends desire. Jeremy and I? We love to frolick in snow. It is what we talk about with longing during the throes of summer – how much we miss gliding over and through the snow, or feeling the delicate kiss of blower powder on our faces.


me dropping into the powder

jeremy catches a little air



From what I can tell, Neva loves winter even more than summer. She spent all of 8+ miles running her face through the snow on Saturday’s ski tour. It’s as if those bazillion little snowflakes give her an extra jolt of energy. Jeremy noted that she calmed down a tad after the first 6 miles, but even as we got back to the car, she was alert and ready for more action. Of course, once home, she passed out for a long and happy nap in the sun. Such is the life of a happy pup.

neva sports a snowbeard

that rare moment when neva and banjo are simultaneously sitting still



More than a month had passed since my last ski tour with Erin, so we took the opportunity to catch up with one another on the climb. We discussed “Making a Murderer”, family visits, and new locations to scout for porcini, chanterelles, and huckleberries this summer. I told her that I had dreamt of chanterelles one night over the holidays, and then of foraging huckleberries the following night. She smiled and nodded as our skis silently sliced through the soft white fluff underfoot.

My obsession with huckleberries is only slightly diminished in their off season. For the other eleven months of the year, I think of different ways to incorporate those nomalicious berries into various recipes (and where else in Colorado I should look for huckleberry patches). Those of you without access to fresh or frozen huckleberries can easily substitute blueberries, raspeberries, or blackberries in this croissant bread pudding. Any kind of juicy berry should do. But let us be clear… wild Maine blueberries – as delicious as they are – are not huckleberries. I’ve had both and hands down, hucks win.


croissants, cream, sugar, eggs, huckleberries, butter, vanilla extract, milk, lemon (zest)

butter your ramekins

slice the croissants into bite-size pieces



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i can’t wait

Thursday, January 7th, 2016

Recipe: braised napa cabbage with bean curd sheets

How has the start of your new year been? You can sum ours up in one word – COLD. I mean, we expect it to be cold in January around Colorado, but the first of the year put us in the deep freeze. We actually had to wait until afternoon before we could ski in temperatures above zero.


the nest thermostat reported -32°f outside

frosty branches as the sun rose over the mountain



But don’t cry for us! Cold in Crested Butte is not the same as cold in places like… the Midwest. These frigid temperatures occur when the skies are clear overnight, allowing any heat to radiate straight up toward the stars. That also means the sun is out full and bright in the morning, doing its job of warming us up into the single digits, providing happy rays, and basically making Colorado the awesome winter wonderland that it most definitely is.

we took neva on the nordic trails – she was a happy nutjob

racing the sun as it drops behind whetstone mountain for the day



On the drive home to Nederland, Jeremy and I observed how Neva is improving (i.e. calming down) each day with house guests, ski touring, walks, and general every day behavior. She’s less of a spaz, although she is still very much a spaz. Our hope is if she can learn to stay with us on skis while leashed, she’ll naturally transition to trail running in the summer. “I can’t wait for summer,” I whispered. Jeremy gave me a look – the look that wonders “What have you done with Jen?” Oh sure, I love winter and I will relish every last snowflake this season! But last summer was ALL ABOUT PUPPY and itty bitty hikes. This next summer will be great big hikes, long trail runs, multi-day backpacks, and a very happy Neva.

I also couldn’t wait to get home and stuff my face with vegetables. When we are in Crested Butte, the access to vegetables is somewhat limited compared to our usual array on the Front Range. That is especially true of Asian vegetables. I owe my vegetable addiction to my mom, who not only provided at least two vegetables with every dinner, but she prepared them in the most delicious ways possible. These days, Mom and I exchange vegetable recipes when we cook for one another. I usually introduce her to new western-style salads or preparations, and she is constantly surprising me with what she calls “old” Chinese recipes. How many treasures are locked up in her head? I’m doing my best to have her teach me when she’s here in the summers. She taught me this napa cabbage recipe a few years back. Winter is the perfect time for its warm, comforting flavors.


dried bean curd sheets – found in asian grocery stores

bean curd sheets, ginger, salt, chicken (or vegetable) broth, green onions, napa cabbage



**Jump for more butter**