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life outside

Recipe: coconut shrimp

For the first time in a long time, I have no photos of the July 4th fireworks this year. We can get a sense of how Neva will react to the fireworks because the nights leading up to the Fourth of July always have at least one or two houses in the community setting off their own (granted, there are a lot of out-of-towners who flock to Crested Butte over the July 4th holiday who love their fireworks). From what we could tell, Neva wasn’t a fan. So when the official celebration took place on the mountain and the several ancillary light shows erupted in the neighborhood, little Neva smashed herself in the corner of the kitchen, or squeezed herself between me and the cabinets while I prepared a late dinner, or trembled against Jeremy on the sofa. It made me very sad because all we could do to make her feel less scared was to hold her tight and offer words of reassurance that probably didn’t reassure her at all. When the evening was over, we let her sleep on the bed with us and promised her the remainder of the week would be filled with puppy fun time.

And Neva had a great week of hiking, swimming, fetching, jumping off the paddleboards and climbing back on dozens of times. She ran alongside Jeremy while he rode his bike, got extra walkies, and met up with lots of puppy friends (Poncho, Bella, Peaches, to name a few). All of this activity means she gets rest days, too. Rest days for Neva translate into trail running days or SUP days for us. We all get time outside, because time outside is good for us physically and mentally.


eyes on the prize (the orange tennis ball)

tuckered out and resting on the custom pillow i made just for neva to use on the windowsill

float time with a view of the ruby range

elephant head in bloom

mule ears greet the sun

a painterly sunset



We typically hunker down at home over the weekends to get work done and to avoid weekend crowds, but we got up early on Saturday (early enough that *I* woke Neva rather than the other way around!) to beat the heat and take Neva on her longest hike to date (14+ miles). The trail is appropriately named Oh Be Joyful because it follows Oh Be Joyful Creek up verdant Oh Be Joyful Valley. Hiking up, we took note of a dozen beautiful waterfalls and cascades spilling down the steep southern walls of the glacial valley and feeding the swift and cold creek. The wildflowers are not yet at peak, but many varieties were showing off their colors in bright, happy displays. The high country’s snowpack is melting in earnest under the summer sun, which meant countless stream crossings and muddy slogs on our hike. At the end of the valley, we turned south and ascended part of the headwall, traversing slushy snowfields to the cirque where Blue Lake is perched at 11,100 feet. The stoke was high for Neva until maybe mile 10 when we paused in the shade for an apple break. Instead of standing alert for every whiff of marmot, pika, or other critter, she laid down in the grass and ate her apple pieces, looking rather content with her doggy life.

shooting stars (magenta) and kings crown (red) mingle by a stream

jeremy and neva hike through fields of blooming osha

nearing the end of the valley

carpets of marsh marigolds and glacier lilies

from the headwall, looking across to democrat basin

at last, blue lake

pausing at the edge of the lake before neva’s swim-fetch session



For two months each year, my parents are in Boulder to escape the oppressive summers of Southern Virginia. The other ten months of the year I get occasional phone calls, emails, and lots of texts from them. I taught them how to text when they got their first iphones just a few years ago, and now both parents (in their mid-70s) make liberal use of emojis and send me photos of their meals! I kinda love it. Food is very much a thing with my family. When I find a new recipe that I really like, I make note to share it with my parents when I see them in the summer. Of course, that is getting harder to do ever since I introduced Dad to sous vide steak a few weeks ago. I’m not sure when I’ll be able to cook anything other than sous vide steak when we get together with my folks because he is OBSESSED. I even Amazon Primed Dad his own sous vide before I left for Crested Butte so he wouldn’t have to wait for me to come back to the Front Range (with my sous vide…).

If I’m lucky, I’ll squeeze a few new recipes into our gatherings – because that is what my parents and I do – we share new wonderful things with one another. I think that’s one way that we express our love in my family, along with yelling and texting questions that Google can answer and sharing carwash coupons. Coconut shrimp has been around for ages, but I hadn’t tried it until this past winter. Of course, after I made it and tasted it, I kicked myself for not having tried it earlier. It’s simple and straightforward, but it is also addictive and delicious. I’m fairly certain Mom and Dad will like it.


coconut, sugar, salt, egg whites, cayenne, cornstarch, raw shrimp

place the cornstarch, salt, and cayenne in a large ziploc bag

mix the sugar and coconut together

peel, de-vein, and butterfly the shrimp (leave tails on!)



The key to any shrimp recipe is to start with good quality shrimp. No one wants a mushy, mealy shrimp – it should be plump and firm and almost crunchy when you sink your teeth into it. I peel the shrimp myself because I have yet to find peeled, de-veined, tail-on raw shrimp where half of it hasn’t been mangled beyond recognition. And that’s the most time-consuming part of the whole deal – prepping the shrimp. The rest is easy peasy.

place the shrimp in the bag

seal and shake to coat the shrimp

beat the egg whites until frothy



When the shrimp are coated in cornstarch, dip each one in egg white and then dredge it in the coconut mixture. I like to use bigger coconut shreds for this recipe because it looks flakier when fried. Your dipping fingers will eventually become encased in coconut, sugar, egg white, and cornstarch, so I find it handy to have a damp towel nearby to wipe your fingers clean every few shrimp. Fry the shrimp in batches so you don’t overcrowd the pan, but they should be done in a couple of minutes.

dip in egg whites

dredge in coconut

ready to fry

fry for a couple of minutes until golden

drain on paper towels



You can serve the shrimp with all kinds of dipping sauces like Thai sweet chili sauce or a sriracha mayonnaise or honey mustard sauce or a garlic lime aioli. I tried to reproduce a chili mustard sauce that I like from a local Asian restaurant, but when I asked for a recipe, they said they didn’t really have one. So instead I received a list of ingredients that were shouted from a cook in the kitchen and translated over the phone by someone who spoke English. Kinda like getting a recipe from my parents, really. I did my best with it and I think my version comes close to the spicy, sweet, tangy, zippy sauce. It benefits from some rest time to smooth the edges and mellow the flavor – at least 30 minutes, but more like an hour or two.

sambal oelek, sweet chili sauce, rice vinegar, tamari, lemon, hot mustard powder, honey

coconut shrimp with thai sweet chili sauce and chili mustard sauce



The coconut shrimp is fantastic straight up, without any sauce (and maintains its crunch for hours). That said, it’s also really amazing dipped in a sauce. There is something irresistible about fried things and sauce or liquid. I’m thinking tonkatsu in ramen, tempura in the dashi sauce, fish and chips in malt vinegar or tartar sauce, or chicken fried steak and cream gravy (oh my word…). That finite window of time when the fried part is still crisp, but soaked in the flavorful sauce or liquid is quite short – that’s when you have to eat it. The window shrinks with soupier sauces, but I doubt anyone could resist downing one of these coconut shrimp before it got soggy.

a snack, an appetizer, party food

make more than you think you need

dipped in thai sweet chili sauce

sweet and tender shrimp in a crunchy shell


Coconut Shrimp
[print recipe]
from Once Upon a Chef

1 lb. large raw shrimp, peeled, de-veined, and butterflied with tails on
1/4 cup cornstarch
scant 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne
3 large egg whites (about 90g), beaten til frothy
2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
2 tbsps sugar
vegetable oil for frying
Thai sweet chili sauce for dipping or chili mustard sauce (recipe below)

chili mustard sauce
1 tbsp hot mustard powder
2 tbsps water
3 tbsps tamari (or soy sauce)
2 tbsps rice vinegar
1 tbsp lemon juice
2-3 tbsps honey
1 tbsp chili paste or olek sambal
1 tbsp sweet chili sauce

Make the chili mustard sauce: Stir all of the ingredients together until blended. Let sit for 30 minutes to an hour. Makes just under a cup of sauce.

Make the coconut shrimp: Heat an inch of vegetable oil in a medium or large pot to 350°F. Pour the cornstarch, salt, and cayenne pepper into a large ziploc bag. Seal the bag and mix the contents with a quick shake or two. Add the shrimp to the ziploc bag and seal again. Shake to coat the shrimp evenly. Place the beaten egg whites in a bowl. In a separate bowl, mix the coconut and sugar together. Open the ziploc bag and grab a shrimp by the tail. Shake off the excess cornstarch. Dip the shrimp into the egg whites, allowing any excess to drip back into the bowl, then dredge the shrimp in the coconut mixture. Place the shrimp on a plate or a baking sheet in the refrigerator until ready to fry. Repeat for the remaining shrimp. Fry the shrimp for about 40-60 seconds per side until golden. Drain on paper towels and serve with dipping sauce. Serves 4-8.


more goodness from the use real butter archives

thai firecracker shrimp shrimp toast drunken spicy shameless shrimp with brazen cocktail sauce chinese honey walnut shrimp

11 nibbles at “life outside”

  1. Kristin says:

    As always, you make Colorado so irresistible. I love how you share cooking with your dad. Mine died two years ago and, while I’m cooking, I think of him calling and asking what wonderful meal he is missing that evening, and how much he enjoyed every meal I cooked for him. I’d hoped to have many more years of that…

  2. hungry dog says:

    Aw, I love hearing about your parents! They sound amazing, and I’m so glad you all are so close. Also…I’m dying over the custom-made Neva pillow! It is adorable. Glad N survived the fireworks. Our lab is terrified of them–we woke up in the middle of the night to find her trembling in the bathtub, poor girl! Anyway, the 4th is over and your coconut shrimp look incredible. Happy summer, Jen!

  3. Melissa says:

    I love this whole post. It’s hard for me to imagine you and your parents ever yelling at one another, but maybe we are all normal like that. ;) And omg that pillow you made Neva! Heart eyes. I bet she really is content with her doggy life – scary fireworks and all.

  4. bae says:

    I look forward to your posts – there is no other blog like yours! Beautiful pictures of your family, puppy, food, drinks -I can think of nothing better. I’m available for adoption :-).

  5. Jan says:

    OMGosh!!! I am salivating!!! really!!!! Just reading this I can taste them! Oh my, now I will HAVE to have them. Guess I know what I am having tomorrow night. Thanks for the rush!

  6. Jill Hyde says:

    Somehow I seem to have outgrown my shrimp allergy, and these look delicious! Your wildflower photos are gorgeous! Love this time of year for that reason, not the heat. My heart sings when I think of what a lucky girl Neva is. Have you heard of thunder shirts for scared doggies? Not that cuddling with both of you isn’t good. xo, jill

  7. Mary Karen says:

    What a lovely post…All of it! I plan to try out the shrimp on Thursday when my houseguest arrives. July Wildflower-peeping in Crested Butte are on my “Bucket List”. And I’ve definitely decided that in my next life I’m coming back as a doggie who lives with the two of you! ;-)

  8. angelitacarmelita says:

    Tell your parents how lucky they are to be with you (of course… sous vide and all) and not in NOVA… gah! it’s only going to be in the low 90’s here today… Seriously. GAH! The news even posted reminders to those that need one NOT to leave your pets out, or walk them in the heat of the day. But thank goodness they do remind them. Enjoy your time w/your folks, every minute is so precious. I’m totally loving this whole post too, super jelly about all of the outdoor activities you get to do, your precious pup and her special pillow and the gorgeous photography… Thanks Jen!

  9. Debra says:

    I like to dip them in orange marmalade mixed with horseradish – such a tasty sauce. Thank you for sharing all your stories and recipes. Love how Neva is maturing and learning, so happy to hear she doesn’t mind the car rides anymore.

  10. Shari Q says:

    Coconut Shrimp..my favorite!

  11. jenyu says:

    Kristin – Oh my dear, Colorado IS irresistible! Hasn’t your son told you that yet? ;) Cooking with my Dad is all over the map. It can be very entertaining, helpful, educational, frustrating, maddening, and disastrous all at the same time. But I do cherish it. Thank you for reminding me to do so and I’m so sorry you lost your father so soon. I’m glad you had the time that you did with him, my friend. xoxo

    hungry dog – Aww! Poor pup! I was reminded to try a thundershirt for Neva next time we experience fireworks (New Year’s Eve). Maybe you should try one for your pup? xxoo

    Melissa – Ha! Trust me, we are all “normal” like that ;) I’m thinking maybe Oswald would like a custom pillow, eh? :) xoxo

    bae – So sweet of you! We have our hands full with Neva, but thanks for the offer ;) xo

    Jan – You’re welcome! xo

    Jill Hyde – I didn’t know you had a shrimp allergy! :( And yeah, I’m with you on the heat. Someone else suggested a thundershirt for Neva, so I’ll look into it before December 31! xoxo

    MK – You must be the best hostess ever because you are always making special dishes for your houseguests! And I highly recommend getting to Crested Butte for wildflowers. Anytime from mid July to late August is amazing (the later in the season the higher you will have to hike).

    angelitacarmelita – They always tell me the weather report for back home and I just thank my past self for settling in the mountains, because I love the cold but I am a TOTAL heat wimp! xo

    Debra – I’ve never tried that before, but it sounds delicious! Will have to try it – thanks! xo

    Shari Q – :)

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