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Sunday, November 15th, 2015

Recipe: lobster miso ramen

As last week wound down, we took advantage of our proximity to decent trails and got Neva out on the snow again. Even if the snow isn’t ideal, it’s good for her to get regular training and exercise on and in the snow. Eventually, we’d like to get her on some of the dog-friendly nordic trails in Crested Butte this season. On Friday, she had doggy day care so I could run errands on the flats. While in line at a store, I witnessed an argument break out among three people in the next line over. Each party behaved badly. Each party escalated the conflict. Eventually there was a gesture, profanities, a shove, a retaliatory shove. These three adults – well into their 60s and all of them strangers to one another – were no better than squabbling children. As soon as the shoving began, I stepped forward and broke it up. “What the hell is wrong with people?” I asked Jeremy as we drove up the canyon.

a fine day for a ski with the pup

someone needed a bath after a good day at doggy daycare

After giving Neva a bath outside, we found ourselves asking that question again the moment we turned on our public radio station and heard the news headlines. My social networks had exploded with expressions of grief, horror, anger, fear, blame, hope, sympathy, self-righteousness, ignorance… I closed my laptop and exhaled my frustrations, “What is WRONG with people?!” In the morning, we opted to remove ourselves to the high country where we could scout out the snow conditions. Neva stayed home to rest as she was still exhausted from her daycare exertions. It didn’t matter that the snow was thin and covered in rocks in places. It didn’t matter that there was windslab on some slopes and that it was warm enough for the snow to stick to and clump on our skis. I just wanted to get outside and sort through my feelings, my thoughts. Jeremy is the only person I can count on to speak rationally, thoughtfully, and sensibly most of the time. We both benefited from the exercise, getting outside and having the backcountry to ourselves, and being able to share our thoughts quietly with one another.

putting away the climbing skins

a slabby, sticky, sloppy snowpack

We spent the rest of the weekend working and giving wide berth to frothing-at-the-mouth Facebook comment fights. It was a good time for comfort food. A couple of years ago, I had received a lobster ramen recipe from the PR machine of a local chef. Lobster ramen sounds divine, right? I mean, there is lobster – and then there is ramen. Boom! But after reading through the recipe, it wasn’t what I was craving. I think my Asianness demanded more Asian-y flavors, and this recipe was not only heavy on European interpretation, but it was also ridiculously involved. So I sat on the idea of lobster ramen until I found something more in tune with my tastes. Lobster miso ramen delivers on the flavors, textures, and it can be quite simple and quick to make.

toasted nori, white beech mushrooms, cooked ramen, green onions, hondashi granules, white miso paste, butter, lobster

You can probably find most of the ingredients at a typical grocery store that has a well-stocked Asian food aisle. For dashi (bonito fish soup stock), I use hondashi instant granules because they store so easily in my refrigerator. That’s something you probably need to get from an Asian grocer. As for the ramen, I had some leftover dried ramen to move from my pantry since my search for fresh ramen noodles at the Asian grocery store came up empty. I also read that curly ramen is better for miso broths because the miso tends to cling to those crooks in the noodles.

simmer the dashi and add the mushrooms and cooked lobster meat

**Jump for more butter**

get jjigae with it

Sunday, October 25th, 2015

Recipe: korean beef short rib kimchi stew (jjigae)

We got a proper snow last Thursday. Usually the first inch of snow marks the first snow of the season, but we got four inches! At the start it was a light snow that covered the deck. When I let Neva out into it, she hugged the edge of the house, remaining under the eaves – almost afraid to step on the snow. I was concerned. Had she forgotten all of the snow she played in as a wee puppy back in May and June? She had never seen it fall from the sky before and she stood there, watching it intently. By the time she went back out onto the deck for her second visit, she was already trying to eat the snow. Neva shoved her nose into it and put paw prints all over the white canvas. She asked to go back outside another 20 times that morning – just so she could play in the snow. Looks like Neva IS our puppy after all! I didn’t take any photos of Neva’s discovery phase because I was busy playing with the video and slo-mo on my iPhone. So if you want to see those videos and other shenanigans pertaining to Neva, find me on instagram at @jenyuphoto.

Over the weekend, we took Neva into the high country for a little walkie walk. She had a blast. Jeremy and I kept trying to gauge how she’ll do when we’re on skis, but the best way to know is to take her out on a ski tour. And the only way to do that is to wait for more snow. I will say that we were pleasantly surprised at how much more snow there was in the high country – about a half foot on average. Jeremy worried that Neva would get too cold in the snow (she has yet to grow her winter coat and her belly is still barely covered in baby fuzz). When we stopped to check on how she was, her hind legs were trembling – not from cold, but because she was SO EXCITED to keep going up the trail. Crazy little dog. [And she is quite little. I looked up Kaweah’s old records and found she weighed in at 51 pounds at 6 months of age. Neva was 31 pounds at 6 months.]

alpine lakes are good for your soul

four of my favorite things: jeremy, neva, mountains, and snow

Snow is a game changer. It turns the backcountry into a different kind of playground. I no longer feel as if I have to beat the sun when I get outside and I don’t dread the heat of midday (or day, for that matter). Oh, and I can cook again! We don’t have air conditioning in the mountains, so we try to keep the exothermic kitchen activities to a minimum in summer. Once the temperature turns, cooking is a great way to feed our pie holes AND warm up the house. Thermodynamics always wins in the end, so don’t be fightin’ it. Months ago, someone posted a photo of their dinner at a Korean restaurant – something steaming, spicy and stew-like. At the time I couldn’t even wrap my mind around eating stew in the dead of summer while a feral little puppy was running my life. But now… now I’ve had the time to research some recipes, the puppy is more dog than puppy, and it’s finally cold enough to justify making jjigae – a Korean short rib kimchi stew. You know I’m all over that one.

rice cakes (tteok) can be found at good asian grocers in the frozen or refrigerated sections

rice cakes, kimchi, onions, hondashi, pepper, short ribs, butter, garlic, salt, vegetable oil, mirin, sesame oil

The first thing to do is caramelize two pounds of onions. Don’t be in a rush when you caramelize onions, because you won’t get caramelized onions, but burnt onions. Caramelization takes time, so give yourself at least 45 minutes. If you live in my neck of the woods 8500 feet above sea-level, give it more like 90 minutes. The key is to give it time, keep the heat just low enough so that the onions cook, but don’t burn, and stir occasionally.

melt the butter and vegetable oil

sauté the onions

when the onions turn translucent, reduce the heat

stir and cook and stir and cook until the onions are a rich golden color

**Jump for more butter**

the overstayed welcome

Sunday, October 11th, 2015

Recipe: vegetarian chinese potstickers (dumplings)

Summer, go home already! It was downright hot this weekend in the mountains – as in shorts and t-shirt hot. I’m worried if the temperatures don’t drop soon, my body won’t be ready for winter. And by ready, I mean I won’t have had a chance to adjust to cold temperatures. It’s like dumping a dog into winter who hasn’t had a chance to grow its winter coat. At least the skies have been pretty, but seriously… get on outta here, Summer.

a nice sunset to kick off the weekend, even if it was an oven

Now that Neva has been spayed, we started shopping around for a good doggy daycare and hotel (boarding). The place we took Kaweah was down in Boulder, which I never felt was ideal because it was a long drive, it’s hotter down in Boulder, and their outdoor area was a parking lot cordoned off by chain link fencing. Of course, Kaweah LOVED it. It was all about the doggies for her. There were some locations in the mountains that boasted large acreage for dogs to roam and have fun, but we knew that wouldn’t work for Kaweah who 1) was an incredible escape artist and 2) ate sticks, rocks, and anything disgusting she could get her mouth on outside. Neva, however, chews sticks up, but summarily spits them out (thank goodness!) and she is far more focused on playing with friends than trying to escape. She had a meet and greet with a local Nederland daycare/boarder to make sure she wouldn’t be aggressive or problematic with the other pups. At first she was nervous because they all seemed to pile onto her at once, but as soon as they wandered off, she chased after the group and engaged them for more play. She passed the test.

On Friday, I dropped Neva off for a full day of playtime and she nearly dragged me through the door. Once she entered the playzone with the other pups, she never even noticed I was leaving. No separation anxiety there! Jeremy and I felt that Neva really needed more doggy socialization in a place where she can be supervised and contained (she is still a flight risk, but perhaps less so than Kaweah was – fingers crossed). The nice thing is the proprietor is also a certified dog trainer who follows positive reinforcement training. At the end of the day, we picked Neva up and she was completely exhausted. Happy and exhausted. She plowed through her dinner then fell asleep for the rest of the night. We were told that she played so much, she might still be tired on Saturday, in case we had plans to hike her. She slept or lounged all of Saturday, which made it possible for us to get a lot of work done around the house and yard. I love puppy playtime!

still tuckered on saturday

feeling like her old self by sunday

Over the summer, my mom experimented with various vegetarian potsticker and dumpling recipes because she had made some for a dear friend’s daughter who is vegetarian. Every time I would drop by my parents’ place in Boulder, Mom would shove a vegetarian dumpling into my mouth. “What do you think?” she’d ask, smiling. Was it better than the last one? Should she add more bean thread noodles? Maybe use some egg? The variations are endless. I told her when she settled on a final version, I’d like to have the recipe so I could share it here on the blog. Summer being as busy as it was, I’m not sure she ever decided which one she liked best (they were all quite good). I decided to give it a try recently and discussed some recipe ideas with Mom over the phone. Both of my parents really get into recipe development, so Mom rattled off several suggestions as I jotted them down in my notebook.

Then she said, “If you really want to improve the flavor, add some chicken broth to the filling.” I paused. “Um, Mom, if you add chicken broth, it’s no longer vegetarian.” Oh, then you can add some dried tiny shrimps – makes it taste so good. I informed her that shrimp is also a deal breaker for vegetarians. It’s not that my parents have a poor understanding of what vegetarian means, but that (I think) Chinese people have a misconception of what “meat” means. I can’t tell you how many times we have been at an authentic dim sum restaurant with a vegetarian and I have asked the server if they had any dishes without meat. “Oh yes!” they’d smile, and plop a few tins of steamed shrimp dumplings or stewed chicken feet onto the table explaining that these were not “meat”.

I did a little research and found myself gravitating toward tofu. I know a lot of people are anti-soy, but it is what it is and I for one love tofu. Marc at No Recipes had a great little post on making vegetarian/vegan ground meat from firm tofu by freezing it, then squeezing it dry and crumbling the tofu. I grew up eating tofu like this except Mom didn’t crumble it, but sliced it. It’s a nice spongy texture that is great in hot spicy soups and stews. Sounded like a good solution.

for the filling: firm tofu, baked tofu, vegetable oil, sesame oil, soy sauce, dried shiitake mushrooms, bamboo shoots, fresh ginger, cornstarch, napa cabbage, green onions

freeze the firm tofu in its liquid, then thaw it completely

squeeze out the liquid and crumble the tofu

**Jump for more butter**