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here come the holidays

Thursday, November 5th, 2015

Recipe: fried mochi rice (nuo mi fan)

I walked to the back of the store where just a week prior, the aisles had been loaded with bags upon bags of Halloween candy. Nerds. Snickers. Twix. Life Savers. But instead of witches and skeletons, white Christmas trees strewn in sparkly silver tinsel and metallic red and green baubles now loomed high overhead as I approached. There was a sad, lone island of discounted Halloween candy for sale – a paltry remnant of the once Super Sugar Coma Mega Center. I grabbed a couple of bags and continued on my way, careful not to linger long under the impending holidays.

I am a terrible holiday person. Holidays = Thanksgiving and Christmas. I wasn’t always this way, but over the years I have scrutinized the holidays (and most other things in my life) through the lenses of practicality and sanity. The holidays are neither practical nor sane. Jeremy and I have determined that our favorite way to pass the holidays is to be outside on the snow – preferably with a dog.

and now we have the snow and the dog

she has no idea how cold it is going to get in crested butte

The one person I did travel for over the holidays was my Grandma when she was alive. As she got older, it became more burdensome for her to fly to visit her daughters, who are scattered across the country (also, the airlines suck). If she was going to be alone in California over Thanksgiving or Christmas, I’d book a flight to see her and Jeremy would occasionally join me. I’d do what I always do – take her out to run errands, try different restaurants, and just spend time listening to her, holding her hand, and being with her. I loved that woman so much. So so much.

One year, Jeremy and I accompanied Grandma to my second cousin’s gigantic annual Christmas party where tray after tray of delectable Chinese food was lined up on buffet tables as the festivities got under way (my second cousin is head of catering at a restaurant). There was a rice dish I sampled and really liked, but never got around to asking what it was called because my brain was busy switching back and forth between Chinese and English while conversing with the elders as well as the kids. These things can and do slip from your mind. It was a few more years before I was reminded of that lovely rice – because my pal, Lisa, posted a recipe for it for her 2009 Thanksgiving. But my memory was fuzzy and I wasn’t sure if that was the dish I had eaten at the party. Was it a stuffing? Was it just a rice dish? And then something clicked in my brain last month. I finally did some research and got around to making it myself!

Of course, the first thing my mom said when I told her I made it was that I used the wrong ingredients and then she said I cooked it wrong (mom stir-fries and then steams). Turns out, as with most things, there are different ways to make nuo mi fan or lo mi fan or fried mochi rice or fried sticky rice. Apparently there are just as many names as recipes. The key is the sticky rice, which is also called sweet rice or glutinous rice. Gluten-free folks should not shy away from glutinous rice as it has no gluten, it’s just called that because it’s so damn sticky. That said, if you are gluten-free, you should be aware of things like soy sauce and the char siu pork which may or may not contain gluten.

This recipe will require a trip to an Asian grocery store unless you have a crazy awesome well-stocked ethnic aisle in your typical supermarket. Chinese sausage (lap cheong) can be found in the refrigerated section at your Asian grocer. At least, that’s where I found mine after scouring the aisles ten times over. These sweet and savory sausages will need to be steamed before chopping them up for the rice. The glutinous rice will most likely be called sweet rice. The grains resemble little oblong pearls and the brand I like most is Koda Farms. As for the scallops, the only place I ever see them is at the Chinese medicine counter. You might be able to find them packaged with all of the other dried sea creatures in a dedicated aisle, but do look for a separate counter with large glass jars filled with dried scallops (refer to the photos in the xo sauce post). For this recipe, you can get away with broken pieces which are more affordable than whole dried scallops.

lap cheong

sweet rice

dried scallops

**Jump for more butter**

opposite land

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015

Recipe: korean barbecue chicken wings

When I left my house early yesterday morning, the predominant color of my neighborhood was white. The snow has steadily deflated and melted, but it’s still there. Within 25 minutes, we were zipping through Boulder’s streets where trees dripped with the confetti of springtime: bright yellow greens, pinks, whites, purples. My head hurt because it was early and because I had gone to bed late. This always happens when I travel – it’s the “wrapping up of things the night before” and the “catching a flight the following morning” head hurting thing.

robin perched in the aspens from the last storm

cute dark-eyed junco on our deck

My noggin did the deep sleep bounce several times during my flight to the East Coast. It woke me with that heart-racing jolt – you know, the one that makes you instinctively touch the corners of your mouth to see if you were drooling in your sleep. Each time I peered out the window to find a sea of clouds stretched out beneath us, like a giant down comforter. I searched for signs of landforms, but the weather prevailed and so did sleep. On my connection to Virginia, our puddle jumper rose above the clouds for a mere three minutes before beginning the descent. Underneath the cloud deck, I marveled at how green the Tidewater area was. Green and flat. Flat such that the only shadows thrown in the setting sun were from the trees and not from the topography of the coastal plain. Dominated by the estuaries that branch into this green and flat land with a million brackish fingers. It’s the opposite of where I make my home. And yet, I was coming home.

mixed weather and sun over the tidewater

dogwood blooms in the backyard

It’s been some time since I have visited Virginia, but we have this short window to travel before The Summer of Puppy commences. Of course, Dad has planned nearly every minute of my stay with activities, meals, and wine. I expressed my doubts that it is humanly possible to consume ALL of the food he has in mind for a long weekend (he just asked me when we’re going to eat soft shell crab). That’s the problem with going back to a place you know – there’s never enough time (or waistband). But you should save some belly room for these Korean barbecue chicken wings I tried from Irvin’s beautiful food blog. They’re baked, which in my opinion is far easier to make and less messy to clean up than frying, and they taste fantastic.

rice vinegar, soy sauce, green onions, garlic, ginger, kiwis, sugar, red pepper flakes, sesame seeds, black pepper, chicken wings

chop and mince

ready to make the marinade

**Jump for more butter**

discoveries and rediscoveries

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

Recipe: galbi korean bbq short ribs

There’s something comforting in traveling a familiar trail where you know the curves, hills, rocks, trees, and stream crossings by heart. When, even in winter, you know that this very spot where the path bends will be covered with flowers in three months’ time. You know this because you’ve seen it year after year. And then there are the new trails. When you see a new trail leading off into the woods, and your eyes light up with curiosity and excitement. It calls to you. I always want to know where that trail leads. How many times have you said, “I’ll just hike up to the top of that ridge for a look” only to continue on to the next ridge and the next?

crimson columbine and violets

gothic mountain

winding through the wildflowers

On rare occasion, we’ll hike a new trail only to learn that we don’t ever need to hike that trail again (poorly marked, unmaintained, too hot, too buggy, too dangerous, too crowded). But most of the time, it’s a delightful discovery. I am especially fond of shady hikes with good breezes, nice views, and lots of huckleberry plants growing on the hillslopes. We found one of those today. I’ll be sure to revisit that one often – particularly when the hucks start to bear their precious berries.

It’s that way with recipes too when you revisit an old one that you loved but had forgotten about. I made galbi – Korean barbecue short ribs – for my parents a couple of weeks ago. When I went to dig up my recipe from the archives, I noticed the post was nearly seven years old. That was back in the day when our local Whole Foods had no clue what flanken-style ribs were. These days, they do know, but we now have a couple of Asian grocers within striking distance that also provide flanken-style beef short ribs. The Asianification of Colorado – slow, but happening. So let’s do this properly.

flanken-style short ribs, kiwis, fresh ginger, pepper, water, rice vinegar, sesame oil, soy sauce, yellow onion, sugar, garlic (hidden behind the beef ribs)

soak the ribs in water

**Jump for more butter**