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you bet your boocha

Monday, February 19th, 2018

Recipe: kombucha (plain, ginger, huckleberry ginger)

Happy Chinese New Year! The house has been cleaned, dumplings eaten, luck symbol hung upside down on the front door (translates to “luck arrives”), parents called, and red envelopes delivered to young friends. A low-key lunar new year celebration was just right for me, mostly because my February has been dedicated to fermentation. In addition to making delicious breads from my sourdough starter, I am also brewing kombucha!

Kombucha is fermented sweet tea. My motivation for brewing my own kombucha (booch) was more curiosity than anything else. I like the stuff, but drank it infrequently because it can become a spendy habit. Yet, kombucha is ridiculously easy and inexpensive to make. The only “exotic” component is the scoby, which stands for Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast. Think of it as the equivalent to the mother for making vinegar. You can purchase scobys (try a local homebrew supply store or go online), get one from a friend, or make your own. Once you have a scoby, you’re set (unless you kill it – don’t kill it).

I got my scoby from my buddy, Erin (Canyon Erin), who grew hers from its infancy and split one off for me with some starter tea. I named it Scooby. Scobys are weird, ugly, and a little gross looking – at first. After brewing a few batches, you will come to love your scoby(s) like a pet. It feels rubbery and slippery, and all manner of random things float untidily off of it in the tea. But the scoby is what transforms plain old sweet tea into magical, fizzy, slightly alcoholic (less than 1%), tangy kombucha.


meet scooby, my scoby



Making kombucha is easy. I’m on my fourth batch now. The long instructions look daunting, but that’s only because the instructions are for newbies so they don’t kill their scoby. It basically comes down to: make sweet tea, stir in starter tea, slide the scoby into the tea, cover, ferment, bottle, carbonate, refrigerate. But there are tons of additional notes that go with that list.

I use purified water because our municipal water is chlorinated (I checked the town water quality report online) and chlorine can kill your happy bacteria. I read from a bread baker discussion that you can leave the water out on the counter for a day and the chlorine will evaporate because it’s rather volatile. So there’s that. For my first batches of kombucha, I stuck with organic black tea. Plain black tea works well. You can use other teas like green teas or white teas or a combination of teas, but avoid flavored teas – especially ones with added oils. And I make the sweet tea with organic granulated sugar. Please, people, don’t use artificial sweeteners. You will starve your scoby because it requires real sugar. The sugar is not for you, it is for the fermentation process. The starter tea comes from the previous batch of kombucha. If you bought or were given a scoby, it should have come in some starter tea.


sugar, black tea, scoby, purified water, and starter tea



The first step to making kombucha is to brew sweet tea. Boil your water, stir in the sugar until dissolved, and then drop your tea bags or loose tea in. Let the tea steep until the liquid has come to room temperature because hot tea is going to kill your yeasts and bacteria. If you are in a hurry, you can set your pot of tea in an ice bath to cool it down faster, but I prefer to leave mine in a cool part of the house for a few hours. My climate is quite arid, so while the tea is cooling I cover the scoby with a bowl or slip it into the starter tea to prevent it from drying out.

adding sugar to the boiled water

steep the tea until the water cools to room temperature

remove the tea bags (or strain the loose tea)



**Jump for more butter**

food is caring, food is love

Wednesday, January 10th, 2018

Recipe: chia seed drink

We patiently waited for the snow and got our exercise with the usual uphill skis and laps around the limited Nordic trails this last week. While we might normally bring Neva with us on these activities, the uphill traffic has been rather high and the designated dog-friendly Nordic trails haven’t had enough snow to remain open. So little Neva has been getting her daily fetch sessions or bike rides, which she loves all the same. Still, we can’t help but feel that she has also been skunked on what should have been a snow-filled winter break.


found neva staring at the clock one night – thinking existential thoughts?



But finally, a much-needed storm arrived in Colorado and it delivered nearly double the forecast amount in Crested Butte. We watched the clouds pour into our little valley on Saturday afternoon and soon the white flakes followed. It snowed all night and when we woke up early Sunday morning, the skies were clearing and the mountain had received 11 inches in total from the storm. Time to rev up the snow blower and chuck the powder skis into the car.

this is what we want to see in winter

jeremy floats through the magical, fluffy powder



We drove back home to the Front Range today, ready to resume normal life. And by calling it normal life, I do not mean to imply that Crested Butte is vacation life. Crested Butte is more of a working vacation. The only reason we can spend as much time as we do in Crested Butte is because of the internet. Normal life is non-holiday life. The lead up to the holidays runs us completely ragged and so it’s no wonder that we spend the actual holidays mostly in hermit mode. After baking and shipping or delivering all of those cookies and candies, I thought I never wanted to see another cookie again. I was wrong.

Anita had mailed a box of Totoro linzer cookies and a sweet thank you note from her daughter for the quilt I made. I opened it in the car as we traveled west, deeper into the mountains. Neva’s nose was suddenly at my left ear, sniffing the contents of the box. There is something about homemade food that reminds me of my childhood. It stirs up that warmth in your heart when you feel loved and cared for – like when Grandma gave me a bowl of her Chinese noodle soup after pre-school or when Mom cooked my favorite meal for my birthday. Anita’s cookies were enough to make my day, but as we pulled into our neighborhood in Crested Butte, there was a package waiting in our mailbox from Jennie, filled with delectable spiced treats from her kitchen. I couldn’t stop smiling. My beautiful friends had reached across the country from opposite coasts to wrap me in a hug.


the cutest totoro linzer cookies

a tin filled with love



I don’t typically spend a lot of time cooking or baking in Crested Butte. I do enough of that at home. But lately I’ve been making an exception. Last summer, my friend asked for help with dog walking duties. Not her dogs, but someone else’s dog. Duke is a sweet, gentle ten year old black lab whose person was adjusting to life without legs. OF COURSE I volunteered to walk Duke, but it was infrequent because we don’t live in Crested Butte full-time. Still, I figured any little bit helped. Over Thanksgiving, my friend was away on travel, so she sent me a link to Duke’s schedule. For some reason I had naively assumed it was all about Duke, but what I found was a community of volunteers signing up to walk Duke, bring dinner to Duke’s person, and drive Duke’s person to medical appointments. I had not realized just how much help Duke’s person needed, because he never asked.

So I volunteered to bring dinner, because that seemed to be what most people didn’t sign up for and it’s something I am actually good at. Duke’s person was pretty excited about the meals, and I was grateful to have the opportunity to help. I consider the making of food to be an act of caring and love. We feed people in celebration, we feed the grief-stricken, we feed those in need, we feed to soothe and heal. My dear Tara commented on Instagram “I believe, in the Jewish tradition, we’re supposed to be thankful to those who are in need, because they allow us to experience the joy of giving.” I wasn’t familiar with this, but I liked it very much.


rice, indian lentil soup, thai tofu curry, some sugar plums for christmas

cooking potatoes in spices



I try hard to accommodate dietary restrictions. Several of my friends have Celiac disease, some have nut allergies, others like myself, are lactose intolerant. Duke’s person was easy by comparison: flexitarian (eats chicken and fish) and low sugar. The hard part was sourcing ingredients in a small mountain town, but I’m getting better at it. Now that I’m home, I can plan ahead for the next trip to Crested Butte and bring the hard-to-find ingredients to make more interesting dishes. The other nice thing about being home is resuming a more normal pattern of eating. Earlier last year, I incorporated a new (to me) source of non-dairy calcium in this almond vanilla chia seed pudding. Over the summer, I decided to get my chia seed fix in beverage form.

white and black chia seeds



Some folks have issues with the texture and consistency of chia seed pudding, but they may find it easier to enjoy chia seeds in a more dilute medium. You’ve probably seen some bottled chia seed drinks in grocery stores. I tried my first chia seed kombucha last spring and rather loved it, which got my hamster wheels spinning. It’s easy enough to make your own chia seed gel – just add water and let sit. The gel can store up to 5 days in the refrigerator.

stir water into the seeds

the chia seeds gel in as little as 10 minutes



**Jump for more butter**

of the rain, sun, and earth

Sunday, July 30th, 2017

Recipe: fig vodka infusion and fig blossom cocktail

Right as rain. That phrase used to puzzle me until I started living in the western U.S. Blessed rain is a relief, a cleanser, a gift. It’s like a reset button on all of that heat, the dust, the pollution, the wilted plants, the beleaguered creatures. I can’t tell you how many rainbows I’ve been sighting in the early mornings this past week. Some persist for several minutes and others appear, glow, and diminish in the span of 30 seconds – faster than I can grab my gear. In those instances, I don’t get upset like I used to. I do kick myself a little for missing a great opportunity, but I’ve learned to stop and simply take it in. Those magic moments when Jeremy is still asleep and Neva is sitting politely facing the dog food (her way of asking to eat dinner, which is breakfast or any meal) and there is no other conscious human around with whom to share the beauty… I’ve learned.


managed to capture this one



Jeremy and I planned on a big mileage trail run for a morning that had been forecasted to have overcast skies. By that morning, the forecast had changed to sun and heat and yuck. We scrapped our plans for a run, Neva jumped into the car, and we set off for a hike so everyone could get a little exercise. What was supposed to be a quick two-hour hike turned into a 6-hour forage. Some huckleberry patches were full on ripe, which was a surprise since the last two years totally sucked for huckleberries. I picked a few and offered one to Neva, who knows to actually chew a huckleberry (she doesn’t seem to chew much else, though). The instant she tasted it, she turned to the huckleberry bushes and began to eat them off the plants!

beautiful precious wonderful beloved huckleberries



Erin and I haven’t been able to coordinate a hike yet this summer, but we dutifully exchange trail reports to maximize our coverage and knowledge of The State of the Mushrooms (and huckleberries, but hucks are a separate matter for us). Our neck of the woods has been a late bloomer compared to other parts of the state who have been receiving their monsoonal blessings earlier and more than we have. As Jeremy and I hiked and Neva practically propelled herself up the trail by happily wagging her tail, I thought to myself that it would be nice to find one king – to find my first porcini of the season. Well, I found about eighty and harvested less than half. Talk about a flush. In a week, we went from seeing a few random mushrooms that nobody wants to the kings and queens of the forest fungi. I even found three beautiful patches of chanterelles which I’ve never found on the Front Range before this season (we typically forage them in the Central Mountains).

my beautiful little friend

another perfect bouchon

a party of five (one in the distant upper left and the fifth off camera)

chanterelles emerging

strawberries and cream (not edible, but a favorite for its crazy weirdness and awesome name)

kings and queens: porcini and chanterelles



That was just my share. I gave Erin and Jay the other half of the porcini because they love them and know how to process them, and because I simply didn’t have the time to deal with that many. Foraging has a way of sending summer into a frenzy, especially when you spend the entire weekend in Hunter Education, which we (Jeremy and I) did.

neva is intrigued



Foraging is one of those activities that demands your time up front. You don’t forage when you feel like it, you forage when the mushrooms flush or when the berries are ripe. And you don’t dump them in your refrigerator to rot over the next week or two, you deal with them within a day lest the worms you didn’t dispatch when you field dressed your mushrooms eat through the rest of your prize. It’s irresponsible and unethical to take these treasures from the land and waste them. I suppose I have a similar mindset when I am at Costco. Sometimes Costco carries something special and rare and if you go back the following week, it might be all gone. So you grab one or two packages of those fresh figs in mid summer when you didn’t expect to see them for another month and then you wrack your brain on the drive home thinking of all the fig recipes you had written on your to do list and then you remember the easiest one of all: fig vodka infusion.

fresh figs

figs and vodka (that’s all you need)



**Jump for more butter**