chinese shrimp and sizzling rice neva: backcountry buddies dog training strawberries and cream malasadas morel asparagus prosciutto lemon pasta


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not soon enough

Sunday, April 16th, 2017

Recipe: strawberries and cream malasadas

Okay, the confusion is over. Spring has sprung and is springing all over the place. I am okay with this. In fact, I’ve decided this year that instead of dreading summer and feeling like I’m walking under a broiler all day, I’m going to attempt to acclimate myself to the heat a little earlier. I’ll see if it makes summer more tolerable (probably not). I mean, I grew up in southern Virginia for 18 years and lived in Southern California for another 10. You’d think I’d be used to heat by now. One of my strategies includes baking loads of Neva’s treats while it is still cool – enough to get us through the summer so I don’t have to turn the oven on! Another plan is to ramp up my trail running now, while the temperatures are mild, so that I am not ramping up and adjusting to the hot weather at the same time. Lofty goals, I know. Should I fail, at least summer is a forgiving season.


neva likes all of the treats i’m cranking out

my mint is sprouting after an apocalyptic haircut

jeremy and i enjoying a backcountry ski (sans neva)

pasque flowers in full force on my trail run

the ball bounces higher (and so does neva) when the field is clear of snow



I’ve been following my friend, Jennie, as she documents her Year of Pie on Instagram. The other day, she made a strawberry pie because she couldn’t wait any longer for the berries to come into season. I hear ya, sistah. Strawberries are the ones that bust open the berry floodgates of summer because they arrive in spring, except they never seem to arrive soon enough. I can’t tell you how many weeks I’ve been scrutinizing the strawberries in the grocery store, squint-frowning at the ones that are more white than red. But this week, they are all beginning to take on that blushing hue. I’m probably jumping the gun by a couple of weeks, but the time has come for strawberries and cream malasadas.

water, vanilla extract, freeze-dried strawberries, flour, sugar, eggs, butter, salt, yeast, evaporated milk



The idea I had was to make plain malasadas (those fried Portuguese doughnuts you find in Hawai’i that are the very definition of ono kind grindz) and fill them with strawberries and whipped cream, but then I found some freeze-dried strawberries in my pantry and decided to make the malasada itself strawberry-flavored. Freeze-dried strawberries turn to powder when you crush them. Dried strawberries with the texture of raisins will not turn to powder, they’ll just get squashed – so don’t use those. If you have dried strawberry chips that snap when you break them, those might work if you can pulverize them to a dry powder. I got my freeze-dried strawberries from Trader Joe’s, but you can also find them in health food stores and I may have seen them in Whole Foods. I subbed a half cup of flour with a half cup of the strawberry powder. It’s pretty potent stuff.

crush the freeze-dried strawberries into powder

it should be a pretty fine powder

mix it into the flour



**Jump for more butter**

she’s baaack

Sunday, March 19th, 2017

Recipe: almond vanilla chia seed pudding

It was nice to have some time away from Neva for her first week of doggy training camp, but by the second week, we were really missing her and excited to have pup pup back. As I’ve mentioned before, I will have a dedicated post to our experience with a professional dog trainer soon, but I can’t fairly assess until we’ve had more time to work with Neva ourselves. I’m sure some people have an unrealistic expectation that they hand their dog over to a professional for some time then get a perfect dog back. We definitely got our Neva back with all her weird quirks and silly habits, but she’s been primed to learn and we’ve been given instruction and some extra tools to improve our ability to communicate with Little Miss Goofball. We are determined to give Neva’s training our best effort and are already seeing improvements over the old Neva.


she was so tuckered when we brought her home

continuing adult education (see how she’s looking at jeremy?)



After a month of unseasonably warm spring-like conditions in February, we seem to be getting even more of it in March. This kind of weather makes skiers nervous, and it makes those of us who live in the mountains anxious. The end of the month might be bringing some precipitation (possibly in the form of snow, too!), but this weeks-long warm spell is already taking its toll locally as a wildfire burns in a neighboring canyon bordering the city of Boulder. I’m the first one to wilt under the sun when it’s 30°F outside, but it’s been in the 60s here and I can’t help but breathe a sigh of relief when the sun drops behind the mountains each day.

we have had some fantastic sunsets

glowing streaks and puffs

otherworldly sky



In the last year, I’ve had to change my oncologist and my primary care physician (PCP) due to retirements. I was pretty bummed because I really adored and trusted both of these doctors who basically saw me through my cancer treatments. I’ve since met with my new oncologist and PCP, both of whom are great (consider me most fortunate to have great health care through my spouse’s employer since I am freelance and have a pre-existing condition). My PCP asked me what medications I take and if I take supplements. Since I am lactose intolerant, I take a daily calcium supplement in addition to eating dark leafy greens and other natural non-dairy sources of calcium. She said she’d like me to get more calcium through foods rather than a supplement. Okay, that shouldn’t be hard for me to do. Brassicas like kale, collard greens, and broccoli are already in rotation, but I would never say no to more! Tofu, almonds, edamame, spinach – easy peasy. What I didn’t know was that chia seeds are a great source of calcium.

teeny tiny little chia seeds



If you’re wondering whether these are the same chia seeds of “chia pet” fame, the answer is yes. I had chia seeds for the first time in a raspberry kombucha when I was trying to get the balance in my gut right after a course of antibiotics. They look like frog eggs and have the texture of tiny, slippery tapioca with a crunchy center. That might not be appealing to some, but I love it. When I’m on Instagram, I scroll past all of those oh-so-popular smoothie bowls because I actually prefer to eat my fruit with my teeth. But a local blogger, Joan of Grist and Greens, posted a chia seed pudding last month, which looked and sounded lovely.

vanilla extract, almond milk, chia seeds, honey



While I went with a different recipe, Joan was still my inspiration. I opted for an almond milk chia seed pudding instead of her coconut milk chia seed pudding because – double bonus: almond milk is a good source of calcium. Since I knew I liked chia seeds, I went ahead and bought the Big Bag of organic chia seeds from Costco. The pudding itself is just about the easiest thing you could make. Just stir everything together and refrigerate.

add honey

vanilla

and almond milk



**Jump for more butter**

the best kind of mess

Sunday, March 5th, 2017

Recipe: breakfast mess

You may have had trouble commenting last week after we updated the spam filter because it wasn’t letting any comments through. I think it is fixed now. Do let us know if you encounter problems. Thanks! -jen

We finally pulled the trigger this past week and sent Neva to doggy training camp. I had mixed feelings about leaving her as we drove away. On the one hand, I am quite attached to that little girl. On the other hand, Jeremy and I felt we had gone as far as we could working with Neva, and that we needed professional guidance. I say “we” because it’s not all on Neva. She is in very good care for the next couple of weeks and early reports from Claire show Neva has made great progress in a short time – and she’s having fun! This is promising and I feel we have made the right decision for her and for us. I’ll share our experience in a dedicated post after Neva finishes camp for those of you interested in how all of this pans out. In the meantime, you can follow her training on Instagram at @backcountrybuddies or Facebook at Backcountry Buddies Dog Training.

It has been awfully quiet without our pup roaming about. Jeremy and I both have a habit of walking into a room and scanning around for Neva – usually lounging on the couch, in her bed, on the floor, by the deck door. But a no-pup house means greater flexibility in our schedules, so we took the opportunity to spend a weekend away. First we indulged in a couple of days skiing at Steamboat Springs, then we hit up Devil’s Thumb Ranch on the way home for a morning of skate skiing at their lovely Nordic Center. It was a sort of mini skication even though I know everyone thinks all we ever do is ski (mostly true).


hello steamboat springs!

trees plastered in snow

kampachi with apple and grilled avocado at yamakawa (formerly known as yama)

black out: walu walu marinated in squid ink served with squid ink-infused tobiko

snow, sun, and fun at devil’s thumb ranch nordic center

jeremy takes another lap

a pretty sunset to close out a great weekend



Breakfast tends to be an oft neglected and skipped meal in our house. I know they say it is the most important meal of the day and I do make an effort, but sometimes it is all I can do to eat a piece of fruit. Other times I am not terribly excited about what is on offer because I am not such a fan of sweet breakfasts. It is likely the fault of my Chinese immigrant upbringing that I would choose a savory bowl of congee loaded to the gills with spicy pickled radishes, shredded pork, ginger, green onions, and a soy sauce egg over say, a doughnut. Now, if we have house guests, I make the effort to provide a proper breakfast. Sometimes it is sweet, sometimes savory, sometimes a bit of both. My favorite is when there are leftover hash browns, bacon, biscuits and sausage gravy or whatnot the day after the guests have left, and we pile everything on a plate or better yet, a bowl, and call it good. That’s because it is SO good. Jeremy and I refer to it as breakfast mess and it’s awesome because you can put whatever you like in it.

Free will can be a terrible thing (just look at rush hour traffic), but in this instance it’s the best thing ever. You know how breakfast menus give you a choice of bacon OR sausage? When we make a breakfast mess, we opt for bacon AND sausage. Not too much, mind you, but a little bit of each is beautiful to behold… and eat.


making sausage gravy

frying up the bacon



**Jump for more butter**