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solving mysteries

Thursday, March 17th, 2022

Recipe: chow mein

How can so much time have passed so quickly? Jeremy and I puzzled over this on our 25th wedding anniversary earlier this month. We celebrated with a low-key home-cooked meal. My parents congratulated us. The pups were business as usual.

The past several weeks have been busy and roller coaster-y (and that’s without considering the insanity of the world). I switched to a new primary care physician who helped me untangle some nuisance ailments. I’ve changed my diet and exercise patterns to fast track myself to a healthier me in the last month. It’s a lot of work, but I’m here for it.


chinese new year’s eve dinner: potstickers, mochi rice, stem and leaf mandarin oranges, cellophane noodles soup, lucky ten vegetables

chinese new year breakfast: sweet red bean rice balls, sesame balls, oranges, steamed barbecue pork buns, moon cakes, peanuts

neva and yuki couldn’t be happier

a tired dog is a good dog

the powder, it is fun

yuki test drives her warm coat on a frigid day



At the end of last year, I finally tackled my decades-long mystery of how to make chow mein. I know there are many interpretations of chow mein out there because I have ordered them at various restaurants throughout my adult years. The soft, barely seasoned noodles or crunchy pre-fried crisps from a bag tossed with gloppy sauce were not what I had in mind. I wanted that plate piled high with savory thin noodles lightly adorned with slivers of green onion and stray bean sprouts, trundling past on a dim sum cart.

dark soy sauce, light soy sauce, chow mein (hong kong style noodles)



Turns out, chow mein is rather simple to make once you procure the right noodles. And look, chow mein literally translates to fried noodles, so it could be and sometimes is, ANY noodle that is stir fried, deep fried, or pan fried. If you are like me, you’ve scrutinized the dozens of packaged fresh noodles in the refrigerated section of the Asian market, scanning for recognizable English words on the labels while remaining skeptical of the original translator’s qualifications, and wound up making your best guess. A little time spent on the internets guided me to the right noodles. In this case, Hong Kong-style or chow mein is what you seek, but take care because I’ve seen chow mein labels on all manner of noodles. We want thin egg noodles (thin like angel hair pasta). You can also purchase them dried, but I have yet to try those.

And while you are at the Asian market to get your Hong Kong-style noodles, you might as well pick up a bottle of dark soy sauce and a bottle of light soy sauce. Dark soy sauce is thicker with more soy flavor and deep caramel color. Light soy sauce is thinner and closer to regular soy sauce. Does combining light and dark soy sauce equal regular soy sauce? No. If you had to sub regular soy sauce for light soy sauce, okay – but the dark soy sauce is what gives the noodles that special umaminess.


sesame oil, light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, vegetable oil, mung bean sprouts, chow mein, green onions, chinese broccoli (gai lan), shiitake mushrooms

always prep your ingredients before you start cooking

mix the soy sauces and sesame oil together



**Jump for more butter**

neva’s year is coming

Monday, February 5th, 2018

Recipe: taiwanese fluffy pancakes (zhua bing)

Chinese New Year is Friday, February 16th this year and it’s going to kick off the Year of the Dog. Neva is particularly excited about this. Actually, she could care less, but I’ll take any excuse to celebrate our lovable canine companions. And who am I fooling? Every year is the year of the dog at our house, right?


fetching on sunny days

playing on snowy days



I had grand plans of pulling off a Chinese New Year’s Eve feast and inviting friends over to celebrate, but something in my head is telling me to lay low and keep things mellow this year. Or maybe I’m simply adjusting to my life being dictated by the schedules of several fermenting foods of late. Whatever it is, I’m trying to keep the stress levels to a minimum and sanity at a maximum.

Okay, maybe sanity at a little less than maximum. See, I always feel compelled to try at least one new Chinese recipe for the Lunar New Year. If you are a fan of Chinese scallion pancakes, these Taiwanese fluffy pancakes or zhua bing are similar, but more fun.


flour, boiling water, cold water, star anise, sichuan peppercorns, sesame seeds, more flour, salt, vegetable oil, chinese five spice, scallions



I didn’t grow up eating this style of pancake, but my parents would sometimes order it as a side dish at Chinese restaurants in the Bay Area when we visited my Grandma in California. Most of the time they arrived plain – made from flour, water, salt, and oil – with concentric layers of hot delicate, crisp-edged dough. I could be mistaken (likely with my poor understanding of Mandarin Chinese), but I always thought zhua bing meant “grab pancake” as in, pull it apart with your hands. This version is flavored with spices, scallions, and sesame seeds.

mix the salt and flour together

mix the boiling water in the center well

stir in the cold water

the dough will be rough and shaggy

knead until smooth and cover with damp cloth for 30 minutes



**Jump for more butter**

cooking with mom

Sunday, August 6th, 2017

Recipe: chinese buddha’s hand melon (chayote) salad

Is there anyone else out there who feels they can’t leave on a trip without first cleaning the house? Because I’m one of those people. In the past, we would clean the house when we had guests coming over or when we left on a trip. Now, because we split our time between Nederland and Crested Butte – I find myself cleaning both houses more than I ever wanted. I just hate coming home to a mess, so this is present me doing future me a favor. But last week after spending the whole weekend in hunter education and then coming home to do laundry, clean house, and pack for Crested Butte – it was a miracle that we were able to leave at all. In fact, I didn’t think we were ever going to get out of our neighborhood because we went back to the house three times for four different things we had forgotten, but remembered just as we headed down the street.


we made it to crested butte and we were greeted by this

found some lovely porcini

still quite early, but a few chanterelle patches were popping up

and lots of amanitas (poisonous, but beautiful) are a good sign



On our latest trail run, I decided to get a little more climbing in and ran the same route as Jeremy – just slower and not as far. My goal was to reach the first basin and turn around, but because Jeremy and I have different ideas of what a stream crossing is, I ran up out of the basin thinking the NEXT basin was my target until I met Jeremy as he was running down. Well, I’m glad I did because I saw a black bear on my climb! We only ever catch glimpses of black bears, mainly because they don’t want any trouble and are quick to avoid people. In addition to the bear sighting, I heard a couple of grouse, ate some wild raspberries and wild strawberries (so good!), and stopped to admire the wildflowers and views.

this is why i trail run



Foraging and trail running are two things we generally try to avoid doing with Neva. On those days, we’ll take her for a fetch session or a bike ride – something high energy and fun, but quick. And then days like today, we’ll take a rest morning and make it all about Neva. She got to fetch and swim at the lake, go for a hike, fetch and swim some more, go paddling – which involves more swim-fetch, and then a few more fetches while Jeremy packed up the paddle boards. You don’t think she’s spoiled, do you?

on our hike

diving off the paddle board to get her ball



Two weeks ago, I had my parents come up to my house to make and shoot a couple of their recipes with me. A week prior, I had tasked them with writing up the recipes and emailing them to me so I could review the recipes and plan the shopping list. As some of you may recall, my parents don’t use “recipes”. Mom is far more obliging than Dad and will give it her best effort when translating a dish into writing. Dad is practically a lost cause because he’ll write down a recipe, all the while declaring that he doesn’t NEED a recipe, and then proceed to change it twenty different ways *while* you are cooking according to said recipe. I know this is payback for my teenage years.

shopping with mom for buddha’s hand melons (chayote)



Today’s recipe is a crunchy, refreshing salad that my mom likes to make in summer. I am totally hooked on it and when the days are hot, I could eat a whole batch in one sitting for dinner. Buddha’s hand melon, also known as chayote, is a vegetable that you can eat raw or cooked. I’ve always seen them in the Asian markets, but never knew what to do with them. Mom’s preparation involves salting the sliced melon, and then tossing it with a sweet and sour dressing. Simple.

buddha’s hand melons, fresh ginger, sugar, salt, vinegar, chili garlic paste (not pictured: sesame oil)



First, you’ll need to peel the outer skin off the melons. You can use a sharp knife or a potato peeler. They can get slippery, so do watch your fingers! Don’t worry about peeling the bottoms as you’ll trim those after you slice the melons in half. The core of the melon is tougher than the meat of the melon, so we slice the melon around the core.

peel the skin

cut away any remaining skin from the ends

begin slicing the melon flesh around the core

discard the core



**Jump for more butter**