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at last the april showers

Sunday, April 23rd, 2017

Recipe: chinese shrimp and sizzling rice

When I hear a weather forecast on the radio for “a beautiful day”, I already know they mean sunshine and warm temperatures, because our society has got something against rain and snow and cold. But I have lots of good reasons for loving precipitation! The most obvious is the skiing, but recreation aside, our snow pack and rainstorms provide much-needed insurance against out-of-control wildfires in the mountains as well as water for all of the flat-landers downstream. Other bonuses include mushrooms (oh, the mushrooms!), wild berries, and wildlife that rely on moisture to survive and thrive. Don’t forget those stunning wildflower displays at the height of summer, or refreshing waterfalls and alpine lakes that are a joy to hike. Besides, rainy days make sunny days all the more delicious.

So yes, we are getting some belated April showers, at last! Sometimes it falls as snow, sometimes it falls as rain. At this point, I am happy with either one. Sure, I’d love a few more backcountry ski days, but I’m already four weeks into my trail running season. I could go either way and it’s all good. The longer days also mean more time for outdoor puppy play and training!


rain can give you rainbows

those clouds can create magic

neva wanted to show me her new favorite toy

i met an adorable 3 1/2 month old golden retriever, penny



I’ll be honest. My main desire for rain right now is so the mushrooms flush instead of petering out in another drought. Despite hitting the jackpot a couple of times, last summer was a crap season for mushrooms overall in Colorado. It was simply too dry. So you can imagine my delight when it rained for two days last week. Erin and I met shortly after sunrise to wade through freezing cold streams, carefully picking our way through mazes of branches while spotting and avoiding poison ivy. The conversation meandered from topic to topic, much like our path which wasn’t a path, but a series of points of interest that led us further into the woods and tall grasses.

plum blossoms – these will be good for plums come end of summer/early fall

picking wild catnip for the kitties (and dodging lurking leafless poison ivy stalks)

a pretty cluster of perfect oyster mushrooms

harvesting some more good finds



Despite her protests, I made Erin take all of the oyster mushrooms home. Part of the reason was because I know Jay, her husband (and also my friend), is crazy about wild mushrooms. The other part was because I had accumulated so much psychological freak out over poison ivy contamination with each hour we were foraging that my brain was about to explode. I’m just a little OCD… When we got to the cars, I told her I wanted her to keep the mushrooms as I began shedding my outer layers, turning them inside out, and stuffing them into plastic bags (to take home to wash). I wouldn’t have the time to clean and cook the mushrooms anyway.

I had plenty to get done at home like baking a batch of cookies to mail to my dad. Mom had pneumonia for the past couple of weeks and Dad took great care of her, so I felt he deserved a treat. Plus, he gave me this “recipe” for Chinese shrimp and sizzling rice. I put recipe in quotes because it was conveyed to me via phone conversation with a lot of shouting and hand-wavy quantities. A little bit of this. Some of that. Maybe some peas. I don’t want peas. Okay, no peas. I can only imagine if my parents had a food blog.


rice cakes



After some research, I did find a couple of recipes for homemade sizzling rice which involve steaming rice, then baking it low and slow, then deep frying it. I took the easy way out this time and bought Chinese sizzling rice cakes at an Asian supermarket. I’m showing you the packaging because that is the only way I can find it. It’s usually tucked somewhere among the dried noodles, but one time they moved them and I spent a half hour scouring the aisles before I located the rice cakes.

straw mushrooms, water chestnuts, baby bok choy, shaoxing wine, vegetable oil, chicken stock, white pepper, shrimp, rice cakes, egg white, salt, cornstarch, water, green onions, fresh ginger



The shrimp should first be mixed with Shaoxing wine, a half teaspoon of salt, and a little bit of egg white. Don’t use too much egg white or else you’ll wind up with a lot of cooked egg in the pan. You just want enough to coat the shrimp. The cornstarch should be mixed in last. I let the shrimp marinate for ten minutes on the counter, then I pop them in the freezer for another ten or fifteen minutes per my dad’s instructions. The freezing is just to get the shrimp cold and not to actually freeze them through. This probably keeps the shrimp from overcooking.

shaoxing wine, egg white, salt, cornstarch, shrimp (peeled, deveined, and butterflied)

add the shaoxing wine

toss with egg white

mix in the cornstarch



**Jump for more butter**

hey rooster

Sunday, January 22nd, 2017

Recipe: chinese sesame balls jian diu

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but it’s been nice to have a full week that wasn’t dictated by powder skiing. Not that I would mind doing that again… and again. Still, there was much to be done work-wise, workout-wise, around the house, and socially. The sunny and calm weather made that especially pleasant. Jeremy and I love to get an early morning skate ski to jumpstart the particularly busy days. On the less intense work days, we’ll take Neva with us for a little backcountry touring and to change up the exercise. We invited our neighbors over for wine and appetizers and to chat with their graduating senior about career and school options. We worked through the weekend, taking a break to ski and think in the backcountry and come up with a plan of action for things that are important to us (climate, science, public lands, the environment, social justice, education, equal rights, diversity, to name a few) and meeting up with some old and new friends.


a lovely sun-dappled nordic trail

warm enough to leave the deck door open (which neva loved)

my pack

neva derp face



Chinese New Year is this coming Saturday, which means I have less than a week to clean the house, make tons of traditional Chinese foods, and freak myself out over the superstitions that I know aren’t really real. It’s going to be the Year of the Rooster. My Grandma was a rooster. She would have turned 96 this year. I don’t have anything profound to say. I simply miss her kind and gentle soul, and her wisdom. It feels that we could use all the kindness and wisdom we can muster.

Today’s recipe is another Chinese favorite from my childhood. But it wasn’t my favorite, it was my sister, Kris’, favorite. Whenever we went to dim sum, the sesame balls (jian diu) would catch her eye as the ladies wheeled the carts past. These fried mochi dough balls covered in sesame seeds and filled with a sweet center were crispy outside and chewy and warm inside (when fresh). If I had to choose a filling, it would always be sweet red bean (azuki), but they were filled with sweet date, lotus seed, sesame seed paste, peanut, mung bean. I thought it was time to tackle this recipe – not for me so much as to honor my memory of Kris.


glutinous rice flour, sweet red bean paste, chocolate, sesame seeds, brown sugar, water

dissolve the brown sugar in the water

stir the sugar water into the rice flour



**Jump for more butter**

yes i am home

Monday, January 16th, 2017

Recipe: chinese red-cooked pork

Each day last week listed snow in the weather forecast for Crested Butte. That was mostly a good thing. Mostly. It was time for us to head back home for stuff like work and sanity, although we are only able to be in Crested Butte because of the internet (and the ability to work online). At first we thought we might be able to get home Thursday, then it looked more like Saturday. Well, I’m glad we didn’t plan to leave Thursday because that was (yet another) powder day. Remember how Crested Butte got four feet of snow the first week of January? They received another five feet in the second week of January. Do the math. Four feet plus five feet equals some of the best powder skiing ever.


jeremy drops into one of our stashes

how the snow piled up in our front yard



The plan was to ski Friday morning if the mountain received 6 inches or more overnight or to skin up the mountain if it was less. I awoke at 5 am when Neva kicked me in her sleep (she starts off in her bed, but always winds up on ours in the middle of the night). The mountain reported a few inches. I checked the pow cam, then three different weather forecasts. Our window of least snow had moved up a day. I woke Jeremy and we discussed our options in the dark as Neva began to petition for dinner (breakfast). If we wanted to leave that day, there was much to do in order to button up the place – wash towels and linens, vacuum, sweep, mop, scrub the kitchen, dishes, empty the refrigerator, clean bathrooms, dust, take trash and recycling to the dump, pack up, unplug, clear snow off the middle eaves. Six hours later, we were on the road. Five hours after that, we were home.

We spent a glorious month in Crested Butte, which is the longest we’ve been there in one go. Jeremy didn’t think I could do it because I usually start to lose my marbles after 2+ weeks, but I managed. Barely. As much as I love Crested Butte – and I really do love it – I get more done in Nederland. Thankfully, we were greeted with fresh snow and a calm atmosphere. Positively the best weather the Front Range can offer between November and April. Living in Gale Force Wind Central, you learn not to take days like that for granted. So we got out to enjoy this otherworldly (some might call it the Upside Down) version of home.


sunrise skate ski through the hall of trees

backcountry skiing with neva

hoar frost

close up of the crystals



The first order of business was to ski, because exercise keeps us all nice nice. The second order of business was to cook. Chinese New Year’s Eve is Friday, January 27th. I perused my list of “want to make” Chinese recipes and settled on red-cooked pork (hong shao rou). When I was little, my grandma and parents made it with a bone-in, skin-on pork shoulder cooked super tender and infused with the flavors of the heady, savory braising liquid. If you search online recipes, you will discover that most people are cooking with pork belly these days, which is far more luxurious than a humble pedestrian pork shoulder (but let’s all agree that pork shoulder is a truly wonderful cut). It’s best to get pork belly with the skin on, which my local Whole Foods doesn’t have. As my mom complained this summer, “They trim the skin off the pork belly – that’s the best part!” If your local Asian grocer has a butcher’s counter, then you can probably score skin-on (maybe even bone-in) pork belly. That’s what you want.

Other ingredients you should pick up while you’re at the Asian market are: Shaoxing cooking wine, light soy sauce, and dark soy sauce. Shaoxing is also known as huang jiu (yellow wine), but you can substitute dry sherry in its place. If you can’t find light soy sauce, using your regular soy sauce should work. The dark soy sauce is different though – it’s less salty, has a sweet finish, and adds a deep, rich color to the dish.


green onions, garlic, ginger, sugar, star anise, pork belly, shoaxing wine, light soy sauce, dark soy sauce

close up of the bottle labels



While researching recipes, I decided to go with the one that was the most straightforward. But it didn’t include ginger, which was in another recipe I liked. In these instances, the only solution is to consult with Mom. We exchanged a few texts and I was off to the races. Earlier this evening, after I had finished cooking, my dad called me.

“Mommy says you asked her about how to make hong shao rou. You should have asked me. Okay, tell me how you cooked it.” Before I could even describe the process, he interjected, “Now, first you have to cook the pork belly in cold water.” See, my dad gets SO excited about cooking and he is SO certain that his way is the right way, but it’s quite the ordeal to squeeze a reliable recipe out of the guy.

“I did that, Dad.”

“But did you scoop the scum away? You have to boil the yucky stuff off first.”

“DAD! THIS IS WHY I ASKED MOM AND NOT YOU!”


cover the pork belly with cold water

remove the scum from the surface of the liquid

slice the pork belly into 1.5-inch pieces



**Jump for more butter**