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archive for chinese

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**

the overstayed welcome

Sunday, October 11th, 2015

Recipe: vegetarian chinese potstickers (dumplings)

Summer, go home already! It was downright hot this weekend in the mountains – as in shorts and t-shirt hot. I’m worried if the temperatures don’t drop soon, my body won’t be ready for winter. And by ready, I mean I won’t have had a chance to adjust to cold temperatures. It’s like dumping a dog into winter who hasn’t had a chance to grow its winter coat. At least the skies have been pretty, but seriously… get on outta here, Summer.

a nice sunset to kick off the weekend, even if it was an oven

Now that Neva has been spayed, we started shopping around for a good doggy daycare and hotel (boarding). The place we took Kaweah was down in Boulder, which I never felt was ideal because it was a long drive, it’s hotter down in Boulder, and their outdoor area was a parking lot cordoned off by chain link fencing. Of course, Kaweah LOVED it. It was all about the doggies for her. There were some locations in the mountains that boasted large acreage for dogs to roam and have fun, but we knew that wouldn’t work for Kaweah who 1) was an incredible escape artist and 2) ate sticks, rocks, and anything disgusting she could get her mouth on outside. Neva, however, chews sticks up, but summarily spits them out (thank goodness!) and she is far more focused on playing with friends than trying to escape. She had a meet and greet with a local Nederland daycare/boarder to make sure she wouldn’t be aggressive or problematic with the other pups. At first she was nervous because they all seemed to pile onto her at once, but as soon as they wandered off, she chased after the group and engaged them for more play. She passed the test.

On Friday, I dropped Neva off for a full day of playtime and she nearly dragged me through the door. Once she entered the playzone with the other pups, she never even noticed I was leaving. No separation anxiety there! Jeremy and I felt that Neva really needed more doggy socialization in a place where she can be supervised and contained (she is still a flight risk, but perhaps less so than Kaweah was – fingers crossed). The nice thing is the proprietor is also a certified dog trainer who follows positive reinforcement training. At the end of the day, we picked Neva up and she was completely exhausted. Happy and exhausted. She plowed through her dinner then fell asleep for the rest of the night. We were told that she played so much, she might still be tired on Saturday, in case we had plans to hike her. She slept or lounged all of Saturday, which made it possible for us to get a lot of work done around the house and yard. I love puppy playtime!

still tuckered on saturday

feeling like her old self by sunday

Over the summer, my mom experimented with various vegetarian potsticker and dumpling recipes because she had made some for a dear friend’s daughter who is vegetarian. Every time I would drop by my parents’ place in Boulder, Mom would shove a vegetarian dumpling into my mouth. “What do you think?” she’d ask, smiling. Was it better than the last one? Should she add more bean thread noodles? Maybe use some egg? The variations are endless. I told her when she settled on a final version, I’d like to have the recipe so I could share it here on the blog. Summer being as busy as it was, I’m not sure she ever decided which one she liked best (they were all quite good). I decided to give it a try recently and discussed some recipe ideas with Mom over the phone. Both of my parents really get into recipe development, so Mom rattled off several suggestions as I jotted them down in my notebook.

Then she said, “If you really want to improve the flavor, add some chicken broth to the filling.” I paused. “Um, Mom, if you add chicken broth, it’s no longer vegetarian.” Oh, then you can add some dried tiny shrimps – makes it taste so good. I informed her that shrimp is also a deal breaker for vegetarians. It’s not that my parents have a poor understanding of what vegetarian means, but that (I think) Chinese people have a misconception of what “meat” means. I can’t tell you how many times we have been at an authentic dim sum restaurant with a vegetarian and I have asked the server if they had any dishes without meat. “Oh yes!” they’d smile, and plop a few tins of steamed shrimp dumplings or stewed chicken feet onto the table explaining that these were not “meat”.

I did a little research and found myself gravitating toward tofu. I know a lot of people are anti-soy, but it is what it is and I for one love tofu. Marc at No Recipes had a great little post on making vegetarian/vegan ground meat from firm tofu by freezing it, then squeezing it dry and crumbling the tofu. I grew up eating tofu like this except Mom didn’t crumble it, but sliced it. It’s a nice spongy texture that is great in hot spicy soups and stews. Sounded like a good solution.

for the filling: firm tofu, baked tofu, vegetable oil, sesame oil, soy sauce, dried shiitake mushrooms, bamboo shoots, fresh ginger, cornstarch, napa cabbage, green onions

freeze the firm tofu in its liquid, then thaw it completely

squeeze out the liquid and crumble the tofu

**Jump for more butter**

love thy long weekend

Monday, September 7th, 2015

Recipe: mongolian beef

Labor Day weekend marks the close of the busy summer season. It’s when the visitors return to normal life and leave the mountains to the locals, as if the mountains have closed for the year. But the mountains don’t close, ever. They march through the seasons regardless of you or me. Despite the fact that summer is my least favorite of all the seasons (I love them all, I just love the others more), it is indeed a glorious time when trails are easy to access, wildflowers scatter across the hills, and the fruits of the earth spring forth. We hopped out to Crested Butte for the long holiday weekend so we could take care of house maintenance and get on the trails with the puppy. I also wanted to scope out what the aspens are up to because I’ve noticed yellows appearing earlier than usual in the Front Range – not big swaths, but patches here and there. Even though I won’t be doing a dedicated fall shoot this year (because of Neva), it’s hard to shut off the constant monitoring of the aspen stands right about now.

evidence that a few of the leaves are showing off early

The weather on the Front Range had been mostly hot and dry the last few weeks and our trails had few signs of the mushrooms that graced them only a month prior. But Crested Butte was getting more consistent relief in the form of rain. When we arrived at our place, the lawn had big, healthy, (poisonous) mushrooms sprouting up. That was a good sign. My hope was that the chanterelles would have a second flush, but I wasn’t sure that it would actually happen. We hiked out to some patches over the weekend and lo and behold – chanterelles. Some were dried out and old, others were fresh and just coming out of the ground. I surmised that this wasn’t a second flush, but a continuation of the original flush – stoked on by healthy doses of rain and sun. What an amazing season it has been! I used all of the August chanterelles to shoot recipes, but these will be sautéed in butter and frozen for our enjoyment in winter.

hello, beautifuls

neva waits for jeremy to fill her water dish while i forage chanterelles

not a bad haul for a morning

Of course, the weekend wasn’t just about foraging mushrooms. We got Neva out on the trails for lots of exercise and visited the neighborhood lake to let her get her swim on. As we approached the water, she began to pull on the leash as if her life depended on it. At first I thought there was a dead, rotting carcass near the shore that she smelled. But soon it became clear that this dog wanted to SWIM. So we chucked stick after stick into the water and watched as this once chunky clumsy puppy now gracefully and athletically leapt into the water – a strong and beautiful swimmer.

go neva!


I do plan to head up into the mountains for one last forage before returning home, but I realize that some of you may be tired of the onslaught of huckleberry and chanterelle recipes. Maybe you’re looking for something that will serve as part of a weeknight meal? I haven’t blogged too many Asian recipes this summer, so let’s change things up and go with some Mongolian beef. It’s an easy and straightforward stir fry. The only obstacle might be sourcing some of the ingredients, but I assure you that all of them can be found in an Asian grocery store or a regular grocery store that has a well-stocked Asian food aisle.

flank steak, hoisin sauce, shaoxing wine, vegetable oil, oyster sauce, chili bean sauce, dried red hot chilis, potato starch, scallions, garlic

slice on the diagonal

mince the garlic

slice the flank steak against the grain

**Jump for more butter**