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Sunday, November 15th, 2015

Recipe: lobster miso ramen

As last week wound down, we took advantage of our proximity to decent trails and got Neva out on the snow again. Even if the snow isn’t ideal, it’s good for her to get regular training and exercise on and in the snow. Eventually, we’d like to get her on some of the dog-friendly nordic trails in Crested Butte this season. On Friday, she had doggy day care so I could run errands on the flats. While in line at a store, I witnessed an argument break out among three people in the next line over. Each party behaved badly. Each party escalated the conflict. Eventually there was a gesture, profanities, a shove, a retaliatory shove. These three adults – well into their 60s and all of them strangers to one another – were no better than squabbling children. As soon as the shoving began, I stepped forward and broke it up. “What the hell is wrong with people?” I asked Jeremy as we drove up the canyon.

a fine day for a ski with the pup

someone needed a bath after a good day at doggy daycare

After giving Neva a bath outside, we found ourselves asking that question again the moment we turned on our public radio station and heard the news headlines. My social networks had exploded with expressions of grief, horror, anger, fear, blame, hope, sympathy, self-righteousness, ignorance… I closed my laptop and exhaled my frustrations, “What is WRONG with people?!” In the morning, we opted to remove ourselves to the high country where we could scout out the snow conditions. Neva stayed home to rest as she was still exhausted from her daycare exertions. It didn’t matter that the snow was thin and covered in rocks in places. It didn’t matter that there was windslab on some slopes and that it was warm enough for the snow to stick to and clump on our skis. I just wanted to get outside and sort through my feelings, my thoughts. Jeremy is the only person I can count on to speak rationally, thoughtfully, and sensibly most of the time. We both benefited from the exercise, getting outside and having the backcountry to ourselves, and being able to share our thoughts quietly with one another.

putting away the climbing skins

a slabby, sticky, sloppy snowpack

We spent the rest of the weekend working and giving wide berth to frothing-at-the-mouth Facebook comment fights. It was a good time for comfort food. A couple of years ago, I had received a lobster ramen recipe from the PR machine of a local chef. Lobster ramen sounds divine, right? I mean, there is lobster – and then there is ramen. Boom! But after reading through the recipe, it wasn’t what I was craving. I think my Asianness demanded more Asian-y flavors, and this recipe was not only heavy on European interpretation, but it was also ridiculously involved. So I sat on the idea of lobster ramen until I found something more in tune with my tastes. Lobster miso ramen delivers on the flavors, textures, and it can be quite simple and quick to make.

toasted nori, white beech mushrooms, cooked ramen, green onions, hondashi granules, white miso paste, butter, lobster

You can probably find most of the ingredients at a typical grocery store that has a well-stocked Asian food aisle. For dashi (bonito fish soup stock), I use hondashi instant granules because they store so easily in my refrigerator. That’s something you probably need to get from an Asian grocer. As for the ramen, I had some leftover dried ramen to move from my pantry since my search for fresh ramen noodles at the Asian grocery store came up empty. I also read that curly ramen is better for miso broths because the miso tends to cling to those crooks in the noodles.

simmer the dashi and add the mushrooms and cooked lobster meat

**Jump for more butter**

snow and blow

Wednesday, November 11th, 2015

Recipe: butternut squash lasagne

When my neighbor asked if I could take care of their dog, Dioji (dee-OH-gee), for a couple of days, I hesitated. My desire is to always say yes to everything. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to temper that gut reaction with pragmatic considerations and to think things through before answering yes, before committing to what I promise to do. Dioji is an easy girl – a giant fur ball, half Bernese Mountain dog, half Great Pyrenees, and one hundred percent lover. Neva is very fond of Dioji and I have to say, of all the dogs that have to put up with Neva’s ridiculous puppy antics, Dioji is the sweetest and most tolerant one. Of course, walking the two of them was quite the adventure because Neva is constantly pulling ahead and Dioji is always stopping abruptly to sniff the latest headlines.

sitting nicely for a treat, but neva thinks dioji might have gotten hers already

As much as I adore Dioji, I think I like having one dog. I hear from plenty of folks that two dogs are great because they keep one another company, but one is just right for me and Jeremy. Neva improves each day in subtle increments rather than the “one step forward, two steps back” of puppyhood. We still witness bouts of puppiness in Neva, and with the colder weather she is becoming more snuggly. Every morning Neva hops up onto the bed and cuddles between us for an hour or so until she feels it is time for what Jeremy calls her “two outputs and one input” – potty time and dinner (breakfast) – at which point she scoots closer to Jeremy and puts both front paws on his face. After she’s done eating, one or both of us will take her out for some exercise – a hike, fetch, or ski. We recently got more snow and a chaser of winds gusting up to 60 mph, but we still went out because Neva needs to learn what winter is like around here. Thankfully, ground blizzards don’t seem to bother her too much when there is a ball to be chased.

i wish all dogs could be this happy

neva in flight!

her coordination is improving

walking home after lots of good playtime

While I pride myself in enduring gale force winds to get my ski on (because it makes the calm days all the more delicious), there are times when the winds and the snow conditions combine to create so much suckage that I will resort to indoor rowing or riding. Those are also good days to tackle something like this butternut squash lasagne with its multiple components. Running the oven keeps the house warm and toasty while the big bad wolf rages outside.

onions, butter, olive oil, milk, goat cheese, flour, salt, thyme, sage, panko crumbs, butternut squash, black pepper, pecorino-romano cheese, no boil lasagne, nutmeg, garlic

start caramelizing the onions

deep brown and sweet

**Jump for more butter**

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**