roasted carrots crumbled tofu stir fry huckleberry pie meatless meatballs


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archive for dinner

incremental steps

Monday, October 25th, 2021

Recipe: crumbled tofu stir fry

Thanks to some technologistical hiccups, my last post was published before email subscribers were migrated to a new service, so I apologize if you didn’t receive a notification. But email subscription limbo has now been resolved, and hopefully this is the last we’ll talk about that.

Most of our aspens have been stripped bare by intermittent winter storms and winds, but we find the delicate rattles of the remaining dried leaves soothing when we take the pups on leisurely hikes. I rather like the quiet time in the mountains between the leaf peepers and the ski crowds, when locals are left to their own shenanigans. The diurnal swings in temperature fooled Jeremy into thinking it was too early to switch to flannel sheets despite his complaints about sleeping cold overnight. Once we made the switch, his outlook on life flipped 180°. It will probably flip back after Daylight Saving ends and the sun drops behind the mountains at 4:30.


the local stand had a good run this year

cool air and hot sun, everyone finds their sweet spot

yuki and the charlie brown aspen tree

those autumn sunsets are something else



We’ve been making the most of this lull before ski season, cramming in medical and dental appointments, fixing and organizing house things, voting (have you voted? local elections are important, so please read up on the issues/candidates and vote!)… you know, adulting. I’ve also carved out some time to do a little recipe testing – especially vegetarian recipes. It can be hit or miss and the misses will require additional work, but I’m sharing a real winner today. My aunt recommended this tofu stir-fry from Melissa Clark on New York Times Cooking which I admittedly skipped when I first saw it in my subscription, but gave it a try on her suggestion. I’ve incorporated my aunt’s tweaks as they improve upon the dish.

cilantro, chili garlic sauce, soy sauce, shaoxing wine, sesame oil, canola oil, lime, edamame, shiitake mushrooms, green onions, salt, tofu, ginger, garlic



It all starts with a block of firm tofu. Firm is important or else you will wind up with a mushy mess and many tears. Look for firm or extra firm on the packaging. Melissa Clark shreds her tofu and drains the shreds on a towel, but I prefer to freeze, thaw, squeeze, and crumble my tofu. Freezing tofu results in a spongier, more chewy texture, and the tofu absorbs marinades better and fries up crisper. This requires a smidge of extra planning: Freeze the tofu in its packaging overnight or for 12 hours, then thaw it in the refrigerator for 24 hours. When thawed, press the tofu between your palms, squeezing out a good bit of the water. From here you can crumble the tofu by hand. I pull chunks off the tofu block and squeeze out more liquid before crumbling the tofu into a bowl.

crumbled tofu



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summer happened

Sunday, August 29th, 2021

Recipe: meatless meatballs

Housekeeping News: Google has eliminated FeedBurner’s email subscription service which means you won’t be receiving emails announcing a new use real butter post from now on. I did research other email subscription services, but soon realized my goal is not to grow this blog; I simply want to document recipes and some memories. I typically publish a new recipe once a month and I announce those on my @userealbutter and @jenyuphoto Instagram accounts. Thanks for reading! -jen


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All of my grand plans for summer converged on the month of August. Foraging insane amounts of wild mushrooms, family visits, so much cooking, celebrations, hiking, and many overdue house projects left me short on sleep, heavy on backaches, but ultimately delighted. I’m happy it came together and even more thrilled to let out a big sigh as I crawl across the line to September.


marking kris’ birthday with lilies

so.many.porcini

the chanterelles were off to a great start

jeremy found our first ever blue chanterelles

visited jeremy’s parents and took them porcini hunting

my niece toured the university of colorado in boulder

celebrated mom’s 80th birthday

spent many hours hiking with this crew



And now we can finally get to these fantastic meatless meatballs that were promised since spring. The recipe comes from my friend, Jennifer Perillo (Jennie) – a talented, intuitive, and skilled cook and baker. I’ve made these several times in the last six months. The flavor is excellent and the texture is great. We don’t miss the meat. Even when I flubbed a batch, it ended up more like meat sauce than meatballs and was still terrific. I now keep a few dozen meatless meatballs in the freezer at any given time for a quick weeknight meal.

The bulk of the meatless meatballs comes from cooked lentils. I like that Jennie uses vegetable stock (I use Better than Bouillon vegetable base) and other aromatics to cook her lentils. French (puy) lentils give me the best and most consistent results, but you can use other types. Just watch that they don’t overcook like my green lentils did – because your meatless meatballs will be more inclined to disintegrate during frying (sad) or while eating (manageable). There is usually an extra half cup of cooked lentils which are great in salads, as a side, or spooned straight into your mouth. You can also purchase cooked lentils to save yourself a step. I’ve seen cooked lentils in stores, but have never tried them.


french lentils, shallot, garlic, bay leaf, salt, pepper, vegetable stock

bring it all to a boil and simmer until tender

ready for meatless meatballs



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emergence

Tuesday, May 25th, 2021

Recipe: venison with morel sauce

We received our second shots the day before the anniversary of Kris’ passing. Based on reports from several friends as well as the CDC, I assumed I’d be feeling pretty miserable within 24 hours of my second dose. I bought some flowers earlier in the hopes they would still be bright and perky on May 1.


sunny ranunculus for kris



Because my parents were in town for the past month, our emergence from pandemic isolation has been hastened by their desire to see us. There’s being fully vaccinated and then there is being mentally prepared for the increase in activity and engagement and noise and personalities and driving. And I have to admit that while seeing my parents again has been good, the chaos and stress of stepping back into “normal” life feels anything but normal. It’s not being out of practice so much as questioning if being social is what I enjoy or what society wants me to enjoy. Perhaps Brood X is on to something.

a strawberry mother’s day cake i baked for mom



Per our usually scheduled atmospheric programming, it snowed on Mother’s Day and it snowed some more after that. Any precipitation is welcome in our mountains as we are practically guaranteed a terrible wildfire season in the American West again. The snows and rains made for a cooler, wetter, moodier May, but that hopefully means more mushrooms, more wildflowers, and healthier wildlife here on the Front Range. The western half of Colorado hasn’t been nearly so lucky, but I remain hopeful that the summer monsoons that evaporated the last few years will reappear now that La Niña has officially ended. I love a good Colorado mountain summer rainstorm.

colorado sun and snow in may

signs of life in the mountains: a pasqueflower

deck lounging season has commenced



After taking my parents to the airport last week to catch their morning flight back to Virginia, Jeremy and I stopped to check a morel spot on the plains. We hadn’t paid much attention to the season and we weren’t expecting anything other than a few spears of feral asparagus. But if you don’t look, you’ll never find them. Foraging on the flats is my least favorite kind of foraging because of the ticks and poison ivy and heat and sun and bugs and so many more people, which might explain why I’m so half-heartedly half-assed about the whole endeavor. And to our great surprise, we found a handful of large blonde morels – including the biggest one I’ve ever seen in the flesh!

growing out of the ground like no big deal

approaching child-sized status



My inclination upon finding the first morels of every season is to batter fry them, but that can get a little strange with a morel the size of a guinea pig. The other three weren’t small by our standards, either. Sure, you can cut the big ones up, but half the fun is eating them whole. I flipped through Hank Shaw’s Buck, Buck, Moose cookbook, unearthed a couple of venison backstraps from our freezer (courtesy of our wonderful neighbors), and decided the fate of these precious fungi. The dish is straightforward, quick, and special.

morel mushrooms, venison backstraps, salt, flour, canola oil, butter, beef stock, pepper, port wine, onion



Venison with morel mushroom sauce in the cookbook is slightly different from Hank’s updated web version. The cookbook recipe (this one) works and I’m certain Hank’s newer recipe is just as good if not better, but I didn’t see it until just now. I used fresh morels, but if morels aren’t in season and you have dried morels, Hank has instructions in both recipes for how to use those instead. I suspect you could go with frozen morels, too (I sauté extra morels in butter then freeze them for later use). And if you don’t have access to venison backstrap or tenderloin, beef is a decent alternative.

salt the venison

chopped onion and morels



I seared the venison backstraps rare, measuring the internal temperature at the thickest end to about 120°F (rare is 125°F), knowing it would continue to rise some as the meat rested on a plate. You can shoot for medium rare (final temperature 130°F), but cooking more than that will ruin this lean, tender cut.

sear the meat

resting



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