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spring, is that you?

Sunday, May 22nd, 2016

Recipe: passion fruit meringues

I knew it would snow again. How awesome for us that we could backcountry ski fresh snow in our local mountains one day, then go for a trail run in these same mountains the next day. The weather is a spring mix bouquet – it’s got a little bit of everything going on right now. We are rolling with it, because staying indoors is not an option.


sunrise clouds revealing new snow

a fast-moving thunderstorm at sunset



Jeremy and I have been waiting for a window of good weather all month when the snow is still decent in the high country. Active storms, cooler weather, and work obligations finally cleared this weekend. We pounced on the opportunity to get Neva out for her first ski backpack. It was an overnight trip into our local backcountry and we kept it simple for our own sanity as well as Neva’s safety. Unlike summer backpacking, early season backpacking involves more bulk and weight to account for cold nights, camping on snow, potential storms, and ski equipment. Although the forecast thunderstorms never materialized, we camped below treeline to be safe. Of course, Neva had the time of her life romping in the snow, getting extra food and snacks (she burned a lot of calories), catching the scent of a bazillion wild animals, and hogging our sleeping bags all night.

neva cools off in the snow – it was a scorching 70°f

skinning uphill with a heavy pack and a dog that likes to pull every which way is hard work

clouds building on the divide

home for the night



When Jeremy first introduced me to backpacking in March of 1993, he explained that it is “the endeavor of a thousand little discomforts”. But with experience, we learned to minimize, ignore, or accept those discomforts in exchange for the freedom of the hills. Ski backpacking with a one-year old crazy dog definitely adds more complexity and even pain. An outsider might regard this activity as recreation, but Jeremy and I definitely classify it as fun #2. Worth it? Absolutely. Will we take Neva again? We’ll see.

pre-dawn colors in the east

breaking down camp at 6:30 am

hiking the last couple of miles out



As the sun lingers in the sky for a few more minutes each day, my mind turns to tropical flavors. If anything tastes like sunshine, it is passion fruit. I’ve gone to great lengths in the past to procure fresh passion fruit, but sometimes I have to suck it up and buy some at outrageous prices here in Colorado for a shoot. Never let it be said that I have ever allowed a passion fruit to go to waste. Actually, I hate waste in general, which is why I wound up making these passion fruit meringues – because I always have an excess of egg whites in my refrigerator!

eggs, sugar, passion fruit

precious pulp and juice



**Jump for more butter**

uphill from here

Sunday, May 8th, 2016

Recipe: handmade pappardelle

The last ski resort for which we had access to has closed for the season here in Colorado. But the season isn’t done. At least not today it isn’t. It snowed at our house (along with rain, graupel, sleet, and sunshine) and I’m pretty sure the clouds dropped a few quick inches in the high country. From now until the start of the 2016-2017 ski season, it’s only backcountry skiing for us (skinning uphill and skiing down). Actually, we’ve been doing that exclusively since early April. Here’s what May looked like in our backyard last week.


skiing the powder before the sun turns it to slush

a nice 360° view was had

token selfie before skiing out

…aaaaand the snow is now mashed potatoes



Daytime temperatures soared well above freezing and the snow didn’t freeze overnight at higher elevations. Days like these leave us choosing between running wet, muddy, and patchy trails or skiing slop. We chose both. On our last ski tour, Neva was off leash the whole way down to the trailhead and she was incredibly good. She didn’t run off, she didn’t cross in front of our skis, and she always kept an eye on where Jeremy was (I bring up the rear in case little pup decides to run off).

neva takes a break between digging pits in the snow

skiing out under the hot sun



Jeremy took Neva on her first trail run last week, too. We’ve been slowly gauging how she takes to running on trails by running her for short distances (like 50-200 feet at a time) while we walk or hike. When she was a wee puppy, Neva would jump on your legs and try to bite your pants if you started running. That was (thankfully) short-lived. She did exceptionally well on her first real trail run (a short 5k) – cuing off of Jeremy’s pace, keeping a good distance so no one tripped, and responding to voice commands. So while Neva works up to longer distances, Jeremy and I are both concentrating on uphill climbs – because the prettiest runs are up high in the mountains and we want to be ready when they melt out.

racing a storm back to my house (i’m slow, but the storm was slower)



I regard this time of year as the uphill slog when days get longer and hotter. I don’t consider us to be over the hump until late July even though the summer solstice is in late June (it has to do with the thermal latency of the atmosphere – the same applies in winter). But there is plenty of good adventuring to be had in summer to tide us over until we can glide on snow once again.

Some of that adventuring will involve finding porcini and chanterelles in the forests. An easy meal preparation involving the mushrooms we forage is to sauté the mushrooms in butter and garlic, add white wine and cream, and serve it over pasta. My favorite pasta is pappardelle – wide elegant ribbons of pasta that hold sauces well and wrap around other ingredients. Unfortunately, I can’t buy pappardelle in our little town and I really try to limit my trips to Boulder to once a week. Mountain folk tend to be self-sufficient types and it occurred to me last summer that I knew how to make my own pasta for lasagne, so how different could it be from making my own pappardelle?


all you need: eggs, egg yolks, flour, fine semolina

beat the eggs and egg yolks

pulse the semolina and flour together in a food processor

add the egg mixture to the flour mixture while the processor is running



**Jump for more butter**

april doings

Sunday, April 24th, 2016

Recipe: huckleberry brioche

When I left the house Tuesday morning, we still had a couple feet of snow blanketing the yard. Several hours later I stepped off my plane into the sticky, warm embrace of Charlotte, North Carolina to catch my connection to Virginia. April is about as late as I am willing to visit the southeast because it’s usually after my local ski resorts close, but before Virginia weather becomes unbearably and oppressively hot and humid. Jeremy and I spent a few days with my parents – a belated celebration of their 50th wedding anniversary. Really though, any opportunity for us to spend time together is a celebration of sorts. We dined out, we dined in, we drank many fine bottles of wine, everyone had a lovely time. It’s also a chance for me to observe how my parents live their lives when we are apart. Obviously, they don’t indulge in the wine and food the way they do when we visit, but I like knowing that they are surrounded by caring friends and neighbors, that they get regular exercise, and that they are generally happy and in good health.


sunset from my parents’ backyard

breakfast out at a local diner

dad pours a 24 year old dom pérignon

the view of the front yard



As you can see, spring has full on sprung in Williamsburg and I imagine it is that way around most parts of the country. Jeremy and I did a quick 5-mile run that didn’t involve clambering over snow or scrambling up rocky trails (crazy, I know) and gave us green-out because everything is so leafy and springy. Dad took us night-fishing and we caught and released a couple of channel cats (catfish). We met with neighbors over cocktails and shared a dinner with a longtime family friend. I cooked red wine braised short ribs for my parents. And we watched The Revenant, which made me homesick for the American West. Also, I couldn’t wait to get back to my little pup pup who was living it up at doggy camp with all of her pals.

post bath, pre-treats



Around this time last year, we were prepping our house and our lives to welcome little Neva. We knew full well that our freedom was limited, so we got our last spring backcountry ski trips and trail runs in, we enjoyed some meals out, and I shot a lot of recipes. But one recipe in particular was begging to be made. If you know anything about me, you know that I am crazy for huckleberries. [The thought had occurred to me to change this blog to Use Real Huckleberries, but I am still quite devoted to butter.] One day, a search for “huckleberry brioche” brought me to a million blueberry brioche recipes. How is that? The blueberry brioche recipe came from a cookbook by the name of Huckleberry, which was written by the owner of a Santa Monica bakery, Huckleberry. Well, I didn’t want to make blueberry brioche, but blueberries are often substituted for huckleberries, which are harder to come by (but so much better than blueberries), so why not substitute hucks for blues? Why not! Of course, if you don’t have hucks – you can always make the recipe as it was originally intended.

huckleberries, lemon, yeast, sugar, bread flour, all-purpose flour, butter, eggs, salt, milk, cream, egg yolks



There was a major snafu from the beginning and that was because there is an error in the original recipe. The flours were listed by weight and volume. The volumes were correct, but the weights were not. Unfortunately, I mostly go by weight when possible, so my dough looked really dry and wrong. I stopped before adding the butter and looked online for clues. Apparently, the cookbook has a number of errors that people were (rightfully) upset about. The weights for the flours were doubled in the blueberry brioche recipe. Luckily, I caught it in time to double the rest of the ingredients. I wound up with two loaves instead of wasting my precious ingredients. Still, I would have liked to dope slap the editor.

Fresh berries are going to give you the best results. In April, my only choice was to use frozen huckleberries, but my reasoning went like this: the fresh berries are placed in the freezer while the dough is being prepared, so the berries are partially frozen when you use them. My berries were just MORE frozen. See? I’ll tell you why it makes a difference and how to counter the effects a few paragraphs down. If you can use fresh, use fresh – but frozen will work in a pinch.


whisk the yeast into the warm milk

add the eggs, yolk, flours, sugar, salt

the dough should start to pull away from the sides



**Jump for more butter**