chateaubriand and béarnaise sauce chocolate soufflé pretzel bites sweet and sour chinese mushrooms


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dinner for two… or three

Wednesday, February 10th, 2016

Recipe: chateaubriand and béarnaise sauce

I think Spring is trying to barge in on our Colorado winter. In fact, it’s practically sitting on our faces. I’ve been wearing shorts in the afternoons and leaving the deck door wide open to cool the house down. We’ve noticed the couple of feet of snowfall from the last storm start to dwindle under the sun and warm temperatures these past several days in the Front Range. If there is a trough sitting over the East Coast (meaning stormy or unsettled weather), there is typically a ridge over Colorado (sunshine and blah blah blah). We aren’t slated to get any storms for at least another week, so it’s skate skiing and backcountry touring for us. Up until now, we’ve taken Neva skiing on wide closed forest service roads which allow her plenty of room to run in front or alongside Jeremy. But this week Neva went on her first ski tour on a narrow trail (in sketchy conditions) and she managed not to pull Jeremy to injury or death (but she did pull – a lot). I’d call that a success!


neva is getting better about sitting when we stop

here’s how our girl does après ski on a bluebird day



To be honest, I don’t mind that the crazy winds have calmed down and that I don’t have to bundle up to the hilt when I go outside for exercise. Spring is a lovely time of year to ski, but… we’re not done with winter yet and if spring continues at this pace, we won’t have any snow to ski when it really is spring. Still, I’ll not stress about it too much just yet. Neva is loving the comfortable temperatures on the deck while I work, and we have been treated to some lovely displays in the evenings.

giant wave cloud at sunset (gold stage)

turning orange

fading to a rosy pink



So Valentine’s Day is coming up. I know people either love it or hate it. I personally think it is a stupid thing with a lot of unnecessary social and commercial pressure, but that’s just me. However, if you were to ask me for a recipe to make for someone special, I’m your girl. I have lots of great recipes to recommend, but this is one I recently tried for the first time and Jeremy made googly eyes at me… or at the steak? Chateaubriand was one of my sister’s favorite dishes to order at fancy restaurants if someone would order it with her – because it is typically served for two people. I may have taken a bite or two in my lifetime from mom’s plate (the other person who went in on it), but it was never something I ordered for myself. I’ve described it to Jeremy ever since we’ve been together, but it wasn’t until this week that he finally tasted it for himself.

Chateaubriand is a pan-seared and roasted center-cut whole beef tenderloin served with a sauce of some sort. It could be a mushroom red wine sauce or what I consider a more traditional pairing – Béarnaise sauce. I happened to have the fat end of a whole tenderloin leftover from the bourbon glazed beef tenderloin (also a fantastic recipe) in my freezer, and decided it was time to learn how to make this classic dish. First, start with the Béarnaise sauce which is rich, buttery, slightly tart, with hints of anise (from the tarragon), pepper, and wine.


butter, eggs (yolks), white wine, black pepper, whole white peppercorns, salt, white vinegar, lemon (juice), shallot, fresh tarragon



Make the Béarnaise sauce first because you want it ready to serve as soon as the steak is carved. I recall trying to make this sauce once in graduate school to accompany beef wellingtons for a dinner party, and it tanked in the most unforgivable way. So now, 15 years later, I think I’ve got the chops to do it right – or perhaps a better recipe. It is in essence an emulsion of acids (vinegar, wine, lemon juice), egg yolks, and melted butter. That’s pretty much it. Don’t let it get too cold – it will solidify. If it’s too warm, it will break (separate) and become oily and sad. In general, I didn’t encounter any problems with the sauce.

chop the tarragon

all of the ingredients measured and prepped

combine the vinegar, white wine, shallots, half of the tarragon, and peppercorns in a small saucepan

simmer down until you have about 2 tablespoons of liquid



**Jump for more butter**

the year of the monkey

Sunday, February 7th, 2016

Recipe: chocolate soufflé

I wrote a short piece for Lands of Plenty on Chinese dumplings if you’d like to hop over and read it. The illustration was created by the talented Melanie Kwan.

Happy Chinese New Year! While everyone was getting ready for their big game parties on Sunday, we were busily cleaning the house and prepping food all weekend for our New Year’s Eve feast. It was just as well since the winds were horrible here, so we didn’t feel as if we were missing out on anything outside. I figured the lunar new year could mean something new for Neva, too! It’s her first Chinese New Year, after all.


a pretty new collar for her to encase in mud…

high winds can sometimes deliver dramatic cloudscapes



For some reason, this year’s cooking went more smoothly than previous years and I had the bulk of it done by Saturday night. I also think as I get older I’m okay with letting some things slide. For instance, I usually try to make stir-fried Chinese rice cakes, but instead of making yet another dish and having even more food to finish before it spoils, I just tossed a few of the rice cakes into the cellophane noodle soup and called it good. I’m slowly learning to let go of ridiculous expectations that are only in my mind and trying to focus more on reducing stress. Also? I have a terrible habit of making too much food, so I made a concerted effort to make the dishes in smaller quantities and I sent Jeremy with some of the scallion pancakes and potstickers to our favorite neighbors. It’s good all around.

fragrant pears, satsuma mandarin oranges, and a red envelope

lucky ten ingredient vegetable before mixing

making scallion pancakes

frying up some pork potstickers

our small feast

so good to finally sit down and enjoy



Now with Chinese New Year cleaning and cooking done, I can sit back and take a load off my feet… sort of. What’s that you say? Yes, Valentine’s Day is coming up. We don’t really do that around here. There are no gifts, no surprises, no unauthorized expenses, no nothing other than our typical hugs and giggles and I-love-yous. But for those of you who like to cook or bake for those people you love dearly, I can get behind that. This gluten-free chocolate soufflé has been sitting in my archives for several months and it seems appropriate right about now. We start with a chocolate pastry cream.

egg whites, egg yolks, vanilla extract, unsweetened chocolate, sugar (twice), butter (twice), powdered sugar, cornstarch, cream of tartar, cocoa powder, salt, and milk

whisk the yolks, milk, sugar, cornstarch, cocoa, and salt together over medium heat

stir the chocolate, butter, and vanilla into the mixture

chocolate pastry cream



**Jump for more butter**

the pursuit of crispiness

Wednesday, January 13th, 2016

Recipe: onion rings

We’ve had a short dry spell of windy, sunny days this week which makes a powder hound whimper and cry. But lack of powder merely means it is high time to hit the Nordic trails. What I love about the network of Nordic trails at our local hill (Eldora) is that they are forested and thus protected from those notorious winds that batter us from October to May. Clouds race across the sky throughout the day, giving us a shot at some nice displays come sunset if the clouds and the sun are in the right place at the right time.


things that make you smile

skate skiing in a hall of trees



Neva had such a fun time at doggy day care on Tuesday that she was sacked out all of Tuesday night and most of Wednesday day. She curled up in her dog bed while I worked – dozing away or lazily watching me. Each time I walked past her, I would cover her with her blankie (Kaweah’s old blanket), add a toy for her to play with, or feed her a treat. Neva was feeling loungy and enjoying it. I enjoyed it, too!

she is still a baby puppy to me



I’m feeling peppier these days and I realized it’s because the sun is setting later. I know this because our living room lamp timer was last set to come on when it got dark – around 4:30 in late December. Now, it clicks on while daylight is still spilling into our house. It also means Chinese new year is on the horizon. This year, it starts February 8, requiring all of the preparation and cleaning to be done by February 7 – lunar new year’s eve. February 7 is also the Superbowl, which means very little to me other than empty ski slopes Sunday afternoon. But the Superbowl is one of those events that even the non-sportsball fans can enjoy because there are gatherings full of sportsball party foods.

One such staple would have to be the onion ring. Make that a beer-battered onion ring. I have been searching lo these many years for a good onion ring recipe and I finally found one – from the Food Lab at Serious Eats.


onions, cornstarch, beer, paprika, baking powder, baking soda, salt, flour, vodka



A key to J. Kenji López-Alt’s foolproof onion rings is to remove the thin inner membrane of each onion ring. This helps to keep the onion tender on the inside and ensures that the onion breaks with each bite instead of snaking out of the fried batter when you first bite into it. The easiest way to get rid of the membrane is to freeze the onion slices, thaw them in lukewarm water, and pull the membrane away.

separate the rings

freeze for an hour or up to a month

thaw in lukewarm water

the membrane should peel right off



**Jump for more butter**