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a good break

Monday, April 2nd, 2018

Recipe: braised rhubarb

I was nervous about taking last week off from posting, but felt I could use the break. I think I liked it a lot more than I thought I would. Or should. As tempting as it was to skip another week, I’m back at it. Last week was the university’s Spring Break, so we spent it in Crested Butte to squeeze out as many remaining ski days as possible. Neva turned three years old over break, which we celebrated with many of her favorite things like food, orange tennis balls, snow, running, and sleeping in the sun. You can watch her eat her birthday dessert on my Instagram.


happy birthday, little neva!



We received a little powder early in the week on the mountain, migrated to the Nordic trails until they were too worked over by the spring freeze/melt cycle, and then discovered the joys of crust cruising with our skate skis off-trail. It was a good lesson in making the most of every situation. The important thing is to look back on this ski season with gratitude that I was in good enough health to do all of these things in the first place.

such a beautiful sight to behold

getting plastered with snow on the lift

jeremy grabs a fresh line

crust cruising the wide open spaces



Spring in the mountains has been a series of fast moving snow storms alternating with sunshine and blue skies. This pattern can wreak havoc on ski trails as well as running/hiking trails because it’s never all snow or all dirt/rock in spring. More typically you have a combination of dirt, snow, ice, and mud, which is pretty miserable to run and nearly impossible to ski. But I feel so alive as we flirt with the smell of wet forests, spy budding catkins on the aspen trees, and watch sunset later each day.

then it snows and a mama moose and yearling stroll through for a snack



I’ve been waiting over six months to post this recipe for braised (roasted) rhubarb. Living at an elevation of 8500 feet means that we are seasonally out of whack with most of the country (and the world) for much of the year. Rhubarb is popping up all over my Instagram feed, but I know it will be months before my neighbors’ plants even begin to think about producing those brilliantly colored stalks. Those wonderful neighbors gave me some of their rhubarb last September before the first hard freeze. Since I was short on time, I made a super easy spiced rhubarb compote.

rhubarb, honey, orange juice, vanilla bean, star anise, cardamom pods, ginger, salt

slice the rhubarb

scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean



**Jump for more butter**

food is caring, food is love

Wednesday, January 10th, 2018

Recipe: chia seed drink

We patiently waited for the snow and got our exercise with the usual uphill skis and laps around the limited Nordic trails this last week. While we might normally bring Neva with us on these activities, the uphill traffic has been rather high and the designated dog-friendly Nordic trails haven’t had enough snow to remain open. So little Neva has been getting her daily fetch sessions or bike rides, which she loves all the same. Still, we can’t help but feel that she has also been skunked on what should have been a snow-filled winter break.


found neva staring at the clock one night – thinking existential thoughts?



But finally, a much-needed storm arrived in Colorado and it delivered nearly double the forecast amount in Crested Butte. We watched the clouds pour into our little valley on Saturday afternoon and soon the white flakes followed. It snowed all night and when we woke up early Sunday morning, the skies were clearing and the mountain had received 11 inches in total from the storm. Time to rev up the snow blower and chuck the powder skis into the car.

this is what we want to see in winter

jeremy floats through the magical, fluffy powder



We drove back home to the Front Range today, ready to resume normal life. And by calling it normal life, I do not mean to imply that Crested Butte is vacation life. Crested Butte is more of a working vacation. The only reason we can spend as much time as we do in Crested Butte is because of the internet. Normal life is non-holiday life. The lead up to the holidays runs us completely ragged and so it’s no wonder that we spend the actual holidays mostly in hermit mode. After baking and shipping or delivering all of those cookies and candies, I thought I never wanted to see another cookie again. I was wrong.

Anita had mailed a box of Totoro linzer cookies and a sweet thank you note from her daughter for the quilt I made. I opened it in the car as we traveled west, deeper into the mountains. Neva’s nose was suddenly at my left ear, sniffing the contents of the box. There is something about homemade food that reminds me of my childhood. It stirs up that warmth in your heart when you feel loved and cared for – like when Grandma gave me a bowl of her Chinese noodle soup after pre-school or when Mom cooked my favorite meal for my birthday. Anita’s cookies were enough to make my day, but as we pulled into our neighborhood in Crested Butte, there was a package waiting in our mailbox from Jennie, filled with delectable spiced treats from her kitchen. I couldn’t stop smiling. My beautiful friends had reached across the country from opposite coasts to wrap me in a hug.


the cutest totoro linzer cookies

a tin filled with love



I don’t typically spend a lot of time cooking or baking in Crested Butte. I do enough of that at home. But lately I’ve been making an exception. Last summer, my friend asked for help with dog walking duties. Not her dogs, but someone else’s dog. Duke is a sweet, gentle ten year old black lab whose person was adjusting to life without legs. OF COURSE I volunteered to walk Duke, but it was infrequent because we don’t live in Crested Butte full-time. Still, I figured any little bit helped. Over Thanksgiving, my friend was away on travel, so she sent me a link to Duke’s schedule. For some reason I had naively assumed it was all about Duke, but what I found was a community of volunteers signing up to walk Duke, bring dinner to Duke’s person, and drive Duke’s person to medical appointments. I had not realized just how much help Duke’s person needed, because he never asked.

So I volunteered to bring dinner, because that seemed to be what most people didn’t sign up for and it’s something I am actually good at. Duke’s person was pretty excited about the meals, and I was grateful to have the opportunity to help. I consider the making of food to be an act of caring and love. We feed people in celebration, we feed the grief-stricken, we feed those in need, we feed to soothe and heal. My dear Tara commented on Instagram “I believe, in the Jewish tradition, we’re supposed to be thankful to those who are in need, because they allow us to experience the joy of giving.” I wasn’t familiar with this, but I liked it very much.


rice, indian lentil soup, thai tofu curry, some sugar plums for christmas

cooking potatoes in spices



I try hard to accommodate dietary restrictions. Several of my friends have Celiac disease, some have nut allergies, others like myself, are lactose intolerant. Duke’s person was easy by comparison: flexitarian (eats chicken and fish) and low sugar. The hard part was sourcing ingredients in a small mountain town, but I’m getting better at it. Now that I’m home, I can plan ahead for the next trip to Crested Butte and bring the hard-to-find ingredients to make more interesting dishes. The other nice thing about being home is resuming a more normal pattern of eating. Earlier last year, I incorporated a new (to me) source of non-dairy calcium in this almond vanilla chia seed pudding. Over the summer, I decided to get my chia seed fix in beverage form.

white and black chia seeds



Some folks have issues with the texture and consistency of chia seed pudding, but they may find it easier to enjoy chia seeds in a more dilute medium. You’ve probably seen some bottled chia seed drinks in grocery stores. I tried my first chia seed kombucha last spring and rather loved it, which got my hamster wheels spinning. It’s easy enough to make your own chia seed gel – just add water and let sit. The gel can store up to 5 days in the refrigerator.

stir water into the seeds

the chia seeds gel in as little as 10 minutes



**Jump for more butter**

silly things we say and do

Sunday, December 17th, 2017

Recipe: italian rainbow cookies

This was the scene Wednesday night: an assembly line of gift bags, gift boxes, tissue paper, cards, ribbons, cookies, candies, labels, and a checklist scribbled four times over with crossouts, notes, tick marks, and arrows. Maybe I was tired or maybe I am getting smarter, but as the clock spun ahead into the night, I began to unload cookies from my “to make” list like ballast from a sinking ship. French macarons? No. Peppermint kisses? Nope. Mini sour cream coffee cakes? Jettisoned from the list. I like people, but I like them more when I’ve had more than 4 hours of sleep.


holiday cookies and candies



After we had prettied up the packages and set them on the table to ship or deliver the next day, I let out a big sigh (more like an agonized primal scream) and said, “I’m not making anymore EXPLETIVE cookies! And I’m going EXPLETIVE skiing tomorrow!” We actually got four inches of snow overnight, so the logical next step was…

the lovely new high-speed lift that brings us to the powder 8 minutes faster

it was good while it lasted



And can you believe less than 48 hours after declaring NO MORE COOKIES, I was in the kitchen making… cookies? It’s true. I kinda blame Jennie Perillo for that. She posted a photo of her Italian rainbow cookies on Instagram last weekend, which prompted me to finally research the recipe and buy the ingredients – except I had all of those holiday cookies to crank out. I put the project on indefinite hold until Jennie posted ANOTHER photo of those gorgeous cookies on Thursday and I waved the white flag.

italian rainbow cookies



All my life, I had zero interest in Italian rainbow cookies and here’s why: I assumed they were the same as Neapolitan coconut candies – little sweet tricolor rectangles which I thought were disgusting when I was a kid. No one in my Chinese immigrant family set me straight on the distinction between the two, most likely because they had no idea either one existed. Then a couple of months ago we stopped at Whole Foods to grab a salad and their cookie bar was 50% off. For some reason, I decided to give an Italian rainbow cookie a try and to my delight, it tasted of almonds.

almond extract, almond paste, flour, sugar, chocolate, eggs, salt, apricot preserves, butter, red and green food coloring



There are a lot of recipes for Italian rainbow cookies on the web. They’re also called seven layer cookies or three layer cookies or Italian flag cookies, and they more or less follow the same process and list of ingredients. I found Deb‘s discussion to be quite helpful regarding the chocolate layers and the slicing, but decided on a smaller quantity for my first batch because you never quite know what you’re getting into when you decide to bake something at high altitude. Jennie’s recipe amounted to about 75% of Deb’s quantity and I liked the way she baked all three colors in one pan. So I reduced Deb’s recipe by a quarter and baked it up Jennie’s way. Either way, these are not quick cookies, so set aside a full day or parts of two days.

Most people whip the egg whites first and then make the batter, but I like to reverse that order because no good can come of letting whipped egg whites sit around and deflate while you make the cookie batter. Also, the recipe calls for almond paste, which is not the same as marzipan. Marzipan has a higher ratio of sugar to almond than almond paste. Some of you already know this, some of you do not. Remember what Gandalf said, “I’m trying to help you.”


beat the sugar and almond paste together

add butter

mix in the egg yolks and the almond extract

add salt and flour



**Jump for more butter**