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Monday, December 9th, 2019

Recipe: oat milk rice pudding

I’ve noticed a shift in my attitude toward food the last few years. Instead of enjoying it, I began to resent the thinking about, making, shooting, and even the consumption of food. That’s when I recognized my blog was no longer my way to document the recipes I liked, but rather the recipes I felt an obligation to post. It’s a stupid mindset: anticipating what others will like. That’s a formula for unhappiness. That’s not for me.

Around the same time, I let a number of nagging physical injuries pile up to the point where being active seemed to further damage my body than help it. I had had enough. It was high time I got my shit in order and put health first – both mental and physical – and that takes time. I’m using a combination of yoga, ice, ibuprofen, stretches, rest, physical therapy, and exercise to get myself back on track. Just in time for sliding season.


backcountry ski touring

resorts are opening more terrain each day

getting pups out to play in the snow

the first skijor of the season



Thanksgiving skiing is usually full of new aches and soreness when the season kicks off, but we hit the ground running (or skiing) early this year with those October storms and some indoor training. Instead of the traditional big turkey dinner carb bomb, we kept dinner normal and loaded our week with lots of outdoor exercise. I felt better about life, about myself. I just felt better. I can sustain this.

a little turkey, cheese, apple, dog treat indulgence for the pups

naptime after running around outside



Part of feeling better was that I had stopped eating dairy. You know how chocolate is that thing many people can’t resist? I can’t resist dairy. Well, I can resist milk – I’m not a fan of milk. But I love those delightful treats that come from milk and cream like custard, ice cream, mousse, pastry cream, whipped cream, caramel, pudding. It used to be the gastrointestinal distress was worth the gamble, but it’s not. It really isn’t.

Then a few months ago there was a brief discussion of alternative “milks” on public radio. Someone said they liked oat milk the best. I’m the person who regards food fads with great skepticism until they are no longer fads. I’m that person who discovers this awesome new thing years after everyone else has. So that’s me with oat milk. I merely wanted a non-dairy option for cold milk tea. I loved it. Then I wondered if I could make rice pudding with oat milk. And I did.


arborio rice, vanilla bean, oat milk, salt, sugar, cinnamon stick



As far as I can tell, the oat milk (or almond milk – I haven’t tried it, but people list the two as interchangeable) can be a 1:1 substitution for regular milk. I chose arborio rice because I like starchy short grain rice for pudding. You can use long grain, medium grain, brown, sushi, jasmine. I’m not sure about sweet rice or black rice, but you get the general idea. The method is pretty straightforward: keep it on a low simmer for over an hour (up to 90 minutes) and stir often.

bring the oat milk, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt to a low simmer

add the rice and sugar and simmer until the rice is tender



**Jump for more butter**

new and old

Monday, October 14th, 2019

Recipe: caulilini with bagna cauda

It was only a few days after my last post that our autumn sunshine and warmth plunged into the grey and white hues of an early season storm. That first real snowfall of the season takes on magical notes, especially when it catches the fall colors – powdered sugar coating honeyed canopies. Short-lived, but one of life’s many joyful experiences.


getting neva and yuki out to play the evening before the storm

yuki starts the hike out of our neighborhood

felt like winter, but looked like fall

24 hours of overlapping seasons



After the storm, our weather warmed up, the snow melted, and the leaves turned black and fell. Now we ping pong between warm and cold spells. Another storm, then sun, then storm, then sun, all the while the temperatures trend cooler and we build a base in the mountains that will soon be good enough to ski without scraping rocks. In the meantime, I’m cranking the oven up and getting reacquainted with my sourdough starter and resuming the production of homemade dog treats (I use canned pumpkin instead of sweet potato now, but either works fine). Admittedly, I purchase dog treats in summer when the last of the homemade spring batch has been exhausted and it is too bloody hot to run the oven. Neva was particularly happy to stand watch over the treats late into the night.

playing with bâtard scoring

neva stayed up late with me to make sure “her” treats baked properly



We love our vegetables around here and have a nice rotation of several varieties, but sometimes I fall into a rut and feel bored. That’s one of the reasons we like to dine out from time to time – to get inspired by new ideas and new menus. We haven’t gotten out much since we adopted Yuki, but this summer she transformed into a big girl and now behaves pretty well at home when we’re gone. One dish that really stuck with me was the caulilini at Sunflower in Crested Butte. It’s like broccolini, but in cauliflower form except the stalks are sweeter and more tender than cauliflower stalks.

Fast forward a couple of months and I spot caulilini in the produce section of Trader Joe’s! I grabbed two bags and have since returned for several more. Some people have referred to caulilini as baby cauliflower, but it isn’t. A little googling revealed that this version of cauliflower is actually the one most commonly consumed in China. So it’s new to me (us), but old hat for my motherland. Dang! I never even knew. But now that I know, I’m going to make up for lost time. Taking a cue from Sunflower, I decided to sauté the caulilini and serve it with bagna cauda.


caulilini, butter, olive oil, salt, pepper, more olive oil, garlic, anchovies



I grew up prepping vegetables and defrosting various meats and tofu and stock for my mom before she got home from work so that she could start cooking dinner the moment she stepped into the house. We ate a lot of broccoli back in the day because that was an easy vegetable to get in American grocery stores that translated well to Chinese cooking. I was taught to peel the fibrous and tough outer skins on the stalks and now I just do it out of habit. I think the caulilini is tender enough that you can skip this step (especially if you are short on time), but I do break them down into bite-size stalks if they are especially bulky.

peeling the outer skins (optional)

breaking down the stalks



**Jump for more butter**

pack a warm hat

Tuesday, September 10th, 2019

Recipe: pork chops with chanterelle wine and cream sauce

Ever since the calendar flipped to September, we’ve been getting out for longer hikes with the pups. It seems so late, yet in all honesty, I really do loathe hiking during the height of summer. It’s just too damn hot and buggy and busy. Sure we rise at puke-thirty in the morning and hit the trail long before the sun does, but by the time we’re heading back down the sun is a Giant Death Ray in the sky intent on broiling us for supper. By September, waking pre-dawn feels more reasonable on the body and the midday sun – while still toasty – is not nearly as oppressive when paired with cool mountain air. Most of all, I love that morning starts now require a warm jacket, gloves, and a warm hat as we pass through a blue-hued world delicately fringed in short-lived feathery white ice crystals.


above treeline in september, when one doesn’t spontaneously combust

meadows of gold and red are taking over the alpine as autumn arrives



We no longer run the fans at night to expel hot air from the house and draw cooler nighttime air in. It’s enough to open the windows and allow the chill to settle overnight. Before you know it, snuggy flannel sheets will replace our cotton sheets. The pups have already taken to cuddling on the bed each morning. Best of all, it’s huckleberry season. This year hasn’t been kind to the huckleberries, many of which are either green (due to a very late snowpack) and will likely get slammed by a hard frost before they even think of blushing pink then purple, or have already died on the stem and turned ghost white. Most of our secret patches have fizzled, but a couple managed to produce decent purple berries. Erin and I only took a few and left the rest for the grouse and bears and squirrels and everyone else who knows about the best berry in the land.

snuggy pups enjoying morning amnesty on the human bed

an early morning picking huckleberries with erin and banjo



I’ve only been foraging chanterelles for as many years as Neva is old – four years. Some years these beautiful, fragrant fungi flush early and some years they flush late. This season my chanterelle patches began with a promising effort and then the lack of rain caused them to shrivel and die. Whatever we managed to forage early on was all we had to show for the summer. It was better than last year’s haul (which was nonexistent), but not big enough for me to be throwing chanterelles in every dish I made.

pushing up through the forest duff

young ones are just as tasty as big ones



I set aside two-thirds of our chanterelles for sautéeing in butter and freezing them. The other third I reserved for new recipes including this simple chanterelle wine and cream sauce over seared pork chops. Doesn’t that sound lovely? It’s so good. SO GOOD. The pork chops can be pan-seared however you like. If cooked in the traditional way, I prefer Kenji’s method which involves bone-in, dry brined pork chops. But more recently I’ve been cooking my pork chops using Kenji’s sous vide method – also bone-in. Both are excellent. Sous vide produces a more consistent and juicy result. No matter how you cook your pork chops, I do recommend bone-in, 1-inch thick, and finished with pan-searing. Here I cooked a half recipe (the full recipe is listed at the end of the post) because it was just the two of us for dinner, and I did my pork chops sous vide with a pan-seared finish.

pork chops, pepper, cream, white wine, garlic, parsley, butter, salt, chanterelles

season with salt and pepper on both sides

vacuum seal (or seal in ziplocs, pushing as much air out as possible)

sous vide bath for 1 hour at 140°f



**Jump for more butter**