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the figs that didn’t fit

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2021

Recipe: chocolate-dipped brandy truffle figs

January was a marked improvement over December for us as we enjoyed better (more) snow and could focus on work and exercise in Crested Butte without the distraction and stress of the holidays. The Nordic trails and mountain resorts had mostly emptied of traveling guests, which is how we like it – but especially with an ongoing pandemic. The quiet trails presented an opportunity to work with the pups off-leash. They both made great progress and had heaps of fun.


snow, mountains, skis, and a good pup

skiing any powder we could get

neva being calm and happy on a skijoring session

beautiful front range sunsets

more sun than snow in nederland



Yuki turned three years old on Monday. She hasn’t been a baby for a while now, but she’s still a baby. One of our many nicknames for Yuki is Baby because her spec sheet at RezDawg Rescue listed “Baby” in her age field. We love that little nugget so much. You can see birthday videos on my Instagram here.

birthday yuki!



Back in early December, Jeremy and I gathered a bunch of goodies for care packages to send to our parents. We don’t celebrate Christmas nor do we send holiday gifts, but we thought our sets of parents needed some cheering up. They had all been so good about not socializing and keeping safe, and we knew they missed seeing friends, going out, seeing family, and most of all – their grandchildren. I packed as much as I could in the boxes and shipped them out before the huge postal service holiday clog. Sadly, a box of chocolate figs I found at Trader Joe’s didn’t fit in the boxes. Eventually, we tried some. They were AMAZING and of course the next time we were at Trader Joe’s they were gone – one of those ephemeral seasonal items.

The figs were so delightful that they stuck in my mind for a month, at which point I decided to recreate them myself. A brandy truffle stuffed into a dried fig and dipped in chocolate. A note on dried figs: I liked the size and texture of the dried golden figs from Trader Joe’s (this isn’t an ad, I just shop there). They were moist and sweet without being too fragile and sticky to handle. I didn’t like the dried figs from Costco which were dry, tough, and flavorless. When I returned the bag, they informed me that many other people had similar complaints/returns. And I did not bother finding them at Whole Foods because they’ve turned the entire bulk foods area into a staging ground for deliveries.


dried figs, chocolate, brandy, heavy cream



Making the ganache for the brandy truffle is straightforward. I originally used an ounce of brandy for a half pound of semisweet chocolate. It works, but I definitely prefer a punchier booze presence than a subtle flavoring. Next time I’ll up that to 2 ounces, but go by your taste.

pour hot cream over chopped chocolate

stir in the brandy

let cool completely



**Jump for more butter**

feels like a new year

Tuesday, January 5th, 2021

Recipe: japanese spinach salad with sesame (horenso gomaae)

Happy New Year, everyone!

I was convinced that the new year would mean nothing and that nothing would change. I still think that’s true, but my mood is noticeably brighter and I think it has to do with the increase in daylight (even if it is only by a few minutes) and my resumption of daily exercise over the holidays. Or perhaps it is that clean slate feeling when you hang the new calendar on your office wall. I hope you were all able to get some rest the last few weeks. Most of December was a frenzy of deadlines, but once those were met we skied our brains out and holed up with the pups at our place in Crested Butte. We also cranked out our annual Year in Photos (such as it was) which you can find at: http://jenyu.net/newyear/.


heading into the brighter side of the winter solstice



Neva’s surgery to remove a tumor from her foot at the start of December went well. Our vet instructed us to keep her in a cone for two weeks while the wound healed. At first, Neva was paralyzed by this new attachment. Any time she brushed against something she cowered. But after 24 hours, she became used to the appendage and began crashing through doorways, dragging the cone along furniture and walls, and terrorizing Yuki. I think she secretly liked this not-so-secret weapon of hers! Eventually the stitches came out, she healed for another week, and then Neva got the green light to PLAY and RUN and BE A DOGGO AGAIN!

neva and the one cone to rule them all

christmas scooby snacks



And just in case you missed the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn on the winter solstice, we had clear skies that evening and I snapped a photo from our deck in the middle of dinner prep. On the left is a 100% crop and on the right I’ve zoomed in a bit and labeled the gas giants and their moons. By my naked eye, it looked like one brilliant star. A little magnification can go a long way to revealing the amazingness of the world(s) around us!

jupiter-saturn conjunction



Colorado is cruising at 79% of the state’s normal snow pack right now. That combined with the pandemic means we’ve only ventured onto the ski resorts a handful of times so far this season, opting for more physically distant endeavors like skating the Nordic trails, backcountry ski touring (conservatively, as the avalanche danger dictates), and uphill skiing the resorts before the lifts start running. All summer and fall I dream of sliding on snow and when the season arrives, I start to panic that it’s going to be over in 6-7 months. But it goes both ways because yesterday I was waxing poetic to Jeremy about foraging summer alpine mushrooms.

feel the burn, earn your turns

grabbing some miles before the storm rolls in

new year’s morning uphill ski



Right! The reason I posted today was not so much to wish you all a happy new year (although that’s part of it), but to document a delightful new-to-me salad that I’ve been making at least once a week for the past couple of months. While we love vegetables and I am in a constant state of casually seeking new vegetable recipes, I decided a few months into the pandemic that I wanted to proactively move us in the direction of consuming less meat without resorting to mounds of pasta, potatoes, and cheese. Meat substitutions don’t interest me and tofu is a right and proper food unto itself. Despite having a decent repertoire of vegetable and vegetarian recipes, I honestly don’t think you can ever have enough. This Japanese spinach salad, with a handful of ingredients and simple preparation, has rekindled my love affair with the leafy green.

spinach, soy sauce, sesame seeds, sugar, salt, sake, mirin



What I’ve shot here is the original recipe for 8 ounces of raw spinach that serves 4 people. The recipe listed at the end of the post is a double batch because Jeremy and I easily polish off 8 ounces in one sitting. It keeps well enough in the refrigerator that we can enjoy the salad again the next day, so now I usually prepare a pound of spinach at a time. I buy those 1 pound cartons of organic baby spinach, but adult spinach leaves work great, too. For the sesame dressing, you can heat the toasted sesame seeds or not. I’ve made the recipe both ways and prefer the more pronounced sesame flavor when the seeds have been warmed.

heat the sesame seeds in a pan

grind them with a mortar and pestle

stir the sugar, soy sauce, mirin, and sake into the sesame seeds



**Jump for more butter**

going back to cauli

Sunday, April 19th, 2020

Recipe: cauliflower karaage

We’re in the middle of our sixth week of self-isolation and no one has gone off the deep end yet. Colorado’s governor recommended wearing face masks in public places a few weeks back, so I consulted with my mother-in-law on patterns (she and her quilting pals have been sewing a bazillion to donate to health care workers!) and sewed a couple for us. Because elastic and other materials for making masks are in short supply right now, I made due with what scraps of elastic and pipe cleaners I had. The Olson mask pattern (https://www.craftpassion.com/face-mask-sewing-pattern/) took me forever on the first two, because I’m a shitty sewist and I had to learn what various terms and techniques were, and discover parts of my sewing machine I never knew existed. Jeremy’s mom said sewing in progressive assembly is much faster and my next ten definitely went faster. Then I tried a modified version of a pleated mask (second version here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bCCtGq6maw8) which I think I like better. I plan to make a mashup of the two designs to optimize fit and fabric use.


my first two olson masks with nose pieces and filter pockets

my next ten to donate or exchange for a donation to the recipient’s local food bank

pleated version (with nose pieces and filter pockets)



Our neck of the woods has enjoyed a string of cold, snowy storms between stretches of gorgeous sunny days. Instead of wishing for more powder days or wishing for clear trails, we roll with it and try to enjoy whatever the atmosphere has to offer. It’s wonderful. All of our skiing is human-powered these days and I am loving it.

deliciously snowy views under a bright spring sun

skinning up through the trees

neva and yuki love barreling through the deep snow

powder day wrestlemania



Our new backpacking tent arrived in the mail this week and we set it up in the living room for a trial run (to make extra sure we want to hike into the backcountry with Wingus and Dingus and sleep in a confined space with them). It’s spacious enough to fit all of us in theory, but in practice we are going to have to tell the dogs where to sleep. Our overnight resulted in Yuki hogging the center of the tent and Neva restlessly resettling herself all night on our legs because she was too scared to snuggle up against Yuki. We’ll figure it out!

curious pups

they decided they liked it well enough



At the start of the shelter-at-home order, we went to town for groceries once a week. None of the stores had established good protocols yet. We found it quite stressful to wait in crowded lines next to people who were coughing and close-talking and acting like everything was fine. Businesses eventually implemented good practices (some faster than others) to streamline the process while we quickly figured out how to reduce to bi-monthly trips. Aside from planning our menu and having a good inventory of our food, I use the more perishable produce the first week, and prepare produce that has a longer shelf life (in the refrigerator or in the dark, cool basement) for the second week. Sometimes cooking vegetables that are on their way out will buy you a few more days in the refrigerator.

Cauliflower, like most vegetables in the Brassica family, can last in the refrigerator for more than a week. Sometimes it will start to get light brown spots, but those are fine. You can scrape or cut the brown parts off, or eat them. The browning is due to oxidation. If the spots turn dark or black and the flesh becomes soft, you are looking at rot. For small sections, cut them away. If the entire head or floret has succumbed, then it’s time to send the cauliflower into the compost. But let’s say your cauliflower is just fine. There are so many ways to enjoy this nutritious and high-fiber vegetable. I recently tried it as karaage cauliflower.


potato starch, cauliflower, garlic, ginger, sugar, sake, and soy sauce



This is the same recipe that I use for chicken karaage but without the honey sriracha sauce. I really love the subtle nutty-earthy-slightly-bitter-and-sweet flavor of cauliflower and didn’t want to mask or overpower it with sriracha. I wasn’t convinced that the marinade would come through, but it does so nicely. To make the recipe gluten-free, just substitute tamari for the soy sauce.

grate the fresh ginger

stir the soy sauce, sake, and sugar with the ginger

toss with the cauliflower and marinate for 30 minutes



**Jump for more butter**