honey barbecued chicken japanese-style asparagus frites strawberry cinnamon rolls egg salad


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celebration and remembrance

Friday, February 8th, 2013

Recipe: chinese eight treasure rice pudding

I really loved reading about your valentines. There were lots of husbands, some wives, partners, lots of moms, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, children, pets, friends. It’s incredibly gratifying to see all of this love and appreciation for the special people in our lives. So thank you for sharing with me and with everyone else. Now on to the winners! Jeremy picked our winners at random, but his method was a little more cerebral than Kaweah’s selection style. I’ll let him describe it for you:

Two winners were selected using the least significant digits of the coordinates of water discovered in the Antennae Galaxies (Brogan, Johnson, & Darling 2010). The water seems to mark the birthplace of massive clusters of new stars created by the collision of two galaxies. Our galaxy, the Milky Way, and our nearest large neighbor, the Andromeda Galaxy, will likely experience a similar fate in several billion years.


the antennae galaxies (image by the hubble space telescope)



The winners are commenters #97 (Sheryl) and #335 (Megan F.)! Congratulations ladies! I’ll be in touch with you via email to get the shipping addresses of your intended recipients. And a huge thank you for all of your enthusiastic entries. I love you guys! Even if you didn’t win, I highly recommend these chocolate truffles – they are beyond exquisite.

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Sunday, February 10th is the new moon and the Lunar New Year or Chinese New Year. I can close my eyes and recall vividly the sounds, sights, feelings, and smells of the kitchen where my parents and grandmother sat together to make dumplings on Chinese New Year’s Eve. Other special dishes were cooking on the stove, plastering steam on the windows and filling the house with aromas of the feast to come. I especially enjoyed running around the next morning and wishing everyone gong xi fa tsai (wish happiness and make money) or just gong xi gong xi (congratulations). Very few of my friends celebrated or were aware of Chinese New Year and so in many ways, I felt it was my family’s personal holiday.

When I went away to college, I was surprised to see Chinese New Year is indeed a big deal to A LOT of people in Southern California as well as some of the student body at Caltech. In my junior year, I called Grandma and asked her how to make Chinese dumplings and potstickers. The new year was approaching and I was feeling a little homesick. I began to pay more attention to our family traditions (mostly food) and fed them to Jeremy and friends throughout the years.

My sister didn’t share my interest in the lunar new year traditions until she had her son. After he was born, Kris suddenly became quite proficient at spoken Mandarin, began to read a little Chinese, and spoke Chinese with my nephew. It delighted my parents, my aunts, my grandma, family friends… And it melted my heart every time he called me A-yi (auntie). Without fail, my workaholic sister would call me up on Chinese New Year’s Eve every year to consult on what she needed to purchase or prepare for dinner. Dumplings? Noodles? How about a stir-fry? Don’t forget something sweet for the next morning. You see, you don’t eat just any Chinese food for Chinese New Year because everything has meaning for luck, prosperity, a promotion, good health, happiness, abundance, family, wealth.

The last time I saw Kris was over Chinese New Year. I had guilted her into flying out to California to meet me at Grandma’s place for a quick weekend trip. She was pregnant with her little girl and I almost felt bad about making her travel, but I knew the chances of seeing her and Grandma together decreased with every day she became more pregnant. Grandma made us sweet soup, took us to a New Year’s party (it’s not what you think – everyone there was Chinese, over 70, hard of hearing, and tone-deaf, but it was very entertaining), ordered our favorite dishes, and laughed at our dumb jokes.

I look back on that Chinese New Year with deep longing because both my sister and grandma have since passed on.

Chinese New Year is a time of celebration, but it is also a time of remembrance. I was only familiar with the celebratory side of things as a child. Now, I understand that we honor our ancestors and loved ones who are no longer with us and we embrace the loved ones we still have. For all of the rushing around to gather ingredients and make the right dishes to ensure good things in the new year, there can be a pang of sadness, sometimes a flood of unexpected tears, and a quiet heartache. Sure, we focus on the foods during this holiday, but really – the food is about family. Chinese New Year is all about family.

And food.

Food, family – they are inextricable.

A popular traditional dessert served at Chinese New Year dinners or other special occasions is Chinese eight treasure rice pudding. Now before you get excited about rice pudding, it’s not THAT kind of rice pudding. It’s a combination of sweet rice, also called sticky rice or glutinous rice (it contains no gluten), sweet red bean paste, dried fruits, and a sweet syrup. And there should be eight kinds of fruit because eight is a lucky number. You don’t HAVE to have eight, but if you choose to make a lucky dessert versus regular dessert, why not go for the lucky dessert?


sticky rice, sweet red bean paste, sugar, cornstarch, shortening or lard, lemon juice, dried or candied fruits

glutinous, sticky, or sweet rice – (glutinous rice has no gluten)

mango, dates, lotus seeds, maraschino cherries, goosberries, buddha’s hand citron, kumquats, apricots



Typical fruits include dried dates, candied cherries, lotus seeds, dried raisins… but you just use what you like or what you have available. I went to the big Asian market to hunt down candied lotus seeds, candied gooseberries, and candied kumquats. The rest of the items I got at the western supermarket or had made (like the candied Buddha’s hand citron). You can also use candied ginger, dried papaya, dried pineapple, winter melon candy (it’s a Chinese thing – it’s green and typically comes in strips), candied orange peel, dried cranberries, raisins. Endless possibilities.

slice up the fruits

arrange the fruit in a nice pattern



**Jump for more butter**

feeling my oats

Sunday, January 27th, 2013

Recipe: steel cut oatmeal

Hello from sunny California! I had to leave Colorado so that it could snow there. It doesn’t make any sense to me either, but it’s snowing in Colorado, so my work here is done! Actually, Jeremy and I came to California for a wedding in beautiful wine country. We made a weekend of it.


requisite post-flight 10 pm stop at in-n-out burger

dim sum

la crema’s remodeled tasting room

wedding flowers

jeremy likes that we were assigned to the same table

dancing into the sonoma night

tasting room at j winery

dark side of the moon roll

tiled mural of peanuts comics at the charles m schulz museum

thank you, snoopy

sundown over silverado winery



As much as I love visiting California (and I truly do), I am excited to get back to proper winter temperatures, snow, my pup, my bed, and my own home-cooked food.

I’ve often declared that I’m not much of a breakfast girl. If I am going to sit down to a morning meal it is the savory breakfast that woos me over. But I have to admit that I am an all out sucker for oatmeal. I’m not talking about oatmeal in a wax-lined paper pouch eerily resembling the confetti that comes out of a hole puncher. You know what I mean. Add boiling water, stir, and suddenly – instant paste! That’s the stuff we schlep into the backcountry in winter, but when you are at home you can enjoy a completely different and better oatmeal.


steel cut oats



If you’ve had steel cut oatmeal, you know of what I speak. If you haven’t, then pull up a chair and have your spoon ready. Steel cut oatmeal has a lovely, almost crunchy texture. The oat kernels are cut into thick pieces in comparison to their rolled or instant counterparts which are more heavily processed. Steel cut oats do require more cooking time, but you get an oatmeal that has superior flavor, texture, and is healthier for you to boot! And it’s so simple to prepare.

water, salt, steel cut oats, and some dried organic cranberries



**Jump for more butter**

roll with it

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

Recipe: rice pudding

You know what this is? This is fakeout winter. Fakeout winter is just enough snow to string you along into thinking you’re getting a real ski season interspersed with days so warm as to induce flowering plant confusion. During fakeout winter, you pretty much have to take advantage of whatever you can get.


like taking dogs on romps in the snow before it melts or blows away

or skiing breckenridge in what feels like spring conditions



Then when the weather just isn’t cooperating or there isn’t enough snow, you catch up with friends who are about to ship off for the other side of the world. Boulder has a plethora of lunch options, but you will never go wrong with Pizzeria Locale. Safe travels, Andrew!

super psyched for the butterscotch pudding



I think most of you know that I’m not a huge sweets fan. Like the butterscotch pudding above? I tasted it. It was very well done, but I didn’t want any more than a taste. There are only a handful of desserts that I really love and most of them are either fruity or creamy (I am also crazy for caramels). Creamy, as in, dairy based. I actually think it is a good thing that I’m lactose intolerant so I don’t indulge in these pants-size-altering treats often. I think custards rank near the top of my list for creamy desserts. Eggy, custardy, silky, slightly sweet – I love it. And that’s probably why I am so fond of this custardy rice pudding.

arborio rice



Having attempted numerous rice pudding recipes over the last couple of decades, I was never really satisfied with any of them. That is, until I came across this one in Fine Cooking last summer. It calls for the addition of egg yolks, which is what you do to make custard. SCORE!

eggs, sugar, salt, vanilla bean, cinnamon

pour in a quart of whole milk



**Jump for more butter**