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Tuesday, March 31st, 2020

Recipe: oat milk

Colorado ski resorts are closed for the season, Rocky Mountain National Park is closed, all restaurant dining is closed, schools and universities are closed, and a stay-at-home order is in place for the state in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. We have been self-isolating since March 12, which does not feel too different from our normal lives with some limitations. It’s not that way for many who have lost jobs, are staring at financial uncertainty, are already vulnerable, are sick, or are working for the good of the community. And let’s face it: the majority of those essential workers DO NOT get paid what they are worth nor enough for what they are risking for the rest of us. If you have the means, now is a particularly good time to contribute to your local food banks, shelters for people and animals, and maybe purchase some gift cards from small businesses – especially restaurants – that may not make it to the other side of this pandemic without your support. I hope you and yours are safe and well right now.

I’ve been checking in on my parents regularly to see how they are and to make sure they aren’t doing anything to put themselves or others at greater risk. So far, so good. Jeremy is working from home 100% and the dogs seem to think this is a great idea. Last Friday was Neva’s fifth birthday, so I managed a little celebration of sorts from what was on hand.


birthday plate of beef meatballs, apple, cheddar, and homemade dog treats

such good girls



We are not combating boredom over here, but making the most of the time not spent driving anywhere, meeting in person, or traveling. This coincides with my ongoing Spring Cleaning goals. You know, the ones that I started in the fall… of 2018. Time to put a dent in that To Do list as well as chip away at our freezer(s) inventory!

baking a sextuple batch of dog treats

sewed two cushions to replace those unsightly piles of old blankets

assessing what size our next backpacking tent should be (we got this one pre-Yuki)



Despite all of the ski hill closures, the snow keeps falling in between those sunny spells because it’s Colorado and it’s springtime in the Rockies. The stay-at-home order makes a few exceptions, including getting outside for exercise in your own backyard/town. Flatlanders flocking to mountain towns has been problematic because mountain communities don’t have the capacity to handle the COVID-19 outbreak let alone any boneheads that get caught in an avalanche and require scarce rescue resources. We’ve been playing it safe on our local low-risk terrain for cardio workouts in fresh air. The turns can wait.

yuki loves that smell of freshly fallen snow

social distancing is how we roll

the girls get to ski tour, too

one day at a time



One thing I’ve noticed on our weekly trips to the grocery stores are the sections of empty shelves. Flour, rice, beans, bread, milk, eggs, chicken, toilet paper, soap, hand sanitizer. As we gathered the items from my grocery list last week, Jeremy pointed to a couple lonely cartons of oat milk and asked if I needed any. I shook my head, because I make my own oat milk. Months ago when I first tried oat milk, I figured this was the solution to my lactose-intolerant needs. I sought out organic oat milk, which is not only hard to find (for me), it’s expensive. Around the same time, a reader (Yvonne) had also written to me about glyphosate levels in oat milk. Glyphosate is an herbicide, the main active ingredient in Roundup. Another push for me to just make my own oat milk. As longtime readers already know, I like making food from scratch which gives me greater control over the quality of what I’m eating.

water, salt, steel-cut oats



You can use rolled oats or steel-cut oats. The difference is that the steel-cut oats require a 12-hour soak in water the night before. I had a giant bag of organic steel-cut oats intended for breakfasts but admittedly neglected because I don’t actually like to eat breakfast. The perfect excuse to use them for oat milk! And if you need this to be gluten-free, just make sure that the oats you are using are certified as such. The salt is for enhancing the flavor of the oat milk. You can make sweetened or flavored versions (sugar, honey, soak a dried date with the oats, maple syrup, vanilla extract, etc.), but I like my milk to be neutral.

soak steel-cut oats overnight



**Jump for more butter**

sustainability

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**

all the dough in the world

Tuesday, February 13th, 2018

Recipe: sourdough bread

Last week felt like proper winter for once. We had two powder days, cold temperatures, and great skiing on the mountain and the Nordic trails. I had almost forgotten what a real ski season is like! A real ski season is like butter. Smooth, silky, fluffy, cold, snowy butter…


jeremy grabs some powder runs before a meeting

hello winter, nice of you to come by!



It was also the perfect time to be experimenting with bread baking and running a hot oven. Baking sourdough bread has been on my List of Stuff and Things for over a decade. My greatest impediment was my fear of the unknown. You mean you have to CARE for sourdough starter? As in, keep it alive?!? How many times do we put off doing something because we can’t seem to overcome the activation energy (mental or otherwise) required to get going? And how many times, after we finally get around to doing it, do we kick ourselves for not doing it sooner now that we know it wasn’t such a big deal after all? I do not possess enough hands to raise for all the times I psyched myself out of awesome things, but I am learning that sometimes we need to simply get out of our own way.

i baked some bread



Over the last couple of years I’ve admired my friend, Dawn, as she cranked out artisan pizzas, breads, pastries, and a host of other goodies. She grew and milled her own wheat! Dawn is one of my real life girl crushes because she’s badass and wonderful and rescues abandoned pups in the mountains left for dead by jerks. So it made sense that I would ask her for some sourdough starter in the hopes that her awesomeness would accompany the starter into my kitchen. In the last two weeks, I’ve given starter and Dawn’s Starter Care Guide to two other friends. Bread is for sharing! Once I saw how straightforward it is to feed and maintain my starter (I named it Wheatley) without killing it, I went in search of a sourdough bread recipe. My absolute favorite sourdough comes from Tartine Bakery in San Francisco and the recipe I used from The Kitchn is adapted from Tartine’s method, but for the home baker.

sourdough starter, water, water, flour, flour, salt



It blows my mind just a little (okay, a lot) that you can transform water, flour, and salt into a deep golden loaf of perfection. Whether you purchase, receive, or make your own sourdough starter, what you have in your jar is wild yeast that requires regular feeding. Feeding basically means stirring in equal weights of water and flour. [Note: While some may insist that I’ll have to pry their measuring cups from their cold dead hands, a kitchen scale eliminates the inaccuracies of volumetric measurements.] As the little yeasties digest the sugars in their food and produce energy by the process of fermentation, they create byproducts of carbon dioxide and ethanol. The carbon dioxide forms bubbles in your starter. That’s how you know it’s alive and active.

If you don’t feed your starter, it will eventually die. This was my biggest hangup with baking sourdough bread – was I going to kill my starter? Thankfully, you don’t have to babysit your starter daily if you don’t want to or are unable to. The lower temperature of the refrigerator slows the metabolism of the yeast such that a single feeding can sustain the organisms for a week or more. And if you are going to be away from your starter for longer than a few weeks, you can always make a backup. But a healthy and active starter should probably hang out on your kitchen counter at room temperature, receiving regular feedings for a few consecutive days, before making your bread. I typically feed my starter in the morning, and it is ready for use about 8 hours later.

The recipe I followed makes two 1-pound loaves of sourdough and calls for one tablespoon of starter. I halved the recipe and used a half tablespoon or 8 grams of starter. The starter gets mixed with flour and water and is left to feed overnight. This is the levain (leaven) – the stuff that makes your bread rise. As our municipal water is treated with chlorine, I use purified water for the levain (there is always some leftover from my kombucha-making) as I don’t want to kill my baby yeasts. Alternatively, I could let my tap water sit out for a day as chlorine is pretty volatile and will evaporate naturally.


weighing the water for the levain

mixing the levain

bubbly the next day



The levain should be bubbly and light and expanded the next day. I usually give it a sniff to make sure it’s a little sour smelling, a little alcoholy. Is it bad that I like sniffing sourdough starter? You can take a small spoonful of levain and drop it into water. If it floats, it’s ready to use. Stir the levain into the water until it is dissolved, then mix in the flour. You can use all-purpose flour or bread flour. I accidentally used all-purpose flour on my first attempt and then made sure to use bread flour on the second attempt. The bread flour dough was easier to work with, and I think the texture and flavor were better than the all-purpose flour loaf too. Also, if you have a Danish dough whisk languishing away in a drawer somewhere (like me), this is the perfect time to use it. It incorporates the flour so easily and quickly! The dough should look like a shaggy mess with no dry pockets of flour remaining.

Now let that shaggy mess rest for 30 minutes to 4 hours. This process, called autolyse, allows the flour to absorb the water and begins gluten development. I let mine rest for 4 hours (and went skate skiing on the local Nordic trails). And because I never know which factors of my kitchen (high altitude, cold, aridity, etc.) are going to impede my culinary endeavors, I cover the bowl with plastic wrap rather than a kitchen towel to prevent the dough from drying out, and I set the bowl atop the refrigerator where it is slightly warmer and out of Neva’s reach.


dissolve the levain in water

add the flour

mix it into a shaggy dough



**Jump for more butter**