fried vietnamese spring rolls (cha gio) brie fig apple prosciutto sandwich huckleberry sorbet tamagoyaki (rolled omelette) and chirashi bowl

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chinese new year recipe round up

Friday, January 24th, 2014

Chinese New Year (or the Lunar New Year) is a week away! It will be the Year of the Horse, which is special because my sister was born in the Year of the Horse and would have been 48 this year. I’m busy cleaning the house, prepping special foods, and doing those things that are supposed to bring luck in the new year. Maybe you are a traditionalist or perhaps the lunar new year doesn’t have any significance to you, but you want to make a celebratory meal or throw a Chinese-themed party. Either way, I’ve got a recipe round up for you!

traditional dishes

These are the dishes I make year after year. They symbolize luck, fortune, health, happiness, promotion.

Cellophane noodle soup: It’s a big pot of goodies – sort of a catchall for lucky things. The cellophane noodles (bean thread noodles or glass noodles) represent long life – so for goodness’ sake, DON’T CUT THE NOODLES. Meatballs and fish balls are round, which the Chinese like and their meaning is reunion.

Chinese dumplings and potstickers: Theoretically you are supposed to make dumplings (boiled or steamed), but I always make potstickers because I’m a crunch-junkie. My mom always told us that eating dumplings meant more money in the new year because they are shaped like gold ingots. Then I found out later that dumplings also symbolize having sons. I’m sticking with the money story.

Chinese egg dumplings: The Chinese have a thing for dumplings, because they are like purses, and purses hold money. These egg dumplings typically go in the cellophane noodle soup, but they are wonderful eaten on their own too.

Lucky ten ingredient vegetables: Lucky lucky lucky! Ten is a lucky number. Don’t make this with nine or eleven ingredients – you’ll screw up the new year! Also, don’t use hollow vegetables (green onions, water spinach – these are hollow and bad luck). Tofu is okay, but no meat is allowed in the dish.

Stir-fried rice cakes: These rice cakes are sticky, chewy disks of rice flour. The name of the rice cake, nian gao, sounds like “higher year”. Eating the rice cakes is good luck for a promotion or toward greater prosperity.

Stir-fried soybean sprouts: These are my favorite and plentiful in most Asian markets this time of year (because everyone wants luck!). Eating soybean sprouts (or bean sprouts in general) ensures a good start to the new year.


There’s something you should know about tofu. It’s a big deal. Fu is “luck” in Chinese. So tofu is pretty popular in the new year festivities because everyone wants lots of luck. The thing is, you shouldn’t eat white tofu because white is bad – it’s the color of mourning/death. That’s bad luck. But don’t fret, there are a bazillion ways to eat tofu: fried, dried, marinated, sheets, pressed.

Bean curd rolls: You can find bean curd sheets or tofu skin in Asian grocery stores. They are either dried or frozen. This tofu skin roll is filled with savory pork and vegetables, and then braised til soft. I order it at dim sum all the time.

Chinese tea eggs: Eggs represent fertility, but I just love the subtle flavor of the tea infusion as well as the delicate crackle pattern on the peeled egg.

Fried shrimp wontons: Terrific nibbles with the added bonus that shrimp symbolize happiness and good fortune.

Pickled Chinese cabbage: Served cold, this sweet, salty, sour, spicy, crunchy pickled cabbage wakes your mouth up in the best way possible. I could snack on a bowl of this all by myself. Cabbage means money, prosperity.

Scallion pancakes: One of the best savory snacks, ever. I’m not sure if it has any symbolism, but it’s delicious!

Shrimp toast: More shrimp goodness (happiness and fortune).

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different kinds of winter

Friday, January 10th, 2014

Recipe: black bean soup

We’re back home on the Colorado Front Range where the weather seems unseasonably warm compared to Crested Butte. I know the whole country (except for California) was dogged by frigid winter weather for several days, but it’s nothing out of the ordinary for us in the mountains. The thing is, Crested Butte has ruined me. It is my idea of perfect winter. The snow is fluffy and powdery, the temperatures are quite cold which preserves that nice powdery snow for a long time (in January, the average low is -8°F, but we measured as low as -22°F last week), there is a lot of sunshine, and there is no wind. Okay, they can get a little wind from time to time, but nothing like the winds that ravage us in Nederland and along the Front Range. So it’s a bit of an adjustment coming home to weather that feels so antagonistic at times.

there was decent snow in the trees

The wind is a real bitch here on the Front Range. But it makes you tough. Skiing ground blizzards, getting pummeled on the ski lift in gale force winds, navigating death cookies and busting wind slab – it all builds character. And then you have those blow outs where the winds have scoured bare ground right next to a 20 foot snowdrift. It makes the good days REALLY good, but winters here are not for dilettantes.

jeremy carries his skis across a giant blowout in 45 mph gusts

Once home our usual routine is to put the gear away, set the boots out to dry, remove sunblock, change into warm clothes, check that Kaweah is alive and well, and get something hot in our bellies. It doesn’t always go in that order (we usually check Kaweah first), but the need to warm up with a bowl of soup ranks high the moment we set foot in the house. I like to make a lot of soup and keep it handy in the refrigerator for these very occasions.

let’s start with black beans

black bean soup: pepper, olive oil, sherry, salt, cumin, oregano, onion, garlic, bell pepper, beans, chicken broth, tomato paste

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ice and snow and fond memories

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

Recipe: chinese shaved ice dessert (bao bing)

The Crazy Rain stopped earlier this week and now we seem to be back to our late summer pattern of cooler nights, warm days, and afternoon showers. This ping-pong cycling of temperatures has me donning pants, long-sleeve tops, and fuzzy socks in the mornings and shorts by noon. At night, we tuck Kaweah into her doggy bed with her doggy quilt to ward the cold away from her old bones. I thought we were well on our way to fall, but a trip to Boulder (the long way) dragged me through temperatures in the 80s. It’s never too chilly for me to enjoy a frozen dessert, but late summer is a great time for everyone to indulge in a nice cold treat.

i got this on amazon for $25 this summer (glass bowl not included)

When we had the rare snow day in southern Virginia, Kris and I would stay at home and watch cartoons, slide down the stairs riding in our sleeping bags, jump from untold heights pretending to be superheroes (Green Lantern – I was always Green Lantern), and go play in the snow. To warm up, Kris would always make tea. But we were kids and the tea was bitter, so we added (too much) sugar. The tea was also too hot, so Kris would scoop up some fresh clean snow in a mug and then pour the hot sweet tea over it. I started my love affair with tea slushies at an early age.

the ice disk

shaved ice

The paucity of snow days didn’t deter us from our slushie fix. My parents had an old school manual crank shaved ice machine. Now that I think of it, it was dangerous as hell – but that’s what the 70s were all about! We’d freeze the ice disk and then take turns grinding the ice into soft fluffy flakes, then douse it with artificially flavored and colored syrups. Again – the 70s.

water and brown sugar

dissolve over high heat

brown sugar syrup

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