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don’t be so certain

Monday, July 2nd, 2018

Recipe: homemade beef jerky for dogs

In my younger years, I used to make all manner of declarations. I would never do X. I will always do Y. I’m not sure if it is age or simply life that has shown me how ridiculous I sound being so rigid, so certain. Because there have been plenty of times when I was wrong. I always assumed we would be a single-dog family, and I always thought it would be a Labrador retriever in my house.

It was several weeks ago when I saw a cute little puppy cross my Instagram feed. Her name was Abbie, and RezDawg Rescue, based in Denver, was trying to find her a home. She had a very serious look about her 4 month old face and there seemed to be a hint of sadness in her eyes. So cute, I thought. She’ll be snatched up in no time. Then a couple of weeks ago, Abbie came up again in my Instagram. I couldn’t understand how she hadn’t been been adopted yet. Throughout the day, I mulled over this little girl and began to feel personally wounded that no one wanted her. For the next few nights, I would read her description after Jeremy had fallen asleep, and then I would cry quietly in the dark. I kept it to myself, until I didn’t.

I mentioned Abbie to Jeremy just over a week ago. The look he gave me was one of dread. We had only recently arrived at the point where we could live semi-normal lives with Neva. I knew Jeremy did not want a second dog, but he asked me if this was what I wanted. I didn’t know. I didn’t want a second dog. I didn’t want to introduce uncertainty and potential chaos into our delicately balanced life with Neva. But I knew we could give Abbie a good and happy home and I felt I just wanted to love her. I already loved her. Tears. What to do?

Jeremy suggested to find out if she had been adopted.

She hadn’t been.

Then we asked if we could meet her.


meeting puppy in her foster home

puppy with her foster family



Abbie’s foster family had two of their own dogs, a cat, and a handful of foster pups. Linda, Abbie’s amazing foster mother, told me if she didn’t already have two dogs, she would have kept Abbie. I could see why. Abbie was a calm, sweet, gentle girl when we met her. A little shy, definitely puppy, and interested in people and animals. We left after our visit feeling that she was a good fit for us. It was clear that Linda loved Abbie and had provided a safe and nurturing environment for her. I was told by RezDawg Rescue that Linda wanted to make sure Abbie went to the best possible match. Suddenly I worried that we wouldn’t make the cut. Driving home, I stared ahead into the night and said aloud, “We’re good dog owners, right? I mean, we can give her a good life, right?”

The next 24 hours were a whirlwind of cleaning Neva’s old puppy crates and toys, writing down new items we needed to get for the puppy, getting the house ready for a puppy, and running through my long list of potential puppy names. It is my tendency to want to name the dog before I meet her, but with every dog we have, Jeremy insists that we get to know their personality before choosing a name. He is right, of course.

Abbie came home with us Thursday night. She took in the new surroundings cautiously, but adjusted quickly. Neva freaked out. WHAT IS THIS PUPPY THING YOU BROUGHT HOME?!?! Neva was scared of the puppy, and yet Abbie seemed to feel comforted by Neva’s (spazzed out) presence. Linda had noted that Abbie would do well with another dog to give her some confidence. We could see that right away. She would shrink from the yard the first night unless Neva was out there with her.

Over the next two days Abbie became Yuki. We tested other names, but they didn’t fit. Yuki can mean snow or happiness or courage in Japanese. We like all three. Little Yuki is the dream puppy we never had until now. At 5 months (and 32 pounds), she sleeps through the night in a crate, has a very generous (to us) potty schedule of 6-8 hours, learns quickly, and walks quite well on a leash. She likes our vet. Yuki is adjusting so well and beginning to spread her wings.


yuki at the soccer field

she looks sad, but she’s really happy

resting easy in her forever home



My greatest concern was Neva. Would a puppy push Neva over the edge? The first night seemed to stress our girl out – a little puppy jumping on her head and sleeping in her beds and dragging her toys around. If Yuki tried to squeeze into a doggy bed with Neva, Neva would immediately jump out and run away. When we took the dogs to the soccer field for a fetch session, Neva was elated to chase her ball and utterly dismayed to find Yuki stalking and chasing her every move. The two really turned a corner on their first hike. Both were well-behaved (amazing for Neva!). We could see that Yuki sought out Neva’s presence when she wanted reassurance – like when that really tall male hiker passed her – and Neva didn’t mind the little pup sidling up to her with a gentle body check. As Yuki bounded clumsily down the trail chasing butterflies, Neva patiently waited in the shade with Jeremy until we caught up.

I worried that getting a good and sweet and calm puppy, basically the opposite of Neva when she was a wee one, would make me love Neva less. But after observing the way Neva has put on her big sister pants and is helping Yuki navigate this new mountain life, I love her more than ever. I think the addition of Yuki to our family has been good for her, for Neva, and for us. Just a few weeks ago I was certain that we’d always be a single-dog family. I’ve never been so happy to be wrong.


we are now a pack of four

yuki in the flowers, ready for a treat



Training Yuki has been easier than training both Kaweah and Neva at the same age. The number one priority on our list was house training Yuki because she wasn’t housebroken when we got her. She knew how to use potty pads, but we needed her to be able to potty outside and to let us know when she needed to go. That involved a combination of crate training, constant vigilance, and positive reinforcement. That first 24 hours we took Yuki out to the yard almost every hour because of our very stressful experience with Neva as a puppy. But Yuki only needed to potty every 6-8 hours – the rest of the trips she spent sniffing the yard and lazily walking around, sometimes lying down and turning her belly up to the sun. We were amazed and impressed and overjoyed. When she did actually potty, we immediately praised her (“good potty!”) and gave her a treat. Our favorite treat to work with happened to be a homemade beef jerky I made for Neva back in May.

Unlike many of the other treats or kibble, the homemade beef jerky wasn’t oily or sticky or crumby, which made it particularly easy to carry around in our pockets. It didn’t have a strong odor and broke into small pieces easily. And both dogs absolutely love it because… beef. I started making beef jerky because I recently acquired a dehydrator for preserving wild mushrooms. I typically purchase 3-4 pounds of eye of round at my Costco because it is lean and relatively inexpensive compared to other cuts they carry. You can also use flank steak or sirloin – as long as it is lean because fat reduces the shelf life of the jerky.


eye of round

trimming any excess fat



**Jump for more butter**

seeing in color

Sunday, April 15th, 2018

Recipe: japanese potato salad

The monochromatic tones of the cold months have given way to new growth greens and even tiny dots of color if you know where to look. The snows keep falling every few days in the mountains, but you can tell their efforts have less impact under the mighty sun. We have wintry days and we have springlike days, but the trend is toward leaving the warm hats and gloves behind because the sunshine feels so good on your back – like an old friend offering a backrub after the long slog of a low-powder winter. The trails are more dirt than snow around town (still snowy in the high country) and all three of us have been anxious to get out for hikes and trail runs. Reacquainting ourselves with those warm weather muscles that get neglected during ski season.


neva is so happy to be hiking the trails and smelling the smells

a newly sprouting pasque flower on my trail run

juicing the last of the blood oranges (to freeze for summer cocktails!)



Our spring cleaning efforts have been ongoing such that it feels like this could become a habit. Taking a proactive approach to the chest freezer, I am excavating all of those random food items that might otherwise languish in the depths for years and incorporating them into our menus. Two little pork tenderloin chops became a lovely meal of tonkatsu rounded out with leftover vegetables, rice with furikake, and Japanese potato salad.

my idea of a happy meal



I must confess that I was more excited about the potato salad than the tonkatsu. Before a few weeks ago, the only time I ate Japanese potato salad was at Japanese or Korean restaurants. I’m slightly addicted to the creamy, tangy, slightly sweet, salad and once Marc posted the recipe, I knew it was my destiny. It’s dangerously easy to make.

potatoes, onion, carrot, cucumber, ham, mayonnaise, rice vinegar, salt, sugar, more salt, white pepper

slice and dice



**Jump for more butter**

winter, we hardly knew ya

Tuesday, March 13th, 2018

Recipe: sous vide hamburgers

Looking at my calendar, I see the first day of Spring is next week and I have two thoughts: 1) Woohoo, SPRING! and 2) Where the hell was winter? Winter visited us for about a week or two in February, but overall I think it dissed us for the season. We didn’t even get our skis tuned, and I was happy about that every time I ran over a rock in the backcountry (which I wasn’t happy about, but hey – I try to be positive). Now, with the sun rising ever higher in the sky, temperature plays into when you ski. That is… assuming there is snow to ski. I sometimes feel like I just want to give this ski season a big ole boot in the ass and shout “good riddance!” But then when I’m out there on the snow, I remember why I love skiing.


neva was soooooo excited to get out into the backcountry

both of them patiently waiting for me to take a photo

jeremy skins up crappy snow (but at least there is snow)



Last week, my dad texted me to ask at what temperature do I sous vide my burgers. Ever since I taught my parents how to text, they text me all the time with photos of their food, pictures of wine bottles, random reports of their activities (“We are shopping at Costco” – of course they are), selfies from their travels, texts that were meant for other people, and Googleable questions that require immediate responses. I thought I had blogged the recipe, but I hadn’t. So I checked my recipe notebook and sent Dad the various temperature ranges and times for different levels of doneness. I got a kissing emoji reply which meant that I had unlocked the Good Chinese Daughter achievement.

I hadn’t thought to sous vide burgers until my friend, Debra, mentioned that she prepares her burgers this way regularly. The first time we tried it, I couldn’t believe how juicy they were. And now we don’t prepare our burgers any other way.


salt, pepper, fish sauce, beef



You’re probably wondering what’s up with the fish sauce. This is a tip I learned from my friends, Todd and Diane: add a dash of fish sauce to your burgers for that extra umami blast. It doesn’t taste fish saucy, it just tastes damn good. Clearly, I pick up lots of excellent beta from my friends. The key is to have friends who know what they’re talking about. If you don’t want to use fish sauce, just add another half teaspoon of salt. And if you do want to use fish sauce, but need your burger to be gluten-free, there are some decent gluten-free fish sauce brands like Red Boat which is recommended by my friend, Shauna a.k.a. Gluten-free Girl (because I asked her specifically).

yes to the fish sauce



**Jump for more butter**