salted butter chocolate chunk shortbread cookies sous vide hamburgers stir-fried fresh rice noodles with beef sourdough waffles

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the in between

Sunday, November 26th, 2017

Recipe: shabu shabu (japanese hot pot)

I hope all of my friends who celebrate Thanksgiving had a lovely holiday last week. The university combines Fall Break and Thanksgiving to give a week off from classes, which means Jeremy can work from home. But which home? Well, it always depends on who has better snow come early season – the Front Range or Crested Butte? Both resorts and Nordic centers were looking pretty bleak, so we opted for Crested Butte in the hopes that the backcountry would have some cover.

We were able to ski tour and uphill ski, but we didn’t bother skate skiing as the snow was rather thin in town. For the most part we skied, worked, did some house maintenance, and kept our holiday low key. Crested Butte was especially quiet with more than half of the restaurants closed or on reduced hours for shoulder season until December. With so many locals off to visit families over the week, I stepped in to help someone with meals and dog care. I mean, that’s part of Thanksgiving – the giving.

enjoying lovely trails right after crested butte nordic had groomed

top of the climb on donation day

a 3 month old puppy runs up to say hi

feeling much gratitude for this life with this guy

Instead of turkey, I made sous vide pork chops (an hour in the sous vide and four minutes finished with a pan sear). The only thing that resembled a turkey was Neva’s Thanksgiving meal, which was made of raw beef, cheese, carrot, a strip of ham for the wattle, and two nonpareils sprinkles for the eyes.

neva’s thanksgiving “turkey”

eyes on jeremy as she waits for her release word

You can watch Neva eat her Thanksgiving plate on Instagram, because who doesn’t love to watch a dog eat an animal made of other foods?

Now that Thanksgiving is over, the clock is ticking ever louder as The Holidays approach. I basically have three weeks to figure out how I will turn butter, chocolate, flour, eggs, and sugar into a mess of gifts for Jeremy’s administrative staff, our local service folk, my oncology department, and friends. I don’t celebrate Christmas, but I do think the start of winter is a fine time to let people know how much they are appreciated. The trick is to get that and everything else on my to do list done!

While I would prefer more consistently cold weather and some (actually, a lot) of snow, it’s cool enough that we have been enjoying hot soups, stews, multi-hour simmered sauces, and hot pot. I grew up eating Chinese hot pot on chilly evenings, but it wasn’t until I went out with a girlfriend to a shabu shabu restaurant that I realized shabu shabu was another form of hot pot – Japanese hot pot. There are a lot of similarities in the ingredients, although I must admit the Japanese version is so much cuter. I wasn’t able to source all of the ingredients in the original recipe, but hot pot is more like a set of guidelines, so I went with what I could find and what I had on hand.

tofu, flank steak, enoki and matsutake mushrooms, scallions, napa cabbage, carrot, kombu (dried kelp)

soak the kombu in water

The broth starts with a piece of kombu soaking in water in your hot pot vessel (I use an electric wok here). It needs to soak for at least 30 minutes, so you may as well do that first and then make your sauce and prep your ingredients. There are actually two dipping sauces you can serve with your shabu shabu: a sesame sauce and ponzu. I made the sesame sauce, and it’s as simple as measuring out the ingredients, grating a clove of garlic, and stirring everything together. Nice.

mirin, rice vinegar, sake, sesame oil, canola oil, ponzu, tahini, miso, sugar, garlic

grate the garlic

stir everything together

smooth sesame sauce

**Jump for more butter**


Sunday, November 19th, 2017

Recipe: build your own cheeseboard

My parents did a lot of entertaining when I was growing up. It was something I was vaguely aware of as a little kid. Kris and I would belly flop onto my parents’ bed and watch television until we heard the adults move to the dining room for dinner. At that point, Kris would nudge me and say, “Come on, let’s go downstairs.” We’d sneak into the kitchen unseen by the guests (but always seen by Dad, who would flash us one of his goofy smiles as we tiptoed down the stairs) and nosh on whatever was left of the appetizers: smoked oysters, cheese, crackers, olives, caviar. Party food.

Mom and Dad still entertain to this day, so I found it amusing when Dad texted me last year asking what goes on a cheeseboard. He wanted ideas since I had plated a few during various dinner parties they had attended. I grabbed some photos from my archives as well as a handful off of Pinterest to give him some inspiration. When I threw Dad’s belated birthday party at our place last weekend, I made sure to kick it off with a nice cheeseboard because I know my Dad loves a cheeseboard packed with ALL of the goodies.

The holidays are upon us and that means party season is in full swing. Cheeseboards are a lovely way to get a dinner party started or to act as the workhorse for a cocktail party or to keep family and friends occupied as you rush to cook Thanksgiving dinner. If you are looking for ideas to spark your own cheeseboard artistry, I list and show some of my favorites here. There is enormous flexibility in cheeseboards, including not having any cheese!

neva wants to become an olympic cheeseboarder [note: grapes are toxic for dogs]

Let’s start with the actual board. The board can be a plate (porcelain, glass, etc.), slate, wood, whatever you like! Plates are the easiest to clean – especially if you serve things that are oily or messy directly on the board. And slate is great for writing the names of cheeses with chalk. I am partial to wood boards because of the beautiful natural colors and grain, which is why I have a lot of them. Some are gifts from my friend, Jamie, who is an incredibly talented woodworking artist. Occasionally, I use my largest Boos cutting blocks (24×18-inch walnut and 20×15-inch maple) because they give me the greatest surface area.

If you do have something oily like hot smoked salmon, and you don’t want the oils to soak into your nice wood boards (because let’s face it, once the board is out, it doesn’t get cleaned up until after the last guest leaves), you can slap a small plate underneath it to keep the fishy smells out of the wood. And remember, cheeseboards don’t have to be these gigantic cornucopias that can feed the whole neighborhood. Small cheeseboards for two are romantic. Medium cheeseboards for a cozy gathering of close friends work very well without being overwhelming. So don’t go crazy, but… you can go a little crazy.

you can serve on plates or slate

wood boards: an array of shapes, sizes, and designs

The fun part of cheeseboarding is picking out what to serve on your cheeseboard. It’s whatever you want it to be. I personally like the cheeseboards that don’t have much if any cheese because I don’t dig on eating cheese straight up. But I know the majority of my guests love cheese, so there is always at least one soft, one semi-soft, and one hard cheese. I also have friends who have Celiac disease, so I can either omit all gluten items (mostly crackers and breads) or plate those separately to avoid contamination of the gluten-free items.

Another nice thing about cheeseboards is that they can be as labor intensive as you like – or not! Just about everything can be purchased, but sometimes it’s nice to add your own personal touch. I always make my own crostini and I usually make those prohibitively expensive fruit, nut, and seed crisps unless I am slammed for time. Grissini happen to be quite easy to make at home, too.

I find fruit and fruity things pair well with various cheeses or act as a nice palate cleanser between nibbles. I don’t make my own fruit, but I do make my own fig and brandy jam every summer to serve with brie throughout the year. I have made membrillo, a delectable quince paste in the past to pair with manchego, but it requires a lot of work at my elevation, so I have resorted to purchasing it now that more stores carry it. In late summer, I love it when I can find good fresh figs. Lots of folks like figs with blue cheese and honey, but I tend eat them straight or with a little slice of prosciutto. Another crowd pleaser is baked brie with fresh cranberry sauce or fig jam or tomato jam. Goat cheese and jam is also a hit.

cheeses: aged cheddar, smoked gouda, brie, boursin, manchego

some gluten options: croccantini, brioche toasts, grissini, crostini, fruit and nut crisps, sliced baguette

fruity things: pomegranate, fig brandy jam, grapes, apple, membrillo

**Jump for more butter**

a quarter century

Sunday, November 5th, 2017

Recipe: roasted chanterelle mushrooms

I remember the first Halloween we spent in our Colorado house, I watched with great anxiety as a 3-foot tall Yoda struggle up the driveway in the failing light of day. The ferocious winds whipped his ancient Jedi robes this way and that. I think I gave that little kid 5 pieces of candy for his sheer determination and unbroken spirit. There was no truer Jedi than he. Back then, our neighbor’s children were little and would come by to trick or treat more as a courtesy call. We always told them to take two handfuls because so few kids came around to our house (it’s a short trek from the main road). As the kids got older and went away for college, we still held out for a year or two. I made sure to buy the kind of candy that Jeremy likes so that I could tuck one into his lunch after no one came by for Halloween.

These days we turn off the porch lights in the hopes that no one will ring the doorbell and send Neva into a tizzy of territorial barking. There were no trick-or-treaters to worry about this Halloween. As the winds gusted to 85 mph around our house, we were inside with friends eating Chinese hot pot and discussing climate science, the CDT (Continental Divide Trail), winter biathlon, Greenland, and chocolate.

neva loves to look out the window

dinner prep for chinese hot pot

a windy halloween sunset

That night, after our friends had driven off into the darkness and we finished washing dishes, the clock struck midnight. Jeremy turned to me and said, “Happy I’m Glad I Met You Day!” November 1st is our smoochiversary, but this November 1st was our 25-year smoochiversary. These “milestones” happen in the same year: 20th wedding anniversary in March, 25 years together in November. Numbers aside, it’s the quality of this relationship – this partnership – that means so much to me. Here’s to our ongoing grand adventure, my dearest Jeremy.

strawberry peak in 1994

crested butte in 2017

After our mid-week dinner party, I had the blahs for a couple of days. Blahs as in feeling tired, tummy out of whack, unable to focus, aches and pains. It was as if all of summer and the first half of autumn had caught up to me, knocked me down, left me in the dust. Ever since my cancer treatments, I’ve learned to listen to my body instead of running it into the ground like I did in my teens and twenties. I let myself sleep and recuperate from my weird fatigue and I was back to my old self in no time. Jeremy could tell I was feeling better one morning because I took the dog out to potty, shot sunrise, and rattled off a list of house maintenance that needed to be completed before the next snow storm as I practically rolled him out of bed. We got it all done and more, plus I’m back to a regular exercise regimen which always *always* makes me feel better.

lovely sunrise colors in the west

a windy hike with neva (note the ears flapping in the wind)

my parents arrived in town sunday night, so we picked them up and went to dinner

I’ve noticed when I walk through the produce section of Whole Foods, I linger by the fresh mushrooms and inspect them carefully. I caress them to see how fresh they are, turning them to admire the structures, smelling them to see if they have a strong perfume. I’m searching for a hint of the tangible characteristics of the mushrooms I foraged. It’s even worse at Costco right now where they have fresh chanterelles in stock. These are sealed in plastic with tiny air holes so the mushrooms don’t turn to mush. I tried sniffing them through the little holes, but I couldn’t catch the slightest sign of that signature chanterelle smell. I’m not buying any, I’m just a little bit in mushroom withdrawal. I imagine I will continue to be that strange girl acting weirdly around the mushrooms until next spring. But since fresh chanterelles are in the store, you might want to take advantage and get some. Here’s an elegant, easy, and tasty way to prepare the queens of the mushroom world. Let’s roast them! I made this dish back in September at the end of my chanterelle season.

shallot, olive oil, butter, chanterelles, salt, pepper, fresh thyme

slice the chanterelles thick or in half if they are small

sliced, melted, stripped, and ready

**Jump for more butter**