pan pizza easy strawberry cake cauliflower karaage oat milk


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greening

Sunday, May 10th, 2020

Recipe: easy strawberry cake

I’d like to say that social distancing has made me more aware of my natural surroundings, but that would be a lie. I’ve been eagerly awaiting the greening of our wild spaces since February, watching for every hint of spring’s arrival. And by greening, I mean the sprouting of tiny buds and leaves and shoots. I could go either way at this point: four feet of snow or full frontal mushroom flush.


morning fog condenses on mountain pasqueflower fuzz

hello wild (feral) asparagus season



As I’ve said before, I don’t mind self-isolation because I like staying in the mountains. We considered our bi-monthly trip to the flats a chore of necessity – that is until the asparagus spears started popping up. It isn’t simply the allure of finding “free food” because you should know by now that “free isn’t free”. Part of it is the thrill of foraging, but also the forensics. I don’t just pick and go, but study the ghosts of the previous year, make note of growth patterns, and recognize where stalks have been cut, torn, or chewed.

the sweetest stalks

sautéed asparagus, snap peas, morels (from last year), on homemade tagliatelle

tempura fried asparagus in a mushroom sushi roll



On the sewing front, I spent a little time prototyping a hybrid of the Olson and pleated mask designs and finally settled on one that achieved my goals of fit, function, and ease of production (because I am not a skilled sewist). I posted a 10-minute tutorial on Instagram here: https://www.instagram.com/p/B__igaYlJoz/ if you are interested. That took forever, but I am hoping the effort will help others make masks for themselves and those who need them.

a recent batch of masks



There hasn’t been a lot of sugary baking going on in our house during the pandemic. It’s mostly been dog treats and cooking savory meals. But now that sweet, red strawberries are arriving in markets, I can get on board with something like a simple cake studded with those red gems.

flour, strawberries, vanilla extract, vegetable oil, sour cream, sugar, eggs, baking powder, salt

dice half of the strawberries and slice the other half



**Jump for more butter**

going back to cauli

Sunday, April 19th, 2020

Recipe: cauliflower karaage

We’re in the middle of our sixth week of self-isolation and no one has gone off the deep end yet. Colorado’s governor recommended wearing face masks in public places a few weeks back, so I consulted with my mother-in-law on patterns (she and her quilting pals have been sewing a bazillion to donate to health care workers!) and sewed a couple for us. Because elastic and other materials for making masks are in short supply right now, I made due with what scraps of elastic and pipe cleaners I had. The Olson mask pattern (https://www.craftpassion.com/face-mask-sewing-pattern/) took me forever on the first two, because I’m a shitty sewist and I had to learn what various terms and techniques were, and discover parts of my sewing machine I never knew existed. Jeremy’s mom said sewing in progressive assembly is much faster and my next ten definitely went faster. Then I tried a modified version of a pleated mask (second version here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bCCtGq6maw8) which I think I like better. I plan to make a mashup of the two designs to optimize fit and fabric use.


my first two olson masks with nose pieces and filter pockets

my next ten to donate or exchange for a donation to the recipient’s local food bank

pleated version (with nose pieces and filter pockets)



Our neck of the woods has enjoyed a string of cold, snowy storms between stretches of gorgeous sunny days. Instead of wishing for more powder days or wishing for clear trails, we roll with it and try to enjoy whatever the atmosphere has to offer. It’s wonderful. All of our skiing is human-powered these days and I am loving it.

deliciously snowy views under a bright spring sun

skinning up through the trees

neva and yuki love barreling through the deep snow

powder day wrestlemania



Our new backpacking tent arrived in the mail this week and we set it up in the living room for a trial run (to make extra sure we want to hike into the backcountry with Wingus and Dingus and sleep in a confined space with them). It’s spacious enough to fit all of us in theory, but in practice we are going to have to tell the dogs where to sleep. Our overnight resulted in Yuki hogging the center of the tent and Neva restlessly resettling herself all night on our legs because she was too scared to snuggle up against Yuki. We’ll figure it out!

curious pups

they decided they liked it well enough



At the start of the shelter-at-home order, we went to town for groceries once a week. None of the stores had established good protocols yet. We found it quite stressful to wait in crowded lines next to people who were coughing and close-talking and acting like everything was fine. Businesses eventually implemented good practices (some faster than others) to streamline the process while we quickly figured out how to reduce to bi-monthly trips. Aside from planning our menu and having a good inventory of our food, I use the more perishable produce the first week, and prepare produce that has a longer shelf life (in the refrigerator or in the dark, cool basement) for the second week. Sometimes cooking vegetables that are on their way out will buy you a few more days in the refrigerator.

Cauliflower, like most vegetables in the Brassica family, can last in the refrigerator for more than a week. Sometimes it will start to get light brown spots, but those are fine. You can scrape or cut the brown parts off, or eat them. The browning is due to oxidation. If the spots turn dark or black and the flesh becomes soft, you are looking at rot. For small sections, cut them away. If the entire head or floret has succumbed, then it’s time to send the cauliflower into the compost. But let’s say your cauliflower is just fine. There are so many ways to enjoy this nutritious and high-fiber vegetable. I recently tried it as karaage cauliflower.


potato starch, cauliflower, garlic, ginger, sugar, sake, and soy sauce



This is the same recipe that I use for chicken karaage but without the honey sriracha sauce. I really love the subtle nutty-earthy-slightly-bitter-and-sweet flavor of cauliflower and didn’t want to mask or overpower it with sriracha. I wasn’t convinced that the marinade would come through, but it does so nicely. To make the recipe gluten-free, just substitute tamari for the soy sauce.

grate the fresh ginger

stir the soy sauce, sake, and sugar with the ginger

toss with the cauliflower and marinate for 30 minutes



**Jump for more butter**

same, but not

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**